Autumn And Ashes


colette_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Autumn and Ashes
Synopsis Weeks after having her eyesight healed, Colette uses her newfound vision to bear witness to a tragedy, and an unexpected reunion…
Date October 1, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

The Guiding Light Baptist church is simply no more. Where once a church, with its arching glass windows and concrete cross fixed to the edge of the pointed roof once stood, now there is naught but crumbling stone, blackened wood and the stick of soot that clings to the air. Curving stone steps lead up from the pavement to an open archway where charred black doors have collapsed off of their hinges. Stained glass windows that shattered from immense heat are now gaping and open, charred black around the edges. Across the doorway yellow crime scene tape wards off visitors, and portions of the sidewalk are likewise cordoned off to avoid pedestrians getting too close to the unstable structure.

All that remains now, of the once illustrious building, is the concrete cross that lays crooked in the middle of the floor through that gaping doorway, cracked and broken into two pieces, laid skewed across a pair of burned pews that struggle to shoulder the weight of its burden.

The neighborhood of Greenwich Village has seen better days as of late, especially the stretch of road that contains the Guiding Light Baptist Church, or at least what once stood as it. The news media has painted an ugly picture of the violence that happened here; public hangings, arson, all hate crimes put forth by the radical anti-evolved group Humanis First.

With the air now crisp with October's cold Autumnal air, it's hard to imagine how hot it must have been here the night the church burned down. Some of the wood looks still wet from the attempts to put out the blaze, the ground stained with the black cast off of murky water and charcoal remains, though no smoke threatens to snake up into the cloudy skies any longer.

It's here, just within the barricade of crime scene tape cordoning off the sidewalk at the church where a lone girl stands, head hung. Dark locks of hair shadow her eyes, shoulders curled forward and a messenger bag laid down at her feet. The bright carnation red of her hooded sweatshirt compliments the color of fall leaves stirred by the cool breeze that dance along the concrete at her feet, but also stand out sharply against the stark grays of the remainder of the church and the pavement underfoot.

Cars pass by slowly, people looking out their windows to the street lamps where people had been hung just days ago, to the church that was once a beacon of tolerance and understanding in the community— now little more than an epitaph to more forgiving times.

But for Colette Nichols, seeing the church burned to the ground with her own two eyes for the first time is a sobering experience; humbling, in that there simply was nothing she could do to prevent it. That composes her silence, the reverent bow of her head, and the tears for the loss that a close friend has suffered here, one that she sympathizes with too much.

But on this particularly chilly October afternoon, it's not as much a day of mourning, but a day of reconnecting.

A striking contrast to the somber surroundings, a lone pedestrian stalks along the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road to the ruined place of worship, her steps accompanied by the rhythmic clicking of a steel-shod cane upon the ground.

The walker slows the closer she draws to the church, a frown creasing her brow as she nears her destination - nose wrinkling slightly at the lingering scent of ash and soot in the air. For the moment, the lone mourner doesn't draw a great deal of attention, the first view of the scene of mayhem taking some little while to be absorbed.

In her newly regained peripheral vision, the figure moving down the sidewalk outside of the caution tape doesn't stand out amongst the crowd. Having learned to see with her eyes again, the distinct patterns of color and shape that she once felt with her whole body to identify people feels more muted now, feels lost among the distracting visual cues of the seeing world. Colette's focus is admittedly distracted, from the emotions stirring long cooled embers in her heart. The sniffle she gives, one of choked back emotion comes with a wiping of her red sleeve across her eyes, head lifting up to look thorugh the gaping doors of the church to the broken cross beyond.

Swallowing tensely, she takes a few steps forward, away from her bag and up the first of the concrete steps to the church doors. She remembers coming here, meeting the Pastor, making a connection that turned into such a close friendship — now she can hardly recall what the interior felt like. She had hoped to see the church from the inside with seeing eyes, not so much feeling the colors. Now, she may never know what the Guiding Light looked like.

The sharp shake of her head comes with a turn of her shoulders, one pale hand coming up to wipe across her face in a sobering motion, dark brows furrowed in a look of heated determination. But in that look, when green eyes sweep over the colored leaves on the street, it's the lone woman with a cane that draws puzzled focus. Like a ghost torn out of some storybook pages, her very presence causes Colette to take a single dumbfounded pause.

It's times like these, where she has to question the odds, question the serendipity of something this unlikely. "Y— " the name comes hard, voice tight, "You're…" That's easier.

The focused attention of that moving figure does draw Ygraine's attention from the ruin to the mourner. There's no immediate recognition - never having seen Colette's current attire, and peering into murk it takes her some few moments to register that there is indeed something familiar about the stance and shape and….

Head canting to one side, she frowns pensively at the figure, inhaling slowly through her nose - more than half expecting the girl to either verbally attack her or run. Her jaw clenches and her grip tightens on the head of her cane, but she forces herself to exhale slowly and stand her ground, studying Colette as intently as the distance between them permits.

The girl standing on those concrete steps almost doesn't look like the girl the Briton remembers from so many months ago. She's taller, by just an inch or so, healthier in figure; rosier cheeks, less rail-thin. Most notably is the lack of her blinded eye, now equally green as its opposite. Standing here, though, despite the redness at the edges of her eyes and what is clearly the remnant of shed tears she seems more matured. There's a confidence in her posture, in her eyes, in her that seems to say so many things about growing up without saying a word.

"You're— " She's baffled by the appearance of someone after so long. "I— Ygraine I— " words fail, and at least in that much nothing has changed for her. The burned exterior at Colette's back is forgotten for the moment, just the soft scuffs of worn sneakers coming down the steps as she quickly moves to clear the distance between the two, then halts abruptly to crouch down and pick up her messenger bag, slinging it over one shoulder. "Ygraine, I… I haven't seen you in…" dark brows crease together, and she struggles to remember the last words they shared.

The tension, Ygrain'es and Colette's, is palpable. Green eyes divert to the cane curiously, then back up to the Briton. It's a wordless question, it could start with where's your bike or end with why do you have a cane, but instead she opts for. "I… It's been a while."

Ygraine studies the girl intently, almost as if trying to make sure of her identity. "Yeah", she says tightly after a few moments. "You could say that."

Another second's silence, then she sighs softly, a jerk of her chin towards Colette meant to indicate the new eye. "Is that a real repair, or cosmetic?", she inquires tactlessly.

For a moment the welcome isn't expected, but then recognition of past events dawns on Colette, and her tension comes back as arms wrap around herself — not from the cold. "It— " she looks down to the ground, "someone helped me." Her voice is small, guilty now, realizing how what happened must have looked. Apologies come hollow when given out too hastily, it's something Colette herself resents in people, and perhaps that's why one doesn't come.

When she does finally look up, the eye contact comes reluctantly. Words, likewise, come with equal discomfort and hesitance. "I… I don't really know what to say," she finally admits, weakly. "I didn't tell anyone." There's no context to those words, it might not even make sense in her head.

Muscles twitch at the corners of Ygraine's jaw, even as she struggles to meet Colette's gaze evenly, rather than focusing firmly upon the good eye - as she always tended to before.

"I'm glad", she says tightly… before sighing, and rather tiredly adding, "I am. It looks like… whatever choices you made are working for you. Far better than anything we tried to help you to do."

Offering an elegant bow that suits her present attire, Ygraine follows it with a lop-sided and rather sad smile. "Congratulations on sorting yourself out, Colette. It looks like you're doing a good job."

An immediate, if not somewhat croaked response manages to spill from her lips. "Ygraine I— it's not…" biting down on her lower lip, she closes her eyes and dips her head down into a nod. A year ago today, she would have just sulked and walked away, let herself be defeated. But here, with the backdrop of all of Joseph Sumter's loss looming behind her, and her past staring herself in the face, Colette has learned to take risks, take chances, and open up again. "I ran away from home."

It's leveled somewhat like the sights of a gun, truth fired out in quick, clipped procession. There's only a heartbeat of space between that and her continued explanation. "You remember Trent?" Her brows furrow, "He— he warned me that people were looking for me, people that wanted to hurt me. I— he told me to go to Staten Island, find a guy named Brian Fulk. So… I didn't want to endanger anyone. I left Dad a note," Dad, not Judah. She's come to terms with a lot of things. "I didn't even say goodbye to him. I just— I ran. I ran and hid out there for months. Ygraine, I— I didn't…"

One brow goes up at the announcement of running away from home - and the other joins it at the name of Brian Fulk. There's a distinct pause while Ygraine finds her voice. "You ran to Staten Island for safety? And… Christ. Have you at least told your Dad you're still alive?"

There's something of an awkward laugh to that, and Colette takes a few hesitant steps closer, but the yellow caution tape still divides the two in some sarcastic irony. "I know who they are, now… the people. It— it was the only place I think they wouldn't go looking for me." Wrinkling her nose, Colette's head comes to a slow nod. "I patched things up with Dad. I— he wasn't happy, but we talked it out, we struggled with each other and we did everything together. Tamara helped and… and we're better now." Her smiles turns somewhat bittersweet. "I… I found my sister too— Nicole." But it's not a bright smile there. "It's… complicated."

Eyeing the caution tape, Colette squeezes her arms around herself tighter. "I was just thinking about you the other day, when I was headed back home. I— I thought about going upstairs, to see if you still lived at the apartment. I just… I didn't know what to say, how to apologize." Her eyes close, head bowed, "I'm sorry doesn't really cut abandoning your friends."

Ygraine sighs quietly, gloved fingers coming up to pinch at the bridge of her nose. "I'd been going to invite you to our wedding, you know. Or I suppose you didn't", she says before lowering her hand and looking up again. "Help sort out a passport. Fly you out if you wanted. You were one of the few people I thought…."

She glances up and away, blinking at the silhouette of the ruin. "I apologise. This isn't the time or the place. I'm back in the city for a few days. Seeing whether I should return. What there is for me here… for me to do here. The apartment upstairs is still mine, and I'm in it at the moment."

Wide, saucer-like green eyes stare out at Ygraine. "Wedding?" There goes the next question she was going to ask. A few more steps are taken, and Colette's denim-covered legs brush up against the yellow caution tape, her head quirked to the side, eyes surveying Ygraine now as if she has several different heads, none of which make sense. "You— you and Jennifer— " there's an awkward laugh, then a broad, bright smile. "That— Ygraine I…" her head immediately hangs. All of the past-tense of the Brit's wordings come to evident realization. She tenses up, nodding her head weakly a few times, then looks up with that watery cast to her eyes. "I… I didn't— " her words just clip off, jaw trembling as her smile turns bittersweet.

"I'm sorry." Lowering her head, Colette stays there just outside of arm's reach, her eyes downcast to the ground and brows furrowed. "I… I really am. I was scared, and stupid and— " once more, halting progression of words. "Excuses." She looks up, brows tensed in a different expression, one more determined than saddened. Reaching into the pouch of her hoodie, she withdraws a black cell phone and flips it open. "I've got a new phone, different number." Seeing as how her old one is in an evidence locker now. "We're going to go out, do something together while you're here in the States." Green eyes expectantly watch the Brit. "I'll take you out for dinner or— or something. My treat, and— we can just catch up. There's so much I want to hear about, what you've been doing, I— " her head shakes slowly, "I don't want to just walk away."

Ygraine looks thoroughly startled. "You'll take me out for dinner?", she asks - incredulous, certainly, but accompanying the tone with a smile. "I must remind you that I'm a respectably married matron now, and not to be swayed with wining and dining, however unexpected it may be. But… sure. I'm around a little longer. I fly back to Jen on Sunday, to discuss things, but I can take you - ahh, we can go somewhere now, or meet up tomorrow, if you want."

"T— Tomorrow." There's an emphatic nod of Colette's head as she stares squarely down at her feet. Wrapped up and awkward like this, the young teen offers only a mildly hesitant smile as she regards Ygraine finally, ceasing her navel-gazing. Teeth toy at Colette's lower lip, fingers wind into the soft fabric of her hoodie's sleeves, and for all her worth she looks like a house-cat trying to stay out of the rain, all raised hackles and folded back ears.

After a too-long and awkward moment of silence, she affords Ygraine with an askance look that comes from her turning her head. Then, when Colette's focus shifts up to the burned out shell of a church behind her, the words she speaks seem a bit less hesitant, and a little more reverent. "I got a new phone…" she murmurs, reaching into the pouch at the front of her hoodie to retrieve a small black cell phone, wiggling it from side to side.

"I— I still have your old number…" Colette looks back to the Brit, brows furrowed and shoulders hunched forward. It's clear she's still tense, likely about the way in which this relationship had disintegrated and her own fault at that. "Is, um, y— your number the same?"

Ygraine nods. "The landline, yes. I… rarely check the old mobile number, but I've been doing so while I'm here. I can give you a new one, if you like. You'd… be the first person I've given it to, on this visit."

There's something of an awkward laugh from Colette, one hand coming up in the sheepish way she scratches the back of her neck. "Ah… y— yeah I… I'd like the new number." Green eyes seem so very unusual when fixed on the Brit, not so much in the way that Colette looks at Ygraine, but that the stare is no longer a mismatched one. "I missed you."

Time heals all wounds they say, and in the case of Colette's eyes it seems to be much the case. The wound between these two women, however, that might take some more yet.
Ygraine looks surprised, gaze jerking up from the screen of her phone to firmly meet Colette's. "You did?", she asks gently. "I… didn't think you would, I admit." An awkward shrug, then she looks down again, hitting another couple of buttons to bring up a display of her own number. The phone is then held out for Colette to see the screen.

"I've thought about you. Worried. Wondered…."

Flitting glances to the number, one-handed thumb-typing the way teens seem to have a preternatural efficiency for, and the half-attentive stare back and forth from screen to Ygraine and back is what Colette offers at first. "M'sorry…" She pauses mid-number, brows furrowed and head slowly shaking before she realizes she's leaving Ygraine with her arm out awkwardly and hurriedly finishes inputting the number.

"I, ah…" Flipping her phone closed, Colette's eyes meet Ygraine for a moment, then avert to the street. "It's a long story… everything. I promise, though, I— I'll explain everything to you over dinner or— or lunch. Whatever you like, yeah?" A sheepish smile comes with a raise of the young woman's shoulders and a quirk of her head to the side.

"M'sorry… For, you know— " Colette waves one hand in the air, "disappearing." It still isn't enough.

Ygraine cautiously reaches out, intending to give Colette's shoulder a one-handed squeeze. "Don't worry about it now. I can bawl you out tomorrow. Would you prefer lunch or dinner? And where would you like to take me? Since you've volunteered to pay, you can pick time and place, I think. Just tell me if I should dress up for it, or wear armoured leathers…"

The Briton cracks a grin, clearly at least half-jesting - though there's still more than a hint of worry around her eyes.

It's some measure of progress when Colette doesn't flinch from the touch at her shoulder. A year ago, even the simplest of contact would have her recoiling at worst, tensing up at best, even if just for a moment. Now, though, she seems to relax more into the hesitant affection. The question of where to eat, though, hasn't quite settled in with her very squarely in the form of an answer. The only thing that comes to mind is the place Helena took her following the Pinehearst incident. "There's this, ah— " one eye squints, "sushi place out on the upper west side?" A dark brow lifts testingly. "Do, ah— do you eat that or should I like— " she steeples her fingers, cradling her closed phone between her palms, "should I try something else?"

Ygraine chuckles softly, leaving her hand there for a few moments, before squeezing gently once more and reclaiming it to help to tuck her phone away within her jacket. "I've tried sushi a couple of times, while travelling. If you enjoy it and want to educate my palate, feel free to try", she says with a smile.

Now she laughs, that sort've sheepish not sure if she should laugh. The smile is more becoming of Colette than that somber and haunted look she had earlier when staring into the fire-gutted shell of that church. "Guess I gotta' be able to educate somebody on something, right?" Both of the teen's dark brows come up, a lopsided smile flashed across her face before she slouches her shoulders back down and looks anxiously over her shoulder to the church.

"I… I'm supposed to be somewhere right now." Troubled, is the look she gives when viewing the church, eyes flitting back to Ygraine again. "I'm like, late already and they're gonna' wonder what's up…" Green eyes return to the Brit's. "Tomorrow. I'll meet you down there, say… around five? I get out of work right in the area, so I'll call you."

Ygraine nods, tapping her phone within its pocket. "Send me the address tonight. And… should I dress up? Or come by bike in full leathers?", she asks, letting the revelation that Colette has a job pass without comment for the moment.

Grimacing, she looks Ygraine up and down and shrugs her shoulders. "I ah— think casual's probably fine. You know, whatever?" Wrinkling her nose, she offers an awkward smile that comes easily despite herself. She doesn't seem to have the proper frame of mind to want to break away from the Brit, but the people she's going to see and the meeting she has to attend are a responsibility more so than a simple commitment.

"I wanna talk to you about something too…" Colette adds, adjusting the way her messenger bag sets over her shoulder with an awkward shift of her weight. "So— you know, just— keep an open mind." The smile the young woman offers is more hesitant now than before, coupled by the way she backpedals from Ygraine and takes a few steps down from the church's stoop. "I… I'm glad you're back."

Ygraine cocks her head, watching Colette worriedly - though she does manage to muster another smile for the younger woman. "When've I not been open-minded?", she asks with a wry smile. "I'll see you around five tomorrow. Remember to send me the address! And… good luck tonight, whatever it is you're doing."

Whatever it is you're doing. The notion makes Colette crack a lopsided smile, offering that and a pale green stare back towards the Brit in return. Teeth toy at the young teen's lower lip, and as she makes her way back and away from where Ygraine stands, Colette's eye travels to the cane that she has with a squint. She never remembered Ygraine to have had one. "Yeah I— I'll remember…" Hopefully, anyway. "I'll— I'll see you tomorrow Ygraine."

There'll be time enough for questions tomorrow.

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