Noah bent down, careful not to scrape the underside of his Gibson acoustic. He scooped the money out of the black guitar case. It had been a particularly lucrative night; when the weather got nicer, people got more generous. He tipped his earnings into his backpack and carefully packed away his guitar. Slinging the case over his shoulder, he stopped to survey his surroundings. He hadn’t even noticed the sun going down.
The musician realized he was hungry, as his stomach gave a protesting growl. Maybe he’d grab a burger or something before heading home.
Now that the sun was going down later, Theresa stayed indoors longer. But now that it had finally gotten dark, the vampire could venture out without getting burned to a crisp. She liked to take walks in the park before setting out to a bar or a club for a night of ‘work’, and tonight was no exception. She strolled along the sidewalk at a casual pace, just studying the trees and the passers-by. One thing about New Orleans, it was heavier on nature than Hollywood.
There was a dark-haired guy putting away a guitar nearby, and she heard the clink of coins when he picked his backpack up. “Sounds like you had a good day. Is it enough to keep you in guitar strings?”
He looked up at the sound of the voice, spotted the source and offered a small smile. "Sort of," he replied. "When supplemented with other things." Noah negotiated the backpack with the guitar case. It was a bit awkward, but better than sitting there sorting all the money into his wallet. The first time he had done it, he had gotten mugged. He had learned his lesson. "But I wouldn't recommend it if you have a taste for fancier things."
His stomach growled again. He had been playing for hours, zoning out. Noah didn't really need the extra money, but it was something he liked to do. It was more personal than playing in a crowded restaurant, personal without having to really interact.
Somebody’s hungry, Theresa thought, but kept that to herself. She wasn’t supposed to be able to hear everything, after all. She herself would be eating later, but she wasn’t starving yet. “I don’t have much need for fancy stuff,” she answered, and that was the truth. Even when she was alive, she had never had much use for things, and now that she was in tighter financial circumstances she had no extra cash for them.
“I guess this is the part where I say I’m sorry I missed you playing.”
Noah nodded. "Yeah, me neither. As long as I have the necessities, I'm fine." He started walking toward one of the small restaurants nearby, his hands in his pockets. "It's okay, that you missed it, I mean. I usually play here at least once a week, although sometimes I get busy with other gigs. Next week, I'm playing in this jazz club every night."
He glanced back at the girl. He wasn't sure he had ever seen her around before. She was small, though he wasn't one to talk. If she had been bigger, and male, he'd wonder if she was gearing up to pick-pocket him.
“I hate jazz,” the vampire said conversationally, but added, “I guess it wouldn’t be too bad if there was booze involved, though. A beer makes everything better.” The guy wasn’t that much bigger than she was, and she decided that he’d probably mean her no harm if she talked with him a little more. She’d been pretty skittish when she’d first hit town, but the lack of anyone trying to burn her up had settled her nerves a bit.
“You’re probably on your way to get something to eat,” she said, pretending as if she hadn’t just heard his stomach rumbling like a volcano. “Mind if I walk with you for a ways? The park’s not really that safe after dark.”
He couldn't help but laugh at that. "Yeah, I guess it does. It's not my favorite genre, but the older folks, they have the money, and they like it, so we play for them." Noah realized that it was pretty dark, and he couldn't in good conscience tell her to walk alone. "Sure, no problem. Do you go to school around here, or something?" She could have conceivably been in high school or something. It made him feel a bit old. Pretty soon, he'd be sitting there, tapping his foot to the music he used to play, eating rare steaks and then going to bed at 9.
"I think I'm going to get a cheeseburger. Not the healthiest, but I haven't eaten all day. When I start to play, I just get too into it."
“No, but I work near here.” If only you knew... “It’s usually a pretty nice neighborhood when the sun’s out, its just when it gets dark that it gets to be a little creepy.” Was she supposed to introduce herself now? She never knew what humans expected and what they didn’t on occasions like this. Even as a human herself, everyday interactions had been a little beyond her. Still, she supposed she could make an effort for the sake of fitting in.
“My name’s Theresa. What’s yours?”
He brushed a lock of errant hair away from his eyes. "I'm Noah," he replied. "And you already know where I work." They had reached the little diner now, and he paused awkwardly at the door. Should he invite her to join him? Would that be weird? It also seemed weird to just cut off the conversation. Now that he had his food, she could go traipse around by herself? "Listen, I could probably give you a ride home, but I really have to eat first, so..."
The musician trailed off, hoping she'd fill in the blanks.
“No, that’s totally fine, I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere,” Theresa said quickly. A ride home? Yeah, that was a good one. At least she was paid for the week at the motel where she was staying, but it might not be such a good idea to let this guy, this Noah, see where she was crashing. You never knew when someone was going to come hunting for you.
“I might get something too, maybe just a hot dog if they have those. I’m not really very hungry right now.”
He held the door open for her, and made his way to one of the vinyl-covered booths. Menus were already on the table, and he picked up his, despite already knowing what he wanted. "So, are you a native?," Noah asked, attempting to make casual conversation. It wasn't that he was bad at talking to people, it just took awhile to warm up to the task.
A waitress came over and filled their coffee cups. It was the kind of place where they did so without asking, and that was okay with him. Caffeine was always welcome.
“No, I actually moved down here from California.” There, that wasn’t too specific or anything. California was a big state, she could be from anywhere. “The accent difference has kind of thrown me for a loop, but I’m sort of used to hearing people say ‘dat’ and ‘dese’ now.” There was a loose piece of plastic on her menu, and Theresa picked at it rather than opening it up. Steam rose from the white coffee mug in front of her, and she breathed in the aromatic scent of coffee before taking a sip. It was black, but that was fine with her.
“What about you? Were you born down here?”
"Florida, actually. I came here for a job. Well, I came to New Orleans. I just live in Honfleur. It's cheaper." Noah added some cream and sugar to his coffee, stirring it slowly until the steam calmed down a little. "A lot of people come here, and they can't stand the heat, but I'm used to it. I went to school in New York, and it was like a whole other world. Way too cold." He took a sip of his drink.
The waitress came back around and he put in his order: burger, fries and a ginger ale. He didn't need Coke on top of coffee. He'd be wired all night, and that usually led to thinking too much.
“I’ve heard some stuff about Honfleur, its supposed to be really pretty there. Maybe one weekend I’ll get down there, check it out for myself.” And pigs might fly. She had just gotten used to her new city, no way was she going out into the sticks just for a weekend. Still, what Noah didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
The waitress came back to take their orders, and Theresa asked for a hot dog with everything except onions. No onions on a night where she was working, thank you, it cut down on the likelihood of paying customers. Not that they really ought to care what her damn breath smelled like considering the things they wanted her to do, but it paid to pay attention to the niceties. “Onions give me the worst indigestion,” she said by way of explanation.
Noah shrugged. "It's easy on the eyes, I suppose. I'm not too concerned with aesthetics. New Orleans treats musicians good; that's all I really worry about. Although some of the places are still pretty wrecked. It's sad to look at. When I first came down here, we played a lot of benefit shows, for Katrina." He took a long pull of his ginger ale. The coldness of the drink was a welcome change. He tried to be polite when he tucked into his burger.
"What do you do? For work?"
“I’m...I’m in sales. Retail, I guess.” Okay, so it was kind of a bad joke, but who was keeping track at this point? Theresa took another swig of coffee, eyed her hot dog with something like trepidation before taking a bite of it. It wasn’t too bad, even if she no longer subsisted on solid food.
“Its only part-time, though, so I keep kind of weird hours. I’ve always been a night owl, so I sleep during the day and go out in the evenings. Its kind of a bizarre system, but it works for me. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, though.”
"Don't worry, I get it. I keep odd hours, too. Not as much now as when I lived with my bandmates, though." A slice of tomato slid off his sandwich, and he picked it up and ate it. He flagged the waitress and gestured to his empty cup, thanking her when she refilled the ginger ale. Noah definitely qualified as a regular at the small eatery.
“So if you don't like jazz," he asked, harkening back to earlier in the conversation, "what kind of music do you like?"
“Mostly oldies, what you’d call classic rock,” Theresa answered. “Boston, Journey, stuff like that. My dad had a lot of records when I was growing up, I can’t tell you how many times he’d yell at me for not putting them back where I found them.” She chuckled and then shrugged. “Always a big stickler for everything in its place, my dad.”
Another bite of the hot dog got washed down with coffee, and then she asked, “So do you go to school in between gigs, or are you just focused on your music?”
He swirled a fry in some ketchup, making haphazard designs on the plate. "I went to school, but I'm done now. But I have a side-job teaching guitar and piano lessons. So if you've ever wanted to learn to do that, I'm for hire." Noah ate the fry and grabbed another. When the waitress returned and set the check on the table, he turned it over and studied the sum. The musician retrieved some money from his bag and put it on top of the paper.
"Boston is good, Journey is okay."
“Here, let me pay for my half.” Theresa carefully dug out her own wallet and opened it, praying she didn’t have too much cash in there. The last thing she needed now were questions. “I always insist on paying my fair share when I’ve just met someone,” she explained, placing a couple of bills next to Noah’s money on the table. “Its only fair.”
A glance at her watch said that it was getting to be nearly nine o’clock, and she reluctantly went back to work on her hot dog. She’d have to get to work soon if she wanted to make any money tonight. Sometimes it was nice to have a conversation with a guy without wondering when he was going to try getting in your pants. Still, she had to get going soon.
“Maybe next time I’m down here I’ll actually get to hear you,” she said. “Maybe jazz wouldn’t be so bad in the hands of someone who actually knows how to play it.”
He nodded, giving her another smile. It was surprisingly easy to talk to her. “That would be cool. And I hope you stay safe out here. There are lot of weird characters hanging around, and they don’t always look the part.” Noah finished off what was left of his food. It had been a good night.
“I know exactly what you mean,” Theresa said. “You never know who’s going to try and sneak up on you. So you be safe too. You look like you weigh about a hundred pounds soaking wet.” The hot dog was polished off in a couple of more bites and the vampire got up from the table after finishing her coffee. “Enjoy the rest of your night, Noah.”