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The delivery driver perked up immediately. “Right, I’ve got your order here,” she said. She seemed to sniff at Viv briefly, making her wonder if her shower had somehow failed at its purpose, but she’d done a sniff test on herself after and was sure she didn’t smell of anything more than rosewater shampoo.
The driver just smiled down at Viv, apparently not noticing her sudden anxiety. “I brought the machine?”
“Thanks,” Viv said awkwardly, pulling her card out of her pocket. “Hey, I’m new here, can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” The driver handed the card reader over. “How can I help you?”
Viv punched in a 20% tip. “I just moved here from out of town—you said that the buzzer was acting up again? Does it do that often?”
The driver relaxed minutely. Viv reminded herself that an OmegaEats driver probably got asked a lot more rude and intrusive questions than that—in the Valley or out of it. “Yeah,” the driver said. “I deliver in this neighbourhood a lot, and this building’s buzzer recently started acting up, I guess. Sometimes it’ll let me ring up but won’t let them buzz me in, and sometimes it’s just dead. Looks like it’s just dead today.”
“Wild.” Viv printed out the receipt and saw that the driver’s name was Yasmin, debated calling her it, and then felt weird at the very idea. “Does that happen to a lot of buildings in the area? Leyline spike?”
“Ehh.” Yasmin waggled a hand. “These problems happen more often than leyline spikes do; I think it’s just faulty wiring. The power goes out in this building fairly often too, I get a few orders just ’cause people can’t cook on one night or another.”
Viv pulled a face. “Ugh. Figures I learned about that after I moved in, not before.”
“Tough luck,” Yasmin said lightly. As Viv handed the card reader back, she took out Viv’s food from her insulated bag. “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” Viv said. “Anything in the area you’d recommend a newcomer check out?”
Yasmin’s thick brows raised in surprise. She was a rather attractive woman, Viv couldn’t help but notice, even as she chided herself for the inappropriateness of that—let alone the fact it’d be a rebound. Her hair was long and thick, bound back in a braid, and she was tall and strongly-built. At her own fairly short height, Viv found she always appreciated taller women. “Like, for entertainment, or otherwise?”
“Anything, really,” Viv said. “I’m from out of town.”
“Right, okay. Library’s nice. We’ve got a few theatres—the Theatre of Dreams is always pretty mesmerizing.” Yasmin said, relaxing further. She seemed pretty chatty, Viv thought, more comfortable to have a conversation than Viv had first thought from how antsy she’d initially seemed. “I hang out in the skate park a few blocks away a lot; it’s really friendly and open to every level of experience. If you’re outdoorsy; it’s part of a larger nature park in the area with good walks. I’d avoid the West Street Dog Park, though, it’s picked up a bad crowd. Food wise… lots of local stuff is good, I’d suggest trying all kinds of places, and ordering through OmegaEats.” Shameless. “If you’re a night owl, I can’t really answer about pubs or clubs—I’ve heard that the Good Neighbours is really wild after hours, but I don’t really do that sort of thing. Otherwise, Beanheadings is always hopping? It’s a fae-run coffee shop, but everyone goes there. Open 24 hours, fairly human-friendly, though it’s not in the best part of town.”
“Downtown, yeah.” Yasmin gave her a sunny smile. “That everything?”
Viv gave her one back. “Yeah. Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. I’m Vivian, by the way. If you work this neighbourhood, I’m sure I’ll see you again.”
“Yasmin.” Yasmin offered a hand, and they shook. She seemed pleased to get an introduction; probably something else that didn’t happen a lot in her line of work. “Let me know how you’ve settled in next time.”
“Will do. Thanks again.”
With that, Yasmin headed back out to a motorcycle that she’d parked next to the entrance. Viv watched her put on her helmet and take off.
A cold autumn wind rushed past in her absence, and Viv shivered, shutting the door and taking the stairs back up this time. She didn’t want to go back into the elevator room—and besides, Yasmin’s warning about power outages was stuck in her mind. No point in getting stuck in an elevator
The cats greeted her—or, more likely, greeted the scent of chicken—with a riotous chorus of meows as she reentered her apartment, and she wove through piles of boxes to her desk with them tripping her up the entire way.
As she drank her coke and ate her chicken, occasionally peeling off strips to throw for the cats, she looked up the places that Yasmin had named. The library did seem nice, though it would be closed at this hour; the Theatre of Dreams looked to be that famous shadowfolk Lithway’s theatre, as the rumors had said. The skate park had an immediate attraction, even though she wasn’t a skateboarder herself: it looked to be home to a number of feral cats, as pictures of the place showed them lounging insouciantly everywhere, heedless of danger.
But the attached nature park looked big and dark and, she thought, the whole area would probably be safer during the day than at night. She continued browsing. The Good Neighbours was a pub, with live music and trivia and a reputation for fae trickery and mysterious disappearances; by contrast, even if run by a dullahan, Beanheadings seemed to have more of a reputation of everyone being safe there, regardless of whatever faction they claimed—or no faction at all.
“Ughhh. Pebbles, where should I go?” she asked Pebbles, who was licking Viv’s fingers clean of chicken grease. Pebbles chirped at her. “Just follow wherever my footsteps take me? I’d go introduce myself to the neighbours like the quote said, but I don’t want to interrupt them at dinner time… but I guess most people I’d meet at local spots would be locals themselves, right?”
Pebbles gnawed on her fingers and Viv tugged them away gently, booping her nose.
Before she went anywhere, she had to get rid of the garbage or the cats would get into the bones, since she hadn’t found where her closed garbage can had ended up yet. She downed a glass of water to chase away the taste of chicken, dug up a garbage bag from the clearly-marked box of cleaning supplies, then changed the litter boxes for good measure. After three days without cleaning them, the apartment was smelling a bit foul.
“I’m heading out after this, so don’t wait up,” she called to her inattentive cats.
Tying off and picking up the garbage bag, she headed out again. At the choice between stairs and elevator, she hesitated, feeling silly about her earlier nerves, then took the elevator down to the sub-basement with no problem. It took a little wandering through the parking lot there before she found the garbage room—but once found, there was no mistaking it.
It reeked even the bins seemed barely full; she gagged a little, hesitating at the doorway. It felt like it couldn’t be just from the accumulation of trash, but maybe bags were leaking, or hadn’t been taken away recently. Maybe that’s what Yasmin was sniffing earlier, a floor away. Another strike against this new apartment, she thought, a bit sourly.
Better get it over with, she decided. She still had to decide which place she’d go to after this—hanging around in the garbage room door wasn’t going to do her any favors.
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