Kyle Hunter ran his hand irritably through his short hair. He hated flying, and just wanted to get off this plane. It figured that he'd be stuck in the row behind the pregnant woman and her two screaming kids, none of whom seemed to be able to get their bag back out of the overhead compartment. Kyle was not in the mood to be helpful, either. Finally, someone came along and helped the struggling woman retrieve her luggage, and Kyle was able to move down the aisle. It was almost a pleasure to breathe in the stale airport air… only marginally less stale than that of the plane. He considered it a miracle when his luggage hadn't been lost, and headed out into the madness of hailing a taxi.
With the relief of having more than four inches of leg room, Kyle gladly rolled down the window and inhaled the polluted air as the cab driver sped through the city. It had been two years since he'd been here, but for the city that never slept, it hadn't changed a remarkable amount. Not being big on change, this was something that Kyle appreciated.
At last, the cab found its way to the place where Kyle would be boarding. Kyle looked at it in distaste through the grimy window, reluctant to get out. What this dainty white house with the whitewash fence and small front garden full of tulips was doing in the heart of New York City, he couldn't fathom, but it certainly didn't look like his sort of place. Kyle paid his exorbitant fare and headed up the walkway rather slowly, not in a hurry to enter this place that was to be his home for the next six months.
The man who answered the door when he finally rang took Kyle by surprise. This man didn't belong in this house and more than this house belonged in this city. He looked exactly like the man Kyle had left behind for this trip, who didn't want a long distance relationship and certainly didn't want to relocate. Kyle did a double take. After the initial shock, he realized this man was at least two inches taller than Conor had been. His hair was also a few shades darker, and he was at least five years older.
Kyle shook his head to clear his mind and said, "I'm Kyle."
"Right on," the man said, his accent, thankfully, American. Very different from Conor. "Clay Randall. Your room's upstairs on the right, and you get the right-hand side of the kitchen, and the top-half of the fridge. Only one bathroom, so I hope you don't have a problem with that. My girlfriend, Leila, ain't too high-maintenance, so she doesn't hog the mirror much."
"That's great," Kyle replied. "Is the shower free now, then?" He had to get to his dinner meeting, but he wanted to wash the stench of travel off himself and put on some nicer clothes, first. Not that he really had nice clothes; second-hand stuff, mostly. But if you didn't look too hard, he believed no one could really tell.
"Sure," Clay Randall told him. "Next door after your bedroom."
Kyle barely mumbled a quick thanks, and headed upstairs. He was not what most would call a people-person. In fact, he really hated most people. Ironic.
Less than an hour later, Kyle was pulling himself out of another cab; he'd have to get a subway pass as soon as possible. He couldn't afford these fares. He'd dressed in his black slacks with a red button-down shirt and a black tie. The tie had, admittedly, seen better days. He'd have to get another, but it would do for now. After all, he'd already got the position. This was just a dinner meeting.
Kyle felt incredibly out of place as he walked through the doors of the Hilton. He'd never been inside one before, and had a feeling they didn't accept people of his status. Looking down at his watch, he realized he was more than half an hour early, and was unsure of what to do. With as much confidence as he could exude under these circumstances, he crossed the lobby, figuring the Lobby Lounge must be nearby.
Not one to be caught off-guard on a normal day, this day seemed determined to continually test his ability to hold his cool exterior in place. Because there was live music being played in the lobby. Because that music was being issued from a piano. And because the person sitting on the bench and tapping the keys was the last person Kyle ever expected to run into again. Kyle couldn't help it. He stared in amazement and disbelief.
Ephram Brown looked up from the piano, and Kyle knew he was caught. He knew that he couldn't escape this situation now. The expression on Ephram's face was one that Kyle was sure matched his own, and he realized he looked like a real idiot. Kyle quickly replaced the look with a self-assured smirk, and sauntered over to the piano. With pity, he dropped a dollar into the tip jar that sat atop the piano. It sucked giving up money to this right prick, but Kyle hoped it made it seem like he was successful, and what a shame it was to see his old teacher playing a few notes, trying to part the rich with the cash they didn't even carry.
The courteous nod that Ephram than gave Kyle was probably some required gesture and Kyle felt his insides expanding with pure ego. No one would be yanking his chain like this. He'd never stand for it.
When Ephram finished the piece he was playing, he folded his hands in his lap and looked up at Kyle again. Kyle was suddenly weary. Up close, would his ratty clothes reveal him as someone who had no right being in this building? What was more, he was at a loss for words, which wasn't something he was used to experiencing.
"I see you've come pretty far," Ephram finally said after a minute's silence. "Never did I think when I took this job that I'd see the bane of my youth come walking through the door to find me here."
"Well, if it's any consolation, I was hardly looking for you," Kyle said, trying to sneer, but not fully succeeding.
"Pleasant as you ever were," Ephram laughed. "We should get a drink and catch up. I'm on great terms with all the staff here, it'd be my treat."
Kyle knew it would have to be. He fully doubted he'd be able to afford water here, but he didn't want to show his hand. "Some other time," he told the older man. "I've got a dinner meeting I can't miss. Tomorrow evening?" He hoped he sounded like someone who'd acquired some class.
Ephram nodded in agreement. "My shift ends at eight."
Kyle nodded as well, and turned on his heels, luckily spotting a sign directing him upstairs towards the Lobby Lounge. He walked away, his back straight and his head held high, taking the stairs as if he did this every day.
"I'm here for a meeting with Mr. Leland Vincent," Kyle confidently told the maître d' of the restaurant. He was led to a table to await his new employer. Unfortunately, he had a perfect view of Ephram at his piano from up here.