Odd Compassion


lydia_icon.gif smedley_icon.gif

Scene Title Odd Compassion
Synopsis On Edgar's urging, Smedley visits Lydia to figure out what he actually feels.
Date September 25, 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".

Wes Smedley wasted no time in getting onto Roosevelt Island today. Unlike his previous visits, done covertly to test the island's security and it's resident's needs for various 'supplies' and 'sundries,' Smedley crossed the bridge like any average joe, flashing his ID card proclaiming him to be Todd Grahame. His business?

Why, he needed to deliver this here bouquet of flowers.

The truck that coughs and wheezes its way to Ichihara Bookstore is an old, beast of a Chevy. It's likely the thing doesn't have seatbelts, and that it only just barely passes emission standards. The man who steps out of it is wearing a dark green t-shirt and brown work pants, and he does, in fact, carry a bouquet of flowers in a box. The ball cap that rests snugly on his head proclaims him to be an agent of Dreamy Arrangements.

The bell on the door announces his arrival, but Smedley, taking a quick look around the shop to make sure it isn't too crowded, isn't shy about his entrance. "Delivery for Lydia?" he calls out. His voice is far from booming, but he does his best to make sure it carries in case the woman he came here to see is tucked away in some corner or another.

Gabriel perks at the entrance of a stranger into his space. The white cat, however, is feeling particularly docile today choosing only to perk and turn over on his side. He meows lazily before shutting his eyes again. But the words attract the attention of someone else. Tucked behind one of the back shelves of the store, Lydia stirs. Her white dress, halter dress, layered in ruffles falls mid-calf and exposes some of the ink along her copper skinned shoulder.

Near silent, even steps bring her to the front of the store, her head tilting curiously at the figure bringing her flowers. Her eyes narrow somewhat skeptically, not in distrust, but in an almost unsure way. She approaches the counter almost gliding along the floor as her sandy-coloured locks sway lightly with each step.

She steps behind the counter, her dark eyes inspecting him carefully before finally answering, “I am Lydia.” Her lips tighten into a stiff smile, strained from its inception, but not quite forced as she sets her palms on the counter. A curious eyebrow quirks upwards as she watches him, “You have a delivery?”

"Yes mam'm, I do," and that western drawl in Smedley's voice has the opportunity to show itself in full force. He walks toward the counter with a smile hitched in one corner of his mouth. His eyes don't focus on Lydia's face, but that's hardly her fault. He looks at enough of her to get an appreciation for another man's affections, however, before he settles his eyes on her left eyebrow. "From one Edgar Smythe, who I am damn proud to call a friend and associate."

He sets the box on the table and opens it with a deft flick of his fingers. There's a window in it, sure, but it doesn't do justice to the asters, blazing stars, baby's breath, and chrysanthemum's inside. Leaning forward, he shifts his eyes to Lydia's sign. "Lead me to believe you'd be able to do me a favor. That so, Miz Lydia?"

Where the smile had some semblance of strain, all of the painted lady’s features ease into something far softer. Her cheeks flush a pale pink. Surprise is nearly foreign in nature, but her eyes alight at the mere mention of Edgar’s name. Lydia’s shoulders tense slightly as fingers press over her mouth to conceal the smile like some secret meant to be hidden. Her cheeks flush even brighter at her own reaction. Lowering her fingers to her side, she issues him a soft smile accented by the gentle curl of her lips, “They’re lovely.” There’s a pause as her eyebrows furrow, “You’ll tell him?” Although she can place a call; she will place a call.

There’s a curious tilt of her head at the notion of a favour. “Is there something I can help you with in particular, Mister …?” her eyes narrow expectantly although following which there’s a very small shake of her head, finding herself in some quiet place. After a moment’s silence she reiterates, “It would be my pleasure to help you.” Regardless of the request. Any friend of Edgar’s will be regarded as nothing less than family in this space.

Smedley nods with a smile, then reaches up to touch the brim of his hat. Of course, Edgar wasn't the one behind the flowers. The flowers were a ruse for the bridge patrol, and just so happen to make the lady happy. Both of these things serve to make Smedley's trip to this particular island go smoothly, and so he won't sully them with the truth.

"I'm…" and his eyes wander, and he straightens up out of awkwardness as his jaw tightens. As clean-cut as he's tried to make himself appear, there's still quite a bit of stubble on his jaw, and there's nothing to be done to hide the bags under his eyes. Still - at least his eyes aren't bloodshot, and he doesn't smell as bad as he has earlier in the past week. That's an improvement. "I'm supposed to ask for a palm readin', and…t'know my deepest desires." Even with the successful recall of what Edgar told him to say, Smedley isn't at all confident in the request.

"You got an office? Or like, a back room? Don't wan'tuh pull'yuh from yer work, but…ain't the sort'uh thing I think should be discussed out in the open-like."

There’s a curious pull to her eyebrows as she watches him in what she regards as easy silence. A little too easy in a lot of ways. A single finger taps her chin as she contemplates the situation. In general, Lydia’s distrust wins. But here everything seems on the up and up. There’s an indistinct pull at her lips, the smallest twitch unreadable on her features.

After a moment’s pause, she cranes her neck to peer between the shelves. No customers. Such has been the rule of the day. She turns her head to stare at Gabriel, the only witness that she has a visitor at all. With a bemused smirk, she decides the cat is more likely to slice into her brain at this point.

Dark umber eyes twitch back to Smedley before Lydia shoots him a more reserved smile. She rounds the counter with slow, even paced steps, almost like she’s floating. When she reaches the front door, she turns the sign and bolts the lock before stepping back towards the back room that leads to the alley — an alley the last proprietress was murdered in, almost fitting considering the risk involved. Not that they’ll stay in the alley, the back room will suffice.

What follows is nothing more than a litter of kittens now ready to be taken off into homes of various sorts. “You’ll have to forgive my companions. An employee had a soft spot for them, and I…” her eyes blink behind a veil of dark lashes, “I have an odd compassion for creatures with little family. And no where to go. Call it a weakness.” Her voice is smooth, rich, and even toned.

Smedley swallows when Lydia walks across the shop to the front door. Edgar wasn't kidding. She is graceful. Remembering himself and his manners, he reaches to snatch the cap from his head, curling the brim so that he can stuff it into one of his pockets. He follows Lydia into the back room, looking down at the torrent of cats. "S'mighty sweet'uh yuh," he murmurs with another nod and swallow. It's no wonder Edgar fell for such charm.

He doesn't sit until Lydia does, but it's unlikely he knows much at all about that sort of etiquette, at least in a formal sense. But when he does sit, he keeps his shoulders hunched, his gray-blue eyes darting about with apprehension. "I ain't never done this before," he says in a more gravely voice, reminding himself over and over again that Lydia will be able to help so that he can get over the stereotypical stoicism he retains as part of his upbringing.

When she finally sits, her hands smooth the skirt of her dress, that same evenness to each of the motions. There’s a flicker of a smile followed by one with more permanence as she studies him. “You can relax,” the smoothness in her voice turns to an easier reassurance. “I don’t know what Edgar told you about me, but I’m not… There’s no magic in this. While with others palmistry can be a bit of a guessing game, I’m not your average fortune teller.” It’s not really prideful, but it’s certainly honest. “And it’s certainly not painful. I just… I understand people when I touch them. That’s the short of it. Desires. Fears. Feelings. The longer,” and more intimate, “the touch, the more I can press and dig for those things more secret.” There’s more to her ability than that, but it always requires that touch to work.

Her eyes flit downward a moment, “A simple touch only yields surface feelings. Nothing terribly secretive although perhaps not always the most accurate either.” There’s a distinct pause as she watches him again, “I’m sorry. I don’t know your name…”

Smedley clears his throat into the wrist of a quickly lifted arm before he extends his hand to Lydia in greeting. "Sorry, ma'am. Names Wes." He doesn't give her his surname. She may be Edgar's gal, but she's still a relative unknown to him. And the idea that she can dig up his carefully buried and thankfully dusty secrets isn't very comforting. "And he said s'much as that. Only…well, not all'uh it. The jist, though, Ed covered." He clears his throat again and takes a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself.

"I figure doin' what'cha do, whether people know what it is'r not, you hear a lot'uh the same stuff. But…well, I'm not the type to go runnin' my mouth about…feelin's 'n the like. And Ed said you could help sort that out. Make sure I know how deep the water is 'fore I jump in."

”Wes,” she repeats with a small nod of her head as she accepts the hand to squeeze rather than shake, it seems Lydia hasn’t much of a mind for business — no firm handshake here. At the contact, she eases further, evidently little worry remains, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

There’s several moments of silence at the last bit, however, before Lydia shakes her head. “Not really. But that would probably be because very few people know what I can do.” She offers him a small shrug. “I don’t broadcast my ability, even after registration; I’d rather people just think me highly intuitive where possible. Or painfully accurate at my tarot and palm readings.”

Smedley's hand is never released. Instead, Lydia turns it over in her own hands, her dark eyes studying the lines of the palm in an all-too-familiar routine. Her fingertips graze along the first line, eyebrows furrowing. "This one is your heart line. And right there it's broken. Which tells me you've had some level of emotional trauma." Her eyes flit upwards to meet his gaze, away from the hand itself for a moment, "You don't trust yourself and are wholly unsure after it." Her eyes blink in quiet consideration, "The past doesn't dictate the future. I've said this to others rather recently, but the future isn't written yet. You can decide what goes there."

"So you ain't registered then," Smedley says with a nod, looking from Lydia's shoulder to her nose. He swallows before he looks to their hands, unsure of just what she is able to discover with a touch that simple. But he's quiet, not wanting to distract her from whatever concentration she may need to maintain. His jaw tenses at the first bit of insight, and he dips his chin a little in embarrassment. His cheeks even pinken, though the blush is obscured slightly by the scruff. "Ain't nothin' wrong with bein' cautious," he mutters defensively.

"I am… unfortunately registered. I made a promise when I got this shop that I would do everything I could to keep it open. And I am a woman of my word." Good, bad, or ugly, she tries to follow her promises. "In the end this included registration. I still don't need the world knowing what I can do. It's just simpler that way."

If the defensiveness is noticed, it's not entirely regarded, merely countered non-judgmentally, "Life is full of risk. Distrusting yourself will only hinder you in the long run." It's a quiet statement, and is only left there to linger as her fingers run along the next line in his hand.

"This is your head line. It indicates how you learn and think. Overall it's quite straight, a testament to your realistic ideas and notions, but I sense turmoil." Her lips are pressed together again as she shakes her head slightly, choosing to move on to another before interjecting her own thoughts — she can pontificate at the end, "This one is your life line. You have multiple — " this draws a small smile, "Extra vitality."

"Whoa, there," Smedley says, bringing his eyes from his hand to the bridge of Lydia's nose. "Turmoil? In how I think?" Let's back this up. "I know I've dodged more'n my fair share'uh ammunition, so we can back up to the part where you sense turmoil." He narrows his eyes as he studies her - the set of her lips and jaw, even the lay of her browline. "Fess up, Miz Lydia."

"Not in how you think. Your thoughts are very realistic and practical," Lydia answers quietly. "More in your emotions. While I'm reading the lines, I'm afraid I'm also reading you. It's clear how you feel but the distrust almost suppresses it like an odd protection from yourself." She pauses while clearing her throat, "I don't exactly know why you're so torn, but…" her lips press together again, before quirking up into a small smile. She clears her throat, "Who is she?"

Smedley sighs, the breath escaping from his nose as he holds his lips tightly together. "A whole pack'uh trouble with big brown eyes," he murmurs, looking down at his feet. "She's a fine gal, too fine t'end up with a man like me, but…" If whatever path time was set on that lead her toward the vision she had of November 8th wasn't the one they're all walking - if they're even still walking it - would Wes still feel the way he does? If she had never shared that vision, would he have ever spent the time to get to know her in the first place?

"I know why you're seein' what you're seeing, Miz Lydia," he says after a moment, the words choked out. He coughs, lifting his free hand to guard his mouth. "It's like you said, with th'kittens. Only…well, I ain't a kitten. But I've done my round'uh driftin', and…well." Wes swallows again, shaking his head as he eyes Lydia's left arm, unable to find the right words.

There's another tilt of her head, a small nuance, silent, yet weighty. Lydia isn't one for words when a simple action explains herself just as clearly. But there's something unusual tugging on her, that compassion for creatures far from home with little to recommend them too close to her own heart. "Everyone has a past." It's a simple enough statement. Her lips press together, in careful consideration, wholly unsure of what to say or how to say it, her own past too clear in her own mind. "And everyone has secrets." There's a quiet inhale of breath as she considers, "And I think the past can restrict anyone if they let it."

Lydia regards him in silence a moment longer. "I don't know you, and I don't know what happened to cause this distrust in yourself. But I do know you care about this woman very much." She bites her bottom lip in quiet contemplation as her gaze turns downward. "Your feelings aren't a mystery in this regard. Beyond that…" she frowns, giving advice to strangers isn't in her general modus operandi, particularly so directly, so instead she forces a strained smile.

"Ain't about letting it, mam'm," Smedley says with a shake of his head. "Past'll be there no matter how far away from it you try t'get. Like a big ugly wart. Thing just serves t'ugly you up, and the only thing you can do is hide it. Cause as soon as other see the thing, they're either gunna run screamin', or every time they lookit'cha, they're gonna see it. Not you.

"Now you're damn right I care about this gal." What Lydia doesn't know is that that simple act is what makes Peyton different from all the other women of the last fifteen years. "I care enough t'not want t'hurt her. And if go runnin' my mouth and tellin' her things…I ain't sure that ain't gonna happen." He sniffs then, and swallows, banishing more blatant displays of emotion with a nod of his head toward his hand.

"It say anythin' else?"

"You'd be surprised how the past can bring two people closer when it's finally laid on the table." Fifteen years later. Lydia swallows hard and quite audibly as her eyebrows knit together. When she speaks again, her voice is almost disconnected, still smooth, but somewhere distant and not quite here, especially as her gaze turns towards the wall rather than her visitor, "There comes a point when all a heart desires is to be fully honest with the person it longs for… when more than anything it wants to lay everything bare, risking it all simply because the other person deserves to know."

Finally, Lydia's gaze returns to Smedley, "If she cares about you. If she knows who you are rather than what you've done, eventually none of it will matter. And sometimes it's better not build the future on a lie."

"I could go on with the reading if you want, but I suspect you have what you were looking for." And then with another flicker of a smile she tacks on, "I can tell you're not malicious if that's any consolation."

Malice isn't practical. Malice just causes messes. Wes knows he isn't malicious, but it's still nice to hear. He turns his hand in Lydia's in order to give it a squeeze as he swallows, forcing himself to look at her eyes for the briefest of moments. "Thank you, Miz Lydia," he says sincerely. He stands and replaces the cap on his head with a nod. "I'll just see myself out. Enjoy the flowers." And without another word, he turns to go back the way he came. He still has a lot to mull over and think about, to be sure. But at least now he knows that he isn't crazy.

Or maybe he is.

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