“You’re in my spot. Again .” Tessa slammed her fist down on the side of the van several times until she heard movement inside. “I know you’re in there!”
As the idiot inside clanked around and wasted her time, she crossed her arms, waiting.
“What... the hell do you want?” came a muffled reply.
“World peace sounds nice.” She stared down at the van’s tires, parked very obviously— and poorly —in her space. “But I’d take a world without assholes who think they can double park. Honestly, who do you think you are?”
There was a groan. Tessa was very quickly losing her patience, talking to the back of someone's car while hers was idling behind her.
“....Yeah, I got your little note.”
“Then why—” she slammed her hand on the back door again when he got quiet, eliciting a string of curses. “Do you keep doing it?”
“I didn’t realize you owned the freaking parking lot!” he shouted back, throwing open the door with a shove of his boot.
Tessa watched with narrowed eyes as her source of current ire poked his head out of his shitty van. He was taller than expected, with tired, red-rimmed eyes and… white hair. Huh. But whatever impression she got of him was overshadowed by the jacket he was wearing and the single glove he wore on his other hand. What was he, some sort of flasher? why did her car park always get the worst kind of creeps...
He narrowed his eyes, and she mentally kicked herself for not having any pepper spray. “What do you want me to do about it?”
Tessa stared him down with a cool expression on her face, car keys in hand as she flipped a strand of curly blonde hair over her shoulder. “I want you to move out of my way.”
His lip curled and he looked up at her— he was disheveled in a way that looked like he had just woken up, which, well, fuck him, Tessa really didn't care. He could go back to sleep after he moved his van. As he stretched and yawned and wasted her time, her car was burning fuel behind her, and it was annoying.
“Can’t you park anywhere else?” he huffed, looking like he very much wanted to go back into his trash pile and hibernate. He angrily gestured to the rest of the lot. “Pick another spot, go there!”
“I don’t care,” she hissed, gesturing specifically to the white lines he was parked over. “This is my spot. This is the one assigned to me by the apartment you’re parked behind. The owners might not care you’re here using their wifi and electricity to charge your phone, but that is my spot, so if you could? Step off? Please? Thanks.”
“Well, since you said please— ”
The car door slammed shut behind him, and she blinked several times in surprise.
“Are you serious right now?”
Tessa’s surprise soon shifted to outrage, and she kicked the back of his van. “Get back out here and face me!”
“Did you just kick my car?” she heard through the door.
“There’ll be more where that came from if you don't—” she kicked the tire. She felt completely foolish, it did absolutely nothing. “—move!!”
“Oh my god —” he hissed, and finally, finally , she heard his car start up. “Fine, I’m going!”
The tension in Tessa’s shoulders eased almost immediately, and she straightened herself out and took in a deep breath, stepping backward to get into her car. But that only lasted a moment, because he backed up in the wrong direction too fast and fucking totaled her Nissan.
Nero’s head poked out of the drivers' side window when he heard the sound of metal crunching. “Shit.”
“WHAT THE HELL!” Tessa’s mouth opened and closed, keys still in hand as her front lights died and the engine sputtered. “Who taught you how to drive?!”
“It looks fine.” He squinted into the rearview window and then eased away from the front of her car, dragging the front of her bumper with it. The engine sparked and Tessa covered her face with her hands. “It’s not that bad!”
“Bad? You murdered it!”
“You’re overreacting,” he shot back, hopping out the drivers' side. He paused when he got a better look at the damage, and ran a hand through his white hair. “ Huh .”
She punched him in the arm. “This wouldn't have happened if you listened to my note!”
“Your ‘ note ’” he said, drawing back from her and quoting with his fingers, “Was a joke! You honestly expect me to read two entire pages of you complaining? So I took your spot, get over it!”
“It was one page and it was double-sided ,” she hissed. “And that’s really classy coming from the guy who just ruined my car!”
"It's not ruined ." The engine sparked again, and Tessa took a cautionary step back. Nero scratched his nose, blue eyes sliding off the wreckage and onto someplace less indicative of his crimes. "It's just... a little banged up… is all."
"A little?" She laughed, and Nero grimaced at her. "I hope you're ready to pay for the damages .”
He gestured to all of himself and then his shitty van; the only thing of value being the neon sign in the side window. Devil May Cry . Someone would definitely be crying by the end of this. “You think I look like I have money?”
Tessa narrowed her eyes. “How much did that coat cost you?”
“None of your damn business," he said quickly.
"Well, it could be my business," she said, pulling out her phone. She snapped a picture of his license plate and his face, ignoring the way his eye twitched at the flash. "I need a way to get to work tomorrow. I need a way to go to school, to go to town, to actually have a life. "
"So? take a taxi," he shot back, but she was too busy writing down the details of the event to really care.
"You think I have money?" Cautiously, Tessa walked around the side of her car and snapped photos of the damage, hoping maybe her insurance would cover some of it. But then again... " I was so close to paying it off ."
She bit her thumbnail and tried to calmly access the situation. If push came to shove, she could probably catch the downtown bus to work and then get another one to her university campus. It wasn't impossible, and Tessa had done it before, it was just... such a massive pain. Such an unnecessary annoyance. She'd have to get up an extra hour earlier to get on the right shuttle to the hospital for her shift, and then... waste at least two hours sitting on a bus to go to the opposite side of town.
Tessa closed her eyes and quietly cursed to herself. When she opened them, she noted that the guy—Nero— had gone back inside his van.
"Where you think you're going?"
He groaned, and she paced to the back of his van, poking her head inside. The interior was a mess of trash, takeout boxes, magazines and weird objects that had no business being on the inside of a van. Like, the sword buckled up in the passenger seat, or the battery pack or demonic looking statue covered in bubble wrap. Why did he even have that? It was possible she was dealing with some sort of weird... demon groupie? Or a serial killer?? He could definitely be a serial killer.
He had his phone in his hand as he sat down on the mattress, spread out where the second row of passenger seats would have been. "I need to make a call. Is that alright, or do I need a written permission slip for that too?"
She made a tsk -noise. "... No ."
"Must be my lucky day ."
"Alright hotshot, make your stupid phone call. I'll be here." Tessa backed off and tightly crossed her arms, watching him punch in some numbers. To her left, her car finally stopped letting out a pathetic line of smoke, and the sparking stopped. She'd need to get it towed or pushed off to a corner somewhere so it didn’t block the way to the road...
God, what a mess. This wouldn't have happened if he had just fucking listened to her .
"Yeah, hey it's me—if you could, like, give me a rough estimate of how much cash we have in—" Nero's eyes slid over to Tessa nervously pacing in the parking lot and his scowl deepened. "No, this is for a... hypothetical... reason… What are you trying to say?" He paused for a long moment as the other person continued talking, and his eyes slowly shut and he rubbed his temples. "No I'm not in trouble, don't even worry about it. I only asked so—I said don't worry—it's fine! Everything is fine, would you just— Of course I'm eating more than just takeout, what are you insinuating — look, just forget I said anything, I'll talk to you later, okay? Okay ."
Tessa watched as a nerve ticked in his jaw and he hung up and stuffed the phone into his pocket. He scrubbed a hand through his hair and let out a string of colorful curses.
"Your insurance is out of date," Tessa said, watching the scene go on with half-lidded eyes. He immediately leapt out of the truck with a near inhuman-like speed and looked down at the little yellow sticker on his license plate, dated back a good week. She glanced over at him, arms crossed over her little denim jacket. "Just thought you should know."
"Look, I think we can come to an agreement here," she said, turning to him. His hands were balled into fists at his side, and she braced herself for another string of curses as she made her move, the barest outline of a plan forming in her mind. "Money is tight, things happen. Fix my car and I won't report you," she smiled.
"You're out of your mind??" He gawked at her. "With what money? or time? I have places to be, lady."
"It's Tessa," she said, and her smile grew a little sharper. He grunted, uninterested. Okay, fair, she deserved that. "And good luck driving through the city with expired plates. The cops love pulling over punkish, impulsive drivers and fining them. You know, money ? As in, a thing you don't have. I'm sure you'll do fine though."
"This is bullshit." He paced back and forth for a moment and ran a hand over his mouth. Finally, he turned to her. "Fine, then what do you propose?"
"Fix my car," she repeated, gesturing to her poor Nissan. "And I'll consider transferring my insurance plan to yours so your little house won't get impounded. Sound fair?"
He thought it over. It wasn't a great plan. He could very well just speed off and take his chances on the road, or he could just refuse and deal with whatever consequences came with her reporting him.
But he had phoned someone and mentioned some pooled assets. To Tessa, that proved he had something else to lose.
"Fine," he bit out, and Tessa nodded at him. Good. "But the insurance first— I have... a job."
"You could take a taxi ," she snarked, pleased by the way he glowered at her. " So do I . How do you think I feel?"
"Why should I care?" he scoffed, and it was her turn to glower at him.
Fine then, if they were stuck working together until her car was fixed, it didn't mean she had to play nice.
"You are so bloody full of yourself."
"It's funny," he said, turning to her as he opened his arms wide open. "I was just thinking the same thing about you." He jutted his chin out in a way that she was sure he thought looked confident and challenging, but it really just make her want to clock him in the face. What a fucking tool. “Do we have a deal?”
“ Unfortunately, ” she sighed, glancing over to her car. Tessa dragged a hand down her face and turned to her apartment building, hoping to god he was some sort of miracle mechanic and that she wouldn't have to deal with him any more than necessary.
She glanced behind her as she opened the door, watching as he kicked off the shedded remains of her bumper from his van.
If she didn’t kill him by the time he fixed her van, it’d be a miracle in and of itself.
“...What a jackass .”
Maybe she should have wished for world peace after all.