Paint A Better Future


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Scene Title Paint A Better Future
Synopsis Kara seeks out an old prophet in search of a better future.
Date January 15, 2020

Ferrymen's Bay

January 15th
8:12 am

It's been almost a year now since Kara walked the snow-covered sidewalks of this particular road. The air isn't nearly as frigid as it was then, the weather warmer today. Kinder, perhaps. It's with kinder intentions than before she comes, at least.

Like before, she'd left her truck parked around the corner. She carries with her a sturdy paper bag reinforced at the bottom with cardboard, walking slow but with purpose. She remembers the car in the slope of the driveway, the shape of the doorway as she climbs the steps— the face she hopes that will come to answer it.

Her eyes close to steady herself before she knocks and shuffles a step back to allow the screen door to open.

When the door opens, it isn’t the old man that Kara expects to see behind the storm door’s glass window pane, but rather a dark-haired woman probably Kara’s age. Her dark eyes are fixed on Kara, and the initial read in them is surprise, but also recognition.

That the brunette woman opens the storm door without so much as a word is surprising. “Unbelievable,” she says with a hint of frustration, looking Kara up and down. “In,” she says as an impatient directive, stepping to the side while keeping one arm out to prevent the storm door from swinging shut on Kara.

The youth in the face of the woman who comes to the door brings suspicion in Kara's own. Had she come to the right door? Had she misremembered? It takes her a moment to look past her uncertainty to see the regard from the other woman as what it is, just as she sounds out that first word.

Her heart wants to race, the same way it wants to every time someone unexpectedly recognizes her. But she forces herself to see, here.

Her eyes narrow momentarily. "Are you…" she ventures warily. "Thomas' daughter?" It might be much to presume, but the familial resemblance seemed there. Kara looks over her shoulder briefly before stepping over the threshold.

Against my better judgment,” Sparrow grouses, shutting the door behind Kara. Thomas’ home doesn’t look like it’s changed too much in the intervening year, though it looks like someone tidied it up recently. The furnishings are still sparse but there’s electricity this time.

“Sparrow,” Thomas’ daughter introduces herself as she steps around Kara and motions toward the kitchen with an incline of her head. “I figure you’re here for my father, given that he has a drawing of you hanging on his refrigerator.”

Past Sparrow, Kara can see the familiar linoleum-tiled kitchen with its faux pine cabinets and a green Formica dining table surrounded by four red chairs that look straight out of the 1960s. Thomas is seated at the table, reading a newspaper, an overhead light brightening the space as opposed to the oil lantern of yesteryear.

"He what?" Kara blinks, her head swiveling in the direction of the kitchen as though she could see that drawing immediately from where she is. Her shock goes unmasked, as does the immediate furrow of her brow in the uncertainty of why she would be hanging on the fridge of a man she met in a chance encounter months and months ago.

Her head goes forward and back before she ultimately presses on. "Nice to meet you," she says as she heads for the kitchen, presuming that if her picture's been hung, perhaps the name she gave then has made its rounds in the house as well.

"Thomas?" Kara asks as she nears the dining table, head tilting slightly in her regard of him. As soon as she's able, her eyes flit to the refrigerator for signs of the aforementioned drawing.

Sparrow lingers in the doorway to the kitchen, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning against the door frame. Without missing a beat, though, her father motions to one of the empty chairs. “Have a sit, we’re just finishing lunch.”

Sure enough, there’s a mostly finished plate of eggs where Sparrow was likely sitting. More to Kara’s attention is what is hanging on the refrigerator behind Thomas. It’s a coffee-stained sketch unmistakably of Kara, just as Sparrow had described.


Rather than immediately sit, Kara holds up the bag she's brought with her first. A gift. "I wanted to thank you for before, before anything else. Your insight… helped me during a particularly difficult time." She sets it on the side of the table before stepping back to settle into one of the untaken seats, the one that puts her closer to Sparrow rather than Thomas himself. It's hard to put a finger on the precise reason for it, but she tells herself it's mostly out of respect for him.

"It's not much. Just… some coffee." She pauses long enough to smile, tight but sincere. "And paints. Hopefully they're of a good enough quality. I think they might be rather old."

Her posture remains solid, stoic, hands resting on top of her thighs rather than folded together.

Reluctantly, Sparrow moves to take her place back at the table. She doesn’t interject into the conversation, but she does put herself in it. There’s a subtle play there, an intentional show of participation. Or, perhaps, an unwillingness to be cut out.

“Much appreciated. I’m sure the coffee and the paint will be fine,” Thomas says with a forgiving smile. “I’m accustomed to working with less. How did things go with the young woman you were looking for, by the way?” He returns his attention to the newspaper as he asks that question, content to read and hold a conversation at the same time.

Sparrow looks across the table to Kara. “He’s painted her since, is why he’s asking.” She says pointedly.

“Oh, I suppose that’s true.” Thomas admits, either absent-mindedly or with the intonation of some purposefully elusive bog witch. It isn’t clear which is the case.

Thankfully, she's not unused to it, doesn't balk at it. He's less abrasive than other precognitives she knows, though— less ominous than the bog witch she's aware of in Providence. It doesn't keep Kara from arching an eyebrow in her interest at hearing he's painted Taylor, any reluctance she might have in her answer swept aside. "I can't say they went how I thought they'd go. But I let her know what I knew— that she was in danger if she stayed in the Safe Zone. I never saw her again after that. I'd always hoped she'd left, that she's safe still…"

It takes will not to look for signs of strewn paintings, but she stays focused on the conversation at the table unless she's directed away from it. "You're still painting like that, then?" Kara asks a little cautiously.

Perhaps even a little hopefully. That flickering, small flame is hard to miss for cynical, critical eyes such as Sparrow's.

“Until I’m not.” Is Thomas’ shrugging answer as he looks up and over the newspaper, then back down to it. “She’s with some other girl now, don’t know her. Not sure where they are, either, but they seem safe.”

Sparrow watches her father, and when there’s a beat between his musing she blinks a look across the table to Kara. “I didn’t get your name,” she says pointedly.

Kara's shoulders are slowly sloping down in some relief she doesn't even know how to qualify. "Could I see?" she finds herself asking, the sound of it cut and clipped. The chances were low, so low that there might be clues as to her whereabouts, her safety. But what if there were? Sparrow's question brings her back, blinking into the moment again and looking to the fridge. She pauses midway to answering.

Bringing herself to hold onto the lie she'd formed before feels wrong. She'd given her mother's name before, and it's never sat particularly well with her.

"You can call me Kara," she answers, still more evasive than she means to be in her honesty.

Thomas raises a brow at the new name and while Sparrow notices the reaction, doesn’t comment on it. Instead, she pushes back her chair and stands. “I’ll go get it,” Sparrow says of the painting, leaving the table to go to a door in the back of the kitchen.

“She’s not mad at you,” Thomas clarifies in a quiet voice, even though Sparrow is in earshot. “She wants me to move in with her. Worries about me. You know how people can be when you get to a certain age… they think you can’t take care of yourself anymore.”

Sparrow falters at the door, hand on the knob, and looks back to Thomas. “That’s not—” She cuts herself off, looking regretful that she even said as much. Instead, she roughly opens the door and steps into a crowded storage room absolutely full of canvases.

"There's nothing wrong with being closer to family," Kara offers up with all the bittersweet wisdom of someone who feels that path is closed off to them. "Let her love you." She offers up a small, wry smile, looking to the door Sparrow steps through before back to Thomas.

Her smile fades, a silent apology in her expression. It's a different name. In some ways, she feels like an entirely different person than she was then.

But that's neither here nor there. It's bad enough she came to ask him what she has. The least she can do is not burden him with more than that.

"She worries I came to ask you if you'd paint for me," she guesses, quiet. "I'm…" Kara tries to smile again, but the curve of her mouth doesn't quite make it there. "There's someone I care very much about," she explains with the same pain as her smile. "And she isn't sure about her future. I'm not sure what I can do to help make her believe she still has one."

"Something… terrible happened to her," Kara murmurs, brow knitting upward as she looks down at the table. "So I want to prove to her things will turn out all right in the end. Or if they won't…" She presses her lips together in another bittersweet smile. "We're the types who'd rather know. To prepare and make our peace with it, rather than—"

With a heavy sigh, she looks back up. "I'm sorry. I don't even know if what you can do, if your gift even works like that. I just…" she fumbles to find the words.

"I didn't know what else to do at this point," Kara apologizes quietly.

Thomas is quiet for a bit, looking down at the newspaper. He isn’t ignoring Kara, though, and there’s subtle tells she sees that proves as much. When Thomas sets the paper aside, he looks up to her with a patient expression. “You wouldn’t be the first to ask me to do something specific. Painting can take a while, though… if you’re looking for quick answers, I can always try to give you a sketch.”

Moving his newspaper aside, Thomas folds his hands in front of himself and fixes Kara with a steady eye. “I can’t make promises of what will wind up on the page. Everything I do tends t’have an element of metaphor to it.”

Metaphor.” Sparrow says, dropping a painting in front of Kara. It depicts Taylor Kravid and a dark-skinned woman of roughly the same age that Kara has not seen before. But they are not alone in the framing of the canvas. There is a man standing between and behind them.

One she has seen before.

The storm still rumbles outside, but it feels so much more distant now that an animal has been killed and someone else has arrived. He is silhouette by the gray outside light spilling in from the open door. A curtain of rain falls at his back, and the man’s silhouette is rail thin and ragged. His hair is scraggly and wild, patchy in places, as is his beard.

“Next time you bark,” he says to Kara, half of his body starting to slough off into thick and chalky waves of roiling ash and smoke, “don’t be surprised when somebody puts you down too.”

There's no metaphor there, none Kara can see in the face painted so well she can recognize it. Her expression slips to one of horror as she reaches out to touch the painting.

"Oh no," she breathes out. Her eyes flutter in an attempt to reason with herself. "I… I recognize that face. Someone who lived out of town southwest of here. Maybe he's not dangerous to them. Maybe they're together, looking out for each other…"

But her tone says she doubts it.

Kara looks up from her revelation and back to Thomas, cycling back. Something's stuck, and she lets her eyes roam again to the sketch on the fridge. If you're looking for quick answers…

"Is that how my face came to you?" she wonders. "Looking for an answer to a question?"

Sparrow and Thomas share a look. A wordless response, and Sparrow kicks up her brows at her father. She’s just as interested in the answer, pointedly so.

“No,” Thomas finally replies. “I drew that years ago. Never knew what the significance was until… there you were, outside my trailer. Wasn’t sure it was you, to be fair. But I checked right after you left, and sure enough. Spitting image.” Thomas looks at the refrigerator, then back to Kara. “Like I said before, sometimes these things just come to me.”

“He’s made dozens of paintings over the years.” Sparrow explains, hands folded in front of herself and lunch forgotten.

“Less than half since you gave some away to that man.” Thomas says out of the side of his mouth to Sparrow.

Richard is a friend,” Sparrow says with a patient if stressed tone of voice. “And I didn’t give him anything he took pictures— do you even listen when we’re— ” Sparrow cuts herself off, tamping down her frustration, then fixes Kara with an apologetic stare.

It's Kara's turn to arch an eyebrow and say nothing, at least on the topic of the man who'd also taken an interest in Thomas' art. She glides past that with only a modicum of grace to instead ask, "What all would you need to know to help get a fix on Yi-Min in particular?"

Thomas’ brows furrow, lips downturning into a frown. “She’s Asian?” There’s something weird about the way Thomas asked that, and Sparrow heard it too. Her eyes narrow just a touch, as if she could see through her father. Unfortunately for her, that’s not the ability she was gifted.

“Hold on a moment.” Thomas says, and slowly rises from his chair. Sparrow starts to get up, but Thomas raises a hand to ward her off. “Keep Kara company.” He then looks at Kara for a moment, lingers there, and then heads into the living room.

Staying in place when there's a chance Thomas has already painted her partner and her future is a difficult task, but Kara manages to glue her spine to the back of the kitchen chair, attempting to do the same with her tongue.

Maybe the painter was just assuming. Hopefully it'd… be nothing.

She rubs at the side of her neck, looking anxiously down the hall. "Your father's a good man. I'm not sure everyone in his shoes would be as… down to earth as he is." Kara lets her hand fall back to her lap. "I knew… well, know someone who could do something like what he can. Eve Mas never had her head screwed on entirely right again, though."

“Seems like I can’t turn a corner without hearing about her every once in a while,” Sparrow says with a click of her tongue, watching her father through the doorway to the living room as he rifles around through magazines and papers. Sparrow says nothing of Kara’s impression of her father, though there’s a certain begrudging patience she observes him with that implies she agrees with Kara’s assessment.

Thomas pulls out of piece of paper from beneath an old magazine, smooths it out and looks at it, then turns to look at Kara back in the kitchen. The look on his face is the kind doctors give when they’re about to deliver bad news. Sparrow, seeing that, sits back in her chair and fidgets some.

“Is this her?” Thomas asks, and then lays down a drawing of Yi-Min Yeh.

It does not bode well.


Tends to have an element of metaphor, Thomas had warned her. Regardless, Kara gasps when she sees the image. Her hand lifts to cover her mouth.

"Minni, no," she breathes into her palm.

And her shoulders slowly sink as she's rendered wordless. The pain in her eyes says enough, but there's signs of life rather than shutdown of her being. Slowly her brow begins to knit together in confusion as she tries to piece together what potential metaphor this could deal with. But still, she fumbles for words.

“I drew this yesterday morning.” Thomas says, walking back to his seat. “Drawings don’t always convey what I see perfectly. The sounds, sights. But those things fade fast. My head isn’t what it used to be,” he notes with a soft huff of breath.

Sparrow, meanwhile, is alternating between looking at Kara and looking at the drawing. “It’s like tarot cards,” she tries to soften the blow. “Sometimes it’s symbolism. Dual meaning. Or deeper.” But the tension in her voice implies sometimes it’s not.

Wetting her lips, Kara finally looks up. "First, I need to thank you. Because…"

But she trails off again, her eyes magnetized back to the drawing. Eventually, she takes in a deep breath. The serenity in Yi-Min's expression is what has her most off-guard about this. There's no pain. Whatever she's doing, she believes in it. That it was the right choice, or will be the right choice.

And that … describes so much of her approach to her situation recently.

"I have to believe it's a metaphor," she states for no one's benefit but her own. "That… something she's done or will do is going to set something in motion." Her stomach sinks, even as she says, "It's just a matter of figuring out what."

Kara purses her lips together, looking to Sparrow first, and then back to Thomas. "Thank you," she repeats herself. Sparrow could have closed the door. Thomas could have waved her off— reminded her his grasp on his ability wasn't refined. But neither of them did, and the significance isn't lost on her. "Just because I don't know what to do with this doesn't mean it's not appreciated."

“I know,” Thomas says quietly. “You all always are appreciative.”

“For what it’s worth, my father won’t be here the next time you come around.” Sparrow explains, angling her head to the side as she eyes Kara. “I can tell you’re going through a lot,” she says with a dip of her eyes to the drawing, then back to Kara again, “but he’s going to be coming home with me, where he belongs.”

Thomas makes a grumbling noise in response, but doesn’t counter anything Sparrow says.

Kara just shakes her head once, trying to indicate she doesn't mean to come bother him a second time. But she'd not meant to impose on him in the first, had she.

"I don't know that I'll be around forever either. But if there's the chance I could return the favor, look for me in Providence." She looks up momentarily to Thomas before she realizes this is something that needs directed to Sparrow, more likely. She seemed more the sort to not brush such an offer off. "Ask for Kara. Even if I've moved on, the militia there should know where to find me to pass the message on."

"No matter how far a trip you're going on, I hope it's a safe one," she says as she begins to come to her feet again. "Hope the whole year is… a far better one than last year."

Her eyes drift back to the table, the two pieces of art she's seen. The foreboding that both give her. It's not a hollow hope, she wants to believe.

Sparrow nods, a quiet and solemn one, all things considered. She looks to Thomas whose brows furrow in thought, but he keeps his own council and does not give voice to the thought storming in his head. Instead, he turns the drawing of Yi-Min around and slides it over to Kara for her to keep. Better in her care than here, where it has no meaning or purpose.

“I’ll remember that,” Thomas says in a quiet, serious tone. Sparrow blinks a look up from the drawing to Kara, a wryness to her smile that is brief and soon tempered behind recognition of the serious moment.

“He has a good memory…” Sparrow chooses to say, with a brief eye to her father and back again.

When he wants to.

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