colette_icon.gif hana_icon.gif noa_icon.gif

Scene Title Nachala
Synopsis Hebrew, lit. "legacy, inheritance". The annual commemoration of a relative's death.

In a deeply personal evening, three women reflect upon loss, love, fate, and the legacies left behind for them to fulfill.
Date July 6, 2017

Mount Hope Cemetery

Hana Gitelman is not an observant Jew, has not been for more years than she cares to number. Even many of the trappings of the culture she was raised in have attrited away with time, with the realities of living uprooted and alone half a world away, with the frenetic and furtive necessities placed on her by the Ferry, by war, by the nurturing of Wolfhound. Most days, she thinks nothing of this, too subsumed in the life of now to reflect upon the life that was.

Some days, she feels her own shortcomings all too keenly, granting them edges that cut deeper than might any physical blade.

It is a shortcoming that she has lost that part of their legacy. A shortcoming that finds her this day in a graveyard on the other side of an ocean from the one where her departed kin rest. A shortcoming that across the past eight years of anniversaries, she has made that pilgrimage only once. A shortcoming that she could not, precisely, save the only other person in the world who also shared their blood — and who had known them more clearly, having seen them with more than a child's eyes.

The only intact memory left is hers.

So it is that Hana is alone in a cemetery as the sun dips toward the horizon, even her most constant companion silent and as withdrawn as can be. She kneels before a tree more reminiscent of the burial grounds on Pollepel than any graveyard of her youth, orange sunlight at her back, shadow stretching long before her. A broad, half-burned candle encased in glass flickers fitfully within that shadow, the flame's hypnotic dance unattended.

Hands folded palm-up over her thighs, head tipped back, eyes closed, Hana reminisces on behalf of them all —

— and sings.

"Did you know she was a singer?" Drucker's brows rise, his smile a bit more coy as he looks around the crowded bar, past circular tables where dusty-looking men crowd together around the sculpted frames of hookahs. At one end of the L-shaped bar, a voice coils like the tendrils of smoke in the air, as much serpentine in its grace as it is lilting and evanescent.

With a tone as smoky as the air, a young Zahava Gitelman looks nothing like Hana remembers. Long, dark hair is wound up behind her head in a bun, eyes partway lidded as she sits beside a piano where a man in a forward-tipped fedora plays a tinkling melody of jazz piano.

"She was only nineteen at the time… just a year before the war." Turning his attention to Hana, Drucker affords a smile as he looks around the bar, brows creased together. "This was the first and last time she ever sang… it was also the last time I ever saw her."

Low, quiet, the sound of her voice doesn't carry far, not even in the late evening hush of the cemetery. But it carries well enough to be heard by those who might walk a good ways in from the street — such as the daughter to whom Hana sent a location and nothing else; no time, no request, no summons. It might have been nothing more than merest notification, or it might have been the most implicit of invitations.

Noa knows as well as Hana the significance of this day.

The soft footfalls belonging to that daughter can be heard from behind before the slim figure stops a few feet to the side of Hana, dropping silently to her knees beside the taller, older woman with whom she shares this heritage — though her history is more second-hand, third-hand, told from those who knew neither of Hana’s parents.

Noa doesn’t speak but mirrors her mother’s posture in angle of limbs and hands. Her head, though, tips forward rather than back. Her hair falls around her face like a veil; her dark eyes cast downward as well, studying the ground in front of her as she listens to her mother’s voice.

The moment is a private one, intended for mourning and remembering. Ghosts, after a fashion, are allowed here. Though ghost-like in her observation, Colette Demsky isn't actually apart from the living in any corporeal sense. Her curiosity about the Gitelmans’ annual sabbatical to the Mount Hope Cemetery is rewarded in ways she feels uncomfortable having discovered.

Only ten feet away, Colette remains motionless under the bough of an old maple tree, only the subtle distortion of heat haze gives away her position to the naked eye, but now with Noa here she's not sure if even that will matter. Possessed with uncertainty, she's frozen in place. The depart might give away her presence, but revealing herself might be an affront to the personal nature of the gathering. Ruefully, she draws her teeth over her bottom lip and contemplates how bad eavesdropping is as well.

The song comes to an end not long after Noa seats herself, and in the ensuing silence, Hana glances towards her younger kin. She doesn't smile, but there's a softness to her features that isn't evidenced day-to-day, a lowering of the guard so perennial that others might be forgiven for not believing any layers might exist beneath.

She's told stories of her own to Noa in past years, firsthand recollections at a remove of thirty years. Stories about Drucker, more recent, less tattered around the edges. Too few, all of them. Today, she folds her hands around the warmth of the candle, holds it out to the younger woman beside her. "I don't believe I ever asked," Hana says softly, "what you left behind, coming here."

The candle is accepted, cupped in Noa’s hands. The younger woman stares into it, thinking for a moment, before she looks up, a small smile for her mother who is also her colleague, boss, mentor. Friend. She calls her Major or Hana, these days, but the myriad of relationships between the two create more bridges between them, more similarities.

The question sits between them a moment, and she shakes her head, finally. “Most of the people I left to come here are also here, just maybe not in a way that’s familiar to me. But I can see them. And then there are the friends who came here, too. Adel and Benji. The rest.”

Some have been lost. Some are not as close as they once were. She doesn’t need to give the names.

“So it’s different. It’s still loss, but it’s more like… losing a relationship, I guess. There’s grief in some ways, but it’s not the same,” she says softly, before looking up at Hana. “What I gained was worth it.” Her hand reaches out to touch her mother’s arm in a small squeeze, before returning back to the candle.

The ghost in their periphery realizes the error of her choice in the intimate moment shared between Hana and Noa. There's an icepick chill in the center of Colette’s chest, heart-fluttering anxiety pounding in her heart imploring run. But instead she's frozen, a mirage under the bough of the tree. Finally she realizes the intrusion is too much, whatever she'd hoped to see here wasn't meant for her.

Colette steps back to leave, and the snap of a branch behind her right heel might as well have been a gunshot for all that it breaks the birdsong silence of the cemetery. Her shoulders tremble, eyes wide, and out of fear of appearing threatening she dismisses her light refraction and becomes visible in dappled blotches of grayscale values and then color swathed in afterward like a speed painting.

I'm sorry.” Colette whispers, face red and hands clenched into tight fists at her side. Her shoulders are hunched, everything in her posture showing flight instincts. For a moment she looks seven years younger with that expression. The kitten who’d walked into a lion’s den.

The silence after Noa's words is broken abruptly; only Noa might see the lopsided smile that crosses Hana's face. She rests fingertips against the younger Gitelman's arm, a reciprocal touch, then glances over her shoulder. "I admit," Hana says, tone pitched just a shade louder to carry to the interloper behind them, "I wondered just how many years it would take you." Her tone is dust-dry, but lacking the inflection that puts edges on words.

"You've been nosy since day one." Just as there's no fire in her voice, neither is there any censure. Instead, she lifts her other hand, curls the ends of her fingers in minimalist invitation… or perhaps a command.

The snap of twig has Noa glancing back, though it’s Colette’s voice she catches before her eyes find the other woman’s, red-faced and mortified as she is. She huffs a small laugh, and glances at Hana to exchange a smirk.

“Hey, Demsky,” Noa says, glancing back to their eavesdropper, reaching a hand up to her to grip so that she can sit down beside them. “May as well make yourself comfortable,” she adds, dark eyes sparkling with amusement at her friend.

For a moment Colette is stationary, a few beats needed to reassess the situation and come to grips with a reaction. Lips parted, her expression of bewilderment gradually shifts to a well-recognized softness and sentimentality. Cautiously, Colette treads over with the distant birdsong at her back.

Choosing to settle down on Hana’s other side, opposite Noa. Her expression, briefly sheepish, is only slightly less red faced than it was a moment ago. But she mirrors the two Gitelmans’ posture and manner of sitting, neither wanting to be too casual nor too formal in her approach. She leans forward, just enough so she can see Noa, offering her a nervous though heartfelt smile before tracking her attention up to Hana.

That Colette is silent is a tell the two have come to understand over the years. She certainly isn't silent when she's made a mistake, or is angry, scared, or— Colette is a very vocal person. The only time she's quiet is when she's listening. Folding her hands in her lap, brows furrowed slightly, that's just what she does. She pays quiet, respectful attention.

There's silence all around as Colette settles herself into place, solemn, serene, a silence that drapes over and envelops the three of them like a blanket. Hana lets her gaze drop to the shadowed grass, to the faint play of candlelight on textured bark. It's a long while before she breaks that silence; even then, she speaks softly, disturbing it little.

"Twenty-eight years ago today," she says, then pauses; her eyes close, and she smiles thinly. "By the civil calendar," Hana amends, the calendar that rules her life now, though not the one she should observe by. "A suicide bomber blew up a bus in the mountains outside Tel Aviv."

"That day," she says for Colette's benefit, although the inference is obvious, "has defined all the rest of my life."

Her attention shifts to Noa. "I'm glad to hear that," Hana remarks, circling back around to their prior topic, setting a hand on her daughter's shoulder, squeezing briefly.

When Colette joins them, Noa offers the other young woman a smile; it’s sincere in nature, and holds none of the hints of jealousy it might have in recent years. The younger Gitelman hadn’t known her mother until so recently and only through the miracle of time travel, after all. Today that little envious streak seems to be in the past, and the smile is open, inviting, and a little somber, before it slips away to listen to Hana’s words.

She looks down again as Hana speaks, dark eyes studying the ground and the play of candlelight and shadows upon it, though at that touch on her shoulder, she glances up again, her smile returning at the show of affection. One hand comes up to touch the hand on her shoulder, squeezing back.

For the barest of moments, as Colette plays witness to this, she feels like Alice tumbled down the rabbit hole. This is a side of Hana she's never seen in such bare display, and the side of Colette that is sewn part and parcel from these moments and feelings lights up. She wrings her hands together in her lap, quiet in the evident understanding and sympathy she feels for Hana. It puts things about their relationship into a new, warmer context.

Brows lifted, Colette’s expression is one of such visible sympathy that it's clear she's wringing her hands together to restrain from an outright hug or some other overt display that she's wired to do. Instead, she maintains her composure in ways more practiced. Briefly, she regards the exchange between Noa and Hana and there's no amount of training or mental discipline that could restrain her smile there, the way the color returns to her cheeks. It warms her heart.

Quiet settles around them once more, a quiet painted in orange light, in the look Hana shares with her daughter — Colette's response is no surprise — and in the solemnity with which she draws in one last, quiet breath. Then, for all that Colette only just joined them, Hana surges up to her feet in a smooth motion. Stepping forward, she reaches around the tree to retrieve the cane that is nearly her sole willing concession to her recently-healed ankle. Stepping back, she tips her head towards the eastern edge of the cemetery. "Let's go for a walk." No surprise to Noa, there, save that Hana hasn't waited for full sundown, the transition of the day; but it'll be sundown by the time they get where she's going.

"Why don't you tell us a story on the way?" Hana prompts of Noa. Implicitly: something lost that you want to remember.

When her mother stands, Noa does too; she knows what comes next, as it has for the past years she’s joined her mother in this tradition. Colette apparently knows, too.

The question gets a nod, and Noa is silent for a few feet before she begins to speak. She never speaks of the deaths of anyone that Hana knows in this timeline; they’ve changed the future, for better or worse. There were deaths Noa felt, grieved, of people that are alive now and in their lives. These she leaves to the future and past simultaneously.

“His name was Vinh. He was with the Ferry, but alone. He didn’t have any family that I know of,” she begins, watching the path beneath her feet. “He had one of those smiles, one of those laughs, that you couldn’t help but react to. I think he might even have gotten you to laugh, if he wanted to.” Hana’s elbow is nudged by her daughter, who smirks, then adds to Colette, “You’d have liked him, I think. He was a little like you — exuberant, you know? He cared deeply about everything and yet it didn’t ever seem to bring him down.”

She glances back at the ground; her dark eyes fill with tears before one spills out onto her cheeks. “He was killed while out scavenging for us. He was just 19. The Council talked a lot about how brave he was, how he put his life on the line for everybody else. That’s all true, but…” Noa reaches up to brush aside the tears. “To me the bravest thing about him was that he still saw so much to be happy about every day, even in that terrible world. It’s something I want to emulate, but can’t, not like he could.”

She offers a sad smile. “Vinh Pham. Vinnie. I wonder if he’ll even be born now. It’s strange to mourn something that doesn’t even exist yet.”

Colette’s pace is a half step behind Hana and Noa, still feeling like something of an intruder in this family moment, on spite of reassurances to the contrary. Through Noa’s story, Colette kept her head down, hands folded behind her back and shoulders slack. Her pace has a meandering quality, though it picked up when Noa addressed her.

In the end, though, there's a hole in her heart for someone she never knew. Someone that in another life she may have. She's afraid to ask if she did. So instead, she asks, “I like to think… some things are constants. Some people just are, and some people just always find each other.”

Making a sound in the back of her throat, Colette isn't sure how much she believes that though. “I know people who came back from the future before you. They'd just made a visit there. I was… married.” Her eyes search the ground. “Tamara and I. Just the two of us…” her teeth drag across her bottom lip. “But, where you came from I don't remember anyone ever mentioning her. Just Tasha. So… maybe people aren't— maybe there's no certainty.”

“Sorry.” Colette closes her eyes and shakes her head. “That— didn't wind up going where I thought it would.”

Vinh. Not a name Hana recognizes, of course, although the origin is plain enough. She eyes her daughter sidelong at the nudge, but doesn't comment, doesn't disrupt the story. When Colette speaks up, Hana glances back towards her, briefly watches her study the sidewalk passing beneath her feet. By the time Colette looks up again, Hana's already turned her attention forward once more.

"There is no certainty," Hana agrees. She tips a hand in Noa's direction. "We changed our future. Where Noa came from, I am already dead. The specific circumstances that led to her birth aren't likely to be repeated. Everything that followed from her in that timeline is impossible here." From her, and from all of them — all the children never born, and even the ones who already were, whose lives now follow different paths.

"Somewhere out there," she continues as she walks, gesturing towards vague distance, "I never answered Bennet's call. The network we created never existed. Somewhere, T.Monk and R.Ajas never became Rebel, and I died instead." Hana falls silent, her eyes sliding closed, breaths quiet and measured. Those memories bring others, more than she needs or wants to get into at this point. Associations that still cut, for all the years they've been polished. "We could go farther back, instead; say I never came to the US. That change invalidates nearly every relationship I now have."

She raises a hand, palm up. "If you take as given that everything is possible, then no, there is no certainty."

When Colette speaks, Noa glances her way; her expression is hard to read, other than her own grief for her lost friend. She doesn’t indicate if she knew Tamara or not, doesn’t offer answers to the unspoken questions that Colette obviously has. A small smile of understanding is given, though, and then she looks back to Hana when she begins to speak.

“I think you’re right, though, that certain people — if chance allows them to meet — will always see something in one another, always find something that connects them to us,” says the younger Gitelman once Hana finishes. “The idea of kindred spirits makes sense to me, if not soulmates. What’s a friend in one future might be a spouse in another. Maybe someone you admire but don’t know well in one time is someone you work with, a mentor somewhere else.”

Her smile brightens. “Maybe I just haven’t met my soulmate so I’m a cynic,” she says, dark eyes sparkling a little. “But I think it doesn’t matter, not really. We have what we have here and now. The future’s always shifting, so what I knew… it’s all gone, except in memories now. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

Sometime after Hana’s response to Colette’s unsolicited opinion, the blind woman moved to walk in stride with the others rather than a pace apart. She remains otherwise quiet though, head down and brows furrowed as she walks with them. It's a thoughtful expression, attentive listening to both women express their beliefs about something there will never be scientific answers for. It all — this moment and the last — boils down to faith. It's an esoteric concept to an agnostic like Colette, but one that has become more tangible in the years she's known Tamara. Faith in a belief system; of soulmates or kindred spirits, in religion. Faith in a higher power, be it a god or a prophet. Colette feels like she's met both along the way.

“Maybe,” is Colette’s belated response to Noa’s sentiments. It lingered in the ellipses, emerged after the reflection. “I mean, yeah. But, nothing’s ever really clear cut. If there's parts of that future you like, there's nothing saying you can't try and rebuild parts of it here.” Blind eyes close, and Colette rolls her thumb over the ring on her right hand. “Sometimes, it feels like… some stuff just needs a push t’figure out where it needs t’go.”

Colette looks up at Hana after that, then across her to Noa. “The idea of a painting can be just as pretty as the painting itself.” She isn't sure if she heard that somewhere or just came up with it herself, but it felt nonetheless from the heart.

Hana doesn't comment as the two younger women discuss kindred spirits and — not inevitability, but some more nebulous close cousin of it, one that exists in the spaces between people rather than the scheme of events and outcomes. Her expression is pensive, if one reads correctly into the absence of expression, the particular manner in which her gaze remains focused ahead; it is not a flavor of pensivity that invites interrogation.

"It's a pretty sentiment," Hana says at last, after Colette's statements of faith are said and done. The words are free of inflection, as opaque as her expression, and she does not follow up on them with anything more.

Instead, as color leaches from the twilight sky behind them, Hana reclaims the candle from Noa, holding it before her for a long moment before blowing it out. It isn't much farther down the road before they depart the sidewalk in favor of a storefront, the eldest of them leading the way into the Middle Eastern restaurant that storefront harbors. It's a casual type of restaurant — seat yourself, order at counter, take food away from counter — and at this hour the tables are all but empty. Hana skips past the counter altogether, heading for a table towards the back.

"Your turn," she says to Colette, gesturing slightly towards her. Tell a story.

“Maybe,” Noa murmurs to Colette. “The only good thing there was the people, though. Our people.” Ferry.

She grows quiet too, smiling a little when her mother does not, in her own brand of pensiveness. Her hands, now emptied of the candle, slide into the pockets of the leather jacket she wears, as she follows the lead of her mother down the sidewalk and into the restaurant.

Hana’s directive to Colette earns Colette a sort-of apologetic look from Noa, the kind all young people give one another when their parents put their friends on the spot. Some things are the same in all pasts and all futures — even ones as strange and confusing as Noa’s and Hana’s.

Colette is silent for a long while in response to the question, brows furrowed in thought ame head down. She walks with a casual, though meandering, pace that seems appropriate for the topic and tone of the conversation. It isn't that she has a lack of stories, it's that she's battling with whether she discusses them. The sigh that slips from her, even though caught, shows resignation — both to her resistance, and to her debate of personal closeness.

“I was an orphan after the bomb,” Colette knows Hana’s seen the truth before, in records of her life kept on state and local government agency computers. The Nichols’ didn't die in the bomb, and yet to her — in the way she was abandoned by one and chose to abandoned both — they did. “Judah Demsky, an… NYPD detective adopted me. He hardly knew me, and he— took in this stray cat who stole from other orphans and…”

Pausing, Colette closes her eyes and shakes her head. There's a visible emotion that crosses her face. “He adopted me in 08, found out I was Ferry in 2010. He joined, not long after. He was one of us, and he was… the only person I willingly call my father.” She brings up a hand, slowly scrubbing it over her mouth.

“Judah got swept up in a government raid when they were hitting our safe houses. DHS took him, used false info about his transport to lure Ferry to rescue him and— ” Colette briefly loses her voice, closes her eyes and exhales a slow breath. “Every say he was imprisoned I could barely sleep. He was my father but— but he was one of us. I just— ”

Making a noise in the back of her throat, Colette brushes bangs back from her face. “I spent months trying to find him. Wound up in Buffalo at a detention center. I had a plan. I… I got to his cell, I got him out. We made a run for it, I just— I wasn't— I couldn't.” Colette scrubs fingers at her eyes swiftly, trying to hide the fact that she's crying.

“We we're almost at the fence when they hit me with some kind of— crowd control gun mounted on a truck. Like a Banshee.” Blind eyes wet with tears open slowly, a few dribble down her lashes and tumble down her cheeks. “He could have ran. He could have ran but he went back for me and…” her eyes close, “they killed him in front of me.”

Colette brings up a hand over her eyes, lips pulled back into a grimace that tries to steady her lip and restrain an undignified sound that neither other woman had made in their stories. “If I'd just found him sooner or— if I'd just— if— I could've…” She's lost her voice by this point and stopped walking, continually wiping at her eyes and mouth with one hand and trying to hide her face. “I'm sorry— fuck— I didn't think this would be— I'm sorry.”

They stop at last beside the table, standing there as Colette spins her tale. No one moves to disturb the trio, nor to interrupt the outpouring of regret and grief — not restaurant staff, not the two late patrons at the very far end of the space, now around a corner and out of sight. Nothing intrudes from the night growing dark around them.

Here and now, nothing in the world exists but these three women whose lives are bound together by blood and respect and love and loss in so many forms.

"A shtuken nisht in harts," Hana murmurs, doing what Colette forwent earlier — folding one arm around the younger woman's shoulders, drawing her in against Hana's own. "A stab in the heart, the kind that even time does not heal." She's familiar with the burden. "You've nothing to apologize for here."

Looking across Colette, Hana momentarily locks eyes with her daughter. I cannot tell you, the technopath sends to the only other in the room who can hear, how grateful I am that you carry none of your own. She alluded to as much earlier, but there is a new gravitas in her demeanor, a weight that reflects the qualitative difference between loss and a wound that cuts one's soul to the quick.

Paired with that gravitas is a resolution less personal, but no less deep.

"Today is a day for remembering," Hana murmurs aloud across Colette's dark hair. "For the losses that define us, the nostalgia that haunts our dreams." Or nightmares. She reaches out with her free hand to set the cold candle on their table, a soft thunk interrupting the silence between words. "But in honoring the dead, we acknowledge our own places among the living, because only the living can."

"We remain," Hana states firmly, drawing Colette back so that she can regard each of the younger women in turn. "We remember what is lost. And we carry that legacy forward. Through us, what we've lost continues to leave its mark upon the world. Which — is about more than just us." More than sorrows, regrets, failures.

She gestures to the table, unspoken instruction for the younger two to claim seats. Once they have, a muted rustling from the kitchen follows, suggesting someone among the restaurant staff was waiting for exactly that cue. Sliding into her own chair, Hana looks to her daughter. "I don't believe I ever said where that song came from," she notes. "So, let me tell you something about Zahava Gitelman…"

For where there are wounds, there was once also joy, and no memorial — no legacy — is complete without embracing that aspect as well.

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