Previously on Five Seconds: Andy's dog bumps into city slicker Parker and an acquaintance is formed. While out shopping for new clothes, Parker saves Andy from being harassed by a stranger, but releases all his anger on her after seeing Tessa out with someone new.
Does Parker take Andy to dinner, or does he let her walk away?Click To Reveal Results
Apartments were not truck friendly; the sharp turns and tiny parking stalls were almost insulting. It had been a long exhausting day at work, but I successfully managed to park my truck without putting a mark on it. I was ready to curl up with Newt for the evening, but I was interrupted as soon as I stepped out of my truck.
"You again?" I turned and saw Parker crawling out of a fancy sports car a few spots down. A casual smirk appeared on his face, inviting trouble. "I'm starting to think you may be stalking me now."
"I should say the same." It was only yesterday that he had yelled at me in Gastown. I didn't know how I should respond. My heart rose to my throat, and I struggled to sound casual. "What are you doing here?" I asked.
He paused, licked his lips and responded, reluctantly. "I live here."
I looked from his car to his face. "Blow all your money on that fancy thing?" I smirked, despite myself. I so badly wanted to torment him about something, and this was my opportunity for payback.
He looked away. "Doesn't matter."
My eyebrows knit together. Did I insult him? Perhaps he was all talk. I opened my mouth to shout obscenities at him, but when I saw that look in his baby blues, all anger was replaced with pity. "That's a, um, very pretty car." I bit my lip and silently cursed myself for being so timid.
"And that's a… truck. At least you don't have to worry about anyone stealing it." He shrugged.
I folded my arms, rage rushed through me once again. "I was trying to give you a compliment."
He looked down and kicked a loose pebble. "I know. Thanks," he said in a low voice.
I raised my eyebrow. When was the last time that word came out of his mouth? I heaved my bag out of the truck and locked the door. I walked to the elevator with Parker.
"So, what were you up to today Mr. Big Shot?" I gave him a playful nudge.
"Mmm, that's classified information."
I raised my eyebrows.
"But I will tell you it involved Chinese takeout and a greedy goat,” he continued.
I let out a laugh. "Suddenly I don't want to know what you were up to."
"Well… because of the incident, I now have takeout for two. Say, you like Chinese food?"
"Vegans," he muttered under his breath.
He cleared his throat. "Care for some orange chicken?"
I looked up into his eyes that now held the playfulness of a little kid. "That's my favourite."
"Perfect! I'll meet you at your apartment in a few? Mine isn't exactly in a state fit for visitors.”
My eyes bugged out of my head. Dinner? With him? Just the two of us? Alone?
"That… is fine, right?" he asked hesitantly.
"Oh!" I snapped out of my stupor. "Yes, yes of course." I told him my apartment number and we parted ways when the elevator reached my floor first.
My shaky hands fumbled with the key and I couldn't keep the nerves down. This was my first anything remotely close to a date. I couldn’t believe that this, big shot, would even find me even mildly interesting.
I was greeted at the door by my rambunctious dog, and I dropped my bag heavily on the ground; the weight of the workday fell with it. I let him out on the balcony that held my makeshift yard. Neither of us were thrilled by the whole thing, but we made it work.
"Now, we have company coming over Newt. Don't you dare try to steal our dinner."
He let out a loud huff. As if I would steal food, he seemed to say.
It was only then that I realized how much of a mess my apartment was. There were things scattered everywhere, and several boxes still lined one wall, all mostly full of books. Dishes were stacked in the sink, and the air smelled slightly like the chicken I had from last night… mixed with something else. I looked at Newt, but he only proudly wagged his tail.
"You're killing me dog," I muttered.
I switched on the TV for some white noise as I scrambled to clean my place. I scrubbed dishes and cleaned counters while a news reporter spoke of yet another school shooting. I could only imagine what my aunt would say to that. Probably something along the lines of there's no right and wrong in the world; only the naïve and the wise. There's no way to make sense of the senseless—unless you're holding a good margarita. Then everything is good in the world.
I wondered what she was up to right now. It was only September—an uncharacteristically hot one too. Perhaps she was sitting on the back deck with a glass in her hand describing the golden rays of the sun to blind ears. Or cleaning the gutters. She always liked to clean the gutters. Apparently climbing a roof at the ripe old age of sixty two was, in her mind, a good idea.
I smiled at the thought and looked out the window to the same sunset she must be seeing. Unfortunately, in my case, the setting sun was blocked out by the huge skyscrapers. I had to look at it through the reflection of a tower, which made it vaguely resemble a disco ball.
I clicked my tongue. Maybe it was modern, but building glass towers on a fault line, set to dangerously crack apart at any moment, was pure ignorance. Auntie always said that would be the downfall of humans and I could find no excuse to deny it.
I had only just cleaned the clutter of National Geographic magazines and bobby pins, when there was a knock at the door. A wave of butterflies danced in my stomach as I pulled on a clean shirt and rushed to the door, tripping over a box. I cursed under my breath and, stealing my nerves fast, got up and opened the door. Parker stood there proudly holding the food.
"Welcome to my humble abode," I greeted him, stepping aside. "I know there's still boxes everywhere but," I pushed a box away with my foot. "I'm still working on it."
Parker let out a soft laugh. "Don't worry about it. Your apartment looks like a scientific testing lab compared to mine."
"Interesting analogy," I said closing the door. "Just set the food on the coffee table—I don't have a real table yet… or chairs."
"Don't worry about that. It's cozy."
I was glad he was facing away from me because I could feel my face was beet red. I went to the sink to grab some water for the two of us. I hoped he wasn't one of those people who were scared of drinking tap water. British Columbia had some of the best water in the world. One would be a fool to think otherwise. I looked over to Parker, hoping he wasn't a fool - for more reasons than just the water I was holding.
"That fluffy dark mass in the corner trying to eat a fly is Newt by the way—in case you forgot."
"How could I forget that mongrel?" He laughed. "I'm pretty sure I didn't hit my head."
He made some mock karate moves and jumped around trying to catch the fly. My shoulders shook from laughing and I almost spilled the water. "What are you doing?" I asked.
He clapped his hands loudly together and smiled his crooked smile. "I don't usually reveal this," he said over his shoulder as he disposed the insect out the balcony window. "But I'm actually a professional ninja."
"Oh, really?" I giggled, and set the water down on the coffee table. "Well I suppose if there's ever a zombie apocalypse I'll know who to find."
"Except you won't be able to find me—I'm a ninja remember? I'd have to find you,” he teased good-naturedly.
"And would you be very good at finding me?" I sat on the floor across from him.
"Well, I suppose I would have to be lost to find you," he stated. "Isn't there some rule out there that you can only find a lost person if you yourself are lost?"
"An interesting concept." I pondered on that for a moment. Perhaps I bumped into him that day because I was lost. But, did that mean that he too was lost that day? And he knew the city so well, perhaps he was lost on the inside instead of on the streets. Did that mean he was still lost today?
"You know what else is an interesting concept," he said, handing me a takeout box. "is the way they make this food."
"Hmm, and how do they make this food?"
"I don't know. But I'm sure it's pretty interesting."
I burst out in laughter.
"You know, if it wasn't for my talent in everything, I was going to be a doctor."
"I see you love yourself very much," I remarked. He wasn't the only one in this room that did.
"Well of course, but enough about me. I know nothing about you. Where did you come from?"
"So far north it's not on any maps."
"I see, so Chinese takeout must be a new concept. If we had one, I would've gotten takeout from the bear restaurant, so you’d feel more at home."
I gave him a pointed look. “Ha, ha.”
He raised his hands in defence. "Sorry, sorry, I got carried away. But seriously, how long have you been here?"
"About a month. My first week here my dog ran into you."
"And what's a small town girl like you doing in the big city?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "An opportunity arose and I took it. Besides. There's not much up north. There may not be big buildings blocking the sky and inducing claustrophobia, but the empty space and solitude certainly made me feel trapped."
"Huh. You have family back there?"
"Well, then cheers to you." He lifted his glass of water. "Welcome to Vancouver."
"Thank you," I said, reciprocating, then placed my glass on the table. "I didn't have any dinner plans. This is perfect."
He shrugged his shoulders. "Sometimes the spontaneous things are a bigger adventure than the planned ones."
I found myself pondering that. Moving to the city was so planned out I literally had plans for every forked path it could possibly take me. However this—beginning to have feelings for a beautiful stranger—was pulling me in a direction that wasn't even paved. I couldn't tell if it was this unknown territory or Parker's presence that was filling my stomach with butterflies.
A comfortable silence blanketed us as we ate our food. White noise was provided by Newt's snores and the news channel. Unfortunately it was that time of the year again, and broadcasters everywhere were telling tales from that dreaded September day so long ago.
"I think humans forget that Earth has the same power as us—she can cause just as much destruction," I said after a bite of chicken.
"You wouldn't say it the other way around?" he said around a mouthful of food, "that we have the same power as the earth?"
"No." I shook my head. "Because humans are complacent and think they're greater than anything else. We don't think for one minute that something may bring us down—but we're forgetting to look at the history books. The dinosaurs were brought down from a falling rock. Japan—the most seismically prepared nation on Earth, was torn down in a matter of minutes by a simple little slip in the crust. People think it's over, but it's not. They just turn their heads the other way when it becomes too much of a nuisance." I bit my lip and looked down at the table.
A pregnant pause filled the space between us.
"Well I hope that doesn't keep your pretty little head awake at night."
I looked up dismayed at his answer. "Excuse me?"
He looked taken aback. "What?" he innocently asked.
I blinked. Once. Twice. "You just called me stupid," I stated. I sighed inwardly.
His eyes widened. "No! I didn't mean to! I just thought, you know… you have a nice head. I didn't, I hoped that, I meant." He let out a tense breath of air. "I meant it in a friendly way. You know? Like…" he sighed. "Just don't let your worries get the best of you."
I fought the grin that spread across my face. "You're something else Parker."
He seemed truly sorry for his misunderstanding so I ignored the earlier condescending remark and stuck with what Parker was trying to say. At least he wasn't labelling me as a pariah for my views on humanity. The smile on my face grew. There was something about how forward he was—it was adorable and felt like a breath of fresh air. Plus, there was so much tearing down in this world, and yet somehow his baby blue eyes stayed bright. I could use someone like that.
"So tell me what home is like. I've only ever known the city," he said.
"Well, it's… like home." I thought for a moment and then quickly got to my feet. "Home, smells like this candle." I rummaged through the boxes that were stored against the wall. Books and packaging paper made it difficult, but my left hand grasped an object still delicately wrapped in newspaper. I unfolded the paper and handed the white candle to Parker. "Home is this."
"Smells like… fire."
"But it's a happy fire!" I said excitedly and sat back down. "It reminds me of fires in hearths that have wet socks hanging to dry, in a log cabin in the middle of the snowy woods next to a frozen lake, and your cheeks are all red from working outside and someone's laid a blanket out on the couch that's all toasty from the fire. Fire usually destroys, but in this case it's like a warm hug."
Even though Parker was still sniffing the candle, I could smell it from where I sat and memories of home danced in my head.
"How interesting. This is a foreign smell to me," Parker replied, looking at me thoughtfully.
"What does your home smell like?"
He laughed. “No one has ever asked me that question before.” He sat there pondering for a moment before he responded with, "Like hairspray and clean bedsheets."
I giggled. Of course he used hairspray.
Time slipped by and the sun was well on the other side of the world. I thanked Parker for the dinner and he thanked me for the hospitality. My mouth was dry from all the talking, but I wasn't even close to being tired. And even though he had stayed well into the night, I still found myself wishing he would've stayed a little longer.
It wasn't until after he entered the elevator and I closed my door that I felt the air rush back into my lungs. I couldn't fight the smile that was on my face and the bubble of euphoria that had risen in my chest.
I leaned my head against the wall and bit my lip. I looked over at Newt who was giving me a questioning look. "Oh you wouldn't believe it bud. After everything that's happened, all the fear and anxiety—everything is good again." I struggled to find the words to fit my emotions and lowered my voice. "I found a boy Newt—of course, he's not to replace you," I had to quickly add because of the look my dog was giving me. "But I… I just don't know what to say. It's weird. I feel like I'm full of helium and there's weird butterflies in my stomach. I feel like I don't have any control—like I'm a cat on acid or something. But for the first time ever, I feel life inside of me, and as much as this feeling scares me, I don't want it to go away."
I slid down the wall and stretched my legs out. "It's like, it just came over me like a massive wave, and I feel like I'm in a swirling vortex of terror, but, I'm enjoying it." My dog whined at the remark, and I beckoned him to come closer. I ran my fingers through his hair and continued. "Heaven can't help me now bud. This is real."
Newt let out a huff and stretched out across my legs. "It was fate that was in control the day you ran into him. I just know it. He's nothing my wildest imagination could conjure up. That’s for sure. He's tall, handsome, polite - well, most of the time. And funny. You picked a good one for me." I laughed at myself, knowing full well the absurdity of my comment; my dog, the matchmaker.
He let out a long whine and begged to be pet. Images flashed through my mind as I imagined a future full of hugs and kisses, sleepless nights and long conversations. I couldn't stop the smile that spread across my face. Newt's paw came up and tapped me, reminding me of his presence.
"Yes he'd have to warm up to you, but… well… who couldn't love you?" He let out a large huff. "What? I'm not being silly Newt. Just because things don't last forever for some people doesn't mean the same for me. I'll make it work. Like I said: it was fate working that day. I'm not stupid."
But Newt's concerned looks weren't going away. I shook my head. He was just a dog—he had nothing to do with this. I was just funnelling negative thoughts and doubts through my furry friend. This was good. Things were going to be okay.
I hated myself for wishing I had stayed a little longer. What had gotten into me?
I was deep in thought when I quietly shut my apartment door behind me, leaned against it, and slowly sunk to the ground. This was wrong. All of it. I bit the inside of my cheeks until I tasted blood and then bit harder. I balled my fists tightly, trying to stop them from shaking. I stared and stared into the empty apartment. The moon was behind the clouds, causing a very dark night.
I was playing a dangerous game that was going nowhere. This girl wasn't the right girl, she wasn't Tessa—and I hated that I enjoyed tonight because of that. This girl was a breath of fresh air when the rest of the world was strung around my neck like a tourniquet. I could see it before I could admit it that she was falling for this terrible trick tonight.
But lonely nights were scary in this darkness and maybe I could justify tonight for that reason. Yet, playing with someone's heart would make me a hypocrite. This was all terribly wrong and I needed to cut it off before I made it worse. But how was I supposed to do that when she lived in the same shitty apartment building as me?
What was really killing me was how I was walking around like a broken record while Tessa was probably prancing around blessed as ever. I wished I could go back in time, and find whatever it was that made her believe we were made for each other. Memories flashed through my mind of dancing in the kitchen and even the cheesy carving of hearts on trees. And yet, no matter how happy the memory was, it still hurt and caused so much pain.
I didn't know where to focus my mind now. Every thought that revolved around Tessa brought on pain and a terrible stormy cloud that hovered. It didn’t matter what I was doing or seeing, everything reminded me of her. The stupid sunsets that blinded me on my drives home. The annoying banter of seagulls that woke me up in the morning. Even my new creaky bed and drafty room. I couldn’t escape from Tessa.
Andy was probably somewhere in this building smiling bigger smiles than ever and laughing and dancing and hoping for something to start between us. I would end up crushing her like Tessa broke me. I felt sick. I slid frustrated fingers through my hair. Here I sat. Solid like a statue. Never moving—stuck.
Like the blinking curser on a computer screen.
Waiting for some revelation on how to move forward in my life. To get past this.
I found an extra spring in my step the following morning. I had the television on the music video channel while I was doing my makeup in the bathroom—something I hadn't done in a long time. I didn't know what it was, but suddenly I felt the need to try a little and look good. I walked out of the bathroom, humming the tune to the song and dancing along when a certain name caught my attention. My head snapped to the television to see a news reporter talking about Parker Dee out on the town with a 'new face.' A picture popped up of he and I walking around the streets of Vancouver, his hand on my shoulder.
I froze. I didn't know how to process this.
Parker never said anything about being an actual 'celebrity,' nor were people even paying attention to him on the streets. Or so I thought. And why did they say a 'new face?' Was Parker in a relationship? My heart sunk to my knees and I suddenly felt sick. No, I was just overreacting.
I turned off the television, said goodbye to my dog - who didn't so much as grunt in response - grabbed my keys and headed for work.
The trip down the elevator felt like it took no time at all. I was still distracted by the whole Parker celebrity situation. Of course, it had to be just pure coincidence that when the elevator opened on the bottom floor, there he stood, still in the same clothes as yesterday.
"Parker!" I exclaimed.
He looked up, pale, with no expression. Dark circles sat under his bloodshot eyes, and a shadow of stubble was scattered on his chin. "Oh, hey." His voice was gravelly, as if he hadn't gotten much sleep. Or any for that matter, if he was still in his previous night’s clothing.
"Looking good," I joked and stepped out of the elevator. He mumbled something and stepped in. I bit my lip and took a breath. I blocked the door from closing and opened my mouth with blind courage. "Say Parker, why did I see myself on the news this morning?"
He knit his eyebrows in confusion, but not before I caught a flash of distress. "What do you mean?"
I pursed my lips. "I think you know what I mean. They had pictures of us walking around yesterday. And they called me a 'new face.' What's the deal?"
"I'm just, you know… high profile."
"What? So you're like a celebrity?"
"Well, sure. No, not really. I'm just, well known. But only around here. I've worked on a couple of movies and TV shows. My most recent work was a music video. Didn't even like the song—that was a nightmare to deal with. But I mean, you know, nothing too crazy."
"Well, you're well known enough to be featured on some celebrity music gossip show. You could've told me!"
"I did tell you! Sort of." He rocked back on his heels and bent his knees. "Why are you so tense about this?" he asked, his voice strained.
Avoiding the question, I asked in the same voice: "What is someone like you doing in such a shabby apartment?"
He let out a sigh. "Um, I just—I recently broke up with my girlfriend. I let her stay in our apartment, and I had no where to go, but here. It's just temporary. Besides, even though I work in television and movies, I’m not movie star rich! I can’t afford two places!"
"Oh," I gasped, trying to decipher all this new information. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah." He looked down at his toes. I couldn't help but notice how long his eyelashes were. "You know, speaking of which." He looked up at me with a little more clarity in his eyes. "I have a party to go to tonight. I don't wanna go alone—mind joining me?"
"Are you joking?" I asked incredulously. He must be joking.
"I’ll take that as a yes. I'll meet you at 7." The doors closed and the boy was gone.
I blinked slowly and counted to five before I let things crash down on top of me. "What… was... that?" I thought aloud. A party? Avoiding questions, and acting very shady? That was not the man I was with yesterday. Confusion muddled my thoughts so much I walked into a person.
"Sorry darling," the man said.
"I'm invited to a party," I processed aloud.
"Oh… congrats," he said slowly. "You… uh, you seemed confused. Do you not want to go?"
"I don't know," I mumbled, walking towards my truck in a trance.
Does Andy go to the party with Parker or does she blow him off?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.