A Little More at Peace


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Scene Title A Little More at Peace
Synopsis Last time they spoke, April's take on her own probable salvation (lack thereof) was not at all symbolic and rather unsettling for the pastor subjected to it. Today, they're on someone else's church steps with more tragedies behind them, but they also have something else in common: hope.
Date July 18, 2010

Outside the New Faith Baptist Community Centre, Bronx

A lot has happened since April's been away from the Guiding Light.

Or maybe something small. The amount of time it took for the beautiful church to burn to black and ruin was not long at all, in the longer scheme of things, a much shorter time than it took to build both in stone as well as reputation. It's a sad scar, now, in Greenwich Village, a tooth knocked out from the grin of rows of corner stores and brownstones. Someone had gotten her attention, lookin' for someone, honey? and the older woman, a good Christian herself and god bless the South, had probably told April more information than she was strictly interested in.

But she did learn that that pastor of theirs came out of the woodwork not so long ago, maybe a month or somethin' like that, and was showin' up at that services that do every Sundee mornin' at the New Faith Baptist Community Centre up in Harlem if you was lookin' for him.

There aren't pews, here. An open floor of teal carpets and white walls, with a podium sequestered into the corner for later uses when the group isn't holding hands in a circle, praying to the high ceiling, loud enough for it to echo. It's a hell of a lot more boisterous than Joseph's more sedately run church ever was — he didn't just want Baptists, though. He wanted Evolved that needed some God. This is a Baptist union, however, which transports him home for a few hours a week.

But when it's over, he doesn't stay over long — long enough to shake Ashby's hand, exchange a few evasive words, and head on out. He's dressed in his Sunday— maybe not his best, no tie or formal jacket in sight. His Sunday Good Effort, of a button-down tucked into slacks, sensible shoes that squeak newly as he heads out of the building, into clear morning light.

Like last time, she spent the entire sermon hanging out at the back wall. But the stranger to the congregation was bound to stand out like a sore thumb no matter what. Not in appearance — while she's not wearing a jacket either, April's teal blouse and graphite-gray pants are nice enough to pass any reasonable critique. Just in unfamiliarity, with both the people and the service.

Hovering uncertainly below the steps of the church, the woman mostly looks outward towards the street, the other buildings near and far, the cars and pedestrians drifting past; it almost lets her miss the one vaguely familiar face in the dispersing audience. Except that she looks back every so often, aware of the complete strangers who pass by, smiling politely at those who make eye contact. "Joseph, isn't it?" she asks of him, fortunate that Cardinal supplied the name for her not that long ago. April never would have remembered it herself — not in time. Her smile carries the same warmth with an undercurrent of nerves as her voice. "I'm sorry, I — thought I'd at least say hello before everyone left. I'm April, if you don't — it was a long time ago."

He prefers his first name, nowadays, to Pastor Sumter, but he responds to both the same way — an instant pause and a look around, amicable demeanor and a polite, faint smile of inquiry. A new addition being instant wariness, especially for those he finds vaguely familiar. But it's okay — Harlow had been blonde and there'd been no other pretty women or even ugly ones in Danko's cell, and he knows what Bella looks like now. More fey. Redhead. Anyway — reaction of potential threat dims as fast as it took to arrive.

Paranoia can't be godly. "April?" he repeats, testing the name a little but no longer on his way out. Around his neck hangs a silver chain, thin and shimmering, bearing the weight of two crucifixes, twins only in suggestion and importance — one of chipped gold, the other of silver and glass, clinking against each other on top the light blue of his shirt. "Don't be sorry — I probably should be. I'm havin' some trouble recallin'…"

But the furrow of his brow probably tells April well enough that he knows he's seen her before, brain busily putting name to places — he's gotten good at that, ever since he'd left seminary school.

Her smile tugs wider, tacitly forgiving his lapse of memory. "Not at all," she demurs, shaking her head. "It's been… a year, or so. I don't remember exactly when." April shifts her weight on her feet, steps back a pace to clear the stairs for the people still trickling past on their way out of the church. Brushes her hair behind her shoulders as an easy and acceptable way to fidget, before letting her hands fall back to her sides for lack of other thing to do with them. "You held a… a sermon, I guess it is, a pretty big one; I wouldn't expect you to remember all the wallflowers there," the woman concludes with a self-deprecating quirk of her lips.

I guess it is makes his smile a touch more genuine, if only for amusement, but it stays there too as Joseph likewise shifts in place to let others go by, exchanging a fleeting nod to someone he knows as they go and moving to lean a shoulder to wall, the sunlight of the morning beating down around his shoulders and back, casting the rest of him in only faint shadow. "No, no," he says, a hand lifting to wave this away. "We did talk, didn't we? I see— well, I saw a lot of people go through those doors, but they all leave a piece of themselves behind with me. Wouldn't really be doin' my job right to jus' up and forget 'em. I see you didn't forget the sermon, anyhow."

"We did," the woman allows, "a while after that." To tell the truth, that conversation stuck with her more than the sermon, but a year's worth of habitual reticence causes April to pause upon that statement. To pause, and shy away from revisiting doppelgangers and the status of their souls her soul; smiling again, she ducks her head briefly. "I — I was sorry to find out about the church," she continues, sliding over onto a slightly different conversational subject, "but I'm glad you're okay." After, April shakes her head a bit. "I didn't forget. Although I haven't been — philosophy did kinda fall by the wayside," she has to admit, apologetic.

A small shrug of Joseph's cotton clad shoulders indicates that he's sorry too. To find out about the church, even if he was there, and all. "No one got hurt, at least. It happened at night," isn't quite a lie. He's not talking about the lynching — just dispelling the horror of a packed church going up in flames on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening, is all. "There's been talk about rebuildin', but the Convention's got its eye on other projects, and— as for me, I liked that it was old."

Unconsciously parroting someone else's assessment. Somehow one of his most taciturn friends found a way to phrase it like he couldn't. It's not entirely right, for him, but close enough.

"I'm okay, though, yeah. Philosophy fell a little to the wayside for me, too."

April nods as Joseph speaks. "It's good to rebuild," she comments, motion transmuting into a slight shake of her head, "but — it's never the same. Can't be." Her smile is lopsided, wry. "I think it's often best to take the memories with you and move on." Becomes more wry still as she slides her fingers into the hair at her temple, down through the long strands. "Not that's exactly easy to do," the time-traveler has to admit. "I hope you find — have found? — a project that suits you as well," the woman offers. "I'm sure you'll do well with it."

"I hope so," is genuine, the lines at Joseph's eyes— deeper than she last saw him— shadow along with a brief smile, dark gaze wandering down to his shoes and back up again. "An' may they end better'n the last one." A beat, as he studies her face for a moment, solidifying some memory— because there are a few conversations out there that are a little more distinct than the rest— before he offers, "I did pray for you. Like you asked, though I might've done anyway if you hadn't. You seem a little more at peace, if you don't mind me sayin' so." Of course, seeking out a pastor you met that one time might hark to a lack of peace, but his optimism is already cautious in its politeness.

It could also speak to nostalgia, and a simple curiosity to the welfare of another — especially given the state of his former workplace. April can't help but smile at Joseph's observation, bordering on the edge of an almost shy grin, though the strength of that impulse is tempered by shadows lurking quiet behind green eyes. "I… had a quiet year," is the initial explanation, which doesn't exactly justify the touch of color on the woman's cheekbones as she looks down towards her feet. "A lot of regrets," she says softly, "but they… it's easy to be afraid. Even to be resolute. It's harder to hope. I didn't have any, before," she continues, lifting her gaze back to Joseph. "Not for myself. I don't… I'm sorry for… things that happened." Another smile, close-lipped and rueful. "I can't be sorry for that, though."

"No apologies needed for hope," Joseph agrees, quietly, hands tucking into pockets, and it would take a keen eye and a sharp memory to remember the missing wedding band and its presence the first time around. Things happened, things to be sorry for— "It's Christian, to take what happens as trials and come out better for 'em. It ain't easy, but…" But Christian things rarely are, but he doesn't press the idea — not everyone that comes to churches are either Godfearers or terrorists.

There's a grey area!, too. "Mind if I ask what had you comin' back to check on the place?"

Also missing the wedding band she wore previously, one would think April might be keen on such details — but if she is, today is apparently the exception to that rule. She nods to his words, not minding the appelation of Christian, or maybe just agreeing with the reiteration of it ain't easy. A truism if there ever was one.

"I ran into… someone else who was there, a little while ago," the woman explains. "For the sermon. And I thought — there aren't…" Her voice trails off; the pause that follows is very brief, flicker of a wry smile less so. "'Old times' sake' doesn't exactly cover one meeting, does it?" she remarks, somewhat sheepishly. "There was a woman who directed me here, and then — well, it seemed like I should say hello, at least."

"Well, thank you," and the gratitude is probably unexpected in its sincerity — at least for this city. Joseph takes his weight off the wall, eases a step away, but it's more of a fidget, weight distribution from one foot to the other, than to put distance between himself and the woman. "It's nice to, uh, get somethin' of a reminder than it weren't all bad. The church." Joseph hesitates, knowing that sounds a little strange out of context. How a church can be bad.

He shrugs again, a rueful twitch. "It was burned as a demonstration. No accident. Um, one of those— Humanis First types? No one was in it at the time, but some people did get hurt. So, you know. It's a good reminder that some people took somethin' better away from it than that."

Her smile becomes firmer, equally sincere to Joseph's expressed gratitude, though a touch bittersweet at his mention of demonstration. "Yeah. I think I did," she affirms. "And — well, it may not be worth much," the woman continues, smile skewing sideways, "but… you must've been doing something right, well above and beyond what you did for me, if they felt driven to go that far."

April presumes, then, to reach across the space between them, left hand to Joseph's left shoulder. "You take care of yourself, okay?" she says before letting her hand drop back, honest concern in the words.

His hand only briefly touches hers— New Yorkers are weird about that— but Joseph presumes to too, a quick squeeze around her knuckles that he imagines would do a better job than thank you. "You too," Joseph responds, mostly because he does want to wish her well, but also brisk and instinctive deflection for the concern shined his way, as natural as a squint into brighter sunlight. "It was nice seein' you again." Despite that this is all but their second meeting.

A step to the side and down, and Joseph is moving to continue on his way, a shy duck to his head as he goes.

She nods to Joseph's farewell, and continues to hover at the base of the stairs as he walks away, green gaze watching him go. A hint of a smile tugs at the corners of her mouth, even after the former Guiding Light pastor has vanished into the traffic on the street, passed entirely out of her sight. Then April too sets out onto the sidewalk, steps light even for a Sunday morning.

A little more at peace, indeed; and if peace is likely to be short-lived, in the here and now, it's all the more to be cherished for it.

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