Ratios and Addition


nora2_icon.gif rue2_icon.gif

Scene Title Ratios and Addition
Synopsis The ratio of ward to protector on Pollepel Island sucks, and so does Nora's addition. That is to say, her story doesn't add up.
Date April 21, 2011

Bannerman's Castle: Living Quarters

Two separate corridors, both on the ground floor, compromise Bannerman Castle's living quarters and are dark, skinny stretches of hallway with stone walls and floors interrupted by heavy wooden doors without numbers. Those who live here know which room is theirs by the grain of the wood, the shape of the smooth rock in the walls and other identifying features that are visible if the person looking knows what he or she is looking for.

The rooms themselves vary in size, most so small that the space is appropriate for only one or two people, but there are larger rooms for small families that can fit up to five or six if people are willing to share beds, and if they're desperate enough to have come to Pollepel Island, they almost certainly are. Wooden cots, some with tall posts and cheap sheets strung between them for additional privacy, are standard, and like most of the castle there's no electricity for luxury items like televisions, but some of the island's residents have furnished their rooms with battery-powered radios on footstools or wooden nightstands. Some of the rooms are even lucky enough to have battered old dressers and the occasional writing desk. Most have windows, and those that do also have window coverings made from white canvas heavy enough to keep the light both out and in, depending on what is required.

Bathrooms are shared and unlike the bedrooms themselves, are wired to allow for flushing toilets and showers that run hot water even if hot water is only made available for a few hours a day.

It's late enough that the castle halls are dark and that many of the earlier sleepers have gone to bed. A door is pulled closed, and the shadow emerging from it carries a backpack that she pulls onto her shoulders once outside. The dark hallway gives her no pause however; she knows the paths well enough without needing her sight to navigate by, given that she learned them when she had no sight to speak of.

Nora moves down the hall to another door — there is no crack of light to indicate anyone is awake inside — and she bends to slip a folded piece of paper through to the interior. For those who know the residents of each room, this is the one occupied by Hana Gitelman, the rare nights she sleeps in the castle.

The girl moves again, almost silently, on the path that will take her out of the castle's doors and down to the boat docks.

Further down the hall, Rue Lancaster emerges from the room she shares with strangers, with a(n open) bottle of wine in hand. One that she must not feel inclined to share with her roommates. A battered pair of silver pointe shoes are tied together and slung around her shoulders, gently bumping against her slim torso as she walks. She uses the light from her iPod to navigate the hallway.

The younger woman isn't addressed until she's almost to the doors. Or perhaps she just isn't recognised for who she is until then. "Hey!" Rue calls quietly after Nora, more stage whisper than yell. "Hey! I want to talk to you!" Sock-over-tights clad feet are whisper quiet on the hard floors even as she breaks into a run to catch up.

The younger girl turns to regard Rue; there's no smile on Nora's face though she doesn't glare or turn away. She's dressed for travel with a light jacket over her hoodie, and this close it's easy to see the backpack is stuffed full with probably every single possession she owns.

"Wine and ballet slippers," she says with brow ticked up in amusement. "What are you going to perform, Sloshing Beauty?"

"Yes. It's going to be the most brilliant ballet anyone has ever seen in their entire lives." Rue grins wide for a moment, then it falls away. "Except that I won't have an audience, so… Well… I guess I'll just have to know that it was brilliant." The former redhead holds out the bottle to the other girl. "You've got time before the boats leave. Join me for a bit?" She looks hopeful, but also afraid of being turned down.

Nora's dark eyes fall away as if to look away from Rue's hopeful glance, but she takes the bottle. "Sure," she says with a small shrug, weighed down as her shoulders are. "Let's go outside though."

She leads the way to the doors, holding them open for Rue and looking around for any sign of the patrollers before moving to the steps that lead up to the doors and taking a seat on the top one. She takes a swig of the bottle and then looks up to hand it back to Rue. "Thanks." Her knees bent up, she wraps an arm around them — it's chilly outside, if not wintry any more, and the wind is damp. "Boat ride's gonna suck," she mutters.

Rue takes a seat next to Nora on the steps. The wine she's already consumed has her cheeks flushed. She doesn't feel the chill in the air too badly, despite being dressed in crop pants, tank top, and a thin pullover. When she begins her work-out/dance practise, she'll be thankful for the lightweight material. "Where will you go?" she asks, setting the bottle between the two of them on the steps.

The brunette huddles knees close to her chest, less for warmth and more for comfort, and rests her chin on top of them, staring down the steps. "I have some friends I can crash with in town," she says carefully. "Now that I can see, it's not as… not as important for me to stay here as it was before. I can take care of myself out there, and I don't need to be protected here."

She glances back at the castle, then at Rue. "I'm sorry. I'm not leaving you, you know. Just…" Her own cheeks flush, though not with alcohol. "It's hard to explain," she adds with a sigh.

"No, you don't need to be protected," Rue agrees without any of that gentleness that parents use when there's a but involved. The kind that comes with But, you're making a mistake, or But, you're wrong. In this case, it's just the way it is. "You'd be an asset here, you know. The people here need protecting. The people who can manage that are fewer and far between than…" She shrugs, "The ratio is just not as good as it could be."

Nora smiles, a slight thing, but a sincere one, at Rue's words. "I'll still be helping. I'll do that thing we talked about for Staten… misinformation campaign via radio. And I'll come back if they need me for any … special activities, I promise. I just… it's too hard."

She glances up at Rue. "There's someone here that… if they don't want anything to do with me, it's going to be hard to handle seeing them around, you know? And I don't want to be a reminder to them to make them feel guilty or something, so I'd rather just be gone. That way they can stay if they want to, and not have to worry about making the decision."

Her cheeks flush — that sounds like something altogether not what she means, but perhaps the ambiguity will serve her purpose well enough. "Sorry about earlier. Tell that Liza girl I'm sorry too. I … it's not her fault. I was already upset, and that place…" she shivers and looks up at the cloudy sky.

Rue wraps an arm around Nora's shoulders and tips her head to rest against the other's. "Yeah, I'll let her know. She'll understand, I'm sure. Liza seems smart like that."

She falls silent for a few moments, maybe scooting a little closer for the warmth. "I… I'm gonna miss you a lot, you know. I know you aren't leaving me, but it does feel like it a little bit. Irrationally. So don't even think about feeling guilty or anything." Rue's lip curls and she stares out beyond them, at nothing in particular. "Just promise me you won't go run off and get engaged. Or pregnant. I swear, I will be annoyed with you forever."

Leaning her head back against Rue's, Nora nods, and tears start to fill the dark eyes, slipping down her cheeks before she can brush them away. She snorts at the word engaged, then laughs aloud at pregnant.

"I promise you I will get neither engaged nor pregnant. Too young for the first, too smart for the second. That, and you know, it's not like I have a lot of prospects at the moment." There's a small flush at that and Nora reaches for the bottle of wine to take another couple of swallows, wiping her hand across her mouth afterwards.

"Liza just caught me at a bad time and," she wipes her eyes again, "I was littler than Mala when I was sick with it. I almost died. They didn't think I'd make it. And to think… what if it was me in that grave?"

Rue doesn't say anything at first. She just wraps her other arm around Nora and hugs her tightly. Tears well up in her own eyes and start rolling down her cheeks. "Is that why the others are so protective of you?" she asks in a whisper. "Because they almost lost you once? At least, that's the sense I got from watching the way Hannah looked at you during that meeting about the vaccines…" A kiss is pressed into Nora's hair.

Then it hits her. Rue's limbs get stiff as her muscles to taut. She doesn't dare move, lest Nora see the look on her face. Her wide eyes and furrowed brow. Confusion. "Just shows you've always been a survivor."

How did Nora contract the H5-N10 when she was even younger than Mala?

"Are you going to stay with Benji and Hannah? I've been over there once, when I brought Selina back to Benji." The words are a bit stilted, though she keeps her tone light enough. A subject change. Something easier.

Nora also grows still, the words echoing in her ears a moment and she realizes her mistake. She shrugs, and she wipes her eyes again. "It's an irrational fear I have — that if I get it again, I won't be lucky a second time. Hannah knows that, that's all."

She shrugs again. "Maybe. I have a couple of people I can stay with. I just need to get away from here. I promise it won't be the last time I'm here, and you have my phone number if you get over there, or you can call me on the radio, all right? Just call for me, I'll hear eventually."

Unfolding from her tight ball, she hugs Rue and plants a kiss on her cheek, wet cheeks brushing Rue's and then she stands. "The boat's'll be leaving soon. I should go."

Slippers are lifted from around her neck and their ribbons untied, socks are tugged off so Rue can slide her feet into the dance shoes. Then she pushes to her feet and grabs the bottle of wine in one fist, the other hand reaching to capture one of Nora's. "I'll see you off. And I'll call you just as soon as I'm on the mainland again."

Her smile is a little shaky, but still genuine. "We'll get together. I'm thinking movies and makeovers. We need to kidnap Benji. Make hhher join us." Hell or high water, Rue will get her slumber party.

Brows lift at the pronoun, and Nora smiles. "She'd like that." Nora, well, she will put up with it — especially for Benji's sake. "Be safe. And if you need me, call. I'll come back if you need me, I promise."

Nora squeezes Rue's hand, then with a glance to the sky, she pulls her hood over her head, tucking her hair away and then pulling her iPod headphones up through her coat to rest on her shoulders. "No, it's cold and those slippers aren't meant for anything but wood stages. You stay here. Be safe," she says, reaching to hug Rue once more, then picking up her backpack to pull over her thin shoulders. Converse-clad feet take her down the steps to the path that will lead her to the docks and the boat that will take her away.

Rue moves to follow at first, but then… she stops. "Be well, Nora." She waits on the steps, swigging three buck chuck, watching until the other girl is out of sight. Taking a deep breath, unevenly shaped lower lip quivering, she makes to throw the bottle on the steps. Feeling for a moment like the shattered green tinted glass might satisfy her.

But again, she stops. Knuckles white around the neck, Rue turns and heads back into the castle.

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