Someone Who Understands


caderina_icon.gif emily4_icon.gif

Scene Title Someone Who Understands
Synopsis After going through the same harrowing ordeal, two women decide to try traveling the road to recovery together.
Date November 2, 2020

Fournier-Bianco Memorial Hospital

Emily Epstein is fucking tired of having her blood drawn. But she submits to the necessity of it— an appointment every week with a specific doctor at Fournier-Bianco Memorial Hospital, where in addition to also having labs run, she undergoes a round of check-ups most people only go through once a year.

She's not most people currently. And neither, she's noticed, is a young blonde woman who has consistently been scheduled around the same time as she is. That she can tell, they both have bloodwork done. One time she'd shown up earlier than Emily, and when she left, it was with a cottonball pinned to her elbow, too.

Then there was the similarity in their appearance. The similarity in their state.

She'd overheard her name another time— that was at the physical therapist's office they both were also conveniently directed to, scheduled practically back to back there as well. Whoever was in charge of setting up these appointments made absolutely 0 attempt to schedule them apart from each other.

And so that's how Emily learned one of the other victims freed from Ali's ability was named Caderina. For all she knew, maybe they were the only two who had been rescued so far. Or, maybe whoever put them on the schedule had the good sense to put the other victims in a separate time block.

When Caderina comes into the waiting room this morning, the only chair that's available is the one next to Emily, the one she'd blocked off by leaving her crutch to occupy that space. She's framed on one side by the wall, and with the empty chair between her and the rest of the waiting room, she maintains the illusion of having personal space. But a single glance up at the other girl is all the motivation Emily needs to slowly reach to remove the obstacle to that seat, pulling the mauve-colored forearm crutch between her knees and settling her chin on top of the cuff, peering hard down at her phone.

The screen's off entirely. A thread of wiring pipes music through earbuds secured against the side of her head, though.

Caderina always looks nervous before her appointments. Like she’s afraid that there’s going to be bad news for her at each and every one. On the occasions Emily’s caught her on the way out, she always seems to have her head held a little higher. She must be showing progress. Improvement. No sign of lasting damage.

After checking in, the younger blonde looks around the crowded waiting area and spots the final seat, drawn to it by Emily moving her crutch. Caderina hesitates a moment before forging ahead - while she may not need the mobility aid, her pace is slow - and taking the now empty seat. “Thanks,” she murmurs softly.

"No problem," Emily murmurs in reply, her hand tightening around her phone for having spoken at all. It brings her anxiety each time she speaks, but maybe if she just— doesn't look at Caderina directly, everything will be fine.

It looks like they're backed up this morning, so they've got a minute, at least.

"I'm Emily," she volunteers in that same softness, letting it float under the other noise of the still-quiet waiting room. Her eyes stay down on her phone, shoulders tense even as she tries to play her lines conversationally rather than something she's rehearsed three times before actually saying them. "I've… seen you in here a few times before."

The other girl looks over, slightly surprised there’s a conversation to be had here, but she smiles faintly in response. “Caderina.” She nods her head along with Emily’s words, noting, “I’ve seen you, too.” There’s a nervous glance around, like she’s trying to see who might be eavesdropping on them.

The answer is everyone, of course. But also no one. No one is trying to listen, it just happens.

“I’m going to guess, based on our similar physical traits, that we’re here for the same reason.” Her cadence is measured, the words delivered without judgement. Like Caderina’s also practiced having to talk about this.

"I'm glad someone else pulled through," Emily admits in a small voice. She lifts one hand to catch the wire of one earbud between her fingers, pulling it away so she can be sure she hears Caderina well. "I… didn't know. Didn't even think it was possible, for a long time."

She keeps her eyes to herself, thumb scrubbing across the darkened screen of her phone like it's a worry stone.

"I'm going on week three. Or four, now. I've lost track." It's with a tilt of her hand shoe goes on just as quietly, "I thought… getting back to normal would be easier than this."

“Yeah, me too.” Whether she means length of time, getting back to normal, that someone else pulled through, or all of those things is left up to Emily’s interpretation. Caderina picks at the grain of her blue jeans with her thumbnail anxiously.

“It’s been difficult,” she admits softly. “My landlord put all my things in storage. My mantis got impounded… City gave it back to me just fine, but it’s been… a pain.” Caderina frowns. “I’m still trying to find a new place, get back to classes. But my internship took me back, so I guess that’s nice.” Like she’s been reminded she needs to look on the bright side once in a while.

Emily isn't even aware how much weight slides off her shoulders when she hears of a struggle so similar to her own, just knows it suddenly feels easier to breathe. She sits a little more upright. "My cat still doesn't think I'm me, I don't think. I don't… smell right to him anymore, or something. He still tolerates me, it's just…"

And there her posture goes again, sloping back down.

"That's good, though— your internship." They could both use a bright spot to focus on, couldn't they? "I should look into signing up for classes again next semester. I know I'll feel better if I do. If-if I start getting back to normal. It's just…"

The heel of her hand grinding into the top of her thigh, Emily glances to the other girl out of the corner of her eye. "I can't imagine being around so many people again. I can barely handle being here." Something shifts in her voice and brings her to swallow hard. She unfixes a set of blue-lensed aviator sunglasses from the lapel of her coat and sets them over her face to conceal her eyes.

Caderina leans in, eyes suddenly a little brighter as she nods her head with more enthusiasm than she’s shown before, less numbness. “It was so quiet,” she whispers, glad now to talk to someone who understands. “Everything is so loud and so crowded. I hate it.”

Realizing she’s maybe a little too intense at the moment, she shrinks back again, rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly. “Sorry,” she mumbles self-consciously. “You seeing a therapist, too? Mine says getting back to normal is the best thing I can do. That I have to put myself into situations I used to find comfortable in order to… I don’t know. Reacclimate, I guess.” She hates that, too.

Emily forces a small smile. She hates advice like that herself. "I don't know," she supposes in a mutter, barely above a whisper. "Maybe they need to fucking accept that some things change you permanently, and give you your fucking space."

Realizing her bit of passion was possibly uncalled for, she bites her bottom lip, glancing down. "Or, I dunno— find some happy medium."

"The chances of being struck by lightning if you stand in the same spot as before are like, what, infinitely smaller, but it doesn't get rid of those chances. Doesn't make you feel any fucking safer." Words are tumbling from her freely compared to the silence she's carried out a good number of her days in, like maybe she just needed the right person to talk to. Someone who'd get it. Someone who'd understand.

"Yeah, I was seeing someone before all this, so I'm just— seeing her still." Emily worries at her phone again abruptly, leaning back against the wall. "It's one of the only things that gets me out of the house right now aside from…" Her free hand flips over with a twist of her wrist to gesture at the room without really moving her arm. "So I haven't had the heart to cancel on it."

“It’s… probably good,” Caderina offers cautiously. But she offers a smile, like they’re both in on the same secret. “I don’t like it either. They used to make me go after my parents died, and… It was stupid. No amount of connecting with my feelings was going to make it okay.”

She gets a little sullen then, reasoning quietly, “But… I want to live, because they didn’t. So… I’m working on it. I keep getting out of bed in the morning, I walk to my favorite coffee shop, get a muffin and a coffee for breakfast, head to work and just… I don’t know.” Caderina shrugs. “Normal isn’t a thing that’s existed for me for a long, long time. But whatever this is has to be better than what we went through. And it’s got to be better than hiding away as if we were still locked up in our own heads.”

Behind her shades, Emily's look grows a little hollow. Normal is a thing she's convinced is just a Hallmark fantasy at this point. But Caderina likely doesn't need to hear that— anyone who's fighting their way out of that state of mind certainly doesn't.

She looks to the other girl with a weak smile. More than that would be a lie, and she's not in that kind of mood. "I'd drink to that. And if there's anything worth getting out of bed for in the morning… good coffee definitely makes the list."

"Maybe I should try that," she murmurs with a lift of her brows.

“Eileen’s in Red Hook is really nice,” Caderina offers up as a suggestion, smiling a little bit wider. “Would you… maybe want to meet up sometime?” She looks anxious immediately after she’s proposed it. Like she’s been afraid to reach out to other people, and now she’s deathly afraid of rejection.

“It’s— It’s okay if you don’t want to,” she stammers out, looking down at her lap. “Just thought maybe… if you had someone to go with, who won’t mind bugging out, it might be easier…”

The suddenness is a surprise, but it's one that doesn't carry to Emily's expression, exactly. Her features remain stuck in the same configuration as before.

She can't, she tells herself, eschew every new connection for the rest of all time. Maybe connecting with someone who's lived her experience will be a good first step to…

well, everything.

"If you think you could put up with me." Emily concedes at her own expense. "I'm hard to deal with even on my best days." She's quick to shake her head, hoping to shut down any worries that might be a rejection in disguise. "But honestly, that… that sounds really nice. It'd be good to try something new."

“If you were really that difficult to get along with, you’d have left your crutch in front of the chair and left me to stand.” A light shrug of her shoulders and Caderina finds her smile again. She pulls out her own phone from her pocket and brings up the contacts, tapping the screen until she gets to the menu that allows her to add a new one.

The phone is passed to Emily so she can enter her own details. “I kind’a work some late hours sometimes, but I usually have my phone on me, so feel free to reach out whenever. I’ll respond between cleaning out printer jams.”

After tapping in her number, Emily calls it to grab Caderina's. When her phone lights up, she ends the call and passes the borrowed phone back to its owner. "Whenever my internship lets me back, I tend to work daytime hours, at least. Nine to five, barring the— um, odd extra assignment."

"Emily?" calls a nurse standing by an open doorway back to the examination rooms. He looks across the busy room.

"I'm glad we got to talk, Caderina," she says as she comes to her feet, slipping her arm through the cuff of her crutch. She might not need it the way she used to, not to keep her balance, but the additional aid seems to at least put her at ease just in case. The corner of her mouth pulls back in the ghost of a smile. "See you at PT."

Caderina smirks faintly. “That must be nice. I work whenever I’m needed. Justice doesn’t sleep, or so I keep hearing from the DA’s office.” If it really bothers her, she doesn’t show it. Given her determination to reintegrate, maybe she’s one of those workaholic types.

Her head lifts when the nurse calls the other young woman’s name. “Hey, me too.” She lifts her hand in a little wave. “Take care, okay? I’ll see you then.”

She watches as Emily crosses the room and disappears down the hall for her examination. Caderina lowers her head and opens up a group chat message.

C: Met someone today. Things are looking up.

Still wearing a wide smile when the next nurse calls her name, she tosses her phone in the air lightly, catching it again in her palm before climbing to her feet and heading in for her appointment.

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