2008-02-16: Pretzel Kind of Person

Starring:

Jamie_icon.gif McAlister_icon.gif

Summary: Jamie and Ali meet at the arcade and the DJ takes the girl out for a pretzel.

Date It Happened: February 16th, 2008

Pretzel Kind of Person


Give 'Em Hell Kid Arcade

Early afternoon, in the Arcade, would normally not be terribly busy at all. Given that half or more of its usual clientele is in class and the other half's at work? Well.

But today is one of those bank-and-school holidays - President's day. That means that the arcade is seeing an unexpected uptick in business, this afternoon, as new york kids take the place by storm for a weekday afternoon of backlit geekery.

Above the usual bells and jumping nosies, electronic J-pop swirls from the double DDR machine in the corner - there's a short line. There's always a short line. The custom gets a little older there - a couple of college-age folks, a teen or two.. and an Ali, who still dresses badly enough to still pass for college, even if she's past it these days. Her quarter's up there with the rest of 'em, too - though from the way she's watching that girl and her .. boyfriend? Classmate? .. tear up the pads, she's probably most definitely not in the same league. But hey, everybody's having fun. That's the point, right?

Jamie comes in from the street, pulling up short as she sees the crowd. Despite her age, she seems surprised to find so many kids around. (Could she not know it's a holiday?) But she doesn't seem to care after an initial surprise, and starts to make her way through towards the DDR machine. The fact that everybody's older than her here doesn't seem to deter her from getting in line, and when she sees Ali she smiles and waves, "Hi. You were right, that CD was great!"

Ali isn't exactly the tallest soul in the arcade. Doesn't mean she doesn't overlook the girl at first, before zeroing in on her - "Oh. Hey! Yeah, it's not bad, is it?" She grins, wide, wry, and lopsided - making room, there at the machine. "That's really strange, you know? First the chick tripping over the line, then the other chick /in/ the line- now you. You guys aren't stalking me or something, are you?"

Jamie steps in by Ali and smiles, "I love this game. Most fun one they got." Then she looks back up to Ali again and blinks, just looking a bit confused, "What's stalking?"

"Uh." Ali's thought processes go the way of the Hindenberg, for a moment - "Well, it's kinda when somebody follows you around when you don't want 'em too. Kinda. And that didn't help at all, did it, kiddo - " She grins, finds a cabinet there to lean on - and goes back to the other subject. It's /safer/. "I bet you can beat the hell - heck. Heck. Not hell. Out of me on it. But yeah, you're right - best game they got in here. You live around here?"

Jamie just looks at Ali a moment at the explamation, still confused, and then shrugs with a smile again at the change of subject. "I dunno. It's made for people with longer legs. But I do ok." Then she nods quickly, "Uh-huh. Live just down the street, at Curly Joe's bar. Joe's… well, he looks after me."

"You live at a bar, kiddo?" Ali blinks - being startled in this conversation seems to be becoming a habit. "I dunno that I've ever been to that one." There's a thoughtful pause, then she crouches to look up at the girl and offer a hand. "Alyssa. Ali. Hi."

Jamie nods quickly, and then says, "Well, above it. Joe owns the whole building. Only ever go in the bar on my way up, or in the day when hardly nobody's there." Then she smiles and shakes the offered hand, smiling, "I'm Jamie."

"Sounds like he's pretty well off." Ali returns that smile with one of her own - "I'm glad to know you, Jamie. He's a pretty cool guy, then?" She adds, without thinking much. "You want a pretzel? I saw a guy outside selling some." At least it's earnest instead of predatory, right?

Jamie nods quickly to Ali with a smile, "He's the best! He looks after me like a dad, and I don't even have to study." She then nods quickly at the offer, brightening, "Sure, please!"

Ali straightens, offers her hand again. "My treat then - huh. Don't have to study?" She actually /pouts/. "That was kinda my favorite part, growing up. I guess not everybody likes it, huh? But it was crazy - I had a library card, you know? Spent afternoons in castles and getting rescued by princes while everybody else was worrying about hair and boys." She pauses. "I dunno if that was /entirely/ a good thing, but it was fun."

Jamie giggles at that and says, even as she takes hold of Ali's hand to follow her along, "You can do that without books, ya know. All you gotta do is pretend. And princesses can do the rescuin' too. I don't never need someone rescuing me."

"I always wished I did - it's kinda sweet, you know? But so far, I haven't gotten in that much trouble." She winks at the girl. "I keep tryin', though." The Jersey accent doesn't cover up the humor, there. "I guess I did both. I didn't have a ton of friends, though. Not until later in school - and pretending alone wasn't as much fun." She leads the way out, "So Joe's not your dad?"

Jamie grins again up to Ali and nods quickly. "Yeah, pretending's more fun with other people." Then she shakes her head, following along still and looking down at her feet as she walks, "Nope. My mom and dad both died. I used to work for Joe, doing runs and stuff… well, I kinda still do, but he looks after me now too."

"I'm sorry, kiddo - and yeah, I know everybody says that, and it's probably really lame to hear it over and over again." Ali walks with her along the sidwalk, one they hit the Outdoors, an aimless meander, really, in the vague direction of a remembered pushcart at the end of the block. "Runs? He has you carry stuff for him?"

Yes, that does ping the DJ's radar, at the very least.

Jamie nods a little and says, "Yeah, kinda." She looks back up and says, "It's ok, though. I miss 'em lots." Then she nods quickly, cheering up a little again at the change of topic, "Uh-huh. I'm the best in the city. Nobody can catch me. And he gets me to open doors for him too." Then, after saying that, she blinks and adds, "But I'm not supposed to talk about that."

"I bet." Ali smiles at the girl - "But you can trust me, if you want to. If you want to talk about it, anyway." There's something inclusive in her voice, that rich alto warm and friendly. "So. Cinnamon or regular? I'm gonna bet you're sort of a 'cinnamon' person."

Jamie looks up to Ali a moment, and then nods a little, smiling again, "Ok." She nods quickly to the Ali's guest and says, "Yep." Once she has her pretzel and has taken a bite, she explains, "I can turn into water. I sploosh up into the houses, through the sewers, and open the doors from inside."

Ali blinks - again, we have a moment of derailing, there - and the woman picks a stoop to take harbor from foot traffic in, leaning on a recessed door and turning over her own, plain, pretzel. "… yeah?" That takes a moment to process - but she nods. "That's.. really impressive. And pretty neat." Not a /hint/ of disbelief there.

But there is a somewhat distant expression, as she thinks. "Was that Joe's idea?"

Jamie nods quickly and says, "Except it's kinda boring. I gotta sit around waiting while they take stuff after I open the door." She takes another bite of her pretzel. "But it's fun exploring pipes… 'cept the time I got trapped in… well, something really hot, and then I got poured out into a girl's bath. Going up drains is easier, nothing blocks that way. Unless the plug's in, but it's easy to poke out." Then to the last question she nods quickly again, "Uh-huh. All his idea. He figured it out a while after I moved in with him. Um.. maybe 'fore, 'cause he was teaching me about pipes and stuff even 'fore we started doing it."

"Kiddo?" Ali hunts for words - clearly a bit lost - but. "Do you think it's alright to take people's stuff? I know it's just stuff - but.." She sighs, reaches up abruptly to rub at her nose. She mutters to herself - "Right." Then - she just crouches there, to look up at the girl. "I know Joe hasn't told you this - I wouldn't, if I were Joe. But .. what he's asking you to do isn't very nice." She glosses completely over the 'travelling in pipes' thing. "Taking people's things is pretty mean, even if it is fun. Do you have a favorite doll or animal or something?"

Jamie nods a little, though she has to swallow her mouthful of pretzel to answer. "I know. But… Joe wants me to. And he's like my dad." Or the closest thing she has to it, at least.

"Okay." Ali nods - "But would your dad have asked you to take stuff like that? Just because somebody says it's alright, doesn't mean it is." She offers her hand. "I'm not anybody special, Kiddo - and as cool as you are, " Ali seems to mean that - there's no trace of laughter in it. ".. well, you probably know better than I do what happens if Joe gets caught. And I don't know what to tell you - I dunno how you ended up there. But I know some people - some really good people."

Jamie stares down at the ground a moment, nodding a little. "I know. I just… I don't wanna disappoint him." This seems to mean a lot to her. "Know I would if I said I didn't wanna do it anymore. And he'd be really mad too."

"Do you want me to talk to him?" Ali asks, then - abruptly. "I will, if you like. Maybe he wouldn't be as mad, then." There's something in her expression that .. well. It's not hidden. And it's oddly fierce.

Jamie bites her lip as she looks down a moment, then shakes her head quickly. "Don't care if it's wrong. He wants me to do it, all that matters." She doesn't sound confident, though. Part of her wants to agree, but she's too scared of losing the only family she has. She says then, "I better go. Thanks for the pretzel."

"Hey, kiddo?" Ali fishes in her bag, then, quickly - "Hangon one sec?" And.. with only a moment's rummaging, she fishes out a card. WYRK, "Midnight McAlister" - and she offers it. "… you're not alone. You need something, you call me, huh?" She smiles, then - "And anytime - you looked like a pretzel kind of person."

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