Cropped and Crinkled

Caspian investigates another case of infidelity. [Job Thread]

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Center of scholarly knowledge and shipwrighting, Zeltiva is a port city unlike any other in Mizahar. [Lore]

Cropped and Crinkled

Postby Caspian on February 24th, 2021, 1:46 pm

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85 Winter 520


“But do you think it makes the wrong kind of statement, all this blue on blue?”

Lounging across the full length of the divan, Caspian turns his eyes away from the jewel-like grapes in his hands, glancing over Mindy and her very azure ensemble. Like many of the wealthy in town, she has a personal stylist, said stylist who’s wearing an admirable number of flounces up the length of both arms and is scrutinizing Mindy over the tops of her silver-tipped pince-nez.

“You wanted blue, I brought blue,” the stylist replied, as evidenced by the rack of clothes she’d lugged into the parlor.

Mindy frowns at herself in the full-length mirror Caspian had been sent to retrieve from a spare room on the second floor. She whirls to Caspian. “Well?”

He swallows, reveling in the cold burst of sweetness from the grape he’s just popped into his mouth. “I like it. Like a nymph, born straight from the bay.”

The stylist has several more blouses and gowns for Mindy to try, Caspian supplying his input as prompted. It is an awful lot of blue, reminding him of the sharp ink-blue suit he’d worn when he found Rohka. Despite how fond he’d become of it, like all iterations of his magical getup, it only existed up until the moment he shucked it off. The magical suit has decided, for its own indiscernible reasons, to coat him in green today, a deep shade of pine needles with dark, twining embroidery up the cuffs that reminds him of vines, which –

He considers the grapes in hand again.

Huh.

When the stylist finally leaves, an admirable number of mizas changing hands, Mindy throws herself onto the divan beside him. It’s a position he knows well, and he reflexively eases over, lets her nestle into his side, and throws his arm across her.

With the modest but nonetheless glimmering chandelier above him, food he didn’t pay for in hand, and a well-dressed well-to-do in his arms –

It’s like old times, the ways he’d amused himself in Ravok. Starting over had been hard; he had stood at the bottom of the hill and for many days hadn’t even been able to scrounge the fortitude to look up. It has to mean something, that he’s here again, in borrowed digs, valued for his ability to idle and be petted and placate and compliment when needed.

Also familiar to him is when Mindy suddenly bursts into tears.

Caspian allows himself to thoroughly enjoy another grape before asking, as he’s expected, “What’s wrong, Miss Mindy?”

“Oh – the usual – “ Mindy unsuccessfully stifles a sob in Caspian’s stomach.

The magical suit, somehow, evades all wrinkling, no matter how wrung out he is, which is what’s happening now. Mindy has remarkable grip strength for someone who doesn’t even know where the duster is.

“Harv?” Mindy’s husband Harv had been carrying on an affair with her closest friend; since then, Mindy and Harv had separated. The divorce proceedings have yet to be finalized, but they sound remarkably frustrating.

Mindy confirms with another sob. “I heard rumors, and – I think he’s seeing someone.”

Sensing, now, that it’ll be some time before he can finish his grapes, he arches over to set them on the coffee table, and with his now free hand combs his fingers through her hair.

The correct thing, perhaps, is not to point out that the marriage is reaching its legal termination, and subsequently Harv can see whoever he likes.

“Awfully fast, isn’t he?” Caspian says instead, which is both an acquiescent and reasonable observation to make.

Mindy rears up, eyes still sparkling with tears, regarding him with a fierce expression. “It’s insulting.”

He’s never been anywhere remotely close to being married, but he understands the sentiment.

“Look, I know he’s free to go out and do however he pleases, but – I just need to know who she is. After last time – just the thought of it being someone I know again, a person I call my friend – imagine me, I don’t know, going out to lunch with her and smiling and carrying on, and – what an absolute fool I’d be. Caspian, can you – be a darling, and find out –?”


He sighs.

Yep.

Just like old times.

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Cropped and Crinkled

Postby Caspian on February 25th, 2021, 1:24 pm

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What makes this a little bit of a bother is that Harv has apparently lost his job.

Caspian wastes two whole mornings parked on a bench outside the same municipal building he’d seen Harv enter and exit like clockwork over the summer. The first morning, he assumes Harv is just running late. Since he and Mindy had separated, he had taken his own lodgings considerably further from the office. When noon hits, though, Caspian capitulates to his stellar boredom and traipses back home. Mindy had not exactly specified the timetable with which she had wanted this accomplished, and he had only narrowly avoided a dropping from a bird passing overhead, which seemed as good a reason as any to quit. Deep into the second, Harv-less morning he does a double-take, scrutinizes the facade of the building and the address, glances around at the lampposts and the snot-nosed kid hawking gazettes and strategically placed cart selling sandwiches and cigarettes. How embarrassing would it be if he’s in front of the entirely wrong building? But – no. Everything is as it should be, precisely as he remembers, the only difference being that the kid with the papers is a little ganglier and has for some reason taken up a habit of spitting.

Feeling more than a little put out, he gives up again at noon and strolls back to Mindy’s home. The housekeeper had decided over the summer that she doesn’t like him, convinced, perhaps, that Caspian had exacerbated the issues leading up to the divorce for the purpose of snatching up Mindy and her sizable fortune for himself. This theory occurs to him very belatedly; he wonders why he isn’t doing precisely that, since the idea apparently holds so much water. But even idly fantasizing about the notion of commitment, any degree of permanence towards his living in Zeltiva – he still hasn’t quite wrapped his head around the fact that Ravok is a lifetime away. To bow in any respect to Zeltiva would be to make his situation all too real, and for that – he isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready.

But with the housekeeper’s ire in mind, he stalls some distance away from Mindy’s house. He can see the housekeeper puttering around in the front parlor, the curtains drawn back from the grand bay windows as she whips around with the feather duster. If he goes in the front door, he’ll have to knock, and the housekeeper will undoubtedly answer, and she’ll do that thing where she scowls and demands he state his business and insist she isn’t aware that Mindy is expecting company.

He meanders closer. In the middle of the day, it would be too conspicuous to try and climb up to the second floor and let himself through a window. Just as he’s contemplating doing it anyway – the consequences are that he’ll avoid the housekeeper entirely, or be caught by her and ruin the hell out of her day – a side door to the house opens, and a man he distantly recognizes as Mindy’s personal chef hauls out the trash, whistling all the way.

Caspian counts to ten and slips towards the door. The chef had left it unlocked, and he doesn’t have an excuse prepared for the very real possibility of running headfirst into the man, but he steps into a merrily crowded storeroom unimpeded. There’s a doorway leading right to the kitchen, and the chef has his back to him, whistling as he tosses something into a large silver pot on the stove. Caspian edges out of view of the doorway, back pressed as tightly as possible against shelves of spare crockery without upsetting them. In his domain, the chef moves around as loudly as he pleases, and a minute later Caspian hears him trundle out of the kitchen, a muffled stomp down a short flight of wooden stairs, to perhaps fetch something from the larder. Seizing the opportunity, Caspian steals out of the storeroom and across the kitchen, emerging safely into the parquet-floored dining room.

This is an awful lot of work just to avoid the housekeeper – but the woman had made several comments about his smoking habits and kept asking prying questions as to where he’s from, and after two wasted mornings on the job he really isn’t in the mood. No one accosts him as he makes his way upstairs, and he strolls easily down the ruby-carpeted hallway to Mindy’s room.

Mindy doesn’t look surprised to see him; she treats him as a matter of course, like he’s just one of the scullery maids perpetually present for her beck and call.

“Mindy,” he says as patiently as he can muster, watching her comb her hair before her vanity, “did you forget to tell me Harv might have lost his job?”

She pauses her long strokes, mouth in pensive pout, then resumes. “I don’t know about losing it, but I did hear he’d gotten another one.”

Caspian just as patiently waits for her to give him the address.


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Cropped and Crinkled

Postby Caspian on February 28th, 2021, 1:03 pm

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Now loitering outside the correct municipal building – which from a glance is not very much different from the previous – Caspian alternates between staring at his shoes and then the front door. He is, perhaps, dressed a little more flashily than he should be. This is an ongoing point of disagreement between him and Taalviel, though that’s not entirely accurate because does not, in fact, actually disagree – he is well aware of the point she’s trying to make and he in full volition is choosing to do the opposite. The saving grace is that he has never actually met Harv, given that their relationship is primarily characterized by Caspian sticking steadfastly to his blind spot. The other point that he would make – had he lingered long enough in the cottage this morning for Taalviel to openly comment – is that everyone he’s presently involved with are resolute denizens of the middle class, and he can’t very well show up in the only other outfit he has, which is ratty black-on-black ensemble he’d worn on all the ships it took to get here, and all the many days when the idea of pulling on his magical suit seemed like a clownish farce.

But it’s on him now, Taalviel and sensibility be damned – and it’s not that outlandish, a shiny prong-lapel jacket in oyster gray. The most ostentatious part is how figure-hugging the matching pants are, but he supposes it’s all the better to creep around in with minimal noise.

It’s almost 5 pm. He can practically feel the frenetic energy of all the office slugs contained within its walls, eyes surely on the ticking clock. It’s still a point of fascination to him, all these people living strictly to the pacing of a timepiece; it might be nice, maybe, to have his life so cleanly partitioned. A sense of structure and security within all those boundaries. He wonders how he’d fare, if the world had taken him by a different hand, and he’d ended up in a place like Zeltiva instead. But even as he entertains the thought he finds it palpably repugnant; he values too highly coming and going as he pleases, relatively speaking, and he’s too much a denizen of the night to be expected to adhere to a 9 to 5.

Finally, a bell tolls – and he crosses his legs, packs his tobacco pipe, exhales a languid puff of smoke just as the first office workers scurry out of the building. This is the hard bit, the part that had almost turned him around last fall – it’s a bit cutting to say, but Harv is awfully good at melting into a crowd, especially the sort spilling out here. The man isn’t bad-looking, just – not necessarily someone Caspian would remember if he didn’t have to. He dresses just like all the office workers, wears suits in sensible navies and grays, isn’t particularly daring with his ties, keeps his hand on his briefcase and his weary eyes straight ahead. If it weren’t for the beard –

Someone catches Caspian’s eye. One of the men funneling out of the building is wearing a particularly dashing suit in a rich green, the collar turned up to reveal a stripe of yellow. It’s not garish; it just goes, and Caspian looks after him with a fair bit of envy, committing the sight of it to memory in case the magical suit – which he’s still not figured out the machinations of – takes requests. The man’s briefcase is a bright saddle brown, sticking out from the crowd’s pragmatic woody browns and blacks. Only when the man, striding purposefully down the street, is nearly out of view does Caspian look at his face.

Harv?

Caspian bolts to his feet and hurries after him.


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Cropped and Crinkled

Postby Caspian on February 28th, 2021, 1:41 pm

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The yellow is so terribly distracting.

The streets are quite busy, with so many in this part of the neighborhood getting off work, and what’s comfortable cover is at times a bother. Caspian nearly knocks right into someone, who curses and throws a rude gesture his way; a few paces later he doesn’t realize someone’s exiting a shop and he almost slams headfirst into the opening door.

Dodging through the human gamut, Caspian keeps a healthy several yards’ distance between himself and Harv. The man hasn’t looked over his shoulder once; even if he did, there’s enough traffic that Caspian might melt right into it. Last fall when he’d tailed Harv, there had been a lot of fidgeting, hunching, his body language projecting a whole mess of guilt and doubt – but there’s none of that now, Harv with his spine straight and shoulders back, and a frustratingly better outfit to boot.

Is this what happens when people get divorced? Had Harv always had a bit of a dandy in him, that in his marriage he’d had to keep under wraps – or is this a new affliction that the divorce had cracked?

And where did he get that briefcase? Such a thing doesn’t have a right to be pretty, yet it is; Caspian finds himself wanting one, though he’s got nothing to keep in it.

He’s been following Harv for a good fifteen minutes when the streets become familiar. Instinctively, he glances around, and – yes. He and Harv turn a corner, and there it is, the amphitheater where he and Rohka had just weeks before seen a play together.

Harv slows his gait here, glances around, waits a few feet away from the box office. On a date, then?

They’re not showing the same one he and Rohka had seen, but the posters plastered on both sides of the street seem like a romance. Totally date material.

The line for the box office grows; Harv remains alone. Caspian’s leaning against a lamppost a few yards away, and for lack of anything better to do, lights his pipe again. He scans the faces of all the women who pass – and the men too, because who knows what else Harv has going on – and there are plenty of viable candidates but all of them are already paired up, or gaggling along in groups. Every now and then he glances as inconspicuously as he can to the side, putting Harv in his peripherals. Nothing new. Until –

A large double-gate – perhaps for dragging props in? – opens. A woman in an enormous, curly white wig like candy floss peeks out. She’s got a robe on, face heavily painted, heels like moonlit glitter peeking out underneath.

When she spots Harv, she smiles, full and boundlessly. Harv smiles back and greets her.

With Harv’s attention so arrested – who wouldn’t be, for even half-dressed the actress outshines the stars soon to reveal themselves above – Caspian allows himself to watch them more openly. The actress is handing him a ticket, standing on her toes to give him a quick peck on the cheek, and is flitting away in a wash of shimmer and shine.

The actress doesn’t see how Harv lingers by the gate, even after she’s disappeared from view. Or the smile lingering on his face as he heads for the line to enter the theater.

The more ostentatious outfit on Harv makes a bit more sense, now. Being in the actress’ presence, wanting to hold her attention – to want to shine must be infectious.


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Cropped and Crinkled

Postby Caspian on February 28th, 2021, 2:04 pm

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“You hawking tickets?”

The play’s just started and Caspian, not wanting to miss Harv’s exit, is still loitering outside, albeit at a different lamppost. He gives what appears to be a university student a quick once-over. “Depends. How much would you pay for them?”

The gangly kid names a price double that of the box office price for the nosebleeds.

“I don’t take anything less than triple,” Caspian replies.

The student messes around in his pockets, comes up with just a few more coppers over the initial bid. “This is all I have. Please?”

“You think this is a game, kid? I’ve got ungrateful mouths to feed. Eternal bills to pay. And a thriving customer base who don’t disrespect me by trying to pay in chewing gum. Get triple or petch off.”

The student does the latter. Caspian almost feels bad.

Almost.

None of their conversation, of course, had been in good faith – Caspian doesn’t have a ticket and had no intention of adding to the job’s overhead. But seeing that there might be a market for the product in question, one willing to pay double –

An idea for next time, maybe.

By the end of the play’s first act, Caspian is good and bored. So much of what he does is standing around and waiting, and he can only circle the block so many times before that too becomes a drudgery. Smoking is a decent way to pass time, occupying several parts of him at once, but the cashier at the box office tells him the show is a two-hour affair and even with his most valiant efforts, he doesn’t think his lungs can take the heat. Shouldn’t have scared that kid off so soon; that, along with watching the beetle crawling along the curb, are the most exciting things to have happened.

But, finally – the play ends. He’d heard some of the proceedings, but hadn’t paid too much attention, though he’d counted three – maybe four? – different actresses in the company. He isn’t sure which one Harv’s seeing, but she had exuded such a potent charisma, even from a distance, that she could very well be the lead.

The audience exits – but no sign of Harv. Impatiently, Caspian eases from one foot to the other, chews on the end of a pipe he can’t bear to keep lighting. When the man eventually emerges he lingers again by that stage door. Caspian shifts a further distance down the street.

Half a bell passes. At this point Caspian had realized she probably wants to get out of her costume, take her makeup off, make herself presentable. For all he knows, she’s gadding about with the other actors or fans have set themselves upon her. Harv, too, seems a bit restless, but with a much more positive spin on the feeling than Caspian.

The woman who eventually emerges seems a lot smaller without her candy floss wig. Limber, light – but more human than the earlier vision that seemed to have graced them from the astral plane.

Harv is all bashful smiles when he walks arm in arm with the actress down the street. Caspian’s found a newspaper, realizes it’s a ridiculous prop to pretend to read in the dark. With a weary sigh, he goes back to lightly smoking, and with a secure half a block between him and the couple, trails after.

He’d wanted to find out more about the actress. Mindy will surely have a hundred questions. But Harv takes the woman to his own home, the new residence he’d had to evacuate to after leaving Mindy. Caspian doesn’t need to stick around to figure what goes on.

In the morning, lingering in Mindy’s foyer – the housekeeper had caught him aiming for the side door and made him wait here, like a dog – he debates what he’s going to say to her. He’ll have to be illustrative, but it probably won’t go over well, his revealing Harv has picked up the toast of the town. How to describe her without causing Mindy to have a conniption?

There’s mail stacked on the console table in the foyer. Nothing interesting – save for a colorful flyer peeking out from the middle of the stack. Caspian fishes it out. Beaming up at him, in full regalia in advertisement for the play, is the actress.

Mindy wants him to tell the truth –

He supposes this is one way of doing it.

WC: 736

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Caspian
Player
 
Posts: 402
Words: 531695
Joined roleplay: August 12th, 2018, 11:26 pm
Location: Zeltiva
Race: Human, Mixed
Character sheet
Storyteller secrets
Medals: 4
Featured Character (1) Featured Thread (2)
Overlored (1)


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