Time: Earlier on Friday.
Location: Streets of Ember Grove (+ Celestina @Alexei’s)
Location: Streets of Ember Grove (+ Celestina @Alexei’s)
Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “You. Pay your tab”.
Celestina, who had been slowly inching her way towards the exit of the dive bar, found herself awkwardly staring over back at the bartender who called out to her. For a self-proclaimed perfect genius such as herself, it was inconceivable that her plan to have escaped Alexei’s without paying would have failed. Of course, she had never once found success in her countless past attempts to escape bars without clearing her tab, but this time she was certain her plan to move so slowly that the employee wouldn’t notice was flawless.
Her face contorted, first in some combination of ire and shock, and then in a mask of resignation. With a huff she spun on her heel and returned to the counter, painstakingly removing an old leather wallet from her jeans.
”...By the way, I’m actually a really dangerous person. I’m wanted in several states for voluntary manslaughter in which bartenders who got on my bad side caused me to fly into an uncontrollable rage…” With an innocent smile, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, Celestina casually admitted to murder.
”Yeah, yeah. Just pay up. The total’s twenty three dollars and forty eight cents.” And the bartender disregarded said confession with blasé. With Celestina, this back and forth had become ritual after all. While her claims might’ve caused a reaction in a newbie, most customer service representatives in Ember Grove had already become numb to her shenanigans.
”Whatever. Don’t terrier self up about it, it’s not like your life could be in peril. Oh wait…” Producing the necessary cash and sliding it towards the register, the crestfallen Celestina turned away. ”Keep the change, you’ve earned it.”
”Was that a pun? And wait -- you paid an exact amount, there is no change!” he cried, but Celestina had already left.
Moving along the concrete sidewalk, passing the bowling alley and heading in the direction of the university, she wondered how she could spend the rest of the night. She didn’t have that much cash left, and without cash, there wasn’t much one could do except sleep. The crux of her current conundrum, Celestina concluded, was that life was boring without people or money. She considered calling Sorrel, the werewolf whose pack she joined on a whim, but briefly came to the conclusion that it was impossible. For one, she didn’t have her number, and for two, Sorrel was akin to her boss, which left a bad taste in Celestina’s mouth.
While Celestina delved into the philosophy of entertainment, she passed by a large man who must’ve been at least twice her mass. At first, without breaking from her intense theorizing, she passed him by without a second glance; but immediately after the two crossed, her eyes shot up and she turned around. Whatever she was thinking before immediately left her mind, and she called out.
”Oi! Big guy!”
The ‘big guy’ was walking down the street looking through his phone, the device held rather high so at the same time he could see what was in the street before him. The day was young, but there was still a lot to do. His agenda for today was barely half finished when he considered the vampire prick in his basement and the whole exhibition business that would have to be combined with Valentin’s meeting of the janitor.
Just as he was about to reply to a text sent to him, the man heard a voice calling out. Looking this way and that he was the only person on the street beyond the caller, but nevertheless he doubted that he was the one being hailed (even if he did fit the descriptor perfectly) given he had no clue who the hell this was. Thus, instead of replying he simply turned with an intentful and bushy eyebrow upraised.
”Huh? Is there someone else on this street? Did you perhaps think, on this empty street, where there is only me and you, that there was anyone else that I could be talking to?” Celestina took a few steps towards Valentin ”Aren’t you somebody super suspicious? Mhm.” She nodded to herself. ”That’s right. Someone like you shouldn’t be wearing clothes like that. It’s a total subversion of the big guy trope. My nose which has been lauded as hound-like can smell when something’s fishy, and right now it’s telling me that you’ve got a big secret.”
Technically all that the woman was saying was true to the letter. However, a good chunk of it wasn't true in spirit. Thus, only a single answer was really clear to him: "So?" he said, turning in entirety with a slight look of annoyance to him; he was only staying rather than leaving this woman here out of politeness.
"So… you're gonna tell me it, right?" Celestina took another step forward, this time scanning Valentin up and down. Shock filled her face. "W-Wait! Hold on! Shit. Fuck. I-I totally know what your secret is now that I've taken a closer l-look!" With a voice full of terror, Celestina lurched several steps back away from Valentin, staring at him with wide eyes and raising her right hand as if bracing for a fall.
Valentin’s attention was piqued when the woman feigned surprise, and his other eyebrow now rose with a concerned citizen’s interest, but as Celestina continued the expression quickly changed to a frown. “Ma’am, are you under the influence of some sort of drugs right now?” he queried. Lord knew what sorts of types roamed these streets, and the Professor supposed it was his own fault for going about the parts of town he had previously marked down as “not for me.”
”Drugs? Sorry, but I couldn’t possibly do drugs. If they’re even in the same room as me, I’d have to bark until a police officer showed up.” Celestina coughed, and her demeanor neutralized. ”Ah -- you wouldn’t get that joke. You can trust me though, it’s hilarious.”
As if she had just remembered something important, Celestina’s eyes lit up. ”Hold on! Don’t think you can just dismiss me as some druggie and get away. I totally know your secret!” With a deep breath, she announced ”You’re totally one of those professional wrestlers who have to keep their identity a secret to escape the pup-arrazi! I read about them online, that’s the only possibility!”
What the fuck was the vague translation to English from the general stuff of thoughts in Valentin’s head. His eyebrows lowered from their elevated position as his eyes narrowed. If this woman wasn’t on drugs, then she was surely batshit crazy, as he had once heard on TV. “No.” he offered, putting his phone away knowing that this was the exact type of scenario he might expect it to fall if not careful; he had a case, but his frugal nature prevented him from actually wanting to even get that scratched, let alone the phone itself.
“Ma’am is there anything I can help you with?” The man said, realization very slowly dawning he was being the victim of somebody’s antics.
”Hmm…? Yeah. Ok, fine. You’ve already done enough. You had a nice reaction... although you seem quite stoic, and that really sucks.” Celestina mumbled nonsensically about something that likely wasn’t worth comprehending. With a polite grin, she nodded towards Valentin. "You look confused. Well, I guess that’s understandable. It’s hard to make sense of people who’ve been around as long as I have.”
With that, the mid twenties appearing Celestina turned on her heel as if to leave. Before her departure, she looked over her shoulder and winked with a knowing smile ”...Though, I suppose that’s an actual secret.”