Embers Of The Times We Had


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Scene Title Embers of the Times We Had
Synopsis Families past, present,and future come together at the Benchmark Center.
Date July 19, 2018


Blue moon you saw me standing alone.

Today, at the Benchmark Center, someone brought a record player.

Without a dream in my heart.

Frank Sinatra’s voice fills one of the common spaces, where couches and chairs sit in a circle to create a conversational and communal atmosphere.

Without a love of my own.

The record player is a donation, one made by the WSZR Radio Station, delivered today by the often heard but little seen Jolene Chevalier. The collection of vinyl records, tucked into a battered old milk crate and set up beside the portable player on a small table, contain duplicates of WSZR’s collection, many of which date back decades.

Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for.

Seated in one of the plush chairs, crutches resting on the arm at her side, Jolene is a quiet observer of the human condition today. Cradling a tall glass of iced tea in one hand, she watches the Benchmark residents coming and going with a fond smile. She, mostly, is a fixture in the background with a timid smile, watching faces both familiar and not drift in and out of the room.

You heard me saying a prayer for

Jolene started coming here two months ago, participating in group-therapy with other SLC-Expressive residents who experienced traumatic injuries during the civil war. Today isn’t about those experiences, though, it’s about something more positive in the past: the things we lost, that can be found again.

Someone I really could care for.

Across the room, standing with a smile spread ear to ear and one hand on the back of a chair, Niel Trafford has been making a remarkable recovery at Benchmark. The psychological and physical injuries he suffered during captivity in the war are mending, slowly but surely, and this blisteringly hot summer afternoon is a day he looks forward to more than any other, when his family comes to visit.

And then there suddenly appeared before me.

Slipping in through the doorway, Nia Dawson is a familiar sight as of the last month. Volunteer for the Deveaux Society, Nia was the volunteer responsible for putting Niel at Benchmark and regularly checks in on his progress. Today, she’s gone out of her way to bring her granddaughter Monica along.

The only one my arms will ever hold.

“Sinatra?” Nia asks quietly with one brow raised as she enters the room, looking sidelong to Monica. There’s a face made, and a shrug. She’s not much of a fan of the man, or his music. But the presence of Niel Trafford catches Nia’s eyes, and she’s quick to direct Monica over to that familiar face.

I heard somebody whisper "Please adore me"

Niel Trafford,” Nia says with a fond feign of surprise, “look at you.” She flashes a smile over at Monica, then motions to the sheepish looking man. “Niel, this is my granddaughter, Monica. She works for Yamagato Industries, international liaison.” Then, to Niel, a fond smile. “This is Niel Trafford, I’ve told you a bit about his situation. He’s the reason I’m here in New York after all this time, and…” she smiles again, tempered by an unspoken thought. “Well, I thought you two should meet.”

And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold!

There’s something in the air today, a twist of fate, chance meetings, and the embers of the past stirred back to life.

Blue moon…

"Maybe if you ask nicely, they'll put on some Billie Holiday instead," Monica says to Nia with a teasing smile. "She definitely did this song." Of course, they all did the standards at one point or another, the jazz singers. "If we're really lucky, maybe they have some Nina Simone tucked away, yeah?"

When her grandmother introduces her to Niel, Monica offers out a hand toward him. "It's nice to meet you. It might seem a little weird, but I feel like I should thank you. If she hadn't had you to bring her up here— well, we got to be reunited. I don't think I have to tell you how much that means." Gratefulness is there in her face, in the crinkle around her eyes as she smiles. "Plus, she says really nice things about you and any friend of Nana's, you know."

Much like Jolene, Lynette lingers in the background. She's here to facilitate, rather than participate. But her strolling steps bring her over to Lene's side eventually. She hasn't kept up with the children of the future— for a variety of reasons— but Jolene is a little different. From her voice on the radio, her presence in the facility, to who her mother is, Lynette makes a point to come and say hello when she catches her around.

"This was a very generous donation, Jolene," she says, which is not hello, but it is the sort of hello people tend to get from Lynette. A sort of in medias res greeting that skips any actual greeting.

Since the arrival of her father, Delilah has been to see him as often as possible. How do you treat someone that you’ve thought was dead? Do you smother them? Do you keep a certain sort of distance? It turns out that creating a schedule seems to be the best idea. It creates a structure for Niel that he otherwise may be missing, and makes it less stressful for Delilah in the long run. She has no precedence for this. She’s literally winging it.

The Benchmark also turned out to be the best decision for the two of them, in terms of care; the space here is made for healing and speaking. Rediscovering. The staff seems to know what they are doing, and the groups that meet seem to meet over a multitude of things. Its nearness to Ferrymen legacies helps when it comes to special abilities, but Delilah has purposefully and deftly avoided getting into detail— for her father as well as herself. It’s more important to be steady right now.

The sound of sneakers squeaking across the floor before getting to carpet is the only warning Niel and the women get—

“Slow down, don’t run in here, lord- - Delilah is trailing behind her son, who is definitely zooming his way over to the common area where they usually meet up. Walter brakes to a polite shuffle on the lounge carpeting, pushing his hair out of his eyes as he approaches the group.

“We’re here! Hi Ms. Dawson!” For all his rushing, Walter is more calm when he hops up to Niel to give him a hug around the waist. “Sorry we’re late, mum had to talk and stuff.”

“That’s one way to put it.” She hears her son’s explanation and it gets a small roll of her eyes. Delilah’s hair is pulled back from her face in a braid at the back of her sundress, and she is smiling broadly when she joins them.“Co-op stuff, he means…” She gives Nia— and Monica— a nod of greeting before following up her son’s hugging with her own, as always enveloping Niel in her arms, more maternal than anything. “How are you today…?”

Brows raised and a smile plastered across his face, Niel offers a sheepish smile to Delilah and then a fond look down to Walter. “Oh, you know me, I'm doing fine. The doctors at Elmhurst are giving me a good prognosis for…” his brows pinch together, eyes narrow, “for ah, you know— for ah—” he waves one hand in a slow circle, trying to find the right word.

“Recovery,” Nia helpfully interjects, eliciting a snap of Niel’s fingers as he points at her.

Recovery,” Niel parrots back. “The uh, brain injury I suffered during the war,” and that he's suddenly telling to Monica without any prompting and without really addressing her earlier topic, “did some uh, sole damage to my speech? The doctors say I might have some other things going on but… you know, tests.”

As Niel smiles warmly, Nia rests a hand on Monica’s living arm with a momentary smile and a wordless request for patience. “That's wonderful to hear, Mr. Trafford. I'm glad the doctors at Elmhurst are able to help. I know how stretched-thin things are right now.”

“Oh it's— they're lovely. The nurse there, she uh, the young one with the blonde hair?” Niel motions to his head. “She got me my results for the blood test,” and Niel offers a fond smile at that. “Says I'm SLC-Positive, which— you know I guess that's why the uh, uh, the um— government— why the government had me locked up.”

Grimacing at that, Niel wrings his hands together. “She's still got paperwork for me to— you know— sign? Someone from the um, ah, the agency?” He can't seem to recall SESA’s name. “They're going to run some tests. But she says I'm an ability augmentor. I don't know much of what that means, though.”

Far apart from Niel’s conversation, Jolene offers a look up to Lynette from her seat and a weary smile. “It's nothing, really,” she says of the record player. “This one doesn't have the right audio outputs to hook up for the station — it's too old — and the records are all duplicates.” Seemingly eager to diminish her generosity, Lens looks over to the player, then back to Lynette.

“It's… it's nice to talk to you,” Jolene says to Lynette after almost too long a pause. “I never— you weren't— ” She stumbles over her words and sheepishly shakes her head. “I grew up hearing stories about you and the things you did for the Ferry. Ingrid talked about you, because…” her nose wrinkles and head shakes. “You’re as charming as everyone used to say you were.”

The call of Ms. Dawson gets Monica to turn, in time to see the young boy come up for a hug. The family resemblance is clear. She waves to Delilah as she approaches, too, but her attention turns back to Niel.

"That is good to hear," she says, almost in time with Nia's own similar sentiments. Which makes her chuckle a little. And she crouches down to be more on Walter's level and offers the boy a handshake. "Hi, I'm Monica," she says, casual like she doesn't have a hi-tech cyborg arm hanging at her side, "I think we might have been at Richard's barbeque together, but I didn't get a chance to introduce myself." There were other kids to talk to, which is better than the boring adults, as they all know.

Her attention moves up to Niel again, though, head tilting curiously. "That means you can help other people with abilities. Sometimes it means you can make them more powerful, or less, or change them up somehow. We actually know a very talented and lovely woman with an ability like that. Gillian Childs. If you'd like, I could ask her if she'd come by sometime, maybe talk to you some about it. When you're ready for something like that." She turns her glance to Delilah, like she needs to check with her that it was an okay thing to say, even though she has already said it.

When Jolene downplays her generosity, Lynette's smile turns crooked. She understands, and so she doesn't insist on making her admit it. "Well. We'll make good use of it here, so thank you." She moves to pull a chair up next to Jolene, settling in during that pause. She doesn't seem to mind it. Perhaps in a place like this, awkward conversation is more normal than not.

And it is awkward. Lynette's feelings about the travelers, the children, and the fallout from their intervention have been complicated for a long time. Plus, she was dead before most of them were able to know her, so that adds a layer of strange that she's been a little reluctant to deal with. But, the compliment gives her a reason to chuckle. "Did they? I'm quite certain I wasn't," she says, looking over at Jolene with a wry expression. "It's nice to know I did things worth talking about, though. And— you all were far braver than any of us, doing what you did."

The good news about recovery is more than welcome; Delilah remains with her arm around Niel as he passively veers into explaining his situation- more or less- to Monica. The other young woman gets a soft smile while he does this. Not quite apologetic, but knowing that her father's train of thought is never going to be what it was. Questions may need to be asked twice. As he veers again into describing Julie, Delilah pauses to listen, this particular development a newer one. She knew that he was like them because of the camps, but…

"An augmentor?" Red brows arch higher on her forehead, a bemused sort of smile on her face. This is still a lot, just having him here. Dee settles an elbow around Niel’s, holding gently onto his hand and watching his profile. There is absolutely a sense of her getting lost in a thought.

“Hi Monica, I’m Walter- - I remember you from the barbeque, yeah!” Walter laughs as Monica extends her hand, taking it in an exuberant child’s handshake. “That’s okay, we were kinda busy.” Having fun, and what not.

Monica’s mention of Gillian takes the words right out of Delilah, hesitating to mention it so soon. The silent check after gets a small nod, after another pause.

“Once you’re ready for something like that. Gillian is quite lovely, but you have just… found out about yourself, so if you want to wait before diving into that sort of thing, it’s okay.” Delilah peters out, implying only that Niel can decide when he wants to do something like this. “But hey… now I know where we got it.” She laughs brightly, ruffling a hand into Walter’s hair where he stands beside her. He tries to wriggle out of it. Stop being so embarrassing in front of the Cyborg lady!

“Oh it's, I'm sure she's lovely,” Niel agreed on mention of Gillian. “The nurse who examined me told me that people with my ability are rare, and usually aren't ever the same. I've been told to, uh, not try and use my… you know my um,” Niel taps his forefingers and thumb together, teeth worrying at his lower lip. “Not to um, to use my um, my ah— ability. Ability,” he reiterates, frustrated at himself for stumbling over a word he's already said before. Whatever point Niel was making comes to an end as he shakes his head, scratching fingers at the side of it and looking away, embarrassed.

Nia reaches out and lays a hand on Niel’s shoulder. “Take your time, Mr. Trafford, you've got plenty of it. Nobody recovers right away,” she says with a brief look at Jolene across the room, then back to Niel. “But that's good advice. And the folks here can help you with that. Control is essential for people like us.” Her dark eyes flick to Monica. “Some people just pick it up faster than others.”

Across the way, Jolene doesn't notice the look at her. She hunches her shoulders forward and clasps her hands together, avoiding direct eye contact with Lynette. “The Council were big back on my day,” the past from her perspective. “We learned lessons from stories about you. What to do, not to do. You…” She looks up, enough to eye Lynette’s knees, “a lot of people loved you.”

Wringing her hands together, Jolene leans back in her chair and finally makes eye contact with Lynette. “Did you… did Benji ever give you dreams? She— I never know who she showed what. I mean it— it's not— always pleasant. But,” her brows scrunch together, eyes avert, “if I were you I'd want to know everything.”

"Well, hi Walter," Monica says, grinning at his handshake, "I'm glad to finally meet you proper." She turns to give Delilah a nod and an apologetic look, since she did jump the gun a little, then she looks back to Walter. "You've got a pretty smart mom. Did she get that from you?" The question comes with a grin before Monica gets back up to her feet.

She catches enough to put it together that they're all a little pile of Evolved here, and that has her giving Walter a quick wink before she looks back over to Niel. "She's right. And control will come in time. It's a process. A step at a time." She glances over to Nia, meeting that flick of her eyes.

Her expression turns thoughtful.

When Jolene explains, Lynette does her best not to tense up. Taking compliments— real ones— has never been her strong suit. And Jolene's words echo something someone else said to her a long time ago. Someone long gone.

But that's hardly Jolene's fault, and so she brings out a smile when she finally gets up to eye contact. Even though the question she has is… an uncomfortable one. "Ah. She did," Lynette answers, simply at first. Those last words get a breathy chuckle and she tilts her head a little toward Jolene. "But you all were successful. That's a life that I'll never know. The good, the bad. She's someone I will never be. I was angry about that, at first. It took me a long time to see the second chance Benji was giving me. That all of you were. Now, I wouldn't have that life if it was offered to me." She reaches over to put a hand on Jolene's shoulder, her smile warmer. "You gave me the chance to have a family, to build a life I can be proud of. So thank you. And you can pass that on to Benji, too, next time you see her."

The wink that Monica gives him just has Walter smiling halfway, unsure but also tickled that she seems to like him. He leans against Delilah, her hands moving to link down over his shoulders in a natural perch.

“Yes, there is time to get used to everything. It's important that it's your own pace.” Dee echoes the other women, giving her father a reassuring look even with his embarrassment. While she's never had damage like his, she knows physical recovery is tricky. “I had to relearn some control after my ability came back… it was shut down for a time by the damage the evo-flu did to me. We've all been there, I suspect.” Her dark eyes move to Monica, nose crinkling with a bit of a laugh. “To different degrees.” She joins Nia with the faint pokes, good natured as they are.

For her part, Delilah notices that Walter snakes his way out from under her arms, but she doesn't stop him from venturing off a bit. He can't possibly get into too much, right?

Well- -

“Mrs. Ruiz!” Red hair in Lynette's peripheral. “When did you get a record player?! What kind of music do you have? Niel likes music too, he told me so.” Not quite to grandpa titling, but someday. They'll get there. Walter's hands are on the arm of her chair, oblivious to what else may have been happening. Usually he can be quite sensitive to the adults, but there are always these moments where it is clear he is seven going on eight.

It takes a moment for Lene to recognize just who is ambling up to her by way of Lynette’s side. The red haired, those angular features, those eyes. When she finally pieces it together, Lene sucks in a sharp breath and covers her mouth with one hand. Wide eyes settle on Delilah in the distance, then back down to Walter. As her hand comes away from her mouth, tears well up in her eyes. No one has seen Walter in years, not since the war started. Everyone she knows assumes he perished somewhere in the conflict. And yet… here he is, after a fashion.

Look at you,” Jolene says with a tremble of her lower lip, at first reaching out for his hair and then stopping. “Oh my god,” she croaks our the words, “y-you— you handsome little man.” Though Lene presses her lips together it does nothing to steady her trembling jaw. She sweeps at her eyes with her fingers, wiping away tears she didn't expect to she'd today. “You— you perfect little guy.”

Watching the exchange from a distance, Niel raises one brow and looks from the grouping of Jolene, Lynette, and Walter to Nia, Monica, and Delilah. “The redhead girl? Is she…” Niel eyes Delilah. “A friend?”

Quick to interject, Nia rests a hand on Niel’s shoulder. “I believe she's a war veteran. Jolene Chevalier, lost her ability at a chemical weapons plant.” Niel follows Nia's sightline back to Jolene, then looks down slowly as he nods. “She's so young,” he murmurs, clearly shaken by the thought of someone her age fighting in a war.

It's not clear to Monica or Delilah whether Nia is aware of the larger truth about Jolene and her origins, but she doesn't appear to be hiding that truth from Niel. “Ms. Trafford,” Nia tries to steer the topic to less challenging waters, “if you're interested I've been wanting to throw a small, casual dinner party. The Deveaux Society has been kind enough to put me up in a suite in their building, and I would love for you and Walter to come with Niel,” and she flashes him a smile at that before looking to Monica. “Hopefully my granddaughter can make an appearance too?”

"Walter," Lynette greets with a smile as the boy makes his way over. She puts her hands on his cheeks as he makes his perch. If she minds their discussion being interrupted, she doesn't show it. "It was just donated today," she explains to him, then gestures toward Jolene. "Do you and your mom listen to the radio? This is Jolene, she works there. She brought us the record player and some extra copies of the music they play. But since Niel likes music so much, I'll have to see what others I can find to add to the collection."

She looks over at Jolene, eyebrows lifting as she watches her reaction to the boy. She settles into sympathy a moment later and reaches over to put a hand on Jolene's shoulder to give her a reassuring squeeze.

Monica looks over that way when Niel asks about Lene, her head tilting some as she watches her and Walter. That mix in this time brings a frown to her face. Her own lost family from another time springing inevitably to mind. She hasn't even begun to try to explain all that to Nia, and she isn't going to do so here and now, either.

"She's not as young as she looks," Monica says, her tone subdued. She knows what's it's like to be young and to see things that are too much for you. To jump into them and hope for the best. "She's been through a lot," she adds, as she turns back to the group.

She tunes back in as Nia talks about a dinner, and she gives Nia a small, but warm smile. "Anything for you, Nana," she says before she adds, more playfully, "and for food."

Walter's face scrunches up when Lynette puts her hands to his cheeks, somewhere between a laugh and embarrassment. Her explanation of the record player earns a grin, and he looks up to Jolene as Lynette introduces her as the lady on the radio. Realization dawns on his features, of course, but anything he was going to reply with gets dammed up when Lene reacts as she does. It says much when Walter doesn't flinch away from her aborted reach, but still gives her a wary, watchful blink. Maybe… she knows Mom? Jolene acts as if she knows him, and the response is so visceral— He can't help but wonder why.

"Hhhn…" There's a nervous sound out of the redhaired boy, more awkward than scared, but- - "Did I do something?" Walter looks to Lynette, still in the safe space beside her chair. He did sort of just come flying over, and now she's crying, and he has no idea what to do.

"I'm sorry if I did…" Walter hesitates a little more, swaying from foot to foot but staying in place as he decides on his words. "We like your radio shows… we listen all the time."

Delilah doesn't pay much mind to what her son is up to until her own father calls her attention there; whatever she was expecting to see, it seems it wasn't this, judging by the mild look of surprise. Her heart flutters against her throat, feeling nearly as apologetic as Walter seems to be. Oh, Jolene.

"Yeah… we all are." Dee looks on for a moment longer before tearing her gaze away and landing it on Niel; while she wasn't a soldier like Lynette or Monica during those years, she had her share of war experiences with the Ferrymen, and even before that. Some more vivid pictures project behind her eyes as she recalls them in silence, one hand moving up to curl around her father's arm again.

Her name in Nia's voice brings Delilah back quite readily, a slow smile forming. "I think that sounds lovely. I'm a little interested in seeing the building too, but that's because I'm insufferably curious." It runs in the family.

Sorry,” Lene belatedly blurts out, letting her hand fall away from Walter’s cheek. “I— I knew you before you were even born,” she says with a sniffle and a wipe of one hand at her eyes. “Your mom threw a party at the Rock Cellar, it's— a place we used to hang out. Everyone was… it— it's nice. It's good to see you, and… and know you're ok.” Teeth pressing down on her bottom lip, Lene swallows awkwardly and looks over to Lynette, then Delilah, expression apologetic.

“I um,” Lene reaches for her crutches awkwardly. “Marin needs me back at the station, uh, before the busses stop. I've got to help install some— uh— radio. Equipment.” Levering herself up out of her seat, Jolene leans on her crutches and looks over at Walter again with a visibly emotional but generous smile. “Maybe your mum can take you by the station sometime? I'll let you pick a song.” There's a yearning there, an innocent desire to reconnect with a cherished friend found the wrong way through time. It breaks her heart.

Across the way, Nia finally averts her eyes from the exchange and offers Monica a gentle squeeze of her good arm. “It's a date then, it's a lovely place and it'll be nice to have something normal here. This is supposed to be a home away from home and I haven't had a proper dinner yet.” Food shortages aside.

“We used t’do uh, these really nice dinners at the holidays.” Niel suddenly says, wistfully. “Janet would make these honey-roasted spiral hams, with the pineapple and cherry on them?” He smiles, eyes a little red at the edges. “And of course Lilah would be all up in everything.”

Neil slips an arm around Delilah as if to draw her into his story. “One year… gosh, I think it was… 1994?” He smiles, fondly. “Thanksgiving. Lilah was helping Janet in the kitchen and I was in the living room, watching that uh, what’s it, uh. The funny show with the guy in space?” He looks around the group. “He's got robots? Watches bad movies?” He can't quite pin the name down.

Anyway. Lilah lets out this squeak and I boot right up thinking she went and burned herself. Nope,” Niel shifts a sidelong look to Delilah. “We upended the entire can of sliced pineapple all over her face! Onto the floor, all over that other girl’s brand new shoes.”

Neil’s smile spreads. “Oh god what was her name ah, uh, she was… seventeen? Eighteen?” Squinting, Neil rubs a hand at his mouth. “Her uh, dad was there he…” Neil’s brows furrow slowly, then relax. “Actually it… no. No maybe— not. No it was just on herself, nobody else was there, right?” He looks at Delilah as if she'd remember something from when she was three years old. “But gosh your face. It was so cute. And sticky.” Neil’s expression flattens. “Everything was sticky. Everything.

"No, Walter," Lynette assures with a gentle smile, "you're just perfect. We adults get a little worked up over it sometimes." She taps him on the nose before she stands up with Lene. "Thank you for coming by, Jolene. And tell your mother hello for me?" She puts a hand on the young woman's arm and gives her a warm smile to reassure her, too.

Monica smiles at the squeeze, but there's something sad in her expression all the same. Bittersweet. "I don't think I've had a proper family dinner since mom." After that, it was work and rebuilding and eventually superpowers and saving the world.

She's happy to let the attention shift to Niel and his story, even if it means sacrificing some of Delilah's dignity. She listens with a crooked smile, as these types of stories often deserve. "MST3K," is her only interruption, "great show." Not that she's ever had much time for TV, but she still knows a good show when she catches one.

"Kids," she ultimately says, "they're always a mess, one way or another." She glances over to Nia, silently begging her not to add a similar story to the mix.

Lynette puts her arm around Walter's shoulders to help in guiding him back to his mother, and to make sure he knows he's not done anything wrong. "Delilah," she says as she looks between the others in the group, "I might have some dessert in the kitchens, if it wouldn't completely ruin Walter's appetite, I think we might be able to sneak him something." It might be homemade and simple, but dessert is dessert.

Lynette's compliment gets a snigger, and the boop to his nose the same. Though he is still a tad apprehensive, Walter breathes out an “Ohh…” when Jolene says that she knew his mom before he was around. “It was hard but we’re okay..” He tips his face to look back at his little family, but soon he looks back up to Jolene as she fixes to go. Her smile gets one in return(there's a back tooth missing) and the boy gives her an excited nod.

“I can ask her later! That sounds awesome!” Already, Walter is considering what he would play, given the chance. Maybe he could take something with him? “It was nice to meet you… have a good trip home!”

While Niel tells his story, Delilah can't help but wonder about it; she was far too small to have a good memory of that particular time, but she does remember how her parents adopted some of those unique traditions. Travel and what not. She leans in against his side when he speaks about her mother, a reassuring sort of weight.

“That's a bit far back for me, but I do know that I love pineapple.” Delilah laughs, eyes creasing. “I don't remember many of our neighbors well, maybe it was them there?” She hums faintly, giving Monica a crooked smile before Lynette appears steering her son. When she says ‘dessert’, Walter's eyes grow large and he fidgets, looking between Dee and Lynette. He opens his mouth but Delilah chimes in first, brows lifted.

“Only if he promises to clear his plate later.” The young boy's answer is a piping “Yes!”. Delilah tries to stifle her amusement. “Good.” She looks up to Lynette with a nod. Both of them know kids well enough, Dee trusts her judgment.

Jolene’s reaction to Walter is to balance her earnest and rosy-cheeked smile with the watery eyes and red nose of someone overwrought with emotion. That smile is passed like a baton to Lynette, along with a silently-mouthed thank you as she attempts to make a discreet exit, limping along on her crutches toward the door. Nia’s eyes track the faux redhead — though more brown with red highlights these days — on her way out, one brow quizzically raised before she turns her attention back to the family gathering nearby. Niel watches young Walter much in the same way Lene does, though for entirely different reasons. After a moment of fawning over his grandson, he hooks an arm with Delilah and squeezes it firmly, giving her an adoring look of a proud, loving father.

“Alright,” Nia says with intentions of lightening the mood. “Now it’s my turn,” she says with a hand gently laid on Monica’s arm. “Let me tell you about the time Monica here got her head stuck in a banister.”

There would be plenty of time for reflection later. For now, they can warm their hearts around the embers of the times they had.

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