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Thread: [M] A Tale of Two Strangers [Ashen & Marimo]

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    Default [M] A Tale of Two Strangers [Ashen & Marimo]

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    New York, New York...



    It's the city that hustle and bustles, it's the city that never sleeps. Follow the uncertain adventures of two complete strangers, who share nothing in common at the moment except for the city that they both live in...

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    If anyone knows anything, it's that an aspiring journalist can find their muse in any coffee shop that has a comfortable chair and free wireless. Jade Connolly is no exception to this rule.

    When she arrived at her favourite coffee shop this morning (astutely named Java Nice Day), she had brought exactly 5.45$ in change with her to pay for her medium black coffee and chocolate croissant. Having fallen to temptation before (especially during the long hours of studying in preparation for mid-terms), she had found that the only way to keep herself from buying the store's supply of pastries was to leave her plastic at home and bring exact change for what she planned to eat before coming. Despite having been a interesting plan in writing, her "change-diet" had sadly neglected to include everything else that also required money.

    After spending a good two hours on her piece on the cleanliness -- or lack thereof -- of New York's sidewalks for the school's paper, she leaves the café feeling accomplished and walks down the block to the metro station. She doesn't even think twice as she swipes her metro card through the slot, and inevitably runs into the closed turnstile. Taking a step back, she swipes her card through the reader again and feels a wave of dread course through her body as the screen on the turnstile reads to her:

    = INSUFFICIENT FUNDS =

    Leaving no time for her to sink into the horror of her situation, a man in a suit impatiently squeezes past her, using his own working metro card to pass through the turnstile and off to his destination.

    "I..." she mumbles, standing awkwardly a few feet away from the gates. A quick search through her wallet confirms the fact that she has absolutely no way of recharging her card or paying for a ticket, except if the metro is suddenly accepting library cards as currency. Lacking the courage or humility to ask a stranger to assist her, Jade solemnly makes her way up the steps back onto the street and looks around desperately for a sign of what she should do next.

    ___
    [Really underwhelming and short first post: I wasn't really sure where to start and how much of my character I should reveal before they meet. I hope that's okay? I can easily write twice as much as this for the following posts, I'm just terrible at beginnings!]

  2. #2
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    A car horn thundered outside and a baby was wailing just downstairs. It was far too bright out, and the smell of the city was all too poignant. It was early in the morning, or perhaps it was late at night; in a place like New York, no one could ever be sure. It truly was the city that never slept.

    Hunter Colton had gotten used to the loud vitality of New York, New York long ago. Originally from a small town, he still wasn't completely open to all of the loud noises or bright nights, but he managed. He rubbed the exhaustion from his eyes and let out a long yawn. The twenty-three-year-old hadn't slept in three days, and he had a concert that night. He had a solo, too, and it was rumored that a special guest would be coming. A special guest meant someone who was willing to give the Giles Orchestra a lot of money if satisfied. A special guest meant the entirety of the orchestra would have to give the best show they'd ever given. Running on no sleep, Hunter would have a hard time doing just that.

    The man couldn't remember the last time he'd had a good night's rest without medication, but he had a feeling it hadn't been since coming to America little over a year ago. He'd played concerts before on little sleep, but not concerts as big as this, and not on such little sleep. He was slightly intimidated, but he had all day to wake himself up. It was still early. There was at least that.

    After pouring himself a cup of coffee, Hunter pulled on a long black coat and headed outside. He hoped the city would wake him up. He didn't have a real destination in mind as he headed out. That was something he didn't really understand about the New Yorkers. All were so very busy, as if each person had plans of the utmost importance. The kind of lifestyle wasn't for the Brit, and that was something he'd yet to change.

    One of Hunter's favorite hobbies in the too-big city was people watching. Unlike in his hometown, there was always someone new in New York, someone he could make up a story for. He never did consider himself a writer, but he did write, and he liked coming up with reasons as to why people acted the way they did. He hypothesized only the grandest of tales: The man rushing by in a business suit was running from a dragon who had interrupted the court case he was defending; the woman with the tribal tattoos was secretly from a nearly dead community of people sent to spy on the current norm of the population; the girl who was awkwardly standing still and looking around desperately... Actually, she caught his attention. She seemed lost. Figuring he could help the girl out, Hunter approached. Despite his accent, he did know his way around New York, and he did think he'd be able to help. "What's up, love?" he asked her, his English accent prominent. "Can I help you? You seem distressed."

  3. #3
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    A man's voice brought her out of her reverie.

    "Ah," she stuttered, looking as though she didn't even comprehend what he had said. Jade had, though, and was surprised that someone -- and a young British man, at that -- had even noticed her enough to consider helping her in the first place.

    "Um, no, I'm fine, I mean... I didn't bring any money with me," she began, but interupted herself for correction as she often did, "well no, I did bring money with me, but it was money for coffee and a pastry." Her auburn bangs swept across her eyes with them Autumn wind, and she hastily brushed them away with a shaking hand. "Initially it had seemed like a really good idea, to, you know, leave my credit card and cash at home and just bring exact change for what I wanted, because the pastries they have are so addictive if you arrive on an empty stomach with a fifteen page paper do, which I obviously know about since I have fallen victim to it so many times, you just end up eating your weight in chocolate croissants and apple strudel. Have you been, do you like pastries? Wait, did I even say the name? Didn't I? I'm sure I did. Anyway. So it felt like the logical thing to do, well for us weak-willed people, anyway, but what I neglected to think about was paying for my transit ride home, or really, anything that could have come up that would have required money, and that would have left me in a total bind, but I didn't think about that because I was just so focused on pastries, and..."

    Jade finally took hold of herself and made herself stop talking. If anything, this man was just being polite by asking her if she needed assistance, expecting a simple and curt "I'm fine" or "no thanks" instead of this train-wreck of a conversation. Writing, not talking, was her forté. If she could even call it her forté. Her lack of communication skills at a very young age had driven her to writing stories and conversations instead of actually living them, but even then her abilities were average at best. It was a wonder how a mere 18-year old with no substantial qualities got into the journalism program at NYU, but then again, her last name definitely had pull in the field.

    "I-I'm sorry! You obviously don't want to hear any of this, here I go rambling on like you don't have anything better to do than to listen to my crazy rant, which of course you do, have something better to do, I mean, not that you don't? Uh... I'm just gonna... I should... yeah?"

    She looked down and focused on her feet with a "what-the-hell-are-you-going-on-about-idiot" glare directed towards herself. If she was lucky, the man would be gone by the time she looked up in 5 seconds. If she was really lucky, she'd wake up in 5 seconds and realize that this had all been just a dream.

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    Hunter wasn't at all bothered by the girl's rant, but it did cause him to shift his weight a bit. He kept his eyes on her lips the entire time, not daring to look away as the girl went on. When she finished speaking--or, at least, he assumed she had finished speaking; she looked down, and he didn't hear any more words--Hunter let out a light laugh. It wasn't a rude type of laugh, more an easy chuckle that sounded so friendly. He gave the girl a smile and shook his head gently. She was a mess, and she was lucky she'd run into Hunter. Any other man in New York would have left minutes ago.

    "When they told me Americans talk fast, I never imagined something like that," Hunter teased softly. "I don't mind the rant, and quite honestly, I've not a thing better to do. I thank you for the laugh." He bowed a bit to show his gratitude. "Perhaps I can help you," he suggested. "Are you far from here? I can walk you home if you'd like. Or I can pay for your transit if you're too far. Rest assured I do not mind. I have the extra pounds... err, dollars to spare." A year into American life and he still called them pound notes. He sighed at himself.

    The man had a friendly, relaxed air about him. He stuck out in New York. It was no secret he'd been a small-town boy. He had a few freckles dotting his pale cheeks. His curly brown hair seemed to be in a mess and he was in no rush to fix it. Hunter was really nothing special, an average-looking man. His best features were his eyes, a chilling grey that he'd only ever seen in one other person. They shone brightly, even if the rest of him seemed rather reserved and dulled. He had a thin smile, and as he watched the woman go on it was clear he was concentrated on her lips. In meeting new people, his eyes generally had to turn to their lips. Perhaps for that reason Hunter didn't care much for looks.

    He extratced a wallet from a pocket of his long coat and took out a few dollars. "You really ought to be more careful next time," he told her. "New York's no place to be looking lost like that." He held the bills out to her. A bit generous, perhaps, but he had the money to spare. "And lassie, I'm sorry, but you'll have to look up. I... I can't hear you if I can't read your lips."

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    Jade was befuddled the moment the man began to speak. Something about him and his voice soothed the restless panic that always clouded her mind. It was like shutting the door on a room full of chatting people. Even his looks, his tousled hair and his clear, clearer-than-day eyes made her let out a sigh; not out of lust, but out of some sort of calming clarity.

    "I'm sorry," she blushed, suddenly very conscious of her lips and what they were doing. Jade instinctively wet them with her tongue, completely oblivious of the flirtatious undertones that it could have had in any other situation. Seeing the bills that he was handing to her, she immediately put up her hands and gestured that she couldn't take them.

    "I couldn't, I mean, I just wouldn't feel right, not if I couldn't pay you back somehow. I live, um, 18, no, 19 blocks away, so I can walk, it's a long walk, but it serves me right, doesn't it? Haha..." Sensing herself starting to go off on another tangent, her hands flew to her mouth and she apologized, "I'm talking too much again, aren't I? It's a really bad habit, I- oh!" she suddenly stopped, and her hands flew to the sides of her head as if she were surrendering. "Sorry!"

    Despite having a pretty big distrust for nearly everyone, Jade still cared a great deal for people as a whole. Especially if her actions could influence their well-being in any way. Having an elementary teacher as a father definitely contributed to the creation of her values when she was a child (sharing is caring, treat others as you would like to be treated, don't eat paste), and she didn't even question her tendency to show kindness towards others as she grew older.

    Feeling as though she was coming off as a bubbly child, she heaved a sigh and looked at the man with an apologetic glance, knowing fully well that if she were to start talking again she would most likely never stop.

  6. #6
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    Hunter couldn't help but smile at the girl. In a way she reminded him of his sister, so bubbly and giddy. He tucked the bills back into his pocket. "I thought you might turn me down," he mumbled. "No matter. I'm more than willing to walk the nineteen blocks with you. It would help wake me up, I bet, and I've an important solo tonight." He motioned a bit with his head to say Let's go. The rest of him didn't move, though. He knew about girls like this in big cities like New York. They were usually very wary of strange men, and they had every right to be. Too many murders and rapes of young women made their way into local newspapers. Even men like Hunter, men who looked harmless and more or less were, even they were considered forces to be cautious around.

    Hunter bit his bottom lip a moment before continuing. "You've a really pretty voice," he told her. It wasn't so much flirting as stating his opinion. "There isn't reason for you to hide it. I wish more people would talk like you. All of my coworkers are rather mundane. We don't speak to each other much, or perhaps they just don't talk much around me. Either way, the change is nice. You do not have to hide yourself behind your hands." He sipped at his coffee before taking in a breath and extending his hand. "Hunter Colton," he introduced. "Don't let the accent fool you. I am no tourist. I know my way around, and I really don't think a young lass like yourself should be walking nineteen blocks without a bodyguard."

    The man normally wouldn't have passed for a bodyguard. Hunter's best type of aggression was passive aggression. He wasn't puny, but he was far from built. He didn't seem to work out at all, and his face was perhaps a bit too thin. His looks were fooling, however; he could easily defend the girl if she'd let him. He had to wonder why he was offering to go out of his way to help the girl out. After a moment's consideration, he surmised that he was lonely. Incredibly lonely, and though he had little faith, he thought maybe that could change with this lost girl.

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    "You'd... you'd really go out of your way to walk me home? Someone you've just met?" she asked warily, watching his eyes as they bore back into hers, instead of suspiciously roaming down her body like any other man offering a girl a "walk home" would. There was no way to tell for certain if someone was a predator or not, but this man did not give off any indication that he'd be the type of man to take advantage of a girl -- a woman -- who was most literally stranded in the middle of New York City.

    If the offer to walk her home hadn't been enough of a shock, the compliment completely through off her cautious guard. Jade blinked back at him and sort of scoffed nervously to seem modest. "Thank you, that's... no one has ever said that about my voice before. You also have a very... lovely voice. You must have girls fawning over your accent from every which way, haha."

    Jade widened her eyes and clenched her jaw, then back-tracked, "Um, you know, because girls like British accents, well, I don't mean to say that all girls are into British accents -- girls, ah, women, are all individually special and unique, we don't operate under some sort of hive-mind, as many men like to claim... not that you would claim that, of course! Sorry, I'm getting off track again," she sighed and managed to let out a small laugh. She extended her hand and gingerly took Hunter's in hers, "it's nice to meet you, Hunter Colton. My name is Jade Connolly."

    After taking a deep breath, she took a step back and walked backwards a few steps into the direction of her home. "My apartment's this way." This was completely out of character for her, to talk to a stranger, to allow them to do anything for her, but something about Hunter made her feel at ease. Maybe British accents really did have an effect. She couldn't remember the last time someone had done a friendly act for her, whether it had been wanted or not. Despite what everyone said, college did not promise many friends for Jade. Could this strange and friendly man be the first friend she make this semester?

    Jade turned back and waited for Hunter to join her in stride before asking, "You said something about an important solo tonight? Are you a musician? British heart-throb comes to America in a rock-and-roll band to sign a label and shred on the guitar?" She laughed at her joke before going cold again and stuttering in embarrassment, "Uh... I mean..."

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    Hunter decided he'd chosen the wrong day to not wear his hearing aid as he watched Jade's lips fly over her words. He was relying more on sound than he was used to in a conversation. He didn't trust his hearing, and in most cases he had disregarded it altogether. So awful was his hearing that Hunter had been considered legally deaf. His hearing was spotty and unreliable as a general rule. With this girl, though, he was straining to hear more than see, because not even his expertly trained eyes could catch every word she was saying.

    He almost laughed when the girl suggested women fawning over him. Sure the man had had his share of girlfriends, but not a one had occurred in America. His accent had gotten him more aww's and You're so cute than ooh's and You're so sexy. He didn't mind too much, though. He wasn't sure he wanted to enter the dating world again, not after his last attempt.

    Watching her try to redeem herself kept that smile on his face. He even gave a grin to show his teeth, something he rarely did. His teeth were oddly pristine for an Englishman. He didn't show them long, and as he went back to watching her speak, his toothless smile returned.

    Once Jade had finished Hunter turned away. "I don't know that you would call an orchestra a rock-n-roll band," he said. "I play the bass in the Giles Orchestra. Perhaps not as cool as you thought it would be. I'm sorry." He turned back to her and chuckled. "I'll have you know, I can play a fine Aerosmith or Guns 'N' Roses, too. The orchestra just tends to pay more. I do have a solo tonight. Perhaps I can interest you in a spot? I can get you in for free. I understand if you don't want to go, though. The orchestra tends to get boring. Tonight, we're playing a tribute to John Williams. We'll be playing some songs from Star Wars, Harry Potter, E.T... Should be a fun one. That is, if you're into that sort of thing."

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    "An orchestra?!" Jade exclaimed, turning her head to face Hunter as they walked. "That's amazing! That's even better than a rock-band, not that I have anything against rockers... rockers? Is that the term? Is that a word?"

    For the first time in months, Jade felt herself loosening up and letting herself speak freely without feeling too guilty about rambling on. People usually gave her such weird stares when she talked, which either caused her to apologize profusely or to stop talking altogether. She had hoped that when she joined college, she could find similar people who could listen and match up to her ranting, but instead she found the opposite. After having thought about it for an embarrassing amount of time, she realized that journalist majors are probably more writers than they are talkers.

    "That's so neat that you play bass... is it really heavy? It's the really big one, right? I didn't know that bassists could have solos. I love music, but I couldn't carry out a tune if my life depended on it. I'm tone-deaf, so I wouldn't know the difference between... well, between anything musical, really. But I would love to come to your show, especially if it's free. I mean, no, not "especially if it's free", obviously I want to see you preform, but, it being free is a bonus. Not that I wouldn't go if it weren't free! Well, money's kind of tight for me so I actually probably wouldn't. That isn't to say that I wouldn't go solely because of monetary issues, especially if you were in it. N-Not that I'm obsessed with you or anything like that!"

    Jade bit her lip to keep herself from running on any further. It was good for her brain to take breaks before it started spouting some really crazy obscenities. Too many times she had gotten herself into miserable situations that caused the falling out of friendships, the failing of classes and even the complete end of communication.

    "Um... what I'm trying to say," she said, finally slowing down her speech for the first time since their encounter and consequently hesitating to make eye-contact, "is that I would love to go. Thank you."

  10. #10
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    Hunter wasn't sure that an orchestra was better than a rock band, but it fit his lifestyle more. He didn't know how much he'd enjoy the constant travel, and he was fortunate that Giles Orchestra stayed in New York. He was used to the questions she'd asked. They were canon to any bassist: Is it heavy? How tall is it? Do you have problems holding it? He was prepared for those, and once she'd finished speaking, he gave the answers he was used to giving everyone.

    "She stands six feet tall, and weighs about... twenty pounds? Twenty-five? She's nine kilograms, that I know." He exhaled a bit deeply before chuckling softly again. "You think you would be bad at music because you're tone deaf," he repeated. "I am really deaf and I play just fine. My mum used to tell me I was born playing the keyboard. I've always been musically inclined. I have this intuition. Even if I can't exactly hear a note, I can just feel when it's wrong. My granddad was the same way. I would say it's in my DNA, but my twin lacked any kind of appreciation or talent in the musical arts, so I don't really know what it is. I am fortunate though. The orchestra pays rather well, so I thank the stars I know my music." His eyes seemed to light up when he spoke about music. For someone who couldn't hear well, he was pitch perfect. Music had been a reprieve for him throughout his life, and he'd put a lot of work into it. He had right to be a little proud of his musical talents.

    "As to the bassist solo, I think it's more to show off our new bass than anything more. She's a beaut, though I do miss our old one. My solo does not run the entire song, but it runs a good portion of it." His stage fright had been scared off long ago. Hunter didn't seem at all worried about his performance. He was too tired to get worked up.

    Addressing her last point, he thought for a moment. The tickets were not free, of course. The spot he was offering her was a hundred dollars, easy. He could cover it though, gladly. "You can get in free with priority seating if you say you're with me. They offer the best seats to the families of the musicians. Seeing as I've no family to attend these things, I would be delighted to give the seats to you. Just don't expect it too often, mm?" He was teasing her, and he wore the smirk to show it. "In fact, I'll let the hall know you'll be coming now." He took out his cellphone, a fairly recent Android model, and took a moment to send a text while he walking. He'd not be able to catch anything she said while looking down, and he remembered this only after he'd put his phone away. He looked back at her, hoping she hadn't said anything he didn't hear.

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