Open Doors


helena_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title Open Doors
Synopsis Helena needs guidance. Fortunately, Joseph's door is always open.
Date September 4, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

There is no mistaking this building as anything but a church, with its arching glass windows and concrete cross fixed to the edge of the pointed roof. Curving stone steps lead up from the pavement to a set of black double doors, often kept closed during the colder weather, but unlocked during the allocated hours written on a blue sign fix to the brick wall. In white, formal letting, it reads GUIDING LIGHT BAPTIST CHURCH and lists its hours of worship.

Through the doors, you first step into an open, nondescript foyer, with access to an unobtrusive staircase headed upwards, and a second hallway leading off somewhere less public also. Mainly, this room opens straight out to the much more spacious worship hall, with immovable rows and rows of pews. A small church, it only seats an absolute maximum of around one hundred and fifty people at a time. It has a high ceiling and is warmly lit, simple and reverent in design, colours light and earthy. The stage before the pews is wide open, with seats off to the side for other pastors and guest speakers, and there is a podium placed off center. On the other side, there is a small organ with music sheets kept nearby.

It's late enough for the only holy light to come beaming through the high, arching windows is the artificial collection of hazy illumination that hits the polished pews and makes shapes on the pale walls. One of the black-painted double doors is eased open enough for light to spill in from the street, too, extend out as far as the aisle that leads up to the empty pulpit. Such angles of light is washed out by the low houselights that warms the place with tones of gold. It's a simple place, but just as reverent as any cathedral.

He hasn't brought his dog by, in these last several minutes before Joseph is meant to be locking the doors. He has brought a book instead, not the book, just a book. He clutches the paperback in his hand, slouched forward where he's seated on the pew so he can rest his forearms against the one in front of him. Frameless glasses perch on the end of a long nose, but he's not so involved that he'll miss a cue.

The book really isn't getting much attention, anyway. He's thinking, and listening, and taking pleasure of simply being i his sanctuary. The reading is an excuse.

Wasn't there a time in the world once, where a house of worship's doors were never locked? That must have also been a time when kitchen wenches wore glass slippers to balls, and little girls in red cloaks wandered the woods, and and princesses were awakened by true love's kiss. And that time is not now. Helena's lucky then, to have managed to find the time to come to the church before Joseph did lock up for the night, though she seems surprised that there aren't any people.

"Hello?" her voice doesn't have to raise much to echo, churches are built to carry sound. She looks nervous, she is nervous, because she told the guiding fairy (in the form of a one Colette) that she'd never gone to church much - C&E, she'd called herself, her family. Still, today's visit is about both thanks and faith, two topics God is well acquainted with, even if where she's hoping to find both don't really have anything to do with Him.

Hesse's Steppenwolf is dogeared and closed without hesitation, as soon as the slight creak of doors ribbons distraction through the air. It's heavy reading material for such a slim book, and some boyish part of Joseph is glad to not have to read it right now. Helena's Hello? has him setting it aside, turning to grip the back of the pew in one hand and peer back towards where she's moving from the open little foyer space, towards the wider cavern of the worship hall.

He wasn't expecting anyone, but if he was, it wouldn't be her. Which only means there's half a second's hesitation before greeting her with; "Evening," drawing attention and becoming more obvious as he levers himself up to stand. Can I help you? is on the tip of his tongue, automatic, but first Joseph pulls his glasses off, and second, he smiles at her.

"I never caught all of your names. Come in."

The honesty of Joseph's smile catches her, and Helena has to quell the initial instinct to let herself fall into trusting it straight off the bat. Caution has been a long time coming, but as she approaches, she can at least give it a little bit of slack. "I'm Helena." she says quietly. "Helena Dean. I wanted to thank you for what you said. That - I get shouted down a lot. A lot of people think I'm a child playing an adult game, and it was kind of a surprise and a pleasure to have unexpected support. So thank you." As she approaches the pew he's in, she gestures toward it. "May I?"

He makes a gesture of acquiesce, light playing off the reading glasses that he sets aside when sitting back down, slipping one of its thin, silvery arms in between the pages of his book. That day, he had gone out to run an errand, and since then changed into clothing appropriate for the setting - slacks, a button down shirt tucked in, sleeves button at the cuffs, although deeming it too warm for the jacket and tie.

He's still wearing boots, however, ones that still have dust of Midtown in its seams. Easing back against the pew and hooking an arm over it, he smiles again at the thanks, head tilting. "You're welcome," he says, a little bit of surprise tracing through his own voice. "You didn't sound like a child to me, so, there you go. You can call me Joseph."

"I don't feel like a child." Helena admits quietly. She feels too old for her skin. "A friend of mine said I should come talk to you, actually. Colette Demsky? She said you were good at giving guidance." Helena's expression is apologetic, the mere possibility of laying down any burdens of hers at Joseph's feet seems worth seeming sorry for. "It's good to meet you, Joseph." There's an awkward pause. "I'm not used to churches. Like I told Colette, my family, we only went on Christmas and Easter. It wasn't really a thing." She looks around, takes in the height of the ceiling, the arched tops of the windows. "But I can see the allure."

There's another awkward pause, and she shifts fitfully. "I didn't know you were part of the network, but it makes sense that you would be." She seems to want to ask something, but also seems to not know where to begin.

"It might. Sort of felt like I was a part of it before knowin' I was. Abby, Flint, Colette, and Teo too— I knew 'em before I knew about the Ferry and it sort of fit together on its own." Joseph's gaze tracks from her, towards the pulpit. There's a cross on the smooth wall, there always is - this one is a simple configuration of two lines of wooden darkness. No etchings, no Jesus figure, a simple reminder. "There's allure, but it doesn't take for everyone."

He hasn't asked that question yet, about what he can do to help her. His pauses aren't particularly awkward - weighted, maybe, thoughtful, and he's hoping he doesn't have to, voice gentle as he adds; "Colette… she's a sweet kid. Still a kid, too, and she knows that, in the way that you know you're not one, I think. Which doesn't mean adults can't use guidance too."

It takes her a moment to connect 'Flint' with 'Deckard', but the other names are responded to with a greater sense of familiarity. Teo's name especially prompts a brief, warm curve of her mouth. "There are hard decisions in what we do." Helena says, leaning forward to brace her arms on her thighs, her head hanging down though she looks up at the pastor's face. "She and I didn't always get on, but recently it got a lot better. I'm glad for it. She reminds me of me, before Cameron died, before I was sent to Moab." And before Peter. "I kind of envy her that. I don't want her to lose that, but I know eventually she will. But maybe it can be…better, for her." But she's not here to talk about Colette, not really.

"I'm not sure how much you know about me." Helena begins after a moment. "But I'm at this point where things are - a lot of people are telling me what they think I should do and how to do it, and some are telling me I have no business doing what I'm doing at all. And the only thing all of it's doing is confusing me. I don't know which way to turn or what steps take. I'm lost, and that's pretty much the very definition of someone who needs guidance, isn't it?"

"Yeah, it is. And I think I know enough about you— I mean. I remember that video." Joseph's smile is apologetic, to imply that he should have recalled both it and her a little sooner than a few steps into their conversation and a day past that meeting, but there you go. "And so I know enough that being a lost, in your position, might cost more than just yourself. Burden of being any kind've leader. These people— "

His head tilts quizzically, a pause as if considering his words, before asking, "They close, or— important? I'm wonderin' if what they have to say— enough to turn your head— is because they carry weight and value. Or if it's somethin' else."

Helena actually shys a little, admitting, "There need to be more of those, it's my own fault that I haven't - well, there's the problem of Humanis First answering anything we do, which no one seems to have an answer for. And it's one of the things that I'm lost about." The confession comes heavy. "They're people with more experience in these things, I guess. People who say they want to see Phoenix focus on the original intention of what it's supposed to be. I know we can't manage everything. A couple of them are people that I care about."

Her hands clench, and she leans back, one of her fists self-consciously moving to her chest. "One of them…I gave him every piece of me that I think I was capable of giving, he's the one who told me I needed to do this, and not long ago he told me that was a mistake." Does she mean the giving, or what she's doing? Probably both.

"Have you ever had so many possibilities and choices thrown at you that you just turn around and around and around you end up doing nothing at all, and that in itself, is a choice? That's what I feel like. Decisions I make, things I do - people follow me. People listen, though I haven't the slightest idea why. I don't even know if this is what I should be doing, anymore."

"They listen because you got somethin' to say," Joseph says, looking back at her. "Like you had somethin' to say in that meeting, or for that video." More silence, and again, it isn't vacant. There's thought, and word measuring, his brow furrowed a little as he considers things, studying the play of light off a band of gold set on the appropriate finger, absently fidgeting with it as he does when he has nothing else in his hands.

Finally— "Every Sunday and Wednesday, I get a whole lot of people listening to me too. It's crazy, if you think about it, and ever since joining the Ferry, I need to decide if what I'm doing is right by them while knowin' that givin' up on the Ferry means cutting off help I can offer at the same time. Thing is, we both know the destination. It's just how we get there that's the hard part. Now—

"I can pray." The smile he gives her is a little more facetious, but still kind. "That helps. And I've had a lot of practice trusting myself. I know what I'm doing. You're not a child, by any stretch, but you're still young. You gotta work out if you're listening to all these different opinions because they're worth it, or because you don't trust yourself anymore. Because it wasn't a mistake. That's one thing you can count on, I figure."

MAIL: You have a new message from Elisabeth. Subject: Ooooh…. a suggestion?
She doesn't scoff at the offer of prayer, but she also doesn't press on the point. Prayer can't hurt, after all, even if it doesn't necessarily help. And maybe, in the manner of a placebo, it does work after all. Time will tell. "Maybe if I wasn't doing this, someone else would step up. I know there are people who wouldn't stand for it. But I've never understood how it is that people can see something like this and not act." Her mother, she thinks, would never have stood for it.

"My father is Bill Dean." she blurts out suddenly. "I'm trying to get on with things and not think about it all the time, but in the back of my head, all I can think about is how my own father talks about wanting to kill me - he told me how he wanted to kill me, and how I can't unsee him shooting Michael Spaulding. I guess that I feel like if my own father can't love me, than how can I be worth anything? How can I be worth listening to?"

Joseph's smile dims, forms a sympathetic, thoughtful line. This time, there is an awkward pause, though he keeps it out of his voice when he eventually says, "I'm sorry. For what it's worth, the apple falls far from the tree often enough. Parents— the Bible teaches us to honor them. What you feel… it's natural. It's in us. And it's his fault for not loving you, or showin' it, not yours. Does that make sense? That's his duty and he'll pay for that when the time comes, in his own way. We all have to reckon with our sins.

"But as for now? Can you really back down, when the world is like it is right now? You couldn't before, like you said. Only someone who's not right for what you're doing would be without question all the time, but remember that you started somethin', and you won't be doing right by yourself or anyone else if you let people finish it for you. Those people— "

He gives a rueful shrug. "The thing with opinions is that everyone's got one. Some only fractionally different, some so far outta left field you don't even recognise the game anymore. You need to learn to look at those paths, and then find your footing, and trust it. And occasionally tell people to— to back off, probably." The smile returns, a little crooked. "I had to, too."

When Helena leans back a little, there's a subtle transformation in the way that she carries herself. Her shoulders are back a bit, her chin a little lifted. Sometimes the most obvious things are still words that one needs to hear. Certainty cannot always be carried like a stone, sometimes it has to be a brush of wings. Joseph probably has the tools to tell when someone is walking out of his cheer feeling they have a better worth of themselves then when they walked into it.

"Can I ask you what you think?" Helena inquires after a moment. "About the fact that everything we do - everything - is going to be viewed as a prompt for Humanis First to take action? I know on a level that we shouldn't give them the power to silence us, but people could die. Any choice me or mine make, no matter how benevolent it is, could be the cause of pain or loss of life for someone because Humanis First feels they have to answer."

It's not an easy question, which is likely why it's being asked close to closing time in a church in the first place. Joseph allows his gaze to wander away again, lines at the corner of his eyes deepening a little. Not so long that she needs to prompt him, however, and he says, "What Humanis First would want you to believe is that you'd be indirectly responsible for what they do in answer. But it ain't true. Heck, it ain't even answering. Because the ones that do this sorta thing— they'll kill people even after you're silent, and kill more people when there aren't any voices left. You're not responsible for their sins, Helena. You never will be.

"Whether that's what you believe— you'll question it each time, and you should. You'll check yourself, and you should. But that's what I believe to be true. Only Humanis First would make you think you had to weigh human life against your cause."

Helena nods to this, not taking it as (heh) gospel, but certainly taking it to heart. It's yet more of what she needs to hear - which is a far cry of what a person wants to hear, though it just so happens what Joseph's telling her is both. After a moment of thoughtful silence, Helena's tone has changed, it is somehow more alert, more alive than it was when she first started speaking with him. "Thank you. I'm certain you must be needed by so many people, and I don't want to take up more of your time, but - could I come talk to you again? When I need - when I need someone?"

"I got time to give," Joseph assures, with a glance around the church, affectionate for the place and what it means before returning his eyes to her. A hand moves to pick up his book, extracting his glasses in preparation to take them up to his office to head out for the evening. "I try to keep the doors unlocked whenever I'm here, so please do. I'm glad if any of what I said was worth carryin' out with you."

Helena nods, admitting, "I know some of this should be common sense. I mean, I shouldn't doubt myself. I shouldn't let what others say that confuses and hurts me matter. But it does. And even then, when I let it effect me, I have to think about how it doing so will in turn effect other people. Bad ripples." She smiles faintly. "But these ripples are good. Thank you, Joseph. I hope…" she looks over her shoulder as she rises, toward those open doors, "I hope that you get to keep those doors open for a long, long time."

Levering himself up, Joseph trades her the same honest smile he had given upon her first appearance, with added understanding this time for why the blonde Phoenix leader had arrived at the doorstep. "So do I. Take care of yourself, Helena, and God bless."

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