Slice of Life

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Orianna stretched languidly in her bed, letting the golden rays of spring sunshine pour through her window and bathe her body in a honeyed glow. The warmth washed over her limbs and she couldn't help but be tempted to fall asleep again with the embrace of sunshine all around her. The alarm clock on her bedside table sounded once more, though, an angry bleating that urged her to get out of bed.

Orianna tugged on her nightgown and stumbled sleepily into the living room. Toddling forward whilst rubbing her eyes, she nearly tripped over a blanket that had fallen off of the couch. Without meaning to, Orianna had emitted a tiny shriek of surprise, enough to startle the woman on the couch from sleep. She was staying here only temporarily and Orianna was not used to her presence, not used to the presence of anyone since her parents were away most of the time when she was a child and had happily furnished their precious trust fund baby with an apartment when she came of age.

"Goodmorning, Reyna" Orianna slurred drowsily, completely unfazed by the fact that her sheer white nightgown was perfectly transparent to anyone viewing her within ten feet. Single-mindedly, Orianna continued to the coffee machine.

Hibine glanced up at the clock perched on his desk and rubbed his eyes. The textbook in his hands was then placed neatly onto the hard surface, tucked into the corner to be out of the way. Hibine had woken early to study for his tests in physics and calculus, living up diligently to the stereotype of a hyperintelligent Asian boy (much to the delight of his parents). The clothes he grabbed from his closet were sensible; navy slacks to that made him seem too dressed up at all times, a white polo shirt that made him feel like a primary school child in China again, and a black jacket. The only personal taste thrown in was a red and cream striped scarf that he looped around his neck. Most children would have rebelled against this strict wardrobe, would have dyed their hair colors or shredded these outfits. Hibine only smiled, straightening his collar.

Carrying a warm roll to keep his hands from feeling the chill of the weather, Hibine proceeded down the street from his home to the house of April. Two swift knocks were all it took to bring her mother, Mrs. O'Hara to the door. She smiled at him indulgently, knowing that with him, her daughter would never be wanting a day in her life. April would have a sensible home, large enough to fulfill all of their needs without issue. She would comfortably be able to support her children without having to work, she would be respected in the community for simply being Hibine's wife because he would have a respectable job and he would be good at it. Nodding, she stepped to the side to allow him in the house to wait to walk April to school.

The sound of the bell chiming woke Crescent and she experienced immediately the unpleasant sensation of her face being numb, pressed against a towel. A chiming laughter told her that it was Valerie opening the shop. Standing up groggily, Crescent examined herself in the mirror. The bonus to wearing tank tops and tight jeans was that, after sleeping in the shop again last night, she still looked perfectly acceptable for work. This was also due in part to the fact that, as a tattoo artist, it wasn't highly important she look primly starched.

"Have you taken the bandages off the tattoo yet, Moon?" Valerie yelled in at her, preferring to be what she thought was witty, connecting Crescent to Moon, than make note of the fact that Crescent still hadn't gone home yet. Or so Crescent thought, but she could have kicked herself for jinxing the idea because the next statement was connected to that. "I guess you and Tom still haven't made up yet?" it sounded innocent enough, to anyone who thought it was just a little lover's quarrel. There would be no making up, there was no Hallmark card for your roommate trying to take advantage of you being drunk.

"I was going to ask if you'd drop by and pick me up some clothes from the apartment later, actually, Val" Crescent sighed, grabbing the towel off of the floor and throwing it in the trash. She'd had no other choice but the floor to sleep on, since she had no interest in attempting to determine how to autoclave a countertop.
It had been another very late night for Reyna as she got last minute homework and studying in. Her apartment on campus was currently being fumigated, so she was homeless for a few days. Luckily Orianna had offered to take her in for the few days she needed, thus giving her a place to stay. Though Orianna had offered her to share the bed, Rayna had politely refused and opted to sleep on the couch instead. She didn't want people to spread rumors about her. She needed to keep a good reputation so she could build connections that could help her in the future.

Reyna had been happily sleeping and having pleasant dreams with her and Orianna when she was startled by a yelp of surprise. Sitting up quickly she looked around, the room blurry since she didn't have her glasses on. "Morning Reyna" came Orianna's groggy voice. Obviously the woman had just woken up herself. Pulling her glasses on her face flustered some at the attire that Orianna was wearing. Before Orianna could pass, reyna had gotten a good look at her, her eyes quickly scanning the other woman's shapely body, her heart fluttering a moment as her mind clouded. Soon Orianna had passed and was headed straight for the coffee pot.

Still flustered, Reyna shook her head some and craned her neck to follow Orianna's movements, "Orianna, you shouldn't be walking around in just your nightgown!" she sighed some and tried to calm herself down. Stretching she followed after her and took a seat at the kitchen table. Reyna wore a pair of shorts and an old tank-top, her hair tumbling over her shoulders as she brushed it out of her face, "Did you sleep well?" she asked finally as Orianna made the coffee and poured Reyna a cup. Reyna's eyes couldn't help but keep traveling over Orianna's body as she sat there sipping her warm coffee.


April sighed as she finished getting dressed, primping herself in the mirror to make sure everything looked okay. Her long brown hair was pulled neatly out of her face and held with a white hair-band. Clothing wise she wore a white blouse with a black sweater vest, a red and black plaid skirt, knee high stockings and mary jane shoes. She had an overall prep-girl look per usual. Prim, proper, and well put together. Finishing up her make-up a servant came to the door and knocked, letting her know Hibine was downstairs waiting to walk her to school. She sighed as she grabbed her school books, "I'll be down shortly" she announced as she made sure her phone and i-pod were also handy. She also made sure there was a change of clothes in her back-pack. She always made it a point to change when she arrived at school, in a way it was one of the ways she rebelled a bit against her parents.

She'd known for a while that she was set up for an arranged marriage, and she'd met Hibine a few times, but the fact of the matter still remained that she was against her parents' decision. But what could she do? Her father was a powerful man and wanted to see her marry into an equally powerful family. People thought that the rich and elite had everything, well that was certainly far from the truth! Heading down she put on a smile as she greeted Hibine, "good morning, Hibine" she said and moved forward, "goodbye mother" she left little room for conversation as she all but dragged Hibine from the house. Sighing when they were outside she glanced toward him, "hmmm I like the scarf, you should jazz up the rest of your outfit!" she said with a smile as she hurried forward, wanting to get as far away from her home as quickly as she could.
Orianna blinked at Reyna, her slight pout speaking volumes about her not understand at all what Reyna was saying about her nightgown. The coffee served, Orianna had perched on her countertop to sip the steaming liquid. In this small way, she thought to herself, she managed to thwart expectation. Everyone seemed to think they had her personality and tastes exactly planned so when she ordered pure black coffee, it always surprised everyone. Wistfully, she tried to pin what she liked about it, deciding there was something cleansing in how pure the bitter flavor was.

"It's not like there's anything wrong with it, I'm not walking around outside like this. You've seen a woman's body before, Rey, you even have breasts of your own... they're much better than mine, too. Why would you be at all embarrassed for me to walk around like this?" she answered finally, glancing over at Reyna through the veil her thick blond hair created at the sides of her face. To get a better look at her, Orianna brushed her hair behind one ear, parting the spun gold less like silk than heavy waves of metal.

Hibine blushed a little when April commented on his scarf, his long legs easily keeping up with her hurried walk. He tried to smile a little, taking off his glasses to clean them on the fluffy material of the scarf. She was pretty, he decided, placing the glasses back on his face. He would be lucky to have a wife like her, she was at least not yet spoiled and sour like so many women who attended his father's dining parties.

Ordinarily, walking even the short distance to their elite private school would be forbidden by April's parents, but with Hibine walking with her, they were more easy-going. Hibine reflected on this, the fact that they were destined to be married because of an arrangement between the two moguls Kyoryokuna Yasu and Mr. O'Hara, yet otherwise they spent no real time together. The official announcement of their engagement would be made when Hibine turned eighteen and so in school, they were two separate entities.

Hibine attended college classes for some of his subjects, surprising others with his intelligence and diligence; he was after all allowed to work as anything he wished for ten years of his life, ten years after he graduated college. Then, the agreement was that he return to his father's side to learn the art of running an empire. Should something happen before then to his father, he was to relinquish his job and return to his mother's side to learn from her while running the business.

On the other hand, April was free to do as she pleased. Hibine often watched her with that intent gaze, studying what she was doing so that he could understand her better. He knew she did not like him, but he could not blame her. This was her last chance to do as she pleased, where he got to choose a profession. He did not delude himself into thinking he could please her, he only hoped not to displease her. For this reason, he did not tell her parents the short skirts she changed into when she was at school, he did not mention to anyone the boys she flirted with. He carefully filed it away in his head and tried not to think to much about how he felt.

"I like it" he said simply, bowing to her when they arrived at the school. "I will be here waiting for you when your classes are over, to walk you home again."
Recently, the tattoo parlor Travis worked in was shut down. The business wasn't going so well anymore because it aged too much other the years and could no longer pass a health inspection. It was a sorrow filled day for him and the other co-workers as they watched the place get boarded up. This was where Travis would go for his tattoos and piercings during his younger days... It was also where he was trained to be a piercer.

Now, he was employed elsewhere. He wasn't going to be late for his first day in a new tattoo parlor! With a smile on his face, he parked his car into the employee parking spot he was assigned. His parents always told him to find a more fulfilling job, but he enjoyed what he did. Additionally, he got a really good wage out of it, along with wonderful tips! Sacrificing such a cash rewarding job for some years in college sounded regretful.

When he pushed the door open, the little bell rang and he nodded to the two women he saw. One of them looked especially tired... Even so, she was stunningly gorgeous! Deciding not to verbally point it out--because that would be moronic--he approached them politely and said,

"Hey, I'm Travis, the new piercer you hired? I'm very excited to be here."

His lip ring raised with his smiling lips as he put out a hand he offered for either or both of them to shake, his pierced brows raising to enhance the visible happiness on his face. Most of the piercings had been with him since high school, though the tattoos hiding under his jacket and other clothes were newer. Travis felt like he was already fitting in, the welcoming environment of the tattoo shop easing away all nervousness.
Reyna sighed some, expecting Orianna would say something like that. Rubbing the back of her neck she managed to pull her eyes away from the blond haired woman, "You know why I say these things" a light blush tinted her cheeks as she left it at that. It was hard to figure out what kept these two together. Orianna and Reyna were almost complete opposites! Reyna was quiet, reserved, and mostly a studious little mouse, granted she also had a wilder less innocent side, but still. And then there was Orianna, charming, beautiful, straightforward, outspoken and not modest in the least! What Reyna would give to have her confidence some days!

For Reyna, Orianna was a beautiful goddess whom she sometimes secretly worshiped, but was always in complete awe of. As these thoughts came to her mind, Reyna took off her glasses a moment to clean them, a smile spreading across her lips, "Hey, I only have two classes today and I'm done by 2, shall we meet up for lunch today? Or do you have plans?" It was almost the weekend, Reyna deserved a little 'let loose' time. Besides, she had been slightly distant with Orianna lately due to exams coming up, so she owed her what time she could. Tilting her head slightly, her hair drifting into her face, she met Orianna's eyes with an almost seductive hint behind them, her smile remaining on her innocent lips.


Though she was a little ahead of Hibine, April could still see him out of the corner of his eye. She knew that he watched what she did when at school, and she pretty much ignored him most of the time. It was nothing against him, but this was her last chance of freedom. Somehow, though, she sensed he understood this, and she was glad he never intervened in her fun. He had seemed actually pleased that she had given him a compliment, she didn't often seem to do it. When they arrived, Hibine quickly prepared to depart, tell her he'd meet her after school to walk her home. Before he could leave, she sighed and turned grabbing his arm, "look I know i seem slightly insensitive, but thank you. I mean it" she said with a smile as she gave his arm a light squeeze and then let go. Glancing around she hurried off into the school bathroom to quickly change in one of the stalls. When she came out of the bathroom she was no longer in her pre-school outfit, but a more laid back seductive one. A black miniskirt, with stripped off the shoulder black/white top and large dark red belt around her waist. Her hair she'd pulled back a bit still using the white band to keep loose strands from her hair, but overall she had transformed some adding extra jewelry and glam. Going to her locker, she was instantly flocked by her classmates as she mingled flawlessly awaiting the first bell.
Crescent flashed the man who had just walked in a welcome smile, halting the conversation between her and Valerie. The facial piercings he sported said a lot about him and Crescent paused to take them all into consideration as her gaze passed over his face. Finally, she nodded approvingly. Clearly in charge, she sauntered up to him with her hand outstretched.

"You must be the new hire, Travis. Sorry I had to interview you over the phone, we've been pretty busy. I've been meaning to hire a piercer though, so welcome aboard and don't feel too shy being the odd fish out. I'm Crescent, this is Valerie. We'll be handling the tattoos, unless we need your help with something but otherwise, you've got the not very leisurely job of being our only piercer" she winked turning away from him to gesture at the shop.

"Those are the rooms, I'm sure you can figure out which one is the cleaning room, which has the autoclave, and which are studios. When you talk to customers, you'll have to direct them to which one of us to look for with their tattoos, we'll do the same when we greet. Val does happy things, usually. Pretty much, Val works on the little ladies you see here and I work on the big boys. Val takes crying better than I do" she grinned, doing her best to make him feel at home.

"Any questions?"

Hibine had been taken aback by her unexpected gesture, the gentle squeezing of his arm. This sudden show of affection, however, clearly did not reach her actions to alter them because when he walked through the halls, bags in hand, he saw her surrounded by a group of people bedecked in small, tight clothing with makeup and jewelry. Hibine said nothing, it was a tacit agreement for them not to interact once they were within the walls of the building.

Several minutes early to his first class, Hibine settled in, arranging his books and materials just so but he must have looked melancholy because after a few moments, he had the strangest sensation of being watched. Looking up from his task, he saw a girl of about his age quickly avert her eyes. Frowning, Hibine had just glanced back down when her small female voice rang through the empty room.

"Hi.... you probably don't know me, but my name is Rachel. I know you of course, you're Hibine, you're brilliant" her earnest stare encompassed him, coating his senses with her eager adoration. Timidly, she smiled and he returned it awkwardly. "I'm not really that smart..." he hedged, studying her loose blond curls that framed a heart-shaped face, decorated with pillowy rosebud lips, a slender nose, and low cheekbones.

Chattering interrupted their conversation as students began to flood in for their homeroom, this fifteen minute time when all of the students in his year gathered together.

Orianna grinned brightly at Reyna, meeting her gaze with a warm passion that flowed from her like a stream rather than smolder in her eyes. It had been such a long time since she had gotten to enjoy a lunch with Reyna, what with Reyna being so terribly busy all the time. It wasn't fair to blame Reyna entirely, she herself was in part to blame since she had been out doing a few modeling shots lately. Still, it was here that she belonged and she'd even announced to the agency that she needed a hiatus for a while so that she could sort out her life.

Reyna was that important, but of course Orianna would never say this to her. She was a dark contrast to her own fair, golden prettiness. There was a certain pent-up sexiness that Reyna exuded. Orianna would have given her the stars if she could to make her smile but she seemed to serious all the time. That aside, Orianna wasn't sure it was right for her pulse to speed up when she pictured Reyna in her underclothes that Orianna had once caught her in by accident. Orianna closed her eyes, letting her mind wander to the pink polka dotted black camisole and matching panties, only nodding vaguely now at Reyna with a smile tugging at her lips.

"Two, got it. Where?"
The man grinned at her and took her hand into his, making a firm grip as he moved their arms up and down. He made a nod to Valerie when her name was mentioned, the smile never ceasing. While he was given the brief lecture of the place and looking around, he realized too late that he didn't let go of her hand. Instead of panicking, he gently released her delicate fingers and put his hands into the pockets of his pants.

"It's a nice little place you both have here. No wonder you're busy!"

He went ahead and took a little tour of his work station, where the piercing supplies, the rings and everything else he needed were. Travis then pulled a little brochure out of his front coat pocket that had his information, like what piercings he could do and how much he charged. There was even a questions and answers section, as well as a recommendation of products and household solutions that can be used to clean piercings.

After thinking, he said, "I do have one question, but I'll save it for after work." He smiled to himself and then put his attention back to his work area, beginning to straighten it out to his liking.
After sitting a moment, Reyna got up from her seat and approached the fridge. Opening it's doors she leaned forward to scan the contents as Orianna agreed to lunch and asked where. "hmmm...bagel and cream cheese or strawberry yogurt" she muttered before deciding on both and grabbing what she needed. Reyna never seemed to toast her bagels. She preferred to eat them untoasted with cream cheese, so she quickly took out a bagel and prepared it before taking a bite of the delicious meal. "oh about Yia Yia's? You know the Greek restaurant on Main Street?" she turned leaning on the counter and licking some creamcheese off her lips, "I hear they have amazing Gyros!" Reyna certainly was a greek girl.

Returning to the table, she quietly finished her quick breakfast before dusting her hands off of crumbs, "well I guess I should be off. Don't want to be late for my morning classes" grabbing her books, and fixing her glasses, she moved toward Orianna, "I'll text you when I get out of class" she said and leaned forward giving the woman a kiss on the lips. She lingered a moment but pulled herself away, blushing a bit, "bye then" she said with a soft smile as she turned and hurried from the house.


During her mingling she happened to notice Hibine in the distance. Her eyes followed him but he'd disappeared around the corner. Quickly her attention was grabbed back by the people adoring her, mostly males. A large male loomed over her with a slick style, and trouble written all over him. Grinning down at her he spoke, "So, you going to be at the party tonight? East Point...will be plenty of social activities among other things" he said giving her a wink. April wasn't stupid, she knew what the 'other things' was. It was what she called a harmless vice. Little delving into illicit substances wouldn't do her any harm, as long as she didn't make it a habit, "Well...I'll have to see. My schedule is pretty tight, and then there is the problem of my parents--"

"Eh, you're smart. Find a way. i'll expect you there" with that he turned and left. Sighing, April added that to the list of things she needed to do and places she needed to appear. Being a popular socialite could be taxing! As the first bell rang everyone scattered quickly. Closing her locker, April headed to the same classroom that Hibine was sitting in. Though he was a year older than her, she had been placed in almost all advanced courses. Sitting down in the back, she opened up her planner and began to organize things, keeping her gaze averted from his direction.
Orianna blinked, a blush rising in her cheeks but before she could say anything at all, Reyna had rushed out the door. The content fluttering of her legs over the edge of the counter had ceased and she stared at the door with a peculiar expression on her face. After a few minutes of sitting, she kicked her legs and landed gently on the tiled floor with a small thud as the only indication she had no simply drifted down; otherwise, she looked almost graceful with her white nightgown fanning out around her ankles as she hit the floor.

Orianna procured a small container of yoghurt from the fridge and a spoon, sitting in reflective silence while she ate her breakfast. Thoughtfully, as if by accident, she cleaned up her small mess and migrated to the bathroom where she began preparing her shower and hair styling tools. The heat of the water beat down on her body, easing what little tension she had built up. Overall, she was an image of health, likely due to her main prerogative being to take care of her appearance. Her joy was in her soaps of all different scents and she luxuriated in the thick foam she scrubbed into her scalp that smelled of lavender, the oils that smelled like fuchsia, and the facial scrub that reminded her of oranges. In short, she felt like a princess as she toddled out of the bathroom swaddled in a thick cotton towel but her simple happiness was dulled when she thought back to this morning.

Reyna had kissed her, actually kissed her, she thought incredulously. She checked the time, now anxious for their lunch meeting, and wondered if she would be brave enough to ask her about the kiss that morning. Time seemed to pass too slowly.

Hibine shot a glance to April, watched her settle into her seat and wondered what she could be thinking about. He wished he knew if her thought process was somehow different from his own because she acted so wildly different it sometimes astounded him. The boys that she hung out with were wealthy, since it was a private school, many of them more aesthetically pleasing than he was, he knew. Still, she knew that if someone discovered her illicit activities with these boys, their reputation would be smudged but hers would be absolutely shattered. It seemed like an enormous risk that she took, something he himself could never fathom.

To himself, with morose, dawning realization, Hibine realized that if her reputation was besmirched, his father would cancel their engagement without hesitation. Was this was she wanted? Was he, Hibine, really so deplorable to her that she would rather bring disgrace to her family than to carry out the plan to wed him? With a sigh, he laid his head down on the desk and pretended to listen to the pointless announcements given by the homeroom instructor. This was the last time he'd see April until he walked her home since he trekked to the college adjoined to the school for the rest of his classes. Though it seemed a consolation, he couldn't find peace anywhere he went.

The college students shunned him, believing he was constantly trying to make them look bad to the professor because he tried hard in his work. In high school classes, it was even worse. The students in college mostly left him alone, only abusing him verbally, but the impotent rage of the high school students was more physical and passionate.

The bell rang and Hibine gathered his things quickly, hoping that he would not have to watch April smile for them anymore, the ones that he wanted most to escape. He would, of course, show them one day. When his company ran their precious stock into the ground, would it assuage the pain he had felt since he was young? He wasn't sure, but these thoughts calmed him.

Crescent lifted an amused eyebrow at Travis but said nothing in response to his final statement. She bustled over to the display cases at the front of the store to rotate the images a bit, leaving him to his own work while she pondered what he might mean. The shop opened in ten minutes and Val was already finishing the final item that had needed to be autoclaved. A quick check to the appointment calendar told Crescent that she needed to ready the black ink for a tattoo outline she had scheduled within half an hour of their opening.

Glancing at Travis, she nodded to him and his brochure. "Good, good. If there's something the customer wants to know, or they're being difficult, don't worry about directing them to me or Val, whichever one looks less busy.

Before Crescent could continue, Val had sashayed up close to Travis, her eyelashes fluttering at him a she spoke in a husky voice "I don't have any appointments for another hour and a half at least, I could show you around more thoroughly..." she smiled slowly at him, holding her arms just so that one could clearly see her cleavage at the section of her white shirt that was unbuttoned.

The art exhibition was to be held today and Thanos was already awake and preparing the gallery with his works. Paintings of flowers dotted the stark white walls, seeming to be moving in a color/mood pattern. At the far left, serving as a backdrop for the sleepy and harried looking Thanos were the happier paintings, sunflowers and washes of orange and gold. As they progressed however, the paintings' palettes deepened in color to the final canvas on the wall of a dark purple iris against curled gray leaves.

A plump man in a charcoal suit strode toward Thanos, laying a hand on his shoulder. Thanos shrugged off the man's contact, a small smile tweaking the corner of his mouth. The man in the suit frowned but did not pursue the matter. Instead, he looked carefully at the arrangement of paintings and gave them a much more generous grin.

"These are wonderful, just wonderful. And we've been advertising for you, you know. These are even better than I expected, though I thought they would be fantastic, of course..." he trailed off to check his watch, coughing nervously. The director of the gallery was a nervous man, jittery around Thanos in his loose white pants and tunic, stained with paint.

"People will be arriving soon" he warned, as thought hoping Thanos and his disheveled appearance would leave the gallery then.
. . . And I tell you, over and over and over again, my friend,
that I'm down with you, even on the eve of destruction.
And if this moment is gone in a flash,
and my hand in yours becomes ash in ash,
and everyone becomes just dust in the blast,
at least this day will be our last . . .

The final chords of the song pulsed in the air, echoing off the walls in the dim barroom. Given the time - 9:45am on a Monday - the band, Mostly Harmless, was playing to an empty dining room in Dempsey's Irish Pub. It was just a rehearsal. Jakub improvised the last guitar section a bit, just for fun. Leaning in close to the instrument with his eyes closed, he shredded through a few arpeggios, and turned a knob to purposefully create a squeal of feedback from the amp--all to make the feeling linger a little longer. Jakub's friend and the band's vocalist, Trey, laughed and spoke up. "Lay off it, will you man? So yeah, I think we got it that time. We're going to kill this crowd tonight. Thanks guys."

Katie and Ray (the bass guitarist and drummer) quickly took off, telling the other two band members that they had some stuff to take care of and that they'd see them in the evening before the show. Jakub waved goodbye, and watched them a bit forlornly as they clasped elbows and walked towards their car.

Trey spoke. "Lovebirds. We all know why they're in such a hurry to get home," he snorted. He bent over to pick up his backpack and some electronic equipment from the floor of the small stage, straining his impossibly tight hipster jeans to the limit. Jakub raised an eyebrow.​

"Well, you would know, hot shot... you practically quit the band when you were with Yesenia. An artist's worst enemy is a lover," he added thoughtfully, slinging his guitar bag over his shoulder, his attention divided between his friend Trey and watching Katie's car out of the corner of his eye as it pulled out of the parking lot.

Trey looked back at him coyly, from under his legs. "Did you just call me hot? Are you looking at my ass? You're getting desperate, dude."

"Shopping in the little girls' section of American Apparel wasn't my idea, it was yours, apparently," Jakub joked, grinning but looking away. In contrast with his fashion-conscious friend, Jakub was wearing a simple band t-shirt, an unbuttoned green plaid shirt over it with the sleeves rolled up, not-so-skinny jeans and Converse high-tops, but his natural looks made him look the part of a guitarist anyway. He headed for the door, Trey catching up after him. The pair exited into the shopping strip, and Jakub locked the entrance to the pub behind them.

Jakub churned over some ideas in his mind about a song he wanted to write when he got home, as the two headed for his old hatchback in the parking lot, but Trey jolted him out of his reverie when he suddenly poked him in the small of his back. He pointed towards the art gallery across the parking lot and blurted, "Look, they're setting up an art exhibition. You're into that stuff, right?"

"Yeah, I write the songs, you perform them; that makes me the artist. You're the dancing monkey." Jakub squinted, not seeing much beyond the glare of the gallery window. Trey was already halfway there when he came to his senses. Jakub followed in suit, entering the gallery behind his friend. He glanced briefly at a young man who was standing in the gallery, a lithe form with a mop of curly hair, evidently the artist, who was accompanied by another burly figure. Trey nudged Jakub, saying something like "Hey, maybe Messypants is your type," but Jakub paid his friend no attention--he was engrossed in a picture of radiant sunflowers that was hanging near the front door. He smiled faintly and cocked his head as he detected a hint of irony in the coloring and brushstrokes, and especially by its placement alongside increasingly dreary floral portraits. Jakub stood near the center of the gallery, taking in the overall picture of the room, a gleam in his eye. He took a notepad and pen out of his back pocket and jotted something down.​
Thanos frowned at the man beside him, unwilling to leave from his exhibition at least on the first day. Beside him, however, the director seemed highly intent on his leaving. One look at the difference in their clothing was enough evidence - Thanos's baggy white pants were splattered with purples and reds, some yellow and green, from his painting. His tunic, while mercifully paint free, was still a peasant's tunic for one and also notably wrinkled. The director was a kind man, but he could not disguise his desire to attract a more... cultured crowd.

When the director saw two men approaching, he was immediately hopeful but their appearances seemed to confirm his worst fears with their tight panks and the mussy hair on one of them. Shaking his head, the director muttered a few final words to Thanos, slid a twenty dollar bill in his hand, and asked him to leave for a while. Thanos's eyebrow quirked upward but he said nothing and his sardonic smile had faded partway through the director's chiding.

The director, in a seeming gesture of goodwill, ducked inside the building to bring out a bright sign not unlike those outside of cafes that proclaimed in large letters an exciting new exhibit. He shot Thanos an awkward grin and hurried inside the building once more. Thanos shook his head, running one hand through the copper curls that spilled from underneath a white bandana he wore over his head for painting, before taking off the bandana to more carelessly tousle his own hair.

Seeing the two men, he raised his head at them in greeting, examining both with a sideways glance. Thanos hardly hesitated, striding up to them while pocketing the bandana. He looked sleepy, wan, hardly his best he knew, but he was more intent on company to distract him than making a good impression on potential fans.

"Do you like the work, or were you just admiring how darling Mr. Waddles looks trussed up in a suit?"
He took a step back and smiled at his work area. He was eager to be back in business! This sort of job was where his heart belonged... Admitting to the enjoyment of piercing flesh seemed creepy, but the amount of money he reeled in was much sweeter.

"Anytime you ladies want some metal, I'm your guy!" Travis offered, making a smile and a nod.

Before he could decide what to do next, Val was approaching him a bit seductively. He folded his arms across his chest and looked her over, resisting the urge to stare at the curves she was willingly displaying before him. This woman certainly was beautiful, but his eyes were mainly on the other... Still, he wished to be polite and to learn more about his work environment.

"Of course. I'd love to see more of the shop! Is Crescent going to join us?"

His fingers slipped into his pockets while his eyes glued on to the exhibit of art in the cases. Tattoos happened to be his favourite form of art; it was always so beautiful and unique. He also admired the meaning most tattoos had behind them, such as a beloved or a passion for a character. Getting that permanent ink on you because of getting drunk could easily turn him bitter... That would never show on his face, though.
Through the entire announcements, April sat paying little attention. People whispered to her and passed a few notes as she organized herself and idly filed her nails. To most she may seem like any other rich, popular, ignorant girl, but she was rather intelligent. She somehow managed to balance school with her extensive social life, not to mention her family life. Her mind reflected on the party as she gathered she'd have to speak to Hibine and see if he would be willing to assist her in getting out. She'd probably see if he could arrange for them to have a 'night out' alone, and then have him take her to the party. She wouldn't completely ditch him, but it wouldn't really be an 'alone' night.

She hoped he'd understand and comply, and she'd promise to make it up to him. Generally she was golden on her promises. April wasn't sure if Hibine had seen her, but as the bell rang her eyes moved to him once more and watched him quickly pack up and leave to go to his college classes. She knew that he was mercilessly picked on by the other students for his standing, and sometimes she would secretly intervene to stop some of the harsher bullying, but she never told him that. He wasn't a bad guy, a bit dorky and quiet, but he was a nice person. Honestly, she thought he probably deserved someone much better than her. Shrugging the thought off one of her classmates grabbed her attention as she put on her smile again and prepared for the next class.

Hurrying out, her and the group of followers actually passed by Hibine on his way out. In passing she did meet his gaze, but it was just a glance, nothing more, and soon she was past. Making her way toward the cafeteria to grab a snack she knew she wouldn't get a chance to speak to Hibine now until they walked home. "April! Did you hear about--" typical conversations in her life. She loved to rebel against her parents, but at the same time, she wasn't sure if she was even really happy anymore.


Reyna had left Orianna's a little later than she'd intended. Hurrying through the streets she just managed to catch the bus before it left. It was a rather crowded morning and she was forced to balance her books while standing up. Not to mention her actions toward Orianna were still grinding on her mind. I can't believe I did that. I mean it is custom of us to kiss one another as greeting and all, but the way I did... She blushed furiously at the thought Orianna must be angry with me. I should get her something before lunch to apologize for my actions. Sighing the bus jolted to a stop as she almost fell forward, but managed to catch herself. Not without running into the man infront of her, "Ah sorry!!" she stammered, still blushing. The guy turned around and gave a charming smile, "No worries...ah you go here too?" he asked. He had a university shirt on as Reyna nodded her head. Getting off the bus the two chatted while they walked to class together. Small world. A few heads turned their way as they walked, mostly girls admiring the guy. He was good looking, but not really Reyna's type. She kept a friendly demeanor, though, oblivious to the fact that the guy was trying to hit on her more than once. After exchanging phone numbers, they took their respective seats as class began. Reyna was just waiting for the day to be over so she could scoot out and meet Orianna for lunch to apologize. She just couldn't get over what she'd done.
Orianna whiled away her time by reading, studying books on subjects that she wondered if she could ever be smart enough to complete school in if she decided to go the normal route, to attend college and maybe even be with Reyna. Setting down the book on biology, however, she sighed to herself. She was sure she was being incredibly stupid, knowing that Reyna was far smarter than she could ever hope to be. She was a pampered little child who had graduated high school and gone on immediately to do professional modeling, she didn't ever have to be intelligent.

Striding instead over to the mirror that hung by the door, she examined her appearance. She had never thought that she was by any means ugly, but she could never see what other people saw in her. With a frown, she pinched at the skin beneath her arms, making a mental note of it before sitting down in her chair realizing that the entire process was futile. When she was old, no one would call her beautiful except to humor her. Everyone would call Reyna brilliant forever, even after she died but new models came as naturally as rain. A particularly gorgeous woman was mourned for a time, but only Helen had ever been so famous to be remembered longer whereas Einstein to Edison, Poe to Shakespeare, they had been remembered timelessly.

With a huff, Orianna flopped onto the couch and lay there, staring at the shiny tan leather beneath her face. If it was like this, what use could Reyna find in her? Orianna kicked her legs a little and looked up at the clock whose slow progression seemed to be mocking her.

Crescent shook her head, eyeing Valerie with a scowl as she grabbed her jacket and moved into the first tattooing room. The woman knew that Crescent would be unable to help show Travis around, she had to prepare everything and wait for her scheduled appointment. As Valerie smiled and took him by the crook of his elbow, Crescent gave her a withering look. Turning her back to them, Crescent gathered her tools. First on the counter was the thermal image copier, next to her untrasonic. A variety of needles was grouped there was well with the actual tattoo gun next to it. Filling out the rest of the counter was a box of disposable gloves and a bar of green soap placed next to a tiny sink sunk into the countertop. The other counters held a similar amount of stuff, spray bottles and plastic cups among the most perplexing to many of the customers.

With a sudden thought, thinking to how confused and curious many of their customers were, Crescent came upon what she thought to be a brilliant plan. She was grinning to herself all the while as she snapped on a pair of gloves and checked the bottles to make sure they were full. Casually, before they had gotten into the other rooms next to this one, Crescent called out to Travis.

"You could put on gloves and observe while I tattoo, you know, tell them you're my new assistant..."

April had looked as though she wanted to say something to Hibine and that caused him to slow his stride but only momentarily. Certainly, he thought, she just wanted him to help her with something to do with her parents, possibly explaining to her parents why she should be allowed to date so that Hibine and his busy life would not have to come home from his work to tend to his wife.

Kicking a ball of paper down the hall, Hibine considered how happy he was. College classes often allowed for a single absence, he considered, pausing mid kick to consider the possibility. Especially if he called in sick to them, they would understand, he knew. He could catch up the homework and pretend he had gone home sick. He wasn't sure where the sudden rebellious idea came from, but he couldn't shake it now that it had taken hold of him.

Hibine turned to head back the way he came when he spotted the girl he had been talking to in his homeroom class. She approached him, a small smile lingering on her lips. "I thought your classes were the other way, into the college?" she asked, raising one delicate golden eyebrow. Hibine could only grin back conspiratorially.

"I'm going to call in sick" he informed her proudly, his eyes ablaze. The girl laughed, it was not an altogether unpleasant sound. She adjusted her pack around her shoulder, tapping her toe against the ground. Hibine expected her to sound annoyed with him, to threaten to tell the professors but instead, she looked up and blurted out a request to accompany him. Quietly, thrilled with their own daring, they slipped out of the school. Hibine was already dialing the number of the office to call in as ill while the pair made their way down the street.
As the two women exchanged looks with one another, he smirked to himself and made a very slight shake of his head. He used to be so oblivious when women would cling to him like fanatical school girls, especially when he had his guitar out. Even a handful of men acted like they worshiped him, which he couldn't understand... Now? It was plainly obvious when someone wanted more out of him.

With the blond woman on his arm, he allowed her to show him around the shop. He took more time to admire the art and made note that this place was a lot more tidy than other tattoo parlors. Perhaps, it was because women ran this place. It had a cozier feel to it and you didn't feel like you were in a filthy prison cell before getting drawn on by a needle.

His tongue absently toyed with the piercing at the center of it because his mind was wandering to unrelated things. Lyrics were playing in his head as he imagined wrestling with an octopus, a smile on his face that was reminded him not to laugh out loud. All eight tentacles were tied up before he punted the beast into the horizon, then he rushed to the beautiful maiden he had to rescue from it. The face of the woman belonged to Crescent... Travis would have made a sigh and chuckled if her voice didn't break the scene of him about to kiss her.

'I'm a creeper.' He thought to himself.

After clearing his throat, he walked over to Crescent, whether or not his other co-worker was still attached. "That sounds great," he told Crescent.
Reyna sighed as class dragged on. Finally it ended, a bit early to her delight. She was about to head out when the guy from the morning came up behind her, "Hey, REyna was it?"


"Oh sorry, Michael. I was from earlier...I feel bad about what happened. Anyways, where you headed? Perhaps I could accompany?" he smiled charmingly at her. Reyna chuckled lightly "You are persistant. Eh going to meet a friend for lunch, but I want to get her something because I think I may have upset her...but I don't kow what to get" she glanced toward the ground sadly a moment. Michael blinked and moved closer, "hey I know a great gift's not far from here I can help you pick something out" he suggested. Reyna smiled and nodded, "thanks!" he was a good kid.

A half hour later, Reyna was making her way into Yia Yia's, a bag with a gift for Orianna in hand, and Michael following. He'd insisted on at least walking Reyna to the restaurant. When they arrived, only a few minutes late, Reyna apologized, "sorry time got away from me! Oh this is my friend Michael. Michael, Orianna" she introduced them, "He was helping me pick out something for you. I felt terrible about this morning" she said with another frown as she set the bag before Orianna. It was a small dolphin figurine. Reyna thought it was cute and if memory served her correctly, orianna liked dolphins.


While in the cafeteria April overheard a few classmates talking about Hibine. They were saying cruel things about him, and she couldn't help but approach them. They continued to joke trying to pull her in, but she wasn't having it. "Look leave him alone...I told you before, he's a good kid. lot smarter than you too"

"He's a total nerd! Going to college classes and thinking he's better than us! Heh...a spineless chicken"

"I said leave him alone" April said with a frown as she moved past them to throw away her snack.

"Why are you sticking up for him? He's a LOSER! You're popular, you shouldn't care about him" the guy said, "We'll show him"

"let it go, Robby. You have better things to do with your time" she said with a frown as another guy came toward her. He was a grade older than her, but she knew his face around school. He was handsome, and his family was filthy rich. He didn't really socialize much, though, but most everyone respected the guy. "Why do you feel a need to bully someone? Is it because of your own insecurities?" he glanced at April and then returned to the others, "do as she says and leave the guy alone now scatter" he brushed them off as they all did as he said. April glanced at the new guy, "thanks" she said balancing her books, "it means a lot to me. I hate when they pick on Hibine"

"Asian kid with glasses? taking college classes right?"


"Hey...why don't we get some fresh air" he smiled and offered his hand. April smiled back and nodded, "please" she followed him out, unaware that Hibine was skipping classes as well.
Hibine was laughing, for the first time in a very long time. Cecilia, she said her name was, and she was admittedly very pretty. He knew nothing about her except her name and the fact that when she talked to him, she wasn't looking down but neither was she expecting anything. Her upturned nose was pert and pretty, adjectives that could describe her as a whole, he thought fondly. He was grinning as they walked down the street, unaware that they were in the near vicinity of April.

Cecilia, however, noticed and gently steered Hibine further away, catching his attention away from where April was walking. "We should go out and get you something nice to wear" she said with a smile, tugging at the collar of his shirt. Hibine blushed, rembering April's words from that morning. He turned his head slightly in embarrassment and Cecilia panicked a little, thinking he would spot April. She pretended to trip and knocked off his glasses, sending them toppling toward the ground. Before they hit, she caught them in her hand, taking care to thoroughly smudge the lenses and having great faith in the fact that April would not willingly admit to being friends with Hibine, especially not in front of the guy she was with right now.

"Not that you have to. I think you're really cute the way you are... Ooh, I think I got your glasses dirty, I'm so sorry" she mewed, holding her hand out to him with the glasses clutched beneath her fingers.

Orianna looked up from the menu that she was reading when she heard Reyna's voice. It felt as though warm honey had been dribbled through her veins, especially hearing the words... Reyna had gotten her a present. Thrilled, Orianna picked up the figurine, not yet even glancing up at Reyna. She turned the ceramic figure in her hands, grinning broadly as she did so while studying the little details.

"It's so pretty, Rey! Go on, sit down, I ordered you mango tea. If you don't want it, go ahead and have them send it back. They said it was fine, but I remember you saying you liked things like that" she placed the figurine on the table and finally looked up. Standing behind Reyna was a man, and not a bad looking one by all accounts. Orianna frowned now.

"You didn't tell me you'd be bringing friends along, I'd have gotten a bigger table..." but secretly, she pouted inside, her mind sniffling pathetically while she forced a small laugh.

Crescent smirked at Valerie as she trailed Travis into the room, stretching her she arms upward in a luxurious yawn. He was handsome enough, and logically it had been a very long time... Crescent eyed him with an almost analytical stare, top to bottom, examining his physical assets. Finally, with a small nod at Valerie which caused her to make some very dark expressions, Crescent had decided.

"Put on a pair of gloves, the customer will be here any time now. Let's have lunch together, you can ask me whatever it was then, all right newbie?" she said, lowering her eyelashes coyly. Their first customer was indeed there, just as she motioned to the box of disposable gloves for Travis. He pulled them on during Valerie's brief meeting with him to discuss cost and paperwork signing, and when the man finally entered the room, he was ready to assist Crescent.

The man was perhaps late twenties, but nondescript. His request was not out of the ordinary and Crescent pulled the symbol from her book of tattoos for him when he had come in the previous week. It was one of many Chinese symbols on her foreign page, all in black ink and it wouldn't take a terribly long time.

"Travis, go into that stencil booklet and grab me the one labeled 'Courage' at the bottom, hmm?" she asked as she grabbed the lubricant and dabbing gauze from a drawer. Soon enough, the tattoo was over and Crescent was promising the man that she wouldn't tell anyone about his crying while she taped a sheet of gauze over the new tattoo on his right arm.

"What time is it?"
As the artist approached Jakub and his bandmate, the notepad Jakub was writing in quickly disappeared into his back pocket. But in his hurry to hide the thing, Jakub dropped the pen he was writing with, which clattered loudly on the gallery floor, landing near the artist's feet. Trey giggled and sputtered compulsively.

Jakub, with a pained look on his face, began to answer the bohemian's query while staring at the pen on the ground. "Sorry. I hope your guy doesn't mind that I'm not exactly dressed for the occasion. We just saw you setting up, decided to stop in." Jakub turned in place, surveying the floral portraits hanging on the walls of the gallery once again. "The work, it's fuckin' brilliant. Yours, right?" Jakub raised his gaze to the artist's paint-spattered pants, then briefly to his unkempt, touseled hair, before finally settling on his exhausted, bag-framed eyes. At a glance, Jakub knew: here was someone who understood what it meant to put their heart into their work. He continued, "But yeah, I was just thinking about the range of feelings in here. There's some real, raw energy that went into these paintings... I wanted to get some thoughts down on paper, for a song maybe. I'm in a band," he added, raising his reddish eyebrows and looking up at the artist's face with a bit of curiosity.

"No shit, Sherlock! You think he can't see what you have on your back?" Trey piped in, yanking on Jakub's guitar bag, almost toppling him over. "And don't pretend you're the only one in the band either! I'm Trey, this is Jakub. We're half of Mostly Harmless. You should check us out, we're playing at the pub tonight." Trey gave the young artist a firm pat on the shoulder (more like a shake), and handed him a colorful business card with the band's name and website address.

"Would you quit--" Jakub muttered with an exasperated laugh, readjusting his guitar bag on his shoulder. He took a moment to gather his thoughts before continuing, taking off his hat and absentmindedly mussing his auburn hair with a broad, guitar-trained hand. "So I guess you were working on these recently? Maybe the dark one over there, judging by the paint..." Jakub said, returning his gaze towards the splashes of crimson and violet on the artist's knees.
Assisting a tattoo artist was a pleasant experience for Travis. If this kept up, perhaps he could gain a dual position in the job world! Drawing wasn't his greatest strength, though. He was better with music when it came to art, even poetry and story writing.

Travis did his best to be comforting to their customer, feeling sympathetic when he shed tears. One thing Travis didn't like to see was pain and sadness as a result of a tattoo or piercing, but it was an art they'd never regret receiving.

"No worries, guy. You showed a lot of courage today."

He smirked after his statement, appreciating its humor as well as despising it. The joke wasn't terribly funny... It was clever though, right?
After properly disposing of the gloves, he nodding to the man as he exit the shop. He began helped Crescent cleaning up the area by putting the book and tools away, also searching around for a clock so he could answer her question.

"Almost two thirty. Lunch time, right?"

He made a grin because he felt starved, but the smile faded when he forgot his meal on the counter at home. 'Dammit, I'm an idiot!'
Reyna smiled happily, "I'm glad you like it!! Oh this is Michael, he's a classmate. He helped me pick out the present" she said cheerfully. Upon Orianna's remark Michael shook his head, "ah I have a meeting. I just wanted to make sure Reyna got here okay. I'm glad you liked the present as well Orianna. Please, have a nice lunch ladies" he smiled charmingly and waved before heading off. Reyna waved to him, "By Michael. We'll have that study session next week. I'll let you know a time" she called after him. Turning, she beamed at orianna, "I was really worried you weren't going to like it" taking a seat, she got herself comfortable, "So...have you gotten a chance to look over the menu yet?" opening her own menu she scanned the wines first before goign to the foods. She noticed that Orianna had suddenly gotten very quiet, which was strange from her normal chatty self. Putting her menu down she frowned and glanced at Orianna, "Is something wrong?" she instantly began to go into worry mode, and it showed clearly on her face.


April was mildly surprised as she walked with Taylor down the street and toward the park. It was normally where she went when she decided to skip classes. He was talkative, but not too much, and rather light hearted and fun. Normally guys were just trying to vie for her attention because she was popular and because they wanted to get something from her (mainly into her pants). Taylor though seemed genuinely interested in just her, as a person, as a human being. The only other person she could give such credit to, really, was Hibine. Pausing a moment to fix her clothing, she glanced up and saw some people up ahead, but she couldn't quite make out who they were. Before she coudl get a better look Taylor had engaged her into conversation again, telling a joke. Blinking she burst out laughing when he was finished and they continued on their way, none the wiser that Hibine and Cecilia were nearby. Taking a turn in the opposite direction, they soon were on their way to the park. Per usual, April went straight for the swings. They were her sense of comfort in the park, her solace from the harsh cruelties of the world, and a place she could be a kid with no worries at all. All the while Taylor continued to be the proper companion for her, and she was starting to think he might be the genuine thing! "So, April, you going to Thomas' part tonight then?"

"I told him I might show up. It depends on if I can create a viable excuse to get out of the house alone tonight. I need to talk to Hibine after school about it, he should help" she said pushing off and swinging. Taylor leaned against th eswings and simply watched her.

"I really hope you'll be there. I'll be there, and it would definitely make it worthwhile if you were there too" he smiled. April simply blushed some but continued to swing.