"Hello, fabulous lady," Stella announced jovially, pressing the key that unlocked the front door of Parker's home into a black Hermès clutch. Three inch heels drew to an abrupt, graceful, halt when her eyes met Parker's. "Let me guess," Stella cooed, equably, "You had sex with Mister G-man."
Parker blinked wide in surprise, smiled mirthlessly.
"What's wrong?" Stella eagerly inquired, joining Parker on the sofa.
"Nothing. The Centre gossips were consummate amateurs compared to the people in this city. It hasn't even been twenty-four hours since I had sex with him."
"Wait, what?" Stella stammered. "You legit had sex with him? Honey, you were supposed to grin and say, 'ah, well, at least' whatever this is," continued Stella with a broad flourish in Parker's direction, "isn't as bad as up and fucking Mister FBI' because the last thing I expected was for you to have sex with him, and, damn, don't I feel like shit right now. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Why? Do I look I'm going to vomit? Or-- what was it he said-- have an anxiety attack?"
"Ki kaká sa," exclaimed Stella, fiercely. "You don't have anxiety attacks."
"Then, I don't look not okay to you?"
"You look less stressed than usual," Stella added after some up-close scrutiny. "Uncertain, maybe. Are you?"
Parker nodded slowly. "Yesterday he was driving me crazy, but I knew exactly how I felt about it, and now I--- I just-- that son of a fucking bitch," Parker snarled, too angry to notice Stella's recoil and expression of incredulity. "All this time, all those years," Parker shouted, bemused. "I believed his mouth was only capable of being irritating and of speaking in that all-knowing voice, telling me things I didn't want to hear, laughing and taunting me."
"Mouth," Stella repeated, her eyes suddenly wide. "Whoa, Sister. His mouth? Please tell me you protected yourself with a dental dam?"
"Right, because I always bring along a dental dam when I break into someone's house, y'know, on the off chance they're home, and maybe down for a little mid-morning cunnilingus."
"Your sarcasm's impeccable, my sweet, but --pfft. You kids, I swear, you're all so gotdern careless when you're horny."
"Whatever the hell you say, Boomer," jested Parker, lightly.
"Hang on a hot sec. You broke into his house? Hoemahgawd! And he rewarded you by dropping to his knees and worshiping at the altar of the vajen. He wasn't angry?"
"He," Parker answered, laughing sharply, severing her answer. Stella quietly observed Parker's tears of laughter with a frown of concern.
"Sister," Stella purred, "What in the actual unholy fuck am I looking at right now? Are you high?"
"I- no," Parker answered, recovering at last. "No," she repeated, drawing a breath and clutching her stomach. "High would be more fun. Stel, he gave me permission and offered to assist me," she said, erupting into laughter once more, "in rifling through his closets."
"What the hell were you looking for?"
"It's--- difficult to articulate."
"What do you mean?"
"He's ---I don't know."
"Use your words," Stella encouraged sweetly.
"He's Jarod," Parker answered, after some thought, and appeared quite satisfied with herself.
"He sure as hell is," Stella agreed, acutely concerned that after seven minutes of rummaging her mind for a sufficient explanation Parker could produce only the man's name, "and you knew that when you had sex with him. Do you have regrets?"
"No. What is it you always say?" Parker murmured. "Sa ou fè se li ou wè."
"I've never said that to you."
"You should. It's the truth. I did this, I own it. He offered to open the door for me, and, typically I'm not shown to the door until after sex. I wasn't drunk, it wasn't a mistake, I don't regret it."
"Hell-fucking-yeah," Stella lauded.
"I committed a crime for which I feel absolutely no remorse."
Stella's face twisted in incredulity. "Istwa san sans. Crime? Jezi Mari Jozèf," she murmured quietly. "I realize that you were recruited into that whacked ass Centre cult and brainwashed within a millimeter of a persistent vegetative state, but just because they said it's a crime doesn't mean it is. This," Stella said, rotating her extended index finger in Parker's direction, "is residual brainwashing."
"That sounds like something Jarod would say," Parker decried, somberly.
"I'm just," Stella began carefully, covering Parker's hand with her own and gently squeezing it, "I love you, unconditionally, and I'm just saying, all right? You're going to figure this out like you always do."
"Yes, I am," Parker agreed, "but probably not before seven."
"Okay," Stella said, dully. "What happens at seven?"
"Dinner with Jarod."
"It's a quarter of, and you're wearing rumpled office clothes and the fuzzy Hello Kitty socks I gave Avery three Christmases ago."
"Did I tell you that he implied he once had feelings for me?"
"Um, you know, how's about, next time, lead with the juiciest deets. You know I'm a romantic. So he's woo-woo wooing you?"
"No-- uhn don't you dare sing that," Parker groaned when Stella began humming the chorus of her favorite Jeffrey Osborne tune. "Or at least I don't think he is," murmured Parker, impassively. "Who the hell knows," she added with a noncommittal shrug. "I've never seen him like this before."
"I can empathize," Stella confided, softly, "I've never seen you like this before."