Chasing Rabbits


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Also featuring:

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Scene Title Chasing Rabbits
Synopsis Nicole has a discussion with her sister(?) that feels very much like deja vu, but nothing is quite right down this rabbit hole.
Date January 12, 2011

Nicole's House?

She navigates the floors of the house like she knows them, bare soles and steadying toes touching down on wood, to carpet, to tile. The darkness of the house implies an early morning, with the soft, white quality to what light does manage to make its way inside, as opposed to sharper golds of a crashing sunset. A quilted bathrobe is tied off around her waist, naked beneath it save for loose cotton underwear, a wedding ring and engagement ring both wrapped on the appropriate finger as the only piece of jewelry on her person. Nicole Nichols can feel her heart struggle in her chest with an anxious knowledge that there is someone in her house.

Someone is in her house.

The house itself is all wee hours floorboard creaks and looming silence, cityish in its compact economical use of size, with tall ceilings and closeting walls. Rectangle windows are bare enough to let in the light, the vertical, hard edged shadows that Nicole will recognise as bars bolted into place. An antiquated chandelier hangs from the ceiling like an elaborate earring of dripping crystals, glinting white flecks of reflected light across the ceiling.

Her journey takes her to the living room, and she nudges with her bare foot a fluffy stuffed rabbit of the way, before she tentatively peers around the corner, clutching closed her bathrobe as she squints through the long shadows and dwindled light.

The familiar sight startles and then will inevitably ease her in its familiarity. Colette sits at a slouch on the sofa, her hoodie drawn over her shaggy dark hair and a sullen looseness to her mouth. She's dressed for a winter's day, her dark green eyes veiled with eyelashes, and there's something very familiar about this. Nicole could swear she's been here before, maybe within the month. Ah, there it is — upon the opposite wall of the living room is a large bulletin board that once was used to advertise concerts and events in Central Park. Converted, since then, in a posting board for the missing.

Nicole can see her own image, the others almost blurred, among the clutter.

"'Letty?" She lifts her head, studies for a moment the board on her wall, curious that she should have kept it, claimed it as her own. Odd duck. There's a smile fore her sister as Nicole approaches, her fingers sunk into the edges of her robe, acting as extra insurance for the cinch that holds it there. Not that she worries for her modesty in front of her little sister. They've seen the worst from each other.

"Hey," Nicole murmurs gently, coming down in a careful crouch in front of the sofa, and Colette. "What are you doing here? You about scared me half to death." Forearms settle on bent knees, both for comfort and to keep shifting fabric from going too far. She toys with the pair of rings on her finger. An absent, familiar movement by now.

Colette rouses from her reverie, her eyes clear and seeing as opposed to the cloudiness that has, in the past, saturated an eye or two. Her hands, once loose in her lap, curl fingers against her palm. If there were dust on her, it'd be coming off in subtle shifts of movement, for all that she seems to come too as if waking from her own slumber. Maybe she's been waiting a long time. Life flickers in green irises, however, focusing on her sister's features before her hands go out in a single smooth gesture.

Hands settle on Nicole's shoulders, before the younger of the two is shifting forward enough to hug. The girl's dark hair tickles Nicole's ear, mingles with her own locks, hoodie falling back to flop against her shoulderblades. Nicole is given the view of the hearth ledge, where rectangles of glass in frames glint obscurely, difficult to see in the light where the only illumination serves to cast glare up from their surfaces.

"Do you love him?" is mumbled, oddly defiant in contrast to the warm embrace. Her hair smells like a winter's day in Central Park.

Nicole drops to her knees on the wood flooring, wrapping her arms tightly around her younger sister, tangling fingers in her hair. "In my own way," she responds easily. She isn't sure whom is being asked after, so the safest answer is best. "I just wish you could see what I see in him." Ambiguous enough. Enough time and affection has lapsed, and Nicole shifts away from the embrace so she can park herself on the couch next to Colette.

And Colette lets her, hair in its perpetual state of disarray, especially now with hood dragged away and Nicole's fingers having mussed through it in gripping affection. "I'm glad you think you're happy. Hopefully it's a long-term delusion," is an unkind mutter, until Colette's mouth twists into a smile once the words are out of it. The long, jailhouse shadows of the barred windows cast dark strikes over her pixie features as she turns her face to Nicole, green eyes searching in a way they don't usually have to. "But I guess that goes without saying for most marriages, right?

"Like a husband is a human-shaped mirror where a man should be."

Shadows cast by barred window feel more like shadows cast by doubt. Nicole's brows furrow, vaguely insulted by this idea that she's fooling herself. "It has to be better than Richard and Evangeline's marriage, doesn't it? A house of lies, that was." There's a derisive snort. She's long since ceased referring to her parents by terms like Dad and Mom. Those names imply affection. Or closeness. Nicole feels neither for the two who created and murdered her in equal measures by their actions.

What Colette says next catches her attention, like the sun glinting off a shiny bauble just in the periphery of one's vision. Nicole turns to scrutinise Colette's face with subtly narrow eyes. "Read that in a book, Sissy? That seems awful profound for you. Needs a few more eff bombs." She's teasing. Mostly. Except that it strikes her as curious, and decidedly out of character.

Then again, Nicole isn't entirely sure she's certain of what constitutes her sister's character anymore.

There's a subtle rounding to Colette's eyes when she's called on her words, hesitating under the narrowed focus on her face. But there's nothing to see there that isn't everything Nicole remembers to be, down to the configuration of eyelashes, blemishes on her skin. "I guess I'm hanging around some profound people," she offers, eyebrows spiking up and a mildly crooked grin reflecting back at Nicole, before she tucks in her chin, knees together. Studies her own hands.

"You're nothin' like them," she agrees, a hint of reluctant apology in her words for implying anything even remotely close to the idea. "You killed for me, you know? Bet you'd do it again, if you had to. Family shouldn't— shouldn't ever— " That stammer shudder of pure, contained anger in Colette's system stalls out her words. For all that it's quieter. It has some restraint.

She takes a breath in. "Do you ever think it's in you? What made Richard twisted inside."

"Oh, 'Letty." The don't ask me that falls short of being spoken. There's the hint of fear in Nicole's expression, a thickness in her throat that feels like sick. "Maybe," is admitted with some reluctance. "Maybe that's why I've killed for you without a single regret, no matter who it is." Blood, or stranger.

"Do you think it's in me?" is the more important question in Nicole's mind. "I don't think it's in you," she supplies before it can be asked. "You're angry, so angry because of what he did to us, and… I am, too. But you aren't like him at all." The doubts about herself have Nicole rising from her seat and pacing away. There's a drink waiting for her on the mantelshelf that she doesn't remember pouring, or leaving there, before she went off to bed. Scotch on the rocks. Those rocks are still suspended in rich, golden liquid.

This was Allen's drink. She only adopted it after… The corners of her mouth quirk upward. She can't remember why she started to drink scotch like this. She's always been a tequila woman. She brings the glass to her lips and takes a swallow, lidding her eyes heavily as she does.

Overwhelming taste is immediately followed by chemical warmth, just as she recalls it, and through the squint of her eyelashes, she can see better now, the images in their frames, behind their glass. One of her, a hand shielding the sunlight, wearing a smile of someone who is getting photographed by someone she loves. Another a few inches away, a small girl crouched like a frog in a garden, with pale, well-brushed hair, and a grin with a missing tooth in it. Familiar and not, at the same time.

There's a squeak of springs in the sofa, drawing Nicole's focus in a sort of blurred, vertigo inevitability, nearly dizzying. Though she heard no foot steps, Colette is standing off in a different corner of the room, holding the stuffed rabbit and fidgeting with its ears. The hood of her sweater is drawn back over her head, protectively, face obscured.

"I think you're different," she asserts. "You protect, like a she-wolf. All tooth and good intentions."

Nicole stares at the photographs, a smile tugs at her lips at memories that don't quite fill her mind, but give her the same sort of emotion as if they had. The image of the little girl causes her to trace a finger over it and then turn back to her little sister, where she holds the rabbit.

A she-wolf. The elder (née) Nichols' smile fades as she starts toward the hallway she came from. There's a sudden imperative to check the other rooms in the hallway. That sensation that something is wrong. Was wrong? Maybe isn't anymore. Probably isn't. Best to check, just to be sure.

"Except that— "

Colette's voice, again, though it's faintly huskier, faintly different, and not coming from behind Nicole. It doesn't really have direction, actually, in the same way that stagnant air surrounds and presses in from all sides, unobtrusively. "Except that there's such a thing as going too far in one direction. And you wind up on the other side. Oppositions are just mirror reflections. You're still capable of damage."

The floor tips beneath Nicole's feet, knocking her into the wall as if she were off-balance — it's difficult to tell, if the world just tipped or maybe that sip of scotch was far stronger than she anticipated. The shadows all crawl longer, scarier, jagged edges along the walls and the floor, the ghost light coming in through the windows only betraying that there is a world out there — a terrifying world. The strange/familiar dichotomy of the house only plays on the idea that she isn't alone, and that she isn't safe.

Nicole gives a startled grunt as she spills over against the wall and then onto the floor. She's scrambling up to her feet, the sense of dread filling her. She has to find… Find…

Who is the girl in the photo?

Her daughter. She must find her daughter.

Now. See that she's safe. Find her husband. Is he away on business? Why can't she remember? Nicole braces her hands against white walls lined with photographs she doesn't make out in the pale light and shadows of the hall. "Damage?" She asks forward, rather than where she accepted Colette to last be standing. "Damage to whom? Only to anyone who threatens my family."

And there's an edge of threat to her tone as well. Is Colette here to distract her? There's distrust. There's so many things that have been kept from Nicole over the years by her little sister. There's an inherent danger in lies.

She receives judgmental silence, until only her own breathing and heart beat in her ears. The distant sound of engines and life beyond the house. The creak of floorboards beneath her bare feet.

Then, a shuffle. Out the corner of Nicole's eye, she sees a figment, a shadow, rushing by the frame of a door. It pauses when Nicole focuses on the shape of the little girl, small enough to only come up to her waist, her hair catching like a halo in the half light. A toy rabbit dangles from her hand, a lacy nightgown of pinks and whites. She gives Nicole a startled and guilty look, and quick as she appeared, darts out of view around the corner with the gentle thump of child's feet on the ground.

"Come back," Nicole cries out, hurrying after the apparition of a child. "You aren't in trouble!" She tries to sound reassuring, but she only sounds scared. Panic is so thick in the air and in her chest that it's difficult to breathe. The sounds beyond her walls seem too loud for comfort. She has to catch the little girl and gather her up in her arms before she'll feel as though all is right in the world once more. "My little princess," is called out more gently this time. Little princess? That seems so frilly. Even for her. Or perhaps especially so.

She moves through the house at a run, the echoes of her own foot steps providing illusion that she really is being chased. Her legs bare against prickly cool as bathrobe flaps back with momentum, winging around the corner—

Gut wrenching halt has Nicole compulsively nearly skidding to a stop, as if the figure she meets in the next room were as magnetically repulsive as the child were attractive. It takes a hand flying out to grip the edge of a door frame to make sure she doesn't drop, though the woman in front of her isn't in many ways intimidating. She stands in near equal height, garbed as Colette had been, all inky, shaggy hair, denim and hoodie. But a black, velveteen mask obscures her face from the nose and up, beaded and decorative, and the jaw is wrong, the mouth is wrong.

The eyes are wrong, cornflower blue staring at her. The rabbit in her hands is a living creature, now, held in bony hands to the point that a protective clasp becomes painful, squeezing, the small creature struggling with wide eyed dumb panic and drawing scratches on pale hands that do not relent.

The room suddenly floods white, causing Nicole to turn and brave the windows, a near blinding flood light coming pouring through the glass and preternatural wind flagging the curtains like sails—

Wakefulness comes like a slap.

Nicole is up and out of her bed, satin sheets cast aside carelessly and bare feet hitting the floor running. She's halfway down the hall before she remembers.

This her condo.

She lives here alone.

She isn't married. A glance down to her left hand. (Yet.)

And she has no daughter.

A heavy breath is exhaled as Nicole leans against the wall in a slant, pushing her heart back into her chest with one open hand. At the end of the hall she can see the edge of the island in that nebulous area where kitchen meets entry area meets living room.

The forgotten glass of scotch.

Hands rub over her pale face, bringing some wakefulness back to her. Banishing some of the darker thoughts, and the horror.

The ice has melted.

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