No Fosters, Please


jaiden_icon.gif maddie_icon.gif

Scene Title No Fosters, Please
Synopsis Coincidence on coincidence occurs when Maddie and Jaiden meet, in one another, fellow Australians and fellow journalists in a Starbucks.
Date July 30, 2010

A Starbucks

Mid-afternoon Thursday may not be the busiest time for Starbucks — in fact, it's usually their slowest. There's a morning rush and a lunch rush and an after-dinner crowd, but the afternoon is slow, with most seats being taken by students who buy one drink and sit for hours to use the free internet. For a reporter, however, a mid-afternoon coffee break is almost required, as any daily stories are about to be pounded out and put in the queue for editing. For Maddie Hart, the Starbucks near her office know to expect the petite Aussie around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, as she either leaves the office for a brisk walk to clear her brain and get the caffeine, or stops there on her way back to the office to pick up the joe.

Today is a normal day for the journalist, and she comes bustling through the door, dressed for the heat in a green sheath dress and bronze sandals, curly hair up in a loose roll. "Oy, Byron, make it a venti skinny cinnamon dolce today," she says with a grin for the barista, a skinny college student behind the counter.

One of the tables near the front, facing the window, has, what appears at first to be an average Starbucks client. A battered backpack, festooned with patches declaring his varied travels along with a patch of the Australian flag rests near his right boot, a newer-model laptop open on the table before him, a half-finished cup of coffee near his right hand. The soft murmur of the crowd is relaxing - almost hypnotic, really, allowing him to work and sip and work again without getting too terribly far out of the zone. And when he gets bored or needs a rest? The coffee is right there, within easy reach and there's plenty of scenery to jog the memory and rest the eyes.

The opening and closing of the door has faded into the background along with the hiss of the cappuccino machine, but he does glance up at the sound of an order being barked - friendly like - to the barista behind the bar. He straightens at the sight of the woman at the counter, leaning back in his chair rakishly, his own grin appearing for just a moment. "Oy there, miss? I haven't heard an accent like that since I called home to me mate in Sydney." He's not flirting, really. Just being friendly.

Maddie, now standing by the pickup section of the counter to await her coffee, glances back at the dulcet tones of a fellow countryman. "Aha, a fellow Aussie, huh?" she says with a wide grin, taking the coffee as it's handed to her, making sure to add one of the little sleeves before moving toward Jaiden. "I haven't been back for a while now, myself, but I can call my mum and at least hear her when I get a bit lonesome for home." She nods to his backpack, noting the various patches. "You been in the States long? I left Melbourne 11 years ago. Shite, I didn't realize it'd been that long, but it'll be about that in a month or two."

"You know Australians." Jaiden gestures to the seat opposite, closing the laptop and sliding it aside to make room for her and her coffee, an invitation to take a seat and talk for a moment. "No lettin' grass grow under our feet. I've been traveling the world since a little past twenty. Came here just a bit after the troubles here in New York to take a few pictures, tell the stories to the papers back home. So only a few years now." He gives a one-shouldered shrug, lifting his cup and taking a slow sip. "Me mate'll send me a few tidbits from home if I ask him nicely, but the VAT and shipping is starting to wear thin."

"There's a couple Brit stores here and there, but it's more Brit stuff than Aussie, yeah," Maddie says with a chuckle. "But what, you sold stories, took photos? Are you a reporter?" Her pale aqua eyes widen with the unlikelihood of finding a fellow Aussie and a fellow journalism in the same afternoon, let alone in the same body. "I work at the Times," she says, holding her hand out to him for a shake. "Madeleine Hart. Or, you know, Maddie." If he reads the Times, as a fellow journalist, he'd likely recognize her name, the byline on many articles regarding the Evolved, and especially on the news about the new change in registration law.

That brilliant smile of his appears for a moment or two, the guy nodding. "Aye, sold stories, photos, and the like. Went to every dust up and hole in the wall looking for a story — found a few, too, — before the bomb went off and came here when it did, because that was the biggest story of 'em all at the time." His olive eyes brighten a little as she offers her hand, taking it in a firm, but not too heavy, handshake. "Jaiden Mortlock at your service, Maddie. I do take the paper now and again, and I've read your articles. Keeps me informed about things I need to know about." He shakes his head, leaving something unsaid. If Maddie had any ties back home, she may have heard of his photos gracing the front page of a few Australian newspapers, showing scenes of the explosion, and the stories sent back of life on the ground.

She lifts her brow at the name and lifts her coffee for a sip as she nods. "I recognize the name. A respected journalist and photo journalist of your own right," she says, a smile of recognition and acknowledgement. "So New York's an expensive city — do you freelance on the side for just some extra moonlighting, or do you do something else to help pay the bills? Just curious, you know, in case I'm ever thinking of going off the whole daily grind thing. I don't think I have the discipline to get myself up in the morning if I didn't have a boss breathing down my neck."

"You're the first, then, to recognize me from back home. Australians are few and far between up here. Just the occasional tourist that I've caught a glimpse of or heard a few strains of the accent over the din at one of the subway stations. And thank you kindly, Maddie." Jaiden lifts his cup as well in a quick salute. "I actually live mainly on my pension. Retired military and photojournalist paid pretty well as far as things go, but to keep myself sharp I do write now and again and send a few snaps here and there. And work on cars when the stories don't sell quick enough." He chuckles quietly. "I had a drill sergeant that taught me with the point of his boot to get up at 5:30am sharp, and it's something I've never lost the ability to do. Coffee helps, though. Without it, I'd be right chuffed"

"Yeah, I need the caffeine to wake up, and right about now to keep me going for me deadline," Maddie says with a grin, glancing at her watch to check the time. "'s possible that there might be a need for some freelancing photogs — more likely photogs than the writers, and the photog pay is always better, freelance writers get shite, like $50 for a story that took 'em two days to write, versus maybe the same for a shot that took 2 seconds, yeah? Anyway, if I hear of anything, if the Times needs any extra hands on deck so to speak, I can give 'em your info as a favor if you like?" Maddie offers, pulling out two business cards and a pen. "Here's me, and if you write your contact information down, I can toss it to the tosser who runs the photo desk."

"It's what keeps my joints lubricated, my mind sharp, and my fingers nimble. Coffee is truly a gift from god." Jaiden's brows arch slightly as she fishes for a pair of cards, taking the pen and filling out his contact information; e-mail, cell phone and mailing address written in neat block print - easily read and remembered. The card is slid across the table, the woman given a smile. "I'd like that, Maddie. I didn't really go to the Times because I was worriyin' that they would see my portfolio and think that having another international bloke would be a waste of a spot."

Maddie flashes a grin. "It's a hard gig to get, and I don't know that I can get you anything full-time. The photo ed is a wanker, like I said, but still, knowing someone can maybe get you a few freelance gigs. They pretty much ignore any resumes they get and it's all word of mouth for that sort of thing, so me saying you're a good guy will do more then sending in a cover letter, I'm afraid. Sucks, but that's the way the biz works, right? I moved from the Denver Post over here just because the city editor happens to be the Post editor's old college buddy, so I got the interview, you know?" she says cheerfully, taking the card and slipping it and the pen back into her purse.

Another glance at her watch and she wrinkles her nose. "Unfortunately, the city editor is going to be calling me in about five minutes if I don't get my arse back to the office," she nods across the street to the Times building, "so I better get moving. It was nice to meet you, Jaiden."

"Oh, I know, I know. Newspapermen are as thick as thieves, they are." Jaiden holds up the card slid across the table, tucking it into his backpack. "It was lovely to meet you as well, Maddie. Give him a right proper wallop if he looks at you cross-eyed, and don't be a stranger. I've been aching to find someone to watch some Footie with and who enjoys marmite…or at least has heard of the blasted stuff." He chuckles and re-opens his laptop, tapping a few keys with his right hand. "Wake up, you blasted thing…" The computer chimes obediently a moment later. "And if you do come visit, please….no fosters, and no Outback steakhouse. Everyone thinks that's australian…" He shakes his head and waves before looking back to his paper.

"I don't eat it much, but there is some Vegemite the fridge," Maddie says with a grin as she heads for the exit. "Have a g'day, mate," she adds, with a wink to accompany the overused, cliche but quintessential Aussie phrase as she disappears out the door.

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