Five Minutes

Veronica Pryde is an up-and-coming actress who's just wrapped her first big movie. She's got the bright eyes and eagerness that overcomes every budding starlet. But it doesn't take long for the euphoria to fade, when she learns how abusive powerful men in Hollywood can be. At the hands of a well known producer and director, she is sexually assaulted, left in her hotel room, drunk, and feeling violated.

As much as Veronica tries to move past it, she becomes increasingly bitter and distances herself from everyone, a decision that impacts her relationships with her family, friends and husband. How long will it take for her to piece herself back together, to begin to trust again? How long will it take for her to speak up and fight back?

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11. Eye of the Tiger

Nights continued to fly by, nights of more loneliness and reservation. Veronica eventually became accustomed to sleeping on the couch, most days never seeing Ralston at all, and that was fine.

Sometimes she didn't even watch television. She'd sit with it off, on her phone, browsing through nothing in particular.

Tonight was the same, this mundaneness so routine. Her phone was placed on top of the table when she saw the screen light up.

She didn't recognize the number, but she didn't need to for her to realize who is was.

Guess who?

Those words caused that familiar feeling of her chest tightening. She wanted to warn him to stop texting her; yet, what was the point? His disposition showed her he was aggressively persistent and didn't cower at rejection.

????

It's Daniel.

I have another role in mind for you.

She turned her phone over on the couch, knowing he was sending her a longer stream of texts. A few seconds passed, her anxiety escalating, then she turned it back over. Trying to overlook the last several he sent, she blocked the number.

It would only be a matter time before he used a new number to continue this one sided conversation.

The door creaked open. Veronica's body tensed up as Ralston waltzed in. It was like living in a house with a stranger. She didn't know how to act around him anymore. She didn't know what to say. All those years of closeness and intimacy had been obliterated.

"Did Malcolm text you?" he asked.

Malcolm was Sam's boyfriend; the two of them been dating for about three years now. Veronica always thought of them as being essentially the same person; their personalities were eerily similar.

"He's throwing a party for Sam's birthday. He invited both of us but I told him I wasn't sure if you wanted to go."

God, what a terrible friend she was. She hadn't even remembered; she couldn't keep her attention focused at all lately. She also had been dodging Sam's calls and texts since they'd gone to karaoke. Eventually Sam gave up with her attempts to contact her. Veronica couldn't even fault her for doing that. It induced guilt to know that her friend was being treated unfairly. For all Sam knew, Veronica stopped practically tore down the ties of friendship without much justification.

"I'd love to go," she admitted.

His eyes widened briefly, probably in shock. "Okay, I'll let him know." There might have been the ghost of a smile in his face. It was so faint Veronica wasn't certain she actually saw it or not.

____________

When it came to buying presents, Veronica usually gauged for something she thought would be suited to her friends' interests. She'd listen if they casually mentioned they wanted something that they wanted but didn't purchase for themselves. Unfortunately, she had no idea what to get this time. She hadn't gone out of her way to concentrate on those factors.

This, however, didn't discourage her from buying a thoughtful present. She did know Sam well enough. She liked photography and she liked to paint, so Veronica went out during the week when Ralston was on set to get a sterling silver paint palette.

Malcolm gave them both a smile when he opened the front door. "Hey!" he said, making way for them to step inside. "So glad you both could make it. Everyone's in the back."

He and Sam lived in a stonewall midcentury bungalow. The inside had high ceilings, laminated floorboards and a white colour scheme. It had nearly over one thousand square feet of deck space of slated tiles - it was plenty of room for all the guests.

Sam was in the middle of conversation with Melanie when Ralston and Veronica approached her.

She grinned sincerely at Ralston. "Hi! Don't you look spiffy?"

He was wearing a button down blue dress shirt and donned a grey tie. "Thanks," he said.

Veronica noticed the lack of eye contact. Sam didn't even look like she acknowledged her standing there until she handed her the gift. "Happy Birthday."

Sam took it from her grip and gave her a very contrived smile. "Want anything to drink? Mal hired a bartender and he makes killer cocktails."

The deck had an outdoor gazebo bar with several available seating. Veronica and Ralston both made their way over.

"Did something happen between you two?" Ralston asked.

She faked obliviousness, frowning at him as if she were confused. "No, why?"

"Nothing. No reason," he replied, sounding annoyed.

The bartender was serving a few other guests before he gave them his attention when they reached the counter, grinning. "What would you like?"

"I don't want anything," Veronica said.

"I'll have a scotch," Ralston responded, then looked at Veronica. "Are you sure you don't want anything? You know it's free, right?"

"I know that. I just don't want a drink right now. Is that a problem with you?" she snapped, raising her eyebrows and prepared to retort if he gave her an answer.

"No. It's not." He took a sip of his drink after the bartender had set his glass down.

"I'm just gonna go find a place to sit."

She expected him to ask if she wanted to say hi to everyone first. It was the proper etiquette, considering she knew the majority of the guests.

He didn't. "There's a few empty seats here," he said, referring to the ones positioned underneath the gazebo.

She began to walk, feeling the warmth of Ralston's hand on her lower back.

The action made her flinch, noticeably, and she nearly stumbled forward, like he'd accidentally poured his drink on her.

"Whoa," he exclaimed, clearly taken aback.

"Don't push me. I can walk fine," she fired.

"I wasn't. I -" He stopped. It was something he sometimes did, probably out of habit, and Veronica usually didn't wince like the touch of his hand burned through her dress.

"I'm going inside. Don't follow me, okay?" she demanded. Inside was nice and empty. She didn't even bother paying any mind to those who could've been watching her, as she made her way into the back of the house.

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