(nine years ago, 5:15 PM)
Emma has left the family home. When her father placed her beloved brother, Christian, in a mental institution, it was the last straw and Emma decided to go it alone, free of the expectations and restrictions family life placed upon her. Now, she has taken a job working as a sales assistant in an upscale clothing boutique in Boston called DeBlois, in order to pay the rent.
She calls the name of a customer named Ms. Throckmorton, whose poodle, Nugget, has urinated on the boutique floor, and informs her of the deed. Ms. Throckmorton replies with a certain amount of disdain that Emma should get a rag and mop it up, and asks why on Earth she’s talking to her. Emma says it’s because she ignored her when she told her about the store’s ‘no pets’ policy. Ms. Throckmorton turns to Emma and tells her that she’s ignoring it now; she uses her credit card often enough in the store to not be harassed when she is there.
Emma’s supervisor, Elaine, appears and asks Ms. Throckmorton if there’s a problem. Emma tells her about her poodle going to the bathroom on the floor, and Elaine tells her to take care of it and not to make her tell her twice. Emma doesn’t take kindly to being ordered around, especially under these circumstances, and she informs Elaine in no uncertain terms where she can stick her job. Moments later, Emma is outside and unemployed, as Elaine and a smirking Ms. Throckmorton watch her depart. Nugget urinates against the shop front, oblivious to the trouble she’s caused. This is the third job Emma has been fired from in the past two weeks.
Emma strolls through the city and back to her hotel, wondering what she’s going to do for cash now. She is greeted by the hotel’s clerk, Lou, a guy so slimy the word that comes to Emma’s mind is ‘Ick!’ He informs her that she can’t stay there free of charge, that’s why it’s called a hotel, “so either you can cough up the bread for the past three nights, or…” Emma reaches into her purse and pulls out her first paycheck, which she hasn’t had a chance to cash yet. Lou snatches it from her and tells her that she won’t have to, as long as she signs it over to him. Emma tells him that’s all the money she’s got. Lou looks at the paycheck and replies that it’ll cover what she owes, but it ain’t enough to pay for another night. He’s through playing the good Samaritan, and tells her to pack her bags.
Emma tries to reason with him, saying she won’t be able to get another job unless she provides a place of residence. Lou gives a smile. “So you lost another one, huh? Well I got a job for you, sweet cheeks, one that’ll definitely take care o’ your housin’ problem.” He places his arms either side of Emma’s head, almost pinning her to the wall. ‘Back off perv!’ she thinks, and Lou immediately removes his glasses and reaches for his forehead, thinking he’s got a brain freeze, though he is just another unsuspecting victim of Emma’s telepathy. She says she’s going out and will have the money when she gets back.
Soon, she rest on a newsstand and browses the ad columns in the paper. She’s hungry and the job listings aren’t helping the situation. It looks like you need a college degree in order to get a decent paying job. The newspaper seller tells her that this isn’t a library, so she can either buy a paper or skedaddle. She fumbles for change in her pocket but only manages to produce a penny, but she wonders why it can’t be a quarter, just this once. The newspaper seller says that’s more like it, and takes the coin off her. Emma is amazed that he thinks it’s a quarter, just because she wanted it to be, and this gives her an idea.
She finds a restaurant called Manok Mandoks, and orders a meal. Soon, she relaxes after the best meal she’s had since leaving home last month. The waitress, Roxie, brings over her tab and Emma tells herself to just keep smiling like she has a thousand dollars in her pocketbook. This is the moment of truth; or dishonesty depending on which way you look at it. She knows she has to be confident, and to focus. She takes a strip of newspaper and smiles as she hands it to Roxie, who, instead of seeing the newspaper, sees a hundred dollar bill. She asks Emma if she’d like change, as her bill only comes to $49.45, but Emma tells her to keep it. Unfortunately, Emma doesn’t plan on an eagle-eyed maitre d’ called Vincent, who witnesses the exchange and calls Roxie over. After a ticking off, Roxie is told to return to work, while Vincent thinks of a suitable punishment for Emma.
Before long, Emma is in the kitchen and wearing an apron, washing the dishes in the time honored fashion for non-payers. Scrubbing a dish and wearing a pair of rubber gloves, she thinks that at least he didn’t call the cops but, still, forcing her to do the dishes to pay her tab? She’s never washed a plate in her life. Suddenly, a plate slips from her grasp and smashes on the floor. A guy behind her leans against the wall, arms folded and tells her she’ll never work off her debt if she keeps breaking dishes like that. She asks who the heck he is and he breaks into a wide smile; “The dishwasher.”
Emma tells him not to thank her for giving him the night off. The night off? He’s pretty happy about this and begins to remove his apron but Emma asks him to wait, saying she’s never had to wash dishes; she doesn’t know how. The servants always did them. “Servants?” he replies. Emma tells him that she comes from a rich family and he asks; if she comes from a rich family, how come she can’t afford dinner. She tells him she never said she had money, only that she came from a rich family. She offers her hand and they shake. Emma introduces himself and he does likewise; Troy Killkelly. “So, how rich are they?” he asks.
The early morning sky is clear and it’s warm in Boston. Emma and Troy sit on his fire escape, getting to know one another. Their conversation turns to his family. His mom ran off with one of his dad’s buddies when Troy was nine, and his dad became a hopeless drunk after that. Every time he got hammered, the sight of Troy would make him depressed; said he reminded him of his mom too much. Pretty soon, he started to hammer him instead and, so, Troy ran away when he was fourteen. Emma sympathizes, saying people can be so cruel, especially parents. He tells her that it’s no biggie and, anyway, his dad sounds like the Pope, compared to her dad. He’s not surprised she left home; better to be penniless. Well, she replies, she is penniless, and bets that Lou has thrown her clothes out into the street by now.
Troy says that his place is no great shakes, but he’s willing to put her up for as long as she needs a roof; no strings attached. He even offers to use the sleeping bag he has in the closet. Emma looks at him and smiles, her eyes betraying the fact that she’s suddenly developed a new crush.
(later that morning)
Emma and Troy collect her belongings from the hotel and she says goodbye to Lou, who sits silently reading the paper. Soon, they are back in Troy’s building with Troy carrying her suitcases and Emma insists that she’s only crashing with him until she finds a job, so he shouldn’t expect to be repaid with anything but broken dishes. He replies that he’s nothing but a perfect gentleman. Emma knows he’s telling the truth and shoves an apple into his mouth, telling him she can’t have him doing all this empty lifting on an empty stomach.
As Troy begins to unlock his door, Emma can sense nearby thoughts. They begin to enter and, although Emma realizes they’re hostile, it’s too late and Troy finds himself the victim of a right cross, which drops him to the floor. Emma is shocked to find two burly men in the apartment. “Hiya, Troy,” says Milo, the owner of the right cross. Troy wipes his mouth and asks him how he got in. Fire escape, he replies and prompts his partner, Stu, to grab Emma, who struggles against the much larger man. Milo grabs Troy by the collar. “Well… I said well?”
He lifts Troy off the floor with his arm twisted around his back, as Stu throws Emma to the floor instead. Troy insists he doesn’t have it and Emma asks what. Ten thousand dollars, replies Troy, as Stu places a small knife inches away from his face. Stu tells him that’s too bad, as their boss won’t be happy to hear that, unless they tell him he was real sorry. To protect Troy, Emma uses her telepathic strength to immobilize Stu, who finds himself unable to cut Troy, despite Milo’s insistence that he does so. As he tries to move, Emma’s nose begins to bleed and she finds herself struggling to maintain control over him. Despite her best efforts, she is inexperienced and loses her grip, allowing the knife to be released.
(Boston Medical Center, 10:32 PM)
As Emma waits for Troy to return from being treated for his injuries, she is annoyed with herself for being unable to control her stupid mental powers unless she remains calm. As Troy appears with his nose bandaged, she leaps from her seat and hugs him, telling him she’s glad he’s okay. He jokes that he won’t be snorkelling anytime soon but at least he’s still breathing, barely. As they leave the Medical Center, she asks, “Troy, you owe this money to a guy named Lucien?” Yeah, he replies, a guy called Lucien Goff, a local lowlife loan shark, but he asks how she knew. She doesn’t answer and, instead, asks why he needed a loan. He replies that not everyone’s born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
Soon, they are back at Troy’s place and wondering how to come up with ten grand. He says it’s impossible, not in the time given and definitely not on his salary. He’s toast. Emma says there must be something they can do, but he remains pessimistic, pointing out that he doesn’t see her as the hustler type. Yesterday was the first time she’d ever washed dishes. He says it’s his bag and she’s known him for less than forty-eight hours. She should get out while she’s sill ahead. “Get out? And go where? This was my sanctuary, Troy!” she replies. He is about to apologize when, suddenly, a thought pops into his head. Emma doesn’t like what he’s thinking.
Before long, the pair of them head to Boston’s waterfront and to a floating casino moored just offshore. Emma thinks that it’s not like they have any alternatives and, sure, there’s a risk involved, but so is playing the stock market, right? Troy and Emma descend the stairs and head towards the black jack tables. She wears a white dress and has blonde hair, while he wears a suit; his hair is slicked back, his nose looking perfectly normal.