|forget_me_knot (forget_me_knot) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2011-02-08 00:38:00
|Entry tags:||isis, osiris|
Oh, Those Summer Knights
Who: Rick and Nina.
What: Rick rescues Nina from the horrors of the public transportation system.
Where: Disneyland parking lot, freeway, and eventually outside Nina’s apartment building.
When: Backdated, September 17th
Notes: SHOULD HAVE ENDED IN A MAKE-OUT, DID NOT.
Nina stood outside the back entrance, squinting to see her cellphone’s screen in the glaring light of sunset. When her friend, and ride, said she was going home because she felt sick, Nina hadn’t given it a second thought. She attributed Katie’s apologetic manner to her illness, and possibly not wanting to appear at all healthy in front of any higher-ups. But once her shift ended, Nina realized with a sinking feeling in her stomach that Katie was apologetic because she would be taking her car home, without Nina.
She chewed her lower lip anxiously, only relenting when she tasted blood; even then sucked her lower tip in and worried the tiny wound with her tongue. Nina knew she had, at this very instant, $41.52 in her checking account and $17 and change in her wallet. Her next paycheck wouldn’t be for nearly a week. Unless she walked part of the way, she wouldn’t have enough for a taxi without incurring overdraft fees. And of course she didn’t think of it earlier, when she might have been able to beg one of her coworkers for a ride.
Sighing, she pulled her purse around and began to look for a bus schedule, trying not to think too hard about the impending night.
Only one car passed by her in the lot - and saying ‘passed by’ was generous, because Nina nearly got hit by the yellow compact car cutting around the corner while she was rifling through her purse. As the car swiped past, Nina stumbled backward, uttering a small squeak of surprise. The window on the driver’s side rolled down, and instead of gracing the young woman with a rude gesture or words, his hand waved at her.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize anyone was still here,” the man in the car yelled. A young man’s face peeked out from the window. “Where’s your ride?”
“Uh,” Nina pressed her hand to her chest, trying to get her pounding heart to slow down, “she’s gone home already.” He caught her in a moment of shock, and thus extracted an honest answer. Too late, she realized what she had just said. Color flushed her face, “I mean, uhm...” Nina floundered, still not even sure why she felt answering sincerely was inappropriate.
“Well,” he said, and of course he was smiling like she had done something funny, “that ride isn’t going to do you much good now, huh?”
Nina laughed nervously, tucking her hair behind her ear and feeling for all the world like she was back in high school, talking to one of the popular boys. Her blush intensified with his smile; attractive people smiling at her always had that effect.
“I s-suppose so. Do you, uhm, work here? Not--” she waved her hand, “like in the parking lot. I mean, at the park?”
“Yep, I do something for one of the attractions,” he said. He disappeared from sight for a moment, and then the door to the passenger side flung open. Now he waved from that side. “Hey, my name’s Rick. Come on, I’ll give you a lift. It’s too dark for a girl to be wandering around.”
“R-really?” despite the voice in the back of her head telling her not to accept rides from strangers, Nina felt a rush of immense relief. Nothing about walking or taking to the bus home appealed to her at the moment. She lifted her bag further up on her shoulder and jogged towards his car, “Oh, thank you! Thank you so much.”
He waved his hand, and seemed to lean over the passenger seat as she approached. Nina saw him toss books and a gym bag into the backseat of his car. “This is nothing, you know?” Rick said when she reached the door. He laughed, and said, “Assuming you don’t live in like, Riverside.”
She shook her head to confirm that she did not live in Riverside and as she lowered herself into the car seat, Nina clearly saw her rescuer’s face for the first time. He smiled easily at her, and even in the low light of the sunset, she could see his somewhat familiar good looks. A blush darkened her cheeks and her gaze reverted to her knees. An awkward pause followed before Nina realized she needed to give him directions, “Oh, uhm, if you could take Route 5 to the freeway, I live in Fullerton...”
“Sounds good. Most of the traffic is long gone, so it should be clear sailing.” He pulled the car out of park and set it rolling forward, towards the gate of the employee’s exit. A song queued up automatically, and Rick thankfully cranked the volume down before it could cause the more delicate passenger hearing damage.
“Where in the park were you working at? Late shifts like this are murder, huh?”
“N-new Orleans Square, at Pieces of Eight,” she answered, trying to place his face in her memory. She suspected he had to be a cast member, since that’s how she met most of the other employees outside of her area. Nina stole another glance, wondering why he would offer her a ride. “Where do you work?”
He didn’t comment particularly on her work, though his smile seemed even brighter after she mentioned pirates. “I work at the Aladdin show, over in Adventureland. Ever get to see it?”
“Yes, a few times,” Nina said, thoughtfully. As she spoke, a few specks of rain pelted the windshield, soon after followed by much bigger drops. “I kinda know someone who used to be play Jasmine, so I had to go see...” her voice drifted off as Nina realized that Kami would probably not want her indiscretions aired. “But uhm,” she floundered, twisting her hands anxiously, “it’s a good show! I love the special effects. I keep hoping they’ll hire me for maintenance or something, but you know, things are kinda tight right now.”
Even before she posed the next question, Nina had some suspicions of his answer, “Are you cast or crew?”
Taio Cruz was probably not the background accompaniment he was going for, but his voice filled the cabin in an effortless, pervasive manner. It wasn’t the overpowering, over-acting singing that the Aladdin show normally demanded, but nearly like he was trying to do a lounge version of one of the most principle songs. A song only a certain character is responsible for.
“Gotta keep one jump ahead of the breadline...” During the red light, he turned his smirking face only slightly towards Nina. “One swing ahead of the sword. I steal only what I can't afford.”
He laughed as he turned his car into the highway. “And that’s a lot, considering the pay at D-land. Do I look a more familiar now?”
Nina’s face burned with the suddenness and intensity of her blush, “Oh ohmygoodness! I am so, so sorry I didn’t recognize you.” She turned away to hide her expression, staring at the reflective road markings as she turned over this new, humilitating breach of manners. Part of her, a very desperate part, considered flinging open the door and taking her chances. At least then she wouldn’t have any more opportunities to make a fool of herself. Still, her mouth blissfully disconnected from her brain and continued on, “You know, I had a crush on Aladdin when I was a little girl. It was my favorite movie; I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get my hair to look like Jasmine’s.”
“All that hair’s a bit too much if you ask me. That was probably a good thing to grow out of.” To his credit he kept his eyes on the freeway, though he had the appearance of someone trying to swallow down a wicked smile and not succeeding at all. “And what happened to that crush, Nina?”
Only then did Nina realize what she had said, clapping a hand over her mouth, she resisted the urge to beat the stupid out of head using the passenger door’s window. Still, the question infused her with the most peculiar kind of hope. Her delayed response was slightly muffled by her fingers, “I suppose... I might have grown out of it?”
He could have snickered, or leered at her, but instead Rick smacked the steering wheel and laughed uproariously. His eyes shone and his grin was wide, but not malicious. “Don’t worry, it’s not only you. I hear that a lot, and it’s just funny every time.”
The blush suffusing Nina’s face renewed itself with fiery vigor. If there was any mercy in the world, she would disappear inside the car seat. Instead, she remained firmly solid and present. She bit her lip, face turned away as she studiously examined the pattern on the interior.
“Well, uh,” she laughed stiffly, trying to salvage her dignity, “If it’s funny every time, at least it’s not annoying, I suppose. I wouldn’t, uh, know what to do in that kind of situation.”
“But you aren’t in a situation where you sing half-shirtless to crowds of people for a living, right?” He laughed again, proving that he wasn’t amused solely at her expense. “That sounded weird. Believe me, I don’t frame my job like that to my mom. Hey, are you originally from the area, Nina?”
She shook her head, making a small noise to the negative before adding, “Vermont. I came out here for university. You?” Nina hoped that maybe with hitherto unfound skills of conversation, she could keep the focus on Rick and keep herself from jamming her foot into her mouth too many times.
On this stretch of highway, with relatively few people, Rick crossed his forearms over the wheel, like he was sitting at a bar instead of driving in LA. “Oh. Been back and forth, grew up around here, went to San Francisco for high school and college and a little bit of something else, then came back down here again.”
The “little bit of something else” piqued Nina’s curiosity immensely, but she felt that their first real conversation was hardly the best time to inquire about his deepest, darkest secrets. Instead, she settled for a more or less fair trade of information, “I majored in engineering,” as usual, she skipped the “mechanical” part of her degree; it seemed to unnerve and confuse men, “what about you?”
“Political science. Pretty much fell into it by accident, and ended up staying cause I was good at it.” He tapped his fingers against his arm, and looked over at her. For the first time he seemed rather thoughtful, rather than bubblegum cheerful. “I heard engineering’s intense, though. Do you like building stuff?”
“Yeah, yeah, I do,” she replied, smiling a little and almost relaxing, “Uhm, if you like watch Mythbusters, that kind of thing, mostly. Though I’ve really got into home renovation lately, upcycling and all those hipster things. Probably because it’s cheaper than building robots,” she laughed a little at herself, hoping she hadn’t said too much.
Her confirmation, and also her laugh, looked like it took a weight off of his shoulders, oddly enough. “They’re calling it hipster now? I just thought it’s kind of fun, and cheap.” Though not much about his car seemed to indicate a really worry about frugality.
All of the sudden, Rick slapped his hand against the wheel as he suddenly remembered something. “Hey, speaking of, I just made my own headboard! Ever try doing that?”
“Really?” Nina relaxed more with every word, “How’d you do it?”
“Found four beams for cheap, put them together, put in ledgers, then stapled a foam topper and then fabric over that. It was easier than I thought.” He probably didn’t notice the warmed sentimentality creeping in his own voice. “I’m just happy to finally use that old fabric for something.”
“That’s so cool! It’s really satisfying when you find good use for something you’ve horded,” she answered with a few head bobs, “I used to collect scrapbooking paper just because it was pretty, and ended up using it for origami projects years later.”
“Bet you can get lamps out of that too. I saw that on DIY too, lamps like the ones in Chinatown-“
He dropped what he was saying suddenly - other than that, Nina got no warning. Rick bolted up in his seat, turned his gaze to the blind spot over her shoulder, and then gave a hard pull down on the right side of his steering wheel. He took the car across two lanes in an instant, looked back again, then snapped over into the off ramp with only a bit of yardage before a concrete divider would have forcibly stopped them. His passenger, panicking with the ease and speed that only comes with practice, tried to claw her way out through the sunroof, but when the seatbelt held her prisoner, had to settle for clutching the middle console and the Jesus handle.
He eased back into his seat, and pulled up at the off-ramp’s intersection. “Fullerton just sneaks up on you, huh? Left or right?”
At first all Nina could say was something like a raven’s croak. When it became clear that he was no longer intent on double suicide, she was able to clear her throat and whisper, “Left.”
“Okay.” He stopped fully in the left-side lane, thankfully obeying the red light. He thrummed his fingers against the steering wheel. “Make sure you speak up when we get close.”
“Uh, yeah,” Nina futily attempted to recover any scraps of dignity she had left, straightening in her seat and brushing hair out of her face while she tried to remember what their conversation had been about moments previously. She settled for changing the subject, “Did you try out for the Aladdin part because he’s your favorite character, or were you looking for any acting kind of job?”
“I wasn’t even looking for acting. My brother and his friend were going for roles. I actually totally forgot about the movie until they mentioned it.” The light changed, and he proceeded through the cross-hatching of Anaheim roadways with ease after that, catching most of the green lights.
“But it was a riot to practice with them, and the audition ended up being fun - a lot more fun than any other job interview, anyway. That’s why I’m in for the role - I didn’t think a person could work and have fun at the same time. I thought things couldn’t work that way.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Nina’s initial response was lackluster, but at the same time deeply pensive. A moment later, she added, “Is it making you think of career in acting, instead of pol sci?”
“I really like it,” he said, nearly instantly. But he paused, and glanced over to her when he spoke next. He smiled still, but his words seemed much heavier. “It’s cool right now, but acting’s not something my family expects for me to do forever, you know? It’s not what we spent all that money on school for.”
“Oh,” she replied, instantly sobered. She tilted her head down and slightly towards Rick, trying to read into his expression. “That... that’s a shame, if you really enjoy what you’re doing now.”
“I love it,” he confirmed. It was hard to miss his affectionate warmth as he said so. “Hey, when will you transferring to the Aladdin show?”
“T-transferring?” Nina’s mind suddenly went from neutral to third gear, racing and trying to figure out what exactly Rick meant; whether he had somehow gotten the impression that she wanted to actually be in the show. “I, I don’t know,” she murmured, back to examining the backs of her hands on her lap, “I sort of took the retail job hoping to be on site when, or really, if, an opening came up. I don’t care what part of the park I work in, as long as I get to do stuff I’m good at, yanno.”
“I see. But retail is still the pits.” He followed the curve of the road, and eased his elbow out of the driver side window. "Well, while I’m with Aladdin, maybe I can keep an eye out for the job that gets you your big break into backstaging.”
“Really?” Nina squeaked, then coughed, speaking again in a lower pitch, “I mean, really? That would be so, so helpful. I though just working at the park would help make it easier to hear about jobs, but the retail and the theatrical sectors are like two different countries.”
“Well, that’s the good thing about having friends in the park, right? Scout the jobs, give rides home.” At the next red light, he hummed a little and gave her another question. “Hey speaking of, are we anywhere near your place? Don’t wanna get us lost - I haven’t been in this area in years.”
“Uhm, we’re about,” Nina did some quick calculations in her head, slightly flustered by the idea of being friends with a guy, never mind one who was so distressingly handsome. She stared at her hands, raising and folding fingers as she counted, “six blocks away... well, five now. You turn left at the 7-11.”
Rick watched her in the meantime, curiously looking at her hands as she counted. “7-11. Easy enough. Oh, I need you to do something while you’re sitting there.” The car rolled forward again, and he turned his attention to the road. “Can you get your phone out?”
Nina nodded, though slightly confused, and then realizing he couldn’t see her, added, “Yes?” as she fished her cellphone out of her purse. “Do you need me to call someone while you’re driving?”
“Actually, can you go to your Contacts list?” He continued driving, and when enough time passed for her to do that much, he then asked. “Do you have anyone named Rick in there?”
His passenger blinked, disbelieving her ears, “N-no?”
“Good. Then make one.” He hummed a little more to the Rihanna song on the radio. “Then tell me when you’re ready.”
There was a brief silence as Nina keyed in his name, wondering if she should ask for his last name but instead of pushing her luck, settled with what she had for now.
“Three-two-three, four-six-three, one-two-oh-oh.” He passed through another light, and though it was still distant, the 7-11 sign became visible. “Got it?”
“Y-yes!” Nina did her best not to sound too elated, raising her hand to her mouth to disguise her smile, “th-thank you, I mean, well, yes. Thank you. Oh, uhm, you turn left here and then right on Linden Street, which is about two blocks from the 7-11.”
Rick focused on the turn left, then leaned forward again as he squinted to identify the street names. He made a hesitant right onto Linden, then slowed down drastically. “Nina, you have to let me know when we are close.”
She pointed up the street, to a two-storey building barely visible in the dark. “Sorry, this area never really got street lights. It’s just up here, that 1920s looking thing with the torn up garden and the three scooters parked in the front.”
“Wow.” As they pulled up, he looked up through his sunroof to see the top of the building. “I live in something like that too.”
Rick put the car in park on the street, double-parked but there was nobody behind them now, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. He shifted around, put his elbow on the wheel and looked to Nina. “Not so bad of a ride. If you ever need one again, I might even remember the right exit on the freeway in time.”
Nina laughed, “Oh no, you were wonderful. Thank you, so, so much. I don’t even want to think about what I would have had to do to get home if you hadn’t rescued me.”
“I’m happy I did.” He ended up laughing as well, and drew his hand back through his hair. “Well, this was a little out of the way, but the same ride home gets kinda lonely night after night. So thank you.”
Just when Nina thought she was finished blushing for the night, a new flush effused her face. She stared down at the console separating them for a moment, clutching her purse and cellphone, her mind a rosy blank. “You’re... you’re welcome,” she bit her lower lip briefly before taking a bracing breath and leaning over to give Rick a kiss on the cheek. Before Rick had the chance to react, Nina had leapt out of the car and dashed inside to the relative safety of her apartment building.
He touched his cheek and stared after Nina as she disappeared behind the heavy apartment doors. For a few moments he sat there and watched the entrance, like maybe she’d change her mind and run back out. He’d received his fair share of female affection over the years, but Nina left him a little stunned. For sure, that was one of the best thank-yous he could remember in his life.
“Huh.” Rick faced the wheel again, and shifted the car into drive. “Maybe next time we should take the scenic route.”