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Whenever I watch 'Risque Business', I always wonder how would Miss Parker know about Jarod's allergy to pistachios. Maybe it's because she has learned everything about him, he's her lab rat, her little monkey, after all.
And yet, i'd love to think that it's something that comes from their past. Something like this.
A huge thank to Danielle SmileyFace, an amazing Beta Reader who helped me through this!
“Damn it! I’m so tired of being late for the party!”
Parker was disappointed and exasperated. How many times would she run after Jarod just to find the remains of his presence in the last lair he’d lived in?
How many times yet?
Broots looked around with that excited and curious expression of his, the one Parker used to loathe whenever the little geek tried to tell her something he’d just discovered.
“Shh. Miss Parker, we might not be late this time. Look at all this stuff. Today’s paper. Food, clothes, a D.S.A. player.”
Parker was following his movements with attention. What the hell was he trying to tell her?
“This computer’s still warm…” Broots said, touching the laptop on the desk. And it was, indeed.
Parker changed her mind all at once. Maybe this wouldn’t be a waste of time, after all.
“ Jarod’s still living here…”
And yet, there was something strange. Everything around her, all the objects, the atmosphere, the place. Everything seemed to be odd, different.
She’d been looking for Jarod all around the damned US for four years, by now. And she’d never, ever, found such an apparent and evident presence of Jarod, in any of the lairs she’d visited before. There was something inside telling her to get away.
Broots lost all his bravery all at once: “This is too important not to tell Mr. Lyle. Don’t you think this is important enough that we have to let him know?”
Broots grabbed some peanuts from a bowl on the table, and started to eat them. But those weren’t hazelnuts, or peanuts. Parker stared at him in a moment of sudden revelation. An epiphany
“Sorry. I-I get hungry when I’m nervous. Pistachio?”
Parker gasped. This couldn’t be. She remembered. She had promised she would never forget…
10/12/1970 – The Centre
Miss Parker was walking around, looking for Jarod. Whenever her father took her to The Centre, she always tried to find her friend. Since her mother’s death, she would find some solace only when she spent her time with Jarod. He was everything, to her. They would play together, or look for Angelo by crawling inside The Centre air ducts. And yet, Parker thought about Angelo as a brother, a very special friend in need of attention and care. With Jarod, everything was different. He was shy and brilliant, and yet they would laugh together, especially when Dr. Raines wandered around, trying to find them, or when Sydney got mad at them because they had disappeared once again under his nose. Jarod had the most special smile on his face whenever Parker came into view. And that usually made Miss Parker smile, too. She felt happy when she was with him.
And that day, she was crunching some pistachios. She grabbed them from a bag that her father had bought her the day before. She wasn’t very fond of pistachios, she preferred peanuts, but she didn’t care. Because her father had bought them for her specially.
Jarod was doing some paperwork in his room. Sydney wasn’t there, and neither was Mr. Raines. Miss Parker smiled as soon as she saw him and walked towards him.
Jarod felt her presence and moved his eyes from the desk, just in time to see his lovely friend approaching him.
“Good afternoon, Miss Parker.”
“How would you know?”
“Know what?” Jarod asked her, amused by her sudden and odd question.
“That it’s afternoon. There are no windows here, and you don’t have a watch. There’s no natural light and you cannot follow shadows to understand what time is it.”
Jarod smiled at her brilliant remark. Sometimes he felt like Parker was a pretender, too.
“I always know when it’s afternoon. I know that the morning has passed because you wouldn’t come to The Centre during the morning. You have school. But whenever I see you arriving, I know that school time is over, and so is lunch time, because your father usually takes his break from 1.00 to 2.00 o’ clock.”
Parker smiled and followed his explanation carefully.
“So…” Jarod continued “I would say it’s almost four o’ clock and you’re having your afternoon snack. Am I right?”
Jarod was satisfied and totally grinning. Parker felt her heart jump when she saw that fabulous look on his face.
She didn’t want to let him win. Again.
Jarod came back to his paperwork. “Was this a good day or a bad day?”
Parker shrugged. “This was an okay day. But it’s getting better now.”
Jarod left his gaze on her just for a second, smiling in happiness.
“What are you eating, Miss Parker?” he asked her.
“Pistachios. My daddy bought them to me yesterday.”
“I’ve never tasted them!”
“Jarod, you’ve never tasted anything!”
Parker felt guilty as soon as the words left her mouth, but she couldn’t help it. She was always sincere and she was used to speaking honestly to Jarod. He was her friend, she didn’t want to lie to him, ever. That was a promise they’d made each other a long time ago.
Jarod was a bit disappointed and his good mood was almost fading to blue, so Miss Parker grabbed some pistachios from her bag.
“Do you want some?” she asked him.
Jarod smiled again, her last remark totally forgotten.
“Yes, please. Thank you!”
The young girl smiled at her friend’s expression. He looked overjoyed.
They crunched the pistachios together, in silence. Jarod savoured them on his tongue for a couple of seconds.
“So, what do you think? You like them?” Parker asked him.
Jarod didn’t answer. His face changed expression at once.
Parker understood at once what was happening. Her friend was choking. His face was becoming redder and his lips started to swell. Jarod fell from his chair to the floor, his eyes were filled with panic and so were Miss Parker’s.
“Jar, what do I do?” she shouted.
“Call…Syd…Sydney!” he tried to tell her, between one gasp and another.
“Oh my God, Jarod!”
Miss Parker started to cry. She couldn’t help the tears streaming down her face.
“No, no! I won’t leave you here!” she screamed “You won’t leave me, too!”
Jarod didn’t know what was happening to his body. He didn’t know if he would ever breathe again in a normal way. He felt so bad he knew he could die. But he was sure of one thing: Parker was terrorized, because she was afraid to lose him too, like her mother.
So he grabbed her hands and squeezed them, trying to speak normally not to frighten her.
“Miss Parker…I’m…okay…Just call…Sydney…” he told her, then put a smile on his face.
The girl was still crying, in that moment she started to tremble, too.
“Jar…don’t leave me, please…”
“I won’t…I promise…call Sydney, now!”
Parker nodded a couple of times, trying to convince herself, then she stood up and ran away, screaming and looking for help.
Jarod lay down on the floor and put his hands on his throat. He couldn’t breathe anymore, his tongue was getting bigger and so were his lips.
Sydney and Parker appeared a couple of seconds later, followed by a doctor carrying a syringe. Jarod was by now unconscious, oblivious of what was going on around him.
Miss Parker shrieked, terrorized and overwhelmed by the mere thought that she would lose Jarod.
“Jarod!” she screamed.
Sydney held her next to him, while the doctor injected the epinephrine dose into his circulation.
“Let me go!” Parker screamed.
“Miss Parker, calm down!”
“No! He’s dying! He’s dying!”
Sydney grabbed Parker’s little and fragile arms and held her in his soft but firm embrace.
“Miss Parker, the doctor is helping Jarod.” Sydney was looking at her, confident that the doctor would save the young pretender’s life. He knew that Jarod was allergic to pistachios, and he’d distinguished the symptoms of anaphylaxis as soon as Miss Parker had entered his office and described to him what was happening to Jarod. And yet, he’d never thought that Jarod’s allergy would be so dangerous for him.
“Come on, kiddo.” the doctor said.
Sydney gasped and held Miss Parker, they both were waiting for Jarod to wake up.
“It’s all my fault…he’s going to die, and that’s all my fault! Just like mama!”
Sydney was worried. And not just because he thought he might actually lose his best pretender, but even because he was afraid of the repercussions that Jarod’s accidental death would have on his young playmate. Sydney knew he was acting like a fool, that he was just a silly, stupid hearted man. But he cared deeply for these two kids. Since Catherine’s death, his main purpose had been to help young Miss Parker to overcome the tragedy of her mother’s disappearance. He let Jarod play with her too much, he let them spend their time together and that was a mistake. A pretender should never, ever, care for anyone. And yet, he couldn’t help it. He noticed the bond between the kids was growing and he didn’t want to do anything to prevent them from becoming friends. On the contrary, he was encouraging them. And that was the moment when he realized that Miss Parker and Jarod would always be friends. Forever. No matter what would happen after this, they would always care for each other.
“Miss Parker…” Sydney held her hand and the young girl didn’t seem to ever want to let it go “It’s not your fault.”
“I can’t lose him, Sydney! I can’t lose him, too!” she screamed.
“You won’t!” he said, a determined tone in his words.
Jarod opened his eyes and started to cough. Then he breathed deeply and moved his eyes all around the place. He was looking for her.
“Jarod!” the girl shrieked his name, again.
While the boy was sitting on the floor, trying to get his breathing under control once again, Sydney couldn’t hold Miss Parker anymore. The girl threw herself into the arms of her friend. Jarod just held her, stroking her hair and whispering soothing words in her ears.
Sydney felt the greatest sense of relief he ever had in his entire life. Jarod was alive.
The doctor sighed and stared at the adult next to him, waiting for instructions. The pretender wasn’t allowed to spend so much time with another person, let alone Miss Parker.
Sydney looked back at him: “Let them be, just for this time. I’ll take care of everything.”
The man looked upset, but nodded, “Take him to the infirmary as soon as possible. We must check his condition before injecting him with antihistamines.”
“I know. Thank you.”
The doctor exited the room, while Jarod was still holding Miss Parker. She was sobbing in despair. So the young boy looked at Sydney for help. He didn’t know what to do. Sydney shrugged and let Jarod find the right words.
“Shhh. Miss Parker, everything’s fine…I’m okay, you see?”
“I hate him…I hate him!”
“Who?” Jarod asked her.
“He was the one who bought those pistachios! And you almost died because of me! I hate daddy!” she screamed.
Sydney was surprised and astonished. He would never dare to, and yet… what if Mr. Parker had done everything on purpose? He knew his daughter was kind to Jarod, he knew that she would bring along the bag as a hidden treasure found on a desert island. He knew…
“It’s not your father’s fault, Miss Parker…and you didn’t know that I was allergic to pistachios. Well, I didn’t know, either!”
Miss Parker laughed for the first time in minutes, and Sydney smiled. He loved the sound of those kids’ laughter. His kids.
“I’m so sorry, Jar…”
“I’m sorry too, Miss Parker. I promise I won’t scare you like that anymore …”
“You’re not lying?”
Jarod smiled. “No, I’m not. I swear, I’ll never lie to you, Miss Parker.”
The girl seemed to be satisfied. “And I promise I won’t forget that you’re allergic to pistachios. Ever!”
“Deal!” Jarod smiled and the kids shook hands to seal that vow.
Sydney clapped his hands together.
“Well, it’s time to go to the infirmary, Jarod.”
Miss Parker stared at him wide-eyed. Her look was unmistakable. She wanted to stay with him.
“I feel fine, Sydney. Maybe we could go there later?”
Jarod was hopeful. He knew that Sydney was a bit harsh at times, and he never seemed to care at all for his feelings. But he really needed to know that Miss Parker was fine. She had been so scared.
Sydney sighed and looked at his watch. “Well, maybe just for a few minutes…”
The kids smiled at the adult and watched him exit the room.
Miss Parker was still holding Jarod’s hand in hers. She wasn’t crying anymore, in fact she looked amused.
“What’s so funny?” he asked her, the softest smile on his face.
“Your lips were huuuuge!” she told him.
“Oh, were they?!”
Miss Parker sensed his changing and ran away, laughing and trying to escape from Jarod’s hands. He didn’t actually want to catch her. In fact, whenever they played tag, he preferred to be the one who escapes, while Parker loved to be ‘it’. He ran, and she chased.
Miss Parker came back to her senses and stared at Broots.
“Broots, when exactly did we find that receipt in the box from Jarod’s lair?”
He thought a couple of seconds, then answered “ Right after Mr. Lyle left.”
Parker didn’t need any other proof. She knew she was right. And that bowl of pistachios demonstrated she wasn’t wrong.
“We’re out of here.” she told Broots.
As soon as Miss Parker saw Lyle, she felt a weird sensation of pleasure. She knew she was going to kick his ass, and she was looking forward to doing it.
“Miss Parker, I was starting to worry. I hadn’t heard any developments in your Jarod pursuit.”
“That’s because there was no Jarod pursuit, was there, Lyle? It was all just a setup. The bogus shipping report, the fake lair with all the sex toys. The swinging couple, however, was a very cute touch. You don’t usually show that much imagination when trying to screw me over.”
Under the careful looks of Broots and Sydney, who were watching from a distance, Parker heard Lyle trying to invent an explanation.
“I don’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about.”
As soon as Lyle tried to escape her claws, she gripped his neck and stopped him from fleeing.
“Next time, do your homework. Jarod’s allergic to pistachios.”
Then she shoved a pistachio right into his mouth, while Lyle tried not to laugh. Gee, she really was beautiful when she got angry.
Parker saw her brother get away, then smiled to herself.
That night was different. Parker hadn’t heard from Jarod in a while and she wasn’t expecting a call. And yet, whenever rat boy wanted to talk, to entertain her in some dismal conversation, she always knew when her phone would ring.
Like that night.
She had thought about that episode the whole day.
And she wanted to know. She needed to know.
“What?” she answered, in her usual glacial tone. Bad habits die hard.
“I heard you stumbled upon an epic fail back in Wyattville. What happened to your instinct?”
Parker struggled not to laugh.
“It seems that you and my brother have something in common. He tried to throw me off the trail, and I found out. So I made a fool of him in front of everyone, with lots of pleasure, I can’t deny it.”
Jarod laughed. This wasn’t the usual Miss Parker he used to chatting with at night.
This felt different.
“Well, I like to be the only one who sidetracks you, Miss Parker. I don’t want competitors. That’s the best part of my day.”
“What part, the one where you tease me like a newbie?” she asked him.
He sighed in answer. “No, the part where I see you chasing without ever catch me.”
She didn’t know what to say.
“I know that I probably shouldn’t tell you, but…if you weren’t the one pursuing, there would be no fun anymore.”
Parker gasped. “I know the feeling”.
Jarod nodded to himself. So, this conversation was different.
“So, I’m glad to see that you’re following my advice.”
“About knowing the difference between your friends and your enemies.”
Parker sighed, but tried not to sound weak. She didn’t like feeling so open, especially if the person she was talking to was Jarod.
“I’ve always known the difference, Jarod.”
The pretender was completely caught by surprise. He didn’t even know if he had heard correctly.
‘What the hell is going on, here? What is she doing? She’s deliberately violating the rules of our never-ending game!’
And yet, he was too curious to let go.
Parker knew that she was going somewhere unsafe. She was leaving their zone, the weird and inexplicable status quo that they’d built during the years of Jarod’s pursuit.
He called, she barked something in answer, she thought about their existences and pondered Jarod’s words, then she understood he was right and internalized everything he’d said. But they had never told each other the truth about their verbal quarrels, they just knew. She had never shown any feelings. She simply couldn’t let her guard fall.
“Today I’ve realized a very important thing. Because of my brother’s lack of an eye for detail, I’ve realized that in this madhouse we’re living in…I’m still the person who knows you better than anyone else.”
Parker paused for a second, but didn’t want to let him talk. And Jarod would never even dare to spoil such a moment.
“I’m the one who knows how you can always tell what time is it even if you don’t wear a watch. I’m the one who knows how loyal you are to the people you love. I’m the one who knows what you’re allergic to.”
Jarod had no more words. He was thrilled and shocked. When he’d dialled Parker’s number, he could have never imagined that such a conversation would have happened. And yet, here they were. Talking like two old friends. The best of friends.
“Parker…” he whispered.
“Jarod, I want to tell you something before this passing good mood disappears, eventually. In the last couple of years, I’ve spent almost all my time hunting you…trying to survive in the chaos of all the lies of my father, my brother, The Centre…And the truth is…you’re the only one who’s never, ever lied to me. You’ve always been honest with me. And I’m deeply grateful that you kept the promise you made me all those years ago, that you would never lie to me.”
Parker hung up. She wasn’t ready for an answer. She knew she’d been too vulnerable, but she didn’t care. At all. She just had to tell him, and she was glad she’d been able to speak without crying. Jarod deserved the truth.
Jarod couldn’t just let go. All the things Parker had said were echoing in his mind. His first thought was to reach her house at once, because she would say something like that only at the point of death. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she was delirious.
Jarod drove a few hours to reach Wyattville. He needed to understand what had happened. As soon as he reached the fake lair, the setup that Lyle had prepared for Parker, Jarod realized what had caught her attention. That bowl of pistachios was like a poison for him. He would never touch a pistachio again in his whole life, not even if forced against his will.
When he came back home, he decided to get inside The Centre security system, he wanted to find the surveillance tapes of Parker and Lyle’s meeting. She had said that she’d made a fool of him in front of everyone, so they should be in some public place, like a corridor. It took him just a while to find the videos he was craving to watch.
And when he saw Parker winning against Lyle and telling him to ‘do his homework’, he burst out laughing. He was almost crying with laughter.
“Gee, Parker, you’re unbelievable!” he said to himself.
And it was a compliment.
It took Jarod a minute to decide what to do. He took a piece of paper and his favorite black marker, then he wrote his message. This part was more difficult, because he wanted to choose his words carefully. But not as difficult as the thing he was going to do after. He knew it was very dangerous and that he could die, but he didn’t care.
When Miss Parker woke up and entered the kitchen, she was still feeling odd and disturbed. She was already repenting the actions of the night before, of the words she’d let come out from her mouth. From her soul.
She saw the piece of paper as soon as she found her favourite mug already filled up with coffee. It was still hot.
The note was from Jarod. She didn’t even want to know how he’d managed to get inside and outside her house without her noticing.
Thank you, for keeping your promise.
Right under those words, Parker found a little pistachio, glued to the sheet of paper. She saw the little nut and a smile lightened her face immediately.
I’ve used 5 pair of gloves to prepare you this little gift.
We don’t want our funny ‘you-run-I-chase’ game to end too soon because of an anaphylactic shock…Do we?
I know that everything will be back to normal and you’ll be my huntress once again, tomorrow.
But I promise you this.
I’ll never forget all the things you said tonight, Miss Parker.
You’ve my word.
Parker couldn’t help but smile.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed this.