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Sharp needle, small haystack
The red light district was hardly the ideal place for a good girl to find work. Good girls didn't come to places like this.

Claire explored these streets in a perfume of imagery she was both drawn to and repulsed by. She paused in front of a window of a toy shop, peering in at what was displayed. The open streets of Brooklyn posed similar wares, though far less openly, and boasted business ventures only the locals knew where to find. But here, in Moscow's urban center, as gust of wind brushed her bangs and her eyes followed its path, she was keenly aware of no longer being in the US.

She decided she was not repulsed by her surroundings, but as she moved away from the shop window, she was not particularly interested in being a customer either. She needed a job.

It was mid-afternoon, and Claire took the chance that the business she sought was going to be open at this hour. Neither was it too early for the Seers to still be sleeping, but it was not so late in the day that business would pick up. If Moscow's enchanted seekers of fortune were anything like New York's, that is.

The pay by purchase phone in her skirt pocket did nothing to provide her with an address nor so much even the name of local psychic shops. The far more reliable method was to ask around, which Claire's outgoing, fearless personality enabled her success with relative ease, even in a city unfamiliar with speaking with strangers. Evidence of one such shop was in the plastic bag wrapped around one of her wrists, tangled up with an arm of bracelets, bangles and ties. From one end stuck out the tell-tale gathering of incense sticks. Their faint aroma followed in her wake. At least it muffled the scent of old urine and dry booze. Not that such bothered her. She was a New Yorker, after all.

She passed love shops, host and hostess clubs, hourly hotels, toy shops, and live-action theaters: the scroll above the door tickering the naughty name of something to do with Shakespeare held a strangely suggestive allure. Claire had never been keen on frequenting theaters or operas of the elite. If she went to Broadway, it was not to watch Phantom of the Opera. Yet she was intrigued by the idea of a sex-show turned play. Would it be like watching live-action porn or would it be more artistic than that? Did critics review the acting? It was an interesting idea. Perhaps if she wandered the district at night she would have been of a mind to find out, but the day-time seemed to dull her interest, and she decided to keep to her plan.
Edited by Claire, Aug 12 2013, 07:33 AM.
Giovanni ended up in the Red Light District wearing his new cloak. He figured that this would be a good place for him to lay low and think through things. The incident at the Market really got him thinking.

"Am I really seeking help?"
<em> Giovanni thought.

It made sense. Since he was born he was taught that channelers were to be eradicated. He knew it was more than likely futile that he would avoid them forever. There was no hope, but at the same time, he knew he had to try.

He kept his head down. Giovanni wasn't interested in the sex shops surrounding him. He just knew that down here, he was unlikely to be bothered. He would find a place to sit and think through some things.

Giovanni turned a corner and ahead of him he saw a woman. She was short with pale skin and dark, blonde hair. She was finely dressed and stood out of place in the district. Giovanni moved to the side to let her pass, but he found himself wanting to ask her for help.

He wasn't sure if he could trust her with his secret, and Giovanni wasn't sure he wanted to talk, but something made him.

<em>"Scusi signorina,"

Giovanni said, surprising even himself.

Edited by Giovanni Cavelli, Aug 12 2013, 10:24 PM.
Claire had a good eye for fashion. A girl had to be if she was going to look like a million bucks when she only dropped twenty. She also had to have patience. Roaming from boutique to boutique, shoving through piles of crap clothes, dealing with pissy shop-keepers who couldn't get jobs anywhere near 5th Avenue, well it was quite the trial in determination. Then she was also hard to embarrass. After finding a vintage Alexander Wang blouse, or any haute couture, avant-garde piece sold second-hand mint-condition, a girl felt pretty smug walking out of the shop...until she bumps shoulders with a woman wearing the real (new) thing, coming in to donate last season's wardrobe ... to "the impoverished." Feeling like a charity case while yet drooling over the woman's Ter Et Bantine mustard block top tended to leave a bitter taste in her mouth.

Certainly Moscow had outranked New York and Paris as the fashion capital of the world years ago, and Claire yearned to step foot in the immaculate Gum department store, but not before she was ready to actually purchase something. Which meant she was stuck with digging through bargain-basements, sample sales, and resale shops in the meantime. It was going to take some impressive fortune-telling to land enough cash for a trip like that.

With such a critical eye, she spotted the gentleman with the cloak immediately. Claire herself was in a blousey, navy blue cowl neck top, the back of which was laser-cut with small, geometrical shapes which glimpsed the curve of her spine beneath clear down to her waist. That is, it was warm enough to walk the streets in such attire. Anyone wearing a cloak immediately drew her curiosity. Was this a new fashion she had not yet heard? Had anyone at Fashion Week debuted cloaks? She was uncertain to the point of nearly panicking, and her expression darkened thoughtfully.

She clearly monitored the man from his shoes to a timepiece and the sharpness of his haircut. Nothing else about him spoke to the kind of money representative of Moscow's leading trend-setters. Which led Claire to wonder if his choice in coverings was out of some lesser-known motivation such as being plain insane. Or maybe it was some historically accurate cultural representation? Did Russians ever wear cloaks? Claire tried to remember some of the old black and white videos of soldiers marching around Leningrad.

"Scusi signorina," he said before she could escape beyond his path. The words alone gave her pause even as she tried to dig through that thick accent. Then all seemed to lock into place. He was definitely not of russian heritage. Signorina? Was that Italian or Portuguese? She shook the question aside, glanced over her shoulder and kept walking to stay out of arm's reach of him. What does he want? she thought, immediately suspicious. They were in the red light district, after all. The profile of a woman rigged with straps and chains, howling at an image of a moon, wavered on a video-screen on the building beside Claire. If this had been New York, she would have kept on walking without a second glance.

She casually laid one hand into the voluminous pocket of her skirt, fingering a small talisman kept there, pondering which of the spells she knew would be best should it be necessary.... or just for curiosity.

She finally uttered impatiently.

Giovanni watched the woman approach and pass, staying out of arm's reach of him.

"She's cautious,"
Giovanni noted.

She finally turned to face him and impatiently said, "What?"

Giovanni was taken aback by her tone. He took one cautious step back and subconsciously glance at the woman's left forearm as he felt the rage of the power begin to fill up in him. Seeing no ouroboros, the power quickly subsided and Giovanni began to calm down.

He waited a moment before asking, "I'm new to town and I'm lost, how do I get to the main city."
Giovanni winced at the lie.

He waited for the woman to answer while the voice inside of him said, "Why do you hide from your power."

Edited by Giovanni Cavelli, Aug 14 2013, 04:50 PM.
Claire was not a physical woman. Nor was she vicious. Yet she must have snapped sharper than she'd anticipated to cause such a man as he to retreat. What a thrilling realization.

Whatever caused a man clearly capable of twisting her arm and wringing her throat to rethink his approach apparently also dried his tongue of speech. He paused before speaking, and in response, Claire shifted her weight to one strappy sandal and cocked a hand to one hip, transforming her posture into a single, sinuous shape; a smooth contrast to the sharp edge of her hair and directness to her gaze.

"I'm new to town and I'm lost, how do I get to the main city."

Claire immediately balked and gestured around them. "Are you high? Look around. You're in the city."
Speaking of...., she cut the thought short. There would be time for that later.

As she studied the expression on his face, her amusement changed course. He seemed almost... naive .. ? It was hard to put a finger on it.

"Let me give you two pieces of advice,"
she began with a coy tone darkening the suggestiveness to her answer. "You don't need a gimmick to talk to a woman."
Her lips twisted a wry humor, "and second, lose the cloak, Romeo."
She stepped in close enough to flick the edge of it with one hand, peered up into his gaze, then winked and began to go, half convinced she should linger... just to toy with him.
All of the sudden, all of Giovanni's thoughts of nervousness were gone. He couldn't believe it. This woman thought he was trying to make a move on her. He couldn't keep himself from starting to laugh. The situation seemed completely absurd to him now that he thought of it.

"My apologies Signorina,"
Giovanni said. I'm in a new land and haven't met anyone. I promise my intentions were not bad. As for the cloak, well, I got it for the winter. I had the money to get it now, so figured I might as well get it now, and I have no place to keep it, so I might as well wear it right."

Giovanni grimaced, trying to think of whether or not he should tell her his story and reveal his secret. Could he trust this woman? Also how did he bring it up?

Suddenly, a scent came across his nostrils. He finally saw the bags the woman was carrying with the incense coming out of it. He hadn't met many people who had used incense and most of them were fortune tellers.

Giovanni pointed at the incense and asked, "Are you a fortune teller? I don't have much, but would like a fortune read if your are willing."

Giovanni pulled the money he had out of his pocket and showed it to the woman.

Was this guy raised on some backwater, Italian pig-farm? A new land? Who talks like that? If his naive act was part of the charm, it was lost on Claire. Somehow, though, she didn't find herself spinning and leaving him in the dust. She was actually entertaining the thought of talking to him.

The admission about the practicality of his winter-wardrobe earned the passage of a scoff across her pale pink lips. I hope you got a deal. It was his follow-up question which provoked a sincere look of surprise. A provocation which was nearly impossible to elicit from the astute Claire.

She glanced downward, peering along the lean curve of her arm to the plastic wrapped around one wrist. The incense was a small purchase, enough to last her for several circles, but not enough to warrant a shop more than two or three clients. Yet the aroma was enticing, reminding her of the task at hand.

"Well-done, but I have no job. If you're asking for a private reading, well,"
she looked him up and down slowly, considering the shape of him, the poor cut of his clothes, and the timidity to his tone. Finally, the money in his hand. A small shake of her head followed. "I am not into that sort of thing."
She smiled a dark, ornery smile. "Your number? I'll send you a message when I land somewhere."

Giovanni expected the refusal. To be honest, he was trying to be completely honest with her, but his unusual depressed state of mind was compromising his judgement. If he would have thought for a moment that he was in the Red Light District, he would realize why she thought this way.

"What's happening to you?"
Giovanni thought. "You're better than this."

It was then that a change began to happen. Giovanni's depression began to rescind. He stood taller and the fire in his eyes returned. He felt a strength return to him. A strength he had not felt since his days with the Atharim.

"Have you ever looked for a new beginning?"
Giovanni said, his voice significantly stronger. Three years ago, I started looking for a new start. I left everything behind. Since then, I've wandered from place to place, barely getting by, until I came here. I don't believe in coincidences, Signorina. There is a reason why I'm in Moscow, and I believe it is time for me to rejoin that which I left behind three years ago. You want to know why I stopped you? I stopped you because you appeared to be someone who could help me become a part of society again."

Giovanni paused for a moment and took a step forward before continuing, "I'll be honest and say I did not know how to approach this question. I've barely spoken to anyone for years and talking to people isn't something I'm good at anymore. Everything has changed since..."
Giovanni's voice trailed off as he realized he was going too far. "Anyways, will you help me?"

Giovanni removed the cloak, and threw it to the ground revealing his black shirt, black pants, and black shoes beneath.

"You told me to lose the cloak. I have listened, what now?"

Edited by Giovanni Cavelli, Aug 16 2013, 07:27 AM.
The stranger's very atmosphere shifted. Where before he was adrift, he was anchored now and Claire was further thrown off balance. She liked to think of herself as capable of confirming to the tides of time, but deep within she acknowledged that surrendering to fate felt contradictory to her very nature. This man, whose by words, actions, and behaviors forced Claire into shifting fundamental directionality in herself simply to keep up with what he was saying. Much more of this and she would felt the rebellious urge to shut-down, walk away, and never deal with him again.

His initial question resulted in a defensive scoff from Claire, whether by her nature or by her American, New Yorker heritage, she was aversive to consider any alternative answer except a stern, 'yes!.'

But this fundamental stirring in her soul seemed to hold her back, and Claire actually entertained the remainder of this man's odd string of admissions. The details of his story glazed across the surface of her mind, barely penetrating her empathy. In fact, the only reason she kept her silence and did not walk cleanly away, was this inner stirring so completely captured by one word he uttered so haphazardly: 'coincidences.'

Did she believe in fate? Did she care? A quiet voice said yes, yes she cared deeply but that whisper clashed with the independent desire to control fate rather than accept it. Claire was a driver of her own fortune, a framework she could dispense to others, yet grasp firmly in herself. It steeled her resolve, this realization. And went so far to cast her aura with a powerful frame of individualism.

The directness of her gaze followed the billowing of his cloak, cast aside as though he were discarding self-effacing chains.

She stared at the cloak crumpled now along the sidewalk. One corner draped over the side of the curb. Discarded at her command. A simple gesture but so powerfully symbolized.

Walk away, she told herself. She had no allegiance to humanitarianism. Help yourself, the defiance glared behind her eyes. I receive no help, so why should you?

That final thought overwhelmed the tentative answer perched on her lips and Claire remembered her bitter losses and the grief calloused her of all desire to help.

"You need a life coach, not me."
Her tone was stern, but a vibrancy tinted her answer with something additional.

She was not dismissing him altogether but the reason was far from charitable. It was a tempting sensation. Not since the thrill of holding a man's life in the palm of her hand had she known this kind of specific power over another life. And she did not want to let it go.

"But let's get a drink. A strong one."

She gestured toward the tamest bar in sight, which was not that tame, but Claire could ignore whatever was waiting within.
The woman gestured to a bar, suggesting that they get a drink. Although Giovanni lived the life of a vagabond, he drank often enough to have a decent tolerance for it. He also knew he had enough money to purchase a few drinks, and if not, there would surely be other "charitable" patrons in the bar.

They entered the bar, Giovanni opening the door for the woman. Upon entering, Giovanni took a look around. For a bar in the Red Light District, the bar was rather well kept. A few patrons were drinking at the bar while a few more sat at tables. Giovanni and the woman chose a couple of stools at the bar.

While waiting for the bartender to finish with his current customer, Giovanni faced the woman and introduced himself saying, "Giovanni Cavelli."

Before the woman can answer, the bartender, a bald man in his mid to late forties, approached and asked, "What'll ya have?"

Giovanni took out his money and handed enough to the bartender to cover two drinks and replied, "I'll have some vodka and will pay for whatever she's having."

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