2008-02-18: Truth Is Unkind

Starring:

Jamie_icon.gif McAlister_icon.gif

Summary: Sometimes, the truth of things is at best unkind - but the truth is always freeing.

February 18, 2008

Truth Is Unkind


Curly Joe's Bar, Hell's Kitchen

Curly Joe's sits at the bottom of a three story building, taking up the entire first floor with the bar. It's a seedy bar, with seedy clientele. At night there's frequent fights and probably a number of drug deals going down. Luckily, it's the day right now, just past lunch and the bar gets very little business this time of day. Jamie comes wandering out the front door of the bar, dressed in her brightly coloured winter coat as usual.

There are stealthy people in this world. Sneaky types, blending into shadows, becoming part of crowds - you know. Like in the movies. Good at not being noticed.

Ali isn't really one of these people.

Oh, sure, the hipster clothing and the handful of decidededly non-starbucks disposable large coffee cup? That's just like anybody else, even in this neighborhood. Even the bag doesn't have her standing out. But - leaning on a lamppost across the street? Watching the door. Openly rummaging through her bag in a bad neighborhood. Meeting people's eyes and smiling a lot in said neighborhood - well. She doesn't really /blend./

Probably easy enough to spot her. It gets easier still when, on noticing the girl, she offers a smile, a wave, and a hopeful look.

Jamie spots Ali pretty quickly, and grins, waving enthusiastically. She glances up and down the street, and then makes a dash across it, to get over to where Ali's standing. "Hi! You haven't got robbed yet? You shouldn't be standin' out here like that. 'Less people know not to mess with you."

"Nope. I'm terrifying. Didn't you notice?" Ali laughs, calling that, crouching on her heels and letting the bag rest 'tween her feet, grinning at the girl as she runs up. "See? Big, nasty teeth and everything. I was /lookin'/ for you."

But now that the girl's /here/ - she's looking across at the bar, now and again. Speculative. "Are you on an errand or anything?"

Jamie giggles at that and nods, "Yeah, real scary." Playing along, not sarcastic. Then she shakes her head quickly and says, "Nope! Don't gotta do any work 'til ten tonight."

"So. If I bribe you with lunch.. can we talk? Girl to girl. No steak - " Ali winks - "I'm kinda broke. But I can do a hamburger and fries, I bet." She's careful about chosing words - taking her time asking that. She offers a hand, then - standing easily - "I heard a rumor that they're some of the best hamburgers in town, too."

Jamie smiles brightly again and nods quickly to that, "Sure!" She reaches up to take hold of Ali's hand, squeezing it just a little as she moves so she can follow when Ali starts to lead. "Whatcha wanna talk about?"

Ali does lead her, along the sidewalk and in the direction of a marginally better part of Hell's Kitchen. With familiarity - she knows the block, at least.

"You. But it's kinda serious." The DJ takes a breath. "Kiddo? I don't really know you. You don't really know me. But I think you're pretty cool - and I kinda get the impression you like Joe, but you don't like doin' what he's asking you to do. Am I right?"

Jamie keeps hold of Ali's hand the entire way. She's quiet a moment as she listens to Ali, and then, not saying a word at first, she just gives a tiny nod. Then, she says, "I don't mind stealin' if it's so I can get some food, or if I'm stealin' from something like Walmart, but.. it's diff'rent."

"Well.. " Ali nods - "I kinda get that. So." She hmms, then tries out. "What if I told you that I could.. change things? What if I told you that maybe, just maybe, you didn't have to have things be the same tonight that they were yesterday?" She smiles, then. "I know you like Joe - I dunno if I do. But.. you can stay with me until we sort something else out, if ya want. Or, you can keep staying with Joe, and .. I can make it so that, for a while at least, he doesn't.. you know. Ask you to do this stuff. But." She shakes her head. "I guess I'm asking.. if you could change stuff, what would you change?"

Jamie is quiet a moment again as they walk, and then asks, "If I could change anything? Want my mom back." Then, after another moment she adds, "But guess I wanna stay with Joe, but not do those jobs. Can still do the runs, those're fun."

"I can't do that. I'm sorry - the mom thing." Ali smiles sadly - "I dunno anybody that can do /that/. Some pretty amazing stuff but.." She glances back, at the bar - then to the girl. "Alright. I can do that." She stops, holds out her other hand for Jamie's. "But you gotta trade me something."

Jamie nods a little to the first part, not having expected it really. She blinks, then, at the next thing, though. "You can? How? Without him being disappointed?" Then she nods quickly and asks, "What? Don't got much to trade."

"Nope. He won't be mad, won't be dissapointed - well. Not much, anyway. A little - but he won't be mad at you. I promise." Ali smiles, then, lopsided. "Joe takes you and signs you up for school tomorrow. And you go. at least until summer. I'll even help you with studying, if you need it."

Jamie wrinkles her nose and says, "I gotta?" Then after a moment she nods a little and says, "Ok, deal." She squeezes both of Ali's hands and says, "Dunno how'll you'll get him to do all that." She lets go with the one then, but keeps her other hand gripping Ali's.

"Well. I'ma talk to him." Ali smiles then. "Wanna do that now, or get a burger first?" Oddly, how entirely unphased she seems - by the prospect of going into /that bar/, talking to a thief - burger or conversation. Seems the same to her either way. "Can you /really/ do the water thing you talked about the other day?"

Jamie bites her lip a moment, looking down at her feet. Then she says, "Talk to him first." She grips Ali's hand just a little tighter. She's scared of this. Though, whether scared for her safety or of losing what she perceives as Joe's love isn't clear. "Yeah," she answers to the last question, simply.

"That. Is beyond cool." Ali grins - "And yes, before you ask, I really do believe you. Go figure, huh?" She asides, "I know this chick that can throw /lightning/. No, I'm not kidding either - I wish I could do something half as neat." She keeps up the conversation, easy and warm, as she heads back to the bar.

"You still got my card, right? Did I put my cell on it? I never remember - I get going in so many directions sometimes, I forget, half the time, what I did yesterday."

Jamie nods quickly and says, "Yep, I got it." Then she blinks, shrugging, "Just what's on the card, didn't write on it or nothing." Entering the bar, it's pretty empty. But not quite. A bartender stands behind the bar watching sports on the TV. At another table is a rather large man that has a striking resemblance to Curly from the Three Stooges. At this table are about five others, drinking and talking quietly. Any time one of them says something to 'Curly', it's full of respect.

Ali leads the way in, smiling down at the girl - she asks, of course, nodding to the bartender, "That's Joe, right?"

But of course it is. Or if it isn't, she's not one to wait around too much and ask. "Hey, Joe, right?" She raises her voice, friendly -

But to Jamie, who's heard it a couple of times before - there's something odd about it. Cloying. Interesting. How she says even those simple words rests very easy on the ears. "Wow. Jamie said you were a tall guy - " (everybody's tall, next to Ali) "- she wasn't kidding. Hi."

Jamie starts to shake her head and says, "No…" But it's too late. The bartender looks up and gives a bit of a smile, but then shakes his head. He nods over towards 'Curly'. "But thanks."

Ali grins at him. "Sorry - " It comes with a wink - "and no problem." But she heads that way, toward 'Curly' there - "Hi. So you're Joe, right?" Reasonably certain that 'Curly' is the right one, she even offers the man a hand. "I'm Ali - I've heard a lot of good stuff about you. It's really a pleasure." That's earnest, sincere. Even happy.

Joe looks up and nods to Ali, shaking her hand. His own is rough and incredibly strong. "Is there something I can do for you?" Jamie steps over to Joe now, and he pulls her into his lap for a hug. Anybody (but Jamie) could see, though, that the emotions behind the hug aren't sincere. He's playing the part he thinks will keep Jamie's loyalty, and not a really good actor either.

There's something that flits across Ali's expression - and, unbidden, she drops in that seat across from him. It's something /not nice/ - even angry. But! She squirrels it away.

"Yup! You got a sec to talk? Nothin' big - but I've been hanging around with Jamie lately, and she's a great kid - and as much as she talks about how nice you are, I .. well. Ever just have somebody you have to meet?" It's happy, light.. but by the time it gets to 'have to meet' - her words are almost a purr.

"Here's fine - but. I figured it'd probably be better to talk privately, if you can spare a second or two." She goes on - letting that light conversation fill the air between them, even if it is a bit one-sided. "She's a pretty amazing kid, isn't she?"

Joe frowns a little as he watches Ali. Not an angry frown, but one of being slightly confused… and not liking it. But he nods, "That she is. Alright, let's step into my office." He waves down the others as they start to get up, and puts Jamie back down. He stands, and leads Ali into an office at the back of the bar.

"You want to come Jamie? It's alright - It is alright, Joe - I don't mind. She can come along if she likes." Ali still offers that in that happy, light tone, following along behind him, even holding a hand out to the girl.

But she follows regardless, heading in. "I know, I'm pretty direct - I figure it solves all sorts of problems in the short term, right? You seem like a pretty direct kind of guy to me, too." Ali offers him a sunny smile. "You don't want to hurt me or Jamie there anyway - there's no reason for that, you know. We're not here to hurt you either - so no matter what happens, there's nothing you'll get angry about. I promise."

Jamie nods quickly, and moves to follow. Once in the office, she hops up to sit on the edge of Joe's desk, listening quietly. Joe closes the door and looks back to Ali. "Good, I enjoy directness." He nods again and says, "Of course. There's no reason to worry at all. My reputation may say otherwise, but I don't get angry easily. Please, go ahead."

"Kids grow up really fast, don't they?" That distinctive alto remains compelling. Ali focuses on Joe, dropping into a chair. "Seems like you turn around and 'poof', they're thirty or something." She chuckles. "I really like Jamie. She's a good kid - smart, too. She's probably pretty good for business for you, right? But it's really nice to be honest to kids - they remember stuff you wouldn't /believe/ as they get older."

There's that flash of anger again - but it's focused on Joe. She holds a hand out to Jamie - an odd offer, perhaps - as she goes on. There's still just that light warmth in her voice. "Don't you think you should be honest with Jamie? Tell her really how you feel about her. That sort of thing."

Jamie blinks, but takes the offered hand. She starts to say something, but then Joe nods, "I should." He looks to Jamie, "I don't like you. Your stubbornness is annoying and you make me look weak. But you're useful." Jamie blinks, tears coming to her eyes as she starts to shake her head, "No! It's not true!"

McAlister squeezes Jamie's hand, firmly - she's /there/, whether or not that's a help. "She helps you steal, right?" Ali keeps it friendly - that low, compelling purr. "You don't need her for that, anymore, though. You're good enough to do it yourself - you don't need her opening the door for you. See /that/ makes you seem weak. And you can't seem weak. You don't want her helping you steal stuff anymore, right?"

The DJ's voice may still be strong - but there's a faint flicker of pain, in her expression. She even stops herself from reaching up to rub at her throat. The focus remains, however.

Joe nods again, after a cold look at Jamie, "It's true." Then he looks back to Ali as the little girl starts to cry, "You're right. I don't need her anymore."

Ali's voice becomes soothing - step one is done, now. And still, she holds tight to that little girl's hand. "I'm glad to know that. I bet Jamie is too - but throwing her out in the street isn't - "

Jamie, when she realizes what Ali's saying now, interrupts before she gets very far at all, "No! Wanted to stay 'cause… 'cause he was like my dad. But… but he's not! Was all a stupid lie!"

The woman nods .. and stops talking, swallows, and looks to Jamie, then. "C'mon, kiddo-" There's a rough edge to it, now - the melodic overtones, the richness of her voice seem.. gone. Broken, somehow. "You can stay with me for a while, if ya want." Her smile is pained - and she stands. "Thanks, Joe - it's nice talking to you, you know? You're a good guy."

Joe nods, scowling again, and says, "Good day." Angry, as he starts to realize what he's done, but at the same time still polite. Jamie sniffles, wiping at her face quickly and then moves to follow after Ali. "Ok," she says, softly. Her hand is gripping Ali's even tighter now. Not wanting to let go, she holds on with all her might. Of course, that might isn't very strong.

Ali's not one to linger.

Out. Out through the bar, out through the smoke and the weak lighting and the smell of burbon, out into the streets of Hell's Kitchen. As fast as she can, without looking like she's running. She's /not running/. Jersey girls don't run. They.. saunter. Away.

But you don't stick around when it's over. You don't .. tug on Superman's cape. All of it. And right now? Right now's a good time to saunter quickly out in the sun.

Besides. She promised a hamburger.

Jamie follows along after Ali. She doesn't say a word as they leave the bar, just following along and clinging tightly to Ali's hand as she follows. She has a few options of people to stay with now, but for the moment, she's not thinking that far ahead, to decide beyond the next few days. Right now, Ali's the one that's here, and at that moment, that's all that counts.

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