The next week, I stayed in my room, barely eating. Something in me shifted, and now, I wasn't denying the death of Avery, or shocked. No, I was seething with anger towards her. She left me. I was almost alone. All I had left was Mom. Mom was dealing with her sister's death better than I was. Much, much better.
She ate, went to work, and still went out even though at night I could hear her sobs. Parker didn't make one move to come and see me, or to apologize. I probably had a hundred missed calls from Jade due to my refusal to speak to her. Her words cut deep into me even though they were right. What she said gave me a push, but it was a wrong type of push.
Avery was only ten years older than me. Mom was her half-sister. They had the same father, but different mothers. Mom's mother died when she was seventeen, but Mom dealt with it well, and practically raised Avery. Avery was like my older sister; we did everything together. She gave me advice on everything, helped me with homework, and went shopping with me. She lived with Mom and me, ever since Mom's divorce with Dad when I was six. We were really close, as close as sisters can get. I never called her Aunt Avery, just Avery.
"Darling, there's a boy outside asking to see you!" Mom called from downstairs.
"Tell him I'm sleeping!" I yelled back.
"No! Come down!" Mom ordered.
Gosh my mother was annoying sometimes. I pulled my hair into an acceptable ponytail, before trotting down the stairs, and into the living room.
"What do you want?" I frowned.
"Nice to see you too." Parker said sarcastically.
"What do you want?" I repeated, crossing my arms.
"I came to apologize." Parker confessed.
"Apology not accepted."
"Aw, come on! At least let me try and make it up to you!" Parker begged.
He seemed so sincere, and genuine, with his green eyes, big and round. I hesitated. "Fine. Let's go."
"Do you wanna change? Take a shower? Eat?" He asked.
"So basically, you're telling me that I have to do all three things."
He grinned widely. "You know me too well."
And I did it. I took a shower, dressed casually, and ate toast with jam. After that, he drove us to the shop he worked in, Cup 'o' Coffee, and announced, "You're working here from now on."
"You're working here from now on." He repeated.
"Why?" I was confused.
"Because being busy helps you not think about her a lot." He shrugged, handing me an apron. "I'll pick you up every morning for the rest of the summer. Your shift is the same time as mine."
"This is how you make it up to me?" I was amused, but I faked anger. "By getting me a job?"
"I-I thought…" He stuttered, looking everywhere but me.
"You thought what?" My lips twitched, and his observant eyes caught the movement.
"You are so annoying! Get to work, come on!" He turned around and started showing me the machines, the stock room, how to use the cash register-as if I didn't know. We then got to work.
To be honest, when we weren't snapping at each other, we worked pretty well together. I cleaned, and manned the cash register, while he worked in the stock room and took orders from booths. Occasionally, I would find myself staring at him, watching him charm the customers, make them laugh, and see the two dimples forming on his cheek.
Once, he caught me staring at him, and I blushed immediately, tearing my eyes from his, and carrying on with my work. He didn't say anything about it, which I was grateful for. It seemed like he had taken on the role of getting me through the death of Avery. Every day he would aim to make me laugh, or smile, as well as reminisce memories with Avery. I was still angry at Avery though, and Parker never asked me how she died.
Until that day. We had just finished a shift at Cup 'o' Coffee and he had taken me to the park, so that we could chill, and have a picnic. I hadn’t had a picnic for a month and a half, since Avery's death, so I went along with it. When we arrived there, he took out the picnic basket and the blanket. I asked if I could carry something but he just shook his head and grinned. "What type of gentleman would I be if I let you carry anything?"
"You aren't a gentleman, so it shouldn't be an issue." I teased.
"Then you are clearly blind, my lady..." He put one hand forward, and bowed.
I laughed and took his hand, walking hand in hand with him. I tried not to let it show that just holding his hand made me feel something. I didn't know what, but I felt it. I'm not going to tell you that it seemed like my hand was 'made' to fit his, because that's totally cliché. Instead, I'll tell you that our hands fit nicely together. His hand wasn't too rough, and mine not too small.
"Here we are." Parker announced, setting the blanket and sitting on it.
I looked around, taking in our surroundings. Trees were everywhere, and we were the only ones in this area. "Thank you." I murmured.
He looked at me strangely. "What for?"
"For picking a place where no one else sits." I replied simply.
"You're welcome. Now, Cecelia, sit." He patted the spot next to him.
"Don't call me that!" I whined, as I sat down, and leaned on the tree.
"Call you what?" He frowned, "Cecelia?"
"Yeah. I hate my name. It's too dramatic. Call me Cece." I demanded playfully.
"Whatever floats your boat, Cecelia." He mocked.
I huffed, and reached towards the basket, checking what he brought with him. "Yum. Burgers." I licked my lips as I took both of them out, offering one to Parker.
"Thanks." He took off the wrapper, taking a huge bite.
"It's really good." I complimented, "Did your mother make it?"
He clenched his jaw. "I did." He said curtly.
I was confused. "What did I say?"
He shook his head. "Nothing."
"Then why are you angry with me?" I looked at my hands, refusing to meet his eyes.
"Hey." He said softly. "Nothing's wrong. I'm not angry"
I didn't say anything.
"Let's play a game of twenty questions. I'll ask you a question, then you ask me." He changed the subject effectively.
"What's your favorite color?"
"Really? That's your first question?" I asked incredulously.
"Just answer it."
"Green." I answered. "What's your favorite color?"
"Red. What's your favorite food?"
"Pizza. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?"
Parker pondered thoughtfully over that one. "I would go to France. I've always wanted to go there, but we never had the time." He shifted, facing me, suddenly looking serious. "Can I ask you something, and you promise to answer it?"
"You just did." I tried to joke, not liking the sudden seriousness.
"No really. I'm serious." He looked at me, all humor vanished.
"How did Avery die?"
I froze up. Not even Jade knew, since I wasn't comfortable talking about it. Parker gave me the time to answer it, and after a few minutes, I shook my head. "Not now. I can't tell you now."
It was silent for a while before I said, "I heard Courtney talk to you the first time I met her. You were fighting, and when she said that I looked like a homeless person you said that she, of all people, should know how that feels. What did you mean?"
"You don't have to tell me. Forget I asked."
"No." He said softly. "I'll tell you. When I was younger my family was almost broke. We had little money, and lived in an apartment with only one room. After a while, we had to sell the apartment to get some money. When we lived in the streets it was really hard. Nowhere to put our things, constantly moving from one place to another. Then my mother died. Dad was so sad, we all were, but he got us back on our feet. He met Natalie a year after. She was rich, but my dad didn't fall in love with her for that. When they got married Dad got a good education, he got more money in. So we're not homeless anymore."
"I'm so sorry. When I first met you properly, you said that you did a paper on the stages of grief. But you didn't. You actually experienced it." It suddenly dawned on me. "I'm sorry."
He tried to give me a smile but it came out as a grimace. "It's OK."
The rest of the day was spent avoiding the subject, and talking about random things. That day taught me something valuable. Every person has their past and problems hidden underneath the surface, and one day, one person will reach in, just enough, to unveil them. Those people are worth trusting.
"Thanks for today. I had fun." I smiled as I got out of the car in front of my house.
He smiled back, not saying anything, then he drove off. I turned around, going to my room.
I looked at my phone, arguing with myself whether I should do it or not. I glanced at the time, shocked that it was so late into the night, and I was still awake. Three in the morning to be exact. I needed to get it off my chest though; I needed to tell someone. I finally gave in, and called Parker.
"Cece. What's wrong?" He picked up after three rings.
"We were running around the park, and I was training to be one of the best the Track team at the college I was going to go to had."
"Shh, don't interrupt. She was an amazing runner, and ran marathons every other week, so she was my training partner. You know the park has a four kilometer track, so we were trying to get a great time. When we were almost done, she felt a pain in her chest. She told me about it, and I told her it was probably nothing. She didn't say anything after that. Occasionally, I would see her wincing, but I didn’t do anything about it. When we got home, I got dressed to go to the mall. I had to buy books, so I left without saying goodbye." I was sobbing then. "When I was gone, I got a phone call from my mother three hours later. She told me she found Avery, dead on the couch. Something was wrong with her heart, and I dismissed it. It was my fault she died. If only I took her to the hospital or something, when she told me about the pain."
He was silent on the other end. After what seemed like eternity, he finally spoke. "I'm coming over."
And that was how I had entered the bargaining stage, the third stage of grief.