A Seat at the Table

May 06, 2018:

Tom's trying to work. Donna invites herself to his table.

New Troy

Somewhere in the fashion district. A cafe close to all the hustle and bustle.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Is it always a party with Donna Troy? Probably not likely. Possibly, it's simply coincidence. First the street fair turned disaster in Central Park and now this. The first of the wave of sample sales in the midst of the fashion district in Metropolis. The streets, though, are a bustle with movement, not only the vendors moving clothing too and fro on mobile racks, but the clientele, buyers and private individuals all turning out to see the best of seasons past and a look ahead to fashion for the new season.

And because this is Metropolis, and this is a well-oiled machine, the businesses in the area have used the opportunity to pad their own coffers. Restaurants are alive with business, patios and outdoor bars set up, most with live music aplenty. And in the midst of all of it, one Donna Troy, a trio of bags in hand, winding her way through the crowd to he first and closest patio bar she can find.

-

Metropolis isn't the place Tom Judge usually chooses to hang out in bars at. It's way too far to stumble home — a key component of an evening out for the ex-priest — but sometimes needs must. And his need, tonight, has him here, set up alone on one of the tables on the patio, his phone lightly in hand, half watching a couple three tables down. He has a glass of something on the table, half consumed, but for once he's less focused on the alcohol. It's busy — noisy — and it's evident that although he can't hear anything from this far, he's more interested in their body language, ignoring the occasional group that fronts up and tries to guilt him out of the table he's claimed for himself.

-

Well, at least she's not a group. But as Donna approaches the patio, the sheer quantity of people standing between her and the bar does require a bit of consideration, and some quick adjustments. Purchases need to be protected. trying to get to the bar with bags in hand? Even an industrial sized steamer wouldn't get those wrinkles out. A scan of the tables closest, and it's towards Tom's table that she heads, her expression friendly, personable. "Hi, I know this is a bit rude, but…if you're not expecting anyone, would you mind if I just set my bags down here," she indicates the table, or more precisely, the empty chair across from him, "before I ford the sea of humanity over there?"

-

For her friendly, personable approach, she earns a bit of a blank stare, a frown, and a slight lean, the tall, thin man looking around her like there's something way more interesting behind her. "Mm? Yeah, whatever—" he's waving her off, not approvingly so much as for her to move, but it could easily be interpreted otherwise.

-

Well, any port in a storm, "Thank you." And Donna does indeed move, though there's something momentarily curious in her expression, once she's set down her bags, into the chair and not on top of the table, so at least they're not blocking his view, and moved past him. She takes that moment, to study first the man who's table she invaded, and then the distance past him, as though trying to discern what he seemed so concerned with. But that lasts only a bare few moments, before she does indeed turn to the business of parting the sea of humanity on her way to the bar. And once she's there, two drinks. A sangria for herself, because of course she would, and a double of whiskey. Even with only that small order, it will be a bit of a wait.

-

Certainly, it'd be easy to read 'stalker', or maybe even 'nosy paparazzi' into Tom Judge's demeanor; kind of hunched in the chair and as fixated on his target as he is. But his targets don't seem like anything special: they're not celebrities — at least not ones she recognizes — they just seem like a couple having a fun evening out.

The man seems to have forgotten Donna was even there.

-

(overheard conversation)

The woman, for her part, is laughing, as the man's saying, "…and then she started yelling about someone who stole her lunch, for fuck's sake. I mean, who even cares?"

"Yeah, she's super annoying. And she rides my ass all day about this or that," the woman says with a roll of her eyes. Work colleagues, then?

"Oh she rides your ass?" the man retorts, suggestively, and the woman laughs again. So, more than work colleagues.

-

Once she's finally received her order, the generous application of a tip seeming to move things along, Donna begins the journey, now upstream, arms raised above her head, the very picture of every club kid ever, but she at least makes it look good, rather than an imminent disaster. Not that her expression doesn't show a good bit of relief, as she finally breasts the wave and escapes back onto the, relatively speaking, empty sidewalk. And back towards the table. A wry twist of her lips, as her eyes settle on the couple, before she stops at Tom's table. Her own glass she doesn't set down. But she does add the fresh whiskey to the half-full glass that was already closer to Tom's hand. This time, she doesn't waste more time than strictly necessary, in retrieving her bags, "Thank you." And then, "People you know?"

-

The couple's now leaning towards one another, and Tom, too, is leaning forward, phone lifted. He takes some shots, giving a satisfied grunt, before the clink of the glass on the table draws his attention back towards Donna. "Who? Oh, not really," he gives a half shrug, and then frowns briefly at the glass, head tipped as his gaze goes back up towards Donna, like he's only just noticed her and is now giving her the attention she deserves. With a twitch of lips, he drains his half glass, then lifts the one she brought, in brief toast, "I've got plenty of room in me, if you want to buy me one or two more."

-

Probably to her credit, Donna does not comment, when she sees the camera come out. Seeing as she knows neither the man nor the couple, and she has no idea of the situation. Judgment, not her thing. Sitting, is her thing. At least once Tom seems to have done…whatever it is he meant to do, and actually turns his attention to her. And now she does set her glass down, and the bags find a small space on the floor beside the chair she liberated them from. If only so that she could pull the chair out and sink into it herself, after pulling it far enough to the side that she isn't blocking his view. "I imagine that might be possible." Pause. "Donna Troy."

-

And now there's a low-laugh from the ex-priest — the collar swinging from his neck, along with that silver chain — as he leans to clink his glass against hers. "To free drinks," is his wry toast, taking a generous gulp from the glass. He's clearly not shy about his alcohol. "Tom Judge," he replies, after a moment. "Tourist, if you will." The glass is set down momentarily — only so he can tap a few things on his phone, frowning at it in concentration for a few moments.

-

Donna's eyes do drop, briefly, to take in both the clerical collar and the cross, but they're given only a passing attention, before she lifts her eyes back to the man, the toast bring an answering laugh, "To free drinks." And possibly food, but that will be down to whether or not she can flag down a member of the waitstaff, now that she's actually at a table. "Good to meet you, Tom. I feel like a tourist here myself. I'm still setting up shop." When he turns his attention to his phone, she uses it to best advantage to wave at a passing waiter and gesture him over.

-

The phone beeps back at him, once, twice, thrice, earning a frown that turns into a scowl by the third text. It's with a half-grimace that he sets the phone aside. "Huh. I would've picked you for a New Yorker, with," he gestures towards her many shopping bags. Since she's flagging down the waiter, he's clearly taking that as a sign another drink is incoming soon — so hastily lifts and downs the remainder of that glass with the ease of one all-too-familiar with imbibing a solid amount of alcohol.

-

"Well, yes, I can see the confusion. But no, I just have a tendency to travel light. I'm a freelance photographer, and I hate packing, so I have just enough to get me from location to location, and I buy what I need when I get where I'm going. Donate to charity or just give over to Goodwill when I'm leaving. I actually haven't decided where I'll be setting up shop. Won't know that until I see where the work will take me. But I couldn't miss the sales, so…" a flourish of her hand, as if to say, 'Here I am.' And then the waiter arrives, "Fish and chips," clearly, she had a chance to look at the menu at the bar, "A glass of water," seeing, as her sangria's still untouched, "And whatever the gentleman would like."

-

It could be guessed that Tom is only half-listening to Donna's response. At least, that seems to be the case, since he kind of belatedly reacts to her profession. "Oh, really? Do you have a card? Could be I could have some work to throw your way — here and there," with a little smile, one that brightens even more at the open-ended offer. "Whiskey — no rocks," he tells the waiter.

-

"Oh. Sure." She shifts on the chair, reaching to pull a slim wallet out of a back pocket and retrieve a card. It's rather simple and to the point. 'Donna Troy. Photography. Fashion, Editorial, News.' Along with a phone number and email. "I'd be glad of the work. As long as it isn't weddings. There are some boundaries I simply will not cross." But at least that's said with a smile, before the waiter moves off to place their order.

-

That — There are some boundaries I simply will not cross. — makes him laugh, unaccountably. Tom still tucks the card away into the pocket of his long coat, however, after a brief glance. "It's good to have boundaries," is all the ex-priest says on the topic, though his tone is less amused and more dry.

-

Tom's laughter only seems to heighten Donna's own amusement. "You laugh, but this is serious business. Have you ever tried to talk a bride down from the ledge when she's decided her dress makes her look fat? Believe me, you want to save yourself the trouble. It's soul-destroying work." She finally does retrieve the sangria, taking an experimental sip, "Well, boundaries within reason. Mine usually extend only to preserving my sanity."

-

"It's been a while since I've had to talk brides out of cold feet. Grooms, too — more so. I don't miss it," there's a twist to Tom's lips that has very little of amusement and a great deal of bitterness to it, abruptly, punctuated by a reach for the glass that's already empty, earning a grimace. Hands, suddenly restless, flicker back towards his phone instead.

It's soul-destroying work. "You're telling me," the ex-priest scowls.

-

As if she could provide some sort of assistance in that department, Donna slides the glass of sangria over in Tom's direction. "Better you than me." Clearly speaking of the drink, "It's like me and anything with almond paste. I know I hate it, but every time I see it on the menu, I think…well, I'll try it. And sure enough, it tastes like the insole of a shoe." A thoughtful nod, as she considers, "I wouldn't miss it either, if that was part of the job." Thankfully, even if he doesn't accept the sangria, the waiter looks to be on his way over with their order.

-

Mistakes are made. Tom Judge is really one given to drinking anything, but: "Urgh," is his expressive reaction to the drink. Still, it's well, alcohol, of a sort, and he hasn't noticed salvation in the form of the waiter approaching yet, so he takes another sip, and gives another grimace. "Some term that the definition of insanity, right there."

-

"Right?" That to Tom's reaction to the drink, "My thoughts exactly. And yet, every time I see a menu, there's that little spark of hope. Maybe this time." A tip of her head, as the waiter arrives, and she accepts the fish and chips, one of those portions that's big enough to feel an army, water and Tom's whiskey. "Could we have the rest of that bottle? Thank you." Donna doesn't bat an eyelash when the waiter gives her a look, as if to see if she's serious. "And an extra plate. Thanks."

-

Clearly, Tom thinks both the bottle and the extra plate is for the woman himself, considering he nurses the whiskey, taking a small sip as he pushes aside the glass of sangria. He half watches her plate of food, but not with any real interest so much as for the distraction. "So, a perennial optimist? That must be exhausting," it's hard to tell if he means it sympathetically or sarcastically, his voice bland.

-

That comment elicits a snort of laughter from the woman, "Oh, only about sangria and almond paste. The rest of the time, I like to think of myself as quite pragmatic." And now that they seems to be written into the flow of service, it doesn't take long for the waiter to return. Both plate and bottle are accepted, before Donna slides them over towards Tom. The dinner, that she pushes into the center of the table before she serves herself a handful of fries and a single piece of the fish. "help yourself."

-

There's only a moment's hesitation, before Tom downs the contents of his glass, and refills it from the bottle she procured. After a beat, he not-so-subtly tips the contents of her sangria-filled-glass into the planter alongside their table, and then splashes some of the bottle's contents in there for her, nudging the glass back her way. Of the food, though— "Watching my figure," is offered with a grin that is not in the least apologetic, but clearly not of the soak-your-alcohol school of thought. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to butter me up to ask me a favor, but since you're a veritable stranger…" he spreads his hands, as if waiting for her to dump… well, something on him. Because nothing comes for free, and especially not a bottle of whiskey. Not in his world, anyway.

-

Donna actually has to lift a hand, covering her mouth to muffle the bubble of laughter that threatens to escape at the sight of Tom watering the planter. "Tom Judge," she manages, once she has her laughter under control, "You are a delight." The newly refilled glass she accepts, but she doesn't sip right away. Instead, she seems more determined to tuck into the meal. After a generous application of ketchup and tartar sauce. "I'm not sure what sort of favour you might think I would ask for. I hardly know you. And you've already been generous with your time, your table, and a lead for work. I don't think I could ask for anything else."

-

"If you come back in a couple of days and the plant's dead, you'll know you made the right choice," Tom says, entirely unrepentant. His cheerful mood probably has a lot do with that full bottle, undoubtedly, that he's already splashing another refill into his glass after a celebratory downing of the first. He tips his head, regarding Donna while she eats, giving a brief grunt. Oh so casually (except not, because it's hard to hide the gesture), he reaches for the double-barreled cross the swings at his chest, lifting it to peer through it at her. It's like some sort of weird affectation, maybe, but whatever it does, his shoulders seem to ease after a moment of looking. "Careful," he says, instead, after a moment, "You seem to be ascribing a generosity of which I'm definitely not owed."

-

"I'll try to check in on it without tipping anyone off to what just happened." And that seems just fine with Donna, as she tucks into her meal. A full day of shopping will do that to a woman, and as Tom's already declined the meal, she'll replenish as she needs to from the plate. "That's a beautiful thing." No, she didn't miss the gesture, but seemed unfazed by it. Tom would certainly not be the first person to play with his jewelry. "It reminds me of a cross I saw in a movie…few years back now. Had gargoyles in it, and Frankenstein's monster." That final comment causes a rise of her shoulders, "I have very few needs, and I like to do for myself. I don't need much, and I appreciate what's offered to me."

-

"It's a family heirloom," Tom says, with a dismissive little lift of his shoulders, although there's an obvious tension when she mentions the cross. It's enough that he downs the contents of the glass in one hit again — although that seems to be his standard, given the choice. "Hm? Gargoyles?" it's clear he's only half listening at this point, gaze fixed on something behind her — those two, the man and the woman — he was watching earlier starting to stand, and him slipping his phone into his pocket. "Uhh, I have to uh… go."

-

"Don't judge. It really wasn't half bad." The tension she can feel off of Tom, she likely attributes to the movement of the couple he was watching. And, perhaps in the time since she saw him snapping pictures of them before, she's come to a few conclusions of her own, she nods, "Of course. It was good to meet you, Tom. Call if you need some work done." She won't stop him from leaving the table, only offering a final word before he does, "And Tom? Take care." And then there's nothing but Donna, fish and chips and a possibly poisoned planter to close out the evening.

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