Early the next morning it's grey and smoggy outside. Typical Bridgeport weather. Right now, though, Tula doesn't really care. She's enjoying the warm bath tub.
She practices her wide at-work smile. Being friendly and approachable will get her far.
Meanwhile, Jessica is making a very different kind of expression. It's her day off which means strength training and staying up all night. It's a bit cliched, but she does enjoy late nights. The early predawn hours of her shift mean she has to fight her natural circadian rhythm when she works.
By the time Tula leaves for her shift, Jessica is exhausted. Time for bed.
Tula has a chaotic shift at work but returns home unscathed. There's a pile of paperwork on her drawer in her room. She'll get to it....at some point. Probably. Seems being a podium polisher also means doing everyone's leftover filing and signing.
Though she doesn't need the stress relief, Tula does a workout. Appearances are everything, after all.
About ten minutes into her exercising Rafael arrives home from Doopeas.
"Hey Tula! Working out?"
"No Rafael, I'm obviously jumping for no reason."
Rafael rolls his eyes, "Just trying to be polite, Tula." He scrunches his nose at the television, "You know there's a gym, right?"
"Does me exercising bother you?"
He shakes his head, "No, but don't you think you'd get a better workout using some weights or going for a jog or something?"
Tula shrugs, "Gym membership here costs money. Even if it didn't, that's a lot of metro travel and walking. You don't complain that Jessica does her pull ups in your room."
He shakes his head, "At least she's straining something with the pull-up bar."
"Because you know so much about working out, clearly."
Rafael pats his flat stomach, "You think this comes naturally? Ha, I wish."
Rafael wanders over to the kitchen and grabs a bowl of macaroni.
"Tula," he calls over his shoulder, "You forgot to wash your bowl."
"Huh?" she glances at him, "Oh, sorry! I'll put it away now..."
Rafael waves her off, "It's fine, I'll do it. Just remember once you're done eating to wash your plate, or at least put it in the sink. Small apartment like this, it's easy for it to get dirty."
Once the dishes are washed, Rafael approaches Tula excitedly.
"Hey, we should go out sometime, the three of us. Celebrate summer properly, you know?"
Tula smiles, "Sure, sounds great. But, uh, if you'll excuse me, I need to take a bath..."
Rafael sniffs lightly then nods, "Good idea. I think I'll turn in. Good night!"
Jessica can't enjoy embracing Rafael for too long; by one in the morning she's up. Most would say her sleeping habits are unhealthy, staying up for nearly 24 hours one day and sleeping for over twelve hours to make up for it, but it serves her. And that's only if she sleeps the human way. Sleeping on an altar gives her a much shorter 5 or 6 hours.
But joining Rafael in bed every once in a while is worth the longer sleep.
By 3 she's out the door. She gives a lingering glance to her neighbor, Samantha Smythe, who is just coming in.
Bridgeport is a curious place.
Rafael is up several hours later. His shift is in the afternoon, so he is no hurry to get ready to leave.
Tula comes downstairs groggily. She's not really sure why, but early mornings in Bridgeport are much harder than they ever were in Appaloosa Plains or Shang Simla.
"Mor-," she stops speaking abruptly as she notices Rafael fully, "You normally lounge around in your underwear?"
Well, that answers that.
As Rafael sits down for breakfast, Tula finishes her bowl of cereal.
"Man, I'll probably be late," Tula sighs, looking at the clock, "I'm coming home late tonight, I have to take one of our 'important connections' out to dinner tonight."
"Ah, yes. I know your pain. Have fun!"
Tula was surprised when Renee Littler, up and coming star journalist, offers to not only drive the two of them to their work dinner, but insists on going to the diner instead of the Bistro.
"Diner's cheaper, and quicker. I have an important article to finish up tonight, you understand."
Tula nods, even though aside from more paperwork and readings, she doesn't really have anything to do for work.
"Don't take this the wrong way, um... Tula, right? Yeah, but I don't need empty praise from your boss. It's lovely, of course, but I'm a busy woman."
"Oh it's anything but empty. Your article on Twinbrook's water sanitation program was brilliant. I think a lot of people overlook the importance of community involvement in these initiatives, but you actually talked to those people, described accurately but not too complicatedly the effects of poor water sanitation on everyday life, and how new innovations have actually tackled the problem."
Renee laughs, "You've done your homework."
"Oh, it's not homework. I like reading your articles. Because, for example, you don't just talk about the innovations, like the instant water purifier, and how they work, but you point out their limitations and how they can be improved."
"Well, just re-stating facts is lazy journalism. Take that water purifier- how misleading would it be if I just said it was the best thing ever and it's been so helpful to Twinbrook?"
"As far as most people are concerned, it is the best thing ever. The problem of regulation, mass production, its sometimes limited effectiveness, and ensuring that people actually use it properly are incredibly important. I bet the scientists didn't tell you all of that. You studied the water purifier itself and looked at the data and experiment results. Otherwise how else would you have caught that an alarming amount of the trial data they were using to market and promote it was anomalous data, or based on unverified experiments?"
When Renee smiles, Tula knows she's succeeded.
The diner is crowded and noisy, but Renee doesn't seem to care. Their dinner goes by quickly, with Tula only having to extend her thanks on behalf of her boss for Renee's "informative" articles, and Renee graciously accepting the praise.
Tula suspects city hall only wants to get on Renee's good graces. Her critical pieces can make or completely destroy businesses. Once she goes into investigative journalism, Tula's superiors could be under Renee's magnifying glass.
Renee sweeps Tula into a hug, "That was actually a nice dinner. Nice to talk to someone with a brain for a change."
Tula smiles, "Oh, I don't know what you mean..."
"No, really. You have a good critical eye for information. I doubt many people understand all of the information I put into my articles."
"If you ever want to stroke my ego again, I'm all ears."
Tula nods, "No problem."
Once Tula gets home, her energy seems to leak out of her all at once. Keeping up with Renee was no easy task and she's definitely ready for bed.
Looking at her phone- which reports that the time is 1:31 AM- she sighs. She has to be up in five and a half hours.
She can't wait to get the afternoon shift.