Who: Rey Smith & Yahaira Cortez What: Chance encounter When: Early February (waaaay backdated) Where: Downtown Repose Warnings: None expected
Rey was generally careful about using her gifts because, well, lots of reasons. But she liked to do small things to make people's lives better. She'd helped Del with the Christmas tree in December and been welcomed for it; Theodore had been nothing but kind; and for all that she was still wary of him, even Ren was behaving, well, like an adult. There were enemies out there, in the Capital, and they needed to be considered, but Rey had settled into her life in Repose with something like ease. Which was why she thought nothing of it when the deliveryman with his arms full of packages tripped on the sidewalk break and she caught the packages with a quiet gesture. They should have spilled forward onto the concrete, but her little shove kept them in the man's arms, and probably kept him upright, for long enough for him to recover his balance.
It was a small good deed for the day, and Rey smiled as she crossed the street, never considering that any onlooker might have noticed and made a connection between her and the good luck of the man who should have fallen and lost his packages and didn't.
Somehow, in this little town full of people with their pale skin and beady eyes, she'd managed to find a guanábana at the grocery. Yahaira detested the grocery, with all their strange foods, foods she had to pick out, like she knew what she would want to eat tonight and every night until the end of the week. It was ridiculous, and horrible, and she wanted to go home where Carlos and Milagros made all her meals.
Now there was only her and Michi. It was enough to make her snarl, but at the moment she was contenting herself with eating the ripe guanábana, the flesh smooth and ripe, the flavor sweet and sour as it should be. She held the skin in her hand, like an avocado, and dug out the rest with a plastic -- why was everything plastic in this country? -- spoon as she stood with her back against the brick wall.
And then a most interesting thing happened, or perhaps the most interesting thing today. She noticed that little use of magic, and licked the last bit of fruit off the spoon before tossing the rind into a nearby bin. Her head tilted, her braids piled high on her head before she righted herself. If she had her cards -- but they were at the house.
"Hey!" She tossed out in growled English, the word clear if accented, while she held the opposite half of the fruit in her palm. It was too good to waste. And even a little pale skinned witch could be interesting in this town.
It took Rey half a second to realise the woman was calling to her. She turned round to see who it was--not a voice she recognised, and she'd come to know a lot of her neighbours here in Repose--and definitely not an accent she recalled: a fact she'd become more conscious of lately. "I'm sorry," she said, the slight rise at the end of the sentence making it almost but not quite a question. And followed up with, "Can I help you?"
She can feel that little spell of Michi's tug at her skin, reminding her that it exists as she steps in closer, eyes critical of this slim little girl. She looks too thin for any magic, muscles like wires underneath pale skin lining. Appearances can be deceptive. "I saw you helping that man." And while others might pass it off as quick reflexes or a lucky catch, her gaze was too sharp as it met Rey's. She knew and it would be good for this woman to know that, and that there was no point in lying. "You and I, we are similar in this, si? I will not tell." She swapped to her native Spanish. "I am not a hateful rat."
Rey's Spanish had all been learnt at the high school level and wasn't colloquial, but her native empathy and the similarity of the words was enough to tell her what Yahaira meant. She glanced round to make sure nobody was looking. "Gracias," she answered, in her own oddly-accented Spanish, half British and half American with a tiny trace of Scottish vowels, and none of the Castilian lisp that would have said that she learned it in Europe. "We shouldn't talk on the street," she continued. "I'm Rey, and my car is that way--" she gestured round the corner, where her ancient Civic hatchback sat in one of the town's parking spaces.
It was a horrible accent, and there was a twitch in the corner of her eye that betrayed it. "You may speak your own language. I can understand it." But not talking further on the street -- that was a necessity, and she cast a glance back to the store where Michi waited for her. She would not be so far and she cast a glance at the girl. No, she was not a threat and Yahaira was not all that she seemed.
The car was not one of the big black SUVs she was used to, with blacked out windows and a driver, save for the young woman, and she wouldn't be driving them anywhere. Reaching for the small silver case she had in her pocket, she flipped it open, and removed one of the rolled cigarettes. Five left. Five left with tobacco made from her home and she sighed, placing one end between her lips as the other end lit with neither lighter nor match. "Do you smoke? I will share mine, if you do."
"I don't usually, but I appreciate the gesture, and the honour." Rey observed the lighting all unfazed, not so much used to the open use of power but not surprised by it either. She sniffed the smoke, recognising the difference between the unpleasant scent of manufactured cigarettes and tobacco, and nodded at Yahaira, a slight smile forming at the corners of her mouth. "Are you new in town?" Rey let the the question tilt up, because Yahaira hadn't given her name yet, and Rey had already introduced herself.
Her head bobbed once, simple, at Rey's words. A respectful girl then, and Yahaira could approve of that. She exhaled slowly, a long plume of smoke as she glanced over at her. "Something like that." It was a question she'd received by everyone she'd deemed to speak to so far and she wondered if it was something about this damn town. So small, everyone got that question, yet she'd lived in a miniature town of her own so far, and no one asked questions. Questions were dangerous. But she didn't use her name, and it took a moment to realize she'd never given it. No one asked it at home, where she was simply Eduardo's bruja. "Magdalena. It is," a pause, "Nice to meet you, Rey."
"It's a pleasure to meet you as well, Magdalena." Rey wasn't reading Magdalena, but she couldn't help sensing some tension at the casual question Rey had asked. "Repose is small, so it's obvious when new people arrive. If you talk to someone you haven't seen around, they're either a tourist or a new resident, and 'are you new' is an easy way to start a conversation. The other half is that this place is a--a magnet for strange things. There's a magic to this place and it draws others to it, I think. Which was why I was wondering, because I thought, since you observed me, were looking and had the knowledge--" Rey gestured at the hand-rolled cigarette that Yahaira had so casually lit "--you might already have seen some of the strangeness."
"Small talk," she observed. Rey was talking about small talk, beginning with if she was new, and the corner of her mouth turned up. There had been little need of it on the compound, conversations were held in appearances and glances, loaded with so many words that never left anyone's lips. She knew those conversations though, not these ones, and sucked on the end of her cigarette thoughtfully. More thoughtfully as the girl -- Rey -- went on. "It doesn't surprise me. We flock together, or we attract violence. This is the way of it." She looked more like the former than the latter, and violence swirled all around Yahaira without ever touching her. Eduardo saw to that.
"Are there many of us here? Ones like you and I?"
Rey nodded. "Do you know about Lindmarch, the British school? There are people from that tradition here. And others as well." She thought about Mao, who wasn't even human really, and added, "Most of them are ... not hostile ... if approached with an open hand instead of a closed fist." She glanced over at Yahaira again, enjoying the scent of the unadulterated tobacco. "Is it like that where you come from?" Which Rey was curious about, but didn't want to inquire more closely until Yahaira was ready to answer.
A British school? Of course the British would try to teach such things in a school. Control magic, as if such things could be controlled and regimented. Her nose scrunched up a second before she confirmed the answer that was already all over her face. "No." The others though, that had her face relaxing again, something like curiosity in her eyes. "That is the way of most people that are not beaten dogs, and know only the fist." She took another draw off her rolled cigarette, watching Rey, that little flare of nostrils when she breathed in. "No," she answered quietly. "There is no where like where I'm from, except where I'm from. And there? We are either coveted or feared." There was no inbetween, and the same people that crossed themselves to avoid the mal ojo during the day were the same that would sneak over for a spell for a wayward lover at night.
"Yeah, the fear is why I generally try to keep it low-key. That and there's always someone to try to take advantage of you." Rey thought about the Snakes and Ren's insistence on ignoring that danger. "I don't meet a lot of ... individual practitioners, as it were. Or I hadn't." A smile blossomed across her face. "It's nice to get to know people that I can talk about it with."
She rolled the cigarette back and forth between her thumb and index finger like she was mulling the idea over. "There's always something to be afraid of. And people always want what they don't have." Yahaira shrugged, as if this nugget of information was simple and true from a school in England to the muggy jungles of Colombia. There was a little hint of a smile and she nodded, before taking her last puff off her cigarette and dropping it to crush it underfoot. But she didn't leave the remnants there, no, she picked them back up and dropped them into the husk of her guanábana. "We're a bit of a rare breed." At home, who she met was carefully controlled. "Have you been here long? You sounded as if you have been earlier."
"I moved here in October but I'd been here before. I was--I have foster family who own a house here, so I visited in the summer when I was a teenager. I was abandoned as an infant and someone with the kind of gifts I have fostered me as a teenager." Rey's expression and manner said that there was far more to that than she was willing to dump on a new acquaintance: not surprising to Yahaira, probably, given Yahaira's own background. "So I knew about Repose as a place, but I didn't know about a lot of the things that happen here. Like the lovebirds." Rey rolled her eyes a little.
So many words came rolling out of the pale woman that Yahaira's eyes went a little wide at all the detail. No one she knew would ever say all of that to anyone, especially not someone they had just met and she almost wished she hadn't finished her cigarette quite yet. It would have helped her do something other than trying not to gape. "You're very honest," she finally said, haltingly. And the fact that there seemed to be more was -- she sucked on her teeth. "The lovebirds?" It took her another moment to realize that the couples around town were not normal. "They aren't always like that?" She asked with some relief.
"No. That's part of the strangeness of this town. I assume it'll stop at some point. Probably after Valentine's Day." Rey rolled her eyes a little. "If this town has a place-spirit, it has a very odd sense of humour." She understood Yahaira's words about honesty as not quite a rebuke, but certainly a cultural difference. People in Repose were so interested in how everyone fit, and that was how Rey fit in. "Most of the lovebirds aren't even local, as far as I can tell."
Rey was correct in the fact that it wasn't a rebuke, but more a notation of differences, something to be concerned with if she was opening her mouth to do those that would do her harm. Dark eyes regarded her. Places had spirits, some had ghosts, some meant no harm and some did. This town? She hadn't made a decision yet. "They aren't? That is even worse. Infesting with their --" she waved a hand through the air as if to indicate all their lovey-doveyness and drama. It was too much, with too many pale faces, and too many heterosexuals. "They can go back to wherever they came from." But something Rey said earlier stuck. "Is this place humorous?"
Rey answered the question seriously. "I think it's not hostile. At Christmas it helped spread good cheer and joy. And the people in love can be annoying but they don't hurt anyone. So it doesn't seem to be malicious. Just kind of ridiculous. It's like watching a bad movie, not like something real people do. At least I hope not." Rey made a face at the idea of treating a romantic partner the way she'd seen some of the couples around town behaving.
"Mmm," Yahaira said noncommittally, not fully believing that there wasn't some hostility enmeshed in the acts of the lovers. Perhaps it wasn't outwardly hostile, but they certainly weren't demonstrating any amount of respect for the town, or its people. "I have never watched a bad movie," she said, quietly. Was this something people here did? How strange did they actually have to be?
"I hadn't watched many movies at all until I came to the Capital for uni," Rey admitted, "and I still haven't seen a lot of bad ones. But some of us here in Repose get together and watch them every now and then. Maybe--" she hesitated, and then, "--maybe you'd like to join us sometime?"
"None?" That was even more startling than watching bad movies, and Yahaira's head turned to regard the other girl again. There was no sense of lying, no subterfuge, nothing but this sweet honesty that vaguely worried Yaya. The jungle would have eaten this pale girl alive. "For the good ones, I suppose," she said quietly, and lacking the standoffishness that almost everyone else would get. "Do you go often? My companion would likely come as well, if that is alright."
"I'll tell you what. When it's my turn to host, which should be soon because we do this every couple of weeks, I'll have you both over, and I'm sure everyone will be delighted to meet you both," Rey told Yahaira confidently, continuing, "So tell me about your companion."
She considered this for a moment before nodding. Rey did not need to know that it was the first time any such invitation had been extended to her by anyone. There had been no friends growing up, no one but her Mama. "My --" Yaya sniffed. "She is rude and she does not like to talk. We can leave her outside. She'll be happier there." Well, perhaps not, but vexing Michi was the most fun she had these days.
"Maybe she'll enjoy the movie and she won't have to talk during that anyway," Rey said, though she was a little dubious on that point. But from the sound of things, Yahaira's companion was probably also far from home and overwhelmed. "Is she--one of us?" Rey added after a moment. "I mean, she knows about you, I imagine. But that's not the same."
"She is--" the word lingered on her mouth. Michi was not like them, but she was also not unlike them. "She is different," Yaya finally decided on the most apt description. "She knows," she added with another shrug of her shoulders, but everyone invited into her life did. The ones that were not invited? Not so much, but there had always been a line between those that were because of Papa, and the ones that he did not want interacting with her.
But he was not here now, and focus went distant for a moment before she sighed. This was only home for a little while.
"A lot of people in Repose are a little different one way or another," Rey said as if it were an explanation. "Maybe she'll find someone who's--if not like her, someone she has things in common with. Someone she'll like to talk to."
Yahaira glanced at her, the earnestness in her eyes, written across her frame and in the way she held her shoulders, and her mouth curved up slightly. It was an idealist's view, optimism unfurled, but not a reality that she was willing to bring crashing down. Not yet. "The most we may have in common is that we have nothing in common with anyone else. But I will bring her."
Rey, who knew something about not necessarily intending to stay in Repose for a long time and yet somehow ending up a part of the town, grinned beatifically. "It sounds like a date, then."