The teams were assembled, given their instructions and sent out into the wide world in the late morning. Of particular salience: Jewel, Albrecht and Lisbeth on one team, Safiyah, Ripu and Ayah on another. By the time early evening rolls around and the teams start returning, Grace has the house ready to receive them. The kitchen has been set up with enough refreshments to feed a small army; make-your-own-sandwich setups, buffalo wings, salads, all sorts of finger foods. Also: alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. A variety of beers, wines, ciders and, on request, spirits and liquor as well.
From the pink in her cheeks by the time the teams start coming in, she's been generously sampling that booze while she's been waiting. Upstairs, the conservatory is still warm with the afternoon light, and she's pushed the worst of the clutter into corners, onto shelves, under chairs. The projector set up in the middle of the room is an old and clunky-looking thing, but in impressively good condition for something that looks a good twenty of thirty years old. A plain white sheet has been hung up against one wall to provide a screen. There's also popcorn up here (both sweet and savory), and of course, more booze. There's always more booze.
The first team to arrive at the end of the day is the one made up of Ripu, Safiyah, and Safiyah's daughter Ayah. The latter two, mother and daughter, look like they could pass for twins if they were the same age, with Ayah seeming like a younger version of her mother. Truthfully, though, they look more likely to be sisters, since Safiyah doesn't look like she's old enough herself to be mother to the teenage Ayah. Both are dressed in modest clothing, in the muslim sense, with loose pants and blouses and hijabs, everything covered but their hands, faces, and some of their hair. Safiya's clothing is all greys and blacks, no patterns or anything, while Ayah's is much more fashionably designed. And, since Ripu doesn't speak Arabic, they're all three conversing in English when they come in. The two women of the group at least look like they're in good spirits, whether or not they were even able to find all the required items or ended up giving up.
In English--but not necessarily well-spoken English--Ripu is speaking with them as well. He is dressed in an almost unreasonable fashionable manner, because this event does not call for hand-tailored suits. Other than the colour of his skin and hair, he is a stark contrast to the two women he accompanies in his fashion sense. His suit is a soft lavender colour and and his collarless shirt with hidden buttons is a deep turquoise. His shoes are white, and whine in the light. "No, no--I do not think I could adopt any kittens in my home. They would get their fur all over the fabric and I cannot have that, can I? I have never had a kitten, and certainly not as many as she had." He seems to be speaking with Ayah when he enters, the younger of the two.
"...not perfect, but, hey," Albrecht's hands sweep to either side as he comes in with his 'team', "I mean, mistakes were made." He's dressed up, for him; newer jeans without paint stains, a denim shirt buttoned up properly, and everything. He's even trimmed his beard a little to be less 'mop on face', which is remarkable for him.
Tonight Jewel is dressed down more for the walking around town and events, simple black slacks high waisted with a white top tucked in, that red hair down, covering the collar around her neck where the d-ring is simply locked closed. "Mistakes are always going to happen, nobody's perfect." the way she spoke was softer so that attention wasn't overly drawn to the woman.
"We have had animals, but not pets," Ayah is saying to Faruq. "A goat doesn't count." Even if she obviously would like to have kittens, she does seem to understand the reasons (already given by Safiyah) about why they can't. That's probably why she's trying to convince Ripu to get some himself. Maybe he could bring them over sometimes!
"Look at all of the food," Safiyah says herself, when they come in to find things set up the way that they are. She sounds like she approves, which is probably no surprise to Ripu after he's been subjected to her views on hospitality. Her English is rougher than her daughters, more heavily accented. Then the other team starts to arrive, and she gives them all big smiles and asks, "did you have a good hunt? We made mistakes too, not to worry. Sometimes they are the funniest part, yes?"
Grace comes bearing down on the first arrivals with more force than a woman of her stature seems she should possess, but a few martinis can bolster anyone. Safiyah, Ayah and Ripu are enthusiastically plied with food, and just as enthusiastic an attempt is made to ply them with alcohol as well. She's never still long, flitting off as other teams arrive, managing to greet each one with even more enthusiasm than the last. There's time for people to eat, drink, talk, relax after wandering about the city half the day, during which Grace is moving around with her laptop in her hands and her rat on her shoulder, collecting everyone's video clips and getting them queued up and ready to go, splicing them together into haphazard order. Once that's accomplished, everyone's given a last chance to pile plates and fill glasses before being herded upstairs.
Once everyone's got a seat, some popcorn if they want it, and hey don't forget there's more alcohol, she gets her laptop wired up to the projector in short order, the backdrop - revolving photographs of friends and family - lights up across the hanging sheet. Oh, look; there's Lis at three, naked in the bathtub. Thanks for sharing, Grace. "Everyone ready?" She checks about, waits until everyone is settled, then hits the 'go' button on the video. First up: Ripu, Safiyah and Ayah attempting to find their elusive beastie.
Lisbeth is dressed as she always is. Which equates to her wearing a lot of dark and vibrant colors in tandem with each other. Black and red seem to be the order of the day today. Because nothing says inconspicious like an Abernathy that's borderline gothed out, right? "You should have let me talk to them. I could have smoothed things out." Lisbeth says, though she's careful to phrase her tone in an advisroy sort of way than to criticize her team mates.
And of course Grace gets a quirked eyebrow. Especially that blush to her cheeks. Had someone been hitting the booze again? She'd have to talk to her sister later. Before the alcohol fairy drug her off to the hospital to get a new set of kidneys or something.
"It was just easier to go to another place," is Albrecht's assertion, shaking his head before meandering over to fetch himself a drink; a salute made with it, and he offers affably, "Evening, folks." Then -- popcorn! Who doesn't like popcorn. A grin's flashed to his team, and then he's following everyone in to the video room, finding a place to settle in.
Eyeing the drinks, Jewel decides against it knowing it would only get her in trouble later at home. Stepping towards the viewing room, sitting down and crossing her legs near her team though still quiet outside of her last words to them.
Ripu takes more than just a moment to gather up a plate of food--all vegeterian--but he gathers up two heaping plates, one in each hand. When they meet Grace upstairs and she starts with the filming, he is quick on his feet, moving to stand between Ayah and the screen for just a moment until the picture is gone. He does it casually, still discussing what sort of kitten he would like to own if he was willing to have kittens, and that is a big if.
Safiyah accepts food happily, at least those parts of it that are halal. There is an embarrassing moment when she has to ask what a buffalo wing is, since she was pretty sure that buffalos don't have those, but there's plenty of food that makes sense and she's happy to eat, so she does. Alcohol is politely refused, on both her behalf and Ayah's. The girl's only thirteen, after all.
When they move onto watching the videos, Safiyah takes a seat and lets her daughter handle anything involving the camera. Once things are set up and Grace is hitting play on the first, the reason is probably fairly evident. When the first video starts playing Safiyah is obviously the one behind the camera, since Ripu and Ayah are in the frame, except they're sideways. A few moments of Ayah trying, with exapseration, to explain how the thing works to her mother, and then it gets handed off with laughter from both parties, and the young woman handles the technology instead.
After a few seconds of dizzying camera work while the thing is handed off, a proper picture appears with Safiyah and Ripu (not on their sides) and appears, in a small apartment. The camera moves from them to search around near the floor, where there are a bunch of cats but none which would qualify for anything on The List. Ayah asks, "where did he go?" Then it pans back up to Safiyah and Ripu. "Ripu, did you see?"
"Alright," says Albrecht with a rueful glance back to his team, "So, uh, we didn't do so great on this first one, as you'll see-- my fault, really." The video's cued up, and he takes a hearty swallow of his drink. Alcohol good.
"--found a cat that's perfect," Jewel's saying as the video starts, and Albrecht is giving the camera a thumbs-up as they approach the counter of a pet store. There's a broad grin on his lips as he steps up to the counter, asking the dark-skinned and rather attractive young lady across the counter, "So, could I see the black pussy--"
Apparently a poor choice of words, as the next thing is a slap across the face and shouting as the trio is hustled out-- the video cutting swiftly to the next pet store, clearly a different one.
An adorable little rabbit hops slowly around an enclosure with several others, a pale spot on its black-furred body as female hands pick it up to show off the twitchy-nosed little critter to the camera. It doesn't look like anything in particular, but it meets the requirements!
"Was he on there? I know we saw him!" Ripu squints at the screen as if that will make it easier to see the spotted cat. He stuffs carrots into his mouth like he might be dead tomorrow--because he might. No one is probably paying close enough attention, but one slice of kiwi is wrapped in a napkin and stuffed into his coat pocket. Ripu blinks when the next video is aired and smiles--but does not laugh--he looks across to the other time, still smiling, and slowly pops a carrot into his mouth which crunches widely. "I definitely did not see that one," he tells them.
Lisbeth snorts upon hearing Albrecht say that they "didn't do too great". "That's an understatement." she mutters. At least it's more to herself than anyone around her. Even so, she can't help but display a tiny little smile when Albrecht botches the purchase of the cat so badly that he ends up getting smacked. "Personally, I liked the cat better. You totally should have let me smooth things over." she says between drinks as the video continues to play. Where did she get the drink? Well, she could be sneaky like that sometimes. Or not, as her current banter was perhaps indicating.
Once the video is rolling - figuratively speaking, since it's all electronics now, the quiet hum of the laptop fan in the background - Grace takes a step back out of the way so everyone can see, turning around herself so she can watch. She's got yet another martini in hand, because she distinctly remembers Lisbeth telling her she was drinking too much midori, although she probably didn't take quite the message from that conversation that her sister intended. She laughs hard enough at Albrecht's faux-pas that she's still wiping tears from her eyes by the time the next round of video clips begins. "You all did so well!" She's become a better liar in recent weeks.
"What happened to the rest?" Safiyah asks, when their video ends up cutting off before the part where they actually found the cat. She looks at Grace, but Grace is just playing what they gave her, so then she looks at Ayah. "Ayah, what happened?" she asks.
It doesn't sound like Safiyah's mad, just confused, but Ayah gets a bit defensive anyway. "It was there earlier! Maybe we accidentally recorded over it? I don't know. You saw it, right Ripu? When we reviewed it, before we went to record the next thing?" Defensive, but a little guilty too, like she's afraid she might have screwed it up.
"No, it was there. I saw it! I did!" Ripu says, a little forcefully, carrot falling from his lips. He manages to catch it with one hand and stick it back in his mouth. He shrugs slowly and looks back to Safiyah and Ayah after eating the carrot piece. "It will be okay. We were amazing for the rest of it. And there were plenty of other cats. Maybe it will count, I am thinking."
The next clip flickers to light on the screen--it is outside on a sunny day. Residents might even recognize one of the busier intersections in Oakfield. Ripu's voice is heard, "No, no. Stay here. I think that there are police and they do not want too many people getting near."
The camera shakes for awhile as Ripu approaches the intersection, and then comes to focus on a freight truck. Leveled and crumpled beneath it are a smaller car, but the camera quickly moves away to an ambulance where a large man in a red baseball cap is being checked on by paramedics. "Oh, he is okay! What a relief!"
And the video suddenly goes dark.
"It is okay, Ayah, we had fun getting it, yes?" Safiyah tells her daughter with a smile as she reaches over to give her hand a squeeze. "I used the camera later too, and probably erased it by accident or something. I am terrible with these things." And possibly she did. Who knows. Or maybe it was gremlins.
"Maybe," Ayah says, squeezing Safiyah's hand back and then returning to eating popcorn when the next video comes up.
"I didn't like this one," Safiyah says quietly as it starts to play. "It did not feel right to use someone else's tragedy for a game." She looks at Ripu, gives him a wan smile, and nods like there's some kind of understanding between them about it.
"Ouch," Albrecht winces a little at the sight of the accident, looking a bit relieved when it turns out nobody was hurt; a handful of popcorn crunched down, he admits, "We did better the next time, at least--" A wry glance over to Lisbeth, "Thanks to gorgeous over there, anyway."
There's a more somber look on Grace's face while she's watching the short video of the car accident, and certainly, at casual glance it would be easy to think she might be having second thoughts about its appropriateness herself. Although anyone caring to study her with any reasonable degree of empathy will note that the emotion is hollow: not exactly put on entirely for show, but certainly presenting what she feels is the appropriate face for the setting. "Well," she interjects brightly after the clip ends, "Let's see what's next!" She polishes off her martini with a flourish that almost dislodges the rat on her shoulder.
For her part, Lisbeth was tuned out for the video of the traffic accident. Some things just made her uncomfortable. Especially given how easily she could cause an accident like that. Once the previous video is finished playing (And Lisbeth is done silently thanking whatever powers that might be that they didn't get -that- one.) Lisbeth promptly stands up and plays their recording of their escapades at the drive through without another word spoken.
The video switches on midway through the process of ordering a meal at a drive through. It then promptly pans around to show a -severely- upset looking heavyset man in a truck behind them glaring at Lisbeth like she had just committed some grevious faux pas. Apparently -someone- has a deep craving for McDonalds.
Two honks of a horn later and Lisbeth and the camera holder are moving towards the payment section of the drive through lane. Where upon they're greeted by one very confused register jockey. He can be heard saying "You can't do that." almost apologetically to Lisbeth. It's an action that Lisbeth gives an easy, almost embarassed smile too before leaning into the window and gesturing towards the camera and murmuring something to the man as the man in the truck behind their little group continues to mash the horn. Whatever it was she said to the man manning the register, it has him pulling back and nodding a bit apprehensively before taking their money. Meanwhile the truck continues to bleat it's horn until Lisbeth spins around and gives the man her best death glare. Apparently a quarter pounder isn't worth risking getting into a fight, as the honking promptly stops.
It's not long after that that Lisbeth, Albrecht, and Jewel are at the next window and picking up what looks like a happy meal. Which Lisbeth shows off and shakes in front of the camera with a gleeful, almost triumphant smile as she skips backwards, not even bothering to turn around. And probably nearly skipping back into the nearby traffic before she realizes what it is she's about to do.
A grin's curving Al's lips by the end of the video, and he shouts at the video in time with his own voice on the tape, "Don't walk into traffic!" He slants a sidelong look over to Lisbeth, batting a wink over at her, "You won that one for us."
"I would have enjoyed doing that one more if that guy behind us would have stopped with the horn." Lisbeth says a bit grudgingly. Even so, she has a wide grin on her face at the praise that undermines her previous remark. Meanwhile, the Lisbeth on tape gives Albrecht an embarassed look before halting in her own advance towards adding the creation of a traffic accident to their recording.
"Hey!" Ripu roars loudly when the shake is displayed on camera. He claps his hands loudly and stomps his feet, laughing like this was some incredibly feat. He has moved on from carrots to store-bought cherry tomatoes, so when he grins in the other teams direction, it is a little more juicy and red than he probably intended.
"They really do not like it when people walk through the drive through," Safiyah says with a laugh, amused by the reaction that the attempt got in that video. Quite possibly because they tried something similar earlier in the day, with similar results. Maybe! Time will tell if that's in their video lineup or not.
When the next video is started up, it begins with Safiyah holding the camera again, pointed at Ripu. It moves over to Ayah for a moment, then back to Ripu, and Safiyah says, "I know what we should do for our flash mob, now that I know what a flash mob is. Ripu, I think that you are going to like this. What we should do is..." and then it cuts off. More technical problems? Maybe not, since when it comes back up they're outside a building where the frame moves up to show a sign. YMCA. The person filming must be Ayah, since when the camera comes back down it shows Ripu and Safiyah with a group of probably fifteen other people, from an apparently wide range of ethnicities. Where did they find someone who not only looks like they're really native american, but who also actually has a headress? And is that a hasidic jew?
They're all standing just around the corner from the entrance, looking in the direction of the camera, when someone walks out. The camera moves a little as Ayah gives a signal, and then the whole group of people runs out and starts dancing and singing the chorus of YMCA at the poor, confused woman who just exited the building. Some of the singing and dancing is terrible, some of it's pretty good, but they all seem to be giving it their all. After a moment the lady they ambushed goes from terribly confused to laughing, as they dance around her for maybe twenty seconds giving it their all... and then they all run off again in different directions, and the video cuts.
After it ends, Safiyah says, "we also have video of trying to convince the people to help, but there were so many. It is like an hour of video, but if you want to watch..."
"Who is that handsome man dancing there in the middle?" Ripu asks in a tone that implies he has no idea it is himself. "He is such a skilled dancer--and he dresses so well. You know his family must have a lot to offer just by looking at him. And such hair--he will never go bald. What a good-looking man!"
Grace looks sincerely impressed by that flash mob video, blinking as the clip ends and turning to lift her bottle - she's picked up a cider along the way, now she doesn't have a martini to occupy herself with - in a cheerfully respectful salute. "That was seriously cool. Were those even real people?" The question is every bit as sincere as she is tipsy.
"Nice!" Albrecht sets his drink and popcorn down to bring his hands together, applauding at the mob that's shown on screen, a broad grin curving his lips, "Damn, you got a great bunch for that. Fuckin' perfect casting!"
"Yes, very good genes," Safiyah says to Ripu with a laugh. "Any woman would be lucky to marry a man such as that." When she says this Ayah gives her a strange look, and looks like she's trying not to laugh herself. She eats some more of the vegetables in order to prevent herself from doing so, while Safiyah answers questions. "I think that we had a lucky day, that is all. They were real people, we just went around trying to find people who looked like they might think it was fun. Ripu is very good at convincing people. When I first moved to America, he convinced me to go disco dancing with him." Hence, the joke. She gives Grace a smile then and adds, "I like this salad. What do you call the sauce?"
Once the previous video is finished Lisbeth plays their own video. Which apparently is an attempt to create a flash mob, given the way Lisbeth and Jewel can be seen on camera handing out fliers while trying to persuade people to show up on short notice to do...Something. It isn't quite clear, but the trio are clearly not all that successful. This continues on for a few minutes before Lisbeth turns to the camera and almost angrily pulls her finger across her throat, indicating that Albrecht should cut the feed.
When it picks up again they appear to be in a rather strange looking coffee shop. On one side of the cafe are the usual coffee and pastry loving folks that are on break from work or just looking to socialize. On the other is a rather electic and nerdy looking mix of teenagers and middle aged men clustered around what looks to numerous tables full of small figurines. Presumably Lisbeth drug the group there for the humor value of it. Or maybe because she thought the latter sort of customers might be more into what they're proposing.
Regardless, Lisbeth enters the frame a few moments after the video starts; first getting on top of a chair, then when that doesn't satisfy her -the table-. Clearing her throat, she then shouts "HEY! EVERYONE! COME DO THE THRILLER AT 4PM ON THE CORNER OF RATHGAR ROAD!" at the top of her lungs. Because who needs subliminal messaging and mind control when you can just take the extraliminal route and shout at someone before sledgehammering a thought into their brain? Here's to hoping no one got a nose bleed once the cameras stopped rolling.
The crowd (and it is a crowd now due to everyone staring at Lisbeth) mostly just stares at Lisbeth like she was competely batty, Though some are hanging back, as if they just aren't interested in whatever insanity the city has brought them today. An extremely keen eye might notice a few others in that number that can be seen either ramrod straight in their seats or rubbing their head moments before the people in the room obscure them.
And of course, Lisbeth being Lisbeth, she keeps haranguing and persuading the crowd with all the charm she can muster until she's shooed out. The video cuts off not long after that only to pick up again on a street. Presumably the one Lisbeth mentioned in the prior segment. People can be seen moving to and fro, probably heading home or to work. In that sparse mass of people however a group slowly comes together.
And...There is a man. In a pink tube top. And a skirt. A heavy set man that had at one point been driving a truck and jonesing for a big mac. Apparently Lisbeth tracked him down between segments. All in all, amongst the dancers there are eight people performing the Thriller. All of them are in business attire of one sort or another and have zombie masks on. And of course Albrecht is at the head of the marauding group of undead as MJ. And just like in the music video they end the skit by descending on the cowering man moments before the video ends.
"You have no idea," says Albrecht, grinning as he's on the screen, "How hard it is to find a red leather jacket these days." His drink lifted to Lisbeth in an easy toast, "She did a damn good job talking people into it, I'm surprised she got so many."
"She's got a way with people," Grace agrees, beaming across the room at her gothy little sister.
Safiyah watches all of Lisbeth's efforts with sympathy, presumably they had plenty of their own moments of having trouble getting people to be willing to join in. Once the actual 'show' starts she laughs, enjoying the end result, and when it's finished she claps enthusiastically for the final result. "That was very good," she says encouragingly. "We did not have costumes for everyone in our dance."
Ayah claps too, and gives Lisbeth a smile. "Was that the same guy from the McDonalds?" she asks. "It didn't look like he liked you very much earlier. I liked it. I'm glad I don't have to be the judge here."
While her daughter is talking Safiyah leans over toward Ripu and asks him quietly, "why were they all wearing scary masks?"
Ripu smiles back at Safiyah, though his eyes narrow just a tad when she speaks. Instead of continuing with the humourous little game he just watches her for a moment while he chews on a red pepper. But before he can really gather himself the other video comes on and he leans forward and claps loudly when the dancing starts. "I love Michael Jackson! He is the greatest American hero of all time. What a spectacular man--and your dance--it is so good! You are incredible--all of you!" his accent is a little more thick when he is excited.
The film clicks on again and this time the camera is sideways again. Safiyah and Ayah are both on screen, the latter looking a little doubtful. "No, this is a great idea," comes Ripu's voice, "when parents have children they always want to show them off. They are so proud! Do you see? Look at--"
"Sir, you can't film in here!"
The film stops and then starts again. This time Safiyah and Ayah are standing with a younger black couple who look positively exhausted. Each of them are holding a newborn in their arms. "Say hello and congratulations to new busy parents--and cheese!' comes Ripu's voice, not that he is taking a picture necessarily. The camera points to the ground and there is some difficult to make out conversation. Then, "Yes, I will send it to you on the e-mail." Then it goes out.
Lisbeth takes that smile from Grace with...Well, not grace. She's practically beaming with self satisfaction at the praise. Even if there is that little niggling doubt in her mind about -how- she managed that skit that won't leave her alone. It may not make her feel outright ashamed, but it does wipe the smile off of her face a few moments later. "It was!" she says to Ayah. "I had a few words with him about how rude he was. And managed to ---" she says, hesitating only fractionally before she finds the proper words to continue. "--- persuade him that he should show up to the flash mob if he wanted to show he was sorry. He was happy to help, once all the embarrassment was over and done with."
Albrecht sweeps an arm off to one side, inclining his head in a playful boy to Ripu's response. "You're not half bad yourself," he laughs, leaning back then. As the children are shown off, he grins broadly, "Aw. Cute kids." A gesture to the next tape, "Alright, next... well. We went a little outside the box."
The video's from the deck of a boat, the waters chopping. Albrecht's voice can be heard in the background. "Can you get a good shot of it?"
The camera swings over to where two boats have had a bit of an accident; they aren't sinking but they're a bit stuck together, and there're college-aged types on both decks shouting at each other. In the distance, Harbor Patrol is heading that way on a speedboat.
"Shit, they'll want this as evidence or something," Al shouts, "Turn it off, we'll head back to dock." Click! To black.
"Oh!" A delighted noise from Grace, who by this point has taken up a more-or-less permanent lean against the back of one of the unoccupied chairs, and has even set her cider down unfinished. Turns out she does know her limits, even if she likes to skirt particularly close to them. Pitseleh's given up trying to stay on board, and is crouched now on one of the arms of the same chair. "That's so clever, Al! Bonus point!"
When their final non-bonus round comes up, Safiyah's team's video starts out with a shot of Safiyah standing in front of the menu-slash-speaker at a Wendy's. Since there's no car there right away she's just standing and watching, waiting for a car to arrive and set off the sensor that tells someone inside to take an order. Of course, the recording started right when a car was pulling in, so this happens pretty much immediately.
The woman driving the little Honda that pulled in just looks at Safiyah like she's not sure what to do about this, and doesn't pull forward enough for the system to sense her, so Safiyah keeps gesturing her forward. It takes a bit of persuading to get the woman to actually move, and she looks incredibly confused the whole while, but eventually she gets close enough to get a reaction from inside. "Welcome to Wendy's, would you like to try..." the rest of it's kind of garbled, but Safiyah knows what she wanted anyway.
"No, not that, I want small pepsi," she says in a thick accent. Even heavier than usual, so she's probably trying to make it worse. The person asks her something and she just repeats, "no, small pepsi." This goes back and forth a little bit, with her saying pretty much nothing but that to the poor person on the other end, and then they tell her to drive forward.
Of course, she doesn't drive. She walks. The camera follows her, and when she gets to the window the cashier looks nearly as confused as the person in the car. "Uh," he says. "You can't come through here on foot. I'm not allowed to serve you," he says.
To which she responds, "you have small pepsi?" Like she doesn't understand what he's saying. She even takes a dollar bill and puts it on the sill of the window.
A brief argument ensues, in which he tries to convince her that she can't do this and she keeps pretending she doesn't understand and asking politely for her small pepsi. It's pretty obvious when he decides that he doesn't get paid enough for this crap and just does it to get rid of her, and she takes her drink and comes running back over to her team with a smile.
Albrecht grins broadly as he's praised for that video, and then he's leaning forward to watch the 'drive through'. As Safiyah plays 'dumb' on camera, he breathes out a laugh, clapping his hands together. "Fuckin' great," he approves, head bobbing up and down, "They just wanted to get rid of you so they went along with it."
Then there's a wry look to the others, "We couldn't find any twin humans, but, when we were in that pet store getting the rabbit-- well, the video'll show it."
"Aw, lookit them," Jewel's saying as she taps on the glass of a tank, "Two of a kind!" A pair of... chincillas! There's a sign on the tank saying that they're twins from the same litter, the fat-cheeked little rodents nibbling away at some feed.
The video turns on again--Ayah must be the videographer, because both Ripu and Safiyah are on screen. Safiyah is sitting on a swing set, swinging back and forth slowly and Ripu is off to the side. "Okay. Now, you need to push harder--as hard as you can go--and whatever you do.../whatever you do/ do /not/ let go. Do you understand me?" Ripu seems legitimately concerned enough that at first, there is no humour to this video. "Do /not/ let go," he couches her like he is some sort of swing set expert. King of the Jungle Gym or something. "Hold on /tight/," he repeats, stepping back and placing one hand on the bar of the swing set. Safiyah pushes back and forth, higher and higher. Ripu says quietly, "Okay, now." And then--yes, and then the swing does a full 360, taking Safiyah up in the air, upside down and back again on the other side.
"Okay, okay, okay!" Ripu repeats rushing and reaching out for the chains.
At the same time, Ayah can be heard behind the camera and much louder. "I'm next! My turn! That was incredible! Wow!"
The film goes black.
As the swing goes all the way up and around, Albrecht gapes. "Holy shit," he exhales, one hand sliding to rub over the back of his head and neck, "Rewind that-- I want to see that again, I didn't even think that was possible!"
"Holy shit." The exact same words from Grace, with no consideration to the teenager in the room. She quite obviously hadn't been expecting anyone to actually manage a full three-sixty in that final challenge, and is a mixture of impressed and disbelieving. She sneaks a casual side-look towards Lisbeth, checking whether her sister looks to have seen the same thing. Lis is looking gudgingly impressed as well. Grace totters gracefully over to the projector and crouches down beside the laptop, replaying the video. Around Safiyah goes!
Given the way that she was excited about trying it herself, the fact that Ayah doesn't look as excited as she might can probably be explained. She still looks disappointed. Why does Safiyah look embarrassed, though? Probably because she knows that it's not possible, at least not normally. Instead of saying anything she just smiles helpless and shrugs her shoulders.
"Trust me, my new friends, none of us are good enough to doctor film. That happened. You just swing as hard as you can, yes? She is very light." Ripu laughs and stuffs a few pieces of spinach and feta in his mouth. "Anything is possible if you try hard enough--that is how I came to this country. Anything is possible. Americans taught me that. /You/ taught me that." Ripu grins broadly and leans over to give Albrecht a friendly pat on the shoulder. "Let us see yours, yes? I am looking forward to it. I hope you wear the Michael Jackson suit. He is my hero!"
Albrecht just shakes his head slowly. "Well, I can't really match that," he admits, leaning back, "Damn. That's some push-- I can't believe you made it around!" A crooked smile, disbelieving but not accusatory, and then he waves for Grace to put in theirs.
"...done poking at it yet," Lisbeth's voice can be heard, as Albrecht's examining the chains of the swing, tugging at them, muttering lowly under his breath. Finally a glance up, wry, "Hey, I have to make sure it's safe, right?" Then his lanky ass is dropping down onto the seat and he pulls it back with a pull, then pushes off. Long pumps of long legs, careful not to hit the ground, and he gets pretty high -- almost vertical -- but doesn't go all the way around, of course!
"Maybe altitude helps?" Safiyah suggests as a possibility, which is nonsense of course. "Also, dedication. Trying hard, and not giving up. Everything can be done, yes." She smiles at Ripu and then at everyone else before quieting to watch the next video. Afterward she glances at Ripu and says, "you did not check to be sure the chains of my swing were safe first." Accusatory, but teasingly so. Which gets another stifled snicker and a look from her daughter.
Grace listens to Ripu's not-quite-explanation, then turns to play the video one more time, watching with wide eyes. "I've got to try that," she vows resolutely to herself, then sets the final video playing. Though the one that preceded it is an impossible - more or less literally - act to follow, she sends a brief grin in Al's direction. Then she's a couple of minutes toying around some more on the laptop, her erratic keystrokes and swipes of the mouse still playing across the sheet-as-screen, until she's got all the assembled video clips queued up to play on random.
An appropriate look of mild apology is sent towards Al, Lis and Jewel, then the bright - and glassy-eyed - smile is back on her face as she looks towards Ripu, Safiyah and Ayah. "Between that and the flash mob, I think we have a winning team."
"You have to trust the swing. I trusted her," Ripu protests. His English is not spectacular, and that probably has a lot to do with why he refers to the swing set as a she--just a language misunderstanding. He pops another leaf of spinach in his mouth--he has not stopped eating this entire time, only pausing long enough to talk--and turns to Ayah, giving her an over-exaggerated wink. "Trust the swing, Ayah, and next time..." he trails off, looking back to Safiayh--but then Grace. When she announces the winning team, he applauds as if all of his applause were for the other time. "Good job, my new friends!" he exclaims loudly.
Albrecht brings his drink up in an easy salute towards the other team, flashing a crooked smile to the others. "Well done," he acclaims easily, "I concede defeat to the better job done!"
Safiyah smiles at Ripu and accepts his answer with a nod. She has stopped eating, but she also ate quite a bit. Pretty much entirely vegetables, or cheese, and that was about it. "Be careful," she follows Ripu's suggestion to her daughter with, because she'd really rather not have her daughter break her neck trying to recreate that. When the fact that their team won is announced she actually looks surprised, which suggests she hadn't thought their videos were that much better, and she looks at Grace and then the others. "Thank you," she says with a smile. "I think that you also did a very good job. I think it was very close, yes? I liked the flash mob you had very much, and the little grey twin animals were very cute. What are they called again?"
Ayah nods resignedly at the reminder to be safe if she goes swinging, but also gives the other team a smile that looks uncannily like her mother's. "I liked the added touch of having the guy from McDonalds in your flash mob, and the choreography was definitely better," she adds.
There are prizes, because Grace doesn't do things by halves, no matter how small or casual an event something might be. Even better, it's not alcohol. Instead she plucks a large white envelope from atop a shelf as she glides over to the winning team, holding it out so that any one of the three can easily take it. Inside is a gift-card, worth fifty dollars, to a boutique second-hand store in Hanging Hills; one of those places that 'real' thrift-shoppers turn their noses up at, but where everyone else can find decent stuff with relative ease. "Chinchilla," she remarks to Safiyah, although without any obvious link to context. "And I'm so glad you all came!" Then she's angling away to pluck up the second envelope from the shelf, which is delivered to Al on behalf of the second team. Another gift-card, this one for thirty dollars, for one Melissa Wheeler's honey shop. A thoughtful glance around the room, confirming for herself that her major responsibilities as host are covered, and then she's making a bee-line for that unfinished bottle of cider.
Albrecht's hands spread a little, the drink in one of them. "Chin-- what she said," he allows with an easy tip of his head towards Grace, bringing the glass up in a salute. He drains the glass before reaching over for the offered envelope with a grin, "Thanks-- and yeah, but you had the perfect people for your flash mob. Just perfect. And that swing stunt, well, I can't beat that!"
Ripu stands up when Albrecht speaks, walking over to the man and placing his hand on his shoulder. "No, no. Wait--I think I have a disagreement. I am glad that you liked Ayah's videos that Safiyah and I were able to help with--but we did not help her to include Michael Jackson in any of the videos--and Michael Jackson is the greatest American of all time--we all know this. I think, because we are in this country, that the tribute to Michael Jackson deserves the win. What do we say?" However, he does manage to miss the granting of the gift card entirely, focused on Albrecht and his team as he is.
"Chinchilla," Safiyah repeats, trying to remember it, and she nods when she thinks it's stuck in her memory. "We got very lucky to find people who seemed to be good for it, and were willing to do it. Ripu is very good at convincing people to help." She takes the gift card when the envelope is offered. "Thank you, this was very much fun. I am so glad I was able to meet you, and thank you for your hospitality."
Ayah also echoes that sentiment by saying, "thank you for having us, and for organizing this. I really enjoyed it, and it was a good chance to see new parts of the city."
Meanwhile Safiyah watches Ripu offer their prize to the other team, but only smiles encouragingly. Evidently she's not dead set on keeping their winnings, or inclined to talk him out of this course of action. In fact, it's pretty obvious if anyone's looking at her that she appreciates his sportsmanship. And plenty of other things about him. Well, obvious to everyone but Ripu, maybe.
Once she's handed out the envelopes, Grace is utterly unconcerned as to where they all end up. On the way to collecting her bottle of cider, she pauses by the chair she'd been leaned against to scoop up the rat, lifting him to her face to peer at him for several seconds, then plopping him back down on her shoulder. With a smile towards Al and Ripu she glides back over towards Safiyah and Ayah, wondering curiously, "Where were you living before Fallcoast?"
"No, no..." A laugh from Albrecht after the clap to his shoulder, the envelope he's already been held waved through the air, "...you won fair and square, you did. Maybe next time, if Grace is so good as to hold this again, I'll best you--" A wink, "But fair's fair, my good man."
"Well, okay then--the ladies will keep the prize--but next time, my friend, you will join our team. Then you will be certain to take home a prize, I am thinking." It is important to note that aside from similar skin tones and heavy accents, that Ripu's accent is incredibly different from Safiyah's. Some might not notice the difference--but those would be the same sort of people who considered anyone brown from the other side of the world a terrorist, usually. Ripu sits back down and finds another carrot on his second plate that he chews on.
Safiyah hands the envelope to her daughter when Ripu says the ladies will keep it, and she doesn't say anything in specific but the implication is pretty obvious that she's letting Ayah keep it all. "We are from Egypt," she explains to Grace when asked. "We were living in Alexandria for a couple of years before we came here, but before that we lived in a small village near Sohag." Not that almost any Americans know where Sohag is.
"I love it here so far," Ayah adds with a big smile. "I wouldn't have imagined anything like this before, even when we lived in a more liberal city. I've made such great friends, too, and my school has been great." For obvious reasons Ayah and Safiyah share an accent, even if Ayah's is far lighter than her mother's. "There have been some hard things too, but it's a wonderful place."
"Egypt!" Grace's knowledge of the world is spotty at best; it's doubtful 'Alexandria' has much meaning to her, never mind Sohag. But she's seen photos of the pyramids, so she feels she's got a solid grasp on the whole Egypt thing. She sits down on the floor, legs crossed, setting the rat down on the floor - he promptly waddles away without so much as a look back, wandering off beneath a bookshelf. Grace looks between Safiyah and Ayah with a dreamily envious expression. "What brought you all the way over here?"
Albrecht hands the envelope off to the ladies on his team, leaning over to set down his glass. "Well, you've come a long way," he observes, giving the trio a curious look, one brow lifting, "Glad you're finding it hospitable, though. It's got its problems and quirks, our little town, but -- it's a great town. But yeah--" A tip of his head towards Grace, "What brings you that far?"
"The love of pizza," Ripu replies for them--though clearly with a sense of humour--he lifts one finger to excuse himself and sneak away to refill his plate. Before he goes, however, he says quietly, "But I am not from Egypt. Ayah and Safiyah are just my friends." /Just in case/ it was not clear. Having been friends, it is probably a mistake that has been made more than once when their origins were questioned.
"Can you get me some more of the vegetables?" Safiyah asks Ripu when he gets up to go get some himself, along with a cheerful smile. Then she laughs and tells the others, "I work at a pizza place, so I am starting to think maybe I have had too much. It is very good, though!"
Ayah adds, with a grin, "I'll eat yours, mom." This gets a laugh from Safiyah, who goes on to explain, "the reason why we come here is a long story, but most of it is because I think that this is a better place for my daughter to grow up. I love my home country, but I can love it while I also do not feel the people in it make it a safe place for us, and a good place for her. I want her to have a different life than I did, a better one. When I was Ayah's age I was already married and had her. I did not have a choice about this. I thank Allah that he gave me such a treasure, but I want her to have choices."
Grace twists enough to look over her shoulder and tell Albrecht, "He's from India. He can talk to ghosts!" The thought of which has her immediately turning a more curious look back on Safiyah and Ayah, and though it's fairly obvious what's on her mind, she holds that thought for the present. "How sad." Like her concern during the footage of the car accident, it's not that the emotion is insincere, just.. shallow. Fleeting. Disconnected. It's not an obvious thing, but there all the same. "Such a big thing to do, though! I'm glad it worked out for you."
Albrecht's brows both lift a little at Grace's declaration. "...can he?" A bemused look to Ripu, and then with a shake of his head he allows, "I've heard about the-- problems over there, yeah. I'm sorry to hear it. Hopefully you can make a better life here."
Ripu collects two--and then attempts to balance a third--plate of food. He manages it, though very carefully. Strategically, he returns to Safiyah, delivering her another plate. It is as full as he piles his own plates, which is to say probably a lot more than she is going to eat. He returns to his seat and glances briefly between Grace and Albrecht. "No, no--I told you--exorcist is not right. I am just the son of a temple priest. I only know a few secrets. I am not some bhuti charmer. I know respect. That is all."
Ayah looks a little bit uncomfortable with the conversation, but not particularly upset. It's an reaction that makes it seem like there's more to the story overall, but she's probably glad that it's being left at the bare details. "We're doing well so far," she says before her mother can start to respond. "My mom works hard to make sure of it. I'm very grateful for everything she's done for me." It all seems incredibly sincere, too.
"Yes," Safiyah agrees with Grace. "It's working out well. I have started classes at St. John's University! Ayah is also going to school. Our apartment is small, but it is ours and safe and happy." She takes the plate Ripu brought her with a smile. "There have been problems with some people who do not understand that not all arabs or muslims want to blow up everyone who doesn't share our faith. These things are few, though. I try to show that we are good people and love being in America with the way that I live every day." She picks up a carrot from her plate and asks, "have you lived here all of your lives?" Of Albrecht and Grace, of course. She says nothing about Ripu's speaking with ghosts, like it's something that isn't news to her, or much surprise. Ayah doesn't really react with surprise either.
Albrecht slants a glance at his watch. "All my life," he admits, and then he's pushing himself up to his feet -- a wry smile as he looks to the others, "But, unfortunately I've got to get going. Work calls -- speaking of, if you ever need any renovations or maintenance work done, give me a call, Grace here has my number. Wagner Repairs and Construction. It was a pleasure to meet you all, and -- welcome to Fallcoast."
"And modest, too," Grace says with an airy grin; it's not easy to tell whether she's joking or just implacably set on this whole exorcist thing. At least she lets the subject drop after that, and her mood seems to shift with mercurial ease in accordance with the tone of the conversation. While Safiyah is talking about school and a safe and happy apartment Grace is all smiles, and when Safiyah talks about running into racists she frowns in consternation. Then Al's leaving and she's quickly on her feet, wobbling for only a second before hugging the man goodbye. "Don't forget next week!" she calls after him as he leaves, and then she's casting about the room with a sudden frown, scanning the floor in obvious and rather fretful search of something.
"Maybe it is the time for me to be seeing my beautiful team home, I am thinking," Ripu says after he dips his head respectfully to Albrecht as he departs. "I sincerely thank you for the invitation, Grace-amuni, my very good friend. It was exciting, and informative--and most importantly--it helps to make new friends. You have been a gracious hostess, and I am thankful for this, and must remind myself that you have hosted me three times now, and I should return the favour soon or be seen as a very rude and stingy man." He dips his head to Grace then, setting his plate down to press his palms together before his chest. "Vanakkam and, ah, good night, yes?"
"Yes, it is getting late," Safiyah agrees as she starts gathering up her things, and Ayah does the same. "This has been very fun, and I'm you were so welcoming of strangers in your home," Safiyah says with a wide, warm smile for Grace that easily matches her words. "I'm glad I had the chance to meet you, especially after hearing your radio program recently. Being able to see a face after hearing the voice has been nice. Assalamu alaykum."
Ayah also gets up, and though she's smiling she lets her mother do most of the talking. She does add at the end, "thank you, yes. I'm glad I was able to come." She holds up the envelope with their prize. "Thank you so much for this, too. Ma'a salama."
Grace rounds sharply on the three, and though the sharp suspicion in her expression is muted, she's not keeping it entirely suppressed. "You can't go yet." Her tone of voice has grown more strained, marring the politeness with an edge of coercion. "No, no, just a moment! But I'm so glad you all came!" The old house chooses that moment to settle some timbers, another quiet creaking running through the walls. She's given up her overt searching in order to look directly back at the three of them, lest they try to creep away, but at the same time her eyes keep flicking away, darting about the room. "Your videos were wonderful, though wasn't that a shame, the accident?" Talking, talking, making it difficult to leave without seeming rude, and all the while still trying to find something.
"Yes, my friend. It was a shame--but we really should be going--I will not leave you alone, though, if you wish to discuss the accident." Ripu is still smiling--despite Grace's behaviour, his lips have not faltered at all--but his fingers twist at his side, just slightly: middle finger touching his thumb, and the others splayed out. "Maybe good for an interview, I am thinking. Or maybe we can discuss this next time." The timbers creak a little more--though, in retrospect, it sounds a lot more like someone's confused crying than it does like a house settling. Ripu tilts his chin toward the back of the room. Without assistance, there is nothing but shadow there. With it though, is a poor woman who insists that she was on her way to the pharmacy, and is not sure how she got lost, her neck twisted at a severe angle and one eyeball popped out and hanging from its bloody threads. "Good night, Grace." Perfect, lovely, handsome smile.
Safiyah seems a little surprised when they're told they can't leave yet, and glances at Ripu to see what they're supposed to do. Would it be rude to leave anyway? Does he plan to stay for a bit? She seems to plan to follow his lead, though she does say, "it is getting late and I do have to work tomorrow, so I really should get home."
When Grace's eyes next sweep to the back of the room she startles visibly, but like someone who's only spooking at shadows, unless she's incredibly nonchalant about ghosts. Especially when she gives the little 'silly me' laugh. She frowns more tightly, then-- "Oh!" The rat has stuck his head out from beneath the bookshelf, and she's quickly crouched down and scooping him up with both hands, and just like that her demeanor shifts back again. The suspicion is gone, and the cheerfulness as sincere as it was before. "Of course! Thank you all for coming, and help yourself to any food you want to take with you." She drifts across the room to see them out. "Drop in any time, there's always someone home."
Ripu was still holding two full plates. He dips his head once, and without another word or a shift in his smile, turns to make his way out.
Safiyah and Ayah had put their plates down, but when Safiyah gathers hers up again her daughter does the same. "Thank you again," she tells Grace. "It was wonderful to meet you." Then the two of them follow Ripu out, since he's their ride home.