This is the story of how I met Seth. I hope you find it as amazing as I did.
I’d been in LA for eight months, working at a cat shelter. I was two weeks away from being unemployed when my predecessor came back from having her baby. They said a distinguished guest would be at the Christmas party - I assumed it was Rachael MacFarlane, key board member, very important. The founder of the place happened to be her mother.
I got there when it was almost over, because I hate parties. If I had my way I would have spent the night downstairs with the cats. In the corner he stood staring into a glass of something, swishing it around without drinking. This dark look on his face like something was bothering him. I thought he was like the rest. Like me. Another clueless person who had absolutely no desire to be there.
I had no idea.
He actually showed up.
He hadn’t been to the end of year staff party in three years, or so I’d heard. Probably longer. His publicist’s publicist always told us he was busy, and I believed them. I didn’t want to be there either. But the boss had shoved me in his direction and told me to introduce myself.
“Mr MacFarlane?” He turned around like he was surprised anyone noticed him there. I stuck out my hand. Normal so far.
“Hi. I’m Casey. Volunteer coordinator, so they say.”
“Hi, I’m Seth,” he smiled, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes, and shook my hand. He was kinda cute. Nice smile, annoyingly perfect teeth. Thousand dollar suit.
“You having fun so far?” It came out sounding like I didn’t care about the answer, and to be honest, I don’t think I did. I crossed my arms looked around the office at all the other workers, the ones who were left, the volunteers who’d shown up. At least I’d miss the cats.
“Yeah, I’m having a pretty good time,” he told me, but the look on his face made a liar out of him. He was looking in his drink like there was another galaxy in there.
“Yeah right,” I scoffed, and spoke without thinking. “A third of the staff’s gone home, nobody brought any decent booze, and Dan from accounting stole all the Jack.”
“Yeah, he cornered me earlier and started talking about refund adjustments,” Seth started suddenly, “and then I realized the bottle was gone.”
I stared at him. “You stole the bottle and put it down? In this office?” I had to laugh and shake my head. “Rookie move. Should have hidden it down with the cats.”
“How many do you have?” Back to the small talk.
“100 or so. Taken care of in a state of the art cat gym by loving volunteers, by which I mean mostly me.” I touched his arm as I spied a break in the crowd and lead him to the bar table.
“What a dream job,” he deadpanned, and I actually rolled my eyes. If one more person said taking care of 100 cats was a dream I was going to slap them.
“I’m being sarcastic, by the way,” he added as I glanced at him. “I hate cleaning up after my one cat.”
I smirked as I went through the slim pickings left at the bar. I poured some wine. It was fucking awful, so I handed him the bottle without looking. I wondered if anyone would notice if I left.
When I looked back at him, he was staring into his glass again, like there wasn’t even a party. His face was dark, like he’d just heard bad news. Like he was trying to work something out. I actually felt sorry for him for a moment, at least enough to actually get him some Jack.
“Do you want to come meet the cats?” I ventured quietly. It was out of the blue, but it brought him out of his drink. “We keep the booze in the basement, and they’re much better company.”
He looked at me like he’d just realized I was there. Maybe a little too long. I waited for him to be overly polite and tell me to go away. Instead he actually thought about it.
“Sure, yeah, let’s find the cats.” I did a double take when I realized he was serious. Then I gave up trying to analyze him, and lead him downstairs.
The cat gym was pretty quiet this time of night. The cats were all in their little houses, snuggled up on donated blankets. Some of them purred as they slept. I placed my glass in front of Mousey, by far our ugliest cat, and he hissed at it.
“Mousey’s a mean drunk,” I smiled in explanation as I turned to unlock the basement door, and let Seth head down first. I shut it behind us to keep any cats from getting in, before second-guessing putting my glass down. Mousey would inevitably reach through the cage and smash it all over the floor.
The next part of the story will sound like the stupidest thing anyone has ever heard, but I swear to non-existent God it happened. I turned around and grabbed the handle but the door didn’t open. These old doors took a little pushing though, so I turned it as hard as I could.
And the thing fell off in my hand.
It was one of those moments when there’s really nothing left to say. I stood there motionless for a moment, holding the stupid thing. Seth was halfway down the stairs and he stopped in his tracks when he saw it. This was the type of shit that only happened on TV.
“Wow. So that just happened,” I said to no one in particular. Something inside the handle had snapped clean off, so there was no way to get it back on. We spent fifteen minutes trying to find some way out - fiddling with the inside of the lock, banging, yelling, disturbing the cats, trying to get bars on our phones. I considered trying to break the door but it didn’t seem like the best parting gift for a non-profit full of cats. It was a perfect storm of random circumstance, and now I was stuck in a windowless basement with a millionaire.
“This isn’t actually happening,” I told him as I walked down the stairs. He’d given up way before me and taken to smoking in the corner. “You’re famous. There has to be a camera here somewhere. We’re being Punk’d.”
I paused for a second. Should it be ‘we’re on Punk’d?’ Was Punk’d a noun or a verb? Surely if they wanted to Punk him they’d have locked someone interesting in there with him.
“You just started staring off into space. Please,” he added, his voice slightly pleading, “tell me you had a revelation about how to get out of here.”
I choked out a laugh. Of course. He’s famous. He probably had three other parties to get to by morning. “What, you have somewhere to be?”
“The house I haven’t seen for two weeks,” he sighed, lifting his drink to his lips like he was about to down it. He stopped at the last minute like he thought better of it. I guess he was rationing out the gold.
I looked at the mess around the basement and sighed heavily. It wasn’t too bad a situation. There was the lumpy old couch we used to have in reception, wedged under the stairs. A couple of boxes - donations, probably. And the most important part, the mini fridge. The thing smelled like bleach (they must have finally got a volunteer to clean it) but still had a few bottles left. I took some wine and the last bottle of Jack.
“Those people upstairs don’t know I’m alive,” I told Seth, pressing the Jack bottle to his chest. “They’re sure as hell not going to notice me disappearing from a party. And the only other people here are cats.”
He put his hand over the bottle, and over my hand too, for a moment. The idea was to pull it away, but when I tried my hand didn’t want to move. My eyes didn’t want to stop looking at him either. I don’t know if I pulled away in time to ease the awkwardness. This whole situation was awkward.
“Wait, are you fucking serious?” he asked. He was still holding his glass in front of him like I was about to introduce him to someone. He was out of luck unless he wanted to meet the wall.
“Congratulations,” I deadpanned. “You’re locked in a room with the worst person at the party.”
“You weren’t the one who spent twenty minutes telling me about the income potential of direct marketing.”
“I’m one rank above the finance guy,” I mumbled to myself as I I checked the cupboards to see if there was any actual food. I found exactly one box of water crackers and some cookies. Thank god neither of us was diabetic.
When I turned around, he was staring at me, still holding the bottle. I was sure he had nice eyes now. Maybe it took some time looking at them to know. There are time when someone staring at you is awkward, and times when it’s not - when the silence, for whatever reason, is nice. And so he kept staring at me, his finger tapping on his glass, his eyes big and dark and kind, like he was searching my face for some kind of answer. I got the feeling I wasn’t meant to like it, even though I did.
“What?” I asked him, and he suddenly looked down at his drink. And up again. The looking isn’t what gets to you when someone stares. It’s the looking back.
He stared at me for a second longer, and narrowed his eyes. “What the hell is ‘Punk’d?’ “
I closed mine. Damn it. This was going to be a long night.
The couch made a horrible sound as I dragged it into the center of the room. We’d been locked down there for an hour and it seemed I was right - nobody noticed we’d left. At best, we had six hours to go until one of the cleaners opened up the cat gym. Six hours of this guy I wasn’t sure I liked yet.
I heard another scraping sound from behind me. Seth had actually put down his drink to drag two boxes over as a makeshift table. I had to admit, I was starting to warm to him. Something completely random was happening and he was just rolling with it.
It was probably the booze.
“I guess one of us can sleep on it,” I sighed, gesturing to the couch. “And there’s cookies and water crackers.”
“Cookies with cats on them,” Seth added, opening the box, and I laughed
“It’s a cat shelter, everything has cats on them,” I smiled, settling into the couch. I cradled the wine bottle in my hands and looked around. There was a sink in the corner. “The tap might work if we hit it hard enough.”
“That’s what she said.” Seth started poking around the stuff under the stairs. “So how long until someone finds us?”
“Eternity.” He found an old office chair and pulled it over. We had a nice little fake living room going. He raised his eyebrows and I actually had to laugh at the look on his face.
“Relax,” I sighed, shutting my eyes. “The cleaners come in before we do. 6am, tops.”
“Well if you want to sleep, tell me and I’ll just shut the fuck up.”
I opened my eyes and checked my watch. It was already after midnight. He was staring into his drink again, swishing it around. There was only a sip left and he hadn’t touched the bottle on our fake table. It was the same look he’d had before, when I was introduced to him. Like something was bothering him and the last place he wanted to be to sort it out was a party.
“You don’t really want to be here, do you?” I tried to ask it as nicely as possible. When he didn’t answer for a moment, I started reading the back of the wine bottle. Napa. I think I went there once in summer. Hot as balls.
“Locked in a basement? Not completely.” He swirled his drink one more time and finally finished it. The eyes, and the smile when it was there, and the perfect teeth. He was cute, if you didn’t think about it. He looked up and I stared him down, not buying the joke, so he went on.
“My sister told me I hadn’t been to one of these things in two years,” he sighed, putting his drink on the table. Hands. He had nice hands, too, as he gestured upstairs. “This whole thing was started by-”
“Your mom.” Now I understood. He shot me a look when I said it, like I wasn’t meant to know who she was or that she was dead. Like I didn’t have a family of my own who thought I was stupid for moving to California and working for non-profits. You never want to see-
“Rachel gave me that look people get when they’re really fucking disappointed.” Wow. He’d almost finished the sentence in my head. “And asked what happened to me. So I just drove off like a coward.”
We sat there in silence for a while. I think we both understood. He was the one who broke it, putting his glass down on a pile of boxes. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”
“I’m a captive audience who knows that families suck.” I said it without thinking and wanted to take it back, but he just smirked a little. My hands wanted to feel busy, so I walked to the stairs and grabbed onto the box on top of the pile. He rescued his liquid gold just in time.
“Blankets,” I explained. He tried to take it the box from me but I held on tight. “It’s winter. We’ll freeze in here.”
"It’s Los Angeles,” he quipped, sounding exactly like Brian the fucking dog. I held my hands up and let him thunk the box back where I found it.
"Where I’m from, if you’re stuck in a concrete box in winter, you freeze to death."
“Alaska?” I actually rolled my eyes. He was smiling at me, but I’d almost had enough of his sense of humor.
“Colorado.” I drank some more wine and thought for a second. “Hang on, you’re from Connecticut. It’s even colder over there.”
He poured himself another glass and shrugged. I wondered how many more before he’d fall over or kiss me. Wait. Kiss me? I didn’t want him to kiss me. Too much wine.
“I’ve been in LA for the past…fifteen years, maybe?” He actually had to think about it. “Barely ever gets close to home.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re old.” He started laughing before I’d even finished the sentence. Maybe he wasn’t too far off.
“So how the hell did you end up here?” When I met his eyes it was like he actually wanted to know the answer. I held his gaze for a little too long, wondering when he was going to tell me what the staring was all about.
“I grew up outside of Boulder,” I started, choosing my words carefully. I always had to do that when explaining where I was from. I was enough of a loser without the boring back story. “I graduated UC, worked in Denver for a while, but it was always my dream to move to San Francisco.”
“And you came here?” I looked at him and we both smiled in the pause.
"Yeah, well, there was a recession, so I had to broaden my dream to include all of California.” I grabbed the ugliest cat cookie from the pile. Seth had arranged them at some point into the Jenga building of cat cookies.
“So how much do you people know about me?” he asked idly. He carefully replaced the cookie with another one and grinned when the headquarters of Cat Jenga didn’t fall over.
I flopped down on the couch and fired off what I knew through a mouthful of cookie. “RISD. Hanna Barbara and Johnny Bravo. Which I watched when I was 10, by the way.” I said it just to giggle at the look on his face. “Youngest show-runner ever. And now…”
He looked up when I trailed off, thinking about what I was going to say next. I wanted to be nice, and sometimes I have to think when I do that. But his eyes caught me off guard, the half smile on his face, studying me. I wondered what made me so interesting.
“I think you’re probably using your talent on so many things I don’t blame you for not coming to stupid parties,” I managed. He kept his eyes on me as he reached for his drink. What bothered me was I didn’t actually mind.
“Yeah,” he sighed, pouring himself some more. “You know I haven’t had a day off since Clinton was in office? I have every hour scheduled on this stupid calendar and I barely have time to call home and see if my cat’s still alive. I just work fucking hard. And it’s not a stupid party,” he added.
He sighed as he said it, like maybe he actually did work too hard. I could believe it. He had bags under his eyes, lines. Hands that wouldn’t sit still. Part of me wondered how he ever relaxed, if he relaxed.
I breathed in and before I knew it, I was pouring it all out. “Well I worked hard too. I actually left Colorado. But instead of San Francisco I wound up in a crappy walk-up in Koreatown. Instead of making a difference I’m cleaning up after cats because the volunteers I cold call just want to hug them.” I was actually starting to get annoyed now - that general annoyance at everyone and everything that comes from too much alcohol. At least for me.
“C’mon, you’re making a difference to the cats,” he pointed out, and I got up and walked to the sink. it wasn’t that he was annoying me, or that I didn’t like him, or wanted to be out of here. It was the opposite. I didn’t want any of those things, and that annoyed me even more.
“You’re not an idiot.” I was probably snapping now, the words pouring out. I turned around, leaned against the sink, stared him down. “You have talent, and passion, and drive. And millions. And I’ve probably just lost a good reference by being the idiot who got you stuck down here. Don’t try and tell me you don’t have any talent, we both know you do. And don’t let your sister make you feel guilty for working hard.”
By the time I turned back to the sink I was fucking convinced I was an idiot. What the hell was I thinking? A half-confession, half-insult fueled by wine. I obviously wasn’t thinking. I tried turning the tap on just to break the silence. It sputtered and gurgled but nothing came out. There was a joke in there somewhere.
“You know, I don’t think you’re an idiot,” he said thoughtfully. He paused for a second and I glanced at him, glancing at me. “I mean, I’m still trying to figure out if us being locked in here is some kind of sex game and I just don’t know the safe word, but you’re smart enough to take care of everything at this place. I’m on the fucking board and I didn’t even know your name. I would have come to more of these things if I’d known someone like you was here.”
I had to smile. Had to ask. “Someone like me, hey?”
He swallowed another sip. “Someone who is not an idiot.”
I looked back at the sink, at my nails holding onto it, and tried to stop smiling. ‘Not an idiot’. It sounded nice when it came from him. Like he actually meant it. And I hadn’t missed the part about the sex game either. I busied myself twisting the taps all the way up to max as the sink creaked.
“The safety word is banana,” I quipped over my shoulder, and he actually spat out his drink.
“What?“ he spluttered, and I laughed so hard it echoed throughout the basement.
"Family Guy, season 2. Know your own material, doofus.”
I heard him walking, and when I turned from the sink he was standing next to me, and I felt the smile disappear off my face. In a good way. His eyes were dark, and kind, the type you could get lost in if you let yourself go. He smelled like whiskey and fresh laundry. I could feel his hand inches away from mine on the side of the sink, and I wondered what would happen if I kissed him. I wasn’t meant to wonder, but it didn’t seem like we were strangers anymore. Strangers don’t stare like this. Strangers don’t even talk.
He’d moved ever so slightly towards me, to do…something, when the sink creaked loudly and made me jump. It spluttered one more time and water finally came pouring out. I looked back at him, still close as ever. We were both smiling.
“Eureka,” he said quietly. He filled up his glass and went to the couch, leaving me wondering what had happened.
The next two hours felt like five.
We didn’t say much after we got the water on. We both added some of it to the alcohol floating through our systems. I finally got to the next level of Doodle Jump on my phone. Seth tapped away on his - emails, I assume, for when we had bars again. Unfortunately, it seemed everyone at the party thought he’d just gone home, and nobody in my empty apartment would care if I didn’t come home. I started to wonder if we’d ever get out of here.
He was the one who broke the silence, putting his phone down, drinking some water. It came totally out of left field: “You know, you should let me buy you a drink sometime.”
“What, the entire free bottle of Jack isn’t enough?” Crap. Something else borderline rude I’d said without thinking.
“No, I need at least three,” he smiled back, taking a sip. Okay, maybe I wasn’t that rude. “I’m serious, though.”
I plonked my phone into my lap and raised my eyebrows at him. He couldn’t be serious with the way I looked right now. In hindsight, I probably should have just asked him why, but me being me? I had to make it difficult.
“C’mon, you’re going to ask me out just because we’re stuck in the same room? Where’s the challenge in that?” My voice wasn’t as firm as I wanted it to be. Still, I hoped it covered up how much I actually wanted to say yes.
“An opportunity presented itself,” he grinned, and I had to smile despite everything. “Besides, you’re…”
I waited for the next word, hoping it was ‘hot’. “What, hot?”
It’s the very rare moment in life you get to find out what someone actually thinks of you. Even rarer when they’re someone you only met a few hours ago. What’s probably the rarest thing in the whole world is the word that came out of his mouth.
I felt a smile growing on my face as he looked at me. Interesting. But my smile faded when I realized it was probably all just talk. Just words people say in a confined space.
“It’s probably a bad idea,” I started. I think I was mostly trying to convince myself. “There’s no universe where the two people like us have drinks. I’m totally fucked up and in two weeks I’m unemployed. I’ve done nothing with my life since college. You really want to get involved with that? You’re Seth fucking MacFarlane.”
I instantly knew telling the truth had been a bad idea. He stared at me for too long and went back to trying to finish his drink. He had that look on his face like I was far too many issues for him to bother dealing with. A look I’d seen a whole bunch of times before, so I pretended to read the wine label again. Story of my life - I’d taken a guy who liked me and made him hate me for no reason at all.
His glass suddenly thumped down on our makeshift table. When I looked up he was staring at me like this was serious. Like we were already together.
“I haven’t had a holiday since I was in my twenties. I have a gigantic house I never spend any time in. I have to call the housekeeper twice a week to make sure my cat’s still alive. You think my life doesn’t have it’s fair share of bullshit?” He waved his hand dismissively. “I’ve dated the girls with the big houses and schedules like mine. It’s not a picnic.”
He got up with his glass and downed it as he wandered toward the washing machine against the wall. I didn’t really know what to say. He’d met every challenge. I wasn’t even sure if I liked him at that point. Alcohol and confined spaces had messed up my head.
”You’re just choosing me because you’re locked in here,” I challenged, standing up to be on his level. But at the same time I was shaking inside. It didn’t make any sense that anyone would pick me over anyone else. He put his glass on the dryer and I walked up to him, waiting for the punchline. Instead he turned around and stepped closer to me than any stranger would.
“Maybe I’m asking you because you actually have something to say,” he started. My heart was beating faster. “Or because you don’t give a shit who I am or because you called me out on never coming here.”
I knew he could tell how quickly I was breathing. My head hadn’t been making things up - not everything, at least. He wouldn’t be this close to me, smelling like Jack and aftershave, close enough to see the threads on his shirt, if there wasn’t something here.
“I should have come here earlier,” he added, and suddenly his eyes fell to my lips. I tried to take a deep breath. I still hadn’t decided if I was going to be that girl, the kind that sleeps with him. I hadn’t even decided if I was the kind who liked him. Though maybe I had no idea who that kind was. Maybe it was me.
“Or maybe you’re just drunk and I’m easy.” The words slipped out before I had the chance to catch them. A defense mechanism. You mind tends to do strange things when someone is staring at your lips.
“That too,” he mumbled, and suddenly he kissed me. One of those frenzied kisses that turns you on immediately, that sends fire right down to your toes. One of those times when you don’t think, you act. He was the one who wrapped his arms around my waist - strong - and pulled me up to sit on the washing machine. But I was the one who opened my legs and kissed back. It wasn’t my fault he smelled so good, that my hands were on his neck, that one of his was on my leg. It’s just what happened.
“Wait, wait,” I managed, and it almost physically pained me to hold him off, my hands on his chest. “Are we actually doing this?” I probably confused my answer by taking my shirt off, but like I said, sometimes those things just happen.
“Fuck yes,” he answered, and kissed me again. For some reason all I could think was I’d never had sex in a basement. That became untrue around the time his hands pushed up my skirt and my hands undid his belt.
What the hell, right? These things just happen.
They finally found us at 6am.
One of my colleagues came in early to let the cats out when she noticed the open door to the gym, and the broken drinking glass on the floor. (Thanks for that, Mousey). Eventually she tried the basement door and when she couldn’t open it, she called the boss, and the maintenance guy from two doors down. That’s how some dude in a jumpsuit found me asleep on a couch, leaning on Seth MacFarlane’s shoulder.
Thank god he didn’t have a camera.
My boss tried very tactfully to ask Seth not to sue. His phone got a bar halfway across the room and started going crazy. They all ignored me, of course, until my manager realized I was there, and I got a ten minute lecture about not taking board members to the basement for alcohol. All I could do was apologize and tell him I was pretty sure this qualified me for a personal day.
Seth had ducked out before me, still on his phone, and was halfway across the car park. I found myself walking up to him in my sleep-deprived haze. The smarter thing to do would have been to let him walk away. In real life, as he sang once, love doesn’t let you.
“Seth!” He stopped in his tracks and turned around. I walked up to him as he hung up on whoever he was talking to, and there we were, standing there, staring at each other again. Spontaneously I plucked the phone out of his hands.
“If you’re going to prank call anyone, Charlize is under C,” he started, but I just went into contacts and tapped in my number before I lost my nerve.
“My number’s in there,” I said breathlessly, holding it out to him. “You can call me in two weeks when I leave this place or earlier if you’re suing. But please don’t sue,” I added quickly. “I swear to god I didn’t plan any of this.”
He grinned at me and took his phone back, briefly looking at the number.
“Two weeks it is,” he answered. He looked up from his phone with that smile, a different one now. It actually reached his eyes.
“Okay.” I found myself grinning now, but I forced myself to walk away.
“Okay then,” I heard him add to my back, and I looked back to see him still smiling.
To this day, I still haven’t forgotten that smile.
I honestly thought that was it. I had a habit then of thinking too much, so I imagined a lot of things. I thought there was no way he’d call in two weeks. I thought I wouldn’t think about him at all. And I was certain he’d forget about me completely, unless he planned to sue. I imagined all my thoughts were facts.
Tuns out I didn’t know anything. I had no idea how big a part he’d play in my life.
I had even less idea what was to come.