My Favorite Investment


alister_icon.gif sibyl4_icon.gif

Scene Title My Favorite Investment
Synopsis Alister encourages Sibyl to take on a project that may bear literal fruit.
Date April 29, 2018

Staten Island Trade Commission, Alister's Penthouse

In Alister's penthouse, which smells pretty great these days with the Eileen gone, he has a tea party set up on his dinner table. There's gold etched into the fine china, where there's tea, fancy ice cream, various handmade chocolates and other such things.

He's been teaching her about upper class etiquette today. How to hold things, the proper things to say when one is in a meeting with powerful people, depending on what those powerful people say to her, and how they say it.

"You've suffered through a lot today." he says before taking a bite of a white chocolate truffle. "I know that this lesson was very difficult." which he says unironically, despite the fact that there's sweets everywhere and ridiculously high quality tea. "I think you'll find our next lesson far more pleasant."

"I want to teach you about investing, by first measuring your current investment instincts." He reaches into his blazer, then pulls out a stack of twenty dollar bills. "This is one-thousand dollars. Invest it however you like, and then tell me what you did with it." He holds it up, waiting for her to walk over to him, since the table is rather long. "You may ask me for advice or guidance, or you can do it all on your own."

Sibyl has indulged in the tea, accompanying cream and sugar, but seems not to have much of a taste for sweets — even if Alister is always offering them as a reward for her good behaviour. A half-eaten truffle balances on the rim of her saucer, forgotten for the moment. She watches her self-proclaimed guardian from over the rim of her teacup, which she cradles in both her small hands.

Perhaps to appease him, she made the effort to dress well for their meeting in a plain black cotton frock that Margaux escalated with bangles on one bird-boned wrist and a pair of rhinestone earrings that she’s resisted the urge to pick at for the past few hours.

She thinks about what she could do with a thousand dollars, but Alister’s caveat has her second-guessing herself. Her lips thin out into a frown. “What if I just told you I’m investing in my future?” she asks.

"I would ask what exactly that means. If you need money for your future, that can be arranged. But this money, this is to teach you, think of it as a stepping stone to more money." Alister sits the money down on the table, within grabbing distance of her. Then he raises a tea cup to his lips, taking a slow, careful sip.

He doesn't look at her when he speaks next, he instead continues to watch his tea. "I'm teaching you to be someone who doesn't need to worry about this being the only thousand dollars you'll see any time soon. I want you to use this in the spirit of my lesson."

Then, finally looking up at her, he assures, "If you can do this for me, I'll make sure that we secure whatever future you're concerned with. I simply need you to follow my lessons, and then you won't have to worry."

He gently sits the cup back onto the saucer, and once again doesn't look up when he speaks. "Does that sound like a fair deal?" he asks, everything a lesson.

“Yes,” Sibyl agrees, reaching across the table. She picks up the cash, testing the weight of it in her hand, then sets about counting the bills. Fifty times twenty equals one thousand. “I don’t—” she starts, then pauses, reconsidering her words. There’s a brief silence, which she occupies by double-checking her math.

Flick, flick, flick. Yes, it turns out fifty times twenty still equals one thousand. “The man who used to take care of me let me spend his money on books, and vinyl records, and fresh fruit,” she says, “but the things that make me happiest aren’t things I can buy with this.” She raises her flinty blue eyes back to Alister’s face. “The smell of wet concrete after it rains. Wildflowers in spring. Memories of what came before who I am now.”

The last item on her list is a little more difficult to explain. She tries anyway. “I have these old thoughts and these feelings like being safe, warm, protected. Smells and textures, too, they’re harder to chase but—”

Sibyl places the cash back down on the table’s surface and smooths the bills under her fingers. “I want to feel that way again.” Secure, she means. “I want to buy a gun.”

"There are places in the world, places that aren't Staten, places that seem untouched by the war, where you don't have to fear for your life. Even here, where we are now, is a place like that, a place where you're protected. Why do you think the only way in here is an elevator that requires a key to even get into my penthouse?" he asks, taking the money, counting it, and then he sits five-hundred dollars back down.

"Because I can shut the power off." he answers, reassuringly. "You'll have a gun, and Etienne will teach you to fire it properly. I'll give you the gun at a discount. Etienne will also help you pick one out that's suitable for you. I'm not exactly an expert at these things, I only sell and fire them."

He slips the five-hundred into an inner pocket, and looks down at the remaining cash. "What you want, Sibyl, is security, the ability to relax, to enjoy yourself. This is why people achieve power. A gun will provide you with some security, but what about everything else involved in what you described to me?"

Motioning his arms, indicating the entire space that they occupy. "Why do you think I've carved this out? This is a small piece of what I used to have, a small sense of my old security, the safety, the comfort and warmth. You can carve those things out for yourself as well, they're not outside of your reach, they're not lost to the war or to your environment."

He reaches for that remaining five-hundred, then holds it up to her. "This is a stepping stone to more money, which is a stepping stone to power, and power is a stepping stone to having the life that you've lost."

"You're more than a street girl, more than some wandering waif who can never have her life back again." He finally stands, now, as if to display a physical measure of power in his height over her. "Power is the ability to fix Staten Island's parks, to clean the woodland areas, to create law and order, which in turn creates safety even outside of these walls. These are things that I'm trying to achieve, things that all the other would-be Sibyls out there would appreciate."

"But you, you're in here…" The money is sat down again. "You're in a position to have the power to help me, to help yourself. I'm going to advise you, Sibyl. I'm going to tell you what to do with this money that you have, to give you a sense of life beyond mere survival, to give you a sense of what leadership is beyond the mere burden of responsibility."

"Take Etienne." Then, pushing the money closer to her. "Take this money." And, looking her directly in the eye, he suggests, "Buy seeds, ones that will survive, and some baby plants, I'm sure there's someone who can help with that. Choose one of these shitty parks. If it's irradiated or something inconvenient like that, come to me, I'll try to see if I can find an Evolved solution. But preferably, find one that isn't irradiated yet, plant seeds, hire people to install things like benches, have your team of paid teenagers help you pick up trash."

"Five hundred won't be enough for all of that, but you have a project. You're going to create an oasis for yourself, you're going to experience money and power in a way that is distinctly meaningful to you. I will provide you with any resources you need beyond that five-hundred, but for the time being, do what you can with it, and then come back and show me your results." Sitting back down, his hands are on the tea cup again. "We'll assess how much progress you've made, and if you've earned further investment in your project."

There is another project Sibyl is invested in. It exists as crude maps in the back of a journal she salvaged from an old, sagging, forgotten house on a river elsewhere on the island.

It does not involve seeds, tending to the local flora, or carving out a carefully manicured garden in a similarly forgotten place at Alister’s firm but gentle urging.

It does, however, involve a gun.

It’s this project that Sibyl is thinking about as Alister lays out his reasoning in front of her alongside the cash, and there’s a moment on vulnerability in which her lips fractionally part and she considers asking him for his help in her joint-venture with Aleksandr Kozlow: Rescue John Logan from the Arrowood Brothers and their Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Dogs.

(Title subject to change.)

Maybe it’s something about the tone of his voice, or the way he looms over her, using his height to his advantage when she herself has very little of it — whatever it is, it makes her hesitate and she says instead, “Okay.”

She folds the remainder of the cash in half and fastens it with a bobby pin produced from behind her left ear, then tucks it away inside her dress. “Thank you, Mr. Black.” She rises from her seat at the table and turns her eyes on the window, watching spring storm clouds forming on the distant shores of the Safe Zone. Even inside, she can smell the promise of rain growing denser in the air. “I’ll ask Etienne to take me across to the market,” she says, “and pick up some books about gardening. Some potted strawberries, maybe.”

"It's important to remember my ultimate lesson to you. And that lesson is to teach you the meaning of money and power, why you should want it, and how you can acquire it. You say that it isn't for you, and I respect that what you perceive it to be is not for you." Alister explains, clearly wanting to make his intent a little bit gentler than it perhaps seems.

"I want to show you that money and power doesn't have to be the same for you as it is for me, or anyone else. It can be unique to you, it can give you these things that you don't believe money can buy." There's a sip of tea, and he finishes his speech with, "You simply need to be taught, and given opportunity, and that is what I'm providing for you. You are my favorite investment."

Sibyl weaves her way around the table to Alister, her bare feet making no noise on replacement Persian carpet situated beneath them, soft as owl’s wings. She thinks about the other protectors she’s had during her life: Avi Epstein and his overpowering whiskey breath, John Logan’s aloof affection, the nuns at Saint Margaret’s School for Girls, and other names and faces she possesses only a vague, hazy recollection of.

Alister might not be at the top of the list, but he isn’t at the bottom either, and if he’s taught her anything thus far it’s that she has a part to play. In this moment, it’s that of a dutiful, would-be adopted daughter. So she comes up behind him and loops her arms around his neck, a kiss pressed to his closest cheek.

“I’ll be back before it gets too dark,” she promises.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License