Scene Title Playdate
Synopsis Kaylee takes her children to the park but the drizzly spring morning is not what it seems.
Date March 12, 2018

A Park in Elmhurst

The cherry blossoms are out early this year.

They stand out against the gray spring sky like little pink silk buttons, ready to be coaxed into bloom by the sun, which hides behind the clouds and casts the park where Kaylee has brought her children in a hazy glow. A swingset creaks beneath shrill, bubbling screams and laughter as Hannah pushes Carl higher and higher at his dogged insistence. Emily, meanwhile, wanders the fringe of the playground, picking at the daisies and early spring wildflowers that poke up and grow in thin, wild tangles between the cracks in the cement.

Other children whose names she does not know and whose faces she does not recognize take turns on the faded hopscotch court or splash through puddles in brightly-colored rubber boots. Parents and nannies cluster around the park’s benches, a coffee cup or a thermos warming their hands through gloves that they aren’t willing to part with yet. Although the weather has been trending warmer, Kaylee can still see her breath leave her mouth in a thin, airy fog when she exhales.

It’s raining, but only just. She sees the little droplets like static rippling in otherwise undisturbed puddles and can feel it beading delicately in her hair.

Life is good in spite of the constant reminders of the past surrounding them. Across the street, a construction crew works on demolishing a crumbled tenement tagged with Humanis First graffiti. Scorch marks surround a shallow crater in the road where a bomb demolished the tenement’s east wall. Workers pick through the old wreckage, bagging items that still old some value: electronics, canned food, someone’s abandoned photo album.

Out here, like this, Kaylee rarely looked like a woman who spent her days helping to grow a slowly rising tech firm. Hair let down and comfortably clothed, she watches the kids play with that proud mom smile. That soft smile, filled with a love that a mother has for her children.

She’s happy.

Glancing up, Kaylee watches the clouds, blinking against the droplets that reach her face. She’d have to call them over soon. Ducking her head down again, fingers move to pull the scarf around her neck up a little to warm the bottom half of her face; breath heating up the wool of the scarf. Despite the chilling rain, she waits… They are having too much fun. A few more moments won’t hurt them. The sound of their laughter always makes it worth it.

A woman bundled in a wool coat joins Kaylee on the bench. Dark, flyaway wisps of brown hair bordering on raven black have escaped the braided bun at the nape of her neck and curl like tendrils of spring ivy where they stick to her rosy cheeks and a high, proud brow. In her hands, she holds a cup of coffee spiced with what smells like cardamom. A wedding ring winks rose-gold on the third finger of her left hand.

“Which one’s yours?” she asks Kaylee.

It is not unusual to have people join her and hold conversations, so Kaylee offers the woman a friendly; if slightly curious smile. She is studied for a moment, before the telepath looks back out into the playground. A moment more till she decides to offer an answer. “Two at the swing and the one picking flowers.” So not one, but three. Almost as if knowing that someone is talking to her, Emily turns and waves at her mother. The gesture returned in kind.

“You have one of your own here?” A casual question… only fair. Kaylee glances at the woman again out of the corner of her eye.

The stranger points to a small, sullen-looking child with a mop of equally dark hair. Like Emily, he’s taken an interest in the flowers and is knitting a crown of daisies from his perch on the back of a squat statue shaped like a dog. He’s assisted by a younger girl in a pale floral dress and puffy blue coat who speaks in soft, subdued words of encouragement until the crown is completed and the boy ceremoniously places it on her head. “My son,” says the stranger, “and my niece.”

She smells like crushed petals and something muskier. Dark red lipstick leaves a blood-like smear on the rim of her coffee cup. “I hope you don’t mind if I smoke,” she adds, reaching into her coat pocket. “Can’t quite seem to kick it no matter how many times I try.”

The kids are watched with amusement, “It’s nice when they can play nice together.” Kaylee will have to remember to offer to bring her own niece and nephew out here sometime. “I know with mine… it can be rare. With three in the house there is always some kind of sibling rivalry going on.”

The question asked, Kaylee shakes head and gives a small wave of her hand for the woman to proceed. “I’m fine with it.” She knows enough people that do. “We all have habits we can’t always kick. Mine is sweets.” There is a knowing smirk sent the woman’s way. It’s a lie… though the telepath does have a habit. “Temptation… it’s a killer. Especially, if it is a really good sugar cookie.”

The stranger laughs a breathy laugh as she lights a cigarette fished out of the package she produced from her coat pocket. “You and my mum both,” she says, cupping her hand around the flame so it doesn’t gutter out in the rain. “She used to keep her candies in a little glass jar by the bed so we wouldn’t get to them. Can’t say I’ve much of a sweet tooth, myself.”

She slips the cigarettes and lighter back into her coat and moves the lit cigarette from one side of her mouth to the other. Like the rim of her cup, the filter absorbs the borderline garish colour of her lips. “It’s nice,” she observes, leaning back into the bench. She crosses her nylon-clad legs, which end in a smart pair of sensible black heels. “The city seems like it’s coming back together again. New leaves— ” She gestures to the cherry blossoms with a wave of her cigarette, trailing smoke. “New flowers, new memories.”

Tearing her eyes away from the antics of her children, Kaylee looks up at the flowers above them. Her head slowly nods, thoughtful smile spreading over her lips. “It really is. Maybe, someday, it will be back to some semblance of what it was before… “ her smile falls a little “everything started to go down the drain.” Probably, not the exact language she wants to use, but kids are present.

“It’s nice to see so many companies, groups, and people coming together to make sure it does,” Her family's company being one. “It’s the one thing you can count on about human nature… their ability to come together in the wake of disaster.”

Mm,” the stranger agrees around a drag from her cigarette. Smoke leaks from her nostrils on her next exhale. “Sometimes you have to destroy things in order to save them.” There’s a darkness in her eyes that wasn’t there before, and Kaylee feels the other woman’s anxiety beginning to open in her chest like a budding flower before she’s able to push whatever thought she’d been clinging to aside.

When she tries to read her, something presses back against Kaylee’s psychic influence, keeping the stranger’s thoughts as opaque as her identity, which is beginning to seem familiar in a quiet, nagging sort of way like a song she can’t remember the lyrics to.

“It’s an unpopular opinion,” she says, “but I don’t think the world was all that fantastic before the drain. Here’s to hoping we get shot out into a bright blue ocean and not a sewage plant.”

Maybe it is the paranoia, cultivated from previous years, that suddenly has anxiety blossoming in her gut. Uncoiling, much like the dark coils of Kaylee’s ability as it hisses at her to be wary, when it brushes against those defenses. Brows dip down with her concern, but her smile remains. “My father, thought like that. Or at least felt that sometimes you had to destroy things to save what is important.” Her chin dips down into the folds of her scarf, as she half watches the woman beside her.

“Not sure, I believe that myself, if there are other options” She gives a slow shrug, adding, “but, I’m not sure there was a better option, because it was not that great, you’re right.” Kaylee huffs out a sigh sending up a puff of steam. “Sometimes, once you exhaust all hope… you have the take the least popular path. No matter where you stand.”

Blue eyes turn back to the kids, when she hears a protest from Carl, who does not appreciate having a girly crown of flowers on his head. Chasing after the girls, who laugh and tease him as they run…. Though one girl is signing her taunts. “I do hope that we have a straight shot at the ocean.” It’s what she’s been working towards. “At least, for the sake of our kids.”

Kaylee sees him before her new companion does, although likely won't think too much of him, save that he is alone. Tall, clad in a black woolen coat open to sweater vest and shirt in shades of grey and blue, he swoops a gaze over the inner-city playground as if in search. We're all hard-coded to be wary of tall dark strangers, especially in this little sanctuary where children play so innocently, and it's something like that that prickles the hairs at the back of her neck.

But this feeling should ease by the time he spies the woman she's talking to, and his manner shifts. In his hand is a tall white paper cup, capped to trap its warmth, and in the other is a closed umbrella. He approaches, almost unconsciously angling himself so that he slips from the woman's periphery.

"Sorry to interrupt," he says, once in range, to Kaylee, and then to the other, whom he offers the cup to. On the side, it's marked E G in sharpie, for Earl Grey.

The woman with the dark, braided hair and blood red lipstick sets her now empty coffee cup aside and accepts the tea offered to her with an easy smile. “You aren’t interrupting,” she assures the man, and edges closer to Kaylee to make room for him on the bench. Her thigh brushes the blonde’s through her dress. “We were only having a moment.”

She squeezes the man’s arm with her free hand, smouldering cigarette dangling between two knuckles: an invitation to sit and join them. “How did it work out for him?” she wants to know. Her eyes are fixed on Kaylee’s now, searching. “Your father?”

When the woman scoots close, Kaylee scoots over as far as she can to allow the gentleman to sit. It might be the unease of having something unfamiliar close, it has her tensing under her coat and a defensive tuck of her chin. The anxiety spikes a little, but… Kaylee takes a deep breath, calming her nerves, before offering the newcomer as friendly a smile as she had the woman. “Just a little light conversation, on a dreary day,” the blonde offers as an attempt at bland humor.

“My father?” Kaylee turns thoughtful, her head wobbles a bit with indecision. Finally, she shrugs a little, “You know… truth be told, I think the jury is still out on that and…” She slants a glance at the couple with a rueful smile, “Unfortunately, he is no longer with us to ask. Though I am curious myself.” Not the complete truth, but then… it isn’t something she’d share with strangers.

The man puts an arm across the back of the bench, bracketing his partner's shoulders as he turns his attention towards the playground, and it's easy to tell that his eyesight has found his son in the crowd. It seems as though he is content to let the women continue to speak to one another without his input, lacking context, but maybe something in what Kaylee has to say snags his attention, and he looks at her over the top of his partner's head.

"I never gave fathers a lot of credit myself," he says, "until I became one."

He leans in, pressing a kiss to the woman's darker hair, and simultaneously reaching to take back the tea once she's had a chance to sip from it. Sharing and entanglement, his presence is possessive. Anything else Kaylee might be tempted to glean, her psychic reach only feels a little like a hand wandering out into darkness, and coming across nothing when it's expecting something.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the woman says, “and I’m sorry that sounds trite.” She rests against the man’s shoulder, settling into his body in a relaxed way that allows her hip to fit against his waist. Their shapes conform to each other. “Good morning, excuse me, how about the weather we’ve been having, I’m sorry for your loss.”

She gives a sniff in the damp drizzle. Rainwater accumulates in the narrow spaces between her lashes and she blinks it away, using the back of her hand to wipe at the streak of mascara left behind.

She’s not crying. It’s just wet.

“Important things lose their meaning if you say them too much,” she confides in Kaylee, tapping ash from her cigarette, “and it’s hard to be truly sorry for anyone else when we’ve all lost people who matter the most.”

Something about what the woman says doesn’t quite sit right with Kaylee, “I don’t know…” she says softly, not looking at the pair next to her. “Maybe. Or… sometimes, that loss can help you understand what others are feeling.” Her smile tugs up one corner of her mouth. “And maybe their pain helps you understand what you are going through.”

“Funny thing, though.” Kaylee says with a touch of amusement, studying the man on the other side of the bench, “You say that about fathers… I could say the same thing about becoming a mother.” There is a slight narrowing of blue eyes, but her amusement never wavers, but then she gaze flicks away back to the activity on the play yard. “You never really understand until you walk a mile in their shoes…” She gives a little chuckle, “Depending on your parent, then you can learn how to be better than them.”

There is a glance back to the man, “Ever worry about becoming like your father?” Something in her tone speaks to the idea that she might.

The look he gives her has an odd clarity to it, allowing the oddness of her question to ring between them. Prolonged silences can compel people to start apologising or changing the subject, and maybe that's true for Kaylee Ray-Sumter, too, but he answers before that can prove true. "Every day," he says, simply.

And doesn't elaborate. Why should he? They're just sitting on a park bench together, and now he points his umbrella.

Fwoomf. With a shake of folded batwings, he raises it up so as best to cover them from the gentle mist of rain coming down. It's provides broad cover, and the shift in wind means that Kaylee benefits a little herself, but it mostly casts shadow over woman and man.

The look the woman gives the man could be misconstrued as sympathetic if he didn’t know any better, and if Kaylee was not skilled in recognizing the nuances of human emotion. Her hand on his leg is a show of solidarity and support in response to Kaylee’s question rather than pity, although she seems not to hold it against the blonde for asking.

She looks up at the umbrella as it opens and gives another little laugh at the loose raindrops it sheds all over her face and hair. Her hands smear the spatter from her cheeks. Her fingers flick some of it back at him, too, teasing in the duplicitous way that cats do when they roll onto their backs and show someone their belly right before the claws come out.

To Kaylee, she says: “You’re nothing like him.” Edward, she means. “You’re here with your children, and there’s a void in you where your best memories of him ought to be. I hear it when you talk.”

A chuckle escapes, something sudden and without thought; the ring of it is full of amusement as she watches the interaction between the two. Kaylee can appreciate the playfulness of a couple that clearly mean so much to each other.

She knows that feeling herself, fingers searching out the band on her own finger.

It brightens her mood and allows her to relax a little, at least, until the woman speaks to her. The words send a chill through her, sending a thrill up her spine that forces her to sit a little taller in her spot on the bench.

It wasn't something she was expecting, she is so caught off guard, it takes a few moments for her to collect her thoughts again. There is an edge of caution to her, paranoia whispering at the corner of her mind, still she finds herself speaking. “Void is a little too apt a description for it.” She doesn't really know what is real or not in her memories. It does feel like a huge part of who she is was missing. “Sometimes, parents have misguided notions of what is best for their children.”

Her attention turns back to her kids, the pride and love for them shows, even if her smile is a sad one. Regret maybe? “However, I understand his actions.” Brows furrow a little, as if trying to puzzle out those actions even now. “It is all such a mixed bag.” She glances over the woman’s head, to him. “Still. I fear I might become like my father.” She gets it In her own way. There are always more than one way to follow in a parent’s footsteps.

Behind them, a truck rumbles by, momentarily overtaking the sounds of children playing, the sounds of their own conversation. Construction is an ongoing reality for this city. The man watches as his son, his son's cousin, splash in puddles together, girl encouraging boy. On the bench back, his arm has curled enough that he can toy with the collar of the woman's coat, absent-minded affection.

"I don't think fear's the trick," he says. As if Kaylee had been saying it was, as if there's a choice in the matter.

The woman leans forward and curves her hand around Kaylee’s ear. The smell of her cigarette and strange floral perfume mingle with Kaylee’s own hair and the familiar scents of stagnant rain and damp cement. She feels the heat of the embers burning inches away from her cheek and astringent smoke hot and bright in her eyes, even if there’s no malice in it.

She whispers something, and then—

Kaylee and Joseph's Home

— Kaylee wakes up.

Morning sunlight streams in through her bedroom window and falls across the foot of the bed in thick golden bars. Joseph must have opened the curtains. Birdsong, muted by the glass pane, sounds like it must be coming from very far away even though she sees sparrows flitting between the bare, skinny branches of the tree outside the window.

Her stepdaughter is in her doorway, watching her with dark eyes and the worried expression of someone who’s afraid she’s woken somebody else up. “Kaylee,” hedges Hannah, sounding apologetic. “Can we take Carl and Emily to the park today?”

Instinct has a hand pressing to her eyes against the harsh sunlight of the morning. Always the morning person, her Joseph. Lips press together, though a smile threatens. Probably a good thing, since she wasn’t… and that dream…

The voice at the door grabs her attention, hand falling away again so that she can lift a head to look. Kaylee gives the young girl a sleepy smile. “Mornin’ sweetie.” Angling herself to sit, back propped up against the headboard of the bed. “You know… I was just dreaming about that… I think that is an excellent idea. I’ll tell Uncle Richard and Aunt Valerie I’m going to pick you guys up from school. Hmm?”

Kaylee opens her arms out to the girl, with a mildly demanding look, “However! First! I demand a good morning hug as payment!” Her tone is teasing, of course. She’d take them even if she didn’t.

Hannah tosses back a playful, toothy grin back at Kaylee. “Okay, sleepybones,” she says. “But you have to come downstairs first. We’re making pancakes.”

Which means either she’s making pancakes or Joseph is making pancakes. Carl and Emily aren’t involved.


There’s a bang and a clatter from the kitchen, followed by what sounds like it might be a metal pot spinning like a top on the floor. Hannah winces. “Carl!” she shouts over her shoulder, and takes off into the hall, her socked feet galumphing over carpet and hardwood.

Kaylee has nothing to worry about. The cherry blossoms might not be out, but the morning is shaping up to be bright and filled with the sound of children’s laughter.

Life is good. There are pancakes.

The only dark thoughts are the ones hanging in her mind’s periphery: the words the woman whispered in her ear, and how she can’t seem to remember them upon waking. As she dresses and heads downstairs to help her children in the kitchen, the telepath’s recollection of her dream grows hazier as recollections of dreams are wont to do in those first twenty minutes.

Life is good. She has hers to live.

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