Ten Years Ago



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colette_icon.gif grace_icon.gif

Scene Title Ten Years Ago
Synopsis Colette reflects on something a mentor once said to her as she moves into the next phase of her adult life.
Date January 23, 2019


Public Gym

Sneakers scuff on a hard floor. Beads of sweat form dark spots on concrete.

Breathe in, breathe out.

The slap of gloves on canvas accompanies sharp exhalations and strong grunts of activity. Leaning forward, bare shoulders marked with dark ink, glistening with sweat. A gloved hand strikes an upright canvas bag. Her shadow is cast long on the wall, afternoon sunlight spilling in through windows partway plastered with old newspapers.

Breathe in, breathe out.

She hops forward, strikes the bag hard, weaves back and hooks a leg up into a scissoring motion that connects with a satisfying smack. Her whole body twists, grounded leg bends, and she returns to her neutral posture, dark hair slicked to her brow with sweat, drops of it beading off of her chin and the tip of her nose. Blind eyes focused on the bag ahead of her.

Breathe in…

"Hello?" A few moments later, the sound of passing cars and background voices on the cell phone grow more quiet, and the greeting is tried again with a little more enunciation. "H-Hello?" Even with the noise reduced, it's clear whoever's on the other end only ducked off of the street for a slightly less noisy indoor environment.

Grace can wait. And she does. A hint of a smile tugs at her lips when the girl finally answers, the woman leaning back against the windows behind her. They're almost as cold as the air outside, but that doesn't matter yet. "Hey, kid." She holds the greeting until after Colette has ducked inside, raven's voice distinctive. "It's Grace."

There's a long, awkward silence when she recognizes the voice at Hey, kid. Colette swallows down her immediate response, and there's something wary and a little embarrassed about her response. "O-Oh. Um, h-hey I — You're calling — I didn't expect — " Another moment, and she tries to get her head on straight enough so that her words come out at the right angle, instead of whatever askew angle she was spitting them out beforehand.

"I — I'm surprised to hear from you. Um, is something — W-what's up?" Clearly the call has caught her off-guard, it's the first time Grace has made any initiation of conversation between the two since their first encounter in the park, at least intentionally. The idea that she'd call seems about as foreign as breathing water to Colette, even if her stuttered responses seem like she might be in the process of doing the latter from how choked the words are.

A quiet, rasping chuckle carries over the phone line. "Probably about as surprised as I was to hear from Judah yesterday," Grace remarks. Colette can't see the flicker of an ephemeral grin, but its good humor is evident in the woman's voice. "Apparently he decided two months after was a good time to ask me how I knew you."

Breathe out…

Stepping forward, Colette strikes the bag again, an alternating series of blows from left hand and right. She quickly sweeps her forearm up across her brow, brushing her hair from her face. She steps in again and strikes harder than last time, hopping back afterward to give herself some space, then springs forward with a side kick, sending the back swinging out away from her on impact. The bag comes swinging back, right into Colette’s open arms as she stops and steadies it.

Breathe in…

"He's an — " Colette cuts herself off, but the fire in her voice is clear even across the phone. There's a few moments of not quite silence, due to the noise of other people in the background. "W-whatever, he's… I'dunno." Her words slur, a run-on of her discouraged sounding voice, as if she isn't sure whether to believe the bitterness in her own tone or not.

"He — I… I wasn't sure if it was you he called. I — I couldn't hear — " Colette was eavesdropping, on top of just being noisy that night. "Can — Do you think we could talk? I — Fuck — I'm sorry, that's stupid I — I'm always asking you for stupid shit. Um, did… Did you need something? I mean, because of what he called about?"

Grace just waits. The single arched brow that speaks louder than words doesn't exactly carry across a phone line, so there's only silence in Colette's ear as the girl stumbles her way through broken sentences. "We can talk. I called, didn't I?" That would be the obvious answer to the obvious question. Then there's the other obvious question, to which it is also an answer. "He thought you might volunteer at the Bits offices or something. I figured I'd see what you thought of the idea before I opened that particular box." The slight secondary emphasis on 'that' brings along its own implications, which the woman does proceed to explain. "He seemed to miss the detail that a freelancer doesn't actually work in an office so much, but I can still pull strings if you think it's something you'd like to do."

"Bits?" For a second Colette sounds absolutely clueless, just before it clicks in her head with the business card. "Oh! I…" A bit of a pause, thoughtful but reluctant, "I-Isn't that like a… a computer place? I mean I — I'm… I don't really, I mean, I know how to use a computer but… I just — I'm… I dropped out of school, so, I mean…" Her voice grows more quiet as she talks, turning to mumbling at the end out of a mix of shame and embarrassment at the lack of her motivation to make something of herself. "I… I don't really think they'd have much use for me, y-you know?" She's a little hard on herself.

Another harsh and grating chuckle. "Oh, they'll figure something out. Especially if they don't have to actually pay you," Grace disagrees. "There's too many papers and not enough secretaries — find me a business where that isn't true — plus all the programmers would love to have someone else as the go-fer and not have to leave their computers behind themselves. The rest? That's what 'on the job' training is for," the woman concludes.

Breathe out…

Arms around the punching bag, Colette rests her brow against the canvas and closes her eyes. Her fingers curl against her palms, she can’t shut out the world even if she shuts her eyes. Bare shoulders tremble, her jaw clenches, and a few quiet sobs slip out in the otherwise cavernous silence of the gym. Exhaling heavily, she shakes her head back and forth in a slow no, then pushes away from the punching bag and slams her fist against it as hard as she can. Again, and again, and again.

Breathe in…

Work. The idea leaves something of a bitter taste in the back of Colette's mouth, "I… If, I mean… I-If you… think I wouldn't like, get in the way I… I'd — I mean, n-nobody's ever really like, needed my help or anything. S-so I… I mean, I'm not sure how…" She keeps stuttering over her words, the lack of confidence compounded by the slight distraction of wherever she is seems to keep her from being able to form clear sentences.

"W-would I get to work with you?" And yet there's the hopeful optimism, as if that would change everything and make things a little easier to handle. "I mean, I — It'd be easier." Of course it would, "You know if — If — If you think I can do this. I… I mean, I'll… I'll try. I mean, if you don't think I'll be a burden on them." She really doesn't sound all that confident of herself, though that seems to be a common trend with her.

"But — Um, w-what about like — I'm not normal. I… Is that, do — I have to keep that a secret? I… What if I screw up? W-what if… I just…" She's so nervous it's embarrassing to even listen to.

Grace switches the phone over to her other hand, drawing in a breath. "Like I said, I'm a freelancer. I don't go in often, and definitely not regularly. I don't do the 9-5 beat." So no, probably not working with her. "Kid, if I didn't think you could do it, I wouldn't have told Judah I'd ask," is the woman's exasperated reply, gravelly tones rasping harshly. "'What if' you just go?" Patience with insecurity, not so much. "It's a day at the office. And not even a day, at that. Piece of cake. Worst that can happen to you is a papercut, unless you manage to staple yourself to a desk or something." And you can't actually do that with conventional staples.

Maybe Colette could, though. More often than not it's like she's a walking example of Murphy's Law. "Oh, I… Um," there's a moment of silence, followed by a grunt, "Can I think about it? I mean, I just don't know what I'm doing. I don't… I don't know if that's what I'm supposed to do. I… I need to talk to someone, she'll… She always knows what I should do, I just — I need to get some stuff off of my chest, and… and I need to listen to her for once."

Breathe out…

She’s walked away from the punching bag, sitting with her shoulders slacked, slouched forward with her forearms draped over her knees. Colette can’t do much other than focus on the tattoo around her wrist, the skyline of Manhattan and a reminder of the man she lost. Gloves off and taped fingers bare, Colette scrubs at her eyes and tries to dry the tears before they fall. It isn’t entirely productive.

Breathe in…

There's a pause at the thought of listening to someone, and Colette lets out an awkward laugh the moment after. "If I volunteer there, do you think you could… um, I mean, what we talked about at the parking garage? Think maybe, like, after I get out of work I could… maybe meet you somewhere and we — you could teach me a couple of things? I… I need to learn how to take care of myself. I — I'm sick of needing to leean on people all of the time." And yet, she does.

"Sure, you can think about it. Just don't take too long, please. Judah will be expecting an answer from me." Grace waits as Colette thinks, and chuckles again at her final words, the sound softer but never gentle. This time, though, it's recognizably not unkind. "'Taking care of yourself' means a lot of things, kid. But we can start there," the woman allows. "Doesn't have to be 'after work'. You just give me a call, and we'll set up a time."

There's been a lot of animosity between Colette and Grace over the last few months, from the way the young girl handled herself in Chinatown, to when she ran off to Midtown and called up Grace for god knows what reason while sulking in her sister's old apartment. They've been through a lot, and it's this moment of rolling back the clock to an earlier time, when things were lighter between the two that seems to do the most to ease her attitude, to give her a semblance of peace. Even if it's just peace of mind.

"Thanks, I… I mean it. I'll give you a call after I — Soon. It'll be soon, and I'll know then, what it is I'm supposed to do." Her voice has a softness to it now, one that even for Colette seems uncertain and wary, as if the haze of the future so indistinct on the horizon is a little too much for her to handle.

"Grace?" It's a quiet query, after her more gentle response, "Do I really… remind you of yourself, when you were younger?" It's always been the words she's clung to, from the first time they met onwards. Something for her to think on, and wonder about. A woman strong and independent, like Colette wishes she was — Is she really anything like her? And what kind of life would she need to live, to end up like her in the future?

The woman shakes her head at the expression of gratitude, but she lets it slide. This time. "Sure you do," Grace replies. "Ten, thirteen years ago. What, you think I was just born this way?" Sharp and gruff, the humor in her voice, but it's a teasing question nonetheless. "Ten years can make a lot of difference." Her voice becomes distracted as that sentence approaches its conclusion, sign of wandering thoughts.

"Yeah… maybe you're right." For a moment, Colette's lost in the seriousness of the notion, but there's a bit of a teasing softness that returns to her voice afterwards. "I can't imagine you being as hopeless as me, but… I guess that makes me feel a little better. Thanks, Grace I… For calling, and for trying — " No trying, there's been nothing but doing on Grace's end. "Thanks for helping." The correction couldn't be any more emphatic. "I've gotta go, Grace. The bus'll be here soon and I need to be out by the stop — But, I — Thanks. Really, I — I mean it. I know I sound like a broken records n'stuff, but… it's true."

Barking on the other end of the phone breaks up her conversation, followed by a gruff snort and a huffed out sigh, "Sit still!" She shouts, partially into the phone, "I'll call you, tomorrow, or maybe tonight! Thanks, Grace. I really owe you like, a lot."

Breathe in…

Reaching into her locker, Colette grabs a loose-knit sweater and throws it on over her tanktop. She’ll shower when she gets home, not in a place like this. Her jacket is next, pulled from a hook on the door, heavy duty black canvas with a leather collar. As she pulls it on, raking back her bangs with narrow fingers, she looks down to the patch embroidered on the jacket’s shoulder.

Sometimes ten years isn't enough difference. But that's neither there nor here. Colette's words snap Grace's attention back into the present, and the woman smiles briefly. "You're welcome, kid. And no, you don't. At all." Period. End of story. Head that off right now. "You take care." Click. No opportunity allowed for Colette to argue.


Staring down at her phone, Colette wrinkles her nose as she looks up from where she's tied off Jupiter's leash, standing partially in the doorway of a convenience store. Her brows furrow together, eyes scanning the dirty snow on the sidewalk before looking up to the cloudy skies overhead. She closes her eyes, breathing out a relaxed sigh before sliding her phone into her pocket and stepping fully from the doorway, tucking her hands into her pockets.

Ten years. That's a long time to get things right.

Breathe out…

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