Clarity of Vision


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Scene Title Clarity of Vision
Synopsis Colette crosses paths with her sister's employer at the Suresh Center in a chance meeting that changes everything about the way she sees the world.
Date September 7, 2009

Suresh Center — Ground Floor

The lobby of the Suresh Center is an open, very well-lit space; the exterior walls are more window than wall. There's a raised half-level on the right side of the irregularly-shaped room as one walks in, carpeted in pine-green, decked with oak furniture and small table lamps; a comfortable-looking space, with actual living plants at the top of the stairs and scattered here and there elsewise. Continuing to the left brings one to the receptionist's desk, a small vending area located just beyond that.

Passing the receptionist brings a visitor to the core of the building. Here are the Kastin and Chapman auditoria, named for donors who provided the money that built them; rooms designed to seat many people for lectures and presentations, equipped with large projector screens, pervasive sound systems, and video recorders. Four conference rooms fill out the central section, reduced in scale but no less comprehensively outfitted. The wings which branch off to either side contain rows of classrooms: smaller, more private and personal, some with installed technology and some with nothing more elaborate than a whiteboard.

Coincidence and Serendipity are two different approaches to two very similar ideas.

With sunlight spilling down in golden rays through the Suresh Center's expansive windows, the lobby looks almost like it is forged of wrought gold, like some great King's vault or throne room. The vaguely art deco furniture on the other hand, does little to support this notion. On a Monday afternoon, the Center is surprisingly busy, with attendants, volunteer staff and visitors crossing the halls as one of the public lectures adjourns for the day. At the front desk, however, someone with less concern for meetings and discussion is fishing for something more important — a name.

Coincidence implies a randomness and unintentional characteristic to something, from blowing a tire on the way to work to drawing the short genetic straw and developing a terminal illness. It suggests that there is nothing but a law of odds at work, nothing for or against favor but pure statistics and numbers.

An awkward smile, the reflection of sunlight off of dark-lensed sunglasses, and a quirk of her head to the side all come in thanks for the name and phone number written on a post-it note stick to her forefingers. Backpedaling awkwardly from the front desk, Colette Nichols-Demsky looks for all her part like any of the other wayward teenagers visiting the Center. There's a hopeful smile that tempers her anxiety, her eyes wandering over the name on the post-it note: Isabelle Sheridan.

Serendipity implies a higher power, someone with a conscious and willing control over seemingly unpredictable events. Be it something abstract like fate, or something more definitely outlined like God, Serendipity means that what is unpredictable was meant to happen.

Turning around and folding the post-it note up in her palm, Colette's booted feet tread quickly on the floor, but so much light and so much distraction serves as a reminder that no matter how ubiquitous her vision has become with a lack of eyesight, she will always be something of a stumbling klutz as she turns directly into the oncoming path of someone exiting one of the conference rooms.

Whether serendipity or coincidence, one old addage always remains true; you can never fully prepare for the unexpected.

That someone gives a low grunt, the air expelled from his lungs in a swift whoosh and just as quickly sucked in again. A hand goes to steady Colette's shoulder, and a moment later a pair of cool blue eyes are inspecting her face from beneath bristly white brows. Daniel Linderman doesn't recognize the Nichols girl at a glance, but there's something about the shape of the mouth and the structure of her cheekbones that gives him pause.

At Linderman's side is another man, leaner, lankier, dressed in a pinstripe suit in shades of dark gray coupled with an immaculately-pressed dress shirt and silk tie. "You should watch where you're going," he says, not unkindly, though his voice is edged with an accent that Colette's ear has a difficult time placing. "Someone might get hurt."

Linderman waves him off with a vague gesture of his free hand, shaking his head. "It's nothing, Robert. If I'd been looking, I might've avoided— well." He offers Colette a tight-lipped smile. "Terribly sorry. Are you all right?"

Were Lindermans' aid a moment slower in voicing his concern, Colette may have spat something a bit more vitriolic towards the white-haired old man she bumped into about watching where he's going. But instead there's just a startled stammer of noises and an awkward smile as she downcasts her eyes and then does a double-take that has Daniel's reflection showing clearly in her sunglasses. "It— it's alright…" Colette distractedly muses, lips parting and one brow rising higher than the other.

The girl glances down at the weathered hand on her shoulder, then back up to Linderman again. "You— you're the guy from— " Before she makes an ass out of herself, Colette reaches down and pulls out her wallet from the back pocket of her jeans, the chain attached to it jingling and rattling as she pulls at the velcro and slides out an old, folded picture from inside. Far better condition than the burned one she used to carry, Colette unfolds it and stares down with wide-eyed surprise as a smile unknowingly spreads across her face.

"You're— my sister works for you!" It's sort've like meeting a celebrity, what with all she's heard about him and — point of fact — that he is a celebrity of sorts; infamy is close enough. Turning around the picture, she offers out the vision of an old memory to Daniel. A young brunette seated at a table in a restaurant setting; Linderman at her side, and — strangely enough — cheeseburgers in a box in front of them. It's just quirky enough to fit Daniel's cuisine choices. No pot pie, but then what is?

"I— I ah— I've," she grimaces, biting down on her lower lip as the picture curls slightly in her hand from a press of her fingers. "I've heard a lot about you, uh, sir. I'm— m'sorry for being a klutz." When Colette regards him over the frames of her sunglasses, however, it might be no small wonder that she bumped into him for the cataract-scarred eyes that stare back up at him.

"Ah," says Linderman, no doubt about the girl's identity now, "Colette." His aide gives the teen a sidelong glance, recognition creasing his brow and the corners of his downturned mouth, upper lip crusted with stubble. Either he knows Nicole personally or he's heard of her much the same way Colette has heard of Linderman. In the end, though, it doesn't matter. He pulls the door to the conference room shut behind them, punctuating his employer's statement with the whisper of well-oiled hinges and a metallic click as it pops back into place.

Linderman's smile broadens into something more genuine at the sight of the photograph. His cheeks flush with warmth. "I've a copy of that one, too," he admits after a moment or two of reverent admiration, his back straightening. "It's right next to my Zoe." His eyes move from Nicole's likeness to her sister's face once more, and wordlessly he allows his gaze to retrace its contours. Yes, that's why she looked so familiar. "I know it isn't any business of mine to ask, but is there something wrong with your vision, dear?"

"Well…" Trust is something that tinges Colette's response, trust in a person and in herself. Trust that just maybe not everyone she meets is out to get her, but after not trusting anyone for so long, Colette has taken up the unfortunate tendency of trusting too quickly. "I— I can sorta' still see. I've got this thing I do," she passes off an awkward smile, biting down on her lower lip and dipping her head down before sliding off her sunglasses.

"I sorta'— " her hand comes up, collecting the light spilling down from the windows to form into a slowly rotating disc of light above her palm, small golden fireflies of sunlight dancing on the colorless edges of the galaxy-like disc. "I do things with light," her smile grows a bit, feeling remarkably liberated to talk about her ability in public — surely Linderman has to be trustworthy if Nicole works for him. "But when I overuse it, it hurts me, so— I kind've— " closing her palm, Colette suffocates the light and sends drifting motes of it dancing around her closed hand. "I wound up like this."

Tilting her head askance to regard Linderman's aide, Colette manages something of a faint smile to him before looking back to Daniel. "I can kinda' see though, but not really far away— n' I can't read either. But— it's sort've like watching everything through dirty glasses, everything's all blurry n'stuff." Her dark brows crease together again, nose wrinkling. "I feel color, light, but— s'not really the same." Her smile is somewhat infectious in its honesty, her other hand folding up the picture before sliding it down into her wallet, large colorless eyes peering up to Linderman the way Zoe's silvery ones once did.

"Who's Zoe?" Colette asks, opting not to make an ass out of herself by going with a kneejerk reaction of sister. Unfortunately, no matter what she says, the question is still something of an open wound that hasn't quite healed over. "Oh! Does she work with my sister? She in Vegas too?"

Linderman reaches out with the hand not on Colette's shoulder to gently remove the sunglasses from her fingers. He passes them to his aide, Robert — Robert Caliban — who accepts them without protest and uses his shirt sleeve to polish their tinted lenses. "Zoe was my goddaughter." Was, not is. The correction is there, however subtle and without reproach. Although Linderman's smile doesn't disappear completely, it does fade. "I don't think she and Nicole were ever introduced, which is a shame. They would have been thick as thieves."

The hand at Colette's shoulder lifts and brushes arthritic knuckles along her jaw, tucking one wayward strand of dark hair behind her ear. "I should apologize for keeping her from you as long as I did. If I'd known the extent of everything you'd been through, I never would have sent her away." As he speaks, he glances over his shoulder at Caliban, who has moved from one lense to the next and is apparently paying their conversation no attention. "She tells me that you're living with a detective now," he adds, looking back to Colette. "How's that working out?"

Teeth tug at Colette's lower lip from the brush of Linderman's hand at her jaw, some long-nursed knot of uncertainty lacing around her spine and giving her to stiffen up just a touch. She knows the feeling of revulsion is reflexive, not indicative of the man in front of her but the man she put far behind her and Nicole put into the dirt. But still, even after so long, those lingering tendrils of abuse still rise from time to time. "I— " it makes her voice hitch just that once, "It's good, I— " maybe twice, "I'm surprised you heard. Since… Since Nicole's left for Las Vegas, I've been moved back inw ith him, and, I mean— he doesn't quite understand what it's like, doing what I can do and not really having anyone at home I can turn to about it. But— but he's a good dad."

Better than her real father, at any rate.

"M'sorry about your grand-daughter," Colette admits with an incline of her head, sightless eyes drifting towards Caliban with a furrow of her brows, then back to Linderman again. "I— I'm sorry I— " insecurities begin to rise up on the tide of old emotions, "you're probably real busy an m'just buggin' you… I— " she takes a half step back, teeth pressing into her lower lip again.

As if sensing some of that tension, Linderman's hand clamps down on Colette's neck, not hard enough to hurt but with enough force to keep her from taking more than half a step back. "Wait," he says, and it isn't a request — it's a command. The reason for the physical contact becomes clear as he reaches up with his other hand and touches the tips of his fingers to the young woman's brow, just above her milky eyes. Almost immediately, warmth begins spreading through her skin, traveling the invisible channels just beneath its surface before moving on to veins and capillaries.

The sensation is similar to regaining feeling in a limb that's gone numb after a long, uncomfortable night's sleep. It starts with pins and needles before slowly, gradually, the prickling sensation starts to dull and the corners of Colette's vision sharpen. Linderman's outline comes into abrupt focus, and a moment later Caliban's does too, one arm outstretched as he dangles her sunglasses in the space between them.

"Try not to smudge them up again. Your fingers are a mess."

It starts with a look of fright when her neck is held, sort of like the way someone would carry a misbehaving cat around. But by the scruff holds her long enough to take in a sharp breath and tense at the warm sensation that spreads through her forehead, washes beneath her skin and slides through her eyes, across her scalp and down the back of her neck. Colette's breath hitches in the back of her throat, unclouding eyes wide as very slowly, white fades way to a color contrary to her sisters — a soft shade of green.

For the first time in years Colette can see out of both eyes, and the sight of sharp clarity, color, focus and depth comes as such as shock that her eyes begin to well up. It isn't so much tears of surprise, but tears of guarded horror at something unexpected, something else that comes as result of the warmth and gentle care offered by Linderman's healing touch.

"I— I— " her breathing hitches in the back of her throat, eyes focused up on Daniel, then Caliban with her jaw trembling. It's easy to pass off the emotional reaction much as the way any blind person would upon being healed. But it isn't the present that makes Colette tremble so, it's the past, and the long forgotten memories of another day and another time that come rushing up into the fore, like slithering vipers that bite, scrape and tear away at her preconceptions of herself, of what happened on the night New York was torn asunder.

Not only can she see clearly, but she can see clearly for the first time in a very long time.

Calming herself down, Colette swallows and brings a hand up to brush over her forehead where Linderman's fingers touched. She tenses up, fingers brushing over her face, then held out as she takes her sunglasses from Caliban, looking at them wide-eyed, then up to Daniel. There's a sniffle, a smile that comes despite herself, and the heel of her palm wiping at one of those green eyes that haven't seen the world in too long.

"You're— " she exasperatedly breathes out a heavy exhalation, choking it back before smiling broader. "You— you're like me." The comfort in that, at least, is mild consolation to the fear re-established in the back of her mind. All that time ago, Trent was right, there were people after her.

"You didn't think they named the Linderman Act after me because it sounded aesthetic, did you?" the old man asks with a deep chuckle, releasing his hold on Colette's neck. Caliban produces a handkerchief from his breast pocket, which he hands to her right after the glasses without needing to be asked. Either he and Linderman have been through this before, or there's more to him than his coarse exterior seems to suggest. He rubs the palm of his hand along his jaw and looks down the hall toward the receptionist, meeting the woman's gaze if only so he doesn't have to meet Colette's.

Linderman, on the other hand, has no such reservations, though he does begin to move away from her, giving the young woman the space that she so desperately wanted less than a minute ago. "My gift isn't quite so flashy as yours, I'm afraid," he says, "but it is a gift. Remind me to pinch your sister's ear for not having told me about your condition sooner. There is absolutely no excuse."

Sheepishly accepting the handkerchief from Caliban with an awkward smile, Colette wipes at her eyes and swallows noisily. She looks up to Linderman, lashes batting a few times to clear away the distortion of tears in her eyes, then down to the floor, then just all around herself and up to the ceiling. She'd seen the Suresh Center's shape and form through colors and abstract figures, but seeing it now with such clarity is astounding. As she turns back to Linderman, her smile grows some, tempered by the disconcerted knowledge in the back of her mind.

Stepping forward, she bites down on her lower lip, curling her fingers around the handkerchief as her brows furrow and eyes cast aside. "I— s— she didn't know until just recently. She— she's really overprotective n'worried about me, she— she's worried if too many people know, bad stuff'll happen, y'know?"

Looking up to Linderman, her brows furrow, teeth pressing down to her lip again as she so innocently and perhaps humorously asks, "You're— not going to register me or anything, r— right?" Probably not the best thing to say to Daniel Linderman, but at the same time there's the very notion that he's somehow in charge of the Linderman Act. If she weren't delivering the lines with a straight face, it might have seemed almost joking.

"As an advocate of registration," says Linderman, "it's my responsibility to recommend that you see the appropriate authorities, but I have no place reporting you should you choose not to. There's no law against that."

Caliban, meanwhile, does not ask for his handkerchief back. As far as he's concerned, it's a lost cause — a feeling he expresses with a distasteful curl of his lip and a faint roll of his eyes. "You're going to be late for your five-thirty," he says tersely. "We are on a schedule, or have you already forgotten?" His tone is tentative, cautious; these aren't the sort of words a man uses to speak to his employer, but his relationship with Linderman clearly isn't as cut-and-dry as it appears at a glance.

Politely ignoring Caliban's request to get a move on, at least for the moment, Linderman reaches into his jacket's silk-lined interior and retrieves a business card much the same way Caliban had produced the handkerchief. This too is offered to the teen. "I want you to take this," he says. "It's a direct line to my office, should you encounter an emergency and have no one else you can turn to. Please."

Relief, and then surprise come in equal measure when the business card is offered out to Colette. The young girl offers a meek, somewhat sheepish mile and reaches out for the card. Taking it between two fingers, she turns it around and wrinkles her nose, considering the number, and then looks back up to Daniel with a more earnest, more genuine smile. "I— I wish I'd bumped into you a long time ago, uh— Mister Linderman, sir. It— " she swallows awkwardly, biting down on her lower lip to try and stop herself from just rambling like a crazy person.

"It— it means a lot, I— wh— what do I owe you for, for helping me? I mean— " Nothing in life is free, or so goes the adage. "I haven't— I haven't been able to see out of both eyes since before the— " she doesn't use the word bomb, it's just too heavy. "For almost three years." Easier to say, but ultimately less objective. Then, considering the card she appends, "I— I appreciate all of this though, I— you really don't it— it's— thank you."

Still shaken up from the revelation spilling in the back of her mind, Colette tries to keep a strong facade, keep composure around the new faces and break down in shock afterwards. "You're— you're a lot nicer than you look in that picture."

"All I can ask of you is to accept my apology for keeping you and Nicole apart. You owe me nothing, Colette; rather, I think I'm the one indebted to you. Or was." Linderman tips Colette a sly look, or at least as sly a look as a man his age can give without it making him look like a rumpled old fox with graying whiskers, a silver muzzle and a belly that hangs a little too low to the ground. He's heavier than he is in the picture, too. The passage of time has added a few extra pounds to his once muscular frame.

"You'll say hello for me the next time you speak with her on the phone, I hope," he adds as Caliban pointedly checks the clock on the face of his cellphone, making this into a much grander spectacle than it needs to be. With a flick of his wrist, the younger of the two men snaps the phone shut again.

"Sir. I really must insist—"

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" Linderman exclaims with a blustery but good-natured wave of his hand. "Go wait in the car if you're in such a hurry. I don't need you breathing down my neck while I say my good byes." And it is a good bye. He holds his hand out for Colette to shake. "It was a pleasure to finally meet you as well. You two look so much alike."

Emotion still plays at the edges of the smile as Colette listens to the interaction of Linderman and Caliban, a crooked smile changing it's landscape before she looks down to the offered hand, then up to Linderman. "I— " her hand shakily comes out, her small hand taking Linderman's in a firm squeeze. "We both look like our mother," she admits with a hesitant smile, not that she can really even remember what her mother looked like anymore, it's been so long. "It— it's nice to finally meet the guy I carry around in my wallet too," Colette says with that innocent smile replacing the crooked one, "I— I'll tell her you said so when I call Nicole tonight. Th— thank you again, Mister Linderman, I— "

She doesn't continue to ramble, she just stands there, her hand unwinding from Linderman's, eyes drifting off to focus on something far away for the first time in what feels like forever, then come to settle back on Daniel again. There's no real formal goodbyes to be said, Colette's terrible at them, but she dips her head down and smiles sheepishly, stepping out of the way carefully, and finding a world of depth perception does so much for her awkwardness and stumbling movements. Now, seeing the world in full color, everything seems just a little clearer.

As far as Linderman is concerned, there is nothing left to say. No you're welcome, no further reassurances, no formal farewell other than a slight tip of his chin and a bob of his head as he turns his shoulder and begins to amble leisurely after Caliban, who is already making his way toward the Suresh Center's front doors, carving a path through the thinning crowd with his presence alone.

In spite of his age, there is nothing feeble about the way Linderman moves. The muscles in his back work powerfully beneath his suit jacket, giving the impression of a much younger man trapped in a body about twenty-five years too old for the apt brain between its ears. Soon, he's out of sight and the doors have closed behind him, leaving Colette alone with the ambient murmur of conversation around her and an entirely new world that's begging to be explored.

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