Her One Phone Call


lynette4_icon.gif odessa_icon.gif ruiz_icon.gif

Scene Title Her One Phone Call
Synopsis Upon her arrival at PISEC, Odessa is granted one phone call, and uses it to reconnect with those closest to her.
Date April 8, 2019

PISEC & Benchmark, Rowan-Ruiz Residence

It’s around 6:45 pm when the phone rings at the Ruiz residence. When the receiver is picked up, there’s a recorded message:

“You are receiving a call from a correctional facility.” The recording cuts for a moment to be replaced by a familiar voice. “Odessa Price.” The automated voice picks up again, “Would like to connect. This call is being made at no charge to you. To accept this call, press 1 now. To reject this call and block all future calls, press 5. Para español, oprima ocho.”

Lynette is pressing 1 before the sentence is even over. "Mateo," she calls out toward the rest of the apartment, and then into the phone she continues, "Dessa? We're here. I'll put you on speaker." It's obvious when she does because the background noise kicks up some and she can hear the sounds of a young girl running over.

"Tia Dessa?" Evie says a little too loudly, "Tia Dessa, I have your sword. I'm taking real good care of it. Oh! Y mi hermano! Come say hi."

"Hello Tia," Manuel says, a little calmer and a lot more shyly.

"Okay, let your father have some room, little darlings," Lynette says with the sort of fluster that comes from chasing young children around. And being glad to do it.

It had been very difficult for Ruiz to stay quiet as long as he did, but he wanted the children to have a chance to speak. Especially Manuel, who might have stayed silent if he had moved forward to talk to her. As he gets closer to the speaker, as if that might make all the difference, he finds himself twisting the wristwatch around on his wrist idly. There’s so much he wants to be answered.

Is she being treated okay? Is she healthy? But he also knows that the answer to all those questions would probably end up being moot. And there would be nothing he could do about them if she answered truthfully, cause he doubts she’s in any way okay.

“Are they going to let you have visitors soon?”

He’ll need to find out if they can bring her things, too.

"Hel—? Hello!" Odessa's voice brightens from confusion to elation in the course of two syllables. "Hola Evie! And Manuel! Es mi cumpleaños hoy! Estoy muy feliz!" Or at least as happy as she can be with her thirty-fifth birthday being the start of a life sentence. "I'm so glad you could share it with me, my little lambs!" Hearing her niece and nephew’s voices helps immensely.

There's a quiet sigh that, while not depressed, betrays just how tiring this ordeal must be for Odessa. "It's good to hear your voices. I'm getting settled in over here." She makes it sound like a new apartment. Partly, she isn't sure how much the kids know or understand. Tia Dessa is on major time-out. "The director gave me a book to help pass the time, and I might get a plot in the garden. He said I can have visitors. I can't wait to see you."

"Happy Birthday, Tia! I wish we could be there. Maybe we can come with a cake?" Evie asks that question more toward her parents than the phone.

"We'll see. Let's focus on being able to go see your Tia, okay?" Lynette isn't sure what they'll be allowed to bring, but she also knows the girl will take any excuse for cake.

Who wouldn't.

"Tia," Manuel cuts in, voice louder as he leans in toward the phone. "It's okay if you're sad. Sometimes I'm sad." This seems to be a great secret he is letting her in on, since she's family and obviously needs to hear it. "Mamá says, even when you're sad, you have us."

“We will bring cake whether they let us or not,” Ruiz responds in a stubborn voice that’s actually far more Ruiz than Mateo. “It’s too bad this didn’t happen faster— or slower. I would have liked to be able to be there on your birthday, but a day or two late is good. There’s a lot we need to talk about.”

And he didn’t want to try to explain everything over the phone, there was too much. Their situation was even stranger than he could manage to say, even if SESA had accepted the friendlier version.

“I’ll see if I can bring you a small piano, or a keyboard if nothing else.” Music, like gardening, would help with things, and he didn’t see why they wouldn’t allow her an instrument if they were going to allow her gardening tools.

“Oh, Manuel… Thank you so much for that. It’s good to know I can be sad.” That said, it does actually give her a good measure of happiness to hear his little voice over the phone. They can hear her smile in the way she speaks, even if it is tinged with weariness. “I’m glad I have you. All of you.”

There’s a quiet sniffle that betrays the happy tears the Ruizes have known her for. “Check with Director Waite. I don’t want anyone to get into trouble for breaking the rules. I’ve had many, many birthdays without cakes. One more won’t hurt.” Even if it portends many more to come without that particular confection. That normalcy. Still, she remains optimistic that something might be allowed. If not this time, maybe the next, if she lives up to her word and proves the model prisoner she’s promised to be.

“That was actually the next thing I was going to ask about,” Odessa admits. “I didn’t want to get greedy, but I was planning to ask for a piano. The director says he wants this to feel as… normal as possible. Whatever that means, I suppose.”

There’s a brief pause as Odessa thinks about how much to divulge with the children listening. “I have a window in my room. There’s a beam that comes through it in the evening that makes a puddle of sunshine on my bed.” Which is unmistakably a good thing. For all the years she spent without seeing the sun, she was afraid she’d never see it again.

"We'll check about cake. And music. I'm sure we can convince the Director. Evie will, if no one else." Lynette is pretty sure she can manage to get Odessa a piano. Even if it's a small one. She looks over at Ruiz, putting a hand on his arm. "He's right, we have a lot to talk about. About how we got back." She sighs, because it is complicated.

"I'll bring you some of my drawings," Evie says, "you need art. Everybody needs art." Art and sunshine. As the description of her window gets a little clap from the girl.

Manuel sighs at his little sister, in a way that implies he's gotten used to having her around again. And gets exasperated with her again. "You're going to end up with enough to cover your walls and probably your ceiling, too."

“If anyone could convince them, it would be Evie,” Ruiz responded with a hint of amusement in his voice. He knew they couldn’t say no to her about anything— it was probably how she managed to get the sword back, as well. When they had returned to this world, he had not expected them to have let her kept it, but there it was, in the keeping of her grandfather.

He was glad, because he’d known how much that Odessa had wanted someone to have it.

“I miss you,” he adds after a moment, voices quiet as if he hadn’t even meant to say it. But it was true. He missed her in a way that he’s not sure only the one from this world would have. He hadn’t really known his sister in this world. Not as well as he would have liked. But the combined version knew her four times over, and this one even longer than the him from this world, due to the swap that had happened. After a second he adds, “We all do.”

Even if the kids had been really young when they knew this Odessa in the body of another.

"I know," Odessa answers sadly. "I miss you all too." But she'd spent so much time staying away from them to keep them safe, this situation is almost better than that somehow. At least she can see them on occasion and it isn't inviting the feds to storm their home to find some trace of her. "I'm so glad you're alright. I…"

The other her wasn't sure they would make it out alive, even with her sacrifice. After what she'd done to destroy Lynette's life. This Odessa carries some of that guilt in her chest still. "I thought you were gone. When you showed up at the trial, 'Nette, I just…" She falls silent. She doesn't have to explain that she's grateful. That goes without saying.

Instead, she sniffs quietly and turns her attention back to the topic of drawings. "I would love to paper my walls with your art," she assures both children. "There's nothing I'd like better than to have something I can look at when I'm missing you to know that you're thinking of me, too." That smile of hers returns again, even though they can't see it. "Will you draw me some flowers and stars?"

"I'm afraid I wasn't much help to you," Lynette says, letting out a soft sigh. She had been trying to help Odessa for so long, but can't help but feel like she tripped at the finish line. "But I believe in you, Dess. I'm glad we were back in time for me to try to help."

"Stars and flowers of all kinds!" Evie cuts in, doing her own part to reassure her aunt. "Did you know stars are really really far away? Even further than the sky? Super duper far. But we can bring some to your room for you."

"I'll play you a song when we visit," Manuel says, "papí is teaching me." He comes over to lean against Ruiz, as if trying to comfort him, too.

"He sings like an angel," Lynette says, "just like his father."

“I would have testified, but everything I would have said was supposed to be classified,” Ruiz murmurs as if he didn’t like that he couldn’t tell what he had witnessed of her life in other worlds, as well as what he knew about this one. They had both had a difficult life growing up, most of it he didn’t even remember. But he did remember how it had been for her during and after her involvement with Vanguard. In another world.

He would have liked to have been able to help.

Evie’s words make him smile, reaching up to ruffle her hair. He can’t help but smile at their family, much bigger than he could have hoped for— Either of him, really. One never had been a father except for to a teenage girl, the other had never been a father to a teenager. And now he couldn’t imagine not having any of his family.

Including the woman on the other side of the call. “We’ll be here for you, whatever you need, Des. Cause you’re family.”

In ways she may not even know.

"You were a huge help to me," Odessa assures. "You… You told them you think I can change." Even she doesn't believe that about herself some days. "That's all I could ask for." There's a quiet sigh on the other end of the line. "I know you would have been there if you could, Tete. Don't blame yourselves for my situation."

Her tone brightens again as she addresses the children. "I can't wait to hear your songs and see your drawings, my lambs. They will be the best birthday gifts ever." Seeing her family whenever they can manage it will be a gift. "When I was your age, Evie, I wanted to study the stars. I wish I still had some of my books to share with you, but I bet Miss Childs at the library has some you could borrow."

"You can change, Dess. You want to, that's an important first step. We'll do what we can to make it easier for you there." Lynette looks over at Ruiz, reaching over to take his hand. She knows how difficult it was for him to have to sit by during the trial. Lynette did her best to speak for both of them.

"I want to study the stars," Evie declares suddenly. Yesterday, she wanted to be a pirate, so who knows how long this new life goal will last. "I'll tell you what I learn when we come see you."

"Alright, children," Lynette says, "don't worry, you'll get to talk to your aunt about everything on your minds. But for now, you need to go play in your rooms, okay?"

"You're gonna talk about grown up stuff," Evie says as if this might be the most boring thing she's ever heard of.

"Come on, Evie," Manuel says as he starts to lead his sister away, "See you soon, Tia."

"Bye Tia!"

Once they're off, Lynette turns her attention back to the phone, her tone more serious as she addresses Odessa. "How are you really, Dess? What can we do?"

Watching the kids go, Mateo stays quiet for a long time as Lynette asks the only question that needed to be asked, really. Half of him wondered if he even had a right to stay for this, too, but then he remembered that this woman had spent a year and change with them in the body of another her. It had been her. The half of him that didn’t belong in this world had known her longer than the half of him that did. It was a strange sensation. He found himself fidgetting with the watch on his wrist, turning it.

“We don’t just believe you can change, we know you can,” he adds after a moment, looking back at the phone. He wished that the others had that perspective of things, but… “But yes, is there anything we can do?”

“Goodbye, my little loves!” Odessa chimes cheerfully from the other end of the line. “I’ll see you very soon!” That cheerfulness gives way to to weariness once she hears the telltale signs of doors closing to indicate the departure of the children.

“I’m… I don’t know. I really don’t know how to feel. I’m glad I’m not waiting for a rope, but I’m not looking forward to spending the better part of the rest of my life here either.” How could she? Odessa pauses a moment before continuing. “I’m trying to stay optimistic. The fact that the director said he wants me to feel normal is encouraging, I guess. He seems nice, but I’m not a very popular person here.”

"We'll keep trying to do something about it, Dess. I'm sure Richard will, too." Lynette isn't content to accept this particular situation. Some might argue that Odessa deserves it— or worse— but in this building, they believe in what you can be, not what you were. "In the meantime. We'll come visit. I know we can't make it perfect there, but we'll try to give you a break. There are people out here who care about you, even if the people there are difficult." And she can imagine they would be.

And just now, Lynette is regretting that it is very difficult to hug someone over the phone.

Sometimes, Ruiz wished he still had his ability. Part of him wondered if he could just take his whole family and leave the country, including Odessa, and find somewhere to live together. Another world, if needed. But he hadn’t been able to get it to work since that day— and even if he had, he didn’t know if he would have Lynette’s ability or his own anymore. It would take time to figure it out, or so he hoped. “We’ll do whatever we can. I just wish this could have ended differently. I don’t like you being held like that and forced to do things….”

It was difficult for him to trust people, governments or otherwise. He knew this one was better than it could have been, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t ask her to do something distasteful. Or do something good that had a dangerous purpose. One of her had made a virus that wiped out their world, while being told she was saving it, after all.

“There’s a lot we need to talk about.” And a lot of it he didn’t want to say over the phone, especially since he knew it would likely be monitored. So he decides to be sneaky. “I still have your watch.” The one he’d had when she switched bodies with herself. The one that had belonged to another her altogether. In a way that was his way of saying he was that Ruiz. “And that gunshot that you fixed up is just a plain old scar now.” The one that had belonged to the Ruiz from this world.

He was both. They were both, but he’d let Lynette explain that part in her own way.

They’ll come visit. “That’s all I can ask for,” Odessa assures, gratitude in her voice. “I’m going to make the best of it here, but… It will be better with you all around. I can’t wait to see the kids again.”

The mention of the watch brings with it a strangled sob on the other end of the line. Odessa understands what it means. She understands what the mention of the bullet hole means. “H- How?” She knows she can’t get the answer so simply over the phone. “I- I’m so glad that you’re doing better,” the gears are shifted. She sniffles quietly, quickly reining in her emotions. “I’m glad you still have the watch. I love you. I love you both.”

"We have a lot to catch up on," Lynette says. It's the best she can do to explain right this second. But. They'll just have to make their visit sooner rather than later. "A lot happened while we were gone." She looks over at Ruiz, giving him a reassuring smile, warm if a little bittersweet. "We love you, too, Dess," is easily spoken. She may have complicated feelings about one Odessa, but not this one. This one, after all, was the first sister she met. The first sister she's ever had. For someone who came from a family of two, it means a lot to have all these new pieces.

“We do,” Ruiz responds in agreement, on both counts, really. They had a lot to explain to her that couldn’t easily be said over the phone. He hoped that she had believed they could have survived, somehow, but he also knows she had no way of knowing what actually had happened to them. Even Kaylee probably did not understand the extent of it. And he needed to tell her about their mother. And about herself. So much.

One phone call couldn’t come close.

“We believe in you. We know that you’ll get through this. You have to teach Evie how to use a sword now, too. I don’t even know if you know how, but…” But Evie would be disappointed if she didn’t get to learn how to use a sword from her Tia.

And part of him really wanted to ask about Woods, after that trial. A Woods he was going to have to meet some day. Big brothers have to take care of their little sisters.

There’s another wet sniffle from Odessa’s end of the line. “Thanks. I… That word isn’t good enough, but it’s what I’ve got at the moment.” There’s a brief pause, a murmuring sound in the background.

“They’re giving me the eye,” Odessa explains. “But it was really good to hear you both. Really good. And I know you’ll come visit soon.” There’s a brightness to her tone, a cheerfulness that’s not feigned for the children. “I can’t wait.”

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