A Good Thing


colette_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title A Good Thing
Synopsis Colette stops in Chinatown to eat a Cup of Noodles. Winds up sharing a surprise dinner with Tamara instead.
Date August 27, 2008

Canal Street Market, Chinatown

Day or night, Canal Street is busy in Chinatown. Perfumes, purses, produce, pork, and poultry are all sold side by side in busy open storefronts. One entire portion of the street is dedicated to nothing but jewelry stores catering to various price ranges. Box vendors sell all manner of sizzling foodstuffs to passing pedestrians, some of it identifiable, some of it better left unexplained. The ambiance is one of business and pleasure.

Lit by a swarming sea of headlights, street lamps, neon signs and interior lighting, the bustling Canal Street Market is packed shoulder to shoulder and moves to an urban pulse. Amidst the tight crowds of residents and visitors, it would be hard to see that New York had collapsed in on itself in this cross-section. Spared as much as it could be after the explosion, Chinatown had endured as a pillar of New York City, and its refusal to succumb to the collapse of the other burroughs around it only contributed to the surge of population and interest here after the rebuilding began.

It is within all of this play of lights on the dark streets where that strong facade begins to show its structural cracks. A district so small can hardly sustain the some two-hundred and fifty-thousand residents, piled upon with transients seeking shelter, the unaccounted for displaced housed in local homeless shelters, and the thousands of visitors that pass through each and every day. There simply isn't enough Chinatown to go around, and in the face of more pressing reconstruction, the condition of this portion of the city has begun to continue a slow decline in the years following the bomb. Potholes line the market's street, pieces of broken sidewalk litter the curbsides, and the facades of so many buildings have begun to take on the look of post-bomb New York that so many other regions had assumed. No place in new York was truly spared, some just didn't know they were wounded yet.

"Thanks, yeah…" Squeezing between two long lines outside of a food vendor, Colette Nichols cups her hands around a small cup of instant noodles. Moving to settle down on a bench, the girl looks up at the murky sky overhead, clouds having mottled the night sky. Just cradling the cup between her hands, she leans back on the bench, slouching down on the worn, wooden seat until she can rest the back of her head, keeping her eyes focused up. She stays this way, transfixed on the dark sky overhead, contemplating her unsatisfying meal she was about to force down. "Detective…" She says to herself, wrinkling her nose, "Detective…" Her eyes follow the motion of the clouds— only one seeing them— and breathes out a heavy sigh. "Pain in the ass."

However packed the sidewalks may be, with the hopeful, the busy, the visitors and the lost, Tamara never seems to notice. Were anyone to watch her progress down the street, it would appear almost that there was no crowd, the older teen navigating the spaces between pedestrians with deft ease, if no particular hurry. Her hair is not so tangled as it might be, looking mostly windmussed — as though she'd been outside all day. She wears a dark green knit blouse, its edges showing wear; the jeans are more visibly secondhand, but that's hardly unusual anymore.

Blue eyes that aren't quite clear spot the younger girl on her bench, and Tamara's lips curve in a warm, pleased smile. A smile that makes her seem rather younger than her actual years. Shifting the weight of the paper bag she carries in her arms — with a red logo in Chinese on the side, it could've come from anywhere in this district — the young woman steps around the bench, approaching such that she is in Colette's field of view. Startling the girl is not her intent.

Making a soft sound in the back of her throat as she sees someone approaching the bench, Colette hastily scooted to one side, making room instead of hogging the middle of the bench as she had been, "Sorry…" It was a mumbled apology, and she leaned forward, resting her forearms on her knees as she stared down into the cup of noodles. She avoided eye contact after a moment of being caught in Tamara's, and bites down on her lower lip as she looks with disinterest down into the steaming styrofoam cup. There was no exchanged plesantries, not even a hello, just a silent withdrawl into herself as she tried to take up as little space on the bench as she could.

Watching Colette withdraw, Tamara tips her head to one side. "Benches are for sharing," she observes, settling herself comfortably on one side. Even with the bag, she takes up half of the bench, no more — and allowing some space for separation into the measurement. Colette may decide to stay over in her corner, but it won't be for lack of space to expand into.

The bag is soon placed on the concrete, next to Tamara's feet. Brown paper rustles as she unfolds the top, digging around inside. Three of the classic white cardboard Chinese food containers come out — the kind that aren't quite as prevalent as they used to be — and are set square between the girls, close enough to Colette that it seems an unspoken invitation to share. The silverware — stainless steel, actually, but real metal and not plastic — wrapped in a green cloth napkin is not so subtle a clue; not when Tamara extracts a second set for herself.

"Oh, ah, yeah…" The girl's brows furrowed and her lips twisted to one side as she caught the aroma coming from the paper bag as it was opened. Looking down with growing distaste for the noodles in the cup that may as well have also been made of styrofoam, Colette looked as the containers were placed on the bench beside her, giving them a double-take as silverware is laid down. "Oh, ah— " That couldn't be for her, "— were you waiting for someone? I can go move or something…" She motions over her shoulder with one hand in an abstraction of a place to go. "I'm…" Her mis-matched gaze drifts back over to the boxes laid out between her and the stranger, "Y-yeah, ah, I'll make m'self scarce…" She begins to mumble more as her awkwardness rises. This, of course, was exactly what Tamara was expecting given the situation, even a reaction as simple as this had its purpose in the long-view. As Colette began to rise to her feet, she collided with a couple approaching from her blind side. The impact sent the girl stumbling back onto the bench as the styrofoam cup holding her noodles cracked apart and spilled down the front of her zippered hoodie.

"Goddamnit!" She hissed, and the couple only offered hollow apologies as they ducked their heads down and moved away from the bench, followed by nervous laughter once they assumed they were out of earshot, "God, damnit." Throwing the split cup aside with a squeaking growl of frustration, the young girl shook both her hands, spraying the remnants of her dinner on the sidewalk. "I-I'm sorry…" She glanced up at the girl beside her, unzipping her soiled hoodie, "Look — ah — I'm kind've a klutz, I'm so sorry…" She hadn't got a single drop on her visitor, even the chinese food had been spared a single drop with its strategic placement. Colette hadn't thought anything odd of it, who would?

Canting her head, Tamara watches Colette go through the attempt at leaving. She could tell her it won't work — but much is beyond her control, and sometimes people have to make their own decisions and figure things out the hard way. That's just how it is.

In the end, the smile she gives Colette is a gentle one. Setting her silverware down, Tamara holds out her hands for the hoodie, fingers twitching in a 'gimme' motion. "Why do I have to wait for someone?" she asks the younger girl. "Maybe it already is what should have been."

Fuming while she takes the hoodie off and looks at it with a frustrated expression, Colette's focus darts back over to the other girl as she motions fo rthe hoodie, "Wh…" She cuts herself off mid-sentence, one brow arching, "Do… I know you?" She turned around to look behind her, then to her left and right, leaning back to look beyond the girl to see if there was some gathering of snickering onlookers. "Are… are you from the shelter?" Her brows knit together as she looks at the offered hand, curiosity and nervousness battling behind her mis-matched eyes, both soon overwhelmed by the smell of the food. She submits to the gesture, handing the balled up sweater over. "Really, I'm kind've bad with names… and faces?" She pursed her lips, glancing back down at the food again with a puzzled expression. "You…" Her half-blind gaze lifts to meet the stormy blue of Tamara's, and she loses her words for a moment, caught in something there. Not even bothering to finish them as she tries to puzzle out this enigma sitting beside her.

Shaking the sweater out and laying it across her knees, Tamara pulls another pair of cloths from the paper bag and occupies herself with patting the worst of the mess off the garment's front. Though her face is in profile to Colette, that same soft smile is still clearly present. There is no ridicule, no snickering, no condesencion — and no pity. Just warmth, and a hint of knowledge that might be unsettling — if for no other reason than that Tamara /is/ a stranger. But she timed this encounter carefully, and so saves Colette from experiencing the worst of her madness right off the bat. That would not have been so good. Blue eyes lift to her companion. "Do you want to?" Tamara asks curiously, an incongruous hint of almost little-kid-hopeful to her tone. "I liked that." The right hand reappears, held out to Colette. "Tamara." She's harmless, honest!

She was more confused now than she was before, watching a perfect stranger cleaning up a mess off of her clothing that was entirely her own fault. Colette watches Tamara's careful motions with the cloths, wiping off the wasted dinner with one and sopping up the dampness with the other. Her mouth hangs open slightly, brows tensing and relaxing as she tries to puzzle out the unusual circumstance. "D-do I what?" Her eyes widened slightly — she wasn't expecting that — but the innocent tone of her voice and the puzzling words said immediately thereafter continue to juggle her around in a haze of confusion. By the time a hand is held out to her, she's so off her usual guard and wrapped up in the moment that a rather goofy smile crosses her lips as she reaches out to take the offered hand with her own, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Ah, Colette." The girl watches Tamara for a few more moments, realizing she hadn't disengaged the handshake, and slowly slips her hand down to her lap.

"Ah, you…" She looked away, doing her best to try and pry her eyes away from the older girl's, "Do you do this often?" A glance down to the food, then to the sweater and back again, searching those eyes at this poor angle, for something she can't quite pin down. "You know, show up with dinner out of the blue and… clean people's clothes?" She laughed nervously at her own poor attempt at a joke.

Good. Very good. Tamara is content to hold the handshake until Colette lets go, at which point she faces forward again and sets about folding the sweater. That way, it isn't so obvious when her eyes briefly close. One hurdle past. But now… now she has to hang on for long enough. Can't relax yet.

Tucking the sweater away in the paper bag, the older teen looks over at Colette when she continues with questions. A faint shadow clouds her expression, and she doesn't answer quickly. The easy replies have a chance of weirding out the younger girl just that bit too much. A chance Tamara doesn't want to risk. "Often? I… don't think so." Implication: define 'often'. Actuality: I really don't know. "Only when it's a good thing."

"A good thing?" Colette's nose wrinkles as she laughs, hesitantly reaching for one of the white boxes between her and Tamara. She only waits long enough to see that she isn't swatted away immediately before lifting back the metal brace that aids in keeping the lid closed. Flipping open the top of the box, she finds it stuffed full of crab rangoons, her eyes widening in disbelief as she looks back up to Tamara, "Good things— " She glances back at the food, then up at the girl, completely missing her eyes closing, " —those are in short order these days." She begins to reach for some of the food, then pauses, curling her fingers closed and withdrawing her hand after a moment. "Um, alright, r-really though… You just…" She looks around for a moment, "You just show up with food, here and… felt like sharing?" She stumbled to her own conclusions, right or not, "I mean, that's… That's nice. I mean, more than nice — but — I just…" Don't know what to say? Want to start eating so badly. Want to know how old you are. Want to say thank you. Need a friend so desperately. Need someone. "I'm not sure what to say." Tamara did, she'd heard it all, so to speak.

Colette is in absolutely no danger of being swatted away. Tilting her head, Tamara gazes steadily at the younger girl, shadow vanishing in favor of a cheerful smile. There's no 'just' about it, and Colette will figure that out eventually — but for now, let's establish the 'friend' part. Complications can wait. At least until after dinner. "You don't need to." For the moment, that's true; later, Tamara won't remember what wasn't said — but she won't have easy access to what was, either. Such is the past. The young woman simply nods at the boxes. "Go ahead."

It didn't take anything more than that for Colette to snatch a rangoon from the box, hurriedly eating as if she'd been hungering for something substantial all day. One, then another, then one more vanished into the girl before she wiped at her mouth with her fingers, then glimpsed the cloth napkin that had held the silverware in place. Carefully tugging it out from beneath the fork and knife, she dabbed at her mouth with it, letting out a contented sound as her eyes closed for a brief moment. "T-thanks…" She was embarrassed about her own mannerisms, "Look, ah, Tamara?" She really was bad with names, "I… can't really repay you for any of this. I mean, it's not like I have a job or… anything." She glances down at the paper bag now containing her hoodie, and at that same moment notices the condition of Tamara's clothing. By the time she sees the way Tamara's hair looks so wind-tousled, Colette made a sheepish expression, followed by a soft sound in the back of her throat as she picked up the box of rangoons with one hand, offering it up to Tamara. "Have some, before I eat it all." She edged a bit closer, no longer awkwardly separating herself on the edge of the bench, "C'mon." She reached in and plucked out one deep-fried morsel, "I'm not eating this all by myself." A smile crept up across her lips, she hadn't even quite noticed it was there either.

Colette's belated consideration doesn't evoke any sort of self-consciousness from Tamara. She just tips her head the other way, and smiles again, taking a rangoon of her own out of the box. "No, you didn't," the older teen agrees. She studies the piece for a moment, turning it over in her hands; resisting the impulse to fidget, Tamara takes a bite out of one side and chews slowly on it. Blue eyes flicker to the street, seeming perhaps to darken a bit, expression contemplative. "You didn't need to. It's not yours to repay." A beat of silence, then Tamara turns to Colette again, smile touched with faint apology. She's trying not to be too strange. In order to not say anything potentially unwise, Tamara pops the rest of the rangoon into her mouth.

"I didn't… what?" Colette arches one dark brow at the puzzling statement, then snorts out a laugh as she watches the girl take the rangoon and very delicately begin eating it, "You're really weird." She had absolutely no idea, in this instance anyway. That comment is followed by laughter, a bit less nervous than the earlier bit to slip from the young girl. "So, I guess I'm kind've glad I got delayed on the way here now. Free dinner!" She cracks a crooked smile, taking on a more relaxed and playful mood, beginning to seem less like she's hiding herself behind a distant facade, and more like she's acting more naturally. "It's a good weird, though…" She considers her earlier words, snatching another rangoon before eyeing the other boxes, "So, you never did say…" Colette looked back up to Tamara, her half-blind stare looking the girl over, "Do you live at the shelter? I really don't pay much attention to everyone there, so… I mean, I'm sorry if I don't remember you." An apologetic smile crossed her lips, and then girl set the box of rangoons down, leaning against the back of the bench.

Another smile at the mention of being weird. "Yes," Tamara agrees easily. Unlike her companion, she doesn't quite relax. She reaches into the box to take out another rangoon — if only to hold it in her hand for the moment. "No. Their ears were closed." No shelters for her — at least not long-term. Odds are, the next question is some variant of 'why me, then'… Chewing on the rangoon, Tamara looks over at Colette, waiting to see if she chooses to ask. Hoping she doesn't. Faint creases line her brow, and the teen takes a moment to rub at her face.

"Yeah, they are a little obtuse there." Colette shakes her head, smiling broadly as she opens the box to find the beef lo mein and beams with excitement, "Ah! You have awesome taste in food, this is like, my favorite!" Her smile remains as she nabs one of the forms and scoots a bit closer, picking up another fork and offering it to Tamara, obviously willing to share the box. "So, why me, then?" It was rather exactly as Tamara had forseen, though perhaps with a bit more brandished fork. "Did I look that pathetic with my cheap noodles?" Her tone turns self-depreciating, but the smile doesn't fade, and is only accompanied by a goofy laugh as she stares down into the box of noodles. "Really, this… is the nicest thing anybody's done for me in a long time." Colette nods, beginning to ramble, "You're awesome in my book." She nods once more, affirming her sentiment to herself.

Colette smiles; Tamara doesn't quite. Almost - but only almost. She glances away, looking down the street in the direction of Brooklyn, perhaps as though some sound had caught her attention. Given the background noise in the market, it's possible something had meaning to the older teen.

Whatever it is, the girl stands up, folding the napkin back around her unused utensils and tucking them into the bag. To forestall any protests that she hasn't eaten, Tamara takes the third box with her; stepping behind the bench, she rests a light hand on Colette's shoulder. "I hope you let me stay there." The words are clear and coherent; painfully so for Tamara, but only those who know her well might recognize the difference. Closing her eyes, she ducks her head slightly and begins to walk away.The other two boxes, both sets of utensils, and the paper bag with Colette's sweater are left behind.

As Tamara makes to depart, a television set in one of the nearby storefronts — the only way for many people in this neighborhood to watch the news — is taken over by a 'special report' detailing the explosion that happened just a short time prior in Brooklyn.

In the middle of stuffing her face, Colette looks up with wide eyes and a mouth full of lo mein as Tamara rises, "Mnhf, mnht!" She slurps up the noodles and stands up straight, holding the box of lo mein in one hand still as she gives Tamara a puzzled expression, "W-wait, did I say something?" There was a distantly pleading tone in her voice, "I ah, I'm—" It was what Tamara said next that caught her more off-guard. "Wait, stay where?" She began to take a step forward, when she caught sight of the orange glow on the televisions stacked up in the storefront window. She turned, looking at the aerial shot of a city block engulfed in smoke, burning wreckage, and her mouth hangs open. The marqee at the bottom, detailing the location of the blast, causes her breath to hitch in her throat.

Colette snaps back to reality, her hands shaking as she looks back to Tamara, "H-Hey! Wait, I—" She was gone. Colette blinked, twice, and hastily pushed by a few people, "Tamara?" She spun around, trying to look through the crowd of people gathering by the televisions, "Tamara!?" She had vanished into the crowd as easily as she had appeared from them, and Colette was soon blocked in by the flocking droves of onlookers rushing to the televisions, "Tamara!"

And that quick, she was alone again.

So, we shared dinner...

August 27th: An Ever-Thinning Thread of Hope
August 27th: Return to the Scene of the Crime
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