emily_icon.gif gillian_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title charlottesweb17
Synopsis Emily goes to Gillian's library to access some resources … but Squeaks has a strange mystery she lets Emily in on
Date September 17, 2018

"Nothing like a good set of grouped motivations to get one out of the house." Emily mutters to herself as she rolls down the sidewalk, searching the addresses on the sides of the buildings. There was no way she was staying at home, especially with the power out today. There were library-makers to make acquaintance with, new memes to bring to the attention of the rest of the world, a cursory search on hummingbird colorations to perform… She's got to be close now, the numbers on these buildings were mere digits off, and… no, wait…

She pauses and then backtracks a stubby painted-red brick building, eyebrow raised over the tops of her aviators. This was the place?

Looking back again, she lets out a quiet 'huh', seeing the signage more clearly this time. "Well…" she says to herself, pulling her sunglasses down and folding them up against her chest before threading one temple behind the collar of her shirt. "They say don't judge a book by its cover, but…"

Doyle Memorial Library

The littlish carriage house stuck in the middle of two larger buildings sticks out almost like a fairytale object, with its thin doors and its pleasant splash of color amidst a bland rest of the cityblock. As the doors swing open and she squints through the early morning light to wheel into the library proper, Emily is no less convinced the place doesn't have some magic to it.

All right, so this is adorable. she concludes as she slowly takes in the space, momentarily forgetting her purpose and instead taking the time to explore. The 'memorial' part of the library becomes apparent before long, plaques displaying the names of spaces dedicated to those no longer there. In equal parts, she glances to the name and purpose of each space before moving on, absently taking stock and trying to figure out which one will have her line to the internet. Hanging off the back of her wheelchair is a battered old cerulean bookbag, stuffed with her laptop and accessories. The USB cables were really the most important part, as they'd help her upload a certain video 'needing' to see the light of day.

Her head tilts as she spies an open learning space, her eyes afterward giving the cursory once-over to the plaque near the entryway… except her eyes don't leave it. 'Lorraine and Liette Fournier Learning Room' is displayed just as innocuously as all the rest, though it's the only one that's captured her attention. She continues to stare despite doing her best to rip her attention away, but can't help but go back to pondering what lead the names of two familiar strangers to grace the library wall, eyes once again gluing back to the lettering.

“I don’t think there’s school in there today,” says a young-ish but also helpful voice behind Emily. “Or it’s later, if there’s school today.”

If the young woman chooses to turn around, there stands Squeaks in her slightly too large overalls and hoodie. A book is hugged against her chest and she watches Emily with unabashed curiosity. She spends enough time in the library — it’s really like another home to her — that she knows most everyone by face who’s usually around a lot. And she doesn’t recognize Emily.

School? As Emily rotates back and sees the smaller girl, her brow arches up. "No. I—" she starts to say, looking back and forth between the plaque and then the girl. Hastily, she brushes her hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ear. "I'm just looking around. This is my first time here." Her eyes drift to the book for a moment, then back to the person holding it, giving her a small smile.

The book is an older one, cover somewhat worn but in good condition, dust cover torn and taped in a few places but still holding up to its purpose. Even though the title is a little obscured by the younger girl’s hands, there’s enough of it visible to guess Frankenstein, and clearly it isn’t a child’s version of the story but the bolder Mary Shelley writing.

“Okay.” The response is simple, because obviously she’s not there to question the young woman. Just being helpful. Squeaks watches her for a breath longer, then turns a little bit so that she is looking at the rest of the library. “There’s lots of books here. And maps. Also they have school sometimes, but mostly for reading and learning sign language — and some other things. But it’s not like real school.” She tilts her head a little to one side and peeks back at Emily.

The library may seem small from the outside, but it feels bigger on the inside, with multiple rooms and places for reading and other such things. It also has an office for at least one of the librarians. Gillian Childs spends much of her time away from home there, not only because it has internet and cell service. But that certainly helps. Calls still drop if enough people are attempting to make them at once, but it still works a lot better than in most places with mobile hotspots. She’s had been on the phone most of the morning, trying to get ahold of someone, but with little luck. When she opens the door to her office and steps out, she can’t really hide the frustration on her face that purses her lips into a thin line and brings out the dimple on her cheek in a way that is less cute than when she smiles.

That smile does appear, for a moment, when she spots Squeaks. A common face in the library, seeing her is not at all a surprise. It’s a pleasant sight, though.

However the girl she is speaking to earns a double-take.

Gillian had not known Julie very well, not until after. And even then, she still never really got to know her well— but Liette had been an unofficial Lighthouse Kid for a while, hidden among the Ferry during the Blizzard that ravaged the city. She had vaguely known Lorraine, as well, but it’s Julie and Liette that this girl looks amazingly like. It had been their father’s blood, after all, and her mother’s, not that Gillian knew this. Just that the girl who happened to be in front of the plaque looked much like the dead twin and her living nurse of a sister.

The woman with dyed blond hair moves close, after closing the office door, but she doesn’t say anything, not wanting to interrupt the conversation immediately.

"Oh. I see." Emily replies, noncommittal but polite. School does bring her to an excellent segue, reminding her why it is she's come here after all. "Actually, I stopped by to see someone who works here…" she says, leaning to one side to produce the now-curved business card from her pocket. She remembered the name, of course, but having it on hand made it feel as though she were wielding a letter of introduction.

Being stared at in public wasn't something Emily was unfamiliar with, but there was a difference she'd picked up on lately between people staring just because they saw someone unusual and someone who was staring because they had seen a ghost. As Gillian walks toward them with a stare of the latter kind, whether she means to or not, Emily's attention turns to her as well. Her lips press together in a thin, polite attempt at a smile. Since she knew she was looking for 'Lene's mother', the funny stare is actually an indicator she might've found who she was looking for already.

"You wouldn't happen to be Gillian, would you?" she asks, holding up the pocket-worn business card.

The shift in attention isn’t missed, and less than a breath behind the young woman’s turn, Squeaks’ gaze follows. Finding Gillian brings a teeny grin, and a quick nod for Emily’s question. Still being helpful! But she’s not unaware of the tension and weird look, either. So, turning all the way around, she steps over to lightly press a finger against the librarian’s arm. It’s her own version of hugging or offering comfort, depending on the situation.

The touch is met with a smile and Gillian reaches up to brush her hand over the girl’s lower arm. It is brief, but a way to acknowledge the physical contact for what it means and return it a little. Then her attention focuses on the young woman, who still quirks a memory of a time long ago. Gillian hadn’t been in the tunnel when so many of those this Library was dedicated to had died, but she had known most of them. Some more than others.

Doyle especially, considering it had been named after him. “I am. Gillian Childs.” She offers the same hand she brushed over Squeaks. She doesn’t look old enough to be Jolene’s mother, though, that’s for sure. They do have similar facial features, hints of similarities in the eyes, but Gillian can’t be ten years older than her so-called daughter. Cause she’s not.

But then some women who are much older than they look exist, perhaps she’s one of those. It probably seems more plausible than time travel.

Or, for all Emily knew, Lene could have just been adopted! … it'd take some convincing to go changing her mind about the alternate future, though, Gillian's age differential aside.

She's palming the card over to the other hand and giving a twist of one wheel to better face the woman before accepting the shake. "What luck. I'm Emily." Just Emily, if she had her way about it, but given Jolene had known who she was at a glance, she didn't hold out much hope for that. At least not for long. "Lene gave me your card, and said you were able to help her get everything she needed for her GED courses. I know this is a bit left field, but I was hoping you might be able to help me with the same — getting the books."

She smiles again briefly, an apologetic twinge of her lips. "Completely left field, actually." she acknowledges. Better to ask up front than waste a few minutes with small talk, though.

While curiosity in this new person is plain — she has no idea who Emily’s family might be, but guesses the young woman is about the same age as the other teens she’s known to tag along with — Squeaks doesn’t exactly continue to stand around. She wanders away, a little bit, letting some footsteps take her to a chair set aside for library-goers to do library things. That book she’s been clutching is opened, but instead of reading, blue eyes peek often over the top to watch Gillian and Emily.

Of all the things that Gillian might be used to people coming to see her for, a GED was not one of them. Though she had helped her daughter get ahold of many of the resources necessary to complete hers, it hadn’t been too difficult. “I think I still have all the books Jolene used at home.” It hadn’t been a good idea to throw them away— “I’ll just need to update it. The education system is used to lapses in education due to the war, so has programs to help those who fell behind to catch up. The College has lessons to, to help someone study if they don’t test well just off of book information.”

Those who need tutors or lectures, and the like. She had been looking into it for younger students too, because the war had left a lot of children, teenagers and young adults behind in education. Some could barely read when she opened the library, which was why reading classes had been one of the biggest priorities for her.

Her eyes follow Squeaks for a moment, cause the topic actually involved her— just not as advanced. The girl does need to catch up a few grades herself, though.

“How much education did you get beforehand?” she asks as she turns back to Emily.

"Through high school," Emily admits, looking a bit uncomfortable. "I'd love to say I could just … go and take the tests right away, but I guess I don't know what I don't know."

It'd be embarrassing to go in headstrong and fail, after all. She looks up at Gillian, brow arched. "I was already being homeschooled before the war, but things just kind of lapsed, and I never actually got certified." There was no telling what useless chapter of information might've been halfway forgotten…

"To be honest, I'm mostly worried about making sure I'm good for the math portion. It was never my best subject. Annnd…" she squints for a moment, one shoulder slowly lifting up in a shrug. "I feel like I should be fine for the social studies portion, but I don't know what the tests normally look like. So…"

She starts to lift up one hand to justify herself further before her shoulders drop. "I mean, I figure I'd rather just be as prepared as possible. I'd like to get it out of the way as quick as I can." To do what after, she wasn't yet certain, but taking the first step would be the biggest factor.

The conversation is somewhat more interesting than the book in her hands, even though Squeaks is definitely planning to read the book she’s picked up. And any changes in the regular around the library usually has her attention at least for a little while. But school is an interesting topic. So the girl scoots in her chair a little bit, and she actually makes it shuffle a few inches closer to Gillian and Emily. So then she can listen a little better while still looking like she’s reading.

“If you had even some high school level tutoring, you’ve got at least a foundation,” Gillian grinned in response, giving her a ‘wait here’ gesture before she turns and disappears back into her office. When she returns, she’s carrying a small stack of binders. Instead of books, she had gathered together as much of the information to study for the test as she could, copied it and put them into binders, with little colored tags hanging off of it for easy reference. Each of the important subjects, topics that would probably come up, definitions and other things that she might need to know. And practice tests with answer sheets.

The binders are dropped on the nearby table, one that Squeaks knows well. Not too terribly long ago they had used a screwdriver to open up a hidden drawer that had been painted over. It has not been repainted, yet. The paint hadn’t even looked as old as she’d thought it was.

“There’s a few practice tests included, along with answers so you can check yourself, see what you did wrong. Some of the questions might even be on the actual test, but most won’t be, but it’s good to know what you got wrong and it’ll help you study to know what kinds of questions they usually ask.” It’s how she studied best. The first test in college had always been a crapshoot. Once she learned how the specific teacher tested, though, she could study for it and usually did much better on the following tests after. The same is likely true of the GED, even if she never had to take it herself. “Even if you don’t pass it the first time, they have multiple tests a month. You can always take it again.”

As Gillian leaves, Squeaks tucks her legs underneath so she’s kneeling more than actually sitting on her chair. And then she leans a little to see where the librarian might have gone to. It’s just a quick look though, very soon after she’s spotted the office, she’s looking up at Emily again with that open curiosity. For a second it looks like she might even start in with her never-ending supply of questions, but Gillian’s return rescues the young woman for that fate.

Book raising again, the teen resumes her fake reading. She can easily get through the book in a matter of days, but watching the conversation about school is a little bit more interesting. Even that table, too, because she stares at the almost-hidden drawer for what seems like a long time. She’s sure there’s probably nothing else there, but can’t help wondering if there’s not more hidden… somewhere. Her eyes lift again to Gillian and Emily and the binders before her wonderings take her too far away.

When Gillian heads back to her office, the not-so-subtle sidling closer of the younger girl is harder to ignore. When she settles into her stare, Emily slowly turns to meet it back, not sure at first what to make of it. There seemed to be so many questions in her wide eyes…

The librarian's reappearance with a stack of notated resources draws her attention away, and Emily rolls up to the old table to peer at the materials. "Oh, that's awesome." she murmurs to herself, reaching out to open up the topmost binder and skim through a few of the pages. Gillian's encouragement causes her to smirk momentarily. "That's always a nice plan B, I guess." she says, though it is information that gives her extra confidence.

"Is it all right if I take these with me, or would you prefer they stay around here?" She'd completely understand, what with the way the binders are color-coded and organized.

“You can hold onto it until you finish taking it. Though I should get your name at least, so you can return it more easily.” That way they could exchange phone numbers. And because the young woman’s face does keep nagging on Gillian’s memory. She looks so very much like one of those this library was dedicated to.

As she speaks, a young mother passes by them toward the learning rooms, a six year old boy in tow behind her (with one of those literal kid leashes, even). The six year old is talking excitedly in that clipped way that children often do, repeating the same words, and a little too loud, even though his mother attempts to quiet him. From what they can gather from his words, he’s looking forward to his class which starts in about thirty minutes. He’s going to learn more reading. He has a coloring book and a set of crayons with him, though the coloring book is focused on learning words, specifically animals.

The young mother has a book tucked under her arm, one that she no doubt plans to read his chest all excited, while the other carries a book under her arm, obviously a book she intended to read while her son took classes. It’s a cover that both of them recognize, the black wolf looming on white. As she passes, Squeaks can feel something. A hint of wetness, crawling up her leg, under her clothes. It ignores all that touches it, continuing to move upward, until it settles on her arm, next to the first mark, making a small single brush stroke that settles and dries with the rest.


The young child’s excitement and chatter is enough to make Squeaks look in his direction. She lowers her head slightly, book raised a little bit, so just her eyes are visible over the top of it as they follow the mom and kid. Those observations are made with the same kind of wonder she might give any creature at the zoo. She even begins to lean forward to maybe get a better look at the book, or books since coloring is neat too, but then she stiffens suddenly.

With a rare side-eyeing sent for the two women at the table, just trying to decide how wrapped up in their talking about school things they are, the teenager eases her legs out from underneath her. It’s all casual, nothing strange happening at all sort of move. She’s probably just tired of sitting on her feet. But she remembers that feeling from just the other day and this time she’s sure there’s no inverted-dripping water happening.

She closes her book as that weird, wet feeling finally settles on her arm and slants her eyes to it. As she expected, there’s a new mark that looks a little bit like the first one — that one is hidden under a band-aid right now — and still no idea where it came from. Squeaks’ eyes go up to Gillian and Emily, still trying to look like everything is normal. She stands and abandons the book on the chair so she can shove her hands into her pockets, because it might hide the new mark, and actually really join the two at the table.

"Excellent." Emily reaches for the binders, sliding them closer to herself and then reaching around the back of her chair to wriggle the straps of her backpack free. Carefully swinging it around into her lap, she frowns at the tangle of cords inside, pulling out her charger first and then slipping the binders neatly into the freed-up space. She's not overlooked the request for her full name, just doesn't want to respond to it yet.

Being face-to-face with her laptop reminds her, though. "Oh, right." she murmurs before glancing back up at Gillian. "Is there wifi here, or just a computer room?"

Squeaks finally joining the table earns her a polite smile, lips quirking in amusement. "Hi again." she says, as if she'd not noticed the younger girl peeking over at them the entire time.

Oh that is a question that Gillian can’t help but find amusing. Mostly because it’s one she thinks about every time she goes places herself. Will she be able to get on the internet here, or is she stuck working offline. Again. As is often the case. “We have a mobile hotspot, so yes, you can use it for wifi, or phone-calls, even. It can’t handle much data, but, it can handle enough.” But some data is more than the no data of most places. The public profile, the account anyone within the library can access, which would show up, can still allow for slow upload and download speeds, enough for most people’s purposes of reading a webpage, or sending an email. Youtube might be slightly more difficult, though, but that’s what buffering is for.

“The password for the public one is charlottesweb17. One word, all lowercase, no apostrophe.” They change it every day, so someone can’t just sit outside against the wall in the alley and access their internet. They’d have to at least come inside and get the day’s password, which is always a classic children’s novel and the day of the month.

As Squeaks returns, she offers the young teen a smile, one that’s still brighter than it is for most people. “I’m helping your friend get ready for her GED.”

“Hi.” Squeaks’ voice is library-quiet when she replies to the greeting, like she hadn’t just been watching the whole time and nothing strange ever happened. She slinks around the table to stand right next to Gillian, where she can peek around and give curious looks to Emily. Her eyes bounce from the binders that are scooped up by Emily to the young woman herself. And when the whole conversation is explained, she looks up at the Librarian and nods to show she understands. Something to do with school, from what she heard them talking about.

A second or two after, she looks at Emily again. Her shoulders shift a little bit, a small shrug making them pop up slightly. Another few seconds pass before she thinks to offer, “I’m Squeaks.” She peeks up at Gillian after giving her name, then looks at the young woman again. “What’s your name?”

"I'm Emily. Nice to meet you." She stops short of saying 'Squeaks' back to the younger girl, not sure she'd be able to keep her voice serious. If it was what she wanted to be called, though…

The news that there's internet floating around in the air causes Emily to draw her laptop from the bag, sliding it on the table. Unopened, for now. It'd be rude to just dive right in and tune the other two out, of course. She drums her fingers on top of the closed screen once. "Charlotte's Web?" she echoes back, looking off for a moment as she thinks on the book. Her brow ticks up as she remembers the basic premise; about the runt who was saved by the tireless literary spider, their friendship, and the cycles of seasons and life. "I always felt like that story had this 'Giving Tree' vibe underneath it. Though, I guess the pig was way more considerate than the boy was. I dunno." Her shoulders curl up into a suddenly self-conscious shrug.

"Don't let me hold you up." She's rushing to say after that, thumb curling under the screen of the laptop. "I'm going to stick around here for a bit. I'll make sure to drop by the office and leave you my number before I go." If the both of them decided to stick around, she'd just have to talk over the top of the screen. Who knew how long this upload was going to take.

“It’s a different password every day, I think we’ve used the The Giving Tree before, as well,” Gillian responds with a chuckle, but she has to agree— in some ways the two stories are very similar, but she finds Charlotte’s Web a far nicer lesson, because the pig was, indeed, far more considerate. The girl’s name earns a longer look, as she tries to remember if she’d heard of an Emily at some point— there was one Emily. A little mute girl whom Kaylee had adopted, but that girl was far, far younger than this one. She did not think that Emily was even Squeaks age yet. Hannah would probably be close, though.

With a shake of her head, she backs away, intending to leave the young woman to whatever it is she wanted to do, because it really wasn’t her business. “I’ll look forward to seeing you again.” And maybe, at some point, she’ll think of a easy way to work in asking if she happened to be related to a set of twins whom she looked remarkably like in some ways. A set of twins who had been broken many years ago.

Her eyes settle on Squeaks, for a moment, “Did you need anything?” The girl doesn’t give away that anything amiss had happened, or Gillian doesn’t notice. At least not yet.

A wondering look is given to the laptop, even though Squeaks sort of follows Gillian away from the table. She’s curious, of course, because laptops are way different from the computers in the library. But she’s also not one to be nosy to private things, like computers. “No, I’m just here today,” she answers as she looks up at the librarian. She even grins a little bit, since everything is just normal.

She turns a little, looking at the table then for the chair she’d abandoned. Finding it, she takes a step toward it, then pauses just long enough to press a finger against Gillian’s arm like she did before. Then the teen moves for the chair, to set it where it belongs and get to reading that book she’d been carrying before.

"Thanks again." Emily nods, looking back up with a quick smile before she does lift the screen up, fingertips passing over the power button to bring everything back up. Her fingers rest light over the keyboard, quickly and eagerly navigating to input the wifi password as directed. She could get used to being spoiled like this.

The blessed feeling of being online feels almost like more of a victory than the binders do. Almost. She's careful not to overvalue this. With one last glance at Gillian, Emily does hone in on the task she's eager to set in motion, hoping it doesn't create too much drag on the hotspot.

The file is set to begin uploading before long, though in that blink of time Squeaks has gone back for the chair she was in earlier, and Emily confirms with a quick scan she seems to be here alone. The line of her pursed lips quirk as she locks the wheels of her chair in place, attention slowly returning to the younger girl. "If you want to read over here, you can." she offers, studying her and then gesturing with a stiff tilt of her hand toward her screen. "This'll take a while."

There’s a glance toward the young teen’s arms, the bandaids running up and covering something, but Gillian hesitates for asking. If she saw it she would probably laugh and slap the girl on the back and say that she’d gotten her first tattoo at fourteen herself, but since she can’t see what’s under those bandages. What she senses is a soft echo, like a firefly trying to flicker in the daylight. Even if they would do such a thing, it would be almost impossible to see under the radiance that remains around her. And it wouldn’t be the first time she felt something similar, anyway. Maybe it’s nothing to worry about.

“I’ll be in my office if you need anything,” she offers, knowing that she has council things to do and that’s one of the many things she does in her office, also including working on her newest book. Which may or may not be published using her real name.

She gives a nod toward Emily as well, before she turns and leaves toward her office, leaving the door cracked open behind her.

Blue eyes again peek over the edge of the book just in time to see Gillian disappear in her office again. It’s a weird thing to want to make sure she hasn’t disappeared to somewhere or left completely — not that it’s ever happened, but there’s still concern that it might. Squeaks’ mouth pulls into a teeny, quick smile at the closing door then lowers the book to stare at the new mark on her arm.

It’s a strange thing, and it’s tempting to peel back the bandaid to look at the first one in comparison. But instead of picking at it, she lets Emily’s voice interrupt her wonderings.

The young teen looks over, a small touch of suspicion in her expression to start with. It’s habit, and seems to have little to do with the invitation, since she puts her feet to the floor and scoots her chair all the way over to the table. The book she’d just been carrying around is laid on the table so she can position her chair better and not be in Emily’s space. “Hi,” is given, once Squeaks is all settled again.

"Hi," is returned, one hand tapping her keyboard as she opens a new tab, waiting for an image search to complete. 'Difference between male and female hummingbirds' is one she hopes will pull up a quick comparison to solve a long-held question she only seemed to remember when there wasn't much hope of having it answered electronically. If the connection was already hunkered down by the upload she was shoving at it, there was also the alternative of using the library's resources.

"You come here often, then?" she asks completely non-ironically, with a glance toward Gillian's door. They seemed familiar, after all.

"Libraries are great places to get lost in. It's nice this one's here."

“Almost every day.” Squeaks’ eyes dart toward the screen once in casual interest, but settle on the book she’d picked out earlier. “Sometimes I go other places. Like Raytech, or the marketplace. But usually I’m here.” She swings a foot while staring at the pages in front of her, but she isn’t really reading the book right now.

After some seconds, she looks up at Emily like she’s planning to ask a question. There’s a touch of confusion in it, probably some nervousness too. Her gaze darts toward the office door then back to the young woman. “Can you find all kinds of things on that,” she eventually does ask, really quiet and with the smallest point at the laptop.

Noticing the glance toward her screen, since it's on something non-conspicuous, she turns it as the first few images pop up. Hummingbirds — loading up one agonizingly slow panel at a time. As she shows it off, she pays more attention to the images and squints at them. There's definitely a few where male and female hummingbirds are side by side, and the types of differences in the coloration are finally, visually clear. "Well, that solves it, I guess." she says, morose for no good reason. "Lee's a boy."

She glances aside at Squeaks, like they're in on something together. "Fucking figures, doesn't it?" She turns back nonchalantly to the screen to kill the additional tab before it can take up more bandwidth.

The question comes as a bit of a surprise, and she shakes her head, leaning forward a bit, forearms on the edge of the table. "Well, not as much as I used to, not as easily at least." she says cautiously. She's the sort of person who'd prefer to have as many tabs open as possible. This whole one-to-two-and-only-occasionally thing still is an uncomfortable experience. "But yeah." she amends lightly, looking back to Squeaks with some interest now. A new search is opened, blank as she waits. "What do you want to look up?"

The hummingbirds are interesting, with their bright colors and streamlined shapes. You don’t see many of them in the city, either, unless you’re in the more wild parts of the Safe Zone. The teen leans forward a little to get a better look when the screen is turned her way, all wide eyed interest. Emily’s comment is met with confused look and a shrug, unsure of what is meant by it.

Squeaks leans back when the images go away and just a blank search screen comes back. She stares at it, even though she heard the question, then slowly looks toward the office again. “Promise you won’t tell,” she asks, returning her attention to Emily.

Once she agrees, the girl holds up her arm with its brand new mark. After a beat, she even peels off the bandaid to show the first mark. That one is just as clean and crisp as the second. “Can you find these?”

Emily met Squeaks all of ten minutes ago. It might be a little concerning if she had anything to say in return aside from the shrug. The attempt at forced camaraderie does seem to work, for what it's worth, as Squeaks is leaning in with a confession of her own.

The request to keep a secret is met with a raised brow that quickly furrows back down. "Sure." she replies, curious and far from sounding confident. She seems to realize it, and keys in a quick shortcut on the keyboard, bringing up a darker tab that screams 'this will be secret!' "We can use incognito mode and everything." Emily sounds very knowing.

The marks on Squeaks' arm comes as a surprise and she tilts her head to get a better look. "Okay…" she says slowly, doing her best to keep her own curiosity to herself for the moment. There's middling success there. "How'd you get that? It looks like some kind of Asian script. But it also doesn't look complete, but that's just me."

She uses her mouse to draw out the left part of the symbol, the internet racing to keep up with her. When that first character's completed, the magic of Google Translate declares it's Chinese, and provides a translation for 'king' or 'monarch', pronounced 'Wáng'. When she tries to add the additional mark, the handwriter interprets the small streak as some kind of punctuation after the initial character. "See?" she says more to herself than Squeaks.

Of course, that won't be the end of it. She shakes her head and pulls open a new tab, a new search, and the site that returns is a basic one — quick to load. And gratefully enough appears to have a map between all kinds of Chinese characters, starting from a root. "Oh, this looks promising."

Some fiddling, and she starts with the royal-indicating root again, examining the tree out. "One who connects heaven, humanity, and earth." she murmurs while she scrolls, trying to find anything else. Suddenly, she's frowning, glancing back down at the mark on Squeaks' arm.

"… But that's more slanty than…" Emily doesn't seem shy about thinking out loud here. She looks back to the screen with a frown. "I know nothing about Chinese, admittedly, but the slant part's probably important." Heck, all these other ones seemed to vary based on what little tiny slants were added or removed.

She wasn't going to let this stump her, but needed a second to think.

“I don’t know,” Squeaks admits, her voice gone softer than library-voicing. “It just appeared. The first one after I was at the bookstore and this new one…” She looks aside to where the chair had been, before she scooted it over to the table. “Right after Gillian brought the binders.” She looks up at Emily with a look pleading the young woman to not tell on her.

That worry mingles with interest when things start showing up on the computer screen again. She still peeks once or twice at the office door, but mostly she’s watching the research that Emily finds.

“Chinese.” The teen’s voice makes the statement a question. And like the older girl, she’s just find wondering about things out loud too. Bringing her arms to the edge of the table, she puts her chin on them to think more. What happened that was the same when she got the two marks?

"So it's something to do with books." Emily suggests, sounding convinced of it. Both places were loaded with them, after all. What had happened when the binders were brought out? Her eyes wander, trying to rewind to that point in time. The kid? She remembers the noisy child. They'd walked past. "You sure you're not secretly royalty or something and your birthright's revealing itself through mysteriously-appearing tattoos?" she asks while she backtracks, once again sounding just as serious as joking. This was pretty out there, after all. Eventually, she finds where the mother and child are sitting, still waiting for the classes to start. Emily squints, wondering if…

… That was silly. But this all was getting crazier by the second.

Suddenly bleary-eyed, she looks back to the screen, to the map of different characters. No matter what the trigger for it was, she's come to a semi-unsettling conclusion. "Squeaks, I'm not sure whatever it is is done writing yet." she says heavily, wishing she had better advice. Looking the younger girl over, it was clear she wanted to keep this from other people. Sure, it had to be terrifying for the marks to show up, writing for what all they knew could very well be a curse when it's done, but…

Emily can't bring herself to betray the amount of trust Squeaks has shown her by suggesting the girl seek out an authority who was better equipped. People like SESA or something.

Still. This reeked of something supernatural. Or superhuman.

Still, they'd been sitting right here and she doubted the binders had any creepy Chinese curses hidden in them. Or any Chinese at all. God, she hoped not.

"Um…" she starts, her own voice almost as soft as Squeaks', "Those two who came in a little bit ago, do you know them?" Her gaze flits back to the mother and son for a moment in subtle indication.

The joke is met with a look without understanding. Maybe it's the semi serious tone that confuses the teen. She slowly shrugs while she wonders herself if maybe it is some sort of birthright, even if it seems a little impossible. “I don't think that's right,” she eventually decides.

Her eyes turn back to the computer screen, but she's staring at some other place. Thinking again. “At the bookstore, this older girl bought a book and said something…” She isn't sure who it was to or what it was. “And I tried to find her when I bought my book, but I lost her. Then the first mark showed up.”

As she speaks, her gaze focuses again and follows Emily’s to the woman and child. “No, but I see them sometimes. He's in reading school.” The younger girl sits up a little straighter and adds, like she's grasping at a puzzle piece that's been upside down, “She has the new book.”

An eyebrow arches involuntarily as Squeaks mentions the other woman at the bookstore. Well, hopefully it hadn't been anything important that she can't remember. Maybe it was just a passing comment about liking the same book, or … something.

"New book?" Emily echoes back, looking a little less furtively toward the pair now.

“The Wolves of Valhalla.” Squeaks watches the woman with the little boy for a bit longer. “I bought one…” But the other teen at the bookstore didn’t. Her face turns to Emily and her eyes join a short time later, looking very puzzled.

And a little bit anxious.

“I found a journal,” the teen whispers, leaning in close so Emily can hear. “It talks, but in writing not like us and not normal like books. In code. It said it’s hiding and can’t get back and is in the books.” Her eyes go to the book the mother is holding then back to the young woman. The Wolves of Valhalla. “I got my book, and the first mark showed up. Then that one, and the second mark…” She trails off, since it brings them to where they are now.

That book again. Her copy was at home, not thumbed through nearly as much as she would have liked given her credit at Prufrock's was now almost halfway shot with its purchase.

She'd be more skeptical of Squeaks' talking journal if it hadn't been prefaced with the conversation they'd already had. The wary look on her face as she pieces it together — talking journal, Chinese tattoo, Wolves of Valhalla — is scrubbed away as she looks ruefully back to the laptop.

Was there anyone Chinese in that book? She was going to have to read it for more than just figuring out where exactly her father fit in the tale of the Vanguard, now.

"Do you have the journal with you?" Emily asks, looking over the character and its variations on her screen again.

Returning her chin to its resting place on her arms, Squeaks gives a shift of her shoulders. It’s almost like a shrug in reaction to the look on Emily’s face. “It’s in my backpack.” Which is squirreled away where it’s and not likely to be bothered until she claimed it again. It doesn’t look like she’s in a hurry to go grab it just yet.

“If it’s in the whole shipment,” she wonders out loud. That’s a lot of books. The younger girl makes a face, like she’d bitten into something a little tart. “What if we find someone with a copy,” she asks, tipping her head so she can look up at Emily. She’s already decided to include the young woman in this investigation also it would seem. “Then we could know if it’s marks happening because of the book, right?”

"I've got a copy at home that I got recently." Emily's quick to offer up. She'd much rather introduce Squeaks to one new book than go chasing down a storeroom of copies at the bookstore or something, assuming that was really the trigger. There's a brief pause as she realizes what she's said out loud, looking back to the younger girl with a furrowed brow.

She's letting out an uneasy sigh at that point, leaning back in her chair and tapping a thumb along the armrest as she looks up toward the ceiling. Her head shakes as the idea hardens into place. Her curiosity won't let this one go.

"After I finish this, we could… go back, if you want." This offer isn't made as confidently, and the look that falls on Squeaks is a measuring one. She must come to a decision as she adds, fingers of the hand on her armrest flipping up, "Only if you want."

Who knows, maybe she could text Julie to come home on her lunch break and see if there was anything weird about the girl.

The younger girl studies Emily for a good length of time, probably measuring her just the same as she’s being measured. But she does sit up straight after a bit and nod her head. “Okay.” It isn’t the first time she’s tagged along after someone she’s only just met on a whim and off chance that she might learn something new.

With the download still needing to finish, Squeaks decides to collect her things. She pushes back from the table to first return her chair to its place. The book she’d been intending to read is gathered to go to the book return — she can always find it again another day — and on that trip she’ll search out her backpack.

Once those are accomplished, the teen stands outside Gillian’s office door for an eternity of seconds. It’s still really a strange thing to tell a grown-up where she’ll be when plans change, so she stares at the door before mustering courage enough to knock lightly. Given the chance, she quietly tells the librarian that she is going to look at books at Emily’s house, then slinks away to wait with the young woman until it’s time to leave.

It's a good thing she'd already clipped the short video down even shorter in advance. Emily's finding herself unexpectedly impatient for it to finish uploading now, all 36 seconds of it.

She'd been so focused on the task, she almost forgets it needs a title, so when the option appears she lets out a quiet, "Oh." Her teeth click off the side of her cheek. Wondering what to name it lasts only a moment, a knowing smirk touching her features as she types it out.

'The dance is not a metaphor, guys'

When it's all said and done, there's a brief moment of hesitation, fingers hovering just over the trackpad before posting it live. She knows how much she likes her own privacy, after all. Then again, Eve Mas was likely a woman who could not give less of a shit if people saw her stunt. She was the meme woman after all.

"I'm only doing this because it was fucking hilarious." she justifies herself to the computer screen nonetheless. She still sits there for another half minute before posting it up only with several hashtags as a description.

That done, she looks straight ahead as she puts the laptop back to sleep and slides it carefully into her bookbag. She'd accomplished everything she came to do. While that was usually a satisfying feeling, she finds herself looking back toward Squeaks, gaze calculating, and a knot in her stomach. Part of Emily hopes she can help the girl solve her mystery, just as much as she hopes that the Wolves of Valhalla book ends up having nothing to do with it.

It already held enough mystery for her as it was.

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