A Different Kind Of Hope


bf_cassandra_icon.gif elisabeth_icon2.gif

Scene Title A Different Kind of Hope
Synopsis Who knew that a teenager could offer the most profound moment of clarity?
Date January 22, 2012

Central Park and a Pizzeria

Central Park is a place that Elisabeth has often been in her life. She grew up not far from it, spent her childhood in various places throughout. But one place now calls to her… Belvedere Castle still stands as a landmark that most people know of, even if they've never been there. It's still bitterly cold, but Elisabeth needs the familiarity of this park as opposed to the Unity Park to the south — these benches have seen many a "secret" meeting. Wrapped in a blue wool coat with a knitted hat cream-colored hat covering her head and her hands in her pockets, she stands on one of the paths just looking at the castle. This… was the last place she laid eyes on her father. The memory makes her smile a little. He'd brought her a brownie for her birthday.

God, that seems like forever ago instead of just under 3 months past.

Compared to Louisiana, this place is positively frigid!

Back home, temperatures less than 50f are occasions hat are few and far between, even in the middle of winter, and Cassandra Baumann looks like she would be positively miserable, but the eyes peeking out say otherwise. Sure, she's bundled up in a heavy wool coat, with scarf and gloves included, long pants, boots and the like, but as she trudges through the sleeping park, she pauses every once in a while to take a picture. Sure, it might be a little thing, like a snow drift or a tree glistening with ice from a sprinkler, but the time she takes to focus and frame shows she’s taking her time and relishes the challenge of shooting things that are so out of sorts.

This girl is obviously a visitor to the big city.

Not more than seventeen, Cassandra pauses by a bench to fish a chunk of French baguette from her pocket, breaking it into little chunks and tossing them on the snow where a few birds - sparrows, start to congregate. «You little birds are so different from home. Will you tell your friends that a Cajun girl has come north to the big city?». She speaks in an odd mix of French and some other language - of a listener is fluent, they might be able to pick out every other word, of that. She giggles and snaps a picture with her little digital camera, looking at it on the screen before tucking it away, turning on the ball of her foot and walking down the path, singing a song as she goes.

The patch of ice she hits is unexpected, the girl slipping and sliding, her arms flying out as she ripples backwards, landing on her butt and backpack, cursing. “Ice! My greatest nemesis!” She shakes her fist at it before letting out a huff, a stream of steam blown out at her exhale from the cold.

It's funny, what happens when your ears are damaged. Especially when you're an audiokinetic. Because she shouldn't be able to hear at all after the concussion blast next to her head less than a week ago. But her ability now back to full strength, even when she's not actively listening, she's still hearing things in the way sound moves. So she doesn't pay a lot of attention to the singing but the 'sound' of a WHOMP behind her does bring her turning around to check and see what happened. And she winces to see the teen in the snow on her keister. She moves cautiously on the ice, stepping on a clear patch of the path and holding out her hand.

"That looks like it might have hurt. Did you break your butt?" she asks, amused.

“Ow….” A succinct way to put it, if there ever was one. Cassandra pushes herself up slowly, checking herself over with gloved hands, as far as she can reach “Nothing seems to be broken…”.

It's a rather inglorious way to fall into a conversation, but thankfully the snow bank is clean and light - not the leftover scraping off the paths full of whatever can be scraped off. Ick. She pushes herself to a sitting position and looks over, positively dwarfed by her backpack as she carefully makes her way to her feet, avoiding the ice as she moves back to the path and closer to the other woman.

“I’m fine. I'm fine. Really. We just don't get much snow or ice where I'm from.” She might as well be holding a big sign that says ‘visitor, on it.

Elisabeth chuckles, helping the young woman to her feet and making sure she's stable. "Given the accent you're sporting, I'd have to say that's not a surprise," she replies easily. "Ice is no one's friend, even when you grow up with it, though. It's an equal-opportunity tripper-upper. I'm glad you're all right." Shoving her hands back into her pockets to take out gloves that she wasn't wearing until now — she did have her hands in her pockets, after all — and slip them on. "Welcome to New York. Are you just visiting or a new arrival to our fair city?" she asks easily.

“Internship interview before my first semester in college up here. If you’re evolved and want a good education, you come to New York, although getting a beignet here that's decent will be a stretch. Can't beat the ones on the square in N’awlins at Cafe DuMonde.” Cassandra is helped to her feet, wobbling under the backpack as she gets her footing, straightening and brushing her hair back behind her ears. Smiling, she looks over the city stretching around her from the knot of wilderness in its heart. “They say you can find anything here, so once I get up here permanently, I've got a little bit of exploring to take care of.” She kicks at the sheet of ice, sending a few chips flying. “Even with the ice.”

“And thank you for the welcome. I'm Cassie.”

"Liz," she offers with a grin. With her gloves on her hands, she actually tucks them back into her coat pockets. It's winter! And she's slender enough right now not to have any extra warmth really being generated internally. "Well, then I will wish you the best of luck on your interview as well," she tells the girl. Tilting her head, she looks interested. "What is it that you do, if you don't mind my asking? I'm always interested in how people's abilities relate to what they do for jobs."

“Thanks! The interview was a pain, but I'm going back in for a second one with a director of research at the university. They're trying to get a handle on what I can do.” And the way she moves from subject to subject means that she definitely doesn't mind. “I can see the past and show it to people.” Cassie says proudly, lacing her gloved fingers together, bouncing on the balls of her feet as she gleefully informs her new companion of what exactly she can do. “Give me a place or an object and I can show you what occurred with it by reading the sensations that have soaked into it. Like bending something so it holds its shape, I can read the shape and then project it out to people in about a ten foot radius, give or take.”

Elisabeth looks duly impressed by this. "So… basically a projecting postcog. Very cool! Are you interviewing for an internship with a museum or something? Cuz that would honestly rock my world," Liz admits with a grin. "Verify the Dare Stone's origins? Or… see if those bits of glass they found on Nikumaroro actually belonged to Amelia Earhart and she survived her plane's crash! The possibilities are just endlessly fascinating." Then she makes a face and laughs. "Sorry… history buff, I guess. Unsolved mystery history, anyway."

“Pretty much exactly what I can do.” Cassie wrinkles her nose and grins, stepping closer to the other woman - a more conversational distance than they had before. She’s a little shorter, having to look up to speak and maintain eye contact. “And it's wherever the university finds me a spot. A museum would be nice, but something that would help me get my feet wet outside of my ability would be cool, too. I mean, it's cool what I can do, but I don't want it to be the only thing, you know?” She thinks. “Right now it's Pinehearst, the Smithsonian, and a couple of other places who look interested in me. Offering jobs after graduation and the like.”

Cassie grins. “I was honestly thinking of getting my teaching certificate on top of my degree. Imagine the history classes with the spooky lady who can show you what it's like during the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”

"I don't know if I could possibly think of a cooler way to use that kind of ability," Elisabeth admits. "And anything that gets kids interested in civics and history is a huge plus." She rolls her eyes. "I actually taught high school for a little while. Take it from me, it's a serious challenge."

She pauses, though, as her brain parses the information the girl has unwittingly offered. "What are you actually studying? Pinehearst seems to have its fingers in a lot of pies, for certain."

“I'm fun at parties, too. Managed to find a shirt from a concert Queen did when they were still touring. I can show a small room Queen, live, in London around 1981 or so. Some big concert for Africa.” Cassandra looks thoughtful for a second or two. “It may not be the most altruistic of things to do with my ability, but it's a way to share a pretty cool memory.”

When asked her major, Cassie answers quickly. “History and Philosophy, probably. I always liked the big questions and finding out answers, so those both fit together pretty well. Philosophy helps me cut through the BS a lot of people throw out today, too….” Then, she pauses. “I've been blathering on about myself for so long….tell me about yourself, Liz? Where are you from?”

"Here and there, mostly here," Elisabeth replies easily. "Born and bred in the city. Left for college once. But I like it here. So I came back." She shrugs. "Not much to tell, honestly. Taught for a while, but decided it's not for me. Between jobs at this precise moment, but… a friend has convinced me to maybe attempt music as a profession. So… I might give it a shot." She smiles. "We'll see." She seems open about it all. "Are you going to Columbia? It's a good school."

“That’s the plan. There’s a rumor that they’re going to start specializing in studies with Evolved students, so I thought it might be a good idea to get in on the ground floor. Besides, the big city to a country girl like me?” Cassandra giggles again, cheerfully. “Might as well tell me to go so my contrary nature’ll keep me back home. At least I’m sure that’s what Daddy thinks.” Father issues, even after all that’s gone on in the world are ubiquitous.

Cassandra turns to look over the city again. “It’s just so big and compacted. More people in a square block here than in my entire Parish back home. It’s going to take some getting used to, being squashed in with all these people. And the subways…..that’s going to be an adventure.” An adventure in crowds, smells, and delays, but an adventure nonetheless. “You should give singing a try. I mean, you’ve got a nice speaking voice, so assuming you can sing too? Find yourself an evolved that can tinker with sounds and get yourself to hit an A above high C or something. Break glass around the city or hit lows that have people feel it in their bones. Assuming you’re going operatic.”

“What kind of music were you thinking about performing?” She pushes her hands into her pockets to keep them a little warmer.

The suggestion of finding a sound manipulator makes Elisabeth actually laugh out loud. It appears to startle her — Cassandra can't know it's the first time she's barked out a laugh like that in quite a while. For this moment, she seems positively impish. "You mean like this?" she teases, humming a couple of notes and then resonating them with a deep bass that makes it readily perceptible to the younger woman. Liz winks a blue eye at her. "I don't think opera is where I'd like to go. But we shall see," she says as she lets the hum die down. "I'm a little more … I dunno. Most of what I've played has been either classical when I was learning music or contemporary rock for my own enjoyment. Although I do have a fondness for Sinatra-era music as well."

It does startle Cassandra a little too, the girl stepping back a half-step, missing the ice as she does so. After the explanation a grin is flashed, her nose wrinkling a little as her teeth come into view with that grin. Her ‘you should find’ should have been ‘since you are,’ but since they have only just met, it’s probably understandable that she didn’t know such things. After all, it’s probably not something that Liz is comfortable broadcasting. Perhaps in time.
“That’s a useful ability. It took a little figuring out how to best use mine - tinkering with the like. Sometimes I wish I could just do something else, but that’s just being greedy, you know? Oh, reading and projecting the past isn’t good enough for you, Cassandra.” She puts on a haughty tone when she says that, devolving into giggles after a second. “You should just choose something you enjoy. A genre that you really like and just go with it. You could go with older style crooning music, or newer Jazz stuff like Snarky Puppy, or the classic Sinatra stuff, but that’s a good start. Be bold! Try new things in the middle of the classics and see what resonates.”

Elisabeth chuckles again at the look of surprise, and finds herself once more startled — it's been some time since she felt like laughing at anything, but the young woman before her literally embodies all the things that she and everyone she fought with hoped to accomplish. She is free to be herself, talk about her ability, and explore who and what she is. Inside her coat pocket, Liz's hand pushes sideways to rest on her abdomen, the bulge subtle and all but invisible to most people — especially in winter coats. The thought flashes through her mind that being here for the birth of her child might be the best thing that could happen to it, in some ways.

Pulling herself from the momentary reverie, Liz shrugs easily. "That's the plan," she tells Cassandra. "Literally, I guess. See what resonates." The pun makes her smile. "For you, though — and take it with a whole tablespoon of salt here, cuz I'm a stranger and you don't know me from a hole in the ground — I really hope that whatever you decide to do with your college and your internship, you pick something you love. Your father might not want you so far away, but if you're doing something that makes you truly happy, he'll be happy too."

“That’s the ultimate goal for me. And for everyone, really. Earn enough to get by comfortably and be fulfilled at work doing whatever it is that I’m doing. Fame and fortune could be a thing but, honestly….” Cassandra shrugs. “I don’t need a lot, really, to make me happy. Friends, family, and a safe place to hang my hat. I’ll have the third and second - apartment is supposedly being lined up with the college and my family is back home. Friends, on the other hand, may take a little time here unless I get lucky enough to find a group of people who want to learn French Creole or something.”

Standing in the park in the middle of January isn’t the best place for conversation, a gust of wind sending her long hair whipping around her head and threatening to snatch her hat from her head. “You’re right, Liz, I don’t know you from a hole in the ground, but Mama Marie always said that strangers are friends you just haven’t met yet. Feel like showing me a good place to get something to eat? This is my first full day here, after all, and having a local show me a few spots always works out well, when they’re as friendly as you are.”

Tilting her head, Liz studies the young woman. Somewhat drily, she asks, "Didn't your parents warn you that inviting strangers to lunch with you could be dangerous in the big city?" She's mostly teasing, honestly. But the positivity that Cassandra practically radiates is a balm to her grief and stress levels, which she really needs to get lowered before some doctor somewhere has a conniption over her blood pressure. So somewhat selfishly she actually wants to remain in the younger woman's company for a while. "Sure," she says finally. "You in the mood for a really good New York deli? Or a really good New York pizza? Cuz those are the two things any visitor to this city should have on their first trip here."

Pulling one gloved hand from her pocket as the wind takes her breath away for a moment, she covers her mouth and nose briefly. Wow, that's brisk! And then she gestures along the path away from Belvedere Castle. As they begin to move, she walks with a limp, but she's a New Yorker through and through — which means she may walk a bit faster than Cassandra expected even with that minor handicap slowing her stride.

Cassie gives Elisabeth a look that’s been practiced over a decade and a half of being a daughter of a somewhat overprotective father, with the head tilt and roll of the eyes that translates surprisingly well, despite being bundled up in heavy winter clothes. “Now you’re starting to sound like Daddy,” she huffs, poking her tongue out before wiping her face with her gloves, her cheeks rosy from the breeze that’s decided to whip through the park at that very moment, a flurry of snow brought along with it. “Part of the reason I came here instead of LSU was because it’s far enough away for a family visit if they want, but not close enough for them to just call and say ‘hey, we’re twenty minutes away’ and just show up on my doorstep.” Independent, isn’t she?

At the question about what she’s in the mood for, there’s no hesitation. “I’m in the mood for wherever is closest that gets us out of this breeze and into somewhere warmer. Decent food would be a plus, but out of the weather is a bigger one right about now. Pizza’s a good choice there, though.”

Nodding, Liz considers several really good pizzerias that she knows about. Then she heads in the direction of the one she mentally decided on. "All right, then. Pizza it is." As they walk, she asks curiously, "You said you were interviewing with Pinehearst. Any thoughts on what kinds of things you'll do there in the internship?"

“Honestly, no idea. Pinehearst is so big and does so many things, that I literally could be doing anything for them. So far it’s been a bunch of ‘leveraging synergies to achieve the highest quality of service for our valued customers’ talk.” Cassandra flaps her hand like a talking mouth as they walk. “Blah blah blah. Bunch of corporate BS.” She sounds a little frustrated at that. “So far they’re the ones that apparently want me the most, offering considerably more than everyone else in the terms of resources and experience, but not knowing what I’m actually going to be doing until I’m hired and under a few NDA’s is a little…daunting.” She walks, hunched over her backpack as she goes, managing to keep up with Liz’s ground-eating pace, almost having to break into a jog at one point.

"Yeah, that sounds a little alarming, I guess… of course, if you get hired and find out what they're up to and then decide you don't want to work for them, you can always walk," Elisabeth offers mildly. "It's a corporation. I mean, it's not like it's the only one out there, even though they're offering the most money. Generally they do some pretty good work on the ground." Despite what she knows is happening behind the scenes and her own personal paranoia of the situation, the outward appearance — and honestly, probably the vast majority of people in the whole company! — are just doing the normal kinds of jobs that allow the business to function and do all kinds of charitable works too.

Liz slows her walk a bit more. "Sorry about that. You rather learn to move fast when you live here — otherwise, you just never get anywhere on time," she says with a smile. "There's practically no point to having a vehicle — parking it anywhere in this city is prohibitive."

It takes a few extra steps for Cassandra to catch up to Liz, tottering on another slick patch of ice before she gains her footing, walking at a much faster rate than she had been before so she can keep up. “I was thinking a bicycle or something like that. Some of the guys back home were saying I should try a skateboard, but I don’t think my knees could handle the pounding. I /like/ being able to walk without being dosed with a fistful of advil and anticipate not needing knee replacement for several decades to come.” Liz’s limp isn’t noticed or commented on - the girl does have some manners, it seems.

“That’s the thing I’m trying to be the most careful about. My ability lets me see things that some people may not want me to see. Or that I don’t want to see. I really don’t have the…fine tuning? I guess….to pick up what an image will be before it starts to roll yet. Hopefully I’ll find a mentor that can help me with that sort of thing and help me get that kind of control, but for now….the black box of the unknown is kind of a big deal, y’know? I’m so used to looking back - looking forward is a difficult thing, sometimes.”

Elisabeth looks thoughtful at the comment, choosing to not respond for a time as they negotiate their way through paths still a little slick with icy spots. When they reach the street, she looks at the younger woman and says, "you're pretty smart for someone just about to start college." It's a general tease, not meant to be offensive. "It can be really hard to look forward when you're so busy looking back to see how things could have gone differently." She smiles faintly. "Looking forward was exactly what I was trying to find a way to do when you tripped behind me today. Mom always said everything happens for a reason. People are always exactly where they're supposed to be exactly when they're supposed to be there, even if they don't know it."

The pizza place is busy as they approach, but there are still seats available, so they get in and get a small table for two off to one side, Elisabeth taking the seat with her back to the wall automatically. She shrugs out of her coat and it's easy to see that she must have been sick or something recently — she's very slender, the bones of her face a little more prominent than they should be perhaps, and her skin a little pale even for a blonde in winter. Her collar bones, exposed by the neckline of her sweater just a bit, also look a little more pronounced than they perhaps should. She runs a hand through her short hair after she takes off her knitted hat, tousling the blonde strands even more, and then smiles. "So… besides seeing Queen perform live — which, by the way, I would pay good money to see! — what's the coolest thing that you've seen? I mean that you thought was cool, not that everyone else did."

“I’m not that smart.” Cassie blushes as she says this, turning on to the street and keeping up with Liz as she walks. “I just fake it better than most and have my priorities in more or less of a line. I can’t imagine not having some kind of idea of the outcome I’m trying to work towards. Blindly stumbling from one catastrophe to another and hoping it all works out is no way to get through life, although….” She taps her nose with a gloved fingertip. “With this place, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the status quo.”

The pair walk for a few moments more in relative silence, the city surrounding them, inviting and alive even after the disaster a few years prior. And when they arrive, just walking into the warmth of the pizza place from the cold of the street is a relief. The warmth and the smells of baking dough and melting cheese envelop the two women, the cacophony of conversation driving them to the table in the back where they sit. Cassie takes a few seconds to shed a couple of layers - her hat, gloves, scarf, and coat particularly, a cute padded vest on beneath that she unzips to reveal a long-sleeved shirt beneath. Pushing her hair back, she quickly ties it with a band and smiles at the other woman, looking her over for a second. She specifically does not comment on the slenderness that Liz shows off once her jacket is off, either. You just don’t talk to a woman about her weight.

“It’s a silly thing, really.” Cassandra says softly. “I mean, in the scheme of things, it’s really not that big of a deal, but to me, it kind of is. It’s a chunk of my baby blanket from some…ahem….number of years ago.” only seventeen and already she’s cagey about her age. “I can hold it and I can see my mom and dad and grandma, all sitting around me on the couch. I’m probably…like two months old? If that? Just to the point where I’m looking around and gnawing on my own hand. And I just remember watching that, and seeing my mom everyone just glowing and touching me and letting me hold their fingers.” She takes a quick breath and smiles. She’s not going to show she’s homesick here, in front of this nice lady. “Anyway, that’s the favorite thing I’ve seen relating to me. Coolest thing I’ve seen not relating to me?” She thinks for a second. “I got to see a steering wheel from an indy car once. That was neat, riding along in the race at 200 miles per hour. Or a horn from a jazz club from the 20’s….that was awesome, too, sitting in the dark and watching Louis Armstrong play trumpet for a while. But once I got a roman coin and, for a /second/ I was in a little village outside of Italy somewhere - a little villa. Just a flash, but….” she grins. “I can show people the world.”

In a ten foot area, but still.

Elisabeth seems fascinated by the things that Cassandra talks about having seen. And she smiles slightly, leaning on her elbows while she listens. "I think that what you can do is so amazing," she admits. "It seems like a lot more interesting in a lot of ways than manipulating sound. But then again, maybe the grass is always greener on the other side of that fence, right?"

When the waiter comes, she asks for a water and then lets Cassandra choose what goes on their pizza. "Anything but fruit and hairy fish." She pauses. "And no peppers. I'm pretty sure that'll upset my stomach," she admits ruefully.

So no pineapple and no…hairy fish. Cassie eyes Liz for a moment or two at that declaration, sitting back, ordering a water for herself, too. Like she’d order such a thing. She’s Cajun, not tasteless. The waiter gets a grin. “So how crazy can I get here? Anything off the wall, or is this a normal pizza shop?”

The waiter rolls his eyes and looks to Liz for a second, as if to silently ask ‘is she serious?’ before turning back to Cassandra. “Normal pizza joint. Strangest we get is shrimp, sometimes, if we have it.” Implying they don’t.

“Oh.” Cassandra blinks, leaning back. “Then do…um…grilled chicken, cheese, onions, yellow and red peppers, and if you’ve got it, avocado after it’s out of the oven. Season with chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder…. ” Her head tilts towards Liz. “Chicken Fajita Pizza.”

Elisabeth eyes the girl from the South and then looks at the waiter. "Okay… she can have that on her half." She might try it, the tone implies, but uh-uh. "For we normal people, margherita with extra mozzarella and throw some pepperoni and italian sausage on top." Then she pauses and looks vaguely apologetic. "And spinach and extra tomatoes." He gives her the eyeball on that one, and she shrugs. "What can I say? I'm only mostly normal."

He rolls his eyes and takes their order, heading for the kitchen. Probably to tell his mother back there about the crazy ladies ordering FANCY pizza.

The blonde grins slightly. "Spinach suddenly sounded ridiculously amazing," she informs the younger girl. "Chalk it up to hormones." And lack of fresh vegetables for the past four months. Because now she's suddenly craving veggies like no one's business. She'll have to stop on the way home.

It actually can be heard from their table, the surprise. “Dese broads want WHAT on dey pizza?”

Liz covers her mouth, stifling laughter at the sound of the indignant, incredulous demand.

The waitress does some convincing and with a lodged complaint, the pizza cook gets to work. It'll be about ten minutes, give or take, leaving Cassie and Liz along to chat. “Don't be like that. It's good! At least I didn't order a crawfish pizza.” Mainly because she knew they wouldn't have it and springing mudbugs on someone right out of the fate might be frowned upon.

“Ugh, I know what you mean. I get cravings every few months that I just have to satiate. I wake up and my body tells me, you know, you want a shrimp poboy, like now.” She's chalking it up to the monthly cravings some women get right before their time of the month, not ‘bun in the oven’ as Liz is intending. “Generally my cravings are for things like fruit, but sometimes…most of the time, it's chocolate.” She sighs with a smile.” “Next stop after pizza is somewhere with good hot chocolate.”

"I don't think they'd know what the hell a crawfish even is," Elisabeth laughs outright. She does wrinkle her nose at the mention of hot chocolate. "I'll leave you to that," she tells the younger woman. "Chocolate's definitely not on my list of wants today." In point of fact, the thought is kind of disgusting. Richard would laugh his ass off.

It makes her smile as she realizes that, though it also makes her suddenly want to just get up and run out of here before she has unexpected waterworks. Christ, she's acting bizarre the past few days. As if not being where her life was on the line gave her body permission to act like an asshole!

"So when do you head back for home, and when are you back up this way?" she asks, trying to divert herself back on topic.

“Once you get past the Mason-Dixon Line, they move from being food to a story, or tiny little lobsters depending on where you go.” At least, that's what Cassie heard on her way here. “I head back in a couple of days, then come back up here for my last semester in High School. Short break for summer and then right into it.” Cassandra takes a sip of her water and smiles. “I got lucky. A family is letting me stay with them in Brooklyn for the spring semester, and once this is over and done with, home for the summer and then back up here and voila, I start here at Columbia.” She must be something really special for all these advantages to be offered.

Elisabeth looks thoughtful and then smiles. "I'm betting that your parents are a little worried about you being up here by yourself like that," she comments quietly. "So… listen, if you want to keep in touch when you get back? I'll leave you my number and you can call me if you need anything. Until you get on your feet and stuff, okay? It would have made my dad feel a lot better if I'd had that when I first went to college, I think." She seems a little bit uncertain about making the offer.

Liz gets another one of those looks - it’s a given that Cassandra’s parents are worried about her and the girl does care. “Yeah, they are. A lot, actually. I mean, I call pretty much every evening, tell them about my day and stuff, but this is my first big girl overnight trip and it’s kind of sudden. They knew it was coming, too, but it kind of snuck up on them, y’know? Time flies when you’re not paying attention. Just snuck up on them before they knew it.”

She nods after a moment of thought, a smile appearing. “I think I’d really like that, Liz. Having someone to talk to up here, face to face…would be nice. You don’t mind that I’m, ahem, younger, do you?”

Blinking, Liz looks startled. "Uhm… I'm not sure how to take that," she laughs. "Are we in competition for the same guys or something?" She winks a blue eye at the girl. "No, I don't mind that you're 'younger'. Although… it makes me rather feel like I need to be carrying a cane or something when you say it like that," she chuckles. Sipping from her water, he looks rather amused. "If you're too much teenager in your brain, I might occasionally thump you on the back of the head to get you straighten up and fly right, though," she admits, her grin firmly creasing her cheeks.

That’s not what Cassandra meant at all when she said that, and the expression on her face shows it. “No, I mean…usually sophisticated mature people - not old, mind you - don’t generally hang out with kids my age. They go do other stuff, like go to museum openings or concerts in the park or something. Not hang out in pizza parlors ordering ‘fancy’ pizzas that make the cook yell.”

And, as if on cue, the pizza - half Margherita with extra spinach, mozzarella, with pepperoni and sausage on top, ‘chicken fajita’ on the other, arrives, the waiter refilling the glasses of water after setting the pizza on top of a little stand in the middle. “Enjoy.” And with that, the server slinks off to take care of the other tables.

“I’m not really considering going after the same guys you would…” Cassandra plucks a slice of her pizza off and slips it on to the plate. “So that’s totally out. Having someone to bounce ideas off of….that would help, I think. Someone to…confide in, i guess?” She takes a bite, blowing out as the cheese is kind of volcanic at this point.

Elisabeth just laughs, a full-out belly laugh like she hasn’t done… in what feels like forever. It takes her several minutes to get the laughter under control and she wipes at her eyes with a napkin plucked from the center of the table when she finally does stop giggling. “Oh God. Thank you. I needed that so much, you have no idea.” She takes a couple of deeper breaths, fanning her face a bit with that napkin, still mirthful.

“All right — so let’s see. To answer the question, no, I don’t mind a bit. It’s… hard to explain, but honestly? You’ve given me a glimpse of something I really haven’t had in quite some time, Cassandra, and I enjoy your company. We definitely won’t be looking at the same men,” she teases. “If only because I’m going to be far too busy dealing with a new baby to be a cougar about eyeballing the guys who might appeal to you.” She shakes her head, chuckling again. “Oh God, your face.” Waving that away, she finally helps herself to a piece of the pizza, leaving on her plate to cool for a minute as she sips from her water.

“But besides all that, honestly… I hate the idea that you’re all of barely 18 and here by yourself,” she admits. “New York is a challenge and while I don’t think you’re ignorant by any stretch, I think maybe just having someone you can pick up the phone and say ‘I need a hand’ — at least until you’re settled and on your own two feet — can’t hurt.”

Cassie’s pizza is left to cool, strings of cheese still steaming visibly against the dark wood of the booth that they’ve chosen. She’s taking several drinks to try and get the volcanic flames in her mouth to go down just a little bit while Elisabeth’s peals of laughter echo through the pizza place, and, thankfully, does not spit take whenever Elisabeth nonchalantly drops the fact she’s going to be having a baby.

“What, seriously?” She bounces in the red vinyl booth, grinning. “When you mentioned hormones I thought you meant the usual ones, not baby ones!” It’s hard to not laugh a little at the thought of Elisabeth, with a baby on one hip, seducing the guys that Cassandra would be interested in.

Not that she couldn’t pull it off, of course. Guys do respond to older…what is the term? MILF?

Cassie scoots to kind of lean against the wall, one foot pulled under herself, just looking at Liz for a moment. “I…thank you, Liz. I mean…I wasn’t expecting anything like this at all. A random encounter in the park, me falling on my backside and sliding into a snowbank, and here, I've found someone who’s offering to…y’know. Help out and stuff.” She bobs her head in the affirmative. “Yeah, yeah. I think I’d like that, as long as I can do the same for you. With a baby on the way, you probably will need a couple of extra hands leading up to and after.”

"Certainly would not be amiss, although… I have some friends who are going to be around too." Elisabeth smiles slightly. "Still, if you're looking for part-time work when you're in school, perhaps a babysitting gig, if you're in the least interested in such things," she replies. Taking up a fork to cut pieces from her pizza and eat it — cuz it's just too damn hot! — she looks thoughtful. "Besides… I would really like to keep up to speed on what you're doing at Pinehearst. Generally speaking, I've heard they're a decent company. But… you never quite know with corporations."

“If they’re all as nice as you, we’ll get along just fine.” The pizza, now cooled, is lifted, folded over, and a big bite is taken. “S’good. You should try mine.” Cassandra sits up a little more. “I don’t mind babysitting. I took care of the little girl next door for a few years for extra pocket money. My CPR and first aid certifications have lapsed, but those are probably something I can get fairly easy up here. Is it a boy or a girl? And have you thought of a name yet?”

Elisabeth shakes her head at the offer of chicken fajita pizza. Cuz… eew. No. As they eat, she says, "I'm not as hyped up about certifications as you might think, Cassandra." She smiles slightly. "I haven't found out yet. It's too early — I'm just barely edging into the second trimester. And no… I really don't have a clue what I'll call it. It's about all I can do to wrap my head around its existence. It was something of a surprise that I sprung on myself at Christmas — Merry Christmas to me, right?" There's a moment where she looks more than a little sad. Then she clears her throat and says, "And well… single parenthood scares the crap out of me despite the help I know I'll have, so… you know. I'm just trying to get my head wrapped around the idea that in addition to trying to start a career of some kind, now I'm going to be doing it around someone wholly dependent on me for everything. It's a little daunting," she admits.

“Just do what my parents did. Be happy that you’re having a baby and want it to be healthy. That’s it. Let the baby come and then take stuff as it pops up, and do your best to make the world that it comes into the best that you can. You’re doing a lot better than most of the girls at my school did when they ended up pregnant after fooling around with their boyfriends.” Teen pregnancy is still a thing, even in the Bright future. Cassie takes another bite of her pizza, thinking. “And be sure to come up with a list of names. My friend Sherilyn didn’t have her baby’s name until two days after he was out and ended up naming him after some guy on TV because she just couldn’t think of one. I think she named him Sheldon after that guy from the Big Bang Theory, or something. Poor kid’s stuck with that name for his whole life now.”

“Listen. You can get through this. People do this every day and thrive. It’s not going to be easy…like I know what I’m talking about, but I know enough to know it’s not easy. As long as you do the best you can, it’ll all work out.” She takes another bite. “I’ll help as much as I can, if you’ll let me, and I bet your friends will, too. Have you looked into help, like assistance stuff, for new moms from Churches and stuff?”

Elisabeth stares for a long moment at the teenager in front of her. That the teens have such an outlook on unexpected pregnancies doesn't exactly surprise her — she was a high school teacher. But it amuses her how simple it all looks, when you're looking at it from a certain point of view. "I have not," she says around a bite of her pizza, "but thank you for reminding me that it's there if I need it. I'll do that if I need to." She can't exactly go back to her old church — the Elisabeth who belongs to this world will still have contacts there. But there are plenty of Catholic churches in this city. There's one not that far from the sublet that she and Ygraine have right now… Our Lady of Fatima. It seems a nice community. She'll have to keep it in mind.

"And I promise, no lame names." Elisabeth grins.

“Darn tootin. If I’m going to be watching this baby, I don’t want to end up calling her something silly, like Daenerys or Draygon or Hermione something like that. Pick something that you’ve not heard very much but still fits. One kid at school was named Caspar. Like the ghost.” Cassie giggles a little. “His go-to halloween costume was anything, just ghostly. Ghost-ghostbuster? Ghost-alien? You name it, he ghosted it. Whitest kid in the world too, with blond hair and freckles. Like a ginger that got dipped in bleach.”

Elisabeth finds herself just more amused by the moment at this energetic young woman. And as they eat their pizza and chat about the random things that come to mind, she realizes … she can breathe again. For the first time in months, something feels normal. It feels good and strange at the same time. But she is grateful for whatever it was that sent her walking to Belvedere today, because the reminder that this world for the most part is a good place is a welcome one. Not that she can ever forget anything that's happened or might be coming at her, but for this one peaceful moment, it's good to be somewhere that at least looks like home.

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