Alexandra - Layers and Shells

From Masq
Date: Setting:

IC:  10/08/2008
RL: 04/12/2011

Old Friends Antique Dealership


 A glass-frontaged store that looks like it forgot to notice the past few decades. A painted-gold logo on the main front window declares it the "Old Friends Antique Dealership" and a vase filled with flowers has been painted on the front door in bright, cheery colors. A simple awning keeps the weather off the area right in front of the store, and a small windchime has been hung from the frame to tinkle in the breeze.


 Walking into this shop is like stepping into another time. An old-fashioned, spring-mounted bell jingles over the door to warn of customers, and the warm lighting is reminiscent of candles, the air thick with the smell of dusty cloth and old books. Shelves and racks are somewhat haphazardly stocked with all manner of items, with the only commonality among them being that none are of modern make: toys from the days of the Great Depression, clothing from the Prohibition Era, a timeline of soda bottles along the back wall, and books that may not have seen the light of day in decades. An old record player frequently supplies quiet background music, and there are signs that at least one cat haunts the place. In addition, tucked away off to one side, is a small display with a sign proclaiming "Homemade Herbal Remedies" and inviting interested customers to inquire at the register.
 The counter across most of the back of the store supports a fittingly antique cash register, and must have come straight out of some old bar, being deeply varnished mahogany polished until it practically glows, with a sturdy brass foot-bar in place underneath, though no stools are in evidence. One end is clearly designed to flip up to allow access to the back area, and a door behind the counter is marked with a weather-beaten "Employees Only" sign, the former sporting a small pet door near the bottom, the latter a hand-drawn smiley-face in paint.
Gareth slouches in, pulling off earbuds which are just blaaasting some good old Beastie Boys or something. Poor kid's gonna get some ear damage. He pokes his head in, glancing about the store as if noticing any radical changes since the last time he's been here. Satisfied that he's got the lay of the land, he wanders in and starts looking around at stuff.

Since the last time Gareth was in here, there haven't been any massive changes. A few of the wares are different, certainly, but nothing that wouldn't go with inventory circulation. Except that several items are set out on the counter that can only really be described as 'oddities.' Alexandra is fiddling with one at the moment, which appears to be a wooden cube about two inches on a side, except that she's pushed a few bits in or out or sideways... some sort of puzzlebox, probably. She looks up as the bell over the door rings, though, and grins as she sees who's come in, "Welcome back. What brings you by?"

Gareth shrugs. "Got a few hours to kill, figured I'd come in, look at some dusty old things. What's up with you? How's the cat?" he asks, obviously this is the more important question. "Hey! A puzzlebox! I got one of those," he says, walking up to the counter curiously. "You figured it out yet? When my friend Alys got me one, it took me about two months to get it open. Of course I didn't have a lot of time to check it out, but hey, still. Fun between classes, you know?"

Alexandra laughs a bit and waves the puzzle she's fiddling with, "Not yet, only just found it this morning. This one's tricky." The other items on the counter run the gamut from some sort of animal's skull, maybe a cat of some sort, to an intricately-detailed rosary that looks to be carved out of amber. "Machiavelli's doing as well as always. Probably asleep on top of one of the shelves, knowing him." She lets her hands settle to the countertop, still holding the puzzlebox but not messing with it for now, "How're classes going?"

Gareth picks up the puzzlebox and starts fiddling with it. it's like he can't help himself. He glances up briefly to look around for the big fluffy cat, but turns back to the siren lure of a puzzle un-puzzled. "Eh," he shrugs to the box. "Second year physics is interesting, the lab can be rough, the parties so far are stupid, Calculus is breaking my brain, and fuckin' Comp II - I know there's supposed to be papers and all, but jeez, lay off the papers, man. I kinda wish I took Biology this semester. I sat in for a few but had to drop it. That new professor talks to whales! Is that cool or what?"

There's a somewhat bemused look on the antiquarian's face as she listens to Gareth ramble, propping her elbow on the nearby cash register and resting her chin in her hand. "The higher maths always gave me trouble, too. Ended up just getting an arts degree to satisfy the folks." There's a brief hesitation after she says that, but then she just shrugs and shakes her head, "What sort of degree are you aiming for?"

Gareth fiddles with the puzzle box. It's hard to say whether he's having success or not. He seems to be having fun with it, though. "Physics, through the PANDA program. I dig it, but I'm more into quantum physics these days, it's just a lot more interesting. The problem is all the fuckin' math you have to get through to get to the good stuff. I'm thinking of dropping it. But..." His mouth twitches. "Before my dad went all religious, he was a physicist," he admits. "I just..." He furrows his brow, as if puzzling through a particularly hard part of sliding sections of box, "...wanna do right by that, I guess."

"So long as you're enjoying it. I'm of the opinion everyone should do what's right for them, even if their parents don't like it." A somewhat sad smile touches Alexandra's face as she watches the boy fiddling with that puzzlebox, "After all, it's your life, not theirs. I can't think of the number of people I know that got stuck doing something they hated because their dad was in the business, you know?"

Gareth glances up. "You don't think you owe anything to your family? Some family issues you can't just walk away from, it seems," says the college student. "You can pick your friends, and you can pick your friends' noses, but you can't...I dunno. Insert something about family in there somewhere." He shrugs. Fiddles with his puzzle box. "What'd your parents want you to do?"

Alexandra shakes her head, "I didn't say that. But I think it's better for everyone if you're happy with what you're doing. Otherwise the only thing you're giving your family is your resentment." She settles down onto a high stool set behind the counter with a shrug, lacing her fingers together over her knee, "Mom wanted me to find a husband and have kids. Dad didn't much care so long as I got a college degree and a job. Neither of them really cared to look far afield, sadly."

Gareth tilts his head, still holding the puzzle box. He fiddles absently. "So what if you give your family resentment?" he asks. "In the end, they're the reason you're alive." He looks back down at the puzzle box, turns it upside-down to get a better view, and says, "Sounds like they didn't put a whole lot of pressure on you, though. Did you just get the degree to make your dad happy?" He looks up. "Didn't you ever find a guy or something?" He has a lopsided smile. "Or a chick or whatever. Don' sound too unreasonable of your mom for askin'. People do tend to fall in love all over the place. It's like a sickness with some people!"

A snort and a wry smile are Alexandra's first responses to that, "No real pressure, no, but no real expectations either. I had a brother they were more interested in, for the most part." Tapping a fingertip against her knee, she thinks a moment, then shakes her head, "And really, I was too busy with other stuff to worry about settling down. Hobbies, that kind of thing. Oh, I had friends," and she waves a hand negligently, "but nothing serious."

Gareth's eyes twinkle at that. "Friends, huh?" he says, grinning. "So, your parents kinda wanted things from you but didn't really put a lot of pressure on you, huh?" It's like he's adding a little note to his Alexandra-file. "What other stuff were you busy with? You got a cool degree and had some laid-back parents and stuff, and suddenly end up in the desert sellin' a buncha old stuff to tourists. With one awesome cat." He grins. He's totally not paying attention to the box, just fiddling it with his hands, "I'd say you need a few 'friends' now, or you'll whither and die and your cat will have to eat your corpse for sustenance, but... I don't know many attractive dudes or dudettes that might go for the antiquing crowd." He shrugs. So much for his career as a matchmaker. And then, click-click-click, a whole set of sides goes into place, he seems to have made significant progress opening the puzzle box. He gets this look, politely pleased masking a glow of pride. "Pretty cool box," he says, casually.

Another snort, "If you like it, it's for sale. Everything in here is, really." A beat, then she quickly adds "Not the cat or me." Someone's got a suspicious mind! Not that that's likely a surprise around the college crowd. "I've always been fascinated by old things, really. But less because they're old and more because of what kinds of things they bring with them. Like that box: the slip with it said it belonged to some widow around the civil war era, with a note that it hadn't been opened since we acquired it. I've no idea what's in it, if anything." She shrugs, "Makes you wonder why someone like that would have a thing like this, and also why they'd give it away."

"Things they bring with them?" Gareth asks. He looks...confused, and then glances back down at the box. "Maybe the widow knew her relatives were impatient and dull, and would never open the box," he ponders. His brow furrows again. "Stuff like this, though, it's like people." He slides one of the sections. "It looks like you're supposed to slide it this way, but if you do it locks the other side up, so you can't move forward. If you slide this other one over, it slides the previous one in place." Pause. "Kinda like how I pushed on what you were busy with, and you slid the conversation back to the puzzle box." He glances off, maybe looking for the cat. "But maybe you got good reasons for having some sliding bits of wood perfectly fitted between you and the rest of the world. Who am I to say?"

"We've all got our masks," agrees the woman behind the counter, nodding and not seeming put out at all that her earlier evasion was spotted. "And I imagine you've got good reasons for why you flinch, as well. Sometimes things just work that way." Your looking away may not have actually been seeking the local feline, but he decides to turn up anyway, hopping down from a nearby shelf to land on the counter with a resounding thump, and from there hopping down behind the counter. Alexandra looks his way, but continues speaking, "And really, the things I was busy with, my parents wouldn't have approved of. But they made me happy, and gave me something better to do with my life than waste away as yet another arts major wearing a paper hat and serving fries."

"Yeah," Gareth says. "Our parents hang large over our lives sometimes, sometimes in ways we don' expect." He offers a hand to the cat to sniff - but doesn't look, apparently having enough cat-fu to understand cats aren't always keen on being watched, and like to sniff hands at their own pace. The puzzle box rests on counter, a good way opened, but Gareth has stopped fiddling with it. "And if you're happy, you're happy," he says with some finality. "I can't imagine being cooped up with a bunch of old things, like a whole store full of dust and grandma, but the place seems to suit you." It's like a compliment and an insult! A complisult! "Your parents still around? What's your brother like?" he asks, all curiosity.

An eyebrow lifts, and Alexandra gives the boy a wry look as though trying to decide how to take that backhanded compliment. In the end, though, she just shakes her head and lets it pass completely. The question about her family brings a shadow to her expression, and she stands from her stool to go scoop up Machiavelli, gathering him against her chest, "I lost my parents in an accident a few years ago. Some college kids being stupid, and my folks just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time." Looking down at her cat's ears with a grimace, she sighs, "My brother seemed more interested in going through their will than anything, when it happened. He always preferred columns of figures to people."

Gareth winces, empathetically. He reaches up a hand and pushes his hair behind one ear. "Ah, fuck, yeah, I know a little about how that goes. I was in an accident when I was twelve, killed my sister Ruthie, who was driving at the time" he admits. "I don't really remember a lot from that time. I was on a lot of pain meds for the rest of the year. Still walk funny," he says. He looks back up. "You talked to your brother since? Maybe that was his way of coping, somehow? I know for some people, they got to...when they lose someone important to them, they kind of have to hold on to something concrete, make the world seem like it makes sense until they can properly grieve. Control is...important sometimes," he says obliquely.

After a moment, Alexandra nods, "I know. And yes, we've stayed in touch. He's not a bad person, just doesn't deal well with people as people." She heaves a sigh, then releases Machiavelli onto the countertop, where he takes a moment to groom his chest, completely unconcerned with mere human foibles. "For me, I just had to get away. Too many memories back home. Friend of mine knew the previous owner of this shop, miss Harkness, and I thought it was a good an idea as any to come out this way. See some new things, like."

Gareth nods. "I bet," he says, on the topic of getting away. "Hope you find a buyer for that puzzle box," says Gareth. "I'd pick it up if I could afford it. Kinda curious to know what's in it and all, maybe you can have the buyer tell you and lemme know." He grins cheerfully. On the 'see some new things' he chuckles. "Joke's on you then, huh? Lookit all these old things around!" He hmms. "Maybe you need friends. Or 'friend' friends. What about that muscly cop dude?" he asks. "Or that snarky handsome guy in the suit? Wait," Gareth adds, thoughtfully. "You like really old dudes. Hmm." He gets a distant look.

The 'suggestions' just get a Look from Alexandra that suggests she's not entirely sure of Gareth's mental stability before she just rolls her eyes and picks that puzzlebox back up, "They're new to me. Age has nothing to do with newness. And I'm making friends, thank you very much." She waggles the puzzlebox at Gareth admonishingly, resulting in a muffled rattle from inside, "Just for that, if I get this thing open, I'm not telling you what's inside. So there."

Gareth gets a hurt look. "What th'fuck did I do?" he asks, confused. "I'm just worried about you. You shouldn't be some crazy cat lady with her store full of old crap." Pause. "Cool old crap," he clarifies. "You're gonna get someone like Liane all worried and then she'll be sending you giant piles of food and then it'll be the end times or something."

The antiquarian in question laughs, then reaches over to rescue a cut-glass paperweight from where Machiavelli was batting at it, "We're all a little bit crazy. Some of us just don't realize it. And don't worry, it's not like I hide in here all the time. I've just been busy lately, haven't had much chance to get out and about." Then she grins, expression perhaps a little evil, "Maybe you should worry about yourself. You forget what girl you owe what present and then it'll be the End Times, mark my words."

"Well, good," says Gareth, biting his lip. He seems satisfied by this explanation, at least... momentarily. He blinks as the topic goes back to him. "What? Oh, I gave it to the girl. She liked it!" He gets this bright look, like he is suddenly filled with all the cheer in the world, and then that look gets tinged with...sadness or some kind. "I think she thought it was really cool. Thanks for your he-" His phone buzzes in his pocket, set to vibrate, he pulls it out, looks, furrows his brow, and gets an ashen look. He texts back and looks. "I gotta go," he mumbles, "friend sick." And then he's rushing out.