The rain fell lightly across the street, causing the commuters to duck under nearby covers or huddle under umbrellas. Only a small amount had been fortunate enough to bring the umbrellas; the day had started off sunny, with not a cloud in the sky. Now, Anne stared with envy at those who had protection from the drizzle.
She stood under the awing of a currently closed restaurant. It an hour it would open for the evening rush but right then, she could happily puff on her cigarette without worrying that she wasn't there for a drink or food. Her eyes followed people she vaguely recognised from her to and from trips to work. The man and woman who she thought worked in the same office, who she believed had a thing for each other but never seemed to go past mild flirting when she caught their conversations. The young girl, barely even twenty, who worked a block down from Anne. She was often just ahead of her in the mornings, her IPod headphones jammed tightly into her ears. She dashed past Anne without a backwards glance, her hair already soaked to her forehead.
It was strange. So many of them who made the same journey, every day, through the shopping centre of the city and towards the office blocks, from train or bus station or car park, walking the same route, yet none of them ever exchanged a word.
It was a shame, she thought. At the end of the street, another suited figure appeared. Even the sight of him caused her to take a deep breath, as she tried not to get too annoyed before he'd even seen her. The rain made his blond hair stick to his head, and she couldn't help the irrational anger that flowed after realising that even with it pouring down, he still looked good.
She flicked the end of her cigarette out into the rain, watching as droplets of water soaked it in seconds. Quickly, before he could spot her, she turned, heading for the lane that served as a short-cut to the station. Before she reached it, however, his voice rose above the weather.
"Wait up, tiger."
She cringed at the name. Something about the way he said it, the way it fell so easily off his tongue, just pissed her off. Yet her upbringing, the urge to be nice and polite, made her stop.
He sloshed through the puddles, stopping when he reached her side. She had ducked under another awing, this time belonging to a bar, and now turned to face him, arms crossed. "What do you want?" she drawled, trying to push as much anger into her voice as possible.
Ever since she had started working in the office, he had been a thorn in her side. Every morning, no matter how slowly she walked from the station or how fast, he would stroll out of the car park, keys in hand, whistling. At first, she had ignored him, but then a week or so later he approached her.
"Hey – want to walk together? We work pretty close, right?"
It was true; his whistling would follow her as she cut across the street and wound down the side-streets, stopping only when she was about a block away from the office. Inevitably, all too often, he would be a few minutes ahead or behind her when she left, too.
"I prefer to walk alone," she had said, turning away from him and carrying on. His next whistle hadn't been a tune, but a low sound.
"Feisty," he'd chuckled. "Like a tiger."
Since then, she had been stuck with him. Sometimes he remained a fair distance behind her in the mornings, but the whistling still followed. Other times, he would catch up with her, walk beside her and try to engage her in conversation.
Now, she glared at him through the rain, wishing he would just leave her alone for once.
"Fancy a lift?" he offered, holding his keys up. "Don't want to be walking at all in this weather, do you?"
She frowned, glancing at the car park. It was closer than the station, and at the other end she had a twenty minute walk, anyway. Sighing, she shrugged.
"Fine," she muttered, then remembering to be polite, she added, "thanks."
"No problem, tiger." He moved past her, leading her to the car park. She had an image of his car being a sleek, black jag – fancy, stylish, the type of car she would never be able to afford. They stopped at the ticket machine, and she hung back, watching as he slid his ticket in. Then again, she thought, this was not the type of place to park a fancy, expensive car.
Whistling, he turned to her, grinning, before gesturing towards the lifts. Silently she followed, determined not to offer him any incentive to continue bugging her after the lift home.
She was thankful he was only on the forth floor; it meant the ride upwards was blissfully short. He kept glancing at her, grinning and shaking his head or rolling his eyes.
"Why are you so defensive, anyway?" he asked, as a ping filled the small space the doors opened.
"Who said I was defensive?" she grumbled, sliding out past him and glancing around the vast space of the car park. Jingling his keys, he led her towards his car.
"I did. Closed off, grumpy...hell, you kept your arms crossed the whole way up here. A clear defensive pose."
"You a psychologist now or something?"
He laughed, coming to a stop next to an old, dented red car. She glanced over it, unable to place what type of car it was. She never was very good with them. Whenever she was waiting for her parent's to pick her up as a teenager, it was usually inevitable that one of her friends would ask what car they were looking out for.
Her reply would usually be "A silver one."
Still, it was far from the type of car she assumed he would have. It wasn't a status symbol; it wasn't designed to show off how rich the owner was. It was small and modest, and she couldn't help her surprise as she looked at it.
He glanced over to her. "Something wrong?"
"No," she snapped, making him roll his eyes as he unlocked the car.
"Okay, great, well, get in, tiger."
She slid into the car, sinking into the seat as he climbed in the driver's side. "I wish you'd stop calling me that."
"There are some CDs in the glove compartment," he explained, sliding the keys into the ignition. "If you want to pick one. And, anyway, what else am I supposed to call you?" She opened the compartment, taking out a small case and opening it. "I don't know your name, do I?"
Pouting, she began to flick through, before a wide grin spread across her face. Carefully, she took American Anthems out of its pouch, and passed it to him. "This one. And it's Anne."
"Anne?" he laughed. "That does not suit you."
Soon, the CD – mostly classic rock tracks – was playing, filling the car as Anne nodded along with the music.
"Oh, really? And what would suit me?"
"I don't know, but Anne sounds like someone...well, it's a kind of meek name, isn't it?"
"Thanks," she grunted, turning her head away from him and staring out the window. They passed by the other cars, waiting patiently for their owners to return from work or shopping or maybe an early evening meal. Anne refused to look back at him. "And what's your name then?"
"Sam," he replied, and she struggled to find something to say about his name.
Inside, she was fuming. "Well, Sam, I couldn't exactly help what my parents called me, could I? And for your information, I was named after the midwife who saved my life and the life of my mother when things got...complicated. So shut up about things you don't know about."
"It wasn't an insult," he sighed, turning the car to go downwards through the car park. "Sorry. But I stand by what I said; Anne doesn't suit someone with as much..." He stopped, and she found herself turning to glance at him, eyeing his thoughtful expression, the frown on his face as he stared straight ahead. "As much fire as you."
"Fire?" she scoffed.
"Yeah, you know...you're all fierce and stuff." A smile crossed his lips as she quickly gave him directions to her home. His head bobbed up and down with the music playing, as she sank further into the seat, wishing, now, that she hadn't accepted his offer.
The rain trickled down the windows. Outside, the sky was grey, and any people they saw on the streets looked soaked through to the skin. It was getting worse.
"Clearly, at some point, you decided you didn't like me," he drawled, drawing her attention away from outside and back towards him. "Usually, I really wouldn't care, but..." He frowned, tilting his head to one side. "Where'd you say you lived again?"
She repeated the address.
"That's on my way, actually," he mused.
"I think you were about to tell me why you keep bugging me," she muttered, as the rain started to come down harder. Maybe, she thought, just maybe she was grateful he'd given her a lift...
It looked awful outside.
"Actually, I don't know. You always looked...well, it was fun to sort of piss you off, and you got this pretty cute look on your face whenever I was whistling. Somewhere between annoyed and trying-not-to-be-amused."
"You never amuse me."
"Sure, because you don't know me."
"I don't think I want to."
He shook his head, before shrugging. "Suit yourself. You're pretty stubborn, aren't you?"
"Get it from my dad," she muttered, thinking of her father, of his deep set eyes and the twinkle that entered them when something made him laugh. Of his all too stubborn streak, which she had inherited. It was a deadly combination – they hadn't spoken in nearly three months.
Thinking of him brought a pang to her chest.
Her mother had practically begged both of them to make the first move, to speak to each other, to apologise for the argument that had caused Anne to storm out of the house and refuse to speak to him again. Not that he'd tried to speak to her.
They'd had arguments in the past, had not spoken for days, but never this long.
"I haven't spoken to him in three months," she admitted, biting her bottom lip.
"We had a fight," she sighed. "About the job. He kept telling me I could do so much better, that I should go back to University and finish my degree." She shrugged. "Guess he just couldn't face the fact that his daughter isn't going to make something of her life."
He frowned, shaking his head. "You could still make something of your life."
Anne scoffed, sighing before she spoke again. "University really isn't for me. I worked too hard for a while, got stressed then partied too hard. I couldn't get a good balance." She shrugged. "Not that I really mind. I wasn't cut out for it."
"You could still make something of your life," he repeated. "You don't need University for that."
"I don't have any great skills," she muttered, feeling her cheeks grow red. "Trust me – I'm going to end up working in an office for the next forty-odd years, and I've come to accept that."
"You've got a fire, Anne," he replied. "With just a sprinkle of ambition, you really could go far, you know."
"Start a business?" he suggested. "Or climb to the top of a company. Hell, you'd make a fierce politician. Can't imagine anyone backing down to you."
She began to laugh. "Oh, hell no. I hate politics. And politicians. Slimy, two-faced gits, the lot of them."
"Make a difference, then." He glanced at her, a sly smile tugging up the corners of his lips. "I bet there's a lot of things that annoy you, huh?"
"Sure. You, for one."
"Except for me. Tell me."
"Okay, okay. The way they keep putting bike paths everywhere – I'm not against cyclists being able to get around, but did they really have to put a huge concrete path through the park? And the fact that my elderly neighbour's pension seems to be shrinking, constantly. And how I have to pay almost four quid to get in and out of work. Rising prices, the fact that my cousin doesn't want to go to University because they've raised the tuition fees...but they annoy everyone, don't they?"
He nodded. "Yeah, they do. The difference is not everyone has the same fire as you, Annie."
Annie. She kind of liked it.
He pulled in, and she realised they were outside her house. He turned towards her. "You don't have to go into politics to make a change, but think of all those things that piss you off, those things that really annoy the hell out of you. Instead of sitting there bitching about it..."
"Why don't you actually make a difference? Put that fire to good use, try to change something."
"Because it won't work," she scoffed, snapping her head around to glare at him. "Nothing will change."
"How do you know if you don't try?" he drawled. "See you tomorrow, Annie."
She frowned at him, huffed and opened the door, slipping out and slamming it behind her before making her way up the path to her front door.
Anne couldn't resist glancing over her shoulder, watching as he drove off down the street.
Maybe, she thought, he wasn't as annoying as most things in life that pissed her off. Actually, maybe, she thought, he wasn't that annoying after all.
That evening, after she'd eaten tea and had a quick shower, she pulled out a notebook she'd written in as a teenager. Flicking through it, she easily found the page she was looking for.
At the top was written Things to Change. Underneath was a list of things that had concerned her sixteen-year-old self; my weight, my spots, my hair. Get a boyfriend. Work harder in school. Try drinking. Try weed. Experiment a bit (this, with a question mark beside it.) She smiled to herself, before grabbing a pen and crossing it all out.
At the bottom, she wrote, The World.
A/N: Another of the 100 Themes down. At the moment, I only have another 34 to go. As far as I can tell, it's taken me roughly...I have no idea how long these have taken me. Anyway, hope you enjoyed it and please review. All decent length (more than a line or two) reviews will be returned. In the meantime, I'll be starting another project soon – please have a look at the poll on my profile page and cast a vote, it'll really help. Cheers.