Friday, October 12, 2012

Chapter 93: Jack Leaves the Better Man Behind

Fri, December 11, 2074 4:27 pm-- 782 W. 42nd St.; Tolsbury, Pleasantview

"Okay, how I do I look?" Orlando emerged from the closet, kicking discarded articles of clothing out of his path. His linen suit was barely a shade darker than his face and hands. Jack could not imagine where he found this one. Cameleons-R-Us, perhaps. A four-buttoned jacket, shoulder pads, that pointy shirt collar--Where to begin? Spending most of his time in the company of London's associates made Jack sensitive to the way that a man should suit himself. He mussed his hair, searching for the right descriptor.

"You look exactly the way I would expect someone selling holy books in a convenience store parking lot to look," he said. Orlando's puke-gray jacket made a rustling sound as his shoulders drooped. He tugged at his cuffs.

"C'mon, be for real here for a sec. Are these sleeves too long?" Orlando turned to the mirror in the closet, evaluating the sleeves from various angles. Jack felt the urge to laugh but caught himself in time.

"Sleeves are not your problem."

"What then?" Jack rose an eyebrow at the obviousness of Orlando's error.

"You landed an interview with a high-profile judge and you're going in a suit that that's older than you are?" Orlando shrugged.

"Money's tight right now," he said. Jack inspected Orlando's frame while he was facing the opposite direction, trying to gauge the shape of the body beneath all that ill-fitting fabric.

"I reckon we're about the same size. I could let you borrow something," he offered. Orlando looked at him skeptically through the mirror.

"You own a suit? I've never seen you in a suit."

"My foster family makes me go with them to ballet and classical guitar concerts and whatnot." Orlando laughed, turning on his heels address Jack directly.

"You? At a ballet?" Jack exhaled through his nose but said nothing. "Right. Decent suits?"

"I've got this one navy Totori Hiedel that would prob'ly look good on you." Orlando whistled appreciatively.

"Totori Heidel? I wish some rich folks would foster me. Don't you ever worry that your Townie ass is a disgrace to Alpinian wool?" Jack leaned back on the bed, smiling.

"Nah man, you got that the wrong way around. You don't feel like a Res until you've worn real clothes."

"As opposed to the clothes I've been imagining for the past eighteen years?" Orlando was joking, but Jack thought that he had stumbled upon a certain truth. If clothing was a signifier of personal, religious, professional, and cultural identity then what did it mean to dress like a Townie? Townsmen dressed like Residents, only a decade or two out of fashion. They wore what Residents cast off, which was fitting considering the fact that their identities as Townsmen had been assigned by Residents. Townie was an artificial identifier because it had been thrust upon them independent of their wills. It was the clothing that they had been imagining, imbued with false meaning. Jack shook his head. It was too complex to explain to Orlando.

"You're on your own for shoes though," he said. "I mean, what are you? Like a size thirty-six?"


"Damn, Townie." Orlando rolled his eyes and loosened his tie. "You nervous about this interview? I mean, District Judge of Rawling Hills, mate." Orlando stopped what he was doing.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that."

"He probably gets fifty resumes on his desk every week and he picked yours."

"Beats me, man." Jack cringed.

"That's not what I meant. Graduated top of your class-- It ain't like you're not qualified."

"But how am I gonna make an impression?" Orlando spread his arms wide as if to display not only what he was wearing, but some lack of substance beneath it. Jack was stung by the gesture. No one deserved the best opportunities in life more than Orlando did.

The state took Orlando away from his parents when he was very young, citing dangerous and unsanitary living conditions. He then filtered through the system like Jack had, but he was not so lucky in his placements. He didn't talk about it much but he didn't need to, not with Jack. Orlando moved back in with his mother in his early teens and was sexually assaulted by one of her many boyfriends. He ran away as a result, spending eight months on the street before being accepted into Pleasantview Boarding. That place saved his life. Jack wondered whether Troy Tellerman-Caliente knew it too.

Still, was Orlando bitter about the path that his life had taken? Was he discouraged, mistrustful, beaten? He was not. There was no looking back for Orlando. He was ten times the man that Jack was. If it ever occurred to him just how extraordinary he was, he never let it show. He could perhaps afford to be a bit less humble.

"Just be confident," Jack concluded. Orlando smiled weakly.

"Easier said." Then Jack thought of something certain to boost Orlando's spirits.

"Hey, how's your man Aaron?" And predictably, Orlando beamed like a fool.

"You remembered his name." Jack scratched his head, somewhat abashed.

"He means something to you so yeah, I made it a point." Orlando appeared to be touched, but then the instant passed and his enthusiasm withered on the vine. He fiddled with his cuffs again.

"Aaron's out of the picture." He made this declaration almost at a shout. Jack rested his hands on the ironwork foot board. Orlando could hardly meet his eyes.

"What happened?"

"He couldn't handle the fact that I have responsibilities now."

"So fuck 'em."

"I cared about him."

"If he can't cope with you being a parent, fuck 'em." Orlando's jaw dropped. He began to stammer.

"I'm-- I'm not a--" He shook his head, seeming to clear his thoughts. "Haven has parents, okay? Anyway, since when are you so interested in my love life?"

"You're my friend. Speaking of, Beau is seeing a Townie-born girl." Orlando jerked his head back in disbelief.

"Say what? Beau? Our Beau? Beau Broke?"

"Her name's Felicity. She lives over on Tellerman Farm. Small world, hunh?"

"Eerily small." The bedroom door swung open as if on cue, and Haven came bounding through it. Jack warmed at the sight of her. He never thought that he would be happy to see Haven Hanby, but he was. Orlando, Haven, Beau... These people were his family. How could he leave them behind? Haven threw her arms around his neck and planted kisses all over his face.

"Jaacckk! Jack, I missed you," she said.

"That's nice."

"It isn't nice, it's terrible! You should come by more often. Jack! I want you to meet my ferret. His name is Mr. Piddlewater. Ask me why his name is Mr. Piddlewater!" Haven was pulling at the corner of his shirt. Jack gently deposited her back onto the floor.

"I'll stop by in a few minutes, I promise."

"Nooo, I want you to come nooowww. Please, Jack?"

"Haven, could you please just give us a minute,"Orlando asked. Haven interlaced her fingers and begged, hopping around the floor like a fish on dry land.

"I've already given you a minute. I've given you tons of minutes!"

"Haven." For someone who claimed not to be a parent, Jack thought that Orlando sounded awfully parental. Haven responded by stiffening her shoulders in begrudging defeat.

"Fine," she said, stomping out of the room. Orlando sat down on the bed next to Jack, and nudged him with the side of his gigantic shoe.

"You all packed," he asked.

"Seeing as how I won't need most of my street clothes, and I'm not allowed to bring in secular books or music, I'm as packed as I'm going to be."

"When will you be back?" Jack looked down at his palms.

"Don't know. It's not a job as much as it is a way of life. You don't get vacation days when you're a Magus." Orlando leaned back on his elbows.

"I still can't wrap my head around all this." Orlando could not be blamed for that. Jack might have told Orlando about his dreams or about the hidden abilities that he had struggled to understand for as long as he could remember. He could have told Orlando that he had to go because this was his only chance to learn who he was, but that would be admitting that London was right. "It's just all too surreal, you know," Orlando said. Jack leaned over the bed rail.

"Imagine being the one living it."


  1. *joyous flailing*

    Eeeeeeeeeee, something awesome to come home to after two hours of limping around a rainy, construction-ridden campus on my sliced-open toe! :D

    Good to see a new DBL! I missed this story. I even downloaded the Tricous to help with my withdrawal (and somehow Nylissit and Gvaudoin both ended up with the exact same hairstyles they have in your game...).

    Poor Jack doesn't seem too enthused about the abrupt appointment. I wish he'd been given more time to consider. Then again, I'm guessing you can't just say "Thanks, but no thanks" when they ask you to be a Magus.

    I take it that Troy is the one interviewing Orlando? I hope Orlando gets the position. He's such a nice guy. And aww, that was so sweet and selfless of him to prioritize his guardianship of Haven over his relationship. Hopefully he can find someone willing to be a good daddy (mommy? Is Orlando all-out Kinsey 6 gay, or is he somewhere on the bisexual spectrum? I think it came up at one point, but I can't remember) to Haven. Have we met Aaron in some unrelated post, or was he just an invention for the purpose of Orlando's character development? I only ask because there are never any irrelevant details in DBL ;)

    Haven is so cute. And such a kid XD

  2. Nooooooo what did you do to your toe? Oddly, I sliced my toe the other day too! Second toe, left foot. And I'm paranoid about bacterial infections so it's really a bit of an annoyance cleaning and redressing.

    Hehe oooo I'd like to see your Tricous!! And hey, next chapter might be up as soon as tomorrow. I have a hectic next few days ahead of me, but the chapter's done.

    I think that Jack has made a difficult decision that he is as yet still unsure about. Hopefully it will all pan out well. Poor guy has no idea that so many people have planned so many uses for him in Veronaville.

    Yes! Orlando is interviewing with Troy. I may or may not show it, but the results will impact the story a bit.

    Heh, I don't know if Orlando swings both ways. I guess we'll find out. My inclination is that he doesn't. (However, I think Cully might.) We never met Aaron but he was featured in the background noises of a chapter. Orlando is awesome though.

    And now I must go because Mr. Pen is tugging me away. :S

  3. Heh. It's kind of an embarrassing story--entirely my fault and entirely stupid. But yeah, left foot, second from the outside, not looking too horrible now but still drenched in enough Polysporin to ruin several socks :S

    I am definitely looking forward to seeing Jack in Veronaville; just feeling kind of bad that he has no idea what he's really signed on for. Poor kid :(