It's In The Cards


corbin_icon.gif lydia_icon.gif

Scene Title It's In the Cards
Synopsis A bookstore changes hands and a much overdue reading is completed.
Date August 10, 2010

Roosevelt Island

Ichihara Bookstore

Despite the phone call that insured she could come over, Corbin doesn't have the place ready yet. A fluffy white cat with absurd eyebrows sits on the front counter, paws resting on top of the stack of tarot cards that he sorted and checked to make sure none had been lost in the aftermath of their owner's murder. Boxes hefted up from the basement sit open on the floor in the thin aisles, as he stacks and organizes the books again. They'd been put away for months, to avoid sitting on the shelf during the coldest parts of the blizzard.

Corbin'd also been afraid of the flooding, but none of the books have water damage that they hadn't had from being used before, at least.

The front door is open, letting in air to the not cool building, the air conditioner not working well, so it seemed prudent to turn it off. The place needed to be aired out, anyway. The electricity though, that does work, based on the flickering lights overhead. "Glad to be back in here?" he speaks outloud to someone who can't answer.

Well, answer beyond a tailswish and a soft mwrol.

It's been so long since he could bring himself to step inside, too.

After a rather conflictual evening, spent combatting her own demons, Lydia had made that call, determined not to make the same mistakes from her past. Further, it had taken some personal coaxing to move her here. While she may be convinced Corbin won't turn her in, her distrust isn't easily swayed, particularly as DHS had so easily fooled Joseph.

With cautious near-silent steps, the painted lady's black ballet flats shuffle her into the bookstore after a quiet rap on the opened door. "Mister Ayers?" Her neck cranes to see over the stacks of books, only to stop as her gaze settles on the fluffy white resident. "Why… hello…" With a twitch of a smile and a twist of her heel, she steps to him, hand held out to the cat. "I'm Lydia~" the words come out in a sing-song way, airy.

"That's Gabriel," Corbin says, stepping out of the aisles with some sweat on his forehead. Even with a fan or two, and the door open, it's quite warm in New York this year especially, making labor a difficult task for him. "He's— sometimes a brat, don't let his gentleness fool you right now. He'll probably start getting particular about where he poops again. He's been in my apartment for the last few months, though— so he might like being back here."

The cat does seem to like her well enough, only hesitating and sniffing for a few seconds before he leans up in to get scritched, even lowering his head and pushing it up against her hand. Demanding it!

"You can just call me Corbin. Mister Ayers is still my dad. The store's old— her mother owned it before she did. When her mom died, she took over, and when she…" He trails off. "Well, you'll probably find out the first time you get a costumer from the old group. Hokuto was murdered. Right back there," he says, gesturing towards the back door. "In the back alley. But since you met her, you know that she didn't completely die. Not very many people know that yet, though. It's pretty much you and me, right now."

"Someone so pretty couldn't possibly be a brat," Lydia coos as she scratches right behind his ears. "And named after an archangel indicates otherwise. There's significance in names." She straightens and lowers her hand from Gabriel to face Corbin and eye the shop and in doing so, shoots him a wary smile. "It is quite the space." Laden with that same caution she steps along the narrow aisles just to peer at the books. It's not scrutiny, really, but a way to occupy her thoughts.

"Corbin, then. It is a beautiful store. Even with the wear," her tight lipped smile lingers, "I am sorry about your friend. Even if she isn't quite dead. I'm sure it was difficult." Biting her bottom lip she steps towards the counter again, having finished surveilling the space. With a small nod and another quirk of her lips she adds, "While it might have been an unusual meeting… I liked her." She shrugs.

"You may change your mind when he decides to claw your legs, or thinks that your face is a good place to sit while you're asleep," Corbin says, perhaps speaking from experience. The Archangel may not be the source of the cat's name, but— he still can't imagine how he's found to be pretty. Not with those eyebrows. "I'd say you already got a better owner than me, enjoy it, Gabriel." Unless, of course, it doesn't take.

"I understand if you don't have enough money, I'm not selling it for the money, and even adding in a tattoo area probably won't get you enough money to justify keeping it open— but there's a pretty big savings I'll be leaving you, so you won't have to worry about it. All in cash, so you don't have to worry about paper trails back to me or where I get my money from." Cash would be the hardest thing to track, and it's what he's been collecting a lot of.

"It's in the small safe upstairs. I'll give you the combination if you decide to take it, despite everything. You'll probably get like… six customers a day, at most. And if you want to hire people, I know of at least one who worked here before, too."

Lydia gapes at Corbin. Openly gapes at Corbin. It's unusual to catch her off-guard with anything, but this is wholly unexpected. Her eyes narrow almost suspiciously, especially as the Carnival-mentality hangs in her consciousness, often when things seem too good to be true, they are.

When she peels her gaze from him, lips press into a line, weighing each of his words in her mind, and trying to process the information. Earlier today, she was fully prepared not to own this for the cost alone, and now that obstacle has been removed. The idea of a quiet store and quiet existence are appealing though.

Arching an eyebrow she asks, "What's the catch? Nothing is that straight forward. There is always something hanging in the balance." There's a weight to her tone, as if she's implying something, but what is wholly unclear.

"The catch is you have to keep the store open," Corbin says, looking around the place as if he's sure that is a favor very few people could tackle. It's not a hot spot of buisness, and with the fact it's near Summer Meadows… "The people I work for— we existed before Homeland Security, before anyone knew about Evolved. My job— was to keep you a secret. That's why they hired a newspaper reporter straight out of school, and set me up to get a job at the Times. Cause they needed to form newspaper connections, and have someone to funnel stories when things happened. Things before the bomb, at least."

That's why he'd joined… and he's telling her far more than he should, honestly, as he reaches under the cat and tries to claim the stack of tarot cards.

"We got turned into Homeland Security, and then they've started to take us over, piece by piece— The Company wasn't perfect, and it still isn't, but the ideal I joined under— that was good. And it was destroyed. So now I'm just trying to protect what I can, and this is one of them. Her store. And if things go as bad as they look like they're going… I won't be able to take care of it."

"So… you're not one of those Homeland Security types…" relief registers across Lydia's features as she breathes easier than before. She takes a slow deep breath as she glances around the shop and then nods, before turning her gaze back to him and seeking out eye contact, "Alright. I will keep it open. And I don't plan on going anywhere at this point in history. Roots and all that, right?"

She sniffs before look away, ceasing the eye contact that she'd initiated only moments before. and down to the cat. "Besides, I could use a new family member, and Gabriel is so pretty! Too pretty to be ignored…" she scritches his neck again.

Her lips purse momentarily before she turns back to Corbin while continuing to pet the cat, "I probably should register though… shouldn't I…?" Her gaze casts downwards as a frown pulls at her features.

For the moment, Gabriel's agreeing with this level of attention. That will likely change when she least expects it, but for the moment, he's even purring. The not-so-little monster, as Corbin would say. "Even I need to register now," he admits, looking down at the cards in his hands and shuffling them slight as he goes, just shifting the top card to the bottom, and nothing else. "I'm not even trusted enough in Homeland Security to get you a favor to register as Non-Evolved, though I may be able to talk to a few people who can, still."

He imagines if anyone has the capabilities, it's his few friends in the Ferry. Abigail Beauchamp might know of one. But…

"You can always go in and register for Non-Evolved, and when you test as Evolved, just say you didn't know and you don't think you've manifested yet. Course they may have someone on as a lie detector, I don't even know how they handle that. If you want to wait, I'll place a call and see if someone will be able to help you get a card that doesn't say you're Evolved."

The cat suddenly stops purring and jumps down and out of the finger massage grasp, moving to find his food bowl, which luckily still has some dry food there, so he doesn't start pawing at it and meowing in disappointment. With her hand emptied, Corbin holds up the cards, "These cards belonged to Hokuto's mother, and Hokuto after— she said if you decided to take the store, they should go to you as well. The cards haven't been used since she died."

"Everyone needs to register. Evolveds. Non-Evolveds. It's all information that shouldn't matter. Not if the goal is to find peaceful coexistence," Lydia states darkly with a sigh. "I knew it was inevitable when they came out with mandatory registration for everyone. Hiding in the open is less and less of an option and Homeland Security haven't proven themselves trustworthy to Evolveds. Not remotely, even when olive branches have be laid," at the last, bitterness creeps into her tone, but she cuts it as soon as it escapes. She sighs again, wishing that more movements like Wiley Schnook's were rule of thumb.

Knowing that Corbin never really intended to be part of DHS puts her mind at ease. "I suppose I could try to register as Non-Evolved. Or claim I had only just manifested. It's not some dire thing I can do. I understand people, that's essentially it. When I touch them, I understand them. Fortune telling came as second nature," this is accompanied by another tight-lipped smile and the faint drumming of fingertips on the counter. "I just… would rather fly under the radar. When no one knew about us, my family found a way to hide in the open. It was the easiest route."

Reverently, the deck of cards is accepted, like the passing of a baton. The symbolism doesn't escape the painted lady as she examines the deck. The helix symbol isn't lost her and is regarded with a lift of her brow. "This is an incredible gift."

"I'll be honest, I want to keep it, and keep the store," Corbin says, looking around quietly, even as it has so many memories, some good and some bad. "It's— kind of hard to just give it away, but she was right. If things go badly, I can't do what I need to do and protect the store at the same time. Maybe no one can in this world, with the way things are going. But I agree with what you say. Things were better for everyone when people could hide in plain sight. It's what I worked toward for years. No system will ever be perfect, but I think innocent people deserve privacy and respect. And registration, even the ideals behind it, assume eventual guilt."

For someone who works for Homeland, he's not exactly pro-Registration.

Pointing at the sign, which still advertises ten dollar tarot readings, "Think you could do your first reading?" And his first one that might actually get finished, too.

"You're always welcome back. And perhaps sometime it will be yours again. The future isn't as determined as some would have us believe," at this the painted lady walks around to the other side of the counter after taking a deep breath. It's strange to think of this space as her own, yet here she is, the apparent owner of a bookstore.

"It would be my pleasure to give you a reading, Corbin." With that same reverence, she holds the cards in her hand and closes her eyes. With another deep breath, she begins to shuffle before laying four cards out in front of her in a diamond shape.

The first is overturned. THE EMPEROR. "Hmm. An interesting card and one I think most people have reaction to. Essentially asks us who is charge and why?" Lydia's head tilts slightly before she lifts the second card in succession. THE LOVERS. She pauses to glance at Corbin and opens her lips to speak before turning back to the card. "More aptly called love itself… the card is almost an answer to the question of charge… love presents conflictual feelings and often acts as the reason we don't react the way we normally would. But perhaps it is exactly how we ought to be reacting…"

With just a little paper work to sign, there's not much more that needs to be done to make her the owner of this establishment. But Corbin's more interested in smaller pieces of paper that already have been filled out in various ways. "So essentially, I've being ruled by affections…" It doesn't surprise him, because that's how it's been for… a while now. He once thought he was a loyal Company Agent, and then the Company didn't quite do what he needed to do— and then certain groups associated were even worse.

Suddenly he looks around, as if checking for someone. "I hope she's not hopping around haunting other people, but at the same time I'd probably be a little embarassed if she were watching over my shoulder."

Then again, he bets she is anyway. "What does the diamond shape mean? I've only seen like— two lay outs, but neither were diamond."

"Essentially, yes. Rule by affection rather than logic," Lydia's lips curve upwards as she nods at the layout. "The first position is generally considered future condition, second, the past, third is the deck's opinion, and the fourth your present condition." She pauses before running her tongue over her lips, "Others suggest that position one represents romantic life, two finances, three, health and happiness, and four, career which simplifies and complicates things. The cards speak as they do, different questions, different feelings to different people."

A glance is given towards his shoulder and she smiles a little broader, "I don't like reading people I know well, but I would watch someone else give them."

She forces the smile away as she flips the third card. DEATH card. Except it's reversed. "A reversed death card indicates transformation and rebirth. Significant life change and movement towards something greater."

The last is turned over. She blinks and narrows her eyes. JUSTICE. Her lips twitch slightly, "You need to bring life back into balance and make adjustments to do so… is there anything that feels off within you?"

"Right now— my job. Or what's left of my job," Corbin admits, reaching to touch the still sore bandage on the back of his neck, as if to indicate one of the many reasons he thinks his job is out of balance, and making his life decidedly out of balance at the same time. "Only reason I stayed with them after… I was trying to find out who killed her, and why. It wasn't for revenge, it was to understand. And even when I found him, I ended up trying to help him. The guy who murdered her." Trying to help him, rather than getting vengance or something similar…

Revenge was never his strong suit, it would seem, but neither is forgiveness. It's hard to forgive him for that, even if he did actually try to help him.

"Sorry, I've had kind of a complicated life this last year," he admits, switching to scratch at the hair on the back of his neck, still a little sweaty, even if the fans are helping some. "Even if our group survives what we're going through now, I think I'm done. And the cards aren't telling me different."

Her features soften at the words. Slowly, each card is returned to the deck in turn and stacked together again before Lydia sets them aside. Her tone is quiet and reflective when she observes, "Then you know what you must do, and the cards only confirmed. There are seasons for all things, Corbin. A wise person knows when to hold on and when to let go. And you are fortunate because you get to hold on to your friend. She's still around. But now you get to let go of something you held over yourself." It's a lesson she's yet to learn, if she's honest.

"Uncomplicate it. Bring your life back to balance. You won't regret it. In fact, in its simplicity you might find some semblance of peace. A worthy goal in turmoil."

"Finding peace isn't easy, and sometimes I doubt I deserve it," Corbin says, shrugging his shoulders. It's not because he did anything bad, though, that's not why he doesn't think he deserves peace after all this is done… It's because he enjoyed peace for so long, while others suffered and he didn't try to do anything about it. The horrors of inaction, rather than the horrors of bad actions.

"I may ask you for another one, when I get this settled. Especially since I'll know where to find you, once we get all the paper work filled out. The place is yours— It's got an upstairs that can act as a small bedroom, if you want to live here too, and there's a basement, accessable through the back alley. I lived here for a while, myself. It's not bad, until it gets too hot or too cold."

"Easy or not, it's a worthy goal," Lydia soothes with another glance given to the cards. A glance is given to the staircase followed by a curl of her lips. "It would be my delight to give you another. And from the looks of things, I will be here." Pause. "That is, should you need to find me." That same weight to her words lingers through her speech as she presses her fingers to the counter. "Thank you for this. I promise I will take care of this place. I can tell it's sacred to you. And I imagine it was — still is — to her."

After adjusting a few items around the counter, she pushes away from it and heads towards the boxes of books, "I suppose I should finish stocking the shelves. There's work to be done. And… that potential employee… if you could direct them my way — I will be putting up a Help Wanted sign."

"I'll give Kaylee a call. Hopefully she hasn't gotten herself killed in the last few months since I talked to her," Corbin says, not trying to make it sound omnious, but— the place could have a reputation of being cursed, with everything that's happened to the owners and even most of the employees. "I'll stick around for a bit to help with the stocking. I have the inventory on computer, as well as lists of all her dealers to get new and used books, but you'll probably have plenty of time between customers to figure it out."

Ichihara Bookstore. Not the busiest place in the world.

But certainly one of the more interesting.

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