(2018-11-16) Cake and Chicken to the Community
Laura happens upon the usual suspects hanging out on a corner in Willow Heights. Hunter helps deliver chicken and cake to the community.

It's too early on a Friday afternoon for school to be out, and yet the usual suspects are gathered, sitting on a crumbling low stone wall near the corner of the street, a gathering of five or six boys — some of them from the local highschool, and some, like Hunter, just old enough to be out, and yet having no particular place to be. Some of them have skateboards, some bikes. Hunter sits on the wall cross-legged, smoking a cigarette, the smoke curling up and away from him as he talks to a blonde boy with shaggy hair not much older than he is.

Laura is out of uniform, because - really, cop schedules, how do they work? She is bundled up in a tan shearling jacket layered over a light sweater, jeans, hiking boots, and colorfully patterned woolen gloves. She's carrying a couple of boxes with her, one a big grease-stained cardboard thing, the other a plastic cake box. There's a cake inside. These are held close to her chest as the short latina cop strolls along, slowing down slightly as she spots the group parked on the corner. "Ain't at least half of you supposed to be in school right now?" She asks with a faint resigned smile on her face, brow knitting in a few creases of frustration. Or maybe just disappointment.

There's some muttered groans from those gathered as they see Laura approaching, and even more ducked heads as some turn away in a futile attempt not to be recognized. But then there's the chiding that they knew were coming, and a couple get on their bikes and there can be heard some grumbled excuses and, "Headed back now, Officer Martinez." or "Was just getting lunch, Officer Martinez." They are lies. Lies all. But it leaves Hunter and his Blonde friend, and one other boy who ashes out his cigarette and disperses, flipping a double bird as he does so.

Hunter looks Laura over as she approaches with her box and cake. "You need some help?" he asks, nodding toward the boxes. He gives the blonde, a boy named Bryan, a nudge with his elbow, who reluctantly says, "Yeah, need some help?"

"You better be headed back!" Laura calls back. Then she sighs, eyes rolling while she adjusts the boxes in her arms. "I'm going to go ahead and pretend I believe you this time, but I don't want to see you around during school hours again," she adds, voice raised just so the various retreating teenagers can hear her. "School is cool!" She says that bit with painfully faked enthusiasm, but at least she keeps her voice down this time, just above a mutter. And shakes her head. Then she eyes Hunter and Bryan, hesitating for a second before her frown melts into a bright cheerful smile. "Thank you! Sure. You can help me with this one…" And she carefully maneuvers her burden to offer them the larger cardboard box. It's faintly warm, and it smells of food. Namely, chicken.

Hunter can't help but grin just a bit when Laura calls out that School is Cool to the retreating backs of the boys riding away on their bikes, though he hides it as he blows out the rest of the smoke and crushes out his cigarette, tucking the butt into his pocket instead of littering. Hey, at least he's not littering. Hunter hops down off the wall and makes his way over to take up the box of chicken. Since he doesn't need help, and Bryan is now thus abandoned, he gets up and throws them both a wave before wandering off, himself. Hunter then looks over toward Laura and says, "Where to?" He nods for her to lead the way, seemingly content to be a pack mule for the moment.

Laura manages to hold the box with one hand and raise the other to wave after Bryan, watching him for a while before she starts walking with a nod down the street. Her pace is brisk, but then, her legs are short. She looks over, smiling, but her eyes don't stay long, scanning the street as she goes, looking at houses and cars and people. "The chicken is for Mrs. Wilson at number 20." An elderly black woman who lives alone and hardly ever leaves the house. That would be a lot of food for just one frail skinny old lady. "And then the cake's for a birthday," Laura explains. "How are you, anyway?"

Hunter has a bit longer legs, being on the taller side, so he easily keeps pace with Laura as they wander along, the box easily held out in front of him, which just causes the smell of chicken to waft up under his nose, making his stomach growl a little bit. "Alright," he says when she mentions who the chicken is for. He knows exactly who Mrs. Wilson is and so he turns in that direction, not seeming to question the volume of chicken to elderly lady. "She's pretty cool. She's got some good stories." He's sat out on her front porch with her a few times listening to them. "Cool," he says about the cake. When she asks how he is, he seems a little taken aback. People don't ask how he is. He glances at her and then shrugs his shoulders, "Fine." Standard response.

"She /is/ pretty cool," Laura agrees with an enthusiastic smile, an eyebrow slightly arched at the sound of that rumbling stomach. "Alright," she says when Hunter announces he's fine. She's not going to push it, it sounds like. After a small pase, she adds. "She's having people over and she was fretting. I talked to some people at her church, so I'm sure she'll have more food than she knows what to do with." She takes a deep breath, ten lets out a steamy little puff, humming some barely identifiable song under her breath.

"That's cool. She needs more company. Her daughter comes out pretty regular but, I try to go by a couple of times a week just to see if she needs anything," Hunter admits as they walk, making their way over toward #20. He falls silent for a bit, just listening to her hum as they walk, and when they get to the front door, he rings the bell then takes a step back to wait for Mrs. Wilson to answer. When she does, there's a bright smile for Hunter. It's strange, perhaps, to see the two of them interact. He seems a lot younger, and a lot more, bright, full of life when he smiles, and tells her that he was just helping Officer Martinez bring some food over.

Laura nods her head. "That's nice of you, it probably means a lot to her, you know?" She asks, then finds herself humming again as they go. Something about Apple Bottom jeans and boots with the fur. And her face scrunches up, head shaking as if to try to get rid of it, starting to hum some random notes instead. Coming to #20, she stands right behind Hunter to watch him and Mrs. Wilson talk, butting in only to ask how Mrs. Wilson is feeling and talk about the food. There's chicken and biscuits, Laura says with a bright smile, and Mrs. Wilson informs her some other good people from church have brought her other fixings to go with, so everything's just fine. But also, Hunter is looking skinny, isn't he looking skinny? He should help himself to some chicken. She can go get a bag for him to take some chicken.

Hunter nods and says, "People forget about people sometime, particularly when they get older. Some folks don't even realize that they do it, I guess. They're just busy. And it's not like I've got some busy schedule, you know?" He then hands over the chicken after the greetings are made, and shakes his head when Mrs. Wilsom proclaims how skinny he is. He is very leanly built in general, and he may in fact be a bit on the skinny side, but he waves it off. "I'm fine, Mrs. Wilson. This is for you and your guests. I've got plans for lunch later." Whether that's accurate or not is anyone's guess, but he backs out of the doorway once the chicken has been deposited, and leaves Laura and Mrs. Wilson to talk, sliding his hands into his pockets and hopping down off the stoop back to the sidewalk.

Mrs. Wilson likely thinks a lot of young people are too skinny. But she doesn't insist on it. "You take care now, Mrs. Wilson," Laura offers with a smile. "Call me if you need anything, okay?" And she gradually, slowly backs away from the door, nodding and smiling, before she is also told she is too skinny and gets offered some chicken. Unlikely, but you never know! Turning back to Hunter, she lifts an eyebrow, "/Do/ you have plans for lunch later?" She pulls the cake box towards herself and starts strolling down the street. "I'm just dropping this off at the Lees. It's for Rayden's birthday."

Hunter, having nowhere to be, continues to wander along with Laura to deliver the cake, but doesn't offer to carry it, figuring she'd hand it over to him if she wanted him to. His hands are buried in his jacket pockets as he strolls along, idly watching the ground pass beneath his feet. When she asks, he glances over in her direction and shrugs his shoulders, "Not really, but I've got cash and I can buy myself lunch. I don't need to take anything that's going to her and her guests, you know?" He nods about the cake then, and grins, "What's it got on it?" He leans over to peer in through the window to take a look at the cake.

"Alright, that's good then," Laura nods with a small smile when Hunter says he has money for lunch. She can handle the cake box without much of a problem, holding it in front of herself as she strolls down the street, pausing at an intersection before heading across. "It's nothing fancy or anything. It's just vanilla sheet cake with chocolate frosting," she says with a glance down into the box. "His mom wants to decorate it herself, so…" Laura takes a deep breath. "Her husband's in the hospital so I guess it'll help take her mind off it. I watch a lot of cake decorating videos when I want take my mind off things, so I'm guessing here."

"Oh, oh, have you seen that british baking show? That shit is the bomb," Hunter says when she mentions cake decorating. "I've seen it a few times when waiting for laundry at the laundromat," he explains. "Sorry to hear about her husband though. Hope he gets better. Rayden's a smart little dude." Hunter knows almost everyone in the neighborhood in one way or another. For a street rat, and a miscreant, he's actually kind of got a heart.

"The Great British Bake Off. I love it! It's got such a great attitude, you know? Contestants actually help each other instead of stabbing each other in the back," Laura smiles brightly, then ends in a sigh, shifting the weight of the box in her arms. "I hope so too," she concurs, lifting an eyebrow to shoot Hunter a thoughtful sidelong glance, but she keeps her tone even and conversational as she steps into the front yard of the house and walks up to it, pausing for a second before ringing the bell. "I watch a lot of Youtube shows too, but those are mostly just cake decorating. They're really pretty, but the cake's probably not very good at all, it's like 50 percent fondant."

"Yeah, that's pretty cool. Probably a British thing. Americans are assholes most of the time," Hunter says as they walk along, catching that sidelong glance but not saying anything about it, instead letting his own gaze wander down the street toward where the family lives. There's a tricycle in the middle of the driveway, and a scattering of lawn toys trailed across the front yard which has grown a little long without being attended to. "Fondant is gross. It looks like you should be able to eat it but then it's like.. rubber… sugarish rubber."

"Oh, I don't know about that. People are people, and most people are nice, but I guess they like to watch-" Laura is leaning into it with a confident, positive smile, but then Mrs. Lee opens the door, and her discussion of the media gives way to talk of cake and Mr. Lee's health. The young blonde woman - "Please call me Amanda." - does look tired and overworked and was probably crying recently, but she puts on a good front, and it sounds like her husband's prospects her good, even if he's still under observation. Laura hands the cake over with a smile and well-wishes.

"Like to watch people treat one another horribly?" Hunter supplies just before the door opens, but then he hangs back while the cake and conversation is exchanged, taking a few steps back from the doorway. He glances around again and after the cake his handed over he says, "Hey, Mrs. Lee, I'm gonna come by tomorrow morning and do your lawn, too if you want. I'm doing one the next street over. I can trim up the hedges and stuff too, you know, just until Mr. Lee's back on his feet."

"There's really no need for that, we-" Mrs. Lee starts to say, until her eyes actually drift to her own overgrown yard, and she flinches from it, acquiescing after a pause. "Thank you. The lawn, I suppose, the lawn would be…. that's very nice of you to offer. I'm sure Mark will rest easier if I tell him his lawn's being cared for. Thank you. And thank you for the cake, officer Martinez. I should… start on getting it decorated before Rayden's back," she says with a thin smile.

After goodbyes, and maybe the logistics of borrowing a lawnmower, she draws back inside, and Laura skips down the steps and walks the path to the street, hands vanishing into her pockets, turning her head to give Hunter a long pensive look. "Thanks, Hunter," she says with a slight but genuinely warm smile.

"I actually /am/ doing a couple of lawns next street over, for Mr. Woodward who has the bad hip, and Mr. and Mrs. Leven who are out of town for a while, so that it isn't so obvious that no one's there," Hunter says, confirming that he isn't always making everything up. Just some of it. "Hey, no problem. Thanks for letting me tag along and keep you company." He offers a fist for her to dap, his own smile genuine and easy. "You're one of the good ones, Officer Martinez." But once they've reached the sidewalk back at the street, he takes a few steps back. "I should bounce, though. Have some stuff tonight I should go get ready for."

Laura reaches out to bump her fist against Hunter's, padded by her colorful knit gloves. "Sure!" She says with a bright smile, but after a second that fades as the corner of her mouth gets tugged aside, and a seriousness descends onto her face. "Hey. Have you noticed anyone - I mean, anything like a stranger hanging around, being a bit too friendly and trying to get close to you? Or maybe to one of the kids? Like especially the kids who maybe are going through a rougher time right now, or don't have as many friends?"

Hunter pauses in his retreat as her expression grows serious and she asks about a stranger lingering around. He pauses and looks thoughtful, and he glances down and to the side, as though searching through his memories, and shakes his head slowly, "I mean, a lot of shady folk hang around Willow Heights, you know? They come, they go. Can't say as I noticed anybody singling anybody out." Though from his expression, it's clear he's not sure he would have noticed.

Laura nods, then raises a hand as if to wave it off, allowing a small smile back on her face. "I know, I know, no shortage of shady folk coming through here! Odds are this person wouldn't even look that shady, but it was a long shot. Just thought I'd ask, there's some dangerous people out there." She holds up that hand, a wiggle of her fingers turning it into a wave. "If you notice anything like that and it doesn't feel right, let me know… if you feel like it."

"You got some sort of description on this particular shady guy? Uh.. girl? Either?" Hunter asks, curiously. But then she doesn't seem to have any more details so he nods, "Guess I'll keep an eye out." Then he lifts his own hand and gives her a wave, "Stay safe, Officer." Then he's off, drifting off somewhere into the neighborhood and lost between the houses.

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