Mistletoe In The Winter


jaiden_icon.gif lydia_icon.gif

Scene Title Mistletoe in the winter
Synopsis Delia has gone AWOL while Jaiden meets Lydia
Date September 2, 2010

Ichihara Bookstore

Nestled in the heart of the main street marketplace, the Ichihara Bookstore is an old and crooked structure pressed between two newer high-rise tenement buildings. The old glass windows and creaking wooden door on the shop's front give it a rustic and old-world feel. Catering to both antique books and newer prints, the narrow aisles and tall shelves are packed full of literature. A single shelf for periodicals lies near the front counter, while signage both out front by the register and in the back of the store indicates that tarot card reading is done on-site at request for ten dollars per reading.

Behind the old and weathered wooden counter that contains the register and a small stack of reserved books, a narrow wooden staircase leads upwards to a black wooden door with peeling paint, revealing red paint in narrow strips beneath, a rope crossing in front of that door hangs with a small sign that reads, "Private".

Sunlight floods into Ichihara Bookstore. They're open. Yet something is amiss. Where the employees were finally getting a handle on the organization of the small shop, somehow some of this has fallen to the wayside. A few boxes of books line the aisles, a thin layer of dust has formed along the shelves, and the normally-empty counter is covered in clutter. Further, several clumps of cat hair — some white, others black, reside on the floor.

Mew! Mew! Mew! a chorus of soft meows fills the bookstore thanks to the five kittens residing in the box on the counter along their mother, Huruma-cat. But the meows are hardly merry. On the other side of the room, just shy of the door, Gabriel-cat hisses angrily, the kittens aren't permitting him his usual morning nap in his favourite sunbeam; rather, it seems like they're trying to keep him awake. His tail twitches warningly, aiming to keep all people and his fellow cats away.

Huruma-cat isn't thrilled with Gabriel's attitude. More than once she's ripped into him this morning in a very literal catfight.

The door to the back room creaks open as Lydia peeks into the store again. A moment of silence from the kittens, their mother, and Gabriel further announces her presence, like somehow they expect some grand speech from the proprietor. Instead? The radio buzzes with the sound of static-y music, "A thousand other boys could never reach you~ How could I have been the one~ I saw the world sp —" but the Goo Goo Dolls aren't permitted to finish their lyric before Lydia is turning it off as her lips frown amid another chorus of meows. Finally, turning to the box of kittens she admits exasperatedly, "I don't know what you want — please, I've never had a pet before, just… just make it clear… you're fed… I think you slept…" A hand combs through her sandy hair.

Okay, so Delia's gone to ground and sent Haruma to tell him that she's okay and would contact him when she had the chance, but that doesn't mean Jaiden isn't going to do a little quiet snooping here and there to see if anyone has any idea where Delia's gone. In one of their many and varied conversations on the phone, some of which went into the wee hours of the morning, she mentioned the Ichihara bookstore as somewhere she hung out every once in a while, doing part-time work. Perhaps she left a note there.

The door of the shop opens and Jaiden steps in, closing it behind him before looking around, scanning the shelves and nearly stepping into a drift of cat hair placed disdainfully in the middle of the aisle leading to the back counter. His sneakers make little shuffling sounds as he walks, leaving slight tracks in the bit of dust on the floor, the man heading to the back of the shop, toward the counter, stopping to peer at a shelf here and there, bending to squint (and even pushing his hat back, now and then) at a title, his head tilting to the side.

He always did enjoy reading. Mostly nonfiction, considering his life up until now was full of things that required knowledge of hard facts, but now and again a good book is something nice to curl up with. "Hrm…." A soft noise as he pulls a Pulitzer Prize Winner from the shelf, turning it over to read the blurb about Ignatius O'Reilly and his mother in the streets of early 20th century New Orleans. This will do nicely as a book to read and an icebreaker.

The box of kittens on the counter gives him pause, the man smiling, offering the mother a hand to sniff, being very careful not to scare her or any of the kittens. "Hello there, puss….what're you doing out here with no food and water bouncing around?"

The quiet sound of footsteps brings Lydia to attention as her usually tight-lipped smile becomes outright strained against the duress of caring for the cats that Delia had been watching. While her compassion for the creatures has continued uninterrupted, her talent for animals has literally been called into question. Amber eyes flit to the customer attempting to extend that smile to them, yet crows feet tug unnaturally along the edges, a silent tell that something is amiss.

Huruma, meanwhile, doesn't mind the attention. Her nose pushes up towards Jaiden's hand, sniffing for some sense of recognition, and aiming to find some semblance of trust for this outsider. She meows loudly with complaint.

"Welcome," Lydia manages — her tone soothing and warm despite the animal-related chaos she's dealt with this morning — as she glances down at the complaining cat and then across the room to Gabriel, who is once again hissing. Her eyes widen, however, at the notion of water and food. "She was fed… and there's water on the sill — " which there is. But with Huruma not trusting Gabriel, she's not about to leave the kittens on their lonesome.

To the mother-cat's nose, Jaiden smells okay - trustworthy, even, thanks to the faint lingering scent of Delia on his hands and clothes. She meows and bumps his hand with her head, Jaiden's hand moving to stroke over her back and, if allowed, pick her up to cuddle in one arm, not minding the cat hair too terribly much. Growing up around animals gave Jaiden a little bit of a knack with them and hopefully this'll help.

The book is laid on the counter, price tag up, easily viewed from that side of the counter. "Thanks much, Ma'am. I've been meaning to come by after hearin' of this place from a friend of mine."

Sure enough Huruma lets him pick her up as long as the kittens are still within sight. She purrs underneath the stroke of his hand and leans into the cuddle, her own affections easily won with a little attention, though Delia's scent also works its magic. "You're good with her," Lydia observes quietly with a slight tilt of her head and drop of her chin. "Huruma isn't the easiest to get along with either. Although her temperament has improved since she was permitted entrance into the shop. I don't think Benjamin — " her head turns to the back door, the location where this mysterious Benjamin resides " — was terribly good to her or easy to get on with. Although, arguably Gabriel isn't either." She pauses, "There are moments I'm certain that white cat is plotting my death." Theoretically she's kidding, yet her tone and facial expression give no indication one way or another.

She slides the book from the counter before keying in the price on the register. "What friend? Maybe I know them?"

He takes a couple of steps toward the counter to be sure the kittens are easily seen with a tilt of Huruma's head and spends a good moment or two scratching and stroking beneath her chin and ears and, more than likely drawing a little bit of ire from Gabriel since he's not getting the attention he so wants. "I always liked cats. Grew up with an even dozen or so at my parents' place in Australia." So that's where that accent's from. He smiles, looking up at Lydia, still stroking Huruma's head. "She's rather like her namesake, isn't she? Huruma the cat, I mean. Sweet when she wants to, but able to rip into you if you're not careful."

One of the kittens tries to climb out of the box, Jaiden giving it a finger to gnaw on playfully before tipping her back into the box with a playful push into one of her brothers, who pounces and starts to play. "Her name's Delia." He smiles. "She's a good friend of mine."

Sure enough Gabriel hisses at Huruma's attention, jealousy being the rule of the day. If he was plotting to kill Lydia before surely he's contemplating the demise of his fellow feline now. "Well you're more adept with animals than I am. Little experience, I'm afraid. I…" her tact momentarily failing, Lydia frowns momentarily before the smile regroups, "…I moved a lot for many many years and have only recently settled here." Her eyes narrow, "You know Huruma." The observation is just that, an observation without accusation or implication, even if it's intended.

"Delia," she repeats quietly as she glances at the cats and then back to Jaiden. Absently she chews her bottom lip, "Have you seen Delia recently? She's here virtually everyday to look after the clowder of cats and kindle of kittens… she's quite in love with the black and orange calico…"

There's a slight shake of his head in the negative. "Sorry. The last I heard was when…." He turns to look at the door and give a remarkably realistic sounding *hiss* to Gabriel as a bit of a 'don't push it, buster!' before turning back to Lydia. "When Huruma came and talked to me yesterday." His voice lowers slightly, barely more than a whisper. "She's on the run. I don't know where she is, but she's safe. She sent Huruma to tell me she was okay and…since she mentioned she spent a lot of time here, I thought I'd pass the word."

Jaiden straightens and lets Huruma-cat back into the box with her kittens where, with a meow of contentment, she flops down on her side and lets the litter go to work nursing, the man looking around the place for a moment. "It looks like you could use a little help." He offers his hand with a smile. "Jaiden Mortlock. Delia ran through my dreams a few times and we've gotten close."

The run.

It's a state of being Lydia is all too familiar with. Her jaw tightens as she sucks in a slow breath. Everyone she knew on the run essentially disappeared — her own opinion of the run leerier than most. "She's okay?" the blonde's lips press together again in stilled silence.

The mention of the dreams changes this evident neutralization, renewing an odd spark within the painted lady's eyes. The hand is accepted in a slight squeeze rather than an actual shake, this gypsy woman is no business tycoon, form and strength of a handshake matter little to her, but touch is everything to a touch-activated empath. Her ability seeks out whatever is on the surface of Jaiden's desires, hopes, and fears.

"Lydia Taylor. I own this shop. Delia works for me — " apparently even on the run, she still has a job here should she want it. "And I've only recently acquired it. We're still working out a system."

The touch speaks volumes.

There is calm on the surface - held there by willpower not easily bent or swayed, but beneath that, with a little empathic digging, worry can be found. Worry for Delia's well being. Affection, too. After all, having someone run through your brain does give one a different view on things, and having the person doing the running share your most horrific experience with you and then have them share theirs with you in return….well, there's an intimacy there that normally takes a long time to build that's been established rather quickly.

All this happens without Jaiden's knowledge, of course.

"If I see her, I'll be sure to let her know. I don't know if her going on vacation had anything to do with all of those…problems….that have been in the news lately." The fall of the Company, for one.

There's a small curl of lips as Lydia rests her hand on the counter. "The world is burning," she states, "and too many people with it. If the intention is peace, I believe, as usual, DHS has missed its mark. But then there's never consideration of collateral damage from them." The tone hinges on bitter while for a moment her back turns from him, towards a smaller counter where she plugs in a kettle.

"I certainly miss Delia's presence. It was… refreshing. Although my other employees are equally delightful, she was here even when she didn't need to be." Her smile stretches, a little regretful and once again strained, "Most people aren't like that. Not anymore, anyways. It's hard to remember what things were like before."

The cats' purr is soft and steady, like a ticking clock or a heartbeat, soothing the kittens at her breast to sleep as they knead and push on her in an effort to get more dinner, then give up as Huruma-cat rolls over to rest on her belly. "I miss her too." Jaiden says softly, reaching down to stroke one of the kittens, the little boy cat lifting his back end, tail at a floppy angle to the right as it tips over due to being a little unbalanced still. "It's a frightening thing, seeing what's going on now. Realizing what's happening, but seemingly unable to prevent it, no matter how much you try." His mouth twists into a little smile, his right hand going palm-up, a little ball of water the size of a grape hovering just above his fingertips. "And me, I'm a walking fire extinguisher, but I don't think I can do much good….which is why I work in the background with a few people."

The water vanishes with a muted *pop* and a hiss of what seems to be fog. "But….that doesn't mean we should stop doing what needs to be done. I normally fix cars and the like, but I'm a fair shot with a broom and a dustpan, and the cats do seem to enjoy my presence. Mind if I give you a hand?"

"Just look forward. The world is changing, keep your gaze forward, and watch the events unfold around you," they're familiar words to the blonde, uttered by another all too recently and cryptic in nature, but then she's used to speaking in puzzles. "Fate can be manipulated and nothing is written in stone; there are those among us that would choose to change its path. Even when everything is falling apart, there's always hope it can be made whole. Everyone needs to pull their weight in this regard." The kettle whistles fiercely, indicating it's readiness. The hot water is poured into a teapot and left to steep among leaves. Always leaves.

Her smile eases at the display of the trick, finding an odd softness there. Being in the presence of others like her has that effect thanks to the carnival. "I would love the help. I'm not much of a business owner or a Wall Street mogul… I'm more in vein of the gypsy fortune teller…"

The man chuckles, leaning on the counter comfortably while the tea is brewed, wishing he had brought in something to drink himself since it appears he'll be doing a little manual labor for the forseeable future. Good thing he's caught up at work. One day of helping out at a bookstore won't be too terribly hard to catch up from.

"Point me to something that needs doing and I'll do it. Purient motives aside, of course." He grins a devilishly playful grin, teasing terribly before lifting the kitten-loaded box from the counter. "Where was Delia storing these little guys? Just somewhere in the back with Benjamin?" Another cat, more than likely.

As the tea steeps, Lydia ducks under the counter, bringing up two chipped china teacups and saucers. They're mismatched, likely from different sets, but each has a small flower painted on its front. Even in they're imperfect state she inspects them for jagged edges, no reason to get herself sued. Perhaps one day she'll have an actual location in the shop for tea — her affinity towards it all too evident in her beverage choices.

Tea is poured carefully into each cup, complete with loose leaves. Idly, she pushes the teacup with the purple flower towards him. She doesn't question whether he wants it, she's already decided he will drink it. "They stayed in the back. I'm trying to clean it out so I'm comfortable doing tattoos there but I may actually just have to move from the loft and use that space. Living here actually made it easier to keep three employees; no rent on my part." She sips the tea. "And I'd appreciate it if… you would move some boxes for me." Ahhh. Always use muscles for heavy labour. "There are still some in the basement from the big freeze. But first. Drink your tea," there's a maternal edge to her voice, even if she doesn't intend it to be there.

A one stop shop for all of your needs, it seems. Jaiden looks around the bookshop, thinking out loud. "Well, I'm a bit of an old hand when it comes to fixing places up, and the fact that Del and you got along is good enough for me." The cup is taken, the contents swirled around and then sipped lightly, almost daintily. Blame his classical upbringing for manners. "I guess you own the whole building then?" Another sip, his brows going up slightly. It's good tea, apparently and with a small movement he drains the rest, leaving the tea leaves in the bottom of the cup, setting it down in the middle of the counter. "Clean out the basement, then? I can do that. Just give me a spot to put the stuff you don't want in the back somewhere, a broom, and light." He grins. "I should show you my basement at some point. Took me a while to get it set up right, but I live there."

"Yes. Please clean out the basement." There's a pause as she arches an eyebrow. "I hadn't thought of living there, but… that actually might work well. During the day I'm in here anyways and I really do need the light if I'm going to ink anyone." As he finishes his cup of tea she passes it back to him to his left hand. "Swirl it three times." Very explicit unusual instructions to a near-stranger, but she gives them just the same. Strangely she does the same three quick swirls. Promptly she turns it upside down on the saucer only to flip it right side up moments later. Expectantly, she stares at Jaiden, fully intending him to do the same.

"Don't knock it until you've tried it. Easy to heat and cool because you're below ground, but you have to worry about leaks from the walls. Easily fixed. I'll keep an eye out for things like that when I'm down there." Jaiden cocks his head slightly at the explicit instructions but shrugs and does as he is told, swirling the contents three times, clockwise, before upending it on the tray she put out. "If you need me, I'll be in the basement." With a smile and a wave he doffs his button-down shirt (the white t-shirt doing an excellent job of keeping him decent), and heads into the basement.

What has he gotten himself in to?

"Thank you," she chimes as he disappears.

His leaves are regarded before her own, even after his quick exit, Lydia’s curiosity of the man far outweighs anything that the leaves could tell her about herself. Her hand grasps the cup and brings it closer to her face, examining the figures and facts within. Her own ability doing much of the work, the images stand out to her while others might see nothing more than unidentifiable speckles within the bottom of the cup. Even with Jaiden essentially gone, she turns to Huruma and arches an eyebrow, after an initial glance, “He’s far more complex than I’d have imagined. Good intentioned though, so we needn’t worry about Delia on that front… I see a bonnet with strings — happiness will come to him, but the leaves suggest later in life, signifying nearing turmoil in the near future.”

Her eyebrows furrow as her eyes scan the bits further, “The bird on the perch more the same, a desperate need for patience in a season of waiting.” Her eyes move to the outer edges. “Rocks. Pipe. Disorder. Personal dismay. Regarding our Delia, I believe. That is, for the present only.” Her head tilts even more as the makings of a smile edge her lips and a hint of mischief finds its home there, “And that’s the answer to the question. Not Jaiden’s question, mind. Delia’s. But you and I already knew that. She’s a delight.” Huruma, it turns out is an avid listener even as the owner continues quietly in her inspection.

“Holly and mistletoe. Something… in the winter… or late fall… it’s not… I don’t — “ her eyes narrow further as she reaches out with her ability, trying harder to get accuracy in the reading. Yet even in her striving she falters. Her face pales and the cup slips through her long elegant fingers, shattering to the ground. She gasps for a breath as the china and leaves spill across the tile behind the counter. Simultaneously goosebumps form along her arms and her body quivers under otherwise unuttered duress. The reading has taken an unusual turn.

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