I know that there are plenty of other stories, but I hope this is at least worth a glance. It probably isn't but, eh. Anyway, I hope those who read it enjoy it.
Right, well then. It's a Joker and an OC, so I hope that's not a Mary-Sue (please yell at me if she is) and I hope I characterize the Joker well later on. My OC swears a lot, so there will be a lot of foul language from her. She uses some Caló slang and unfortunately, I'm only familiar with some of the slang so there won't be a lot of it.
It's the early hours of morning, maybe three o'clock but I don't check to make sure. I'm stitching a custom skirt for a high roller lady in Gotham City, one who wanted a skirt made of lace and leather for some soiree. I'm hunched over the damn material that cost an arm and a leg and I can't help but marvel at how they can allow money to just burn like that. Uncomfortable knots form at the base of my spine and my neck, and shoulders. I don't stretch yet. I want to wait until I'm done with the last fittings so I can savor my joints popping with release.
My cigarette is halfway finished but it went out. There's a cup of cold tea near my knee that I haven't drunk from in over an hour.
I scratch at my hip before pulling the thread taut.
The woman was fucking bug nuts crazy, period – the materials alone cost as much as my month's salary. She wants an asymmetrical skirt – an attached leather belt about three inches wide and then spider webbing for the material. Sheer, sleek, elegant and unique she says – it's probably for the Bruce Wayne Hallo's Eve party that's all the rave on the news. Fucking rich-boy Bruce Wayne – I don't give a crap about him.
I prick the side of my thumb with the needle by accident but I don't do anything. My fingers are as calloused as a farm boy's from years of work, being bent over materials and sewing and playing housemaid to people – like that puto Gary fucking Keller, my very first employer when I'd been a cleaning maid – I hate. So needless to say, a prick on the finger won't have me slumped over like Sleeping Beauty.
I squint and run my fingers over the stitching once I tie off the thread again and snip it neatly. I try to make sure my work is straight and not exactly perfect – perfect is a factory line production. Real quality comes from a single person breaking their back over a skirt. It's a personal motto that's worked out for me.
My stitching will never be as good as my mother's. I know that, and I'm completely at peace with that fact because frankly my mother was a droid her entire life. An organic machine that rarely spoke, never slept or ate and worked about sixty hours or plus a week. Her work was beautiful and flawless, customized and imaginative that spoke a far cry from her plain, dusty Hispanic-Indian looks and her white canvas blank personality.
I look at my own work. It's good, I know and it's probably enough to brag about and it goes up the side a little crookedly, but only just so and the threading is at an odd pattern. I kind of like my style. Sometimes that is, especially when I think of my mother, speaking of her makes me need a smoke like the addict I am.
I reach forward and let my back pop, it sighs with me and I arch back, trying to make the most of it. My half finished cigarette bobs in my lips when I light it again. I finally look at the clock. It's five thirty. I crack my neck and roll my shoulders like I'm preparing myself to go kick some ass, which, in this side of Gotham wouldn't be too hard to believe.
Gotham was after all a societal cesspool made with building blocks of a corrupt police force, megalomaniacs and just the plain shit-scum of the earth.
I inhale and roll over, get up with a satisfied grunt when more noises emerge from my joints. I scratch at my thigh when I wander over to the fridge and pull it open. Not fearing that I'll sound like a complete pig, my fridge is stocked enough for a family of five – defrosted ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, avocadoes, oranges, chili peppers, kimchi and a whole lot of other crap I'll eventually eat my way through. I yank out a couple of eggs, chorizo, some cheese and an onion.
I heat the pan and spray it with Pam. The eggs are cracked, beaten and tossed into the pan and I make myself a regular huevos chorizo breakfast. Somewhere along the line, I spit my cigarette butt into the sink.
When it's finished, it's almost six so I turn the television on. Gotham City News – it's a perfect way to start the day.
Chewing on my breakfast and sipping (cringing) on my cold tea, the newswoman reports that a rapist is running rampant and that the GCPD are doing their absolute best to catch him. I choke on my eggs when they mention Bruce Wayne's Hallo's Eve party in a flash that has the woman flushed a little. Bruce goddamn-rich-boy-born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth Wayne, I really resent and envy him; for the simple fact that he doesn't have to break his back in order to pay rent like all the rest of Gotham City.
I swallow my breakfast down, inhaling it because now I'm in no mood for the news with Bruce Wayne's face flashing becoming smiles and winking playfully at the woman who finally got an interview with him. I flip the television off and clamber up, leaving my dirty dishes in the sink, to dress for work.
I don't necessarily hate my workplace. It's not that, but I never imagined that I would continue to be so low on the goddamn totem pole of life when I grew up and moved away from LA to live with my uncle for a while. I'm a tailor, that's it – I always thought that maybe I could be a nurse, or be designing my own clothing line named Una Chica, or even for the sad hope of being a trophy wife for a wealthy man.
None of it – no wealthy man who thought I might be exotic enough for a trophy position, not enough creativity to create my own clothing line and not enough brains to actually make an effort in education so I won't have to do shit jobs the rest of my pathetic life.
Growing up, the only classes I did well in were PE, home economics and English – I didn't fail them even though I still got D's and C's in them. In English I was crap at writing essays, but I could interpret well enough and I liked to read. I was good at soccer, but my grades wouldn't allow me on a team, and I was good at housework; cooking, cleaning, sewing.
It counted for squat though because that wasn't vital to the lifestyle I'd led in Jr. High; it hadn't been important until I was a sophomore in high school and just enough over the hill that even though I'd changed some, it didn't matter. My teachers all considered me a swata anyway.
I shove myself into a skirt that is suspiciously getting tighter around my hips and button up a white blouse. My pantyhose choice is tan or black – I choose tan for the sake of the fact that it's not any kind of sexy dress up time, and it looks professional. I roll them up carefully – as much as I like them, they're still a pain in the ass because they have to be rolled up gently and slowly or else the damn things tear.
I wear pumps – black pumps because this is Gotham and I can't run very well in stiletto heels. I brush my teeth and pop a mint in my mouth before going to the living area.
I wrap Ms. Nose-Stuck-Up-Her-Ass's order in tissue paper and place it in a canvas bag delicately. Not so delicately, I grab my tank-purse and shrug it over my shoulder.
It's six ten when I look at my kit-cat clock. I tie my hair up in a lazy bun and leave my apartment, locking it behind me.
My morning routines are usually the same, have breakfast, get dressed and walk to Ming's Tailor shop. The old Chinese woman is a sturdy thing – all knobby bones and sharpness about her. Rumor was, once when she'd been held up; she somehow tricked the robber into a Chinese Finger Trap and then called the police on him. I wouldn't put it past her really.
I stood at the crosswalk, next to some tired looking businessman. From the bags under his eyes, he probably stayed up all night going over stocks and making spreadsheets. He looked at me and gave me a wobbling smile. I smiled a little back. Insomniacs coming together in Gotham.
The little white man flashed and everyone crossed.
Something out of the corner of my eye catches my attention. Across the street in a small alley, a man, chubby and pale faced, is holding his hands up and blabbering to a taller, much leaner man who was hunched over him. I see the glare of a knife. I'm not surprised or shocked or horrified – this is what I'd known ever since I'd moved to Gotham.
The panzón sees me looking and pointedly stares at me.
The other man, his stance aggressive but almost whimsical turns to me slowly, back still hunched. I freeze when I see the Glasgow smile. Not a person you want to fuck with, I remember the un vatos locos on my childhood street with their gang scars and tattoos. It makes me take a teetering step backward, the countless number of times they'd threaten to beat the shit out of me or the times when I had to walk home at night and they'd be there, drinking or fighting. The worst times were when it was quiet on my street. Whenever it was quiet, everyone knew there was going to be a gang war soon.
The Glasgow grinning lacra waves, fingers spread wide and he smiles enough to show his teeth. I see the sharp gleam of his knife, and the trembling man behind him, begging me to help in some way.
In the animal kingdom a smile means "I'll bite." I turn away, look at the ground and stick close to a group pedestrians, ignoring the scene. I could call the GCPD but they wouldn't get to the man, they've got bigger fish to fry like the Batman or the mob. They won't help unless it'll give them five minutes of fame on the television. A single man was being robbed, not the whole bank.
The bottom line is, however that the one with the Glasgow smile is dangerous. Yeah, I already know I'm chicken-shit, a leva. And I really, really don't give a rat's ass. I don't care what the lacra does to the other guy as long as he doesn't come after me for seeing.
Survival Tip Numero Uno: Darwinism.
I speed walk the rest of the way to Ming's, I don't stop until I'm behind the counter and Ms. Ming is right there, eyeing me with those slants. "Morning Ms. Ming," she grunts a greeting back at me.
She taps a long nail on the counter, continues to eye me, mutters something in Chinese before she snaps her fingers at me, "Julia, you stay at register today. I have errands. Tell stupid blonde girl she fired if she doesn't shape up." Her broken English makes me like her a little more. I don't know why.
I nod, "Yes Ms. Ming," I lay the canvas bag on the counter and sit on a high stool. Ms. Ming stares, old wrinkled Oriental face crinkling in thought.
"Your chi is off, something bad happen to you?" she doesn't wait for an answer, just shuffles off to the backroom and returns with a pot of tea. "Drink, balance out or else bad luck will follow." Her dangling earrings of gold and quartz are enormous and they clink gently with her nodding head. She pours me a cup and opens her mouth to say something but is cut off from a ring of the door's bell.
I turn and see Sadie. The pretty blonde has her iPod in, and she waves a little before going to the backroom. Ms. Ming eyes her with distaste. She leans in close to me, grabbing at my hair with one bony hand. "Don't let stupid blond girl have tea. I don't like her, she need bad luck for once." She lets my hair go and reaches around for her purse.
Ms. Ming hired Sadie on the grounds only that the girl was good with crochet knitting and okay at threadwork. She lets her obvious dislike for the nineteen year old show plain as day. Sadie isn't actually all that bad. Sometimes though she acts a little higher than me, like when I'd been helping her work on her threadwork she pointed at me and laughed. "I always heard you people were good at this kind of stuff."
I didn't talk to her for a week.
She didn't even mean it in an insulting manner – it was the way she grew up, a little more privileged than me. She hadn't meant to cross a line, how could she when she didn't even know there was one?
Other than the little annoyances I've been teaching her to avoid, she's surprisingly smart; interested in Science mostly. She's enrolled in Marine Biology at a local college.
"Julia, we have big customer coming today." Ms. Ming taps her nail on the counter, eyeing me narrowly. "Mister Bruce Wayne," she has a little trouble with his name, "He want good costume for his party. He coming down for measurements today at eight."
I scowl. I don't want Bruce Wayne here. I don't personally know him, but I do know he's a playboy, an egoist billionaire. "I'll get Sadie to measure" –
"No!" Ms. Ming snaps her fingers in front of my face and grabs me by the cheeks, yanking me closer to face. She smells like green tea and rice and old lady. "Stupid blonde girl will just mess it up, besides she big fan of Bruce Wayne. She'll chase him away!" she lets my face go and waves her arms around. I snort.
"Fine," she pats my cheek with a cold bony hand.
"Good girl, Julia," she says and then glares over my shoulder. I turn to see Sadie holding a plate of small green tea cakes. Ms. Ming yells at her in Chinese before switching to English, "What you doing with that? I say you can eat that?!"
Sadie shrugs and picks one up, licking the whipped cream off the top first. "You always leave them out for us." I envy her almost careless airs.
"I leave out for working girls," she smacks my upper arm, "Not slack-off girls!" she points at Sadie who continues to eat unabashedly.
"Hey! I work!" she protests, cake stuffed in her mouth.
I turn to hide my grin.
"Oh yeah, you work lots! You work your mouth on your cell phone in the back!" Ms. Ming snaps back just as quick.
Sadie huffs and sets the plate down on the counter before she grins, "Bruce Wayne's coming here?" she asks me instead.
Her pretty green eyes sparkle. I shrug and snatch a small cake off the plate. "Yeah I guess," I reply, biting into the cake-sandwich. Ms. Ming sniffs.
"You, you Sadie!" Ms. Ming points at Sadie, "You cannot take his measurements. Julia going to do that. You stay in backroom and practice threadwork!" Sadie frowns at her, eating another small cake. I swear the girl can just keep eating and eating and not grow at all. Fucking high metabolism. I run, do exercises and Yoga, but I eat a little green tea cake? I gain five pounds. My body is ridiculous and worships Murphy's Law.
"I could take his measurements," she said, looking over at me pleadingly.
Ms. Ming shakes her head, "No. I no trust you, blonde girl. You run off most pricy customer and then what? I fire you. No."
Sadie scowls and I finish off my snack before sipping my tea. I look outside and see a limo pull up. "Ay wey," Ms. Ming looks at me sharply and I heave a sigh. I hold my hands up in surrender. "I get it, I get it. No biting."
Ms. Ming straightens up and sends Sadie away, who steals another cake out of spite. Sadie leans in close, "Tell me his measurements after you're done," she whispered before scurrying off to the back. I send a disturbed look after her.
"Take measurements, and get the materials right away. Let blonde girl handle register." Ms. Ming says, before she waved vaguely in Sadie's direction.
Bruce Wayne walks in with an older looking gentleman holding the door open for him. He smiles at Ms. Ming who bows stiffly at him and his apparent butler. He looks over at me and I smile back. "Hi, I'm Bruce Wayne I called to make an appointment for fittings?"
I curse the fact that he has a great voice and my dislike for him trembles a bit. "Yeah, I'm Julia Hwang, and I'll be the one taking your measurements." I hold my hand out for a handshake.
He takes it firmly and nearly numbs my whole goddamn arm. He squints for a minute, "Korean?" he asks and I nod, "And…Spanish?"
"Mexican-Indian. I'm from LA," I say as if that explains everything and I guess it does because he nods in acceptance of the answer. I hate the fact that I keep staring at him because it contradicts my general dislike for wealthy people. Swata Julia does it look like you're in the same league?
His hands leaves mine and I retract it quickly. He turns to the older man behind him, "And this is Alfred," he introduces him, looking quite fond of the old guy.
Alfred inclines his head at Ms. Ming and then at me, "How do you do ladies?" his British accent's got me a little fluttery. I like accents.
I smile a little wider and it doesn't feel so forced, "Fine I guess, how d'you do yourself?"
He smiles and replies back politely, "I am jim-dandy miss."
Ms. Ming tugs on my elbow, and excuses us from the men for a moment. "Julia. When you get to fitting room, seduce Mr. Wayne and have his bastard child. Then he take care of you for the rest of your life." She looks so serious that I can't help but be completely mortified. "Good luck," she shoves me back to them and bows a parting to them before shuffling out of her shop.
I turn to them, feeling embarrassed. Wayne and Alfred stare at me, waiting. "Uh, yeah anyway, the fitting room is that way," I point to a side door and Bruce Wayne and his butler follow me to it. There are mirrors everywhere and needles in small dragon pincushions litter the room. A few chairs and a footrest sit in the plain room.
I feel vestiges of annoyance eat away under my breast. I feel the discomfort of being on a much lower social ranking than the men beside me, and am letting my humbleness guide my actions. I fucking loathe being modest.
"What were you planning on being?" I ask, getting a tape measure and a pen.
Bruce Wayne takes his jacket off and sets it over a chair. He smiles and stands on the footrest. "I was planning on being seduced by you and letting you have my child so I could take care of you the rest of your life." He says it seriously and I blanch. Alfred chuckles in the corner but he manages to sound almost polite about it.
"You, uh, heard?" I clear my throat and play with the tape measure.
Mr. Wayne smiles a little more, enjoying tormenting me, "It's alright, I'm used to it."
He says it to comfort me, maybe. What's on my mind is that he's not talking down to me and it makes me feel like such a self-absorbed bitch for hating a face on a television set.
"What are you planning to be for Halloween?" I ask, trying a little harder to be hospitable.
Mr. Wayne's smile becomes almost sardonic, ironic even, "The Batman."
My eyebrows go up to my hairline. "Really?" my tone is what a mom would say to humor her five year old son's ideals.
He chuckles a little at the tone before shaking his head, "No. I'm planning on being a pirate."
I nod and ask him to hold his arms out so we can start measuring.
Bruce Wayne isn't that bad, if not for his frustrating damn humor that likes to tease people or mock them. So, he still manages to piss me off.
Alfred is probably the only real gentleman I've ever met my whole life. There's this way about him that just makes him endearing.
The measurements finished, we talk about what type of pirate. I suggest cabin boy at first and am infinitely pleased at his rather flustered stammers.
He settles on pirate captain. I tell him I can't do the boots because I'm not a cobbler and I can't do a hat, but everything else I can do. He nods and gives me the money for the material. It comes straight from his pocket.
Jesus Christ this is his fucking pocket money.
I smile and slip the money into my purse and we discuss deadlines. The deadline is Halloween, the night of his party. I circle it on my calendar when he tells me. I've got a little over two months.
Not a lot of time for an extravagant pirate costume with all my other in-betweens.
When he and Alfred leave with amiable good-byes, I see a figure just standing at the shop window. People pass by in the background, my brain duly notes but the figure doesn't move. He, it is a man because I recognize him without little terror freezing me to the spot, the lacra just stares in. Scraggly dark blonde hair falls in front of his face and the Glasgow smile on his face isn't the most horrific part of him.
It's his eyes. They're dark, and they've got sleepless bags under them.
I feel my heart skip a few beats. My knees tremble. He's staring right at me. He knows who I am. He fucking remembers. My blood stops flowing, it freezes when he opens the door. He walks in with an odd gait, like a hyena with too long front legs and too short back legs, he's hunched over and his hair gets in his eyes.
He's smiling and it's not just the Glasgow doing it for him. Vato es el Diablo.
When he walks towards the counter, it's as though he repels light from him, like a black hole and I break one of my fingernails on the counter I'm digging in to. He comes closer without a knife but it doesn't matter. It's instinct. Like how an animal senses an earthquake before it happens. I'm about ready to piss myself while I'm still wearing one of my good pencil skirts.
He stops at the counter, looks at my bleeding nail disinterestedly. He looks up at me under his dirty, greasy hair. His eyes are terrible up close. From my childhood, I remember that scars were nothing to be afraid of necessarily, that they just told of an incidence that was nobody's business. It was the eyes that mattered. Windows to the soul as it were.
He smiles again, very slowly and his scars pucker with the movement.
I think I stopped breathing.
Here are some terms in case anyone needs them:
Puto: male whore
Panzón: fat man
Un vatos locos: the crazy/dangerous guys
Ay wey: Oh shit
Vato es el Diablo: The man is the Devil