|Isobel Brandt \\ Persephone (praxidike) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-08-22 08:16:00
|Entry tags:||chernobog, persephone|
you can't buy happiness, but you can buy tea
Who: Isobel & Matt.
What: A non-date. Just friends. Don't read into it.
Where: Urban Cup.
When: Late afternoon on Aug. 3.
Isobel lingered in the hallway, quietly wishing she had Hanni or some other form of distraction while she waited for Matt. Instead, in the abject silence that was near the lobby (for some reason, she had misgivings about going and waiting in the lobby itself, since Stephan would be there and offer ample distraction), instead she turned over in her mind the reason why she'd even reached out to the fairly unknown man in the first place.
If she were honest, there was something subtly familiar about him. Almost... like a dream, if she was going to put her finger on it, which she was wholly unable to since everything was so fleeting these days. Adjusting the strap over the red spaghetti strap shirt she'd chosen to wear (a quick change from the plain black tee she'd worn at Alice's bakery during her shift at the register not a half hour before), she glanced down the hall to see if the elevator was opening, but there was no one to admit. She briefly wondered at retreating back into her apartment when her prayers were finally answered.
Before she could even see who it might be, Isobel found herself darting forward, which made her hope against hope that it was indeed Matt and not some other party that would be confused by her presence. If all else failed, at least she could take the elevator up?
Matt was looking down, brushing at the edge of his buttoned t-shirt with the light blue plaid pattern. There was a stupid, irritating wrinkle at the bottom that he hadn’t noticed until he was in the elevator and for all his effort--from his floor down to the lobby--he couldn’t get the wrinkle to go away. It was how when the doors opened to the lobby he didn’t see Isobel moving toward him or, in fact, notice that the doors opened and upon his not moving began to close again.
Looking up, he quickly moved a hand forward between the doors, making them ding twice as they reopened fully. Then he saw her, the pretty girl of flowers who--medically--he wanted to check her out and see why she had lost her memory, who--morally--he felt so, so sorry for all he knew about her and what he had done to her, who--masculinely--he was awkwardly attracted too.
Of course it would lead to nothing. It never did, he was always too awkward and shy for such things. Still, he smiled all the same and left the elevator behind. “Hey there,” He greeted her as a finger pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
"Hi," Isobel replied, forcing a hand back down as she was about to mimic his movement with her own glasses. She smiled, and glanced toward the concierge's desk where Stephan lingered. Pulling her gaze back to Matt, her brows rose and she tried to quell the anxiety in her gut that she couldn't quite place the reason for. Reaching out, she threaded her fingers through Matt's and started to tug him toward the lobby exit. A smile quickly appeared on Matthew’s lips. "Are you OK to walk? It's very close, or I can drive if you'd rather."
She gave a little wave toward Stephan, and then quickly proceeded out into the still-bright afternoon light.
“Walking’s fine,” Matthew replied, smiling broadly at Stephan as they passed and following Isobel’s lead. “I think we’re supposed to get rain later, so it’ll be nice to get outside and enjoy the weather while we can.” He matched her stride and began walking beside her, still holding her small hand in his. Once they were out of the building, he allowed himself to look at the woman. “How are you doing? How’s your memory?”
"It's...sort of getting better," she replied, forcing herself from glancing backward. When they hit the fresh air and wide open expanse of the Newport Beach out of doors, she gently loosed her hand from Matt's, worrying she was sending the wrong message. Still, she let her hands hang loose at her sides.
"I've been working on it, with other people in the building. Obed, Alice, Rafe, they're all people I guess I knew from before. I remembered one thing, with Obed. It's just all... A lot to take in. You know? Or, I don't know, maybe not. It's like that sensation of walking into a room and not remembering why you're there, except now it's everything and... But we don't have to talk about me all the time. How are you?" She glanced sidelong at him, one eye slightly squinting in what little sunshine was left through clouds spotting the otherwise cheerily blue sky.
Matthew slipped his now empty hand into his jean pocket, attempting to look at ease and not at all disappointed. He took in a deep breath and looked straight ahead. “I never really have much to share. I can’t talk about work… I had to sign a confidentiality agreement… and I haven’t much of a social life. Other than you, Alice, and Tom, I don’t really know many people here yet. Work keeps me away from it all.” He paused, wishing he had more to say, and figured he could at least try. “I grew up on the east coast and sort of picked up my things and left for this job--I was unemployed at the time so it seemed fitting. But making friends as an adult is a lot harder than when you’re a kid, I’ve come to realize.”
"It really is," Isobel agreed, though she had no idea how many friends she'd had before the memory wipe. Then again, the reminder that she'd struggled even in high school and before that didn't leave much hope for a sudden turnabout.
"Well, you know me, now, so that's one. And I'm sure the longer you're in the apartment complex, that'll help," she tried to reassure him, her hand rising and catching at his elbow to give it a quick squeeze. In comparison to Obed, Matt was warm to the touch. Isobel forced herself to put her hand back down before she was caught lingering.
They made their way down the sidewalk, toward a set of small shops that were permitted to crop up amid all the housing development.
"Have you been over here yet? You should really just take some walks, you never know what you might find. And getting outside is good for you," she teased, lightly. "Being cooped up all day is definitely a quick way to the mental dumps."
Matthew nodded lightly. “I try and take walks on the beach when I have the chance. The waves...they’re nice. Peaceful. It sort of drowns out any annoying thoughts and let’s you focus on what you need to. But I can switch it up, take walks through the little shops some more. I’ve been to the street with all the shops that Alice’s bakery is on and over to the strip mall with the grocery store, but that’s been it. Maybe there should be some type of dating group for people who don’t want to date, but need to make friends. Friends groups or whatever.”
"That's not a bad idea," Isobel agreed, motioning for them to cross a street to bring them onto the same side where the coffee shop she'd intended they go to stood. She got to the door first, holding it open for him with a pleased smile as she waved him inside before following.
"Um, I really like the green tea frappucino, but they've got a lot of different things," she said almost in his ear as she sidled up to him, her hands tucked behind her back as she nodded at the handwritten menu that sat on the wall behind the counter. "What do you usually have?"
Matthew wrinkled his nose, his eyes already on the menu behind the counter. “I think despite being a doctor, I have the worst habits, so try not to judge me too much. I know it’s bad but typically I just have coffee, black. I lived off it during medical school, couldn’t fathom watering the caffeine down with creamer. And I honestly haven’t ever tried the cold variety of teas or coffees.” He looked at Isobel, a sheepish smile on his face. “Have you ever tried any of the cold coffees? What would you suggest?”
She took a wide grin and her hands moved up to settle on his biceps, leading him toward the counter. "Hey, I won't judge you if you don't judge me, doctor. Maybe a caramel frap? It's a little sweeter than just straight black coffee, but it'll definitely give you all the caffeine you might want."
They got up to the counter together, Isobel's hands still on Matt's arm. This time, she didn't look to remove it.
The cashier grinned at the two of them. "Wow, you guys are adorable," the short girl offered, and Isobel's smile froze a bit. She awkwardly put her hands by her sides, and then into the small purse hanging off near her hip to withdraw her wallet.
"Can I get a small green tea frap?" Isobel glanced at Matt for his order. "And don't worry about this, Matt, I've got it. I invited you out, anyway."
"How progressive," the cashier cooed, punching Isobel's order into the machine before her. Matt’s smile was thin and pasted on his face as his cheeks reddened slightly, but he artfully pretended that the cashier hadn’t said anything.
Instead, he slipped his hands back into his pockets and looked at the menus, as if considering what he was going to get when in all actuality, he’d just stick with Isobel’s suggestion.
“I’ll have a small caramel frap,” He told the girl, glancing down at Isobel and turning his lips into a nervous frown. “That’s what it’s called, right?” He whispered.
Isobel's smile instantly warmed, and she nodded. The cashier rang them up, Isobel dispensing cash to wave away their bill. They moved beyond the register toward the pickup counter to await their orders.
"I figured we can take the drinks and go for a walk around the park, if that's all right with you? Or we can stay here and talk. I'm fine for either, but I also don't want to take up too much of your time," she quickly explained, her arms carefully by her sides. One hand reached up to adjust her glasses as she studied Matt's face; he was far from the impassable block of stone that Obed presented himself as, and in that she found him charming. There was still the sense of familiarity that she couldn't quite shake, but it wasn't as strong as she felt toward the former man. It never ceased to frustrate her that she couldn't put into words or even a modicum of detail what any of those pesky feelings were supposed to mean.
“Walking sounds good,” Matt said with a nod as he reached for his drink. He caught Isobel watching him and a crooked smile appeared on his face, making him somehow look younger than he was. He reached for napkins though, uncertain of how to respond to her attention, and offered her a few for the already developing condensation on her cup. “Lead the way, you know your way around.”
She took the napkins, wiping the edges around her cup as she grinned in return. She led them both toward the exit of the shop, throwing away the used wipes in a nearby recycling bin. As they exited, she held the door for him, and then they fell into step once more as they walked down the street.
"So how is it?" She asked, motion to his drink. Isobel sipped her own, her eyes waiting and watchful behind her glasses.
“The first sip had a wad of caramel in it,” Matthew laughed, pressing his lips together and moving his tongue over the inside of his mouth as he tried to pull away the sticky caramel that coated it. Covering his mouth with his free hand, he smiled, “But it’s good. Thanks for the recommendation.”
They continued in the fleeting sunshine and after another sip--one without wads of caramel--Matthew continued. “You know, despite your memory loss, you still remember quite a bit, and you’re not forgetting more. I think it’s good...not that you asked. I just… you know, wanted to give you a doctor’s unsolicited opinion.” Color quickly climbed his neck. “Just, you know, in case you were worried. We can talk about other things. I’m just glad to see you’re doing well.”
Isobel wrinkled her nose as she sipped again from her drink. "I don't know how much I actually remember, really," she offered, her answer slightly hesitant. "Just... I walk around and things seem familiar. And my friends, Alice and Rafe, they've been really helpful, too. Telling me things and just helping make it all make sense." She didn't touch on how she'd had the short blackout period in Obed's apartment, and her apparent shapeshift. It seemed no matter how far she tried to get from the subject of the apartment complex and its strange goingson, she'd never be completely free of it.
"But thank you, I am glad there hasn't been any...additional forgetting," she offered, trying to sound more sure than she actually did. "How are you, though? Are you settling in all right to the building?" She wanted to ask outrightly if there had been anything weird for him, but it seemed rude in the context of everything.
“Settling in alright,” Matthew replied, looking at his drink as they walked and weighing what would be appropriate talk. There was what happened with Tom, that was something that had happened that made him ready to move back east, and then of course everything with work. In a flash, he saw the flowers growing around her and guilt passed over his face and colored his cheeks. He bit at his lip and looked up, plucking one of the oddities of the past few months from his memory, something that wasn’t too weird. “Just weird nightmares, you know, ever since I moved in. Dreams where I’m in them but I’m not me. It’s so strange; I assume it’s caused by the stress of moving and the new environment. But really, it’s so odd and the times that I have the dreams don’t present any type of a pattern.”
"Mmm," Isobel replied as her lips were wrapped around her straw. She swallowed, turning their steps toward the left and into a small but well-kept park. The path turned from sidewalk to asphalt, the black fading into wet dirt that edged green grass that carpeted the rectangular space.
"I've heard a few things about that," she finally said, glancing up from carefully studying the ground, her eyes straying toward the few plants that dared come closer to the manmade material they walked on. "People having strange dreams. I haven't had any... at least, none that I can remember. What do you usually dream about?" She lifted her cup to her lips again, tracing the bottom one with her straw.
“Uh…” Matthew’s words stuttered and stopped in his throat. He shouldn’t have brought the subject up and he was foolish to think that the subject of dreams wouldn’t suddenly plummet him into the memory of what had happened with Tom. Because they were the same, weren’t they? He looked at Isobel and considered, briefly, if she dreamt of making flowers grew because it was what she did. Just like what he had done was like his dreams.
“I dreamt I was a ghost,” Matthew said, his voice softer than usual and barely above a whisper. “Or something like it. This sort of black smoke that kind of drifted along like a ghost and gathered together to look like a man before dissipating.”
He looked away, seeing it all too clear in his memory, but it wasn’t the dream he thought of, but becoming hollow in his own home; of seeing the floor through his extended hand.
Isobel's eyes had drifted back toward the plants sloping away from them. She'd been following the outline of a tree as Matt's words drifted into her ears, making her eyes go wide. She turned back to him, something nagging in the back of her mind.
"That sounds unsettling," she started, her empty cup hanging by her fingertips. They came up on a garbage can, and she tossed the plastic container into a recycling bin next to it. "Do you have that dream often? Are you.... Are you just a cloud, or does something else happen?"
Matthew blinked and a tightness in his shoulders seemed to leave, his shoulders slumping slightly as he let out a breath and released the memory with a little shrug. “I’ve never been one to have repeated dreams,” he offered. “But I’ve had the dreams of this ghost person more than once, although the dreams are often different. The ghost being, he’s like the main character. But… yeah, I guess sometimes I’m a cloud, or maybe a fog is better...or maybe like smoke?”
He looked at Isobel with a brow raised and an uncomfortable laugh slipped through. “And then sometimes it’s gathered up and it’s like being a man that’s still made out of smoke and fog.” He shook his head and the laughter returned once more as he tried to brush it aside. “It’s weird, sorry. I just have never had these type of dreams, not until I got here. It’s probably just the move that did this to me.”
Isobel reached out a hand, brushing fingers down his upper arm in a quiet but reassuring motion.
"It's all right," she said, her hand finally curling around his bicep. "We don't have to talk about it. Just... You're not the only one, if it helps. I can't remember having dreams, but I've been told the others have them. So you're not alone.
"But," she said, sticking to her earlier promise of changing the subject, "maybe we can talk about where you grew up? Or why you became a doctor. Or if you have some weird hobbies. Or I can tell you about aerating your lawn, since it looks like they just did it here," she continued with a smile, mostly jokingly, pointing to little pegs of dirt that were scattered about the wide green expanse around them.
Matthew smiled at the woman and felt the curious, studious desire to question her about the dreams others had. Was it something that all tied them together that was brought on by the apartment? Or perhaps it was something caused by his secret experiments? Then again… why would he have these dreams. He hadn’t received the injection as Isobel and the others had. Something akin to discomfort turned in his stomach, he already felt uncomfortable with what his job had asked of him to do--well, to be fair, it wasn’t until after when he discovered he had experimented on his neighbors and they hadn’t known about it that he felt uncomfortable. But there were beginning to be too many similarities and coincidences. He felt the growing wish that he had never taken the job take flight and frowned.
Realizing the expression on his face, he quickly brushed it aside and smiled at the woman by his side. “It’s odd, it really is, but yes I guess it’s a comfort to know that these dreams run rampant, or at least it seems.” He allowed his gaze to travel over the lawn beside them and his smile brightened. “We’ll trade information, or at least anything you can remember. I grew up in Philadelphia, well, outside of it. Where did you grow up?”
"Texas," she offered, somewhat dispassionately, as she glanced out around over the grass again, weighing it with more interest. "Austin, sort of. A small town named Elgin if you want to get technical. It's not very interesting." She swung her gaze back toward Matt, a smile edging on one side of her mouth. "I bet the east coast was, though. And we have small towns in common, too!"
“Tell me about Texas, then,” Matthew offered. “I’ve never been there and I wonder how much of what I’ve heard are stereotypes.” He motioned to the green grass and smiled. “Would you like to sit down? Maybe we can get some more time out here before the rain moves in.”
She glanced up at his words, eyes squinting through her glasses at the semi-cloud covered sky; a shrug followed.
"Sure," she said, moving off the beaten path onto the one few trod. Where she stepped, the grass almost seemed to become greener, tiny blades bending toward her like supplicants hoping for the barest, blessed touch. She steered them toward a tree that would hopefully offer them some cover, should the rain catch them off guard.
"It's not all stereotypes," she started, coming to a stop and carefully setting herself down on a large root that broke above ground. It was large enough for two, and she patted the spot next to her, inviting him to join. "But there's a reason things become stereotypes..."