Art Is Beautiful In All Forms


abby_icon.gif brynn_icon.gif

Scene Title Quietest Place in Town
Synopsis Two scared women, a re-assurance that life goes on and exposition of guilt.
Date January 20, 2021

Fournier-Bianco Memorial Hospital

Brynn's assigned hospital room.

Abby wasn’t there in the immediate aftermath. Inquiries made, she had waited till Brynn had been moved from the ICU and to a normal room at Bianco Fournier. It’s a nice wintery afternoon, shift change will be happening soon and the bustle of the hospital is a little less at the moment. Brynn’s warned about the arrival by a text message so that she’s not startled.

<Heading to your room, there in a minute>

But soon enough and as she warned, wearing sunglasses perched on the top of her blonde hair and a tired smile, bearing hot drinks and a red container that even Brynn knows always contained baked goods, is Abigail. Even a little gift bag with something fuzzy in it. Soft blue lace knit scarf and warm jacket to fend off the winter winds wrapped around her. There’s a lift of her chin to greet before she starts to unload so she can free up fingers to talk and -talk-

“Hey. Kasha bought you something and I brought real food for you” All southern drawl and finger that move, lacking the fluency that Brynn has but as always, functional. Though the right side not with it’s finesse.

The young woman looks a little fragile sitting in that hospital bed. She's a petite frame anyway, but the stroke has its toll as well. She's grateful for the phone, though admittedly texting left-handed is an acquired skill she hasn't mastered yet. More often than not, she'll text an emoji instead of words.

But Abby's appearance in the doorway brings Brynn's eyes immediately to the person and her face lights up. She's getting a little better at her signing but it's still awkward as hell to not be able to feel whether your hand is doing what you want it to. When she's not thinking about it and just letting it happen, she's actually okay — muscle memory for the win, right? But she's still too aware of the lack right now so her signing is awkward and looks really messy, some signs only half formed as she concentrates.

Did you bring cookies? she signs hopefully. Universal truth: hospital food sucks.
Her gray eyes are thoughtful as she both watches and listens to Abby, trying to file away sounds.

“Shortbread annnnd chocolate chip” She relays then brings over both to place the cookies on the bed and the gift bag. “Kasha would have come but my Dah wanted to have some time to take her out and focus on her.” She eases up to sit on the bed, bend one knee to the side and let her other foot dangle. “The kids okay? They know you’re fine? I made enough to bring to them if it’ll help. How are you? Anything I can do?”

Brynn lifts her hands and waggles the fingers on the right one. Can't feel the words, she signs in slow, almost heavy-handed signs, But starting to figure it out. Kids ok — Lance really upset. He was with her when she went down.

Scooting her behind to one side of the bed so Abby can sit on it with her, Brynn's movements are just as awkward as her signing. She keeps looking to see where her hand is. When Abby is settled, the young woman hesitates and then leans forward to hug her aunt tightly. She really is not okay.

“I’ve dropped a few dishes already and broke em.” Abby confesses. “So I feel you. I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it.” She has long stopped hoping that it would go away. Brynn makes room and then in for a hug and Abby lets her arms encircle the young woman. Holds her tight, then perhaps just a little tighter and lets her chin drop to the top of Brynns head to keep her close. An echo of Manitoba and the hospital room there.

It's a long time before the girl releases the woman.

When she does finally lean back, it's to pull in a shaky breath and reach up to wipe her eyes. She's grateful for both the contact and the woman herself. Can't seem to stop. she's been doing a lot of crying. Head hurts.

Brynn swallows hard. Everything is so loud all the time. Never quiet anymore.

“Some days I can’t get out of bed, my head hurts so bad and my Dah has to take care of Kasha because the medicines only working just a little.” Abby signs when they’re back to sitting instead of hugging. She wets her lips before offering a sympathetic look. “It’s an adjustment. But you’re young. And you have family to help you. We’ll get through this and maybe, just maybe they’ll be able to figure something out.”

She reaches for a chocolate chip cookie, cracking open the tin and offering it out to Brynn to snack on first. “It’s a fuzzy bathrobe in the bag. Where Kasha and my Dah found it, I don’t know. But if it doesn’t fit right, we can find the right size. She said she liked the feel of it and that you’d like it too.”

Brynn watches her speak, nodding her understanding of the hardships. She grins at the gift, signing back slowly, Kasha has a good eye. It will be wonderful to have here. Hospital rooms seem invariably chilly.

Helping herself to a cookie, the young woman takes a bite and savors the taste of Abby's baking — comfort food if there ever was. After a couple bites, she puts it down to sign again. Abby… one of the agents said he was from Louisiana. Isn't that where you're from? Her curiosity is piqued.

“Butte la Rose, Louisiana.” Abby smiles. “An hour north west of New Orleans, real tiny like. Super tiny with maybe eight hundred people. Bet you’re hearing my drawl for the first time. Teo said it got thick as syrup whenever I had been talking on the phone with my momma or I’d come back from visiting. It tempered a bit in Canada, but it’s pretty strong. Can’t say I ever met one of the agents from Louisiana. Only met one who liked really strong eye make-up and another one with a bow tie and a fear of monkey’s.” She looks to Brynn. “He talk like me or a little softer? If he’s softer, he may be from further north. More south you go, the deeper we drawl.”

Shaking her head a little as she watches Abby's hands explain, Brynn replies, I don't know… maybe… slower? She isn't sure how to describe sounds. Toussaint, she spells. He came with someone he said was from England. I could tell the difference between them, but not so much between you and him? She hopes that makes sense.

She leans back on her pillow and nibbles on the cookie. Are you having a lot of trouble walking still? Brynn's already been told she'll need a cane for the foreseeable future. But she wonders if it's getting any easier.

“Never met him. But I’ll keep an eye out for him.” Abby plucks up a shortbread herself and leans against the rail of the hospital bed and shakes her head. “Dah says he can tell when I’ve lost the feeling on that side. My foot drags, I’m a little slower. I have to think a little more about what I’m doing. It comes and goes.” Abby looks a little frustrated, but she’s trying to clearly remain upbeat for the woman and not frighten her. “No cane for me but it took me a bit to adjust. I’ve been living like this for three months. You’ve been like this for… three days? It’ll come. Plus your ear thing.” She gestures to Brynn’s ear. “That, I’m sure, throws things off for you. They’ll set you up with an occupational therapist who will help you. They set me up with one. It’s helped a little” On the good days.

“Just, take it easy okay? If it’s like the rest of us, you’re gonna get bad… days. Really bad days and the medicines not really gonna do much but make it so that you can sorta function. Let lance and the others help you on those days yeah?” Not that Abby lives by her own advice dished out.

Brynn nods slowly. Not a lot of choice, she admits. She looks so much younger than her 21 years sitting with a cookie like this. Had a bad headache yesterday… flashing colors made me feel sick and had to put cotton in my ear. It's not that she can hear super well, it's that she's never heard at all and processing it is exhausting. So it just adds to the splitting headache, it seems to her.

She fidgets with her cookie, the last bite on her blanket-covered lap. Everyone else okay? They said all of us who didn't stroke before did now. When she's not paying specific attention to her hands, her signing is much more automatic, though still slower than usual and some movements are clumsy and don't quite come out right.

“Far as I know, it seems that folks are responding just like those of us on the eighth did. I haven’t reached out much. Just trying to get by and let SESA and the Exterior do their thing. Focus on helping Kasha cope and trying to figure out what I’m going to do moving forward. Find a job that works with my new limitations so that I don’t need to rely on Liz and Richard's benevolence for the rest of my life.” She finishes off her cookie and studies the young woman, noting the difference between signing as a reaction versus a deliberate act. “You’ll adapt. You all went through so much and adapted so well. This is nothing. You’ll conquer this. Just need to invest in some good ear plugs yeah, for when things are overwhelming or some noise canceling earphones and some soft music that is not so harsh on your ears and brain.”

Biting her lip, Brynn admits, I don't know if I want to hear music. Well that brings an unexpected flood of tears to gray eyes. It'll go away eventually. And if music is as beautiful as art… I don't know if I can take losing both. Both hands come up to cover her face because now she can't stop sobbing.

She's been utterly devastated by the loss of her ability and now this. Brynn tries to stave off the tears, giving the sign for 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry' each time she can't hold it back.

Abby’s hands come to close around Brynn’s, to stop the repeated sorries from happening. Sandwich them between both her and hold them firm between hers. Shifts till her face is where Brynn can see even if it might be bleary from tears. “If it goes away, it goes away. You will have had this time to experience a world, even if for a moment, that you would not have otherwise gotten to experience.” Letting the young woman rely on lipreading instead of fingers. “It is a moment to cherish. Not to be afraid of. It’s something to seize and run with. Scary as it might be.” It’s a sympathetic furrow of her brows for Brynn, then releases her hands. “And if it doesn’t go away, you’ll have to learn how to live with it. It’ll become a part of you. The same as what you once had, was a part of you but you had to learn to use it. I didn’t learn how to control being the sun overnight. Took time to learn how to heal others when I could heal. But you have state of the art facilities, and technology that we didn’t have. And you don’t gotta hide anymore, like others had to. So, whether it stays, whether it goes, you make the most of it. Learn the sound of your siblings voices, the sound of friend’s laughter. What a dogs bark is like and not just how it feels. Or doodlebugs growl. Tabaqui’s chitter.” Rattling off a few things that Brynn should try to hear while she can.

Her view is blurry and her breaths are in short hitches of crying, but Brynn is listening with all that she is. Abby's words have no auditory meaning to her, but the tone comes through and it makes her feel certain ways — encouraged, supported. Perhaps even loved, as there is a lot of MomTone in the voice.

The truth is, Brynn is just as afraid it won't go away as she is that it will. Everything that has ever been thrown at the girl, she's found a way not just to survive but to thrive. Brian wasn't the most orthodox parent around, for certain, but he loved them all in his own way.

I do have to put cotton in my ear sometimes, the young woman offers on a huff of laughter, trying to compose herself. Used to miss things because I couldn't see them talk — now I miss stuff people sign because I'm trying to figure out what I hear and get distracted by every little thing. It's such a jumble! And she's so damn tired all the time, still recuperating from the stroke itself.

I want to go home. They start me walking tomorrow. But that's honestly just as terrifying as every damn thing else this week. Aunt Abby… I can't expect them to take care of me if I don't recover all the way. I don't know what to do.

Her signs, in her agitation, are quick, sharp, and completely unconscious. Her hand placement isn't always quite right, but clearly when she stops overthinking things, she will at least be able to talk, which was her very first fear — that her ability to communicate would be broken for always.

“We all gotta leave the nest at some point.” Abby points out. “But they won’t toss you out without making sure that you can walk. And they’ll help you with the sound too. You’ll get what you need, to learn to incorporate what you hear, with what you see. Set you up with an auditory therapist. I promise Brynn. You’re not gonna get hung out to dry and have to learn to cope with this all on your own. There’ll be professionals. Listen to them, let them teach you. And then soon enough you’ll be playing jokes on Lance and the others. Doodle’ll be happy to have you home when it’s time to get home. Till then, enjoy the safety of the hospital and being waited on hand and foot. This is new. It will sort out with time. It’s still taking me time to get used to..” To being on medical leave, to not turning into the fire, having a bad day that leaves her in bed or somewhat functioning. “To our temporary or sustained way of life. Whatever form it ends up being.”

The brunette head nods slightly. Everything Abby is saying makes sense. I'm sorry — I know you have to be just as scared sometimes. Brynn has never discounted the 'adults' as feeling unafraid. They just tended to try to hide that so as not to scare the kids. What will you do if you can't be police? You studied so hard for that. She hates that Abby had that taken away.

“I’ll figure something out.” Abby shrugs. “I was a nurse practitioner before. An EMT before that and then ran a bakery and dessert shop. Little harder to pivot. Maybe there’s still a spot for me on the force, I don’t know. If the meds were reliable, I’m sure I could still do a desk job at least. I’m going to just try and… do what I can do, until I know whether this is going to be forever or not. Maybe I can find a private practice that can work around my new limitations. Or maybe…” She shrugs. “Richard will have a need for medical personnel at Raytech. I’ll figure something out. I got a little bit of money to keep me aloft. I can sell the brownstone if I gotta. Go back to Butte.”

She reaches over, rubbing the top of Brynn’s knee. “I’m scared. I’m terrified. Once you've had a stroke, you are at a greater chance for another. I don’t know what the future is going to hold. I’m trying not to let it take me. The fear. It’s hard though.” There’s a deep sigh that’s then let out. “I’m not taking any of this well at all Brynn. But I have faith that somehow I’ll get through. That we’ll all get through this. God I hope so.” Abby winces. ‘Sorry, I know, I’m an adult. But you’re not a little kid, just young, and we all… some things should not be hidden. It’s okay to be scared.”

For her part, Brynn seems gratified that Abby is simply acknowledging that she too is scared spitless. It helps, knowing that someone she thinks of as among the strongest people she knows is afraid too. A soft, rueful smile quirks her lips. Courage is not the absence of fear but the presence of faith. The signs are slow and deliberate as the girl says the phrase, as if it's something she holds to tightly. All of you are my faith, she confesses shyly. You all taught us how to fight not just a war… but to fight for ourselves so we weren't casualties of other people's wars. You believed you could make a difference, and you did. I promise I'll keep at it.

“Naw Brynn, I ran. Let's be truthful. I took Kasha, and I ran.” She shakes her head. “And I left y’all holding a bag because I couldn’t take it and I didn’t want Kasha to end up like Cash.” Being painfully clear. “I abandoned y’all”

Gray eyes blink at Abby and Brynn reaches out with her left hand to cradle Abby's cheek for just a moment before pulling her hand back to sign. What I learned from you and Aunt Gilly was that it's okay not to be on the front lines, Aunt Abby. That it's okay to be the one who stays behind and helps people recover from injuries and watches over them, watches over the kids. And that it's okay to put what you need on the list of important things.

Brynn, who trained as all the LHK trained, has always been kept off the field because the truth is, she'd be a liability out there. But what she saw when Abby took Kasha and Gillian refused to participate in raising them the way Brian was? She saw that everyone had a responsibility to themselves and their own family, and it's okay to put that first.

You didn't abandon us. It might have felt a little like it at the time, but the young woman can also look back now and see other things. Technically speaking, the Lighthouse Kids were not the responsibility of any of their aunts and uncles — and yet each of those people stepped up for a time and offered care and kindness and protection. All of you took a hand in raising kids who weren't yours. We're all grateful every day for the things we learned from you.

“Oh Brynn.” She smiles under the press of Brynn’s hand to her own face before the younger woman’s taking her hand back to sign and she watches, paying attention. “But I stopped. And I left everyone. Not just you guys. I left everyone else holding the bag. But it’s not something I am okay with years later. It’s a choice I made and one I will have to live with. One that has had good consequences, but…” Abby shifts. “But that is not here and now. That was a lifetime ago. Right now, we gotta let those more learned than we, to do what they do best and hope and pray that nothing else goes wrong. Have faith that they will be successful and maybe they can find a healer who can fix things enough.” She points out.

Despite tears and fear, Brynn nods decisively and leans to hug Abby again. It's the only gesture she feels like makes sense as assurance. Love you, Aunt Abby.

She won't let Abby and Aunt Gilly and Aunt Kaylee and Jac down by being the weakest link in their group. All of you went home. I can too, she asserts with awkward hand movements.

“Yeah. We all went home. You’re going to get there. Probably not much longer. The others will fuss over you. It’s going to be frustrating. Take it slow. When your head hurts just… find a dark room and I will go find you some really good ear plugs and some noise canceling headphones. So you look cool at least, while wearing and like you’re dancing and not stumbling” She smiles. “Some cool sunglasses too. Sunglasses in winter. Bling or no bling?”

It's the first time in her life that anyone has offered earplugs or headphones. And Bryan finds herself both in awe and a little overwhelmed. Bling, of course! she signs, trying not to look as uncertain as she is. There's hesitation and then she asks, Something… something beautiful for music? Because Aunt Abby is right. If it goes away, this might be the only chance she ever has and the memories will be worth it. Like any art, beauty is in the eye — or ear — of the beholder, so she offers, Soft, with no words in it?

“Classical.” She promises. “Robert introduced me to some way back when” But she doesn’t ease off the bed. “I can sing you something right now. Something I sang with my momma. I think I should be able to sign it so that you can hear the word and know what it means. Or you can just enjoy it” She offers.

The girl offers a soft smile at the offer, in awe. You'll sing to me? Brynn's heart sort of explodes with emotions, and she looks down. All she can do is nod, overwhelmed with the offer and Abby's willingness to share something so personal. I would love that.

This can be done without worry about what the bugs are doing in them. This is something that brings Abby comfort. Even more so since her mother has been dead some years now. She has to think for a moment, remember the ASL that would go with the song and a glance to the door to see that it’s closed, she’s then putting her attention squarely on Brynn. “Ready?” She asks.

And then she sets in to singing, softly. So that it’s not loud. Sound is new to the young woman. “There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood, no lovelier place in the vale. No spot is so dear to my childhood as the little brown church in the vale.” Her fingers work hard to try and keep up with the lyrics, slowing the song down a little so there MIGHT be a connection between the word heard and the word signed.

“Oh come, come, come, come to the church in the wildwood, oh come to the church in the vale. No spot is so dear to my childhood as the little brown church in the vale. There close by the church in the valley, lies one that I loved so well. She sleeps, sweetly sleeps 'neath the willow, undisturbed by her rest in the vale. There close by the side of that loved one ‘neath the tree where the wildflowers bloom, when the farewell hymn shall be chanted, I will rest by her side in the tomb. Oh come come, come, come, come to the church in the wildwood, oh come to the church in the vale. No spot is so dear to my childhood as the little brown church in the vale.” It’s softly spoken, and Abby’s voice is one suited to the walls of a church and singing. She won’t be getting solo’s, but she can hold her own.

When she finishes, there’s an apologetic look on her face. “I’m sorry. That was a little more morbid that I had remembered.” She confesses.

Well… it's definitely a song of bittersweet beauty. Brynn gets comfortable on her pillow, listening to Abby's soft voice. Although she's watching the words too, they are not what the young woman is focused on — it's the way that Abby's voice changes when she sings. Her accent is softer, not as obvious, and the sound of words to a tune is one that Brynn is having a hard time processing auditorily — so she focuses more on the tune than the translation. And there is a shimmer of tears that she won't let fall.

How do you describe color to a blind person? How do you describe music to someone who has never heard sound? It is magic and rapture, and it's a bit overwhelming to hear what she has only ever seen someone do for the small kids. It always seemed to calm them when someone did it, and for the first time in her life, Brynn understands why. It's a lulling kind of effect, even without knowing the words. The croon of a soft song soothes but also brings up emotions. She didn't know music could do that.

Thank you. The expression on her face says it all.

“Little different than feeling it isn’t it?” Abby asks with a sympathetic smile on her face and moves to draw the girl close in an embrace.

And there Brynn remains, entranced and overwhelmed in equal measure, until Abby literally has sung the young woman to sleep.

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