sf_nicole_icon.gif sf_yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Orchids
Synopsis Disoriented and terrified, Nicole turns to the person she trusts most.
Date October 13, 2020

Bay Ridge
Rose & Trellis Florist

The quaint little bell above the door to the Rose & Trellis chimes merrily to let a customer in just three minutes before the top of the hour. The closing routine has already begun, so whoever’s come in either knows exactly what they want, or has some goddamn nerve.

It turns out that the woman in question ticks both those boxes.

“Minnie?” Nicole Miller’s voice calls out through the shop, looking over the beautiful displays of arrangements and vases meant to hold more, toward the counter which is vacant for the moment. Her assumption is that her friend is in the back, working on finishing up for the day. “Min?

The note of distress is unmistakable.

At first, Nicole's distraught call is met only by a chorus of laughs, faint and close by. But it's soon obvious that it's just the noise of the old-fashioned little TV on the counter left to run by itself, turned to some quirky Chinese game show. In that fragrant, half-darkened room, on a flickering screen framed by the shadows of hanging herbs, low Chinese voices continue to gab on with raucous merriment.

It feels like it takes part of an eternity for Nicole to receive a real answer, but Yi-Min's silhouette appears in the doorway leading from the back in due time. Any initial displeasure evoked in her by hearing the bell had long been displaced by realizing the identity of the caller, as well as that note of urgency. When Nicole beholds her, there is a small but deep furrow of mirrored alarm in the shopkeeper's brow.

"Nicole? What is it?"

The good thing is that she knows the place isn’t empty. Nicole just has to be patient while she waits for the proprietress to appear. While she’s waiting for that to happen, she doubles back to the door, turns around the open sign and flips the deadbolt now that she’s ascertained there isn’t another customer inside.

When Yi-Min’s voice carries over the sound of the television, Nicole turns again and hurries toward her friend, finally letting her expression reflect her emotional state. “I just…” She gestures nebulously to the world outside, vaguely in the direction she came from. “I think somebody drugged me. Rohypnol or something?”

Nicole looks around the shop with wide eyes, but isn’t really seeing anything. “I just came t- t- to down the block,” she stammers, gesturing wildly, “in the middle of–” Floundering, her mouth tries to form the words she’s looking for but can’t immediately grasp, before spitting out, “Fff– fucking traffic!” Shaking her head, she finally turns her frightened gaze to Yi-Min again. “I don’t even know why I’d be on this end of town.”

The weight of Nicole's speculation causes Yi-Min's eyes to widen again, and an intensity to set into the line of her mouth. She immediately heads straight for her friend, laying a hand onto the other woman's forearm and giving her face a quick, dismayed scan.

She looks past Nicole to see that both open sign and deadbolt have been flipped already. Good. Hand-on-forearm becomes hand-pressed-over-hand, and for a moment she just allows her own physical proximity to serve as a pure, still source of comfort.

"Sh, shhh. It is alright; you are alright now, here with me. Are you hurt? Come. Let me have a look at you–" To facilitate that, Yi-Min strides briskly over to the other side of the room so that she can flick on the extra set of lights directly over the countertop, bathing that area in sudden illumination from above. While she is there, she also switches off the TV, such that the only noise in a space now flooded with light and silence to become the occasional creak of old cedarwood beneath their feet.

The touch of Yi-Min’s hand is a grounding force that pulls her out of her panic spiral, at least partially. Nicole takes a moment just to breathe, pressing a hand to her chest as though it could slow the hammering of her heart, then following to where the light is brightest. “I don’t… think I’ve been hurt, but… I can’t remember anything. Last thing I knew, I was in my living room being interviewed for the paper yesterday, and the next, I’m in the middle of the goddamn street.”

Nicole bites her lip, which had been quivering. Her face scrunches up and she starts to cry. “I don’t know what’s happening.” Her voice comes out as a squeak. For someone used to having as much control of every aspect of her life as Nicole is, this is a terrifying loss of it.

A second examination under brighter lighting reveals no new, obvious causes of alarm to Yi-Min, at least aside from what had already been described. Obviously the florist is no doctor, but it's enough to split the important difference between calling 911 on the spot and letting Nicole call a doctor herself when she feels more composed.

Speaking of calling doctors… "Have you spoken to Zachery? If you were truly missing for any length of time, surely he would be worried sick searching for you already. You really cannot… remember anything since your interview?"

When Yi-Min sees the tears beginning to slip down Nicole's face, she gathers up the woman's other hand to herself so that she's squeezing both of them in her own. "We will get this sorted, táng táng.1 I promise."

This is probably the gentlest and most platonic situation where Yi-Min has used this old, familiar nickname for Nicole.

Nicole shakes her head quickly. Trembling and trying so very hard to get her tears under control, but with little success. At least she isn’t sobbing with abandon. She can accept tears in front of a dear friend. In front of someone she loves. “Xīngān…” Her pronunciation may leave a little something to be desired, as always, but it’s a term she made a point of learning years ago. My heart and my liver, parts of her she can’t live without.

Like Yi-Min.

“No,” on the subject of her husband, “I called him, but it went to voicemail, like I expected. You’d think if he thought I was missing, he’d have been pacing and waiting for a call, right?” It never once crosses her mind that Zachery wouldn’t care enough to be worried. “My last memory is of talking about taking photos for the article, and then I’m in the street a full day later.”

But of course Zachery would care enough to be worried, if something serious had happened. It's inconceivable he would not be. "Would you like to call him again now?" Yi-Min advocates gently, a tiny, even whiff of air escaping her nostrils on hearing the sound of such a serious address. She does not otherwise react to it. "Or I can get you a drink, first. I don't think there is a rush, if you are not injured."

If Zachery hadn't answered his wife the first time, there seems little point in maniacally rushing to try again. Attending to Nicole's well-being seems by far the more important priority right now.

And Yi-Min feels as though she already knows the answer to which offer will be taken up first.

Still horrifically upset, Nicole shakes her head quickly to calling Zachery a second time. She left him a message, and that will be enough for now. She knows he’ll call her when he’s able to, and not a moment before then.

Rather than accept the offer for a drink, Nicole wraps Yi-Min in a tight embrace, crying softly with her face buried in the florist’s hair. “Thank you,” she whispers. “Thank you for– for being here. For always being here.” She leans back far enough to reach up with one hand and wipe the tears from her face. Fresh ones still fall, but she’s not crying hard anymore.

Although she has to dip down to do it, it’s never bothered her to do so before, and it sure doesn’t now. Nicole presses her lips to Yi-Min’s with a desperation that only comes from fear and a need for an anchor against the storm of it. One arm stays wound around the smaller woman’s frame and the other tangles in her soft, dark hair.

She kisses her partner for as long as she seems to allow, caressing her face when they part again. “I love you, Xīngān.”

The tide of the moment is all but impossible to resist, and so Yi-Min does not. The raw physicality of the embrace Nicole draws her into, followed by kiss, induces the Taiwanese woman to return both with all of the strength and sensuality of her natural ardor.

For this single, fleeting minute, it is as though nothing had ever changed between the two of them. As though nothing had ever come between them, or the lives she had once dreamed they could live together–


But. Oh, but there was indeed a 'but.' Though Yi-Min allows herself to stay enfolded within Nicole's arms until the last natural moment, there is a distance in her calm, dark eyes once they do break apart. This discrepancy is most visible at the nadir of her bittersweet emotions when they finish ebbing away again, but it also affects the temperature of her demeanor afterwards. "Come. I will get you settled in with that drink," she directs simply and with nondescript finality, already turning her angular shoulders towards the space beckoning at the back of the shop and pacing off towards it.

In that sea of calmness, in that utter lack, she conveys more words than she possibly could if she spoke her message aloud.

Nicole loves her, but Yi-Min loves someone else. It’s good for her that she had already been crying, so the fresh wave of tears is indistinguishable from the one before it. Yi-Min’s chosen method of handling that rebuffing saves Nicole the trouble of having to beg her not to say it. If she felt it, Yi-Min would have said it. Instead, they’re left with the volumes of the great unsaid between them.

Nodding numbly, Nicole curls her arms around herself, then follows after at a sedate pace, eyes on the heartbreakingly beautiful form ahead of her, feeling the emptiness and its desire to devour her. It’s already consumed the warmth of love and affection, leaving her to the cold.

And so it is. 就是这样.

Though the concern and care she had displayed for her friend are genuine beyond the shadow of a doubt, there is also no version of Yi-Min Yeh that appreciates being held to the life of a lie.

One source of Nicole's present distress is a thing that Yi-Min is only too glad to attempt to fix, for it is as deeply important to her as the other woman had ever been.

The other?

Well. Nicole will simply have to live with that one for just a while longer, for that comes from a place perhaps even more fundamentally difficult to face than fantastic disasters like spontaneous teleportation and unexplained memory loss.


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