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Scene Title Choice
Synopsis Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, / And sorry I could not travel both / And be one traveler, long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could
Tamara confronts Colette and offers her a crossroads she can't bring herself to tread. Not choosing is also a choice — with unforeseen consequences.
Date June 14, 2010

The Bronx, outside Gun Hill

It's a warm, humid day through much of New York City, and only the approach of evening has made that weather more bearable for a city that — up until just a few weeks ago — still had snow on the ground. With the temperature pushing towards eighty degrees the bright sun shining down on New York casts stark shadowed on cracked and split concrete in the form of rooftop silhouettes. Here on the streets of the Bronx things both look and feel hotter, from the way the pavement ripples in the distance hotly to the sheer thickness in the air suffocatingly smothering the very mild breeze that barely cuts between the buildings.

Outside of the Gun Hill apartments, beating the heat has meant staying unfortunately outdoors, due to the lack of air conditioners or fans in the largely unfurnished tenement building. Situated on the sidewalk outside of the building, Colette Nichols has occupied herself with mechanical maintenance rather than residential maintenance to help keep her mind off of things. While there's painting and cleaning left to do for weeks more inside the red-brick building behind her, it's simply too stifling inside to care much about it.

Seated on the concrete steps, packing up the last of her tools into the battered old red toolbox she'd borrowed from Devi over a year ago, Colette has finally put the finishing touches on the Frankenstein's monster of a dirt-bike that she's been working on since the fall. Now outfitted with an oversized headlight and tail lamp to match its directionals, the battered old bike is now something near street-legal, pending registration.

With a clunk of the toolbox lid closed, Colette exhales a tired sigh and wipes her forearm across her sweaty brow, bare shoulders showing the crease of scar tissue in the shrug that comes next, sweat-slicked bangs hanging down and shadowing her mismatched eyes in the stare she gives to a spot of rust on the toolbox's lid.

"One thing left…" Colette murmurs to herself, reaching into the pocket of her camouflage cargo pants to remove a crumpled and old business card for the Alley Cat Courier service. Pursing her lips to the side, Colette turns it over and looks at the phone number on the back, then flicks the card back and forth against her opposite hand anxiously.

"Only one," an all-too-familiar voice echoes. "As you make it."

It's very like Tamara to be leaning against a lamp-post, in a manner that suggests she could have easily been there the whole time… or only just long enough to hear Colette's murmur. The posture should be casual, one shoulder against the pole, hands clasping opposite forearms across her waist. It isn't. There's a tension in her posture to match the peculiar timbre of her words — an uneasy, apprehensive distance that attempts to give Colette all the room the younger girl might ask for. She's afraid of something.

Tamara doesn't look at the bike, or the toolbox; doesn't fidget with her sea-green shirt or khaki shorts, or even shift her weight from where she leans against the post. Her hair has been cut to shoulder-length, the long and tangled tresses gone entirely, and Colette has no way of knowing if this happened before or after the premonitions. Her eyes are dark, not so much in color as in expression; the antithesis of the whimsical girl Colette has so often seen, and equally unlike the sybil who offered cryptic bits of wisdom time and time again.

She looks like someone who has already been wounded to the quick, and Colette hasn't even spoken a word yet.

"I don't understand," the seeress says softly, because she doesn't. She can't.

That Colette shows the same fear to Tamara that she showed to the feral dogs during the storm says more than her breathless gasp of fright does. She bolts up from the step she's seated on, trips her heel against the concrete steps and stumbles backwards and up towards the building. Wide-eyed fright grasps Colette tight and keeps her rooted in place, breath hitching in the back of her throat and hands trembling. The stare she affords down to Tamara shows no sign of the tenderness or softness that Colette has always given to her.

Colette's thumb moves across her right ring finger, spinning that silver puzzle ring across the digit without any real conscious effort. Shuddering breathily, Colette tries to form words and only makes noises, tiny fearful sounds that are analogous to whimpers in quality. With shaking hands, Colette makes a shooing motion to Tamara, as if she were a wild animal wandered up out of the woods unwantedly.

"Go," Colette shakily manages to say. "G— go away," is more of a plea than a demand, "I— won't let you— I— " there's no real fire in her words; some hurt, some fear, and mostly confusion.

Tamara doesn't move, except for an aborted reach that couldn't have stopped Colette from tripping anyway, not all the way over there, not with the motion dying in a curl of fingers and silvery glint a bare foot and a half in front of her own torso. She presses the knuckles of her left hand against her lips, still watching Colette; always watching Colette.

"I will," the seeress finally says, voice still muted, soft, melancholic.

She straightens then, setting her feet flat against the concrete, peeling her side up away from the lamppost. Her hands fall to her sides, colorless gemstone glinting in the evening light; but she doesn't move closer. Doesn't move away.

"If that's your choice."

Tamara watches, more than just the present moment alone, and waits for Colette's answer to that deceptively simple, astonishingly normal statement.

That it hurts Colette is evident in her expression, the very presence and act hurts her to her core the way the presumed death of her sister had. Colette needn't carry around a fire-charred picture of Tamara to commemorate what she feels, there's enough emotion showing on her contorted face right now to more than make up for it. "It— " Colette's voice cracks, her jaw trembles and the tightness in her throat is enough to seem like she's being strangled by her own heart.

The ring spins again around her finger, glinting silver against pale skin to match the glint on Tamara's hand.

"It's never been my choice, has it?" It's accusatory, biting, too many layers of sharp words all stacked one atop the other. Jaw tight and teeth clenched together, Colette steps down from the front of the building onto the curb, her hands trembling. There's no fires here, no screams, nothing that seems quite right to the way things were in the vision. Now isn't yet then, but Tamara's hair—

"I don't— I don't know what you wanted me for," Colette shakily manages to say, her jaw trembling and fingers curling against her palms when she sets her booted feet down onto the sidewalk. "I don't know what difference this makes, what— what you're— I— I thought you— " loved me almost spills off of her tongue, but Colette can't quite manage to shoot that barb.

She can cry though, that starts rather immediately.

Colette approaches, and Tamara — Tamara could be a statue for all that she moves. A breathing, blinking statue, one with hair tugged sideways by a restless breeze, but for all that, a statue still. A statue that speaks.

"I don't have— " Her gaze slides sideways, beyond Colette, into a distance only she can see. "— long enough, words enough, to explain either. I never did." The sybil's eyes close, her lips curving in a bittersweet smile, hearing the words she herself could say. More bittersweet still, because Tamara chooses to leave them unsaid… and Colette will never know (or, perhaps, understand) the grace granted by that.

"All I can give you is what I am."

Tamara stretches out a hand, her left hand, towards Colette, fingers and palm flattened. Not to try and touch, but to display the ring.

To offer it.

"It has always been your choice. It will always be."

Words can hurt and a gesture — as simple as that outstretched hand — can cut just as deeply as any potential knife can. There's so much confusion in her eyes, so much the sting of perceived betrayal that she can't readily understand what's happening. If she takes Tamara's hand, does that lead her down the road where she's stabbed to death? Is it because she turns away here and now? None of it makes any sense to Colette, presents too broadly the myriad results of choice.

Realizing that is the only thing that gives Colette pause.

Taking a few more nervous steps towards Tamara, Colette's eyes betray the fear she's trying to hide. Her motions are tentative, uneasy, like the way someone approaches an unfamiliar animal with large, sharp teeth and claws. An unsteady hand, her right hand, reaches up to lightly brush fingertips over Tamara's outstretched hand. There's a tremor in the touch, nervous fingers curling around the blonde's as she steps in closer. Bravery in the face of this perceived threat has her lifting Tamara's hand as she steps in close, brings it up to her face and holds it gently against her cheek.

Colette's eyes close, for all that does to only change her perceptions of things; it's more a measure of comfort, even if cold. Her head turns, lips brush against Tamara's palm, and the noise of a sob shakes her shoulders and dampens the side of Tamara's hand with her tears. "I love you…" is said less as a proclamation and more of an accusation: I love you and you kill me.

As Colette takes her hand, Tamara steps forward, one small and carefully soundless half-step. Her right hand comes up, resting feather-light on the younger girl's left shoulder; the fingers of her left fit themselves to the curve of the bones beneath the brunette's face; but in no wise does she restrain Colette.

"I don't know what changed," she says softly. I don't understand. Tamara closes her eyes, weariness beginning to intrude upon her features, its leaden weight dragging at her voice. The words Colette could say — she can't see what's behind them, can't find it in any time within the sybil's easy reach. She can't afford pushing the envelope further, not now.

"So little left. So few… Don't be afraid," words Tamara has used so often. So very often. "Please, Colette." Never an accusation, but only a tired, heartfelt plea.

"Find a way to trust me."

Words can't come right away from Colette, not to that request, not even so much as a nod of her head. Statue still and cradling that warm hand to her cheek, Colette breathes in as if to trap the smell of Tamara's skin in her memory, engrave it there on the off-chance she'd forgotten. It was easy with her being gone, to pass off feelings and yearnings as flights of fancy that couldn't be — weren't ever — returned in the way she'd like, but there's too many glossed over moments of happiness that Colette had conveniently pushed aside, too many purposeful moments that Tamara made certain were perfect for Colette to just off-handedly discard everything they'd had.

"We were supposed to be together," Colette whimpers into Tamara's palm, fingers curling tighter around the blonde's hand. "They— said we were together, in the future, ten years…" her voice tightens there, her pleading is stolen away by the keening noise of emotional duress that she can't ever quite pull herself out from beneath the shadow of.

"I just wanted you to love me too…" is a whisper from Colette to the hand she cradles, lips gently brushing over her hand to form those words before finally — reluctantly — Colette lets Tamara's hand go and takes a nervous step back. Mismatched and half-blinded eyes stare glassy back at the sybil, watch her with scrutiny through that misted veil of emotion.

Sliding her tongue over her lips, Colette tries to find her words that aren't making it past them. She doesn't, can't, words are hard for the both of them for wholly different reasons.

The look in Colette's eyes says too much to truly discern, much as Tamara's eyes see too much to tell hidden meanings of unsaid words, Colette's eyes express so much of herself at any one time that the meaning of one look to another can be so difficult to read. But in the myriad Tamara sees, all of those looks are silent ones. There's nothing to say, nothing to convey, nothing that what Colette eventually does offer up can't explain.

"I'm sorry."

A dog with two bones winds up with nothing, as the story goes.

Colette steps back, and Tamara does not go with her. Her hands hang in the air for a moment, bereft of support; dark eyes slide wearily closed again, blood trickling across the sybil's lips to drip crimson stains onto her shirt. Despite this, she smiles, a fragile and shaky benediction. "It's all right."

Three words that shouldn't sound so very much like three completely different others: and yet they do. I forgive you.

Her knees give way, and Tamara crumples, a graceless heap which strikes the sidewalk anything but silently.

Panic is immediate when Colette is concerned, all it took was the dribble of blood from Tamara's nose for her heart to skip a beat, but when the sybil actually falls Colette's shriek of confusion is almost choked out from her throat for all that her heart is trying to leap up into her neck to join the sound.

"Help!" she calls up to the apartment in conflicted horror, "s— some— somebody help!" That Colette is even saying those words is something of a mystery even to herself. She knows what she saw, knows what she felt, and yet at the same time when presented with what could potentially be an avenue out from that painful and bloody future she can't let fallen sybils lie. Colette scrambles to Tamara's side so fast that she scrapes her knees when she drops down to them.

Bare arms hastily scoop up the limp seeress and Colette braces the back of Tamara's head against the inside of her elbow. "Oh— oh God— I— oh God…" Were it not for her own experiences at over-exertion, Colette may not have even the slightest indication that anything is wrong, but here and now there's a solid mirror of her own limits presented in Tamara.

"Help!" Colette screams to the apartment, her voice going hoarse and cracking from trying to shout so loud, "Someone help!"

The future may be written, but it hasn't come yet.

Maybe there's still time.


Time for a change.


Time enough to hope.

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