Raven and Nightingale


odessa4_icon.gif sable_icon.gif

Scene Title Raven and Nightingale
Synopsis Taking a break from the stressful move/eviction from the Octagon, Sable finds something interesting behind an open door while Odessa's snuck out for a smoke.
Date March 28, 2011

The Octagon: #108

The apartments of the Octagon are among some of the most prime pieces of rental real-estate in New York City. Bright, open, and clean, these apartments are all painted an eggshell white and feature floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a sweeping, unobstructed view of the East River and Manhattan skyline. The view isn't as impressive from the first floor, but it doesn't give someone with a fear of heights a sense of vertigo as it would on the upper levels. Hardwood floors spread from wall to wall and through the spacious bedrooms and private laundry rooms complete with washer/dryer utilities.

The small entry way leads into the bare open-concept kitchen with its stainless steel appliances, polished granite counter tops, cherry finished cabinets and ceramic floor tile with all the convenience of a modern kitchen. Around the corner of that tiny hallway for stowing shoes, and the recessed coat closet, there's the living room. The furniture is gone now, but the black shag carpet creating a dark pool in the centre of the room remains.

The small harpsichord yet sits in front of the windows. It's more than second-hand, elaborately painted with a rich, but fading landscape across the inside of the lid. Lush trees with leaves turning their colours in autumn. It's been well-played, but also cared for.

The bathroom is still home to necessary toiletries on the counter tops and porcelain pedestal sink, with a single towel striped in shades of yellow from pale to sunny. The room is finished with classic subway wall tile and porcelain floor tiling. An elegantly designed, corner-set curved shower provides a more spacious shower area.

The Octagon has been swarming since the notice of relocation, a stirred up hive of stress and dangerous genetics; it's a wonder there haven't been more accidents.  It's true that the shattered remains of at least one big old CRT television still mark the spot where the flier - overconfident in her ability to retain altitude while trying to transport the out of date TV out of her third story window - would have flattened the elderly postcognitive had it not been for the timely intervention of a tier-1 telekenetic.  But no harm to foul, and there have been no other such close calls all throughout the hectic day.

When curfew hurls its net over the city, there is a strange stillness, a bizarre sense of timeless limbo in the apartment complex.  Households spill their guts out, surreal, into the hallways as furniture is readied for transportation, either for storage or to new addresses.  It is a scene of great upset, upheaval, exception - yet all activity has ceased, especially once the night deepens.  A muffled quiet reigns, as families lie on living rooms floors in sleeping bag cocoons, and roommates avoid spooning by sleeping head to foot, sardine style, on the futon they've been saving to move out last.  This is the strange between-space of transplantation, a thing sliced surgically out of time.

As if to complete the eerily frozen scene, there comes an insistent refrain of melody.  Light, twirling, and probably lovely - or it would be if it didn't always, at some point, strike the wrong note, or fumble a particularly baroque trill.  And each time it falters, it starts again from the beginning like a scratched record.

Only it's getting better all the time, making it just a little further, taking to this or that gilded measure with a little more ease.  If we follow the curious sound - its tenor and aural texture uncommon and somehow archaic - we find ourselves nearing the apartment of one Dr. Odessa Price.

Odessa recognises the notes of the piece, but moreover, she recognises the voice of her chosen instrument. Her beloved harpsichord is singing, without her working her own magic. The stub of her herbal cigarette (Thanks, Bella!) is dropped and crushed outside the front door left propped open by a broken chunk of concrete. The advantages to living on the first floor is that it's easy enough to monitor the goings on of it from the entrance.

The soles of green hightops clap on the hall floor as Odessa races down to the open door of #108.

There is a diminutive pixie seated at her precious, precious harpsichord. The apartment may be gutted of everything else, and Odessa will be sleeping on black shag pile that once served as an accent beneath a coffee table and a sofa, rather than a futon or mattress like most of neighbours. The harpsichord goes last. That, and the vodka. Because both those things do wonders to occupy the mind of the woeful woman.

"Can I help you?" Odessa asks, leaning in the frame of her doorway with her arms crossed over her chest.

Caught!  The young ruffian manhandling her harpsichord lifts her hands into the air as if the ivory were suddenly white hot, fingertips stinging.  Her heads swivels towards Odessa, a weird pair of yellow eyes perched above a red-handed grimace.

"She came ont' me, I swear!" are the first words Sable speaks to Odessa, quickly followed by, "didn't mean t' poach, honest, but I saw this gal here, keys gleaming all coquettish?  Couldn't help m'self." She slides her hand down the cascade of keys, down to the highest range, and begins to play a frantic little trill of two notes, played by two fingers - "Y'all see how she gets." Her fingers lifts from the keys.

There's a faint smirk from scarred lips as Odessa concedes. "She does kind of have a siren's lure." Some of her fear and ire has started to ebb when she realises that her beloved, painted darling is in the hands of someone who appreciates her.

"I'm 'Dessy," she introduces, offering her hand and then tipping her head to one side to indicate that she'd like to have a seat on the bench next to her intruder. "Not many people know what to even make of her. It's… actually kind of refreshing to have someone not ask me what's up with my weird piano thing."

An appreciator, yes, and her motions, her form, suggest some classical training.  Still - a trained ear can tell - she makes mistakes she shouldn't, she has some peculiar habits and odd gaps in her capacity.  She attempts the refrain again, then pulls her fingers back into her fists, biting her lip.

"Wish I'd'a known this w's 'round," is addressed to the instrument, the air, and Odessa, all - yellow eyes cut over to the harpsichord's owner, followed shortly by a hand, returning the shake, "you 'n' me'd be friends." Sable scoots over to make room, and flashes Odessa a wide grin, toothy in the way only the sharp-canined can be, as she sits down, "yer loss, doll."

Sable's pale little nose twitches at the air.  She can't just have noticed the acrid odor - this is pure theater. "That yer last, hon?" she inquires, as if just for information, offhandedly, chin jutting out towards the hand that held the joint.

Odessa glances back over her shoulder to her closed door then shrugs her shoulders. Then, she fishes into the pocket of her jeans for a cigarette case, which she opens up and offers over to Sable. "I trust you not to ash on her."

When Sable occupies herself with procuring and lighting a joint, Odessa's fingers take to the keys, plunking out the melody the darker girl had been attempting without hesitation. She doesn't attempt to sing, however. Musical interlude lacking words, aside. "You're a musician, then. I'm not very… I'm not used to playing with others." That admission works on so many levels in her case. "I wish I knew more people with an appreciation."

"I play music, doll-" Sable says, slipping the joint into the corner of her mouth where it dangles insolently before she sparks up and takes a long, slow draw.  Exhale; dragon's breath. "-if that counts, then sure, call me a musician."

She peers down at Odessa's handling of the keys as she plays, her own fingers flexing a bit over her range of the keyboard in sympathy.  She lifts her hand to pluck the jay from her mouth so she can ash it on the floor behind them, though, showing respect, before she deposits the joint in the Bogie Position once more.  Her words are not noticeably less intelligible for the cigarette in her mouth.

"You got somethin' goin' on there," Sable says, flashing Odessa a lopsided grin, "gotta be talent and trainin'.  Me," she cricks her neck, "I try 'n' get away with jus' what comes natural.  Most times, 't least.

"'Course, this," she tilts her head back towards the wall behind them - it's only the accompanying swivel of her head that makes it clear she means 'all this', the apartment, the relocation, and thus the harpsichord, "ain't natural in th' least, not in my 'xperience, 't least.  But I'm givin' it m' damnedest," she squints over at Odessa, her next question pointed, not rhetorical at all, "Figure someone c'n change, eh?  If they wanted it bad 'nough?"

The music hits a sour note and Odessa looks up with a wide-eyed gaze. "Yeah. Definitely." Someone can change, like she's tried to change. Like she hopes she's changed. "What… do you make of all of this? The move, I mean? I've never lived in one place for very long, and… this place was just starting to feel like home again."

Fingers start to move again, this melody one slower and decidedly more classical. Something even infinitely more familiar. "Have you seen it yet? Eltingville?" Odessa doesn't lift her gaze from the harpsichord as she converses now. "I haven't. I'm… not sure I want to go there. I mean, for starters, my commute is gonna be hell…"

"Only been here past couple months," Sable admits, eyes cutting over to the hand that makes the tonal slip - the sound like a paper cut, sharp and attention-getting - before they lift back to Odessa's face, "but I figure I know what y' mean.  There's feelin' outta place," three fingers coax a devil's interval from the keyboard, "'n' there's feelin' right at home like y' don't even notice it no more," a simple progression of three notes, blandly melodic, "'n' then there's th' time b'tween," she flutters two keys, "where you still wake up," her other hand quivers out complimentary tones, "and think - God, but ain't it good t' be home?

"We're jus' gettin' short-sheeted on our honeymoon," Sable confides, hands coming to rest in her lap, a slight slouch curving her shoulders - bad posture, "but I figure some others, happy t' show th' place their backs, all th' shit that's gone down here," a shrug, "new place seems nice 'nough, though 'course they'd make it pretty in th' brochures.  Still-" she cricks her neck, sidelong look almost conspiratorial, "they got little houses there.  Stoop 'n' everythin'.  I could be a real city homesteader, sittin' on the front with m' beer held like a- whassit called?" she brandishes an invisible cudgel of some kind, "scepter," she grins, pleased, "'n' jus'… look out over our little patch 'f lawn like a king over 'is realm."

Her sweeping arm motion indicates only the harpsichord before them, but her words suggest that she at least is vividly imagining.  When Sable's hand comes to rest, it's to hook under the edge of the bench, taking grip so her legs can swing, scissoring, beneath her. "Figure I could get int' that."

Only what did Odessa say to her? "'Commute'?  Shiiit, don't use no talk like that 'round me.  Squaretalk's like oaths t' my ears," Sable claps her hands to her head, a monkey hearing no evil; in a moment, though, she eases her Odessa-side hand open like a screen window drawn by a ghostly draught.

"Y' know… y'all jus' wanna do th' one hand f'r that little bit I was fuckin' up?" is asked almost tentatively, head inclining minutely towards the keyboard, "that's th' hand I got trouble with, y' see, so's I could take care 'f th' other," she plucks the smouldering joint to ash it behind her again, grey dust all but disappearing before it reaches the floor, "make th' solo a duet, eh?"

"Houses? Really?" Odessa hasn't really done much research into the place she's meant to be moving to, honestly. Because she figures if she wishes hard enough, it just won't have to happen. She likes her home at the Octagon, for all its flaws. But a house… "Are there picket fences, too?"

That bit is at least a touch dubious. "A house sounds like an upgrade. What are they planning? To sardine a bunch of us into one tiny living space?" Odessa Price? Distrusting the government? Unheard of! "This just… seems a bit too much like it's a good thing. I don't know about how your luck generally tends to go, but mine… The universe doesn't grant me nice things. The only good things are the ones I've reached out and taken."

Odessa's fingers play a second devil's interval, one that she lets hang rather than resolve as she says, "Except this. I paid for this." Meaning the harpsichord. And implying she may be in possession of stolen goods. Maybe. Just kidding?

Rather than verbally agree to Sable's proposed duet, Odessa simply shifts one hand to her lap, poising her opposite hand on the right keys and bobbing her head slowly in time with the passage they're about to play.

Hey, stolen goods are a-okay with Sable, who is presently taking another long inhale of illegal hallucinogen.  She wets her fingertips and snuffs the coal out between calloused thumb and forenail, before tucking the remainder of the roach into one of her many trouser pockets.

"Picket fences?  Mebbe.  Guess we'll be findin' out, eh?" Sable says, laughing out pale clouds of breath, "not hardly where I saw m'self, but hey - no where you c'n be," this last delivered proverbially. "Know whatcha mean, though.  Damn, but what sorta life are we leadin', both comin' up with such a ravenin' sense?  Take take take.  I, me, mine.  But hon, honest," the younger of the two woman turns a serious look upon Odessa, "takin' gets y' only so far.  Some things- they gotta come t' you. You gotta be still."

Hands move to the keys, about to begin playing, then pause - fingers just a mouse whisker's breadth from the ivory - as something occurs to her. "Oh- hold on now-" Sable says, reaching into a different pocket and plucking out a cellphone, which she flips open, her now resin and soot stained thumb poised over the number pad, "y'all mind we make this here an improvised-type recordin' session?"

Odessa is surprised again by Sable. Not just by her unconventional brand of wisdom, but by the fact that she wants to record the two of them playing. "Ahm… No, I don't mind. That'd be just fine." Her lips curve into a hesitant smile as she lifts her fingers from the keys again so she doesn't play a note out of turn before the recording can begin.

"Taking shows initiative," the older of the two insists. "To get anything good in life, you have to show that you're willing to take it. Because if you wait for it to come to you? Someone else will snatch it up before it reaches your waiting grasp." Odessa slants a glance over to Sable, briefly meeting her eyes before she looks back down at the keys. "In My Life, then?"

"Reach too soon, though," the impudent young woman counters, "'n' y' risk scarin' it off.  I ain't sayin' don't charge after what y'all want.  I'm sayin' sometime y' gotta learn t' jus' be still, until y' really know," a flash of lupine teeth, "'t least half 'f life is timin', eh?"

Timing, which Sable begins to tap her foot to, resuming the beat Odessa had struck up before, before Sable suddenly decided to make this a production. "Yeah, yeah," she says, a certain excitement evident in her voice and features as she presses a few buttons on her phone, and then 'send'.  As the phone begins to ring, the sound a tinny whirr from any real distance, Sable sets it on the bench between them.

Her next words come with a precision and exactitude that may seem uncharacteristic even so early in an acquaintance. "Gonna adapt this.  I'm gonna play th' base line over here in th' mud," she taps the keys in question, far down in the basso of the harpsichord's voice, "you do th' guitar bits over on yer ladylike side," she runs her fingers along the alto range, "I'm gonna sing melody."

Sable's seriousness disappears as she cracks a grin.  The phone murmurs something - a voice mail message? - but the yellow eyed woman's voice overlaps, rendering it unintelligible. "Y'all c'n sing harmony, spirit takes y'."

The phone give the triangle ting of a voice mail beep.  Showtime.

Odessa takes a breath with the intent of saying something, but then the recording (well, voicemail) begins and so she puts her fingers back to the keys and starts plunking out the guitar part, a little hesitant at first. Her foot taps soundlessly on the floor in time, concentration focused, little glances given to the phone settled on the bench between them. Fingers falter once, stumbling over the melody momentarily. Her lips move along with the words, though she doesn't sing.

Female nightingales never do.

The stumble is recorded, becoming at once a signature, a mark of Odessa's presence.  Sable gives her a grin, sidelong, plunking out the the bass notes.  The harpsichord is more distinct, more elocuted, than the bass - this is the Beatles chamber music style - but Sable's voice brings the rock element.  A showboat, yes, she's also just very expressive - rarely able to keep a lid on her feelings - unsubtle, her performance doesn't lack nuance.  To feel strongly is not to feel simply.

There are places I remember

All my li~fe though some have changed

Some forever not for better

Some have go~ne 'n' some remain

All these places had their moments

With lovers 'n' friends I still c'n re-call

Some are dead 'n' some are livin'

In m~y life I've loved them all

A truly moving pop song is an emotional map, a journey charted across affective terrain.  Once young (younger) and confused (moreso), such things provided clear paths of feeling, articulations that spoke who she was, and made who she became.  These are the now-natural grooves of her emotions, and so she flows through them, each line owned as if it were a personal story.

What a ham.

But of all these friends 'n' lovers

There is n~o one compares with you

And these memories lose their meanin'

When I think of love 's somethin' new

Though I know I'll never lose affection

F'r people 'n' things that went before

I know I'll often stop 'n' think about them

In m~y life I love you more

The girl on harpsitar (she made that up just now, isn't it clever?) doesn't have near the breadth of experience that Sable has. Though she loves the song, and her playing holds feeling, it doesn't quite have the same flavour of passion that the one on bass. Where Sable pours her heart into the lyrics, Odessa's is in the backing instrumentals. Her gaze lids in concentration when they hit the interlude and she hunches over the keys, rocking gently with the ebb and flow of the tempo.

First, her lips purse, and then they pull into a smile as she feels her solo shine. It's been quite some time since Odessa played for an audience. Being interrupted by unexpected and smoky visitors doesn't count as having an audience. She hums softly along with herself without realising.

At least, that must be the case. Because if she did realise she was humming, she surely wouldn't be doing it. Odessa Price can't carry a tune, and so her humming is rather off-key and apart from being in time, doesn't sound at all like the piece she's actually playing.

It would be flawless, truly, were it not for that wavering dissonance.  Sable looks sidelong at Odessa when she hears this, at first sort of stunned, then nearly screwing up her own part of the solo - recovering only just in time - because she's begun to snicker.  And maybe it's out of some sort of childish, prankster's revenge, or perhaps it's simple tomfoolery and there is some chance that it's a flirt, though this seems an odd time to start, but Sable chooses the final moments of the solo, when Odessa's fingers should be running down the keys in a cascade of notes, to give the white haired woman a poke in her scrawny side, matched - should Odessa be checking - with an unrepentant grin.

Before anything can be said, however, she sings, musically smoke bombing her way out of the moment, smug as anything.

Though I know I'll never lose affection

F'r people 'n' things that went before

I know I'll often stop 'n' think about them

In m~y life I love you more

And then, keening high, the final line.

In m~~~y life - I love you more

Yellow eyes slice over to Odessa's fingers, waiting - hoping, after her little stunt - that her comrade of the moment will close the song.  It is her part.

Sable's Puck-ish ways are rewarded with an indignant squeak! from Odessa, fingers coming down on a jarring chord (that's altogether wrong) just on the final note of her solo. And she was doing so well! It takes her a moment of staring at that grin before she realises that it wasn't meant as a malicious act, but that it was all in good fun.

Even if Odessa has trouble feeling that way about it. But such is her competitive nature, and it partially stems from a lack of experience really working with other people on anything that wasn't science. You don't poke someone in the ribs while they're working with specimens that can't be cross-contaminated. Medical doctors and scientists are a much different breed from musicians.


She's recovered by the end of Sable's last line and closes out the song with a small bit of flair at the end in the form of trilling notes. Then, Odessa glances down at the cell phone, and up again at the other woman, afraid to speak up lest she somehow ruin the recording.

Sable covers her mouth, hiding her grin as Odessa gilds that final lily, then - in the spreading silence after - she gives a brief spell of applause, tah tah tah tah.  Then her hand descends, and her thumb snaps the phone closed, ending the call and thus the recording.  She plucks the phone up and slips it into her pocket. "Y'all want credit on that track?" she inquires, sounding very cheerful indeed, "or wouldja rather remain a mystery f'r th' music historians?"

"I, uhm…" Odessa isn't quite sure how to answer that at first. Part of her is still used to keeping her identity a secret. But she doesn't really have to anymore, does she? "Credit me as Joy," she supplies. "Joy Saint-Jacques. It's… my working alias." Because Joy always seemed to do wonderful things. Even though a name doesn't really change a person, the perception is still there. And Odessa would like something good to her name. Just… not the one people generally know her by.

"Joy it is, 'n' has been," Sable says, dipping her head and swiveling on the bench before pushing herself to her feet.  She turns and gives her impromptu partner a bow. "My lady oughtn't t' wake without me, much less ticklin' ivories with some lady I jus' met," is a motion towards parting it would seem, but an amicable parting from the sound of it. "Guess we're still gonna be neighbors, eh?  I may jus' see y' round."

Perhaps somewhat in spite of herself, Odessa finds herself smiling. "Yeah. I'll look you up when I get settled in. Good luck with the rest of your move." Then, her cheeks flush some. Her memory is coming up a blank, and it's not like they've been sitting here terribly long. There shouldn't be many details to lose in such a short span of time. "What did you say your name was again?"

The answer to this question that Sable thinks is actually most truthful is not the one that will help 'Dessy - or Joy, or whoever this is - find her again.  And while she's not necessarily opposed to being a passing presence - it's an old fantasy that sustained her when she was more mobile - she does like the idea of having another go with the harpsichord.

"Depends," she finally replies, with a crooked smile, "which city I'm in." The dark haired woman taps her chest. "Y'all c'n find me under Diego, doll.  Look me up sometime."

"'til then, Miss Saint-Jacques," the name said with all due flourish - stage names carrying more currency with her.

"Miss Diego," Odessa offers as farewell with a slight tip of her head, climbing to her feet to see the darker woman out. This time, she actually locks up behind her.

With her back pressed to the door, the woman surveys her apartment. It's hard to tell what's out of place when nothing is in place. She's not wholly convinced that the interloper didn't pilfer anything, but as near as Odessa can tell, every box that has yet to be moved is still sealed up.

All the same, she makes her way quickly to the coat closet across the entryway from where she stands, yanking open the door and reaching to the back of the shelf over her head where she retrieves a slim bar. Dropping to her knees on the closet floor, she slides the bar between the floorboards and pries one up. There's a heavy sigh of relief when she procures the folder stamped CONFIDENTIAL and hugs it to her chest. She needs to find someplace else to stow it.

Coming to stand again, Odessa meanders her way through the mostly empty apartment, and then she stops suddenly. Her lips pull into a smile. She knows just the place.

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