Overrated Normal


bella_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title Overrated Normal
Synopsis Bella seeks some clarification from Odessa, who perhaps treats a visit more like a therapy session. Understandable considering one of them is a therapist.
Date January 25, 2011

St. Marks Hotel

'Meet me at my hotel' is the request relayed to Dr. Price from Dr. Sheridan, via e-mail. Her hotel. How long she's been in a hotel, hard to say - some people live in hotels. They make arrangements. Simply put, it's always been Bella that's visited Odessa, Bella that's crashed at Odessa's place, the message 'can I come over' rather than 'come over'. But not this time. This time it's 'Meet me at my hotel'.

St. Marks Hotel in the East Village is not so long a drive from Roosevelt Island, though one must skirt the great, ugly scar of Midtown to get there. The building itself is old, one of numerous renovated 'historic' hotels, its interior gutted and refitted, turnkey locks replaced by magcard readers, old carcinogens scraped free from the walls, replaced by cutting edge carcinogens. Historic 'charm' remains in tight spaces and brass light fixtures that may be tarnished with time, or may have been ordered pre-tarnished to imitate age.

The room Bella specified, room 314, sits at the corner, windows open on both walls, casting light like scissor blades that close over the queen-sized bed which seems to serve as much as a work surface cum storage space as anything else, scattered with papers, pens, discarded sweaters and shirts and stockings. And the lady herself, perched at the foot of the bed, dead center, flipping through channels on the television, ever dissatisfied with whatever she's watching in the present moment.

Odessa's life is full of regrets and shortcomings. The largest of the latter, in her mind, being that she cannot speed up the progression of time. The cab ride from the Octagon to St. Marks Hotel seems to take an age, but at least it isn't the bus. She doesn't speak to the driver - smalltalk isn't her strong suit (another shortcoming). Instead, she contents herself with games on the small screen of her cell phone.

Once she arrives at the hotel, she's quick to shed the wool of her red peacoat and drape it over one arm, leaving her dressed rather subdued in a dark grey wool skirt and a matching vest over a pale yellow button-down dress shirt. The stiletto heels of her black matte leather boots sound on solid surfaces. Louder than the rap of her knuckles against the door to 314.

Fashion is something Bella concedes to Odessa - even if she had ever entertained a competitive mindset, she would have long since abandoned it. Blue tanktop, dark grey sweat pants, hair dark and tangled from a recent shower, Bella is up on bare feet when the rap on the door comes, peeking out the peephole just long enough to catch eye and eyepatch framed in fishbowl distortion before sliding the deadbolt free and pulling the door open.

"Sorry about the mess," Bella says, ushering Odessa inside, drawing the door open for her before moving back into the room, gathering up her discarded bits of clothing a little too late, moving them over to the gaping mouth of a suitcase and dropping them inside. The presence of luggage, the same pieces she brought when holing up at 'Dessa's in the Octagon, suggest that the hotel is a temporary arrangement. That or Bella lives the life of a genteel hobo.

Odessa wouldn't be surprised if the latter were true in the case of Bella Sheridan. "Don't fuss over it. It's fine." She makes sure the door shuts securely behind her before she steps into the hotel room and glances around to take it all in. "I…" She abandons whatever she was about to say in favour of hanging her coat up in the closet just off the door before stepping fully into the room.

"I somehow expected something a touch more opulent. But you are a fan of what's practical, aren't you?" A smile touches Odessa's lips as she holds out both hands to her friend, palms up. "This is a rare treat for me. Seeing you looking so comfy." It makes it seem like they're even.

"Daily maid service, fresh towels and room service aren't opulent enough?" Bella says, with a light laugh, reaching out to take Odessa's hands, stepping up to her and turning them, palms against palms, until their fingers can lace. Recalling a previous contact, in more mixed company. "I nest wherever I go. An only child's prerogative. To make every space of one's own one's own."

A squeeze, fingers pressing fingers. "Thank you for coming. The treat's mine, really. I've been here on my own for…" her eyes slide down instead of of, searching for memory below her mental waterline, "over a week." Her eyes cut over to the bathroom door. "You- aren't allergic to cats, are you?"

"Okay, those are kind of opulent. But there's no crystal chandelier, which I somehow thought I'd see." Odessa grins and squeezes Bella's hands in return before pulling her in for a tight hug instead. "Of course I'd come to see you," she says brightly, chiding her friend for thinking any differently.

At the query about felines, however, Odessa pulls away from the hug, reclaiming the russet-haired woman's hands in her own. "No. I used to own one myself." There's a tiny hint of sadness there. She misses her cat terribly still. "I didn't know you had a cat."

Bella returns the hug with an uncommon tightness. It's not that she fails to be demonstrative with those she's close to, not that tightness in hugs is necessarily uncommon in and of itself. But this tightness is uncommon, for her. When her hands are reclaimed, she brushes her thumbs against Odessa's knuckles and steps away, moving to the bathroom door. "Not mine," she admits, or rather corrects.

The instant the bathroom door is cracked open, a flash of orange and white bolts out, slowing only momentarily - resolving into mangy feline outline - before bouncing up onto the bed and making a circular path, single green eye taking in the surroundings, additions, changes, new acquaintances. Odessa, in particular, receives a reproachful look, as if the cat understands it was this woman's arrival that occasioned its temporary imprisonment. Claws prick the comforter as the cat kneads the bed, then settles into a sit, tail curled to one side, tip twitching.

"I tip the maid very well," Bella explains, moving to take a seat on the corner of the bed, glancing to the cat without any of an owner's affection. Her gaze moves back to Odessa. "Pet him if you'd like. He's not skittish, but he's not particularly friendly either."

Odessa's head tips to one side, studying the cat with perhaps the same curiosity as it studies her with. Though without the disdain. This time. "Does he have a name?" she asks as she approaches the feline, holding her hand out to let him sniff at her fingers first. The smile she gives the creature is bright. She'd never have described herself as a cat person - she still won't - but there it is.

"Not that I'm aware of," Bella replies, watching woman and cat interact, the latter giving the former's fingers an exploratory sniff, metronome of its tail varying its beats before resuming its previous tempo. Whether it be due to single-eye solidarity, some sense of Odessa's genuine goodwill, or just implacable feline acceptance, the cat doesn't retreat nor give warning signs.

"During dinner with Magnes," Bella says, broaching the topic on her mind without further ado, "you mentioned… resuming contact with the- uh- Ferry?" To be totally honest, Bella feels slightly silly using the monikers of these groups, all part and parcel as far as she's concerned. "I felt like there was some sort of dialogue that tried to take place, but Magnes was there, so it didn't.

Odessa's smile fades, and she resorts to simply stroking the cat, though her attention shifts to Bella. "You can't tell… anyone we work for that I have ties to the Ferrymen. They… They were harbouring me from the Institute before… Before I tried to kill… Eileen." It's the first time she's used the woman's name. Even in her writings, she wouldn't jot down her rival's name. "It was the biggest mistake of my entire life."

The cat rises into Odessa's hand, then trots out from under her touch, accepting the stroke but not letting either of them get comfortable. "Oh God, Odessa, don't worry, not about that," Bella says, brows canting, "I would never, never tattle on you. God knows…" she frowns, "you know how I feel about our superiors. I mean- you also know how I feel about these Ferry people, but…" a pause, "what is your history with them?"

A red brow arches slightly. "I- can play quid pro quo with guilty secrets, if you'd like. With you, I'd be willing."

"It's fine," Odessa murmurs, waving off the offer of mutual blackmail. "Our employers already know I've got a track record of questionable alliances. Just… not that I'm attempting to pick up on them again."

Parking herself on the end of the bed to sit, she begins her tale. "When… When I got out of Moab, and wandered my way back here, it was the Ferry that found me and… And tried to get me clean. I was addicted to morphine then. And they were helping me. Food, shelter, clothing."

Odessa stares down at her hands, picking at her skirt anxiously. "I didn't… want to get clean, though. I did, but I didn't. It was just… so much effort and I just couldn't care enough." Her lower lip is sucked between her teeth and nibbled at as she considers her words. "So I ran off. Went back to using, and squatting in abandoned buildings, and apartments left empty. Places where nobody would be around to care about what I was doing to myself…"

Bella shifts in her seat, drawing closer to Odessa, reaching out to take the picking hand into hers, clasping fingers between fingers. In therapy she shows interest at distance, sympathy, yes, but always professional. But here and now her interest is close, her sympathy personal. She is expressive without restraint. And she doesn't prompt. Silent for now, she listens, communicating through contact alone.

Odessa's lips twitch into a momentary smile when Bella takes her hand, sniffing once. "That's when this guy from the Vanguard found me. Carlisle Dreyfus. He scared the fuck out of me. Because I had… no idea how he managed to find me. I was so nomadic. Half the time I couldn't even figure out if I was coming or going…

"I grew to kind of like him." A quiet admission, that. "I mean, I could respect him. And what he was going through. What he wanted. And what he wanted was to kill the people responsible for the death of his son…" Odessa smirks faintly. "Though I think, ultimately, the only one responsible for the boy's death was himself. You don't go playing soldier without knowing the risks."

She falls quiet there for a moment, organising her thoughts in a manner that's almost visible, even if it's only through the way her visible eye blinks, and seems to seek out words in the air. "The people he asked me to spy on, and betray, were members of the Ferrymen, mostly. The same people that had wanted to help me." Then, Odessa laughs. It's a self-deprecating sort of thing, accompanied by the shake of her head. "I was reporting to both the Ferry and to Carlisle. Just enough information to keep them both thinking I was on their side." Her gaze comes up, fixes on Bella with question in her eyes. And on her tongue. "What does that say about me?"

Bella meets Odessa's gaze, and it takes her a moment to answer the question. There are a lot of things Bella could say, a vast array of comprehensible and relevant replies, but almost every single one of them is unkind, and Bella - occasional punitive pinch aside - does not like to treat Odessa with unkindness. But rather than fabricate some innocuous reply ('that you're a survivor' - 'that you have difficulties with commitment' - 'that you're a complicated person') she opts for a much more honest answer. Whatever her insight into the human psyche, her reply is simply:

"I'm not sure."

There's a dismay that comes over Odessa with that answer. "Aren't you supposed to? Aren't you supposed to know things about me that I can't begin to figure out myself? Isn't that how you people work?" You people being synonymous with psychiatrists in this case. When she smiles, it's sad, peppered with confusion. "I mean, I… I didn't want…"

Her gaze moves to the floor, to stare hard at the carpet as though it's offending her by withholding the answers she needs to sort out her life. "I just wanted what was best for me, I think. But I'm never quite sure what that is. So maybe that's why I leave my options open like that." Playing the double agent. "There's always a loser in situations like that, right? I tried to talk Carlisle down. To get him to walk away. Everyone else involved did. Instead… He made me call them… The people I was starting to count among my friends. So he could kill them.

"That's… how I got that scar on my stomach." One hand rests over her midsection and the blemished skin beneath her clothing. "I knocked him off-balance when he tried to shoot one of them. Doing the right thing got me gutted." When Odessa sniffs again, it sounds a little closer to tears than the last. "I'll never have children." It's the first time she's admitted it out loud, or admitted it in a way to suggest that it actually breaks her heart to know it.

Bella gives a rueful smile. "The therapeutic process isn't extended just for the sake of milking a patient for cash," she says, "it takes time to figure out just what makes someone tick. Especially in the case of an intricate mechanism like yours." She lifts a hand to brush fingers across Odessa's cheek, an affectionate gesture, an offer of comfort where comprehension is still lacking.

Though Bella doesn't fail to comprehend Odessa's own musings on the reasons for her (literal) duplicity. It all sounds much too familiar for Bella not to understand the motivations if not the deep pathologies that cause those motivations to manifest in the first place. As Odessa tips closer and closer to open feeling, draws to the edge of tears, Bella scoots the rest of the way, drawing an arm up around her friend, other hand drawing Odessa's head down to her shoulder. Close to empathizing.

At least up until the very end. The mention of childbearing. The disconnect here is profound. Bella, about as close to an anti-reproductionist as one is likely to find, cannot really imagine how upsetting that closed door must be. Still, she's not about to let her failure to relate interfere with the task of 'being there'. She turns her head, kissing the top of Odessa's lightly, again retreating from words, though this time because she can't use them without risk of being insensitive or disingenuous.

"I don't even know why I fucking care about whether or not I'm ever gonna have kids. I never cared before. Didn't… think I ever would…" Odessa rests her head on Bella's shoulder and stares blankly across the room. "I'm pretty sure the idea of me bearing children would make most people's blood run cold anyway. But I don't like not… having the option." Choice is so very important to someone who lived a life without it for so long.

"So it's another matter of a door being left open, versus a door being closed and locked," Bella says, offering little in the way of new insight, doing the most minimal of tasks by setting what Odessa's said before next to what Odessa has just said. "You know a door left open is as good as closed, for all that, since you don't pass through it? Not, of course, that that changes how you feel, but keeping your options open is as much a way to take none of them as to have the freedom to take any."

"I… Guess I always hoped I'd get my fairytale ending and I'd find some man to sweep me off my feet and we'd settle down and have a family together. Like normal people do." Odessa chuckles sadly again. "I am about as far removed from normal as a person can get while still trying to hold onto it, I think."

She lifts her head again, though she doesn't pull away from the arm wrapped around her. "When I was recovering, a woman on the Ferry council came to me and offered me the network's protection from the Company, and the government. All I had to do was operate a clinic for its members. And… root out the weeds." The urge to cry has left Odessa now. She doesn't deserve to cry about what she's done here. "That's when I started lacing the filters of Eileen's cigarettes with poison. If she hadn't have been cutting back, it would have killed her. Instead… she went blind."

"That doesn't have to be your fantasy," Bella says, lips quirking, "it's borrowed. Tawdry. Bourgeois. And not to say that makes it less powerful. But it's not yours, and it's not you. Normality is as invented and illusory as fairy tales themselves. I'd argue moreso, even. Real fairy tales have dark shades, they admit suffering. The happily ever after is a whitewashing. Real love, and real love stories, aren't easy like that. And they should never be 'normal'."

Let's be honest - Bella has no idea who Eileen is. Usually very quick to assemble information into a constellation of significance, she harbors enough distaste for the paramilitary/clandestine to demand a sort of willful ignorance. So she doesn't ask for details of identity. Why should she want to know more about people she detests a priori? What interests her is Odessa and Odessa's reasons. "Why did you want this woman dead?"

"Why can't I want to be something closer to normal? I didn't go outside until I was in my twenties, Bella. Do you remember how obsessed I used to be with astronomy? I had never even seen the sky." Odessa fixes her friend with a look that begs her to understand. "Maybe it seems trite to you. You… I'm sure you take a lot for granted. And there's nothing wrong with that. There are things in life that one should be able to take for granted. I just don't have most of them." Scarred lips pull into a shaky smile. "Do you know I still get giddy when it snows? And I still make snow angels and I built a snowman where I can see him from my window? This is only my third winter."

"What you're talking about isn't normal, though, Odessa," Bella says, lips quirked to one side, "being swept off your feet? Settling down with a family? On what statistical grounds is that scenario normal? Not to mention what it really means. Being trapped again. Four walls, two stories, being forced to live your life for others - your children, sure, but still others - instead of living for yourself. Family, that kind of family, has been a shackle on womankind for a very, very long time. More or less since its inception.

"All I'm saying, Odessa, is that that fantasy is too cheap for someone like you, and for what you sound like you really want," the psychiatrist explains, answering her look with one of her own, competing for the interpretation of the Prince Charming scenario, "stargazing, snow angels… that's all beautiful and real and comes from you, rather than depending on someone else, husband or child, to validate it. I don't think you should take those things for granted. I think you should question what the family fantasy has to do with what you really want."

"You're right. I'd probably just fuck up raising a kid anyway." And Odessa seems content enough to let it sit at that, scoffing and moving on to the next previously discarded subject. "Eileen and I first met when I ran away from the Company. She was a member of the Vanguard, and I wanted… so bad to be her friend. But she didn't… I don't know if she didn't like me instantly, or why other than the fact that I'm fucked up and who the fuck wants that anyway?"

Now, Odessa is glaring at the wall across from her, for lack of a better way to understand or express her internalised emotions. "She became one of the Ferry at some point. And I think Susan and I felt she was… trying to run it as a Vanguard-like organisation. That was the reason I started poisoning someone who… I'd tried to be friends with. And then reason I tried to ambush her after I failed is because I was jealous that she had the heart of the man I wanted.

"Stupid to think I let that drive me."

Vanguard? Wonderful, another ostentatious name for what is doubtless another assemblage of lunatics. Bella quickly and lazily groups them with all the rest. That this very categorization makes Odessa's statement (one that opposes the Ferry to an organization like Vanguard) problematic doesn't deter Bella. She considers the differences between these groups to be chiefly visible only within the groups themselves. Sectarian disagreements. Blood spilled over ink smudged in this or that book of doctrine.

In a word: bullshit.

"Maybe stupid," Bella admits, with a very mild smile, "but perfectly understandable. It sounds as if you have a great deal of complex cognition built up around this Eileen person," to state the obvious, really, "it sounds like, though, she is the sort of person you should avoid. Her and everyone like her. Some personality types are toxic, whether personally - like an allergen - or generally."

"I wish I could do it all over again," Odessa admits. "I'd… I just wish I could take it back. I didn't think I should care about it, because she hurt me, and I was mad. So why shouldn't I want her to hurt as badly as I did?" She shakes her head and buries her face in one hand. "I messed up so badly."

Bella loops her other arm around Odessa, providing as much direct physical comfort as she can, compensating for her necessarily admitted lack of things to quickly say. She knows so little of these events, this section of Odessa's life, and she's afraid to give advice without the requisite ground knowledge, to try and provide insight into something she can't properly see. "You're better off without those people anyway, those associations. It could only lead to regret. You have enough of your own craziness to deal with, without coping with that of others," this is said fondly, a conveyance in tone that she supplements with a gentle squeeze.

Odessa's lips tug into a sort of half frown as she hugs her friend and therapist in return. "Thanks, Bella. Maybe you're right." Though she doesn't sound convinced, she at least sounds willing to entertain the notion. "Where'd the kitty go?" :(

In time, in time. Rebuilding Odessa into a figure more firmly defined is an ongoing project of Bella's, not quite but nearly explicitly stated in her private thoughts. The problems that come with founding a relationship on therapy can also wait. When you're an unhealthy person, unhealthy relationships are usually all you have to work with. "I am right," she asserts, "and you know it."

And where is the kitty? Bella looks up with some startlement, immediately checking the curtains to see that they are intact, dreading the damage the creature may do that a few bills left out for the maid can't solve. Luckily, she spots the orange and white menace's tail sticking out of the closet. Nothing important in there. At least she doesn't think there is…

Odessa catches the flicker of the cat's tail out of the corner of her eye. She briefly considers getting up to scoop the thing up in her arms and cuddle it relentlessly. But, call her precognitive, she sees the ending with a few more scars to add to her collection. "I don't wanna talk about me anymore. Let's… Talk about you. What did you ask me here for?" She lifts her head and peers upward at the other woman, genuine interest in her gaze.

"Oh!" Bella says, and it takes a great deal of work for her not to seem properly taken aback by the sudden reversal. Another symptom of a previous therapeutic relationship. She's supposed to be the one asking the questions. "Oh," she repeats, "really I just wanted to know what our- uh- exchange under the table meant. And I think that's what we've been discussing, right? You wanting to know I'm not going to get you black bagged."

"Oh," Odessa echoes, nodding her head quickly. "Yeah, mostly. I mean, knowing that you aren't going to tell Goodman that I'm a terrorist sympathiser is awesome. Not that I ever had any doubts." Except that she's most assuredly paranoid about just about everything, so really when she says there were no doubts, it really means no more than usual.

"Doubt doesn't need reason to back it up," Bella says, "but you can always trust me, 'Dessa, I promise that. I'm very committed to this relationship. It's- well, you're my best friend, really," an admission given with a slanted smile that's almost ashamed, not because of Odessa but because such confessions are very out of character for Isabella Sheridan of the Day to Day, "which is also the other reason I asked you to visit," she gives a small shrug, "simple loneliness." The cat, it would seem, doesn't help sufficiently in that regard.

The look Bella receives is sympathetic. "I'm your best friend? You poor woman. Surely you can do better than me." Odessa laughs and then sighs with a good-natured roll of her eyes. "Let's go do something so normal. Let's go get shitfaced, and dance and… whatever else it is that normal women do for fun."

"You know how I feel about normalcy," Bella says, brows lifting, lips pursing. It doesn't last, though. She's smiling soon enough. "But all that sounds rather shockingly abnormal for me so…" she rises to her feet, offering her hands to Odessa, "let's."

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