*TW: there are suicide mentions/attempts and ableism within this story. I promise to handle these subjects respectfully. An important part for me in writing this was to voice the struggles of disabled people, since there are so few well-handled disabled stories (I'm so tired, man). Despite this, I promise it will be a fun ride! Tailor Street is meant to be a humorous adventure about strange people in absurd situations- with some LGBT romance on the side.
Mondays, according to most people, are the worst day of the week. On this, Irving Margraves could agree. He couldn't agree on many things. The only real opinions he had were on topics no one ever talked about. And if he had any average opinions, he probably forgot them.
Most days of the week were horrible for Irving Margraves. But Mondays in particular, especially this particular Monday, were absolutely the worst. So, Irving Margraves could finally form a rare solid opinion. He hated Mondays.
He awoke that Monday with a splitting headache. The rapid fire nightmare scenarios that flashed through his head last night made him nauseous, and greeted him with one hell of a sleep paralysis demon when he opened his eyes. After beating that image out of his head with a splash of sink water, he irritably poured himself a bowl of cereal and put a tea kettle on the stove. The kettle screamed for two minutes before he noticed. He had lost himself in the reflective property of the cereal milk remaining at the bottom of his bowl.
White and round, it blinked at him like the lens of a camera. In his mind's eye, he imagined the clicks and flashes of a flood of reporters. The clicking, the flashing, the barrage of words. They blended together like cereal dust and milk.
"If the police had everything under control, why did that officer step out of line?"
"People want an apology."
"Citizens are beginning to feel unsafe with your choices."
Irving was standing in front of them again. He was dead still and stone faced. They spoke of him, but he was not allowed to speak back.
"Was Margraves aware the perp was the same as him?"
He was right there. The crowd kept questioning. The tea kettle kept screaming. It screamed some more and some more until the questions were only screaming.
Blinking once and then twice, Irving pulled at his brown hair until he slipped back into the moment. With a grunt, he slid from the stool at the kitchen's fake marble counter and shuffled to the stove. He drearily clicked the flame off. The screaming steam died away. He pulled a red mug from a mostly empty cabinet and carelessly dumped some tea water into it. Hot droplets splashed over the edge and onto his hand. He did not flinch.
Yawning, he fumbled a box of teabags in his hands. A tea bag, finally freed, was placed more delicately into the cup, it's string hanging daintily over the edge. Dark color began to curl into the water. He sighed wistfully as a pungent floral smell filled his nose. Scents were one of the few pleasures Irving had in his life.
He lifted the cup to his lips and just as quickly took it away, remembering fresh tea water was hot. Irving Margraves could not feel heat. Nor could he feel cold. Irving had never been blessed with the feeling of a brain-freeze or a burnt tongue. He had never been blessed with any physical pain at all. A slight tingling was the most he ever got. He blew the steam above the cup and watched it dance. Sight, taste, and sound were his only blessings. The fear of losing his taste, even for a moment, made him weary of the steaming tea.
The red tea cup was abandoned on the countertop until it went cold. Irving had gone off to his room to change out of his baggy pajamas. He pulled a white dress-shirt off a hanger and put it on. As he buttoned it clumsily, he observed a calendar on the wall beside his empty desk. The wall too was empty, a blank white slate with nothing but the calender marked with red. That Monday was circled scratchily. A short note was written within the red circle:
It was already a horrible Monday. He knew beforehand what he had to do that day, but looking at it on the calendar made him let out a great sigh. Meeting new people never ended phenomenally for Irving. He threw himself on his unmade bed and stared at the ceiling for a while, only half dressed. Three different scenarios of the meeting played through his head. None of them were good. Then he remembered his tea, swore at himself for forgetting, threw on his black pants and stumbled back into the kitchen. He held the lonely red cup momentarily and then swigged it down. Cold tea tasted no different than hot tea to him. Perhaps a bit stronger, which Irving rather prefered.
Pulling a note off the fridge and stuffing it into his pocket, he bustled to the door and slipped on his shoes. After putting on a disheveled trench coat bunched up besides the door, he tumbled back to his room. A pair of red headphones rested on his nightstand. He picked them up, placed them around his neck, and stuck the small music player on the other end into his coat pocket. Irving nodded to his vague reflection in the window beside his bed. He was ready to go outside.
Irving was never truly ready to go outside. The air was sharp and loud in the city. Cars and trucks blew by. People hurried in and out and around the sidewalks. Flocks of pigeons cooed. Sirens cried in the distance and reminded Irving of the fragility of life. If only he could comprehend it. His lack of experience with pain made it hard. And then there were the ghosts.
They didn't really bother Irving. They were uncommon anyways, shying away from bright lights and crowds. Sometimes Irving felt like a ghost himself. It was sometimes hard to spot them. Plenty of ghosts looked like regular people, but they flickered, or glowed, or disappeared in the blink of the eye. There were others, however, that were gruesome or inhuman and stuck out like a sore thumb. All he knew was that he shouldn't look them in the eye. He didn't want them to expect something from him. Not all unfinished business was finishable.
Irving slunk into the bus stop station. He wedged himself into the corner of the plastic half-box, avoiding the other waiting people. Sliding his red headphones over his ears, he turned on the loudest rock song he could find. Despite his struggle with the city noise, Irving loved loud music dearly. After all, sound was one of his only blessings. Colorful and peeling advertisements lined the plastic walls. Irving observed them with temporary fascination as he waited.
Soon, a bus came rolling in with a roar of squealing brakes that Irving's headphones just barely spared him from. He let the other people climb in first before he trudged to the furthest empty seat and leaned against the window. Brief panic overwhelmed him. Pulling the piece of paper from his pocket, he relaxed after seeing his destination written down. Irving was terrible with directions. He was always too stressed picking his way through the outside to remember where he was going. Relieved, he put his elbow against the windowsill and let the cars going by lull him.
He was halfway through his album by the time his stop was called overhead. The song he was listening to was about pain and love and other things Irving embarrassingly failed to comprehend, but the beat was good, and he found his head bobbing to it slightly as he got up and exited the bus. If he wasn't listening to a good song, he would've been overwhelmed by the world he stepped into.
Irving had never been to a college. At least, not like this one. He had dropped out of highschool and was immediately taken into police training. The police force had taken interest in certain abilities of his. Frankly, he was glad that gig was over. Looking at the pathways and chatting students before him, he wasn't quite sure he would've liked college either.
Despite his nervousness, Irving strode dutifully away from the bus stop and onto a concrete pathway that snaked into the green campus. The rhythm of his music and the confidence his black skinny jeans gave him in his looks caused him to grin. There was a bounce in his step as he continued along the path, believing a map sign would appear any second.
He eventually made it to the library where Ira told him to meet her. Unfortunately, he was horrible at reading maps and charmingly told a passing student he was cluelessly lost and had no idea where he was going. She gave him directions after sharing a little laugh. The library was vast and full of tables of silently studying students. Quietly, he rested against a wall near the entrance and kept listening to his music. He closed his eyes and tried not to worry about not knowing what she looked like.
"Hey, red headset."
Irving did not realize the voice referred to him. It blended into the lyrics in his ears.
"You in the red headphones, are you Irving Margraves?"
His eyes blinked open. A short young woman a few meters away waved at him. Her skin was dark and her black hair was pushed back by a bright yellow headband. Bag slung over her shoulder, she frowned skeptically at him. Irving slid his headphones back around his neck reluctantly and smiled at her.
"Ah, that would be me. You must be Ira, I presume?" he asked, thrusting out his hand for a greeting.
The woman raised her eyebrows before giving him her hand. "You presume correctly," she said as she gave his hand a firm shake.
"A pleasure to meet you," he replied cheerily, removing his hand. He then placed both his hands on his hips. "So are you the werewolf or the fast one?"
"Shhh!" she hissed with surprise, jumping forward and placing a judging pointer finger on her lips. Her other hand flew above her head, threatening to clamp over Irving's mouth and force him into silence. "Not so loud."
"Whoops. Right, maybe I should not say that in here," he whispered, holding up his hands in guilt.
Without a warning other than an irritated scowl, she grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him, stumbling, out the front doors. She stopped halfway down the stone staircase and looked back up at him.
"I am the werewolf," Ira grumbled. "And 'the fast one'," she said with exaggerated air quotes, "is my friend Nel, please and thank you. She has class now. Did you even read my email?"
"Yes, I did," Irving retorted with a strange sense of pride, grinning. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have found my way here."
Ira threw up her hands and then slung the free strap of her blue backpack over her other shoulder. "This is the first time I've had so many questions to ask my interviewer," she sighed. "Come on, follow me. You can interview me over lunch. I'm starved after studying."
She gestured for Irving to follow before bouncing down the rest of the steps. The whole way to the cafeteria, she barely spoke to him. Occasionally, she would point out buildings and tell him what they were. There were quite a lot of science buildings in the area. They all looked old and boring, made almost entirely of worn red brick.
"They look a lot nicer on the inside," she assured. "Except for the psychology building, they get the short end of the stick."
Irving immediately decided he hated the cafeteria. Students bustled in and out of the main doors and stood in long lines at certain counters. Music played overhead, but the lyrics sounded like gibberish after being drowned in conversations and crashing kitchenware. The strong smell of contradicting foods filled his head as soon as he stepped in.
"I don't like this," Irving said with a laugh of disgust.
"Cool," Ira remarked distantly while she pulled out a student ID and flashed it to a tired guy behind a register. "Headphones is with me."
The miserable register guy nodded, and she pulled Irving through the crowd. Irving sympathized with his misery. Ira seemed to know exactly where she was going, to Irving's relief. She made a beeline for the salad bar.
"Hell yes, iceberg lettuce. Zero nutritional value, but what I value is the crunch."
"Are you a vegetarian werewolf? I'm shocked," he monotoned. Irving let out a weak laugh. All the sound was strangling his enthusiasm.
"Absolutely not. How dare you doubt my bloodthirsty capabilities? Red meat is delicious," Ira pretended to sound offended. "Speaking of red meat, you look like you need some pepperoni pizza."
She sat him down in a far corner against a big window overlooking a parking lot. Irving eyed the mystery crumbs on the dull table before wrinkling his nose and looking up at the ceiling wearily. All of this wouldn't be worth it if Ira didn't end up joining his agency. Either way, he knew he was going to sleep like a rock that night. Ira sat back down across from him with a plate of pizza and two cups of lemonade, which she placed besides her un-nutritional salad.
"Hope you like lemonade, otherwise I'm drinking two glasses."
"I love lemonade, no worries," he replied as he picked up a glass and took a sip. It was incredibly sour and sugary. Irving smiled tiredly. Maybe the sugar would help.
"Cool. So, what's the internship going to be like? Hate to say it, but you don't seem like you're a boss or whatever," she stated bluntly as she took a sip of her own lemonade.
Irving leaned on his elbow, "You're making a wonderful first impression."
"Sorry, but look," she said, picking up her fork briskly, "you seem like you're about my age. Plus, I don't appreciate people blurting out my, um, situation out loud like you did earlier."
"I'm twenty-six," Irving admitted, "And I promise to watch my tongue. I merely got ahead of myself."
"Oh, twenty-six?" Ira said, sounding surprised. She jabbed her fork into her iceberg lettuce and ranch salad. "I'm twenty-two. You are actually quite a bit older than me. And yeah, you better watch your tongue."
He sighed and leaned back against his chair. Fiddling with the wire on his headphones, he explained, "I'm a detective. You'll be an intern in my private detective agency, as you know already. We will solve cases the police station normally won't take. Old cases. Confusing cases. Cases that normal people would write off."
"Normal people," Ira repeated quietly before shoving a wad of lettuce into her mouth.
Irving's nod was interrupted by a loud metallic crash. A used pizza pan was dropped on the way to the kitchen for cleaning. The sound reverberated in Irving's head and he jumped in his seat. His thoughts and senses were jumbled, and he pressed an uneasy hand against his cheek.
"Woah there," Ira remarked in the general direction of the crash after swallowing her lettuce. She then turned back to her interviewer. When she noticed his expression, her smile fell into a concerned frown. She asked worriedly, "Hey, you alright?"
"I'm. I'm," Irving attempted. He waved his other hand shakily at her, trying to dismiss her concern. "I'm good."
When he brought his other hand to his face and rubbed himself soothingly, Ira sat up straighter in her seat.
She asked, "Do you, like, have something? I mean, you know, like me? I'm just assuming, since you...you asked for unusuals specifically," after pausing awkwardly she continued, "I mean, usually, they have something. You know?"
Irving drew his hands back, pulling his fingers through his wavy hair. He breathed out and said, "Yeah, you're right. I'm an unusual as well. And I'm autistic. I live in sensory hell." He let his head droop and he sighed.
Ira lit up. She leaned in, placing her palms at the edge of the table, and beamed. "Oh my gosh," she smiled, "I have ADD. And Nel is also autistic! This is so cool!"
Irving laughed a bit beneath his curls of brown hair.
"Ok, maybe not so cool. I'm sorry for bringing you here," she reached out a hand hopelessly over her plate pizza. "Dammit. I've failed this interview, haven't I?"
Irving lifted up his head and put on his best smile. Despite the tiredness in his amber eyes, it was genuine.
"Oh, I wouldn't give up just yet. An unusual studying criminal psychology? That's too good to be true," he remarked gleefully. "I'm completely serious about making the agency fully unusual. I want an agency filled with eccentrics. What better way to solve eccentric cases than with eccentric detectives?"
"You're nuts!" Ira laughed in confusion as she leaned back in her chair with a piece of now-cold pepperoni pizza in her hand. "And suspicious as hell, but god, if I don't want to give this internship a shot just for the wild ride. Plus, it pays. That's rare."
Irving took another swig of the shockingly sweet lemonade and laughed with her. The bright yellow drink was almost the same color as Ira's headband. She leaned over and pushed the plate of pizza to him. Then she took a big bite of her own piece.
"Eat. You look like you need it."
He nodded gratefully and picked up the slice on the top. Ira had piled the plate with four sloppy slices, and he wondered how many she planned to eat. It wasn't a great pizza, but it wasn't awful either. The toppings tasted fine. The cheese was a bit too chewy and the crust tasted like oil and air, like there was nothing to it. Irving didn't care. He was hungry. The cereal that morning hadn't done much to help him.
"So," Ira said through chews, "who else have you interviewed?"
"Oh, no one. Not really," Irving hummed after he swallowed. The pepperoni was giving him trouble by getting stuck in his teeth. "I have a forensic scientist already that the government offered to me when I asked to start the agency."
Ira put her slice down on top of her mostly finished salad. "Ok. That was worded weirdly."
"I know," Irving said nonchalantly. He drank more lemonade and ignored her suspicious glare for a moment. "The government owns my ass. I have one more week to gather two interns or I lose the agency. I've barely unpacked my things."
"Are you serious? God, no wonder you went for me and Nel. No decent internship would go after us," Ira growled. She crossed her arms and gripped her blue sleeves carelessly with her oily hands. Her deep brown eyes drifted away from Irving and observed the tiled floor angrily. He could hear her leg bouncing with irritation beneath the table. The clunk clunking of her heavy boot heel made it obvious.
"Decent?" Irving muttered as he cautiously put his own pizza back down. "Listen, I get it. The government can be questionable in the way they...handle us. Supernatural people get manipulated all the time, trust me, I know."
Ira raised her eyes back to him. Her expression loosened, but her leg thumped away.
"But that's on me. I'm the one they have power over in this situation. They're funding me. They'll be paying you. My only option after I lost my job was to go to them."
"Oh, so you lost your job? Fantastic," Ira grunted as she jerks up from her seat. She slammed her hands against the table. The ice cubes in her lemonade trembled. "You have no qualifications for this at all, do you? You want me to scam people. Of course, this was too good to be true."
The young woman threw her hands up and let out a loud sigh before reaching to grab her backpack of her chair. Irving got up too.
"I'm an ex-police officer. I worked with a detective for six years. Sure, I don't have the academic knowledge, but I have the experience. That's where you and your friend come in."
Letting go of her blue backpack strap, she crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows. "Alright," she said, "I'll give you that. But, I'm still suspicious. You still lost your job."
Irving clutched his lemonade cup in his hands. Beads of condensation twinkled on the glass. It was cold and wet. He desperately wished he could feel it. He could only feel his hand squeezing, squeezing, squeezing.
"It's complicated," Irving sighed. "Please. I really need this. Do you know how hard it is to find unusuals in this city? I was lucky your Unusual Studies teacher reached out to me."
Ira propped herself against her chair and sighed too. She brushed back a piece of stray hair and admitted, "Look, I don't think this'll work out. You're out of a job, and I'm sorry. It's hard, but I don't really know you. This isn't my business. I just want to finish my senior year."
"If this fails, they'll just put me into another government job. They like my superpowers enough," Irving mused unhappily. "I want to do something on my own for once. I want to help other outcasts. Because god help us if they actually have our well being in mind."
Ira sunk back into her chair, "So, you want to help other unusuals?"
"And disabled people. We've been getting the end of the stick for centuries. For better or for worse, superhuman powers go hand-in-hand with disabilities."
"Amen," sighed Ira. She took her cup and made a clinking motion in the air. Irving had to stop himself from automatically copying her.
Rubbing his temple sorely, Irving took a step away from the table. He felt like he got too personal, too unprofessional. He was embarrassed and tired. If another loud crash sounded, he threatened to hit his head on the window.
"It's been a long day already, hasn't it?" he smiled. His exhaustion was apparent in the fragile corners of his mouth. "Sorry for all the trouble. Hope the rest of the day is better for you. And thanks."
"Hey!" she said hurriedly as Irving began to turn. "I'll talk to Nel about this, okay? Then I'll email you back."
"Alright. I look forward to it," he replied. Without turning back to look at her, Irving waved her goodbye and waltzed quickly from the cafeteria in the clean outside air.
He drowned himself in his favorite songs all the way home.