Halloween Party

Katya, Lucy, Vivian and I were all getting ready at my house for a Halloween party at a place hosted by a guy called Greg. Apparently it was the going to be the first of a few stops before we headed down to the drive-in theatre to watch Hocus Pocus. Totally predictable but I can’t get enough of that movie even if it wasn’t Halloween.

While the girls were setting up in my room I got a facetime call from Chloe. They were all dressed up getting ready for their own party night.

“Aww I miss you guys! When are you all coming to visit me!?” I whined, pouting my lip.

“When you buy us three plane tickets!” Chloe laughed.

“Screw you,” I said.

“We miss you so much too, Anna,” Jodie said. She came closer to the screen and squinted. “Are you…? What are you?”

“Oh! I know!” Chloe chimed. “Madonna, right?”

“See, I knew you’d get it,” I nodded.

“I hope you have tons of fun!” Chloe said.

“And tons of hot sex!” Jodie yelled loud enough for Katya, Lucy or Vivian to hear.

I didn’t want to tell them I was sleeping with someone else’s man all things considered, so of course I felt horribly guilty for keeping a secret from my best friends. I mean, it’s not like we tell each other everything, right? Oh, who am I kidding, we tell each other everything.

I said my goodbyes and slouched on the bed.

“So how are things going with you and Jasper?” Katya winked.

I frowned. “Did you guys know he’s a doctor?”

“Who?” Lucy asked, playing with Vivian’s hair.

“Jasper,” I said. “This whole time, no one knew?”

“That’s weird. Why did he say he was a financier or whatever the fuck he did?” Katya asked.

I shook my head. “It wasn’t exactly him that said it, apparently.”

“You do get around,” Katya nudged me.

I smiled a crooked smile like I was both in excruciating physical pain and trying to hide it. “So, this party. Are we walking?”

I wanted to change the subject as quickly as I could. Enough with the Jasper and Julie talk. Tonight, I wanted to let loose and get drunk.

Kids were running around with their plastic pumpkin buckets as we walked up the street. Some with one or both of their parents and some old enough to go with a group of friends. If I’d known how far Greg’s house was I would’ve insisted on a car ride because my heels were killing me. by the time we got there they were throbbing and all I wanted to do was sit down and have a drink. We could hear them pumping music from outside; when we entered the crowded house, on repeat I caught the lyrics ‘get you alone’.

“Ladies, welcome,” a man I assumed was Greg greeted us at the door dressed as Frankenstein. “Let me guess,” he squinted and then pointed at Vivian, “you are—”

“Don’t you even start, Greg,” she said, holding up an open hand.

“What?” Greg laughed and shrugged.

“Where’s the bar?” Katya asked, rubbing her hands together.

“Are you already drunk? It’s in the kitchen, duh,” Greg said.

“Shut the fuck up,” Katya rolled her eyes, fisticuffing with Greg until he was begging for her to stop while also cackling sounding like a wild horse.

“Follow me,” Greg said, gesturing here and there like a flight attend and we the passengers.

We fixed ourselves a drink and started dancing to the contemporary club top 100.

“There’s your boyfriend,” Katya nodded at me, staring at someone behind me.

I turned around and saw Julie and Jasper walking in side by side with his hand around her waist.
“Ugh so gross,” I scrunched my nose as if I could smell a foul stench.

“Nevermind him, it’s just us tonight,” Vivian nodded.

“Yeah,” Lucy added. “Just us.”

“Hey guys,” someone said.

“Hey, Jasper; hi Julie,” Lucy beamed, waving her hand. Then, she shrugged, throwing me an apologetic smile.

I shook my head and smiled as if it totally didn’t bother. It shouldn’t bother me—they shouldn’t bother me—but seeing them together annoys the shit out of me. I think it’s the whole fake idea of happiness and being dragged along for the ride as a watchful third wheel from the distance that also happens to occasionally have sex with the boyfriend. Or maybe it’s his repetition of the phrase ‘it’s complicate’ that is so frustratingly vague I’m bordering being not giving a fuck and giving too much of a fuck that the curiosity is eating away at my insides like a rabbit nibbling on my organs.

“Let me guess,” Jasper pointed at me. I crossed my arms over my chest, defensively. “Madonna, right?”

“That’s right,” I sighed.

He smiled a cute and yet annoying smile. “You guys look great.”

“What are you, Jasper?” Lucy asked.

“Isn’t it obvious? Danny Zuko.”

“Dude, you’re only wearing a leather jacket. You look exactly the same as you normally do,” Vivian said.

“Excuse me.” He pointed at his hair. “The poof took me all night.”

“And it looks exactly the same,” Vivian emphasised, making the girls cackle.

I could only smile weakly but I literally have nothing to be so mopey about, I don’t know why I just don’t enjoy myself.

“Alright, car is parked and we’re set,” a bearded guy with an eyebrow ring entered the group.

“Oh, this is Sean my brother; Sean, this is everyone,” Julie said, sounding off each of our names and I loosened up my abrasive demeanour with each passing name.

Sean paid special attention to Vivian and Vivian eyed him knowingly. The sneaky exchange made me smile, I almost broke the secretive atmosphere by snickering.

“So what are you, Julie?” Katya asked.

“Oh, I don’t dress up. I’m not a child,” Julie replied, shooting a fake smile at Katya, point blank in the dead of night.

“Not a good lawyer either,” Katya grumbled. I widened my eyes a fraction and caught my gasp before I could escape and add more tension.

“What did you—?” Julie started.

“Alright,” Jasper smiled. “Play nice. It’s Halloween. For one night, let’s all get along.”

“Fine by me,” Sean said.

“Same here,” Vivian added. They smiled, neither of them breaking their line of sight.

“Whatever,” Julie mumbled, crossing her arms over her chest as Jasper squeezed her closer. I almost gagged. He should get an Oscar for how well he acts. If he kisses her, then I’m done. So done.

“I’m going to get a refill,” I said, moving away before anyone could ask that I fix them a drink. It’s a good thing no one knows I used to bartend.

I realised I hadn’t completely finished my vodka soda so I took my sweet time taking small sips until every last drop was gone.

“Boo,” a voice behind me startled me.

I scrunched my face and turned around. “Oh it’s you.”

“Now that’s a scary face,” Jasper said.

“Shut up,” I nudged him, chuckling. “I was ready to kill you for jumping at me like that.”

“Do you have amnesia? Short term memory loss? It’s Halloween.”

“Doesn’t mean you go around scaring people. Especially people fixing themselves a refill.”

“Yeah, I noticed you were drinking at the table. I mean, we could call a hotline, get you into AA. Supportive groups are all the rage apparently.”

“I will fuck you up, Jasper,” I said, firmly. He laughed. “What’s with the budget Danny Zuko costume?”

“Hey, I wasn’t even going to dress up in the first place.”

“This is you dressed up?”

He pointed at his mane. “The hair, it’s all about the hair.”

“And the leather jacket,” I added.

“And people said I’d never wear this jacket, yeah right.”

“Yeah. Right.”

“Excuse me while I…” he leaned over me, his nose buried in my hair, holding for a few seconds and then returning to leaning back on the table, his hand lightly grazing my lower back as he pulled back. He cleared his throat, smiling cheekily. “…fix myself a drink too.”

“You shouldn’t draw attention, you know,” I warned.

He furrowed his brows in disbelief. “Everyone is either not paying attention or too drunk to even notice.”

“Not Julie,” I noted.

“No, not Julie.” He looked down at his empty red cup. “You know what else is not Julie? The person I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Actually, that’s pretty good.”

“Except when you get a hard-on and Julie has to take of it, huh?” I scoffed, raising a brow along with my attitude.

He narrowed his eyes. “Why do you have to break what I’m saying like that?”

I shrugged. “What?” He didn’t say anything. He just held my gaze to the point where I squirmed with discomfort at the thoughtful silence. “I’m going to go. Enjoy the rest of your night,” I smiled. Bitch alert? Present!

“…ugh why is he even talking to her?” Julie hissed.

“Give it a rest, Julie. She’s hot, he’s hot, get over it,” Katya rolled her eyes.

“Can we talk about something else?” Lucy asked.

Julie studied Vivian with a slight, mouth-curdling disgust as Vivian leaned over the intricately detailed fireplace and Sean was leaning into her.

“I don’t even know what he sees in her,” Julie hissed again, ignoring Katya’s protest to give it a rest.

“Oh watch out now, if Vivian drives home with him you better believe his getting some, even on the drive there,” Katya joked. “Let them have fun, you prude.”

Julie narrowed her eyes at Katya. “What are you even talking about? We all know Japs can’t multitask while driving.” She burst out laughing. “I’m just joking.”

“You son of a—” Katya started.

Before I could let her finish, I threw my vodka soda in Julie’s face, drenching her and her suit. “Bitch!”

***So a while ago there was a celebrity that apologised for making an offensive joke, and so I was talking to someone the other day and told them this and wondered why is it that when a celebrity makes that kind of joke they have to apologise for it, but when our friends or people we know make an offensive joke, it’s all in jest and light-hearted fun. That person said it’s because that celebrity is making that joke to an audience of a large scale, not like how a friend would say it to a friend of theirs, perhaps even about their friend. So I was wondering if you make\made offensive jokes? What’s the reaction from people? What’s the reaction from yourself? Do you see anything wrong or not with it? What’s your overall thought on the subject? There’s also an interesting notion from a YouTuber who frequently says the N-word and the homophobic F-word in an effort to make a point and when he gets flamed by people saying it’s wrong or that only certain people can use certain cuss words, he maintains that either all of it is okay, or none of it is okay, and that’s especially in relation to the N-word. So basically what’s your thoughts on all that I’ve mentioned? Hope you all have a lovely day! Soul***

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In The Thunderous Silence Of The Night

“I didn’t know you drove a ute,” I said, scanning the interior curiously.

“I don’t. I borrowed it for the night.”

“Why?”

“Because this single chair serves a purpose for where we’re going,” he winked.

I narrowed my eyes. Don’t think I didn’t notice it because the first thing that popped into my head was snuggling up next to him.

“I’m seriously thinking all you townspeople just like to take people to dark and secluded areas,” I said, curling up in the cold. My sweats not doing much to keep me warm.

Jasper laughed. “Oh yeah, it’s easier to hide the bodies.”

I widened my eyes but laughed at the same time. The mixed reaction made Jasper almost choke on his cackle. I dropped my shoulders and breathed out. “Not funny,” I mumbled. “Seriously, where are we going?”

“Stop your whining we’re almost there, bear.”

I scrunched my nose. “Shut up.”

“So grouchy,” he chuckled. “Was the date with my little brother really that bad?”

“He was a complete gentleman actually. We had so much fun.” I turned up my nose like a snob.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes. He’s fantastic. Unlike someone else I know.”

“What an insult. I’m not like my brother. Thank God for that.”

“What is this animosity you two have towards each other? You guys are grown ass men. What are you? Thirty? Somewhere around there?”

“Somewhere around there.”

“And what is he like ten years younger?”

Jasper scoffed and furrowed his brows. “He’s two years younger than me, actually.”

“Sense the exaggeration. And apparently not so ‘little’ as you so politely call him.”

“It’s said in fondness.” He laid a hand on his chest. “Totally from the heart.”

I rolled my eyes. “So why do you guys have this hatred towards each other?”

He shrugged. “It’s not a hatred.” He let out a breath he struggled to keep in, almost as if there was an explanation on the tip of his tongue but his lips weren’t cooperating. “It’s nothing. It’s…it’s just—”

I held up my hand. “Wait, wait. Let me guess. It’s just complicated?” He looked at me seriously as we slowed to a park. I half-smiled. “I haven’t heard that one before.” He smiled apologetically, and my chilly disposition dropped at the sight of it. I rolled my eyes, he wasn’t getting me that easily. I cleared my throat and looked out into the darkness surrounding me. Single lamp posts placed sporadically in the field. “So is this the part in the movie where you put a mask on and spray me with some sleeping gas?”

He chuckled and beeped the horn twice. I expected someone to come charging and scare the shit out of me. My mind knows how to go apeshit and play tricks on me.

Just then the large screen that I completely ignored lit up and the introductory animation and song to Grease started playing. Jasper waved his hand back to an unknown person, the equipment too far away.

“What’s this?” I smiled.

“I know you missed out on that whole drive-in movie thing so I figured why not set one up.”

“Oh,” I breathed. I didn’t know what to say or do so I just stared with my jaw drooping.

“And—” he lifted a finger and then leaned back and pulling up a box— “I couldn’t gather people for the food carts so I made us some popcorn, got us some chocolate, and water, you know so we don’t die of thirst from all the salt and sugar.”

“A natural refresher,” I noted.

“As intended,” he grinned.

I shook my head, still stunned. “How did you do this?”

“Well, Irve owes me one and I just decided to use that one on you.”

I gulped. “Umm, thank you.”

“Don’t read anything into it,” he shrugged, awkwardly. “It’s nothing big. I mean, it was annoying to hear you go on and on and on about the drive-in theatre that I figured I’d…shut you up.” He furrowed his brows.

I laughed. “Well, thank you nonetheless.”

He nodded. “Yeah, well…don’t read—”

“—anything into it, I know, I know.” I held out my hand. “So hand me the popcorn?”

I sunk back into the chair comfortably and started chowing down on the popcorn. I didn’t think I had any more room left in me to eat after my date, but when it comes to confectionary I have the appetite of a lion.

“I firmly believe John Travolta’s hair defies gravity in this movie,” Jasper joked and I laughed. “Newton would be tossing and turning in his grave.”

“You should dress up as him for Halloween.”

“No way.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Those tight shorts, you know.” I wriggled my brows.

“It’ll scare the children, truly,” he laughed and I joined him. “Look at him. He’s exercising under the sun and his hair is like a rock. Anyway, I can’t imagine it would be comfortable doing the pumpkin carving contest in those clothes. I have my choice of leather or tight shorts, yay.”

I chuckled. “I’m going as Madonna.”

“Which era.”

“Eighties.”

He nodded approvingly. “You have my permission.”

I looked at Jasper and narrowed my eyes in thought. “Sometimes I think you and Julie are total opposites, and not in a good way.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, she hates the small town festivities.”

He shrugged. “I think she’s just itching to move back to New York.”

I swallowed some popcorn and essentially started choking on the salt. I chugged some water and put the popcorn down, slapping my hands together to rub off the excess. “Are you excited to go back?”

Jasper sighed and looked at me. “My favourite topics: Julie and New York.”

I smiled apologetically. “Well, everyone thinks you’re moving back. Going back to that lucrative job on Wall Street while your girlfriend works in a law firm.” I looked back at the screen. “You guys will probably live on 5th Avenue and shit.”

Get a puppy. Get married. Have kids. The works.

Jasper chuckled. “I don’t work on Wall Street. I’m not a money wiz.”

I angled my brows and gazed at him confusedly. “Everyone said—”

“—oh I know what they think. I never corrected them.”

“Why not?”

He sighed, his chest swiftly rising and dipping. “Because it was never me who planted the seeds into everyone. Julie went around telling everyone and then it just got too far in. Plus, at the time I didn’t want everyone to think how weird it was that my girlfriend was lying about my job.” He laughed, awkwardly. “In retrospect I could’ve told everyone she was joking but usually the prerequisite of a joke is that it be funny.”

“So they would’ve thought she was a psycho.”

“Pretty much.”

I chuckled, humourlessly. This is so weird. “So…what do you do?”

“I’m a doctor.”

I lifted up my brows. “A doctor? Why the hell would she lie about you being a doctor?”

“She has this weird idea that if you’re anything but a Wall Street guy in New York then you’re not good enough. I think the only person who knew was Nate.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah,” he breathed.

I don’t think ‘psycho’ quite cut it. “So what are you going to do? Are you just going to go along with it until you move back? Is this the complicated thing you’ve been alluding to this whole time?”

He laughed. “No, that’s not it. And honestly, what I really want to do is buy a spot here for my practise. It doesn’t mean I’ll live here permanently but I’d like to work while I’m here.”

“Well, why don’t you.”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Conflicting signals? I suddenly open up a practise when everyone think I do something else?”

I gulped some more water. “You should.” He looked at me. “Do it. Why not? What do you have to lose?”

“Nothing, I guess.”

I paused and then nodded. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

I lifted up my shoulders. “For telling me.” Then, I let my shoulders down.

“Yeah, no big deal.”

“Right,” I rolled my eyes. “As always.”

“I always thought this ending was sad.”

“Yeah?”

“I mean, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess I could see that. Or maybe it’s just bitter sweet.”

“Real bitter.”

“Least they’re happy.”

“Yeah.”

Under the bright light of the clouds as the car flew I looked up into Jasper’s brown eyes fixed onto me. With the back of his fingers he stroked my cheek and brushed my parted lips.

“Won’t Irve see?” I whispered.

Jasper only shook his head and leaned forward, placing a gentle, light kiss on my lips. It felt like I was kissing him a lot longer than I was, and I was expecting him to become a little urgent, but he remained sweet and slow. Balanced. A kiss where I faded into him and everything else disappeared.

“What was—?” I stopped short and cleared my throat. “That was different,” I said, hoping for an indication that I wasn’t alone.

He caressed the corner of my lips. “It’s no big deal.” He paused to look at me, lost in a thought. Then, he cleared his throat and shifted back to start the car. “I, uhh, hope you had fun,” he said, smiling a smile that didn’t meet his eyes. One which was way too distracted.

“Yeah,” I breathed. “Thanks, again.”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

I didn’t push it and the rest of the ride home was done so in the thunderous silence of the night.

***

“Good morning, deary,” an old lady in Lucy’s chair greeted me as soon as I entered the salon.

“Hi, how are you?”

“Fine thank you, and you?”

I smiled. “Can’t complain.”

“Good, good,” she nodded.

“Martha was just telling me about a rumour she heard,” Lucy said, eyeing me strangely.

“Oh yeah?” I asked.

“These townspeople talk, you see? We like to talk, it’s like an Olympic sport for us and the hunting grounds are ripe with secrets.” Her eyes beamed. “Well, you know Ricky he knows everything and Ricky spoke to the baker whose wife spoke to Irve’s wife and well, to get straight to the point, they’ve all come to the same conclusion: Jasper may be hiding a secret.”

“I’m Pulling The Plug. I’m Calling It Quits.”

Nate was picking me up tonight for our date and told me to dress for a five star restaurant. I didn’t think any five star restaurant existed in town and I was proven right when he told me we were going further out of town. When he arrived at my door I felt underdressed in comparison; he was decked out in a suit and shiny, black shoes that, when he turned to one side, I noticed the gold, medusa emblem of Versace. Versace? Here? What was I missing? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to be a snobby city princess, but I didn’t think Nate was this kind of guy. Any time I’ve ever seen him outside of his work he always dressed super casual.

“Hey,” I greeted him, going in for a hug.

He smiled and kept his hand at the small of my back. “Hey. How are you?”

“I’m good.” I ruffled with his hair. “You clean up well.”

Nate laughed and blushed so hard it made me smile from ear to ear. “Yeah.”

“Versace?”

“It was gift,” he said, shaking his head and scrunching his nose. “It doesn’t matter. Ready to go eat?”

“I’m starving,” I nodded.

I slid into his beamer and we headed out on a long drive down a dark road before I started to see the lights of the city. It felt a little too serial killer-ish for a second there.

It was like being back in New York as Nate handed the keys to the valet before heading in to be seated at our reserved table. Our coats were taken away and we ordered drinks first.

“Go all out, whatever you want—” Nate patted his suit jacket pocket— “I got it.”

“Watch me go crazy then,” I joked. His eyes widened a fraction before he understood. I lifted my menu up to hide my giggle.

I ordered a white wine risotto (perfect date food; not too messy) and Nate ordered the special.

“This is a nice place,” I said.

“Yeah?” he breathed. “Okay, that’s good.”

“Yeah,” I smiled wider. “I wasn’t expecting this kind of date.”

“Were you expecting a shack in the middle of nowhere?” he laughed.

“Something like that,” I laughed with him.

He cut his laugh short and dropped his smile. “Really?”

I cleared my throat. “Oh. No, not really.”

It went quiet until our first course came. What I had in mind was to order an appetiser we could both share. Food is a good opener for conversation. The fact that I needed food to open for us was a little concerning, but it’s not like I’ve been dating Nate forever.

Our main meals came and by then we had a couple of drinks in us and loosened up. We laughed a lot more. We joked a lot more without taking it literal. I fed a spoonful of risotto to Nate. It was great.

“…even though I’ve lived there my whole life I’ve actually wanted to go to New York with Jasper.” He lowered his eyes and cleared his throat, as if he regretted the mention of his brother as soon as his name tumbled out. “Of course, not everyone can be so lucky.”

“Well, why didn’t you go?”

“Complications.”

That sounded all too familiar. I narrowed my eyes in thought, wondering if that complication was Julie. No it couldn’t be, complications arose before Julie. Didn’t it?

“What?” Nate asked.

“Hmm?”

“What are you thinking so intensely about it?”

“Intensely?”

He pointed. “So intense that vein in your forehead is about to pop.”

I smacked my head quickly. “There’s a vein—”

Nate laughed and shook his head. “No, no, no, I’m sorry, I was only kidding.”

“Oh,” I breathed out in relief. “Don’t do that,” I huffed a little laugh.

“I’m sorry.” He chuckled. “Did you want to order dessert?” Nate asked.

I shrugged. “Sure.”

He smiled. “To share?”

I smiled. “Yeah, okay.” Truthfully, sharing a chocolate fondue was a reoccurring nightmare of mine.

The date ended a lot quicker than I expected. We headed home early enough for me to have time to kill before I go to sleep. I kept trying to remember when we left because I could’ve sworn it was only five minutes ago. I didn’t want to say anything, though, so as not to seem desperate. Was that wrong?

He walked me up to my house and we stopped at the steep. “I had fun.”

“Me too,” he said. “Let’s do this again some time?”

I nodded. “Yeah, that’d be nice.”

I bit my bottom lip and he moved closer, lowering his head. His cold lips touched mine and I moved closer into his body, the warmth now electrifying. I ran my hands up his chest when I felt his tongue. Welcoming the slither with my parted mouth when it started to move erratically. His kisses became short but way more tongue involved. So much more that he was licking all around my mouth, neither my teeth were spared. I opened my eyes and slowed my kisses, probably a bad move considering his was just going haywire.

I moved back and chuckled.

“Something wrong?” he asked.

I shook my head, not knowing what to say because I didn’t want to upset or offend him. You see that? I have his spit on my face and I’m worried about his feelings. So what did I do? I tried again. Almost the exact same thing happened, except this time he held me at the waist.

So I stepped back. I’m pulling the plug. I’m calling it quits. I didn’t even wipe my face straight away because again, I didn’t want to explain to him that he was slobbering all over me.

“I just…I think we should take this slow,” I said. Awkward excuse since we were only kissing.

“Oh, I wasn’t trying to—”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll see you later?”

“Yeah. Okay. I’ll call you,” he smiled, seemingly oblivious yet slightly confused as his brows furrowed.

I ran inside and quickly up the stairs to wash my face. I’m surprised he didn’t lick off half my makeup. Was he a bad kisser or was it just the moment?

In any case, I sat at the desk in my pyjamas to write about the experience, checking my moisturised skin periodically, when the bell rang after some time. I checked my phone to see any missed calls or messages. None about the doorbell, but a couple from the girls asking about my date. Oh, do I have news for them.

I peeked outside the window to find a ute parked in the driveway. I closed the laptop on a cliffhanger and hopped down the stairs. I opened the door expecting an old neighbour when it turned out to be just my luck instead.

“Oh shit,” I breathed.

Jasper smiled a contained smile, appraising me up and down. “Cute pyjamas.”

“I thought you were someone else,” I explained.

“Who? Nate?” He lifted a brow.

My heart jumped at his cute expression. “None of your business!”

He laughed. “Get dressed, bear.”

I squinted. “Bear?”

He pointed at my pyjamas. “Bear.”

I narrowed my eyes. “And why would I get dressed?”

“Because I’m taking you somewhere.”

“Where?”

“It’s a surprise,” he said, eyes beaming.

“I’m sort of getting ready for bed.”

“Really?” He wriggled his wrist and looked at his watch. “Date must’ve gone well too, huh?” He teased. I rolled my eyes and he chuckled. “Come on, it’ll be a couple of hours, give or take an hour or two, tops.” He put his hands into his pockets, lowered his head, swished his shoulders and drew a tantalising smile. “Please?”

Damn him.

***Hiya! Sorry I haven’t been writing as much, if at all. However, thank you for continuing to read. I’m planning to continue Samson&Delilah as well if anyone is interested; I seriously miss writing that blog. This is in addition to Wattpad, hopefully. All hopefully but I’m hoping that it doesn’t remain in the hopeful stage, if that makes sense :D. Also, I have said that some instances in this blog are true here and there, one of them being that kiss. Keep on keeping on! See you soon! Soul.***

Human Nature

When I thought about it, I didn’t enjoy the idea of opening up the past between me and Daniel so soon, especially when the past seemed as distant as east to west coast. So I replied to him last minute and through text. A simple, ‘hey, I’ve actually moved but let’s catch up another time. I miss you, too’. Janet, Chloe and Jodie were helpless. Somehow Daniel’s proximity opened up a debate about which coast was better; sidenote, food is a huge deciding factor.

I couldn’t think about it now though, when I have Jasper on top of me and his hand up my shirt on the abnormally large sofa I first picked out for my new home. He grinded his hips into me, my legs wrapped around him and squeezing him closer the more he thrust. I turned him over onto his back and mounted him, kissing his neck, the top of his chest, the hollow at the base of his neck, and trailed my lips back up. He scrunched my hair up, pulled me back, gently holding me at my neck; I had my eyes closed for a moment when it felt like the moment carried on for a bit too long, and I looked down at him. His face peaceful, just watching me with those big brown eyes, a smile appearing ever so slightly before pushing me down onto his lips.

Then, the sofa vibrated. I ignored it until it stopped. But I opened my eyes and pulled back when it started again. “Umm?”

“What?”

“Don’t you feel that?”

He paused and then his brows parted. “Oh,” he breathed. He shimmied upwards and shoved a hand down his back, pulling it up and clutching his phone. He threw it onto the coffee table with just enough time for me to catch a glimpse of who was calling. Julie.

I literally winced.

Jasper turned me over onto my back again and pulled my leg up over his side. Stroking it as he ran kisses down my neck. I closed my eyes, anticipating his lips on my nipples. But then, his phone started vibrating again. Julie.

“Uh, maybe you should answer that?” I bit my lip as soon as the words came out.

Jasper breathed a tickling chuckle into my chest. “What?”

“Maybe she’s worried about you?”

He snickered and looked up at me. “I don’t think so.”

He was about to continue the kisses when I grabbed his jaw and turned him back up, his lips fully puckered on a squished, confused face. “Sorry,” I said, immediately letting go. “I think…you know I have some work to do. I might go do that now.”

“Some work?” he lifted a brow, looking hotter.

I smiled. “Yeah?”

He shrugged and sighed, still confused. “Okay.” He hopped off the couch and grabbed his phone. Tapping the fresh flower he gave me in the vase. “See you later then.”

“Yeah, see you.” I plonked back down deflated as soon as he left.

***

I had volunteered to help out with the town book fair later that day and decided it was the perfect time to reflect. And by reflect I mean I’m training myself to not feel guilty. It was mostly a small fair in the middle of the town square where everyone were able to purchase or exchange books. Most of them came from the bookstore where, Winston, the old shop owner, allowed me to go back and forth so long as I kept track of what I was selling. I found myself working in retail suddenly and it all seemed as if I regressed in my career, going from writer to salesperson.

I’d heard about a little shop in New York that had books covered in brown wrapping paper with blurbs written by people who read the book, so I was in charge of selling that small collection of books that were covered (and numbered since I still needed to keep track).

“How you holding up, Anna?” Lucy asked.

I was sitting down reading a book when she popped up. “Slow day.”

“It’ll pick up. It’s not even lunch yet. That’s usually when the rush hour is. And after 5pm.”

“I’m not complaining.” I’d slacked on my reading and needed to catch up.

“Hey what’s up Anna,” Katya jumped in.

“Hey Katya—”

“Ugh!” Katya scrunched her nose eyeing something in the distance. I stood up, trying to follow her line of sight.

“What?” I asked.

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Julie is here.”

“Why? It’s clear she doesn’t read,” Katya said.

“First time for everything, right?” Lucy said.

“She’s totally here because of Jasper.”

“Jasper?” I asked. Oh, yup. There is. He and Julie were walking as in sync as the opposing sides of a magnet. Here and there he’d throw his arm over her shoulders and pull her in. My stomach churned at the fake picturesque image. “Eww,” I muttered.

“’Eww’ is right,” Katya said.

“Oh, shit, Nate is here,” Lucy spotted.

“I love how we sound surprised as if we don’t see this people every day,” Katya laughed, making us both laugh with her.

“He’s coming here,” Lucy said.

“Hey Anna,” Nate smiled. “How are you?”

“He’s here,” Lucy whispered.

“Oh, what?” Nate asked.

“Ignore her,” I quickly said, eyeing Lucy.

Nate chuckled. “How have you been?”

“Fine, fine. You?” I asked.

“Yeah, great. Listen, I, uhh…” he turned to Katya and Lucy. “Did I interrupt something or…?”

“No, please, continue,” Katya said. Lucy chuckled.

I shook my head. “Ignore them.”

“Yeah,” Nate furrowed his brows, still keeping that smile on. “Umm, well, I was hoping for this to be without an audience—” Lucy and Katya snickered— “but I was wondering if you wanted to go out sometime? I’d like to take you out to dinner.”

“Oh,” I breathed.

“What do you say?”

“Yeah,” I shrieked. I cleared my throat while I turned red and hot. “I mean, yeah, sure, I’d like that.” I glanced at Jasper and Julie, both heading this way, Jasper staring at me for far too long. “I’d like that a lot,” I nodded.

“Great!” He beamed. “So…” he looked at Katya and Lucy, grins from ear to ear. “I’ll call you.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“I’ll see you.”

“See you later.”

He turned to Katya and Lucy. “Bye ladies.”

“Bye Nate,” they said in unison.

They quickly leaned over the table. “Well that was interesting,” Katya said.

“What are you going to wear? Oh, can I do your hair and makeup!?” Lucy asked, jumping up and down with her hands together. “Please, please, please?”

“Lucy,” Julie interjected, “glad to see you have accepted your true beggar form.”

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Julie,” Katya started, “I didn’t know you read.”

“Yes, well, I do it all,” she gushed, flipping her hair. I almost gagged.

“No, I mean, I didn’t even know you knew the alphabet.” Lucy chuckled and it almost sounded like she was about to choke.

“Yes, well, the more you know.”

“Yes, well,” Katya batted her lashes and flipped her hair dramatically. To which Julie rolled her eyes.

“So what’s the hair and makeup talk about?” Julie asked me directly. “I’m surprised you have somewhere special to go,” she chuckled.

“Uhh, yeah, well—”

“Nate just asked her out,” Katya blurted.

“Did he?” Julie asked.

“He did?” Jasper added before clearing his throat.

“That brother of yours sure knows how to pick ‘em,” Julie said.

“Yeah,” he chuckled humourlessly.

“You guys should all double date,” Lucy said.

“No, no, no,” we three said, awkwardly laughing at how quickly and brashly we rejected that idea.

“I mean, I think Anna would get bored of me and Jasper getting all lovey dovey on each other,” Julie said. She kissed him on the cheek before telling him to kiss her back. He lowered his head and pecked her dryly on the lips. He pulled back and wiped his lips with his fingertips, looking down. I cringed so hard, I felt so uncomfortable. This guy just a few moments ago was making out with me, and is now kissing his girlfriend. I think I’m going to be sick.

I smacked my lips together. “Well, umm, I have to go get more books from Winston so I’ll see you all later.” I ducked out before anyone could say goodbye.

Once inside the bookstore I headed straight for the water cooler.

“Hot out there?” Winston asked.

“No, just, crowded.”

“Oh,” he dipped his nose and looked out the window. “Oh.”

I looked out the window too, catching a glimpse of Jasper walking this way. “Winston, I’m not here.”

“What?”

“Just tell Jasper I ran out for a quick second. Please?” I shot straight up the stairs and threw myself into an aisle of books.

The door rung open. “Hey, Winston.”

“Anna’s upstairs,” He immediately said.

“Winston!” The traitor. Jasper laughed.

.

I was going to write this in the comments section of the previous post but then thought not everyone may see it.

Sorry I haven’t been answering anyone’s concerns, I appreciate it though. I don’t want to be flooding you with what’s been going on so I’ll just tell you I’ll still be posting. Sorry again, I feel bad, it’s not me to not be writing and most of all reading.

Hope to see you all soon.

Soul

Limp

Dear Anna,

How are you? I miss you. Next week I’m doing some business in L.A. and was wondering if you wanted to meet up? It’s been too long. We should get together. Did I mention I miss you?

Daniel.

Forward to: Janet; Chloe; Jodie.

SEND.

***

“Okay,” I rushed into Lucy’s salon, waving my arms in the air, “I have to tell you something and you really have to refrain from judgement and—” I looked up and saw her holding up foils on an old lady’s grey hair.

“Deary, my hair?” the old lady said to Lucy.

Lucy shook her head and snapped back into it after giving me a ‘the fuck?’ look. “Oh, sorry Margaret.”

“Yeah, sorry,” I said.

“Oh don’t apologise, deary,” the old lady said to me, “it’s clear you have some issues needing to be addressed. You may make your case—” she looked at Lucy’s reflecting in the mirror— “gossip is exciting, haven’t heard anything new in a long time.”

“Oh, I’ll just wait,” I said.

“Back room,” Lucy gestured with her head.

“Oh, damn,” the old lady said. I didn’t want to disappoint her but I didn’t want to give her a heart attack either. Even I’m shocked with myself.

“Sorry I took a while,” Lucy said, splitting the curtain of beads and coming into the back room. “What’s up?”

“So, umm, I sort of kissed Jasper.”

Lucy grinned and lifted a brow. “Did you now?” I nodded. “Well isn’t this exciting. You and Jasper and oh…his girlfriend.”

“Yeah, it’s bad, I know, it’s bad right?”

Lucy lifted an index finger. “Let me call in some reinforcements.”

“What?”

“Viv and Katya should hear this,” she pulled out her phone.

I groaned. “Katya’s going to love this.”

“She will actually,” Lucy chuckled.

“She’ll be too biased.”

“Biased? Relax you’re not on trial.”

“Feels that way in my head,” I mumbled.

I was chewing on the ridge between my nail and my skin waiting for Vivian and Katya while Lucy finished up her client in the salon. From what seemed like a hundred years later, Lucy was on her lunch break and we decided to meet up with Vivian and Katya at the diner. Surrounded by food may not be a great place to be if you need to stress eat, on the other hand, Buzz’s food is tasty as hell. I ordered chocolate chip pancakes galore.

“I knew it as soon as you called,” Katya said. “Look—” she held up her forearm— “goosebumps.”

“Knew what?” Vivian asked.

“It’s nothing major,” I shook my head and then nudged Lucy’s elbow. “What did you say to them?”

“She said nothing,” Vivian said, cutting Lucy off before she could speak.

“She literally was like ‘you have to come now, quick, Anna’s got something to tell us!’” Katya nodded.

Vivian nodded in sync with Katya. “With a little more urgency.”

Katya gasped and stood up, her chair dragged on the floor and echoed through the diner. “’You have to come now! QUICK! Anna’s got something to tell us!’”

“Shhh sit down!” I implored. We all laughed and I was glad Jasper was nowhere to be found. I didn’t want him to think I was rushing out and telling the next person I knew about what happened.

“Alright, so spill,” Vivian told me.

I sighed, reluctant to say anything. “I kissed Jasper.”

Katya burst out laughing. “Shit yeah!”

“That’s good?” I asked. Is that the reaction I want? Or need?

“Hell yeah!” she reassured.

I turned to Vivian. She shrugged. “It’s not bad.”

“But I’m cheating,” I said.

“No, no,” Lucy shook her head. “He’s cheating. You owe nothing to Julie.”

“Worse,” I scoffed, “I’m an accomplice.”

“How is that worse?” Vivian narrowed her eyes in thought.

“Dude, this is great,” Katya said, grinning from ear to ear. “You get to have so much fun, and Julie’s a bitch anyway.”

“Does that justify this?” I asked.

“It’s Jasper that’s supposed to be loyal to Julie,” Vivian said. “Not you. So long as you’re into it, I don’t see a problem.”

“Why does it feel bad then?” I asked.

“Because it is bad,” Lucy snickered, making us giggle like teenage girls.

“But oh so good?” I asked, smiling.

“Exactly.”

“Well,” I breathed, feeling a little relaxed, “what am I supposed to do now?”

“What do you mean?” Lucy asked.

“I haven’t spoken to him since,” I said.

“You should,” Katya said.

“And say what?”

“You should set the parameters of the relationship,” Vivian said.

“Relationship,” I muttered, scrunching my nose as if the stench of the word was rotten and lifted.

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Not relationship but—” she wiggled her brows— “relationship.”

The diner doorbell ringed and Jasper entered seeking his typical coffee dosage. He called out Buzz’s name and just like that, Buzz was at work making a cup. He caught sight of me and the girls and smiled. I smiled back, feeling giddy. He’s so hot. So gorgeous. I couldn’t breathe, but I maintained my smile. I stretched my arms out over the table. It felt like Buzz was taking a century to make his cup. He took it when it was done, flashed a lasting smile, and then left.

“Ugh,” I sunk onto the table.

The girls woo’ed and started poking me and I heated up with embarrassment.

“You should totally talk to him,” Lucy ended.

I was out for the rest of the day and texted him late into the night. Instantaneously he texted me back.

I’ll be right over.’

No, no, no, you don’t have to,’ I texted back. He never answered.

I stayed up watching a bit for a few minutes, dreading the wait. My knee kept shuddering up and down and I chewed on my lips, reaching for the carmex to calm my lip biting frenzy.

The knock on the door jolted me up. My heart racing. I breathed in and opened the door. “Hi.”

He looked up, smiling. “Hey.”

“Come in.”

I turned around and took a few steps back, crossing my arms over my chest. “Umm…” I chuckled, standing awkwardly at the entryway. “Want some—I have some wine, water, did you want…?”

“Yeah, water is fine,” he smiled.

“Cool, cool,” I said, backing away first and into the edge of a wall.

Jasper laughed. “Are you okay?”

“Mm-hmm, yup.” I was dying on the inside.

Jasper stood leaning against the wall of my kitchen walkway as I grabbed a clear glass from the cupboard. I filled up the water, breathing fast and my hands shaking. I turned down the rush of the water to a slower drip because I wanted time to think of something to say. But it was too long.

Jasper clutched my hands from behind and drenched them in the water, my hand turning white as I gripped his hand tightly. He pushed aside my hair with his other hand and pecked kisses slowly down my neck. Each kiss tingled and my body shuddered.

“Jasper,” I breathed.

“Mmm?” I felt him hard.

“I thought we should talk.”

“So talk.” Oh, the warm air from his lips.

I couldn’t even form a straight sentence. I muttered a lot, forgetting what I needed to say. Even if I should’ve said anything. I guess I should’ve expected this. I didn’t, however, expect his wet hand creeping down my shorts. I sighed, grabbing his side to steady myself and resting my head back onto his shoulder….

Mother’s Day + Memorial Day + The Measure of a Man + The White Plague + Swimming + July 4th + Love is a Bitch

***Hey all! Sorry I haven’t posted for so long! No one is more disappointed than I that I’ve stopped writing anything, even my book! But I’m slowly getting back into it and since I missed out on so much these past couple of months since I’m supposed to be writing about things in real time it took me forever to write this post. It’s soooooo long (over 11,500 words!! I always aim for 500-1000 words so this is the longest post I’ve ever written!!) and I didn’t want to cut it up and post it separately so here you have it in one lump sum! I hope you enjoy! Soul xo***

The week of Mother’s Day the whole town was covered in pink. Pink intertwined lamp posts, businesses decorated their shops with pink, and florists only displayed pink flowers and kept the colourful ones inside. I thought everyone was going mad (or I was) because I couldn’t understand what was going on until I was sitting with the girls having the usual breakfast.

“I guess I should’ve known,” I said. “How could I not figure it out?”

Lucy shrugged. “A lot of people forget.”

“What are you talking about?” Katya said. “We literally have a week long daily reminder.”

“Have you guys ever thought about changing this ritual to a daily lunch?” I asked, my eyes heavy and concealed behind dark sunglasses.

Katya shrugged. “Never thought about it.”

“Yeah,” Lucy added, “we’ve been doing this for so long we’ve become accustomed.”

“We used to be like you,” Lucy pointed at me.

“Accept add drool and you’d be identical to Lucy.”

“It was one time, dude!” Lucy rolled her eyes and Katya laughed. “God you’re like an elephant!”

“Apparently memory is a detestable thing,” Katya said to me.

Lucy shook her head. “Nope, it’s the size.”

That woke me up. I thought Katya would be horrified and lash out but she just laughed it off with Lucy. It was refreshing that a simple shit-talking relationship wouldn’t have girls admonishing each other over an itchy comment, but I guess it all depends on who your friends are. I mean, I don’t see that kind of interaction flying between Katya and Jasper’s girlfriend, Julie.

“So,” Katya slapped her hands together, “Mother’s Day, what’s everyone doing?”

“I’m most likely getting drunk,” Lucy said.

“You?” Katya pointed her shellac fingernail at me.

I shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know.”

“Yeah, I never know what to get my mother. She’s too picky,” Katya said, scrunching her nose.

“I can help.” Lucy offered.

“Ugh that would be great. What about you, Anna? You need help?”

“Oh, no, I’ll just find something on my own, I guess.”

“Flowers are in these days,” Lucy noted.

“They’ve never been out,” Katya shook her head.

“No, they’re in on Valentine’s Day, much more so than any other day, hardly on birthdays, but Mother’s and Father’s Day, presents are in and all.”

“I highly disagree…”

I was glad the discussion had diverted away from me and gone onto a debate about when flowers are “in” and the appropriateness of which to use on what occasion (funeral flowers was a dark talk). We’d somehow delved into history and thank God for free Wi-Fi in this diner otherwise we would’ve toasted our services. I guess I didn’t have the heart to tell these girls that I haven’t spoken to my mother and her hubby in a long, long time. Even though we were friends, we were still fresh, everything was still light and bubbly and more often than not superficial. The nitty and gritty will come later, for me at least. I didn’t want them to think I was a bitch for not talking to my mother, or being there for the birth of her son and my step-brother, much less seeing him at all. I didn’t open any emails regarding anyone as if they were a separate family, as if they were those relatives everyone has in their family that no one speaks to. Every time I think of the distance and the time away—or lost—I feel as if Prometheus’s crow were pecking away at my core, paining me to the point where I’d forget why I was in pain only for me to remember the faraway distance and time again. The only antidote is for me to kill time and distance but murder has never been my strong suit.

It’s a simple phone call you know?

Yup. I know.

Soooo….what’s the problem?

I don’t know.

Pick up the phone.

Pick up the phone.

Pick…up…the phone….

My heart thumped in my chest as I sat in my living room and reached for my cell and dialled my mother. I don’t remember the last time we spoke but something tells me we—or, I should say, I—didn’t leave it on a good note. The longer the phone rang out the more my heart pounded.

“Hi honey!” she beamed.

“Oh, hi mom.” I don’t know why I sounded confused, it’s not like I wasn’t expecting her to answer the phone.

“How are you, sweetie?”

I smiled. “I’m good. I’m good. And you?”

“Oh, everything’s good.”

“How is everything?”

“Everything’s good, everything’s good.”

I chuckled. “I mean, how is Joe and—” I breathed in deeply and exhaled.

“Evan is good. He’s adorable and healthy and all the things I mother wants for her children.”

“Yeah,” I looked down, “good, good. Good.”

“So anything new?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess a lot. I moved to a small town.”

“Wow,” she breathed. “I wish I’d known.”

“I wish I’d known a lot of things, too,” I jabbed.

“Oh…”

“Yeah.”

“I’m so sorry, honey. I’m so, so sorry.”

I’d always presumed I’d be rightly mad that she’d kept my father’s death a secret from me. That something so despicable couldn’t be cured by forgiveness or time. What bothered me more is that she never defended herself as I expected her to do. I wanted her to brush me with excuses so I could angrily fight back. But no, she’d always say she was sorry. Always. Different perspectives have never offered me insight as to why until now. As I sat here, in my new room, in my new house, I pondered my visits with my father; my contact with him; how much I had put into our relationship, and it was shamefully slim. So much so that when he died and I didn’t know about it, I had no one to blame but myself, but couldn’t. Hence, my mother willingly taking on the role of scapegoat. She never tried convincing me that I had it all wrong, that it wasn’t her fault; she just took the beating and carried on. I wasn’t fair to her; I should’ve been better.

I gulped. “I’m sorry, too.” For everything. Only silence followed, with the slight crackling of the phone as she gripped it tighter. That was response enough. I cleared my throat. “I want to meet Evan.”

“Oh, nothing would make me happier,” she sniffed, a slight rustle of a tissue. “No rush. Whenever you can.”

“Okay.”

“Okay,” she chuckled.

“I love you, mom. Happy Mother’s Day.”

“You’ve given me the best present ever, sweetie. I love you, too.”

***

I was doing my nightly skincare routine of exfoliation, toner, clarifying lotion, essence, serum and moisturiser earlier than usual. My addiction to skincare is lesser than my addiction to makeup in that I actually use the skincare I buy way more often than makeup, but that’s a whole other story. The fact that I use 6-to-8 skincare items on any given day\night is mainly because of my obsession with Clinique, Kora, and Koreans. Well, the Japanese and Koreans. I love cultures who consider skincare like a ritual or a 10,000-year-old tradition. Asian beauty standards are so simple and refined yet a lot of other times creative, Western beauty standards are creative and blended to oblivion but sometimes I don’t want to beat my face like NikkieTutorials even though I can’t stop watching her. Lately I’ve been watching Violette_fr, a French woman who is the Global Beauty Director for Estee Lauder, on YouTube; she was playing in the background through mid-moisturiser application, and my will to play with my makeup and do looks like her or Pony Makeup, when the doorbell rang. I seem to be interrupted by the doorbell a lot, but this is the first at night.

“Hello?”

“Told you she was home,” one of them mumbled.

“Anna, it’s me and Katya, open up!”

I opened the door. “Are you two on the run?”

Katya laughed and Lucy rolled her eyes. “Katya kept saying you’d know, but I didn’t think you’d know because you’re new and new people usually don’t know and lo and behold, you don’t know and—”

“Okay, the unknown is officially freaking me out right now,” I said, raising my hands and bracing myself for someone to pop up out of the bushes.

Lucy shook her head. “There’s a town meeting happening.”

I paused and furrowed my brows. “Meaning?”

“Why is your face glistening?” Katya asked.

I rushed to the mirror in the entryway and the girls followed in. “Ah, shit, I think I put too much on.” I started wiping at my face but it wasn’t having at it.

Katya put her hand on my shoulder. “Blot darling, blot.”

I went to the living room and plucked two tissues and dabbed away. I felt so extra.

“So are you coming?” Lucy asked.

“Coming where?”

“To the meeting.”

“Oh,” I thought, “I don’t know,” I shook my head and scrunched my nose, “I don’t see why I have to go.”

“Well, Lucy goes because she owns the hair salon. I sometimes go because I like to give a hard time to a lot of people there.”

Lucy rolled her eyes and shook her head disapprovingly. “She doesn’t always make fun.”

“You should come. A lot of townspeople go and not just entrepreneurs.”

“It’s sort of like a collective awakening.”

Katya furrowed her brows. “Except without the orgy insinuation.”

“Are you sure I’m allowed to go?” I asked.

“Totally, unless you and—” Lucy squinted at my laptop— “Violette want some alone time.”

I rolled my eyes and smiled. “Yup, yup, okay. I’ll be five seconds.”

Katya’s countdown faded into the background along with Violette’s voice as I ran upstairs to get changed. I’d already prepared to spend the rest of the night in my pyjamas I didn’t realise a town meeting was in the cards.

Thirty minutes later and we were walking down Main Street on our way to the town meeting. Lucy was filling me in on the regular attendees including the third wheelers. Generally it’s permitted to have other people who aren’t entrepreneurs to tag along until there’s no room, but apparently that hardly ever happens, the extras I mean. A member of the town’s council is to hold the meeting and it’s the same guy every time. He’s the liaison between the people and the council.  A man named Ted.

“He’s super nice but has a way of placing blame anyone but himself.”

“Not that anything’s his fault as he so kindly reminds us constantly,” Katya added, rolling her eyes and reminiscing over what could only be a thick dossier of memories.

“Oh!” Lucy clutched my arm. “Did I tell you I bought an Instax camera?”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Totally cute,” Katya said.

“It’s a camera that prints out instant Polaroids. I love it. I’m going nuts over it. Actually,” she mused, placing a finger over her mouth, “I should’ve brought it with me tonight. We could’ve gotten in some good shots.”

Katya nudged Lucy at the elbow. “Especially if Ted got agitated.”

“True,” Lucy agreed, “capturing those candid moments are honestly priceless.”

I laughed with them as I began to notice people folding into the same spacious building. But there were two people my eyes zeroed in on in particular.

“Oh, hey guys!” Lucy waved Julie and Jasper down. They stopped in their tracks and turned. Jasper turned first and Julie was still angled away from us and towards the building looking like she needed a little more convincing. I swear I even saw her roll her eyes.

“Hey Lucy, hey Katya,” he leaned in to hug the both of them and didn’t even acknowledge me. I felt awkward for a moment until Lucy mentioned me. “Yeah, of course I remember, Anna,” he laughed and nodded, his hands deep in his pockets they practically were about to peek out from underneath the hem of his pants. No hug for me but I guess I could understand why. Maybe not.

“How’s the mothership, Julie?” Katya asked.

Julie squinted and smirked, unimpressed. “I’m just busy all the time. Small towns seem to have big issues lately.”

“Oh, what? Someone’s sprained their ankle on the curb?” She pointed to Lucy. “I think Martha did that last week. I’ve been meaning to ask—” she looked at Julie— “how is Martha?” Lucy and Katya broke into a childlike giggle.

Julie sighed. “Some of us have more important things to do than running a hair salon.”

Katya scoffed. “What do you badger the witnesses too?”

“Ladies, ladies, all in good form, eh?” Jasper ushered, trying to keep the peace.

Katya drew an infinite symbol across her chest. “Scouts honour.”

“I’ll meet you inside,” Julie said to Jasper.

“Yeah always a pleasure Colonel Jessup,” Katya saluted.

Lucy chuckled. “Wait, where’s that from?”

“A Few Good Men.”

“Oh, right, good one…”

Their voices faded as they walked away, unbeknownst to them that I wasn’t following.

“Hey, so, I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” I brushed away the strands of hair falling around my face.

“Oh, yeah?” Jasper smiled.

“Yeah,” I breathed an awkward chuckle, “so, umm, the other night, that was an accident. I didn’t know you were with someone and I thought it was just—” I shrugged— “harmless fun.”

He furrowed his brows, his expression stern. “Hmm what do you mean?”

“I mean to say I’m sorry, I was so careless,” I chuckled again; nothing was funny.

“Mmmm,” he mused, squinting into the distance, “nope, don’t know what you’re talking about. Refresh my memory?”

“Umm, the kiss,” I said, confusedly, as in his reaction was confusing the fuck out of me.

“Mmmm,” he mused again, “nope,” he shook his head. “Don’t remember any kisses.”

“At the party. It was like my first week here. I was drunk and saw a guy i.e. you and kissed you. Katya and Lucy didn’t notice me let alone warn me.”

He sighed. “I don’t know, maybe you have me confused with someone else.”

“What?” I’m seriously going insane right now. “Are you serious?”

“Maybe it wasn’t a memorable kiss,” he grinned, biting his bottom lip and enjoying seeing the shock on my face.

“Umm, I’m pretty sure it was a pretty good kiss.” His lips drew wider. “I mean,” I shrugged, “it wasn’t bad.”

“Not sure I even saw you there, Anna.”

“Twilight Zone, anyone?” I mumbled. I had nothing else.

He leaned over. “A little advice: next time you go to a party where it’s outdoors on dirt, 3-inch designers might not be the best shoes to wear.” He winked.

As he walked away, I was so agitated that he put me through that run-around that it took me a minute or two to shake the freeze off and find my spot in the building with the girls. Oh and guess where we were seated? Right behind yours truly. Yay life.

“…now, moving on to Memorial Day Weekend,” Ted started. “I know everyone is keen to go home but please spare just a few more minutes. It’s my duty to remind everyone that the church bells will be ringing every hour on the hour for Memorial Day Weekend to honour those that sacrificed their lives for the greater good of the American people. Now, we wanted to add a little more sentiment to those days that we’ve decided to ask everyone to have candles burning at the window of their homes and perhaps businesses. In colonial times candles by the window signified warmth and evoked a family homey life, it represents comfort and hope, and it was especially lit for members of the family that were away and so the members of the council thought it a great idea. As you all leave you will be handed a pamphlet on all the fire safety and hazards to keep yourselves from harm. Now, next order of business,” people shifted in their seats and uttered sounds only disgruntled, impatient people make, “oh now, please, don’t groan, the pressure to go faster only makes me go slower. Now, moving on….”

“Twizzler?” Katya asked, whipping one out of a paper bag I thought was reserved for alcohol.

“Nah, I’m good,” I said.

“Dude,” she pushed one at my face, “have one.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said, taking the red twisty and thinking that I was offending her when I declined.

“Shh! You’re chewing loudly,” Jasper turned around to hush me. “We’re trying to listen to something very important, or Julie is and she’s going to relay it to me later.”

“Twizzler?” Katya whipped out another one.

“Don’t mind if I do,” Jasper chuckled. I rolled my eyes, he thinks he’s so cool and funny. He’s not. He’s annoying.

Julie leaned into Jasper. “Do you know how many calories and how much sugar that has?”

“Wait a minute,” he said sternly, “this has sugar in it? Is the red even real? What is the meaning of life!?” He sank back in his chair and bit off an inch.

Ted scoffed. “Please, can we have some peace and quiet, we’re nearly finished.”

“Sorry, Ted,” Jasper shouted, “we just got caught up with the new girl back here.”

“The new girl?” he asked, bobbing his head up to see me.

“Oh shit,” I muttered.

“Hi, girly!” a stocky woman in her 40s waved. “How ya doin’ love?”

I smiled, painfully. “Fine.”

“I was the second one to meet her,” Ricky said.

“Where?” someone asked.

“In my shop,” Lucy chimed in. I shot her a sad look and she shrugged and mimed ‘sorry’.

“What’s she like?” stocky 40s asked Ricky.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please, let’s focus on the task at hand,” Ted begged.

“This town’s curiosity is getting the better of them, Ted,” Jasper said. “I think there’s only one way to get things back on track.”

“Oh, yes, well, young lady—” he pointed at me— “what is your name again?”

“A—Anna,” I stuttered.

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Anna to the podium,” he clapped, sending a round of applause.

“Wha—What!? No!” I shook my head, absolutely mortified by the storm of attention. They can’t possibly do this to all the new people that arrive in town! I squirmed in my seat. “That won’t be necessary.”

“It isn’t,” Ted agreed. “But this town has a way of convincing me to play at their will and when Jasper told me before to get the new girl up on the podium and get it over and done with I didn’t listen, and now I know why.”

Lucy leaned in and whispered. “See how he subtly blames the town?”

I couldn’t hear above the flames of my burning hatred towards Jasper. He was laughing and I narrowed my eyes onto him hoping he’d stop once he saw my angry face. Nope, it just made him laugh more. Julie on the other hand crossed her arms over her chest and tightened her lips, shaking her head at me like I orchestrated this with Jasper.

“H-Hi,” I said at the podium in front of everyone. “My name is, uhh, Anna.” The response was quiet. Dead silent. I could’ve heard a pin drop, no wait, that’s my dignity thudding against the floor, BADONG! “Okay,” I nodded and smiled, ready to hop off.

“What do you do, sugar?” I heard a woman ask.

“Oh, I’m a writer.” People shifted in their seats and ohh’d.

“Now that we’ve seen the new girl—” Ted lowered his voice— “sorry, dear, we never ever do this with newcomers but people are suddenly obsessed with the new girl.”

“We can hear you, Ted,” Jasper said, locking his hands and putting them around his neck.

“Alright, Jasper, you had your fun—” Ted said. I shot Jasper a mean look and he laughed— “Now can we please get back to the issues at hand?”

“Yeah, everybody pipe down before Ted has a conniption,” one woman said.

I sat back down in my chair like a petulant child having been humiliated in front of her whole class. At least I’m introduced to the whole town. Thatta girl, bright side, always look on the bright side.

***

Mother’s Day was the one day I didn’t get any emails or letters from work or friends. People were definitely occupied with their time and it was almost like the one day off for me. I was so grateful for that fact because I didn’t have much written down other than the town meeting and the freak show it turned into, me being the freak, Jasper being the ringleader.

The girls told me about a mechanic to take my car to and I was even more intrigued when I found out it was Jasper’s brother who ran the joint and their father who owned it. I’d come to know that the only reason Jasper came back to town was because his father was sick. Still is, in fact. Bed ridden. That tiny little titbit softened my cold exterior to Jasper ever so slightly. Beneath that playful devilish demeanour there lied a grown man who gave up his life in another city for his father.

As I approached the desk I expected to see an exact replica of Jasper. Tall, handsome, dark, coiffed hair, smells just as good as he looks. What I saw was the exact opposite. It appeared the birth of Jasper came way later?

“Hi, Nathan?” I asked, gesturing for a hand to shake.

The man with bottle glasses shook his head and smiled a toothy, adorable smile. “Oh, no,” he chuckled. “I’ll get him for you, sweetie.”

Those types of nicknames for me were a common occurrence in this town. Sweetie, honey, sugar, the list goes on; so far gone it’s about to make me abstain from any type of soluble carbohydrates. I’d be disappointed for the chocolate division I was their key consumer.

“Hi, I’m Nate—” He popped out from around the corner and looked dirty, in a good way— “and you must be Anna.”

“I am,” I nodded.

“I’d shake your hand but, as you can see…” he removed the cloth and held up hands half covered in miscellaneous grime and dust.

“Well, then I should say thank you.”

Nate chuckled. “So, your car?” He pointed.

“Yeah, it’s due in for a check-up.”

“As most babies are,” he joked and I laughed.

“Well—” he did a superficial check, bobbing his head this way and that— “I can call you and let you know when it’s ready, but it doesn’t look like it’s desperate for a re-working so your bank account should be fine.”

“That’s exactly what I like to hear, thank you,” I smiled.

“Going anywhere special?” he asked as we walked to the reception area, that consisted of a high desk right next to cars propped on stilts.

“What?”

“I mean to ask if you needed the car for any particular day.”

I shook my head. “Nope. You can pretty much get anywhere in this town with a few steps.”

“That is true. So how are you liking it so far?” He leaned in, using his elbow to prop himself over the desk casually.

Oh, small talk. “It’s great. I’m surprised I’ve never been to a small town before, it’s not what I expected.”

“Hopefully not deadbeat hicks?”

I pretended to muse. “Mmmmm, nope, none that I know of.” We laughed at my lame joke when someone called out something in the distance.

Nate’s smile dropped and he straightened himself upright. “Hey, Jasper.”

“Hey little brother.” He glanced my way and then back at Nate. “Oh, I’m sorry, am I interrupting a merging of the hearts?” He laughed.

Nate and I squirmed, not knowing what to do about a man who seemed to get off on making people (or just me) uncomfortable.

“Don’t mind Jasper,” Nate finally said.

“Yeah, don’t mind me. I’m only the other, disappointing, brother.”

Nate turned to Jasper. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?” His jaw ticked and Jasper smiled as they squared off, the tension suffocating and making me feel like we were under ten cars.

“That’s fine,” I said. “I should be going anyway.”

“Aww, missed ya chance there buddy,” Jasper chuckled. Nate rolled his eyes, stone cold, and his sharp jawline still ticked.

“I’ll see you later,” I said to Nate and ignoring Jasper.

“Yeah, see ya.”

I decided before going home and getting some real work done I’d stop by the town’s bookstore. It was an amazingly serene walk from the mechanic’s to the bookstore and I’m almost convinced there’s some sort of witchy charm to this town it’s hypnotic. Or maybe it was because I was new. Either way, I was already falling in love with this place.

The bookstore was sized modestly and was run by a man who looked and dressed like an extra in Harry Potter. He left me to my own devices and I began wandering around aimlessly, seeing if anything would catch my eye. I must’ve spent hours in there that I didn’t notice anyone coming or going.

“Here, deary,” the old man waddled over with a styrofoam cup of coffee, “you look like you’re going to be in here for the long haul.” He laughed throatily.

“Aw, thank you so much!” I said. He was so sweet that I didn’t even care I was drinking something I didn’t like, the thought and gesture alone were so kind. That’s it. I’m done. I’m living here forever.

I turned the corner and felt a presence following behind me. “You’re lucky,” Jasper said, leaning against the bookcase. “That never happens to me.”

I narrowed my eyes. “And you wonder why?” I took a sip.

He grinned. “What book are you looking for?”

“You wouldn’t know.”

“And why not?” he asked, walking behind me.

“Wouldn’t be your thing.”

He chuckled. “You think you know me so well.”

I turned around. “Do you hate me or something?”

“What?”

“Do you have some sort of vendetta against me? Some score to settle? Perhaps on a witch hunt for your girlfriend?”

“Never you mind about my girlfriend.”

“Now there’s a thought. I’m surprised you mind at all.” I paused. “Why are you even with her?” He only sighed in response so I turned back around.

He moved closer, I could practically feel his face by the curtain of my hair. “That kiss that I don’t remember, I liked it.” I remained quiet. He sighed and pulled back. “He likes you, you know.”

“Who?”

“My brother. I don’t think you deserve him.”

I put a hand on my hip. Here come the insults. “Oh?”

He nodded. “Yeah, you’re better than that.”

I stopped my animosity in its tracks, but broke into a cackle. “The fact that you think you know me at all is laughable.” I turned back to the bookcase and grabbed a book, hoping he didn’t see I completely turned his compliment upside down and inadvertently deprecated myself.

“I bet I have you all figured out,” he shrugged, impressed with himself.

I slapped the book I was going to buy across his chest. “I don’t.”

He held Sidney Poitier’s The Measure of a Man as I turned away feeling like Julia Stiles with the Feminine Mystique, hoping this time he wouldn’t follow me out. I got my wish.

I was feeling a little restless that night. The town was quiet despite it hustling and bustling during the day. Either people were itching to get last minute gifts or that’s just the way the cookie crumbles here (yes, I really did use that line!). I decided to take a walk during the night, and when I mean night, I mean at the dead of night. No one was around and nothing was on except lampposts to mark your way. I would’ve been a little wary in a big city but I felt calm here.

I went around the town square a couple of times before growing some balls and taking on a different path that wasn’t in a hoop. It led me to a place I didn’t know this town had. A woodsy area with slim lighting; it was just dimming the deeper I got until I saw a large gazeebo that housed a light that lit the lake occupying the area. When I got closer to the lake I practically nearly shat myself with fear as I saw a figure standing motionless across the bridge at a point where the lake thinned. I wanted to run but oddly enough I didn’t want to offend the person there just in case they were totally normal. Ain’t that strange? Here I am, in the middle of the woods standing a few feet away from a complete stranger who for all intents and purposes could be a serial killer, and I’m considering their delicate sensibilities. My epitaph would read: manners: high; brains: none.

The dark figure began to emerge from the darkness and my knees started to buckle and my fingers stretched out and froze with panic. He came closer, and closer, and closer until…the hunched old man wearing a black suit and a hat shuffled past me with his hands behind his back. I felt like an asshole. I felt like I interrupted something. I stayed long after he’d left, and suddenly, it seemed darker and I didn’t know which way was back home.

Fuck.

I climbed the gazeebo and phoned Lucy a million times to no avail. I didn’t have anyone else’s phone number besides Katya’s and now the mechanic (for which I’m sure was closed at a time like this) so I hoped Katya would answer, otherwise, I’d be sleeping here tonight. And I really don’t want to sleep here.

“Mmmmm,” Katya groaned.

“Katya, it’s me.”

“Whoever this is I’m going to kill you for waking me up,” she whined in a mumbling monotone.

“Sorry, but I’m stranded.”

“Who is this?”

“Anna. I got to a lake with a gazeebo and I have no idea how to get back.”

“Gazeebo?”

“Come pick me up, please?”

“Naaaawwwww,” she groaned again.

I laughed. “Oh come on! Are you really going to leave me stranded here?”

“I’ll give you the number of Nate and he’ll come pick you up.”

“What!? No!”

“I don’t think you can afford to be picky in this situation, dude.”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine. What’s his number?”

I hung up with Katya and quickly dialled for Nate.

“Hello?” He answered. He didn’t sound asleep which is good, just confused.

“Hey, I’m so, so, sorry to be calling so late, but it’s Anna and I’m stranded at some gazeebo place by the lake and an old man sort of freaked me out and I have no idea how to get home,” I chuckled awkwardly. “I’m completely lost. I mean, it’s a fine night but I want to get come eventually so can you do me a huge favour and please come get me.” God, I sounded so desperate and regretted the words the instant they popped out of my mouth. “I can make it up to you.” I tried sweetening the deal. I know, low point.

He chuckled. “Yeah, I think I know where you are. I’ll be there soon.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you,” I sighed in relief.

I can’t say sitting here waiting all by my lonesome was bad. Knowing that someone was coming actually gave me a little comfort and allowed me to focus on the finer things, including the fact that this gazeebo light was way too bright and sort of ruined the integrity of a portion the lake. It’s like it was battling with the moonlight for attention. Other than that though, I started to note lilies and a walk bridge out onto the lake where a larger gazeebo was. There was a little boat docked and beyond I could only faintly make out gigantic trees, its leaves pronounced and shaking against the breeze creating a tranquil sound.

I was lost in the whole ambience of the night that I didn’t notice any footsteps of approaching company until they literally popped out of nowhere and I let out one of the loudest gut-wrenching screams of my entire life. The fucking wolves would’ve been scared of me; they would’ve looked at each other like, ‘who the fuck is this bitch thinking she can howl like that at night?’

Jasper couldn’t have laughed his ass off even more, it was embarrassing. “Did I scare you?”

I pretended to think for a moment. “Mmm-no, not at all. What makes you say that?”

“I have to tell you, Anna, that greeting doesn’t give me much confidence in my abilities to provide comfort.”

I chuckled. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”

“So you ready?”

“Hmm?”

“Or do you want to sit by the moonlight a little longer?”

“Oh, I’m expecting someone else.”

He grinned. “I know. You really need to make it a little less obvious that you like Nate, you know.”

“What?” I squinted.

He placed a hand over his heart and lifted his shoulders. “’Oh—‘” he fluttered his lashes comically— “’I can make it up to you, booboo.’”

I widened my eyes. “Shhhhi-Eisenhower.” I’m going to murder Katya in her sleep.

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell. It’ll be our little secret.” He nudged his head backwards. “Come on, let’s go.”

I reluctantly followed, tossing between that and the idea that crashing in this gazeebo didn’t look too bad now. “I didn’t even hear a car. Where’d you park?”

“I got here the old fashioned way. The way Lincoln got around.”

“By carriage?” I joked.

“Actually, by using a technique where you put one foot in front of the other and repeat until you’ve successfully gained a repetitive rhythm called walking.”

“Oh, what a fascinating, genius idea, do tell me more,” I said sarcastically.

Jasper grinned. “If it’s an education you seek I’m not sure this walk will give us enough time.”

“Shut up,” I smiled and pushed him at his arm as he laughed.

“So, what were you doing here anyway?”

“I was checking the area out. Then I came across a random old man at the bridge and he scared me—”

“Wait. Was he throwing flowers into the lake?”

“Uhh, yeah, come to think of it, he was.”

“Oh, shit. You disturbed, Phil?”

“I—I don’t think so.”

He took my surprised face in and chuckled, shaking his head. “It’s fine, it’s fine.”

“Who’s Phil?”

“He comes here every Mother’s day to lay down pink roses in the lake. One for his mother, his daughter, and his wife. They all passed away way too soon. This area is sort of his place on Mother’s Day for them.”

“Wow,” I looked down, feeling shit.

“It’s okay. I’m sure he knows you’re new.”

“I hope I didn’t ruin anything for him.”

“You? Ruin things? Nah!”

I smiled, half-heartedly. “Thanks for the comfort, but I still feel bad.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

***

The next couple of weeks went by fast. My editor was enjoying my big-city-girl-in-a-small-town experiences and so he was becoming light on the emails. He even started to slip in a casual hint at me being a stand-in to write fiction for the website until they hired someone. I didn’t hate the idea and the use of extra money for 2-3 short posts a week wasn’t a bad deal either. It wasn’t set in stone yet.

Wonder-boy Nate fixed my car faster than I expected and our interactions were reduced to simmering flirtations; subtle but still delicate to the taste. Jasper was mostly occupied with his girlfriend needs, though whenever we’d all bump into each other, Katya and Julie would dive straight into the backhanded insults that I’ve taken to watching on the sidelines like a referee. Catfights are unheard of in this town, but everyone knows Julie. I didn’t know what separated her from Jasper and I though. We were all big city to small town people. Why was Julie the villain? Did they make her one, or did she make herself one?

Nah, she definitely did it to herself.

When Memorial Day Weekend came along, Ted, the council headmaster, ran around the town to assemble American memorabilia. Flags, pictures, red, whites, and blues; the dedication was something else. He made sure everyone got a candle to place at their windowsills and the church bells were having a ‘test run’ between 12PM and 3PM. I didn’t even know church bells could have a test run. I can’t say I wasn’t enjoying the patriotism celebrated in a unique way.

“So,” Lucy rubbed her hands together, “sleep over at my house or yours?” she asked Katya.

Katya turned to address the confusion plastered on my face. “It’s a tradition we’re trying out.”

“Yeah, we’re thinking of taking one day out of Memorial Weekend to come together.”

“The idea of bringing candles together seems to be symbolic, too,” Katya added.

“Oh, right. Well, I’m in.”

“Good,” Lucy nodded. “Hey, why don’t we bunk at yours?”

“Mine?” I asked.

“Yeah, we’ve barely seen your place.”

I thought about it for a split second. “I actually wouldn’t mind.”

“Great, it’s settled then.”

“Am I supposed to prepare something in particular?” I wondered.

Katya shrugged. “Nah, just be there.”

“Or be square,” Lucy joked.

“But also have some food in the house because we’re, you know, human.”

I visited the bookstore to grab a copy of The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier but when I got there to search through I couldn’t find it anywhere.

“Henry?” I walked over to him. He was riding a ladder high and it always frightens me. My combination of fear of ladders and old people hurting themselves was making my skin crawl. “There’s a book by Sidney Poitier called The Measure of a Man, do you have it?”

“Two mentions of Mr. Poitier in one month. He’s a busy man.”

I furrowed my brows. “What do you mean?”

“We only had one copy, dear, and it’s sold a few weeks ago. The first time you came in here actually.”

I handed the book to Jasper in the form of a comical gesture. Did he really buy it?

“Are there going to be any more copies coming in?”

“Probably not for a while, dear, I’m sorry.” And he honestly looked distraught for me.

“Thank you, Henry.”

“He’s a good man you know?”

“Yeah,” I looked out the window, “that’s why I wanted to read his book.”

“Ah, yes, Mr. Poitier, that’s who I meant.”

I looked at Henry and he plastered on a knowing smile, but he’s too sweet for me to get irritated that I simply smiled.

After chatting with Henry, I headed over to the mechanic in the hopes to see Nate over Jasper so I could just have the message passed on, but of course, Nate was nowhere to be found. Jasper, however, was front and centre as if he’d been there all along and Nate was just a figment of my imagination. He looked suave, albeit, slightly dishevelled. He wore a black shirt that had a gaping hole at the hem of the neck and dark jeans. Is this the type of spring\summer on trend look in a small town?

“Well, well, well, if it ain’t my favourite girl,” Jasper said, greeting me with a smile.

I tightened my lips to keep them from stretching wide but I couldn’t help keeping my composure down on lock and revealed a little uncomfortable smile. “Hey.”

“Nate’s not here.”

“No, that’s not why I’m here.”

He leaned over, intrigued. “Oh, so you’re here for me?”

“No!” I said all too sharply. He was taken aback, but not too far back that he didn’t laugh. “I mean, you know—” I shrugged— “Whatever.”

“What can I do you for?” he chuckled.

“That book you bought…” and then I started to hear the sentence before I uttered the words. That book you bought, can I have it since they only have one copy? I’ll reimburse you. The result would be interesting.

“That book I bought…?” he urged.

“I was wondering if you really wanted it?” I bit my tongue at the alteration, honestly I didn’t know which phrase was better.

He paused for a moment and grinned. “What book?”

I nodded and rolled my eyes. “Got it. Say no more.” I’m not going through this again. He can pretend all he wants, to what end I will never know, don’t want to know, and can’t be bothered finding out. I didn’t know what his deal was but he seemed to really enjoy putting me through a loop. He’s insufferable and for no reason at all besides to annoy me. Well, I’m not going to let him annoy me. I mean, starting now.

Later on, I was setting up food and drinks when Lucy and Katya arrived. They brought some food and drinks of their own that I was truly wondering who was going to be eating and drinking all of it. When we got to it, we sat on the floor and put on a war movie while drinking wine. Everyone was to bring in a war movie, about any country and in any language. It was perhaps the least enjoyable time only for the simple fact that the reminder of war and those who sacrificed themselves for it made me think it was such a senseless fight. People had to fight for freedom, and not just here but everywhere. War in general was senseless and the more we thought of that the more we drank. I told the girls that I was reading up on a Japanese nationalist named Yukio Hishima and read out something I saved as a picture to my phone:

On November 25, 1970, Mishima and four members of the Tatenokai, under pretext, visited the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp, the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Inside, they barricaded the office and tied the commandant to his chair. With a prepared manifesto and a banner listing their demands, Mishima stepped onto the balcony to address the soldiers gathered below. His speech was intended to inspire a coup d’état to restore the power of the emperor. He succeeded only in irritating the soldiers, and was mocked and jeered. He finished his planned speech after a few minutes, returned to the commandant’s office and committed seppuku. The assisting kaishakunin duty at the end of this ritual (to decapitate Mishima) had been assigned to Tatenokai member Masakatsu Morita, who was unable to properly perform the task. After several failed attempts at severing Mishima’s head, he allowed another Tatenokai member, Hiroyasu Koga, to behead Mishima. Morita then knelt and stabbed himself in the abdomen and Koga again performed the kaishakunin duty. This coup is called ‘Mishima jiken’ in Japan.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to revive harakiri itself … I wanted to inspire younger people, give them a sense of order and responsibility’,” I ended.

Lucy shook her head in thought. “Can you imagine fighting for an entire country of people you don’t know?”

“Well, they didn’t just fight for them, they fought for what they believed in as well,” Katya said. “People do it all the time, it’s just when things get physical and lives are lost for an ideology, whether it be good or bad, is unfathomable to me.”

We were quiet and slowly diverted our attention to the black and white film. It was a tense scene. The soldier had died and the coloured butterfly landed on his helmet. The only colour in the film. I teared up. There’s no happy reaction when watching these films; the emotions are always tense, or scared, or distraught, or sad; and then our minds start to wonder about ourselves in the moment. I once saw a picture of a soldier smiling from ear to ear and that was when I learned about shell shock. The haunting image remained in my mind’s eye when a knock on the door startled all three of us.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Katya said. “How about we take a break, yeah?”

“Yes, please,” Lucy agreed. “Oh! We actually forgot to light the candles.”

“Oh shit,” Katya breathed.

“I’ll get the door,” I said. “Everything’s in the kitchen.” I wanted to check through the curtain who was outside since I was still a little shaken but I decided against it. Honestly, when I opened the door and found Jasper standing outside I sort of regretted the decision not to check and ultimately pretend no one was home. Although, that façade wouldn’t have worked for long and especially with Katya and Lucy here.

“Hey,” he smiled.

I closed the door behind me and he staggered backwards. “What are you doing here?” Don’t tell me he was going to sit with us. You can’t sit with us!

“Nate’s back, if you were wondering.”

I rolled my eyes. “God, I don’t—I never said I liked him.”

He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. “Mmm.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “Is there any particular reason why you’re here?” Not allowing him to annoy me lasted all of ten seconds.

“Indeed,” he shuffled through his back pocket and pulled out a book with a white rose wedged in between the pages, “I believe you want this?”

I just stared at it. “Why now?” And why with the addition of a rose?

“It was an insightful read. Smart man.”

I shook my head. “You can never answer my questions, can you?”

He laughed. “I kept thinking how much you wanted it that I started to feel like I stole it from you. I couldn’t handle the guilt. Is that so bad?”

“Why the rose?”

“Well, because, you’re…” he took a couple steps forward and my heart jolted. His face seemed to light up and glow softly. He’d never looked more beautiful with his dark brown eyes glowing amber. Then, his eyes shot to the side and he abruptly pulled back. “Your house is on fire!”

“What!?” I followed his line of sight to my curtains lit in flames. I gasped and ran back inside. “Katya!”

I didn’t know what to do so I just stared at my curtain, my attention going back and forth between Katya and Lucy who were running in from the kitchen and Jasper who jumped on top of my table to rip the curtain off the wall and throw it on the floor.

“Step on it! Step on it!” he urged.

The three of us began stomping our feet on the curtain. I accidentally stepped on Katya’s foot and she hopped away in pain as I apologised profusely. Jasper jumped in at the tail of the last flame burning out.

In the midst of the ceasefire Lucy looked up, panting and pushing her hair out of her face. “Okay, so, drinks anyone? I think we need drinks, yup.”

***

In the month of June the town was preparing for its annual drive-in movie and apparently they were in talks of making drive-ins a permanent opportunity. I revelled in the idea of driving a red lacquered drop top to see an old movie Grease lightning style. Although, I’m sure some details would be altered in reality. It was my first time doing a drive-in anything much less a movie so I had planned to get my break lights fixed since it was going to be late at night and in the middle of nowhere. Much to my dismay, though, Nate was out of town and Jasper was filling in. I wondered what he did for a living before he came here. He definitely wasn’t a mechanic back in New York, otherwise, he’s the cleanest mechanic I’ve ever seen. Not that cleanliness was an issue nor an accurate indicator of one’s profession, but in Jasper’s case, it was.

“It’s not done yet?” I asked, surprised.

“It’s an art form,” Jasper said.

“How much longer can this art go for? It’s just the brake lights.”

“Are you suggesting you could’ve done this?”

I nodded. “I probably could have with the time it’s taking you.” I groaned. “I really wanted to go to the drive-in movie tonight.”

“You’re a fan of the oldies?”

“Jasper, the car. The light. When can it be fixed?”

“By tonight.”

I sighed. “Promise?”

He chuckled. “What?”

“Look, Katya and Lucy are going to be there before me since they’re going straight from work. I’m planning a little overtime to catch up on some things.”

“I thought you worked from home.”

“Yeah, not everyone’s Carrie Bradshaw, we actually put in a nine-to-five.”

“Who?”

“Doesn’t matter. Just—doesn’t matter.”

“Alright,” he held up his hands to calm me, “by tonight. Cross my heart.”

I almost wanted to ask him if he hoped to die too but I thought it’d be too morbid considering the general playfulness of his attitude contrasting my dismay.

“Okay, by tonight.”

I barely got any work done. I was too anxious to think because I didn’t trust Jasper at all. I felt like this was the perfect opportune moment to completely sabotage my positive experiences and push me over the edge. Whatever the anti-suicide watch was, that was Jasper.

On the other hand, I thought of the rose he gifted me that now sat upon my window sill where the burnt curtain was. Yeah, I still haven’t gotten a replacement for the curtain, but I hear photosynthesis is in these days. The flower—white, tall, proud—flexed its petals to a maximum degree. From time to time I would look at it and think of Jasper, I would smell it and think of Jasper, I would feel its presence and think of Jasper. It was almost as intoxicating as he was. The white plague.

I don’t like him. I can’t like him. I like Nate. At least, I think I like Nate.

That night, I approached Jasper with worry peppering my thudding heart. “So, is the car ready?”

He nodded. “All done, Miss Parker.” He turned to grab the keys and brushed my finger as he passed it over.

“Thanks,” I looked down.

“Have a nice night at the movies,” he smiled.

“You’re not coming?”

“Well, don’t mind if I do, thanks for the invitation,” he said, snatching the keys out of my hand faster than I could register.

“No, no, I don’t mean—”

“You are so generous, thanks for the invite. Let’s go.”

“But, Julie—”

He harrumphed. “Julie doesn’t give a shit about these things. Come on. Do you even know the way?”

“We have GPS for these things.”

“I know the way.”

I sighed. There’s no changing his mind. Not that he was forcing me but I didn’t care either way. He’d be alone while I’ll be jumping ship and joining Katya and Lucy. I wonder how cocky he’d be then. The thought of ditching him made me giddy.

We barely made it pass the school when the engine began to grumble and the car slowed to a crawl.

“Why are we stopping?” I asked.

“Uhh…” he stared at the dashboard.

“Jasper?”

“Yeah?” He turned to me.

“Is the tank empty?”

“You see, this is why I’m not the mechanic and Nate is—”

“Oh man!”

“It’s okay. It’s easily fixed. We just have to walk back—”

“The drive-in, Jasper! I’m going to miss everything!” I sighed and threw my head back over the seat.

“I’m sorry,” he breathed.

“What?” I lifted my head in shock.

“I honestly wasn’t hoping…I want this to be…” he paused.

The suspense was killing me. “You wanted what to be what?”

He shook his head. “Ah, nevermind. You’re so sensitive. This is easily fixed.”

I sighed. “I don’t see how. Everyone is gone. The whole town is practically empty and the movie isn’t going to stop for us.” I looked down and picked at my short nail. “Oh well, no use crying over spilled milk or whatever it is they say.”

“I believe ‘shit happens’ is the millennial version.” I laughed. “That’s better,” he said.

“What is?”

“That smile.”

I breathed in deeply and refrained from looking at him. “I guess…I should go home now.”

“What? Why?”

I furrowed my brows. “Well, night’s over. There’s nothing else to do and—”

“Wait a minute. I have an idea,” he interjected, getting out of the car.

“Where are you going?”

“Come on, let’s go, night’s not over yet.”

I sat in the car for a split second and then hopped out. Why not? I want to have some fun and do town things. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was breaking in and entering. And into a school of all things.

“Ummm…”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We won’t damage anything, we won’t steal; it’s nothing but a little harmless fun.” He winked.

“What about the alarm? Won’t it go off?”

Pfft in this town? No way.”

“Well, maybe after this they’re going to start thinking of one,” I joked.

Jasper chuckled. “Alright, if you don’t want to do this. I’ll walk you home—”

“—I don’t need an escort—”

“—but—” he continued on, ignoring me— “if you do then, in the words of Abe’s Odyssey, follow me.”

I had a hit of nostalgia as I remembered playing that game with a friend of mine all the way back when.

I followed him through a conveniently unlocked window and began to wonder if he had planned this all along. Jury’s out on that one. Apart from being exciting and fun, I inadvertently scared myself by thinking that this was exactly how all scary movies happen. You walk through a dark school hallway and then suddenly a man with a hatchet jumps out from an inconspicuous darkness and is ready to turn you into sashimi.

“Are we getting close to…wherever it is you’re taking me?” I asked.

Jasper laughed. “Are you scared?”

Damn straight! “I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m scared.”

“You can hold my hand if it makes you feel better?” he grinned.

I thought for a second. “This isn’t a ploy just so I can hold your hand, you know.”

“Duly noted.”

He stretched out his hand before I did. It was soft and surprisingly cool in this heat. Though I wondered if that had anything to do with the fact that we were in a school.

We approached a light blue glimmer fluttering through the window of a door. I couldn’t quite make out what was beyond until we got closer. Jasper opened the door and led me to a large swimming pool.

“Wow. Didn’t think this town had a school with one.”

“Oh, we’re very progressive here,” he joked.

I leaned over to touch the water and it was nice and cool. I wanted to dive head first. “Okay, this is pretty cool,” I said, taking off my flip-flops and sitting on the edge, dipping my legs and submerging it halfway.

Jasper came to sit next to me. “I thought you’d like it.”

“Well, it’s no drive-in movie.”

“Oh, that it isn’t,” he said, pretending to be as serious as I pretended to be.

“But it’ll do just fine. Thank you.”

“No problem.”

No serial killer, no hatchet; just me and Jasper. And in between the silence I could hear the miniature waves calling my name, and I was tempted to give in.

“I didn’t think it was possible for you to look more beautiful,” Jasper said. And just like that, he brought me out of it. “And yet here you are.”

I stared at him silently, confused. “Why do you like Julie?”

He laughed. “Why do you like Nate?”

I shook my head. “I don’t—”

“Oh, no, of course you don’t.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s not the same thing.”

“No?”

“Yeah, well, for one, I’m single.”

He sighed, staring into the water. “It’s complicated.”

“Love shouldn’t be.”

He chuckled. I know, I sounded like a child. “Well it’s no fairytale. Besides, it’s not about love.”

“In fact you can’t stop falling in love?”

He looked at me. “Fiona Apple.”

I chortled. “Didn’t think anyone else knew who that was.”

“I didn’t think anyone could tell I was referencing her.”

“Be serious.”

“I am. No one has ever.”

“No,” I shook my head, “about you. And Julie. And me.”

“What about you?” He bit his bottom lip, eyeing mine.

“What are you doing to me?” I shook my head.

He placed his hand on the edge and leaned closer towards me, grinning. “What am I doing to you?”

I smiled. “Jasper—”

“Oh, yeah, say my name again,” he joked, laughing.

“Jasper!” I pushed him away at his arm, intending to playfully and lightly nudge, and instead he felt into the pool, splashing water all over my dress. I gasped, covering my mouth with my hand. “Oh my God! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. I’m so, so sorry.” I was sorry, but I couldn’t help but laugh either.

He pushed back his hair. “What…happened?” He wiped his eyes and pinched his nose.

“Accident. Complete accident,” I laughed.

He held out his hand. “Help me up.”

“Here.” As soon as I stretched out my hand he lunged for it like a viper and pulled me under. I yelped and then laughed underwater, bubbles in the billions. I gasped for air as soon as I popped up. “Traitor!” I shrieked. He laughed. “The betrayal!”

“Well, that’s what you get!”

“Accident!” I reminded him. We both laughed. He began to swim closer to me and I hadn’t known I was reacting by swimming backwards until I hit the wall behind me. “This was fun.”

“Yeah,” he said, simply. Fluttering his dark eyes between mine and my lips.

“We—I should get back.”

“We have the whole pool to ourselves. You sure you want to take it for granted?”

I smiled. “I’m sort of scared of dark things underwater.”

“I thought that’s only in the ocean.”

“The black lines,” I said, nudging my chin downwards. “They scare me too.”

“Well, you can hold my hand if you want. Promise I’ll keep you safe.”

I smiled and as silly as it may have seemed, I held his hand. We twirled like Jack and Rose in Titanic and we made it to each end of the pool a couple of times. Last time I made it to the end, he came swimming towards me, keeping my attention, his smile dipping below the surface of the water from time to time. He got closer and closer until he placed his hands on either side of my head, angling himself upright.

“Jasper,” I breathed.

“Yeah?”

“I should get back now.”

He nodded, backing away. “Okay.”

I sneezed profusely when we got out of the building and into some breezy warm weather battling our wet bodies. The entire drive home was quiet. Not an uncomfortable silence, but a silence no less. I got out of the car once he parked and he followed suit.

“Oh, you don’t have to escort me to my front door,” I said.

He ignored me and kept going.

We stood before my front door, neither of us knowing how to end the night. “Well,” I began, “this was fun.”

Jasper smiled. “You said that before.”

“It’s still true.”

He chuckled. “I had fun too.”

“Breaking and entering just might be my new calling.”

“You’re a regular Bonnie to…someone’s Clyde,” he laughed awkwardly. I don’t think he meant to make it sound dreary in so many ways.

“Okay,” I nodded. “Goodnight.”

“Yeah, goodnight.”

I had the biggest urge to invite him in but I resisted. We both walked away unscathed, and soaking wet.

The following day, I was meeting the girls for our regular lunch date and was looking forward to more pancakes. I don’t think I’ve eaten anything else at this place besides pancakes since I got here. It’s insane. I need to switch it up. Switch something up.

“Where were you last night?” Katya asked.

“Huh?” I asked.

“We waited for you,” Lucy said. “I mean, food-wise.”

“She waited,” Katya pointed at Lucy. “I was hungry.”

“And leaving barely any popcorn left for me,” Lucy said.

“Told you to join me.”

“I was waiting for, Anna.” Lucy turned to me. “Where were you again?”

“I was out picking up the car, I guess,” I said.

“It took you all night to pick up your car?” Lucy asked.

“Dude!” Katya grabbed Lucy’s arm to Lucy’s surprise. “Jasper was working.”

Lucy gasped. “You and Jasper?” She whispered.

“No, no, no, nothing happened,” I said.

“So what did happen?” Katya said, leaning in with Lucy, eyes wide and bulging with curiosity.

“You guys,” I whined.

“Please tell me you did something nasty,” Katya said.

“Although,” Lucy added. “I would feel a little bad for Julie.”

“I wouldn’t. She’s a complete bitch,” Katya furrowed her brows.

“Literally nothing happened,” I laughed.

“Spill,” Lucy nodded.

I rolled my eyes and told them every little detail. It was a short story and I was sure they were going to be unimpressed or blame me for talking it up or something. “…and that’s it. Nothing happened.”

They leaned back simultaneously. “So much happened it’s blowing my mind,” Katya said. Lucy and I laughed.

I was glad the girls left the talk about my swimming rendezvous with Jasper, but I couldn’t help but think about it afterwards. Even after Katya’s friend came back from out of town. Apparently she’d heard a lot about me. Vivian wore a buzz cut and a choker with a cute floral dress; she came back from visiting her family in Japan and she looked like the epitome of androgyny. Katya spared no time filling her in, and I noticed a calmness in Vivian that was lacking in the three of us. Either, Katya and Lucy were hyped up on caffeine, or Vivian was just the polar opposite.

Katya and Vivian left together while I walked back home with Lucy since her salon was in my way. She was filling me in on some details about Vivian since I couldn’t say I heard much about her.

“…that was when she and Katya were in a threesome. But—”

I blinked twice. “What?”

“Oh, yeah,” Lucy laughed. “I just slipped that in there with no explanation. Umm, so ages ago they met a guy at a club, and that night they decided to have a threesome with him.”

“Lucky guy,” I chuckled.

“Yeah, right? The way they told me was at first he didn’t believe it so, I guess he thought he was lucky too.”

“So Vivian and Katya are together?”

“Oh, no, neither of them are lesbians. They just had fun. Apparently it’s a little difficult at the start because it’s harder to include the other person.”

“Duly noted.”

“Why? Are you thinking of having a three-way with Jasper and Julie,” Lucy nudged me at my elbow and laughed.

I chuckled awkwardly with her. The more Julie’s name was mentioned the smaller I felt. What is Jasper’s deal too though? He’s saying it’s complicated. In what way? Why doesn’t he just outright and say it, or is it some big secret that he’ll die with. What if there was no secret at all? I’d feel small and like an idiot for believing him. I’m glad no one knows where I write, because I have a lot to say, that’s for sure!

***

July 4th decorations were scattering the town with red, white and blue. Flags were drawn, buttons were worn, and food and drink stalls were parked around the town square. There were mounds of hay here and there and festival music filled the warm summer air. Barely a hint of a cloud was shown through sunny skies and everyone was roasting outside. I went straight for the lemonade before I hit the hot dog stands. I met Katya first, Lucy and Vivian came way later. Vivian put her long, slender legs in shorts and Katya and I were the only ones in dresses.

“These hot dogs are to die for, thanks Irve!” Lucy said.

“Yeah thanks Irve!” We all said together. He started to blush and wave as we walked away.

Could it get any better than this?

“Oh my God,” Katya said. “Look at Julie!”

“Where?” I asked.

“Well, well, well, looks who’s with her,” Lucy added.

I rolled my eyes. “Okay, relax guys.

“Aren’t you going to go say ‘hi’?” Lucy nudged me.

“I don’t think so,” I said, squinting.

The truth is I’d been avoiding him lately. My car was up to par and I didn’t need any books, though I was sure those weren’t the only places he visited. The diner, thankfully, was absent of his presence for the short time I was there and I spent most of my free time with the girls.

“Why not?” Vivian asked.

“Are you allergic to him now?” Katya joked. They laughed.

“Alright, alright, alright.” I glanced at Julie who was, of course, wearing her suit. Does she wear anything else? Jasper hadn’t noticed me at all. Maybe he hadn’t noticed I’d been avoiding him either. “I’m going to go get some ice-cream. Anyone want any?”

“We haven’t even finished our hot dogs yet,” Vivian said, taking a huge bite that covered her top lip with sauce. “Yours disappeared in like two seconds.”

“I guess we know what Anna’s thirsty for,” Lucy winked. She and Katya laughed and Vivian nearly choked on her food.

“Holy shit!” I cackled, while the girls started to laugh at Vivian who was trying so hard not to so she could swallow first. “I’ll see you guys in a second. I’ll be back!”

There was a huge line at both ice-cream stalls. I guess this town loves their icy treats. I was in the middle of deciding between a cookies and cream ice-cream or a mango flavoured one when Jasper nudged me, knocking me out of my balance.

He burst into a short laugh. “Sorry. Didn’t know you’d stagger so badly.”

“Yeah, hi.”

“Hi.” It went quiet. “So, I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“Yeah.”

“How are things?”

“Fine,” I nodded.

He nodded. “That’s good.”

It went quiet again.

“Where’s Julie?” I asked.

“Sitting on the bench, waiting for me to be at her beck and call.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“Yeah, there’s nothing like being someone’s bitch in a thousand degree weather,” he chuckled.

I smiled. I didn’t know how else to react but I didn’t want to give the same, short, cold response. Especially in a heat where it’s conspicuously detectable. I looked back and found the girls staring at me, smiling and only missing popcorn for their little party.

“Hey honey,” Julie said, popping out of nowhere. “Let’s just go.”

“What about the ice-cream?” Jasper asked.

“Just forget about it. Jeez, these boring, primitive town, so-called, festivals are so stupid,” she rolled her eyes. Then she pretended to just notice me. “Oh, hey, Anna. Are you enjoying yourself?”

“Like the Neanderthal that I am, Julie!” I smiled.

“That you are,” she said, pushing out a rough laugh to make it seem like she was joking when she clearly wasn’t.

“Well, see you guys later then,” I said. “Have fun, Jasper.” I turned back and ignored his gaze. Couldn’t he just say ‘no’ to his girlfriend? What’s the problem!?

The girls were talking amongst themselves when I got back and quieted as soon as I approached. “Nothing happened!” I said. “Let’s go!”

The rest of the day filled out perfectly. We couldn’t stay in the heat for too long so we started to leave one by one until I was left standing. I walked home with a bottle of water that quickly turned lukewarm but I drank anyway. It’s water; it’s still good. The best part was entering my home and feeling the coolness wash over me. I breathed out in relief and plonked on the couch, slipping into a mid-afternoon sleep.

I was awoken by an incessant knocking on my door. I checked my phone and saw I had only slept for almost 45-minutes, and a message from Lucy telling me Nate was back mixed in with an eggplant and the sprouting water emoji. The knock continued on.

“Yeah! I’m coming!” I yelled. I opened the door and Jasper looked up, with his hands on his hips and panting. That woke me up even more.

He walked in and closed the door behind him, I took a few steps backwards. We remained frozen for a minute—but my heart and blood beat hard—until he slowly cupped my face and pushed his lips onto mine. I didn’t touch him at first, but I couldn’t resist any longer and ran my hands through his dark hair, pulling him closer. He gently pushed me backwards until I hit my entryway table filled with keys and letters. He pushed them aside, clutched my thighs and lifted me up, fitting himself between my legs. He kept his hands on my thighs, gently moving his hands upwards and downwards, slowly kissing me, his tongue eager, his lips soft. He moved down to my neck, and I wanted to undress him, but when I opened my eyes I acutely felt another woman’s man on me. I pushed him back, his eyes hazy, wanting more. I wanted more, I softened my horrified face, but I hopped off the table and pushed him back until he hit my front door. I opened the door and pushed him out. He didn’t even look confused.

I closed the door and slid down to the floor, panting. I listened to him finally stepping off my porch, getting into his car and driving away.

Goooooooood Morning!

***Just noticed I hadn’t posted here in almost a month o.O It wasn’t an uneventful month, let me tell you. In other news, I also updated Samson&Delilah. Hope you enjoy both. Soul xo***

I was woken up by a loud, persistent banging on the front door. My house, though small, was double story. Who knew I’d be living in a house with another level no less, and not an apartment, and still have money left over for food?

The top floor housed the bedroom so I tried sleeping through the knocking. But then the yelling started, the calling of my name by two different voices, and I threw my pillow across my room. It was 7:30AM! I only need to write today which means I should only get up five minutes before I sit at the desk to start writing!

“Coming!” I threw my blanket back and scurried down the stairs, with my eyes barely open I was half-convinced a fall would be my saving grace.

“Anna!” one of them outstretched the ‘A’ at the end.

I opened the door to Katya saying, “whoa, nice pyjamas.”

“Don’t diss Peter Alexander,” I mumbled. I was wearing my super-baggy and cute Mr. Bear pyjamas.

“What are you doing?” Lucy asked, aghast.

“Saving my front door from shattering?”

“You’re late,” Katya said.

“I’m late?”

“For breakfast,” she finished.

Lucy shrugged. “We do it all the time.”

I furrowed my brows and looked around. “I did just move here didn’t I?” I muttered, mostly to myself thinking that when she meant ‘we’ she was including me.

Katya laughed. “She’s so inebriated right now.”

“Look,” Lucy said, “we have breakfast together almost every day, clearly you’re not a morning person and we didn’t give you the heads up, our bad, but we really want you to come.”

“Even if it’s in your purple and white bear pyjamas,” Katya added, smiling.

I popped the collar of my top. “This is styling, you know.”

Katya nodded seriously at my half-assed joke. “Duly noted.”

“We’ll wait,” Lucy grinned.

I gestured my head backwards and let the door go. “I’ll be a couple minutes,” I said, running up the stairs.

***

We sat at a diner with bright red, patent booths rimmed with shiny silver accents. All out of a 50s movie but with colour, even the waiters and cooks were super happy. I mean, I’ve seen people in hospitality be happy, but not like this. These guys looked like they were having the time of their lives. I wondered if it were a family owned business. Maybe that was the secret to happiness, keep it all in the family.

The waitress with the name tag Olivia propped down my pancake stack and eggs for Katya and Lucy. I dug in as soon as I could and man I’m I glad they woke me up. I think I was hangry and sleepy; so shlangry?

“Breathe? Maybe?” Katya laughed.

“These are really good?” I muffled. “Have you had these pancakes? They’re amazing!”

Lucy chuckled. “Man, small towners have the best food.”

“Really?”

Katya rolled her eyes. “No, but Buzz does.”

“Buzz?” I furrowed my brows.

“Mr. Buzz Lightyear himself, Bob Hannigan, the owner and chef.”

“You call him Buzz Lightyear?” I asked, confusedly.

“Everyone in town does,” Lucy said.

“Because with his food he takes everyone to infinity and beyond,” Katya said.

Lucy widened her eyes a fraction of a second. “On a journey.”

That may be the corniest thing I’d ever heard. Actually, Daniel has done some corny things but I think I enjoyed it because I loved him; here it was like I was like I was sharing the same fate as Reese Witherspoon and Toby Maguire in Pleasantville.

“Buzz!” a man called out smacking the bench, startling me. “Couple of coffees to go, please!”

“Jeesh,” I mumbled, “who the hell was that?”

Katya smiled. “You should know.”

“Shut up,” Lucy hissed.

“Umm, what’s the deal?”

“She’s going to find out sooner or later. My money’s on Ricky.”

“Find what out?” I asked.

“Thanks a lot, Katya,” Lucy rolled her eyes.

She shrugged and grinned. “You’re welcome.”

“That’s the, uh, guy we met at the party.”

I furrowed my brows and thought for a minute. “I don’t remember meeting anyone.”

“Oh, really? Oh. Oh well.”

I nudged Lucy. “Who is he? Tell me.”

Katya leaned in against Lucy’s reluctance to divulge any further information. “That’s Jasper.” I looked at Jasper and in the same moment he caught my eye. So I smiled. “He’s the guy you kissed.” I dropped my smile and he laughed.

“What?” I whispered. It was all coming together. “Oh, no, no, no…” Great, I’m that out-of-towner.

“Good morning, ladies,” Jasper grinned, baring his straight, pearly whites.

“Good morning, Jasper,” Katya and Lucy harmonised.

“Hi,” I said. Unable to look away from his brown eyes and his cocky disposition. He was wearing a leather jacket, black jeans and a white shirt. His hair coiffed up and pushed back. The kind of hair I saw on Wall Street types, so it didn’t surprise me when I was told he himself was a recent out-of-towner.

“Nice to see another one of my kind,” Jasper joked.

“Heeeey,” Katya pouted.

“Oh don’t worry,” Lucy said, “we all know you’re from another planet.”

I could only smile while both girls laughed. I was waiting for a moment to apologise for the spontaneous kiss from a stranger but it clearly wasn’t now. Especially when the diner door opened to a blonde woman decked out in an olive green suit making a beeline for us.

“There you are,” she said before taking us in. “What’s this?”

Jasper continued staring at me; I think he was waiting for a reaction.

“Oh, Julie, this Anna, she’s the new girl; Anna this is Julie—” Lucy eyed me— “Jasper’s girlfriend.”

I held my breath and then puffed out a deflated, “Oh…” Jasper looked down and laughed. I guess that was the reaction he was waiting for. I cleared my throat and made an effort to ignore him. “Nice to meet you.”

“Julie is our resident lawyer.”

Julie rolled her blue eyes. “Sort of. This town has nothing to offer a lawyer of my calibre. No offence.”

“None taken,” Katya said. “I guess you can run scams easier on New Yorkers.” She fluttered her eyes and smiled. Okay, that was good; Julie half-assed a smile and narrowed her eyes, and her reaction made it that much sweeter that I giggled.

“Well,” Jasper sighed. “I guess we should get going.”

“Finally,” Julie muttered the same time Katya said, “It’s about time.”

“Nice to meet you officially, Anna,” he said.

I nodded. “Sure.”

“Do you think she knows?” I asked as we watched them walk away. Julie wrapped her hand around Jasper’s waist, he abruptly shoved her clutch away.

“No way,” Lucy said.

“But if Ricky knows…” Katya shrugged, chewing on a strawberry.

“Ugh, God,” I planted my face into my palms.

“Who even cares?” Lucy asked. “Everyone knows they’re not going to last.”

“Yeah, Julie hates it here. Can you tell?”

I shook my head. “Places can grow on people.”

“I don’t think so. Shrubs have committed suicide by the sheer force of Julie’s presence,” Katya said.

“Either that or eventually she cuts them down,” Lucy added.

Magic

Lucy was kind enough to take me shopping for this outdoor party tonight, but as it turns out this small town had so few shops for clothing. Apparently frequenting bigger towns for any other or further needs or necessities was a common thing. I’m just glad ordering online was still a possibility otherwise I’d have withdrawals from buying makeup. On the other hand I need to cut back.

“What do you think of this one?” Lucy asked Katya, a friend of hers since they were babies.

“I don’t know,” Katya replied, scrunching her nose and twirling her long brown hair. She had likeness to Chloe except Chloe cut all her hair off. “It seems a bit poufy.”

“Anna?” Lucy turned her head.

“Uhh…” she was wearing her signature overalls over a crop top. “I thought you were going to pick out a dress or something.”

“Oh, it’s not that kind of party.”

“No?”

Katya laughed. “Definitely not. It’s super casual.”

“I can do casual.”

“You’re a city girl,” Katya said. I shrugged. “City girls don’t know how to do casual.”

“What are you talking about? It’s not like a skill.”

“It’s just the difference between casual and casual-sexy,” Lucy said. “Not that it’s bad.”

“Yeah,” Katya agreed, “it’s just…city.”

I couldn’t be that far off could I?

“Aren’t you going to pick out anything?” Lucy asked.

I shrugged. “I’m thinking of this playsuit I have that I could wear with ankle boots and some chains. I think I’ll be fine.”

“See,” Katya nodded, “city girl.”

I rolled my eyes playfully. This whole town knows me as this city girl and I was hoping that didn’t come with me appearing pompous. Michael always said I was pompous and I hear it now as a dig more than a joke. Oh, and Chloe is taking her own sweet time replying to me. I keep worrying that she’s mad at me and on top of the deadline I have with this new job, I’m beginning to feel like a ball of stress. I want to loosen up at the party but to be known as the drunk city girl would be the cherry on top of the cake.

***

When they said it was an outdoor party, I was picturing a rooftop bar under artificial twinkling lights with pumping Billboard Top 100 music. Instead, it was located in the middle of nowhere. I literally had no clue where we were. The twinkling lights were the stars (which was amazing, I’ll admit that!), and the music was a mix of songs like Magic by Olympic Ayres, What Once Was by Her’s, Everyone is Falling in Love by King Neptune and other various alternative grungy-type artists. It was nice, but it definitely was a change of scenery. Lucy and Katya were right about this being the type of low-key party. I was so dolled up it wasn’t even funny. I felt so out of place that I wrapped my arms around myself self-consciously, and I never do that.

“Relax,” Lucy leaned in to whisper and then pulled back, “the drinks have got to be the same, right?”

I smiled. She was so sweet trying to make me feel at home and everything. “They better be.”

“And hey, they’re free over here.”

I nodded, impressed. “Bonus.”

She laughed. “I’ll be back.”

Lucy and Katya drifted into the sea of flannel shirts and jeans (of course, not everyone was a clone of stereotypical country town) and I was left with myself desperate for some alcohol to calm my insides like an addict. At least I was wearing a jacket (?).

“Beer for you,” Lucy said, handing me a bottle I eagerly began drinking.

“Whoa,” Katya chuckled, “Slow down there.”

I laughed, nearly spilling out of my beer. “Sorry.”

“Are you nervous?” Katya asked, dumbfounded.

I reddened, of course. “A little.” Who the hell gets nervous at parties!?

“Don’t be,” Katya demanded. “You are hot. Hot girls don’t get nervous.”

“Umm, thanks?” I said, confusedly.

“I think Katya might have been drunk already,” Lucy said.

“Huh?”

“She’s a lightweight,” Lucy winked. “We better watch out for this one. Or better yet—” I chugged as she spoke— “I better watch out for the both of you.”

I was distracted by a buzz from my cell from Chloe: ‘What seems to be the problem?’

‘Omg Chloe, I thought you’d never text me back :’(‘

‘Lol why?’

‘Because I thought you’d be mad at me forever and ever.’

‘Nah, only for a bit. You’re still my best friend.’

Ugh, I could’ve just died right there and then. ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’

‘Don’t be so mopey! You changed your whole life and now you’re having second thoughts?’

‘I changed it for this job and now I got nothing. Nothing’s happened; nothing’s happening.’

‘Make. Something. Happen. Make anything happen!’ She sent me a gif of Shia LaBeouf with the caption of ‘just do it’ flashing on the screen.

Her encouragement made my heart race in search for something—anything—to make a story out of. From across the field (?) I met eyes with a handsome blurred out man that came to be clear the closer I got to him. He turned around and grinned as I strode towards him, I flushed as his friends watched, and out of nowhere I threw my arms over him and pushed my lips up against his. I was confused at the gasps but I expected the laughter.

No Introduction Needed

Dear Anna Parker,

I hope you’ve settled in nicely in your new town. From your previous email description of the place it seems like we couldn’t have picked a better place. An actual town square (unfortunately no gazebo), minute speed limits, stores knowing other stores, neighbours knowing neighbours; it seems all we need is a story. No pressure but it’s been a while now and we were expecting at least a semblance of a story. Let us know if you need help but do get back to us shortly.

I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Regards,

David Baker

***

I was beginning to feel apprehensive about the whole move for this job in its entirety. I didn’t think I’d feel so far out of my element but I was. No family and no friends of my own to settle me in and introduce me to new things and new people. I had to do it all on my own and suddenly I felt like I was back in first grade with all the butterflies raging around in my stomach. It was much easier to meet new people in a big city than a small town. Albeit a super nice novelty-looking town, everyone knew everyone here. I can only hope that I wasn’t the talk of the town just yet. As I walked down the flat-levelled street, I didn’t think so. Though I did turn heads I assume because I wasn’t a familiar face.

I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing,’ I texted Chloe. Probably the last of my friends I should be texting all things considered, but I know she could get me out of this rut. Oh man, I’m already in a rut! ‘My editor needs something now and I have nothing. Nothing I tell you!

“Hey,” a girl said.

I looked up from my perch on a sidewalk bench at a woman wearing overalls and wispy, short, blonde hair. “Hi.”

She took the lollipop out of her mouth and it glistened red. “You’re the new girl, right? Annie?”

“Anna.”

She nodded and smiled. “Close enough. Half a point?”

“Uhh…”

“I’m Lucy. Not like diamonds in the sky.”

“Hey, I’m…Anna.” Oh, kill me now.

“You need a haircut.”

“What?” I fiddled with the ends of my raven hair.

“My shop is just here. Want to get a haircut?”

“Sure.” Why not. Not like I’m in the position to turn anything down.

“Everyone knows about you,” she said as she placed the cape over me, lollipop in mouth. I pray she doesn’t salivate and spit all over me.

“Oh, yeah?” Told ya.

“Talk of the town you are. Though I’m proud to say anyone who comes to my shop knows anything.”

Duly noted. “It’s like I’m intruding on a family.”

“Yes it is.” I was taken aback. I didn’t think she’d agree with me. “But we sure do love the intrusion. It’s exciting. So, what brings you here? Running from something?”

I chuckled. “What?”

She shrugged. “People normally go from small town to big city, not the other way around. It’s been my observation that the people who come here don’t stay for too long because they get forcibly removed if you know what I mean.” I gulped and she snickered. “Oh, sorry. I mean to say we’ve had a couple of run-ins with fugitives before. So exciting. So, you. Why are you here?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Ah, can’t get a job anywhere else?”

“No,” I laughed at her brutal honesty and forwardness, “my job requires me to be here.”

“Oh, how cool. So, what are you writing about?”

I shook my head and shrugged. “Maybe about the first person I met who offered to cut my hair.”

“Offered? Girl, you are crazy. You are definitely paying.” We both laughed. I think I laughed harder because I was enjoying her sass.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t leave the house without my purse.”

“Where do you live?”

“A small townhouse up the road. Pretty nice for what it’s worth.”

“Ain’t that surprising? Things just trickle down in pricing the further away from it all you get.”

“Yeah, that it is.”

“Well, you can write about me if all else fails. I inherited this salon from my mother when she passed. Been doing hair for as long as I can remember. It’s in my blood. Along with a stiff drink and a good sense of humour.”

The doorbell rang open. “Package for Lucy!”

“Oh, hey Ricky!” Lucy leaned down. “Ricky is our resident postman and he’s like 100-years-old.”

“And still kicking!” Ricky said, winking at me. “How are you, darling?”

“I’m fine.”

“Ya miss the Big Apple?”

“She’s from California, Ricky.”

“Oh,” he furrowed his brows, “now I gotta correct myself to the whole town.”

“That won’t be necessary,” I smiled.

“Oh, no, no, no, I’ve done wrong now I gotta fix it. You two ladies have a great day now.”

“Bye, Ricky!”

“See you later, Lucy!” 

“So, you want to come to a small outdoor party with me. Get to know some people. Maybe we’ll find you a story there.”

“Yeah, sure. Maybe some people could get to know me.”

“Honey, by the time postman Ricky gets through everyone the whole town will have gotten to know you. No introduction needed.”