eileen_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Self-Fulfilling
Synopsis Francois eavesdrops on a group therapy session at the Suresh Center.
Date July 16, 2010

Suresh Center

It's a cloudy day, a pressurecooker lid of haze that's come to clasp down on what's nearing thirty Celcius of summer warmth, but the Suresh Centre is nicely air-conditioned. Makes Francois feel almost— almost— comfortable in his light grey suit, jacket buttoned singularly together, egg-shell blue shirt beneath it. Kind of old man, actually, the combination, nothing deliberate on his part, and there are worse ways for a doctor, volunteering his time to the centre, to be dressed. A name tag glimmers on lapel. It has M.D. on it. These things and more, he does not expect for the young woman he's meeting to appreciate, if only physically speaking.

Having signed out, he is supposed to be meeting her in the wider foyer, but finds himself in an adjacent corridor instead though he can see it from here. His back is up against the white wall and hands tucked into pockets, chin down and eyes not so focused. He's listening, and hidden from view of the open doored conference room that he can hear voices come from.

Some meeting. A support group. Taped to the wall are the words Visions of the Future: A Support Group, 3: 30 PM to 4: 30 PM. The smaller font explains— those of the June 10th visions, who need to talk, who need to listen. Francois needs to do neither, and yet, he's experiencing the latter and feeling a bit the loner on the edge of the dance floor who lacks a partner, hesitation and a desire to not really be here, suddenly. Figures, that this kind of thing would attract a lot of frightened people. People with reason to be frightened.


The voice doesn't come from inside the room, but from behind him, and it's one he'll immediately recognize in spite of its softness. Eileen's breathy accent is unmistakable no matter the language she chooses to speak, but it's more noticeable in French than in English, her syllables gently rounded and enunciated with quiet deliberation. She's either been standing there a very long time or for barely any time at all. The expression on her face gives little away even though her lips are painted and her pale eyes lined in black to emphasize their shape and make them appear larger and more expressive.

The cane she carries is white and crafted from lightweight aluminum for easy wielding unlike the much heavier antique she left behind at the Dispensary. She does not bring Kazimir's legacy with her everywhere, especially not to places like the Suresh Center where attracting attention is counterintuitive to the purpose of her visit.

"«Are you all right?»"

He starts in the way that someone on duty caught snoozing might, if a little more subtle — his spine goes rigid, hands start as if to retract from their rests in his pockets, but ultimately do not, at first. Split second of such tension is swift to fade, though, cracking a rueful if dim smile for Eileen and giving a nod. "Ca va bien." Kind of a lie, but it's a polite one, socially acceptable, and he doesn't plan to simply leave it there.

"Here," Francois invites, in English, a hand now going out to touch the back of her's and urge her a little closer, taking his weight off the wall so as not to block the sounds coming from the open door.

The people within are still going around the circle and speaking of their experiences, a woman with a born, bred and buttered Brooklyn accent is recounting her "dream", of the soot-smeared faces of her two daughters as she dragged them by the wrists down the burning streets of Queens, of the fact that her son was not present, and of the emptiness of a burning ghost town as the only indication, besides the licking flames, that she was in the wrongest place at the wrongest time.

A rustle of fabric at the collar of Eileen's dress betrays the presence of a songbird with drab brown feathers nestled close to the hollow of her throat. Glittering black eyes dart between Francois to the gap between door and frame, searching the bereft faces of those gathered inside. Although the Englishwoman will never again see through her own, her ability allows the sparrow's to substitute.

Not that she needs it. She can plainly hear the anguish in the other woman's voice and imagine the way her lip trembles against her teeth. A smaller, cooler hand comes to rest atop the one touching the back of her dominant, cane hanging from a strap looped around her wrist and affixed to its handle. Almost a full minute passes before she lifts her face to his and asks beneath a whisper, "Did you see something?"

"Oui," is not very surprising, hand shifting beneath her's — just curling, a little, to better fit against the curve of her fingers, his knuckles smooth and scarless under her touch. And anyway, lot of people saw something — enough people into the millions. Green eyes set for a second on the bird tucked up against Eileen's collar, little feet caught in fabric, tiny black feet snagged on fabric, wings closed and eyes like black pips. It's a surprise, at first, and then understanding, both emotions making only subtle transitions through his expression.

He doesn't comment on it, just offers a flicker of a smile before continuing. "The one before her, he said he saw nothing. Darkness, for the minutes it took." Francois takes a step to the side, to draw himself and her away from the door and dim away the words coming out of it. "Et toi?"

Eileen's fingers find the handle of her cane again, its tip trailing along the floor where it meets the wall. There's either an art or a science to what she's doing, and she doesn't quite have a handle on it yet — it could take weeks, months or even years before she's an expert at navigating the world this way, but the experience she already has with her ability gives her an extra edge. "I was on a roof," she says. "Flames to the north, choking smoke in the east and west. A black south. The man with me wasn't well.

"I used to wonder why I experienced it all from above, but now I know."

Oh. Francois' arms come to fold across his chest, now, a defensive but comfortable posture as they move at this slow crawl through the cool foyer of the centre, in no rush and lacking particular objective save for a kind of mutual checking in. "I'm sorry," he says, only a couple of seconds after she finishes her explanation. "I do not know what I could have done to help your sickness, but perhaps there was more that I was missing. Although, perhaps— "

His mouth twists in a half-smile, mildly uncomfortable. "Perhaps getting a bird's eye of your own vision is not so unhelpful. We are limited by only what we perceive, in all directions of time."

"Does it bother you?" Eileen prompts. "What you saw?" She is, after all, not the eavesdropper in this scenario. That she feels more comfortable when she isn't the subject of discussion might have something to do with the return to her initial question, reworded in such a way that her companion may have a harder time finding an evasive answer. The soles of her shoes absorb the sound of her footsteps but do nothing for the light strike of her cane against the floor as they move in tandem.

If she holds a grudge against Francois for not being able to diagnose the cause of her gradual deterioration, it shows in neither her voice nor her body language. Careful neutrality seems to be Eileen's default setting. "You don't have to tell me."

"It bothers me what people see," Francois says slash corrects — being the fucking master of evasive answers, apparently, although maybe he doesn't mean to squirm. This time. "It bothers me, the way they respond." 'They.' Take him, for example, mooning outside support room meetings, extra seconds of studies in mirrors, wondering how to either find the fount of youth or a beautiful apartment in New York City that contains a beautifully aged woman, or maybe one apart from the other.

"I'm seventy-seven years old, since this January," he explains, letting his voice dip quieter than it was, though what would passing strangers care, anyway? Still. "In my vision, I looked it. I could see my hands, and my reflection. I thought almost that it was a far away future — I had letters addressed to people I know now. You, and Abby. Daphne Milbrook. Teo. There was a woman, also, I don't know her."

He shrugs. "But everyone is saying it is November, this year. There is also rumour about a speech that occurs, of the President — I heard that also, on a radio. I think I was in New York City, still. Teo saw nothing," he feels moved to add. "Only blackness."

Eileen reaches up with her free hand and offers the sparrow a crooked finger. Clawed toes curl around her knuckle, and with a flutter of its wings, the tiny bird steps off her collarbone and onto the joint, its tail a narrow fan quivering at its back. Bowing her head, she touches the tip of her nose to the top of its head and ruffles her breath through its feathers. Her lips are still close to its crown when she says, "I've had night terrors since I was six years old.

"They don't come as often now, but when they do, I either wake up screaming— or so paralyzed with fear that I can't even find the air in me to breathe." A bob of her wrist sends the sparrow flittering from her hand to Francois' shoulder where it alights with all the presence and weight of a brittle autumn leaf. "Screaming is always better," she says. "Let them. It isn't real."

This is rather Disney princess, but flattering, in a strange way. Francois knows the little bird is doing what Eileen wills it to, but the attention of wild animals always seems the same way. He could smile in return, doesn't, frown kind of locked for as long as this subject is being gone over. His fault, of course. A hand raises, hesitant, desiring to touch the silk-soft feathers of the sparrow's wings and curving neck, but ultimately doesn't wish to disturb the bird.

"People think it is real," he says. "Real enough to do things apart from scream. What is your theory?"

"I haven't one," Eileen admits, lowering her hand. The sparrow parts its beak at Francois as if encouraging a smile, but it's much more likely that this is a warning: do not touch. A sharp twitch of its head surveys the room from the higher vantage point that the Frenchman's shoulder provides. While the gesture might have been largely sentimental in nature, it serves a purpose, too.

"Of all the visions I've ever known," she says, "not one has come to pass exactly the way I thought it would, and predestination's not something I believe in to begin with. Maybe it's a symbol. Nightmares usually are."

Okay no touching. Francois' hand angles in some obscure gesture of apology, relinquishes his shoulder as the sparrow's territory and lets his hands come to rest in pockets again, a stretch to the formal fabric of his jacket that comes across as younger than he both looks and is. "I have belief in destiny," comes out like apology. It won't be, by now, a huge stretch to imagine that Eileen saw nothing good. Herself blind, and a friend that won't be well.

The open doors of the centre is letting in a damp summer wind that tickles warm than the air con chilled interior, and it seems to be where they're heading. To enjoy a clouded over sun, air, an area of New York City that has such minimal traffic.

"Some," he concedes. "And those people in there, you heard them — they have some also. I am of the school of thought that these prophecies can be self-fulfilling. Prophetie auto-realisatrice. It becomes true, because it exists. I don't know if I would have given Volken room to be destroyed by Abigail, if I was not told that that is what was supposed to happen, oui? And so it goes. I don't mean to argue."

As soon as the pair is outside, the sparrow kicks off Francois' shoulder and disappears into the branches of a nearby tree with budding leaves the colour of fresh-cut limes. When it lands, it dislodges a fine spray of dew water that splashes the sidewalk but fails to leave a mark, still slick from the last time it rained.

Either Eileen has no use for the sparrow anymore now that she's outdoors where the pigeons are thriving or her desire to adapt and learn outweighs the benefits of sight. She at least trusts Francois not to let her wander out into what little traffic there is.

"You will grow old," she agrees. "Teo will die," if that's what she takes the blackness to mean. "I don't doubt this city is going to burn. We have control over when and how."

His eyes track the journey of the sparrow, until it's too small a part of a vivid setting, losing it when his gaze tracks down to wet pavement, watching his leather-clad feet track it, then watching the swing back and forth of Eileen's cane. When its end knocks against a pole she might collide in with her shoulder, he only steps aside, allows her to navigate on her own — under Francois' watchful observation. "Not this November," he suggests — tensely, tightly. I think Teo is going to do something stupid, he nearly says.

But what can one blind girl do about that? Francois can flatter himself enough to think that if anything or anyone can stop Teo, it would be himself. Recognise that he wouldn't be seeking help.

Sharing a burden, only. "Teo says he is staying with your group this weekend," he says instead, somewhat divergent, no less tense. "Can you— tell me if he chooses to go somewhere else once he leaves again?" Somewhere else means, geographically, somewhere that isn't the brownstone. Or Francois' general vicinity.

Francois nearly confides in Eileen that he thinks Teo is going to do something stupid. Eileen nearly confides in Francois that, whatever it is, she's fairly certain the man she's closest to is in on it. What she says instead is: "One of our friends is running a personal errand for him. He told me that it has something to do with his family."

This may hold more meaning for Francois than it does for Eileen. What Teo and Gabriel do in secret doesn't concern her unless they choose. Does not affect her, so far, except to make her anticipate Gabriel's eventual return and reflect on how large her bed feels with only one person in it.

Nonetheless. "Is something going on that I should know about?"

"Non. I don't think so." Kind of.

Hesitation flags his words, as if giving them due consideration alongside her query. "He said that he is going away for a few weeks, but he didn't say when. It is something to do with what he saw, for November, and his— " Francois' mouth seals into a line that Eileen can't see, but hears in his lengthy hesitation. "And his condition. But also something he feels he must do, so how can I interfere, if talking him out of its necessity does not work? I would just like to know when he has to go.

"I do not know if you should know. If you do know, or come to know, you remember how to contact me." Not to be a needy control freak crazy girlfriend or anything, is what the slight slant of apology in his tone is meant to represent.

Eileen can sympathize. "Yes," she says, "si vous désirez," and that's where it ends. For now. Drawing in a shallow breath through her nostrils, lungs not yet healed, fills the cavity of her nose and mouth with the flavours of summer. She can taste the pollen in the air and the earthy aroma the pavement takes after a storm, drawing snails and earthworms out of their hiding places from under leaves and below dirt.

It reminds her that there's someplace else she needs to be. "Have you ever been to the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn?" she asks, and while this isn't the lightest change of subject, there's nothing particularly solemn or melancholy about her tone.

A hand briefly brushes the small of her back, a gesture of silent merci before it retracts again, hands locking behind his back in gentlemanly posture as he moves at Eileen's pace down the sidewalk. Glances to passersby dare them to come much closer, and though Francois is not an intimidating kind of man, they still get a decently wide birth, if only for the brightness of the cane she carries. "I have not," he answers, gladly swerving down this semi-bright change of subject, polite inquiry in his tone.

"I like to go for the statues," says Eileen, "and to read the epitaphs. Entire lives condensed into only a few words. Poetry." She's going now, presumably, an implicit invitation hidden behind the sheer veil of her words. Would Francois like to come with her? "There's a marker with my name on it. Maybe we can find an Allègre or two."

"Kind poetry," Francois notes, a brief smile that is more audible in his voice than it is visible on his face anyway, not just for her sake. "Come, then. My car is this direction." His hand seeks her's, the one that doesn't steer the swinging cane, and helps her step down off sidewalk, the guiding tug of momentum through her arm, the scrape of his soles on the pavement to follow.

He'll have to read them to her. He'll probably do it in French, too.

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