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Author Topic: dark intrigue | modern AU | OPEN!  (Read 1583 times)

Virtue Hir

    (07/24/2018 at 21:21)
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Summer 2018,
A Sunday,
Perhaps 2 O'Clock in the Afternoon,
LA, CA, USA;
The Patio of Some Trendy Brunch Place

A wasp was drowning in the dog bowl.

There was something beautiful about it, she supposed, in the contrast of a desperate red body floundering against the blue, utilitarian plastic of the bowl, in the frantic beating of glass-like wings against the water and how it made the surface dance.  For a moment, a flash of a thing, as short and as bitter as her third cup of coffee, she thought about rescuing it, about dipping her fork into the humming waves and filtering the angry thing out, about turning him out into the begonias to dry in the sunlight.  It was only a moment, just a flash of a thing, though; it would mean walking across the patio, and she didn't trust leaving her iPhone--at present charging in the outlet on the wall beneath her table in the shade of the overhang--on a street like this one.

Instead, she only watched, the wasp's wings working wildly, uselessly against the unbreakable surface tension--a flurry of activity contrasted sharply by the obese pug who half-sat, half-laid beside it on the concrete, oblivious completely to the life and death struggle going on beside it.  It was stupid, she thought, bringing dogs to brunch.  At the very least, it was too early for it.

Against the wrought iron table, her phone buzzed, sounding so much like the wasp's wings didn't.  Mascara-coated lashes didn't so much as bat in its direction.  She looked over the rim of her glasses at the person at the table beside hers instead.

"Let's make a bet," she said, her voice thickly Welsh but somehow prim still, as she pointed tactfully in the direction of the blue plastic bowl and the dog snorting-more-than-breathing beside it.  With red-painted lip, Virtue Marie Hir smile wickedly.  "Do you suppose that dog will drink that wasp, or do you think it will drown first?"
all the very best of us string ourselves up for love.

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (07/26/2018 at 17:13)
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A wasp was drowning in the dog bowl, but Jeremiah Smallweed was too busy writing to notice it.

His sister had left him here approximately one and a half hours ago, midway through lunch, to take a call from the director of the latest (and, indeed, only second) film that she was starring in. She had not returned since, and Jeremiah, though he felt more than a little out of place in this restaurant, hadn't fancied walking back to his hotel in the heat, so he'd stayed put.

She would come back eventually. Her pomegranate and halloumi salad was still sitting on the table, knife and fork resting against opposite sides of the white bowl. The rocket leaves on her plate had long since curled and wilted in the heat; a sheen of sweat beaded against the charred stripes of the last thick slice of halloumi she had never eaten.

An insect landed on a single pomegranate seed, its black shell glittering against the warm glow of the ruby beneath, but Jeremiah Smallweed was too busy writing to notice this, either.

"Let's make a bet,"

He ignored those words, and continued to write his own, knowing that if he put his pencil down before the end of the sentence, he'd never be able to finish it right. It would always sit slightly disjointed, the two halves never fully meeting in the middle, with a noticeable break where there should have been none.

It was only when he had pressed the full stop firmly into the page that he finally looked up and across at the girl.

The insect that had been sitting on Ophelia Smallweed's abandoned salad took flight once again.

"It'll drown first, and then the dog'll drink it. And then maybe the dog'll die, 'cause it's allergic to wasps."
« Last Edit: 07/26/2018 at 18:11 by Jeremiah Smallweed »
I see poetry in your eyes, you’re the only reason we rhyme
And oh my, my, my—it’s a big, big, big world out there
And lookin’ for somethin’, I finally found it right here

Virtue Hir

    (07/27/2018 at 01:13)
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“A bold choice.”

The salad was a bold choice, too, she thought, catching a bright pop of unfinished pomegranate in her periphery that stood in stark contrast to her own cleaned plate of chicken and waffle pops, but she decided that this (for now) was not worth noting.  Instead, she watched him like she had been watching the rest of the patio patrons all early afternoon, which was to say as potential characters, or, at the very least, parts of them.  He looked about as out of place here as she did, though in the opposite direction; where she was far too polished for this patio, he was very much piecemeal, like he was not quite enough for a town like L.A. or like he was suited better to the East Coast which was really the same thing.

Still, she decided in a flash that he was worth it; in his hand was a pencil only just unpressed from a page.  She hadn’t missed how long it had taken him to look up, either.  She could appreciate a man who made her wait the length of a sentence.  She could appreciate, too, someone who still wrote in pencil in a place like this.

Briefly, she glanced back to the bowl, the wasp, the dog, and the rotund woman who she supposed the situation (or at least the dog) belonged to, since it all sat beside her, whirring and wheezing and wet.  The woman, snub-nosed and quite puggish herself, was on what looked like her fourth of what was surely a bottomless mimosa.  Virtue’s brown eyes tracked back to the stranger’s.

“I’ll go with the wasp gets out--”  Unlikely, but Virtue, too, was bold.  “--the dog drowns--”  With the amount of drool on its face, it was halfway there already.  “--and the woman gets stung.”

Maybe she was just as allergic as her pug was in their impromptu universe.  Virtue took a sip of her coffee.

“Let’s wager lunch tomorrow.”
i wanna confess it in a whisper that's just loud enough to make out.
i want you to listen from the kitchen to me confessing on the couch.

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (07/27/2018 at 10:31)
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If his choice was bold, hers was simply reckless.

It was almost as if she wanted to lose, Jere thought, as he watched her watch him.

He looked back down at the girl on his page. Brooklyn Jones was always a lot more tolerable on paper. He suspected he might have been more tolerable on paper, too, if he had ever cared to write about himself. His eyes skimmed over the poem; half-finished, it still needed another verse, maybe two. It read currently like it was incomplete; a true reflection of their half-encounters, but nevertheless not one he wanted to write.

little red riding hood, he scribbled at the top of the page, all in lowercase. And then, just beneath it, still in lowercase, or, the wolf.

He lifted his head again, away from the semi-fictional girl on the page and towards the completely-real girl at the table beside his.  "If you wanna buy me lunch, you can just say."

His phone vibrated several times in his pocket. He pulled it out, squinting in the sunlight to read the notifications. All four loudly declared that they were from PHEE (all uppercase, followed by three emojis: the crown, the unicorn, and the rainbow — her doing, and certainly not his).

'sorry', 'refilming like four scenes' (this one accompanied by two eyeroll emojis), 'make it up to u tomorrow', 'lunch on me?? xoxo'.

That last one was quite obviously a joke; most of what they did together — as well as a good deal of what he owned, including the phone in his hand — was on her. He slid the phone back into his pocket.

The wasp had drowned in the dog bowl.

"Looks like I’m halfway to winnin', anyway."
« Last Edit: 08/18/2018 at 06:35 by Jeremiah Smallweed »
and you asked me to dance
but I said, “dancin’ is a dangerous game.”
oh, I thought, this is gonna be one of those things
now I know I’m never gonna love again

Virtue Hir

    (07/30/2018 at 23:12)
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Her phone on the table vibrated angrily, twice, and in rapid succession.  She didn’t have to look to know it was Thijs.  He always got anxious when she traveled.  She always gave him reason to.

He looked down and so did she, trying to read upside down and from a meter away what it was that he wrote on the top of the page that was more interesting than she was, but she couldn’t see anything more than form.  Poetry.  Over white porcelain, red lips frowned.  Poets, she had always thought, were to writing what Pollock was to painting, which was to say they got all the critical acclaim that proper art did without any of the skill, as anyone could think of incongruous images and space    them                    artfully across a page.

The pug wobbled on too-thin legs and dipped its tongue into the bowl.  The wasp wobbled lifeless on the surface.  The two threatened to connect.

“Yeah, sure.”  She wasn’t sure, but she felt a bit like she had better be.  “I want to buy you lunch,” she said, though she wanted to less now that he was a poet than when he was a novelist or an essayist or even a damned memoirist, but she liked to bet on losing dogs (and wasps).  For another moment she measured him up, trying to place his accent and failing to file it further than familiar enough, trying to place his face and failing to file it further than oddly familiar the way everyone was in a faceless city, trying to find a place for him by neighborhood and street and stars on Yelp. 

“Tomorrow,” she said again.  She didn’t have anything planned other than watching out for Diego Luna, whom she had heard was in town on a new project. “Kitchen 24 on Cahuenga.”  They’d both be as out of place there as they were here.  The pug sneezed three times.  “One o’clock?”
i wanna confess it in a whisper that's just loud enough to make out.
i want you to listen from the kitchen to me confessing on the couch.

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (07/30/2018 at 23:46)
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Jeremiah had never heard of Kitchen 24 on Cahuenga, but he thought that it might make a good title for a poem one day; a poem about a girl or perhaps about a drowning wasp or perhaps even about a drowning girl -- though what she was drowning in, he had yet to decide.

"I'm meetin' my sister for lunch," he said, as he scribbled something along the bottom of his page. He ripped it, this little note that he'd written, from the notebook. The pug looked up from where it was dangerously close to drinking the wasp, and yelped its disapproval.

Snapping his notebook shut, Jere stood. The salad that Ophelia had never eaten was still sitting there on the table. He wondered whether another salad -- maybe not pomegranate and halloumi, but tuna niçoise instead -- would be left to the same fate tomorrow. Ophelia Smallweed had never been much good at finishing things. Her life was too full of distractions for that.

"Let's make it dinner." He slid the scrap of paper over her table towards her. "Text me when and where."

And then he walked away, leaving nothing behind but a number, a name, and his sister's forgotten salad.



+447883107182

jere
juliet, the dice was loaded from the start
and I bet, and you exploded into my heart
I can’t do everythin’ but I’d do anythin’ for you
I can’t do anythin’ ’cept be in love with you

Virtue Hir

    (07/31/2018 at 17:55)
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"Sure, yeah."

Only when she was sure that he had walked away, only as she watched him turn the corner did she pick up the slip of paper he had slid to her across the table, plucking it carefully from where it stuck in the wrought iron edge.  Jere.  --my?  --tt?  It was a bit of a rubbish name.  Even counting the salad, he didn’t strike her as a Jere.  The pencil made him seem more like a Jack or a Hank or even a Holden.  She might have settled for a Sam.  She had never met one, but she had written them, and they always came out all right in her writing.

Virtue finished her coffee.


the next day


« Last Edit: 07/31/2018 at 18:39 by Virtue Hir »
i fell in love 'cause no one saw me the way you did
and no one's seen me that way since
but for a short time that's how i lived

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (07/31/2018 at 18:25)
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He read the message midway through lunch with Ophelia.

He was back at his hotel, lounging on the bed and scrolling mindlessly through Cecelia Bramston's Facebook profile, when he remembered he hadn't replied.



and you asked me to dance
but I said, “dancin’ is a dangerous game.”
oh, I thought, this is gonna be one of those things
now I know I’m never gonna love again

Virtue Hir

    (07/31/2018 at 18:40)
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She waited eight casual minutes.


i fell in love 'cause no one saw me the way you did
and no one's seen me that way since
but for a short time that's how i lived

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (07/31/2018 at 18:53)
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He spent ten minutes trying to figure out if the first message was supposed to have been sent to him.

On the eleventh minute, he gave up trying to figure it out, and just asked instead.



a thousand thrills, a thousand chills
I’m hot, it’s a golden thing she’s got
I’m shot, it’s a golden thing she’s got

Virtue Hir

    (07/31/2018 at 19:04)
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Poets and their existential bullshit.



all the very best of us string ourselves up for love.

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (07/31/2018 at 19:21)
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He considered texting her back, but didn't.

He settled for leaving her last message on read, and adding her to his contacts.


8:03pm


He stood leaning against the wall outside the Regent Theatre, and pulled his phone out of his pocket.



and you asked me to dance
but I said, “dancin’ is a dangerous game.”
oh, I thought, this is gonna be one of those things
now I know I’m never gonna love again

Virtue Hir

    (07/31/2018 at 19:54)
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Her phone was dead in the side pocket of her purse.

Sat on the patio, she waited with a brown bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  If she saw him (she did), she didn't yet say anything. 
they say love is a virtue, don’t they?

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (08/01/2018 at 21:59)
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He waited twelve minutes before sending the next text, because sending it exactly ten minutes after the first one seemed a little too exact to be casual.

Twelve, on the other hand, was much more spontaneous.






Ten -- no, twelve -- seconds after he'd pressed send, he looked up, quite spontaneously, towards the patio.

Thirteen seconds after he'd pressed send, his eyes met hers.

8:17pm


"Usually, when people stand someone up," he took a seat across from her, "they don't come along to watch the show."
and you asked me to dance
but I said, “dancin’ is a dangerous game.”
oh, I thought, this is gonna be one of those things
now I know I’m never gonna love again

Virtue Hir

    (08/03/2018 at 15:28)
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in her head


HIS eyes meet HERS.

Somewhere on set, a light flares angry and explodes out of life.  Maybe it’s a broad.  Maybe it’s a baby.  It makes that hollow sound that lights do when go this way.  It sounds a little bit like the end of the world.  It sounds a little bit like the beginning of it.



8:17PM


“Ah, I thought I was doing something wrong.”  She never did anything wrong.  Even her cellphone, its screen black and smudged and lifeless, was intentional.  “I’ll remember that for next time.”

There was something very casual about the way her eyes rolled, and this was intentional, too.

“I ordered us a pizza.  I hope you’re not vegan or anything else horrible.”
« Last Edit: 08/03/2018 at 15:30 by Virtue Hir »
i would sleep better on your floor than i would ever in my bed,
and if your carpet makes my face it, it would still be heaven in my head.

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (08/03/2018 at 15:40)
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Her words drew a grudging smile from him, "I hope it's got at least four toppings, and that one of them's pepperoni. Otherwise, what's the point."
juliet, the dice was loaded from the start
and I bet, and you exploded into my heart
I can’t do everythin’ but I’d do anythin’ for you
I can’t do anythin’ ’cept be in love with you

Virtue Hir

    (08/03/2018 at 17:25)
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A smile threatened at the corner of her lips.  Her usual order was double pepperoni, proper bacon, and the mess that passed for bacon in America.

She couldn’t make her usually order here.  That was to be expected out of a place with a name like Prufrock's Pizzeria.  Somewhere in hell, T. S. Eliot grinned and wrote another footnote.

“It’s soppressata or something tragically bougie like that.”

Shaking her head like she was disappointed, Virtue exhaled a plume of smoke into the space between them and then tossed down her spent cigarette to the patio floor where it smouldered unresolved.

“This date’s already a bit crap, isn’t it?”
« Last Edit: 08/03/2018 at 17:28 by Virtue Hir »
i wanna confess it in a whisper that's just loud enough to make out.
i want you to listen from the kitchen to me confessing on the couch.

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (08/04/2018 at 15:39)
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He didn't have a clue what soppressata was.

It sounded like exactly the kind of coffee one of the producers of Ophelia's latest film would make some poor intern spend half an hour queueing for at Starbucks, only to have it sent back because the barista had used normal milk instead of almond.

...He really hoped it wasn't actually that.

"Yeah," he agreed, choosing to ignore her comment about the thing that might have been coffee but was hopefully something else. "Yeah, it is. Worse for you, though, 'cause you're payin' for it to be crap. Least I'm gettin' free food."

Or, potentially, coffee.
a thousand thrills, a thousand chills
I’m hot, it’s a golden thing she’s got
I’m shot, it’s a golden thing she’s got

Virtue Hir

    (08/06/2018 at 22:52)
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“It’s not entirely selfless.”

It wasn’t selfless at all.  Virtue took a casual sip of her bottle, then held it out to Jere to share.  At a place like this, the waitresses came around either far too much or not at all, and it seemed that (fittingly) Prufrock’s fell into the later category.

“Having you around will keep the creeps off when the band plays.”  It was the worst part, always, of going to shows, but one she was more than capable of taking care of on her own with a few choice swears and a well-placed knee if she had to.  Virtue shrugged, and this was casual, too.  Their pepperoniless pizza was nowhere in sight.

“And you'll kiss me before the night's over.”  A pair of falsies batted over brown eyes.  "And that'll be nice."
i wanna confess it in a whisper that's just loud enough to make out.
i want you to listen from the kitchen to me confessing on the couch.

Jeremiah Smallweed

    (08/07/2018 at 00:31)
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"That's almost a great plan. But--"

Jeremiah took the bottle from her, and drank for just a little longer than might have been considered polite. He set it back down on the table between them.

"--I could just as easily be one of them guys you're tryin' to avoid. And then you're payin' for some creep to hang around you all evenin'."
I just wanna go out tonight and make my baby proud
“—boy, who’s your baby?”
“girl, if you don’t know by now—”
there’s two seats on the midnight train, the gold won’t weigh us down