Zoie - Homework and Hope

From Masq
Date: Setting:

IC:  02/25/2009
RL: 07/14/2011

Pizza Palace -- Albuquerque

Pizza Palace is a bustling restaurant filled with all types of people -- an interesting and thorough cross-section of humanity. The low prices and frequent specials attract everyone from hungry college kids to curmudgeonly old people; from pasty late-night nerds taking a break from MMOs to families with screaming, marinara-smeared toddlers. Pizza Palace is open 24/7 except for holidays, with a happy hour from four to seven, and offers just about every topping commonly or uncommonly found upon pizzas. The menu also includes a variety of non-pizza food options such as pasta, sandwiches, and salads, for freakish pizza-haters dragged here by their friends. Eat in, get it to go, or call from home for delivery!

The restaurant has a reputation for hiring stoners and slackers, but it's a mostly clean place with booths and tables on the inside, plus an outdoor patio area for smokers and people with dogs. The floor is a checkerboard pattern of black and white linoleum squares, and all the chairs and booths are red. Each table is covered with a fresh sheet of butcher paper and is equipped with a little cup of crayons along with the napkins, parmesan, and red pepper flakes. Neon signs in the restaurant windows announce PIZZA! and BUDWEISER!, and CORONA!, along with the always-lit OPEN! sign. Video games both archaic and current tempt children to scream at their parents for quarters, and a karaoke area reminds tipsy customers that beer makes you an excellent singer.

Baby, it's cold outside.... It's exactly two months past Christmas, but some winter songs are still relevant, and Cleo's not only feeling musical (and chilly), but she's got a case of the green elevens, too. She's much less intimidating when she's got the sniffles -- it seems to make her look even younger -- but people are giving her a wide berth anyway, even though she's taking pains not to infect anyone, or at least creating the illusion of doing so. It's just past the dinner rush and the adults are leaning over their empty plates and talking -- and the kids, finished, are wreaking havoc in the arcade. Cleo, a cylinder of disinfectant wipes under one arm, seizes a child with the other hand and shoves him up against the wall. "That gabe is /too hard for you/," she says, "so either fuckig practice ad id or play adother wud. You hid id wub bore goddab tibe I'b goig to kig your ass." And because reading that sort of dialog is annoying as hell, we're going to assume anything Cleo says from here on out is spoken without the benefits of M's, N's or T's. She releases the boy and wipes her nose on her sleeve.

It is cold outside? All you need is love and Zack is her sunshine, her only sunshine. He fills her up, buttercup... and you know other musical references. Like just like me, they long to be next to you. Zoie comes skipping into the door, well that was the intention anyways. She skips. There is a door. However, she manages to slam into the door, trip over her feet, go feet over head and collide with some of the staff. Zoie hops to her feet with bright red cheeks and looks around. Yep. People saw that. "Bad! Bad sea monkeys!" She had nothing. In fact, she slides into the nearest booth rather quickly.

...Which just so happens to be the booth next to the table that Cleo's homework is spread around, but seeing as neither of the Kings are present today, not much of it is getting done. She wipes her hand on her sleeve again and with a wet sniffle manages to clear most of the snot from her face, returning to the scattered papers. She's bleary-eyed and weary-looking in a way that suggests she is far beyond her thirteen years, but the way she slumps into her chair and takes up her pen and sighs raggedly over the homework is pretty kid-like. It appears she's missed Zoie's spectacular entrance, and it also appears that she's missed the older teen's proximity -- Zoie is apparently behaving herself, though, so she hasn't come to Cleo's attention.

Attention smtention (what? It's a word!). Zoie stands up and sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiides in right next to the germ bag that is Cleo. "Been making out with people and getting sick?" She turns her green eyes towards the homework thoughtfully. "Whatcha doing?" Zoie grins vibrantly towards Cleo though.

Any other time Cleo might be annoyed, but it appears that the distraction is welcome right now. Cleo folds her homework up -- if Zoie's looking, it's a ditto of long-answer social studies questions of the founding-fathers persuasion. Cleo tucks a little US Constitution booklet into the crease and stuffs everything in her backpack. "Shit I can do later," she says. "Homework. But who the fuck wants to do homework at this time of night, huh?" The making-out comment goes unacknowledged save for another sniffle, and a slow draw on her Coke.

Zoie puts her hand out to try and pull the homework back out of the back. "Oh hey are you like totally kidding? Homework is awesome. It's how you go to college and make the big bucks. It's how you get out of where you are." She looks at the sniffling girl and arches her brows very very slowly. "You want me to get you some tea to make you feel better?" She's pretty sure the other girl didn't die.

This seems to surprise Cleo, who does /not/ seize Zoie's hand and make her let go, or even actually get upset. "Um," she says. The homework emerges from her backpack and is handled pretty much however Zoie wants. "I'm okay. I have like... Coke. Feels good on the throat, you know? You like... /like/ homework?" She just looks stunned, though whether that's a judgment on Zoie or on homework is not entirely clear.

Zoie nods her head to that. "Of course I do, what is like not to like?" She looks at Cleo like she's insane. "I mean really think about it. You are educating yourself, so for //you// that means you can look down on people with lower education if you wanted." She grins towards the girl. "So let's knock this out and then you don't have to like worry about it. So um.. how is school, like I don't know how old you are. Are you into boys or are they still in the cootie phase?"

Cleo, blindsided, is looking at Zoie hard. "Thirteen," she says after a second. "I dunno, I wouldn't call it like cooties or anything but I don't really get the /point/." She pauses. "I mean, hangin' out with 'em is one thing but all that romance shit, that's kinda...." Cleo trails off, waving a hand, and then her attention snaps back to Zoie. There is a question she's burning to ask, but she doesn't ask it. Instead she says, "I'm supposed to write a thing for the first four amendments. Like, something you /can't/ do based on em, like you can't just walk into somebody's house an' search it for like heroin or somethin'." The fourth amendment box is duly filled out with this exact scenario.

Zoie nods her head to that. "Yeah, they are fine to hang out with. Some of my best friends are like totally boys. Sometimes girls are.. um.. well when I was like your age, they squealed a lot." Zoie squeals a lot. She makes happy guinea pig noises when happy. Fear her happiness. Okay, she's never not happy. Well there was that one time, but we don't talk about it. IT NEVER HAPPENED OKAY?! Zoie looks at her for a few moments. "What up? You totally had that you wanted to say something and didn't look. I mean.. I might get offended, but I'll like totally forgive you."

"Nah, nah, it was nothing. I mean, I was just like wondering how you remember all this shit, you're in like... college." Cleo pauses and says, "All my best friends are guys, too. They're the best. Like Joel. He's the best guy I ever knew. And did you meet Damian? He took me camping once." And apparently this has made a big impression, because Cleo is actually kind of smiling through the sniffles. She takes another sip of Coke. "I don't get the second amendment one, 'cause they make laws about guns all the time. My dad, he has like a handgun and a rifle and he wants a semiautomatic? But I met a cop or a detective or something and she says they're like illegal."

Zoie nods her head. "Well it depends on the state. We have the right to arm ourselves, which means we can own guns. It is up to the state to mandate which kinds of guns and how the licensing for them are done though." She smiles and then chuckles. "I just remember. When you are old like me, you will too."

Cleo is staring at Zoie now like she's been royally had, and she can't keep quiet any longer. A hand comes down on the homework, and its meaning is: forget that shit, look at me. "Why do you play dumb all the time?" she says.

Zoie blinks a bit to the slam on the table and then up towards the girl. "Hmmm? I don't play dumb at all. There are a lot of things that I don't know. When I do know, I tell them." She grins and then reaches out to ruffle the girl's hair. Oh yeah.. she just tried to touch you! "I mean don't mistake happy and stuff for stupid. I know a lot of book information."

Cleo ducks almost distractedly. Now she looks really confused, but apparently she's still clinging to the tattered vestiges of politeness and declines to follow up with more questions. "Oh. Yeah. All the really smart people I know have like... problems. Where did you learn book shit? By like doing homework?" Because this where Cleo the D-student seems to fall short, judging by the incomplete Bill of Rights worksheet.

Zoie nods her head. "Partly. I um... I escaped a lot in books when I was younger. My sist..." She stops and there is a feel of pain that comes from her before she shakes her head. "I um.. I read a lot. It was like really awesome that you could go to all these places and be all these different things. Then I just read the stuff in books and stuff like that."

Cleo purses her lips. "I don't like that stuff. I don't like where you fool yourself into thinking everything's okay when it's not. It's like that crystal shit at Zack's place. Or like religion. Like, getting all mixed up between what's real and what's fake." She looks frustrated, intense, like she doesn't expect Zoie to understand but is trying to make her by force of will. "An' I think I get why some people like it but life is hard enough without that other stuff like... mixin' it all up."

Zoie is silent for a moment. She turns the words in her head. "I understand." Maybe. "When I was growing up it was all about lies." She giggles a bit and it is hard to imagine she lies. "There were things we were not supposed to talk about because other people in society might find out about it." She looks towards Cleo. "Like that?"

"No." Cleo thinks a minute. She's only thirteen; the thoughts are there but the vocabulary is not. "I guess it's like fooling yourself. Like the crystals. Like you buy a crystal because it brings you prosperity or some shit, instead of you goin' out and workin' to fix it. Stuff like that. Like prayin'. Or like buryin' your head in a book an' pretending there's nothing wrong."

Zoie gives her a look for the swearing. You know the look. Then she nods her head to that. "I see, don't you believe in anything that you cannot see? I mean there is friendship and you trust it to be there, even if you cannot quantify it."

"/No/. It's...." Cleo looks away, tapping her fingers on the table as she tries to come up with the right words. "I dunno. It's different. Anyway, friendship is different, you can see it an' touch it. It's someone takin' care of you an' worryin' about you when they don't have to, and doin' shit with you." If Zoie gives her another look, Cleo will ignore that one, too. She sniffles again, and look around the dining room and the arcade -- all is calm, all is right, no asses would currently benefit from the application of kicks.

"I like hope. It allows me to think that there is a reason for the bad and that it will pass." Zoie's voice is ever gentle, even when the looks are given. Then she tips her head. "What are you trying to fix in your life, Cleo?"

"Homework." As far as dodges go, it's unoriginal. "If I was smart enough for homework I'd be really happy. This is due on Friday an' my dad is no help, an' it makes my head hurt." Cleo finishes off her Coke, sucking it dry from the straw with the obnoxious sound that is not unlike her current wet sniffles. She gets up. "Did you want like... food? You don't have any yet."