ingrid_icon.gif joshua_icon.gif

Scene Title Imperfect
Synopsis Joshua comforts a friend.
Date December 24, 2010

Hamilton Heights Apartments: Jolene and Ingrid's Apartment

The apartment is dark by the time Joshua arrives home, which is unusual; Ingrid likes light, and lots of it. When the sun sets, the paper lanterns that decorate the living room are turned on, bathing the sofa and meager dining area in a warm yellow glow. She claims that it keeps her in good spirits, which isn't a lie unless he believes in lies of omission.

She can't remember a time in her life when she hasn't slept with a light flickering on her bedside table, banishing the shadows to the furthest corners of her room, and if it wasn't for the television, she might be in worse shape than she is.

And she's in pretty bad shape. Seated on the couch and bent at the middle, small hands twisted around a damp tissue, she stares blearily at the screen with strands of dark blonde hair plastered to her cheeks where tears have carved salty paths all the way down her jaw, chin and throat. Although the television is muted, the sound of music and celebration from the street outside drifts up and covers the unsteady sputter and gasp of her breathing, which she muffles into her fingers.

It's Christmas Eve, and she shouldn't be crying, but she shouldn't be alone either.

She hears him before she sees him, or before he even scrapes open the door. Joshua is rapping, to himself, muffled by doors and walls enough that she can't actually make out words so much as the distinctive rhythm of rhyming that probably never belonged to him. It dims to a distracted hum by the time Joshua does something he doesn't always do— put a key, one given to him legitimately, into a lock, and turn it, and open the door without any damage whatsoever occurring to the frame or locking mechanism. It's like a Christmas miracle.

Shouldering his way inside, Joshua is preoccupied with digging stolen iPod out from a pocket and thumbing at the wheely part until the tinny clamour of rap music quiets in the ear buds he's wearing, before yanking them out by the forking wires. "Hey babe, Merry Christmas," is flippantly announced.

That she's sobbing her heart out or damn near it may register after Joshua thuds his way to the kitchen for a beer.

Ingrid smears the tears away from her eyes with the heels of her hands and wipes off her nose on the sleeve of her sweater before she turns toward the kitchen and makes a sincere effort to pull herself together that ends with all her pieces in the wrong places. A strand of hair meant to be tucked behind her ear ends up trapped between her lips, and by the time she's peeling that away her vision has started to get blurry again.

"She went to that party," she tells Joshua, her voice shaky and raw, though she struggles to make it resemble something smoother. The result sounds shrill and forced. Blue eyes drop back to the tissue in her hands, and she moves as if to crumple it up and take out some of what she's feeling on the flimsy paper material, but ultimately she can't bring herself to commit violence against even that. Instead, she folds it up and deposits it on the coffee table in front of her beside the box with all the others.

As far as piles go, she could have amassed something larger.

A can of Coors is obtained, and cracked open even as Joshua is beginning to get a clue that all is not right with the world, hesitating before he takes another large can of beer out from the fridge. A glance to the snowy pile of snot rags, and then at the television, then back to Ingrid and the redness developed around her eyes. "Then I guess we got our own party," he proposes, moving on closer and offering out the Coors can, for all that he very clearly made sure both girls knew that they were his in case for some reason they felt like drinking terrible liquor.

He flicks on a lamp, spilling light into the dark room, before he comes to his resting place, with a hip against the arm of the sofa. "Should I go?" he asks, with a kind of wry confusion, forehead crinkling as he tilts his opened beer can for some miscellaneous route of departure.

"Please don't," is Ingrid's meeker version of no. She accepts the can of beer without curving a thumbnail under the tab to pop it open. The aluminum is cold against her palms, and would be like ice against her cheeks, which — apart from being wet — are burning up and pink. Her mouth moves around some sort of feeble explanation for why her head is down and her eyes averted. Unable to form the words, however, she directs his attention to the television screen and what's playing on it.

It's not It's a Wonderful Life which, admittedly, is something that might move Ingrid to tears. She cries easily enough. "I don't know what I did wrong," she says finally. "I thought everything was perfect."

"Perfect?" is cynically delivered, Joshua moving to sit down properly as he glugs down a fair mouthful of beer, turning hazel eyes for the television set— and then his brow knits crinkled together like someone tugged a drawstring set through it, narrowing his stare at the flickering image. There is faint, hazy recognition, and he slides an awkward glance sidelong at the tearful girl sat next to him. "Nothing's perfect, yo," he adds in belated finishing of his statement.

His shoulder bumps into her's. "I bet they're playing some old ass Christmas movies. Maybe we can get high and…" And maybe he realises that this suggestion either won't take or won't help, because professional thief and weekend security guard stops talking, eases out a breath, glances at his beer, and takes another hearty sip.

Ingrid allows herself the luxury of resting her head on Joshua's shoulder once the bumping is over. The remote would be within reach if she leaned across the coffee table and pushed aside the tissue box to make a grab for it. She doesn't, and not because she isn't interested in what's playing on the other channels.

She had been, before the timer on the DVR reminded her about what she'd arranged for it to record. That was a few hours ago. "My work's supposed to be," she says. Perfect. "If it wasn't, I'd never have been able to convince her to let me help. I'm scared, Josh."

Of what, Ingrid does not specify. She plucks at the tab on the top of the can but still does not break the seal. Turns her head to mutter into the dense fabric of his coat. "Are you ever," sounds like it should be a question, and is, but without the sharp lift upward at the end. Exhaustion has her delivering it flatter than she intended.

A lot of Joshua's work is imperfect — even gotten it criticised by a fellow burglar, but somehow— "Stuff works out, you know?" Joshua half-heartedly advises, but there's that question, lingering crystalised between them. The automatic response is a shrug and a naw, but she has her head against his shoulder, and a naw seems to require the physicality behind such bravado. Metal bends absently as he flexes his fingers around the beer can, peering into the keyhole shape of its opening.

"You, uh. You remember my mom getting sick?" He leans away from her by an inch, but only so that he can glance her way properly, looking a little guarded, a little uncomfortable.

Ingrid blinks some of the fuzz from the corners of her vision, and lapses into an uneasy silence that lasts the amount of time it takes for her to isolate the memory — or if not the memory, then one that represents what she can hear in his tone.

She does not lie, and not because she's a horrible liar. "I remember the funeral," she says. "I mean I remember all of them, except the ones I was too little for, but I remember hers more than some of the others. I remember thinking that you looked like my sisters after our father. Sad.

"I'd never seen you sad before."

"I guess that's what happens when whatever it was you were scared of for months— " And Joshua pauses, briefly irritated at his own inability to articulate what he'd set out to, and finishes. "— happens. When stuff doesn't go down the way it was supposed to." A glance for the flickering TV screen follows Joshua rocking forward in his sit on the couch, reaching for the remote and hitting enough buttons with his thumb that it winds up muting before flicking to blackness.

He tosses the item past her, and sets his beer down on the coffee table. Obligingly, he takes her's from her and puts it down as well. "Hold up, I remembered why I came back. You'll like it." Easy confidence in his voice as he buries a hand into his coat pocket, rummaging for something. A wallet that doesn't look like it belongs to him is extracted, tossed aside, before he tries another.

Ingrid reaches for the discarded wallet, peels it open and turns it right side up in order to get a better look at the driver's license behind the plastic inside, then moves her eyes between Joshua and the picture as if comparing one to the other even though she doesn't really need to. Her lips purse around another question, or maybe a statement, something about coming back because he wants to spend time with her and Jolene and not because he has something for her, but she must realize the futility of such a gesture because it comes out as a thin, shaky sigh exhaled through her nostrils instead.

She closes the wallet, frowning, and places it on his thigh where he won't forget it when he eventually stands to leave. Curiosity gets the better of her; if she had more of a spine, she might reprimand him for stealing, but she doesn't, and it's easier to watch. "What is it?"

Finally, second try has him extracting a long black velvet jewelry case, which may or may not actually match its contents. Joshua passes it to her with less ceremony than it might deserve — it's not really about being mean as much as it is about being oblivious, but also distracted when a crumpled piece of paper follows, smoothing it out to check its words. "It's a receipt, in case you don't like it," is sort of encouraging, implying maybe he didn't steal— "and you find a fence that'll take it."


Joshua, maybe realising that seeing her open the thing would be kind of neat, keeps the papers to himself and expectantly looks at her hands in encouragement to get them opening up the velvety box.

It's the wrong size for an engagement ring, which is what Ingrid associates velvety boxes with despite never having been married herself, and it's with a mix of excitement and trepidation that she pulls back the lid between her fingers. The lamplight catches the box's contents, drawing a sharp breath of surprise from the young woman like air squeaking out of a balloon or a kitten that's just had its tail trod on, cut short before it can properly sting at Joshua's ears.

Her hand not holding the box goes to her mouth and splays fingers across her lips. "Joshua, it's—" Probably the most expensive thing she's ever been given, but this isn't what Ingrid is thinking as her hand drops again and moves to take the diamond necklace loosely between those same fingers, silver chain strung through her knuckles and twinkling. "It's like hundreds of tiny little stars."

"That's 'cause stars are like diamonds." Obviously. There's a rhyme and everything. The corner of Joshua's mouth hooks up in a self-satisfied half smile, letting the receipt leaf drift onto the table before he offers out his hands to take the delicate piece of jewelry back that looks like it might shatter or crumple when it comes to his gorilla paws, all callused fingers and rough palms. But thieves probably know their way around delicate things too.

He shrugs. "You wanna see it on or what?"

"Right now?" Ingrid surrenders the necklace to Joshua with a glance down at her clothes: a pair of pale gray sweatpants and a matching hoodie that advertises the words Columbia University below her school's mascot, a regal-looking lion with lips peeled around either a smile or a snarl depending on one's perspective.

She prefers the smiling. Her bare feet curl, toes hooked inward as she clasps her hands into a worried knot in her lap. "I'm not wearing a dress or anything," she reminds him, like wearing a dress is a requirement when it comes to diamonds. "Won't it look silly?"

For her efforts, Ingrid mostly gets a blank look of incomprehension in return, like Joshua hadn't stopped to consider whether several thousand dollars worth of white gold and diamonds has a dresscode, or that trying it on would be more about how it looks as opposed to, say, how it fits. The item in question dangles with its expensive heaviness, considered before he jolts another shrug and offers it back in relinquishment.

"Next time we go someplace nice, then. Nicer than whatever party Jolene's at," he says, picking up his beer again and settling into the sofa with the intention to hang out, absently picking up stolen wallet and slipping it back into a pocket. Once it's emptied of its contents, the leathery container itself will probably go to Calvin or something.

"I don't know if there's a nicer party than the one Jolene is at," says Ingrid. She strokes her fingers over the necklace, and while she might be hesitant to put it on, she's even more reluctant to put it away. Her thumbnail catches on the clasp, in consideration, and she turns it between her hands. "And I don't know if I've ever had something this nice in my whole life."

She makes a self-depreciating noise, a dry snuffle, and forms a protective shell around the necklace with her hands so that not even the light can touch it anymore. That it doesn't sparkle anymore means nothing when she can't see the piece of jewelry regardless. Her chin lifts, and she presses a quick kiss to Joshua's cheek — a peck, really, and before she can stop to think about what she just did, she's abruptly rising from the couch and retreating around the side opposite Joshua.

Her feet clap against the hardwood, though she isn't running away. At least not literally. "I'll call out for dinner, or— or order in. D'you want pizza or Thai?"

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