Karma's a Bitch


bella_icon.gif nora2_icon.gif

Scene Title Karma's a Bitch
Synopsis A chance meeting between Nora and Bella results in a bit of quid pro quo and insults.
Date August 13, 2011


A bit of clear skies after so many cloudy, rainy days is like a beacon, drawing all sorts of creatures to the outdoors, like moths to the flame. Because of the bright sky and finally-dry grass, the Brick House's visitor has opted to take her day's business outside.

Noa Gitelman — her real name is beginning to be used more often, now that she doesn't have to keep her secret identity so secret anymore — sits with a guitar perched in her lap, facing the two youngsters, Paul and Lance, each with cheaper student models she'd brought over another day. The two boys clumsily go over the chords she shows them several times until they each get it right and up to speed.

"Good job. Now go inside before we scare all the fish away," teases the teenager. She's unaware that she may be keeping one moth from the beckoning flame with the impromptu outdoor music lesson.

The two boys get up and begin to scamper toward the house, before Noa calls to them, "Walk please, when you're carrying your instruments!" She begins to play the opening to the Beatles' Blackbird, dark eyes solemnly staring out to the water beyond.

Weather had drawn even tighter the confines of Bella's effective prison, its walls defined by comfort and safety, the latter not so much a problem as the former these past days. Still, you can't sun without sun, and until it peeked its golden head through the thick layer of clouds, Dr. Sheridan had remained indoors, stewing in her own bad humors.

Bad humor persists though as, despite her valiant sally - armed with book and hat and glasses and chair and half bottle of wine (with glass) - she arrives at her usual spot to find it's been taken by an encampment of native savages, pygmy creatures beyond all proper anthropological analysis since, as far as Bella is concerned, at this stage of development they hardly qualify as anthropos. She moves aside, clearing the path as the pair, one silent and one noisy, traipse their way back towards the house.

Which, thankfully, leaves Bella in the company only of one other humanoid creature, whose age and best-guess-sex qualify her for at least a little consideration. She listens for a moment as the young woman plucks out a melodic refrain that sounds very familiar, as it should to anyone with a speck of world culture, and - finding it not unpleasant - she tugs her chair into open operation and begins to settle in, giving no greeting as of yet. Not wishing to interrupt.

If Nora is bothered by — or even aware of — the presence of the newcomer, it doesn't show; she continues to play, humming softly but not quite breaking into words. Just as the song ends, the wind picks up, whipping her long dark hair around her face. Twisting away from the wind, she reaches into her pocket, eyes downcast, for a hair band, winding it around the thick mane with a quick, dexterous twirl of her fingers.

Only when she is done, do her eyes open to see herself facing Bella. She actually jumps, the guitar in her lap making a sound of protest.

"H-hi," she stammers. "I'm sorry, I didn't see you." Her muscles tense with an alertness that wasn't there a few moments ago when she was playing.

Bella has the unique pleasure of getting to cooly lift her eyes from the book she had cracked open, gaze rising with incomparable self containment as she regards the now-nervous Nora. Or Noa. Right now, to Bella, she's just 'this woman' or maybe 'this woman playing the guitar'.

"That's quite all right," Bella replies, "I'm not about to be jealous of the Atlantic as a vista," she gestures with her hand, "and please, don't stop on my account. Keep playing, it was quite lovely" a slight smile, "it's only if you start singing… then we might be at odds."

Almost black eyes scan Bella's face as if searching for something, but then Noa finally nods, turning back to face the water as she starts to play "Hey Jude."

"Thank you. For the compliment, I mean. I'm still learning the guitar, no real business teaching it. I'm better on the piano," Noa says softly, bare toes digging into the grassy sand where she sits.

"Are you… Bella Sheridan?" she says after a few measures — she either isn't as confident on the song as she is on "Blackbird" or she's not concentrating.

Probably both.

For all that Bella warned the girl with the guitar against singing, she feels in herself an urge to pipe in with the lilt of McCartney's lyrics; her own voice is untrained but not unpleasant, and it might make for a slightly sweet sort of sing-along if Bella didn't consider it beneath her dignity to croon unprompted.

Anyways, there seem to be more pressing issues. Like how it is this unknown knows her.

"Who's asking?" is more or less confirmation, but conditional - Bella's alert for ambush.

The guitar is set aside, gently and lovingly into the case at her side, and Nora turns once more, back to the water to face Bella.

"I'm Nora. Or… Noa. Whichever you prefer," she says, her brows knitting together. No 'pleased to meet you' or other bland civilities offered, no hand to shake. She wraps her arms around her thin legs instead, hugging them to her chest as she studies the older woman.

"You're Calvin's mother." There's no accusation in the tone — if anything, a touch of wonder in the young woman's voice.

And which does Bella prefer? Nora's got a Joycean ring to it, barnacular and practical. Noa sounds like someone who likes building big boats when unseen voices address them. At the sea's edge, in these latter days, the second seems more appropriate.

She chooses 'Noa' then, though she reserves the right to change her preference. But Bella does not get a chance, yet, to express as much.

Let's make one thing clear:

"No, I'm not. You're thinking of someone else."

The slight frown deepens, and Noa looks away, pressing her lips together. She remembers Calvin in the hotel room not so — and yet so very — long ago, and her assumption that things had gone poorly with his parents, as they had with her mother.

She feels a pang of sympathy for that man, the man she knew and loved that night. The man she hates and loves all at once today.

"I'm sorry," she whispers, at the insult that Bella seems to feel. "I know it's … it must be hard for you to have someone come back and claim to be your son. I wouldn't deal with it very well. It's unfair to you all."

Which is about as much of a confession as saying 'Hi, I'm from the future, too.'

"Have you talked to him?" she asks quickly, before Bella has time to digest all of that.

Bella wasn't looking particular cheerful when she issues her correction, and her face would be getting grimmer and longer if it weren't held in its current position of precise aloofness. The apology disappears into her without so much as a ripple.

Noa may be trying to charge ahead with her questions, but Bella has treated evasive clients enough not to be so easily derailed from the relevant line of discussion.

"You all?" she echoes, making it clear that's what she's addressing right this moment. She closes her book and sets it sideways in her lap, an unambiguous sign that her attention is wholly on the conversation.

"I'm taken to understand, then, that you're a resident temporal alien?"

Just so that we're really sure we're on the same page of the same book in the same set of volumes that comprises the absurd story Bella's found herself written into.

Resident temporal alien takes just a moment to parse. The teen looks confused for half a second before nodding, reaching up to push her long bangs back behind one ear.

"Yeah," comes after the nod, more of a filler until she thinks of something else to say. What do you say to the reluctant future mother of your former best friend, after all?

"Can I … can I ask when the last time you saw him was? I'm worried about him. He's kinda AWOL." Noa chews her lower lip and chips off some black nail polish from her thumb as she watches Bella carefully.

Oh, wonderful, she is. And this gives Bella license to be mean.

"I'm sorry-" has the tone of a gatekeeper who 'can't help you', "but unless I know more about you I really don't feel comfortable handing out that information."

There is the very slightest twitch of her lips, a suppressed wish to smile. "You know how it is with family matters."

Bella makes like she's about to take her book back up, turning it lengthwise in her lap and even thumbing back the cover and moving to search for her place when-

"You know what, though?" like the thought has just occurred to her, "maybe we can make a deal. You answer my questions - I'll see what I can do about yours."

Noa squints slightly as she's obviously a persona non gratis in Bella's eyes — either for being a 'temporal alien' or simply for knowing Calvin, she's not sure. She watches quietly as Bella starts to pick up her book again, then tilts her head at the offer.

There's a beat or three when she considers it. "I'll answer what I can," she says, finally, releasing her grip around her knees to sit cross legged instead, hands moving to her knees almost as if she were meditating — it also happens to be a pose that is neither threatening nor defensive.

"Shoot," she adds, palm up with a wiggle of fingers to beckon the first query.

The first one is an easy one. A matter unsettlingly unsettled. Bella shoots, indeed, projectile too well form and too quickly tossed not to be something that's been on her mind.

"What or who is responsible for the dreams we've been having?"

"They're not just dreams," Nora says quietly. "They're from our future. It's one of my friends, one of our travel mates. Another 'alien,' if you will."

A piece of grass is plucked and picked at. "Her name's Jasmine. She's a dream walker. What you've seen isn't what 'may be' but what has been — at least for us. But like the Dickens book it doesn't have to be. We're trying to change it. Jasmine, Calvin, me." There's a grimace when she says Calvin's name, her eyes flitting away from eyes that look not so unlike that young man's (even if his brows are more of his father's build).

"I'm well aware they aren't 'just' dreams," Bella says, more waspish than she'd even intended, "that is precisely the issue."

The deal proposed sounded like a quid pro quo, but Bella's not about to honor it if Noa isn't enforcing the terms. She hits with her next question just as quickly.

"So this is purposeful? Not some sort of side effect or- collateral damage?"

If Noa was in a better mood, she might make a quip about Bella and Hana getting together, that they'd probably get along.

Except they wouldn't.

At the next question, Noa nods more certainly. "We came back on purpose. The future's bad. I don't know for sure what you've seen of it, but… this?" she gestures to the house behind them.

"This is living in the lap of luxury compared to what most people like me and Calvin have to do in the our time. World War Three… robots… governmental controls on who can have and who can't have kids, children being killed because of their fucking genetic makeup. We're trying to change that. Part of it is showing people what might happen if we don't change what's happening now," she says, voice rising a little in passion though not in volume.

Taking her turn a bit belatedly, she tosses back, though it's more of a softball pitch than Bella's fastball, "When is the last time you talked to him?"

This is more than purpose, Bella discerns as she listens to Noa's rising fervor - it's a cause. As Noa builds steam, Bella recedes into quiet, letting the younger woman do the work. This means losing her aggressive advance, and grants Noa the time she needs to finally volley back with the question she - admittedly - asked some time ago.

That's not to say Bella is about to answer straight away.

"And another part of it is, apparently, forcing carefully edited memories onto people in a suggestible mental state," which apparently she thinks isn't cool, as her choice of words alone would suggest.

But Noa's been more than fair in this particular transaction, and Bella feels like she has to show something to stay in the game. So she answers one of her previous questions. Honestly.

"The last time I saw Rosen, he said something inexcusably foul about a dear friend of mine. I struck him with a brick, then dumped him in a field."

She follows up in the wake of this admission not with an inquiry, but a demand:

"I want to speak with this Jasmine individual."

That that was just before she last saw "Rosen," Nora doesn't know. Her lips press into a grim line and her eyes break away to look at the water.

"Not edited, just… abridged," she corrects. "They're memories. Jasmine doesn't take away or add to them. They're just sometimes maybe a little out of context. Sort of showing a branch here and there to give you an idea of how the whole forest looks, maybe," she murmurs, defending Jasmine with the analogy the best she can while the rest of her mind struggles with dumped him in a field.

She swallows and finally looks back. "Was he dead? When you left him?" Speaking of editing, that would be quite a detail for Bella to leave out.

"Abridgment is not editing? Leaving out is not a function of interpretation? Young lady, do not tell a doctor of psychiatric medicine that what isn't said isn't important!"

The degree drop is an embarrassing excess, but sans office in which to hang her diploma, sans shingle to adorn her practice, she feels like she has to remind herself, as well as others.

Mostly others, though.

"No," Bella is not yet an infanticide, "it wasn't a capital offense." Unlike, I dunno, genocide for example?

"I spoke with him again-" this reserved information is out and out dangled at this point, "but considering the imposition you've admitted to placing upon us," meaning their whole timeline, but most importantly her, "I think I've got every reason to be tight lipped until you start arranging an interview."

She wishes to make herself abundantly clear:

"I want to talk with the dreamwalker. While we're both awake."

Nora's eyes narrow when Bella pulls the education card out of the deck, along with a 'young lady.' Her brows rise slightly, and she looks away again. "A lot of educated people have a strange sense of what's important. Doctors Mengele and Clauberg come to mind, along with the ranks of doctors in the future who you haven't even heard of."

After a blink, she adds, "Not that I'm putting you in that company, mind you."

Clearly, Nora is not your usual 18 year old.

She rises in one fluid movement from her indian-seat, then bends to latch her guitar case and swing it over her shoulder. "I'll ask her. No promises, Ms. Sheridan."

Oh no, she didn't.

"We misunderstand each other," Bella says, deadly calm, rising to a stand as well, tension in each line of her profile, "this is not a polite request. And don't try to pretend that this request makes me a Nazi you smartass little punk."

She's in Nora's face now, mouth a working shape of focused fury beneath the bug-eye lenses of her sunglasses.

"My mind is not a free transit zone. My memories and emotions belong to me. And I will poison out of spite anything you try to force me to feel. You want to talk human experimentation? Consider what the fuck you've started, by coming here into our world, and experimenting on all of us."

A finger jabs, nearly threatening contact as additional emphasis.

"I will rake you over the fucking coals, little girl. Bring me the dreamwalker."

Barefoot and nose to nose, they are almost the same in height — on the small size, but both with the egos of a Titan. Nora's chin lifts, and when that finger jabs close to making contact, it takes a concerted effort to suppress instinct and not try to break Bella's wrist.

"We're in agreement on one thing. Anyone trying to make you feel is going to be disappointed," the younger woman says, though there's a huskiness to her tone that suggests Bella has gotten to her in some way.

"On the matter of experimentation, well — you're the fucking expert. You should probably know. Just a little different when you're not the one in charge."

Rather than step back (because that would be against her nature) Nora plows forward to pass Bella, letting shoulders brush. "Karma's a fucking bitch, isn't she?" she adds over her shoulder.

Chances are a broken wrist would have shut Bella up neatly. Gotten a lot of tears, too. But Nora would have definitely gotten in the last word, and action louder than.

"Don't fucking double jeopardy me, find a new sin to damn me with," Bella sneers, "or are you really saying turnabout is fair play? I guess you and Rosen really do share core principles. Changing the world."

She's walking away? Bella will not stoop to the indignity of chasing Nora. But she will cast one last stone.

"You'll die here. All of you. And everything that happens? It will all have been your fault.

"How's that for karma?"

Nora stops, her back to Bella, and closes her eyes. "Changing the world's not a bad thing to want. Not when it's as screwed up as it is now and only getting worse," she says, turning to look at the psychiatrist.

The facade of bravado from the anger is washed away, and Nora looks sad without it. "You're probably right. We probably will. We came back to make things better, but not better for us. And if that happens — if it's my 'fault' that things get better, that people get their basic civil rights and we avoid a world war and people don't die violent, horrible deaths because of their genetics — that is fault I can live with."

Nora nods to Bella. "I'll tell Jasmine you want to talk to her, but I'm not her personal secretary. I can't make any promises for her. And I don't think you know where Calvin is any more than I do, so it's not like I expect to get much out of delivering what you're asking for."

"If anything you've done manages to bring about all that," Bella drawls, acidly, "expect to have my full forgiveness.

"But I don't consider it much evidence of character to be able to bear the burden of playing savior. Not unless you find a cross to climb up onto. And certainly not until you've managed to improve one single fucking thing."

Her smile is a tight twist of wire, and about as soft.

"Tell her to arrange a meeting. I expect that she'll come. And with something more than sanctimony."

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