Be True To Yourself


emily4_icon.gif raquelle_icon.gif

Scene Title Be True To Yourself
Synopsis Raquelle gives Emily a long-needed talk, including a lesson on being a light when all the world is dark.
Date November 9, 2019

Raquelle's Salon

The morning after the failed launch, Raquelle came into the salon to a voicemail that had been left overnight, asking him if he had any availability for a nail appointment. It wasn't from someone who was particularly out of date on his calendar he kept to worry over those he cared about, but after what the world saw yesterday, he had a feeling what prompted this sudden visit.

Emily Epstein barely has her coat off and sat down before her facade fades, a reserved quiet sweeping over her after she says her hellos. Her hands look like they need attention, worried down to the cuticles, skin raw. They come together, thumbnail digging into the back of her hand as she steels herself to speak. Her eyes are distant, slightly unfocused.

"Can I get your advice while I'm here?" she asks, as if for some reason it's different this time. In a way, it is.

This is a subject they've not really broached before on her visits.

The morning after the failed launch saw Raquelle tempted to close the shop for the day. And to be honest? It actually is technically closed, but the voicemail has him taking time to get dressed and do his hair and make-up to come in for this specialty appointment.

The hairdresser is tired. He probably has bruises from teenagers clinging to him or faces being buried against his shoulder or chest for sobbing purposes. But he is here, dressed down-ish. Pair of fitted black jeans, dark red converse, a dark red t-shirt advertising an indie band and a leather jacket, hair tousled slightly and his make-up light. He greets Emily though with a tight hug when she comes in and he just kisses the top of her head and murmurs softly. “I’m so sorry we fucked up the world for you all baby…”

Before he pulls back and starts to set up a nail station, setting out various tools and implements and pausing to tilt his head to the side. “Oh darling you can always get my advice while you are here.” There is a pause before he gestures towards the chair across from where he will be seated. “About anything. Okay?”

Emily pushes up the sleeves of her autumn-colored sweater, bands of earth and orange and cream smushing to thin ripples at her elbows. "Raquelle, I—"

"I don't know what to do." she confesses, her stance not unique. She sinks down into the seat, gaze flitting up to him as if he has any better idea. The blue in her eyes is fluid, stress and a lack of rest robbing them of their usual ice. "I'm scared, so I want to do something about it. But what can I do? I'm not— someone who can do anything about what happened. I'm not some secret agent or a counter-terrorist, I'm not someone who can chase those people down and bring them to justice."

"But I—" Her brow knits, a passion rooting her. She finds the ground she wants to stand on, if she can find the courage for it. "That astronaut, Nowak?" Emily explains, working her way toward it. "His ability would have made that whole mission possible. The Evolved are capable of doing so much to help bring humanity forward, if only they weren't pushed back all the time." They, like it doesn't apply to her. She's still not entirely used to it, having trouble making the bridge to 'we'. "If only they didn't have to be afraid all the time."

Taking in a breath, she ventures distractedly, "Maybe it just takes someone to be brave. People to go out there and use their ability for good, in ways that prove the Evolved aren't anything to be afraid of. That being Slice isn't …" The furrow on her forehead deepens as she offers her hands out on the table.

"I manifested, Raquelle." she confides a beat later, gaze unfocused but directed somewhere near her palms. "And I feel like I should do something with it, but I'm apprehensive about it all in the first place."

Raquelle gently lifts one of Emily’s hands to examine her cuticles and such, thumbs rubbing in a small soothing circle from time to time as he listens. He can relate, he can. He has been there, and probably been up most of the night racking his brain for next steps. But he has been there and here over and over again in the last 10+ years and it’s starting to feel like a broken record stuck on repeat.

“First it takes someone to realize that thinking that there is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ when it comes to humanity, is how this shit starts in the first place. Seeing someone as other because something about how they are born is different than how you were born is a stupid concept but it is a concept that has created fear and hatred and given people prone to being fucking evil an outlet to express it in.” He guides her hands into a bowl of warm water. “You can’t convince someone who’s blinded by hatred that they don’t have to be afraid because it isn’t Evolved people or what those Evolved people can do that scares them. It is what a hateful person thinks, that they themselves can’t do.”

Then those words hit him and he looks up quickly to study Emily’s features when she says “I manifested’. And he finally just takes a deep breath and nods slowly. “When I manifested, nobody knew. There was nobody I could talk to about it and I kept it hidden as much as I could but the nature of what I could do, I learned came as naturally as breathing and I was scared. Shit, it still scares me.”

The pause, despite its intent, is a powerful thing. It's a knife which cleaves through Emily's nonchalance and reveals her deeply afraid, self-conscious state regarding her manifestation. When Raquelle shares he was scared too, she lets out a short, involuntary laugh and pulls one hand back to herself, the back of her hand pressing against her mouth. Knowing she wasn't alone in her experiences was powerful, and was something she so rarely felt. For a second, her eyes gleam.

Crying wouldn't be useful here, though, so she swallows the urge down as best she can, though the corners of her eyes still sting with tears. "I don't know when it actually happened— how long I had it, how many times I accidentally leaned into it without knowing. But in July," god, so long ago now, she reflects. "Someone showed up, told me what I'd started to suspect, and asked me to use my ability for good. To keep people from being hurt." Emily swallows hard, glancing up at him. Despite her best efforts, the tips of her fingers tremble in the bowl, emotion still threatening to shut her down with how overwhelming this topic still is to her. "But I didn't even know how," she whispers, desperate and frustrated. "I barely knew I had it, nevermind actually being able to control it."

A steady exhale helps her regain some of her volume. "And then, the longer I thought about it, I…" A rapid blink helps her recover from slipping into her thoughts, even if her gaze remains unfocused. "I mean, I was afraid of myself at first and I got so scared that I'd used my ability on others that I just— I shut down. And then when I got past that, I was still apprehensive about practicing with it at all, because…"

Emily purses her lips, unable to find a single reason. She shakes her head slightly and asides, "And I'm still not sure I'm past that part, besides."

His own eyes get a bit glassy with unshed tears as he tracks Emily’s reactions, and he just removes a warm towel from its place and carefully removes Emily’s hands from the bowl, wiping off each one and then drying off each one in turn as he tsks softly. “First time I realized people outside of who I loved and trusted knew I even had an ability is when people showed up at my house wearing ear plugs.” Raquelle stares down at Emily’s much smaller hands in his own and squeezes them gently.

He considers how to proceed before removing a bit of hand cream from a dispenser and starting to gently massage and work tension out of one of the young woman’s hands. This is hitting too close to home and he just idly worries his bottom lip as he nods slowly. “There is a wobbly line sometimes we have to deal with when our ability is so close to our nature that we don’t know what people are reacting to.”

There is a small encouraging smile tinged with a bit of sadness, but he doesn’t pry. “Apprehension is good, but practice is better. When you know you can practice safely.”

Emily's eyes flicker with concern when Raquelle trades with his own experience, her heart panging for him. Oh no, she thinks, holding onto his hand tightly in that moment he squeezes hers. She shakes her head at it, wondering how someone could do that to someone as kind as him.

Her forehead knits in sympathy when he describes the married lines between ability and nature, and then she starts to wonder at it. What does he do exactly?

Because… it sounds so similar to everything she's gone through.

And when he takes her hand again, somehow she gets the feeling that he feels the same about it. So many resonant notes.

"To tell you the truth," Emily intones, hesitating on how honest she wants to be. "I think 'safe' is relative, because I don't want to abuse anybody's trust in me. I'm worried about the morality of practicing on someone who doesn't even know, but if I do tell them, it's— hard to just—"

The tension in her dissipates when she realizes it makes the most sense to just be out with it. She settles, her spirit quieting. "What it is, is— if I believe something, Raquelle, if I believe it hard enough, and I believe it's the right thing to do— I can convince them to do it. I can talk them down from a bad place, I…" Her shoulders shrink, worry for a past act shining through. "I think I accidentally made someone quit their job once because I told them I was worried about them and that they needed to make better decisions for their health. They just picked up the phone and told their work they'd not be coming in at all that week."

The rest of her breath leaves her in an explosion of air. It's dizzying to face and give voice to things she's only suspected, stoking fear in new ways.

"I don't know my own limits, and I'm still trying to learn what rules there are for it aside from 'sense of justice', 'true compassion', and 'you believe it's right for them'…" Emily mutters. "But those are all pretty tall orders, you know? I can't just… feel on command."

Eyes narrow ever so slightly, not in a negative way but in his paying close attention to what is being said and disclosed and his own hands never still in their gently and reassuring massage. Raquelle’s hands however /do/ pause when she starts to describe the ‘belief’.

A brief flashback to him ‘coming out’ to his now fiance, so many years ago, to reassure the man that he didn’t sing or talk him into sleeping with him. His lashes flutter and there is just an open expression of understanding and acceptance as he pats Emily’s hands gently. And his eyes flick up to meet hers when she mentions how she can’t feel on command. There is a quirk of an eyebrow and he carefully replies. “I can.” A beat. “And I can make others do the same.”

He takes a deep breath. “The rules are very simple. You have to be selfless about it, because the moment you allow yourself to be selfish and consider what you want or would prefer, then it gets messy. I live everyday having to make sure I am in control of my emotions because whether or not I want to be…I technically have to be aware of being able to be in control of other people’s as well.” He huffs through a soft laugh and gives a quick shake of his head. “But first step, is not being a chicken shit like I was for quite some time, and being willing to admit you’re in over your head.”

Another pause. “I think we need ice cream for this conversation.”

"Only if you think you do." Emily ribs him with a light laugh, tears spilling down her face. "I'm fine. I'm…" Another laugh escapes her in the form of a short exhale as she wipes at her cheek with a rub of shoulder against face. "I've taken a lot worse without any ice cream," she jokes again.

It's a good way to give herself time to process. It's something that'll take longer than the moments they have here now. Her brow knits tightly inward as she looks back to Raquelle. "Those are some good rules," she doesn't refrain from saying, even if it's done in a much smaller murmur than she'd been speaking with only moments before.

"Do you forget sometimes, though? Are you allowed to?" A beat elapses before she clarifies with what she really means. "Are we allowed to?"

There is a soft tsking as Raquelle offers Emily a soft white towel for her tears and face. “I spent most of last night just shoveling down’ pints with the family. But ice cream does make things better for many people.” The hairdresser rolls his shoulders before rising from his chair and folding his arms as he glances back towards the backroom and then back again.

“Do I forget?” Raq considers the question for a few moments, rubbing a hand over his hair and giving a small nod and rough chuckle. “I can’t afford to forget but I have. I’m human. Just because I can feel on command doesn’t mean I only feel on command.” He worries his bottom lip. “We are allowed to remember what’s worth fighting for and at the end of the day…that wins over any being pissed off or scared.”

After a reluctant glance, Emily accepts the towel and dabs at her face, sinking deeper into her seat. Her brow crumples inward as she twists the fabric between both hands, but better that than picking at her nails again. "This is terrifying," she admits. The what of it is left inspecific, but easy enough to guess at.

"What's going on with the world is, too, but this is terrifying."

“Terrifying. Until you have a moment where you make a difference and can sleep knowing there’s some hope out there still. Or, until you are in a moment where you know you could’ve used it to make a difference but could not because…others would be hurt if you did.”

Raquelle points to her hands. “But having someone to talk to helps.”

Emily looks up from the twisted towel wrapped about her hand, giving a small nod. "Like I said…" she reminds herself on an exhale. "I feel like I should do something, but I don't even know where to start. There's all this terrible shit going on, and if the Evolved start putting their heads back down after—"

Her voice breaks and she swallows hard. After what happened yesterday, she means to say. "If people get too afraid to be themselves," she recovers, "How are things ever going to get any better?"

On the other hand: "But after what happened, how could people not be afraid? But right now, everybody like us needs to know those assholes aren't all-powerful and they can't and won't win— even if they're brutal, even if they're becoming more prevalent." Emily's mouth starts to tug into a line, nearly a frown. She hesitates before speaking again, but ultimately doesn't stand in her own way when it comes to airing her thoughts.

"I feel like a hypocrite a little," she admits. "because I've been too worked up to even go update my registration. Because I'm afraid about what that means for me, and the visibility it'd provide who-even-knows into my life, you know?" Head shaking, she firmly asserts, "I don't know— maybe that's small and irrelevant in the end. I just feel like there's something that needs done. Something to say the Evolved shouldn't be afraid. That we're not alone. Some kind of counter-message has to go out, otherwise…"

Otherwise, who would remind them to have hope? To stay strong?

The hairdresser moves behind Emily to offer her a hug from behind, kissing the top of her head and sighing softly. “Cry now. Get all the tears out.”

He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. “My mother is half Japanese, my father is Hispanic, and I have been gay as a pair of assless chaps my entire damn life. I’ve always had to fight, struggle, and feel like it was my job to prove that I had to right to be my entire authentic self despite what people thought or were afraid of.”

Raquelle sinks back into his seat after a moment, staring towards the door but seeing beyond it as he listens to what the young woman is saying. His lips quirking in a hint of a smirk. “Registration is overrated. Just another goddamn list.” He takes a deep breath and rubs a hand over his face. “That’s…something I did during the war.” He finally admits. “I know a little bit about…countering fear and hatred with love and hope.” He looks to Emily and quirks an eyebrow. “And I have it on good authority it reeeeally pisses bigots off.”

Stubbornly, Emily refuses to give into her frustrations, only shaking her head when given permission to let out all her emotions. She's determined to focus that energy into something productive instead. Or at least, that’s what she wants. Her brow knits while she listens, none of her previous tension leaving her as Raquelle provides his perspective, both historical and present.

The derisive comment about registration creates a crack in her stoic expression, a short huff of laughter escaping under her breath. A small smile fills the space after.

It falters as she gives thought back to the war. "You all… you did something," she recalls, a bit lamely while she mentally fishes for the greater details. Not everyone fought with the Ferry and other resistances. "You were out West, weren't you?"

There is a pause as Raquelle carefully considers how to respond. “I was about to be executed or whatever in Eltingville and then from there me and the girls did…go out somewhere safer. Bunkered down. But I ya know did the radio thing. Comforting and keeping morale up and all. Made sure other people’s kids were safe as well.”

He tilts his head back for a moment and then looks back directly at Emily. “Have a feeling I'm going to have to do it again. To help keep the peace, reduce fear and try to lighten the load for others.”

Emily's gaze flickers at the mention of Eltingville, her grasp on the handtowel tightening again. She lets out a slow breath, reminded of how lucky, if not how privileged she was that she was spared relocation. For a moment she becomes lost to it, her eyes dimming with distance. When she comes back to the present, it's a slow fade, her eyes drawn to his when it happens.

They're watering again, and this time she doesn't hold back. It's rare for the young woman to initiate hugs, but that's exactly what she does; standing and stepping around the station between them to hug him as tight as her arms will allow. He said he was sorry earlier, but she's sorry too. Sorry people like him have to think about these things again after fighting a whole war over it. Sorry that things are devolving again in the same lifetime.

"I'm sorry," she murmurs, even if it's not her fault. "I'm sorry you have to." Grief and guilt and sadness outpour as she cries into his shoulder. Underneath it all, slowly rising up, is gratefulness— even hope.

Because if anyone can do that job…

Emily pulls back to scrub at her face with the heel of her palm, snuffling and breath unsteady. "But I'm glad you're willing to. If it were left up to—" kids her age, she would say, but she just shakes her head, realizing what she really means. "If it were left up to anyone else, they might get it wrong." The comment makes her chuckle, a wet thing that almost makes her cry again. It's with effort and a hardening of her expression that it doesn't, one she follows up on by releasing a slow breath and looking down at the cloth in her hand.

"Tell me," she asks with cautious determination, "if there's anything I can do to help. Okay?"

With a soft ‘oof of surprise’ that morphs in a soft ‘shhh’, Raquelle returns the hug, staying seated so he doesn’t accidentally lift the girl off her feet as he hugs Emily tightly. A few tears escape, leaving minimal devastation in their wake, just the hint of a paler trail as the hairdresser takes a deep breath and just rubs Emily’s back. He doesn’t interrupt or protest the apology he just lets her cry until she pulls back.

“Look at me.” He wipes at his own cheeks and fans his eyes for a moment before looking back to Emily. “Listen. The point isn’t ever to get it wrong or right. What matters, in the end, is to try. Hope for the best, and try. Not for credit. Not to get the win. But to make sure the light stays on to guide folks home. And there will always be stubborn boss ass bitches around willing to try.” He offers a small smile and a wink.

Dabbing at his own cheeks and eyes with a towel he inhales sharply and lets out a soft chuckle. “Start small. Find out what people need, what people are missing, and find a way to provide them either comfort or to fill that gap. It could be something as simple as someone worrying about food, find a way to make sure they get what they need. That is what you can do…it is a start.”

He finally does rise from his seat. “And if you ever need help…tuning and polishing up what you have going on, well.” He shrugs a shoulder and offers another kind smile. “You know a fabulous queen who’s willing to share a few secrets.”

They’re good words, kind words, strong words — and Emily tries hard to take all of them to heart. There’s not many words she has left herself for this entire situation, and she tries to navigate her way through it with a series of small smiles, signs hoping to show heart rather than just uncertainty for the future. To keep the light on is a noble endeavor, and she’ll strive to find and do right in those moments.

She’s not sure she’ll be as brave as Raquelle is any time soon, but what a goal to grow toward.

And if nothing else, she’ll have an excellent teacher.

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