The Extra Mile


anselm_icon.gif colette_icon.gif

Scene Title The Extra Mile
Synopsis Colette returns to Columbia University to consult with older faculty, and meets Dr.Anselm Gilbert.
Date November 9, 2008

Columbia University

A member of the Ivy League, Columbia University was one of the first colleges established in the United States. Its buildings and greenswards occupy over 32 acres in Morningside Heights; the university offers a number of quality degrees, from law to nursing, and is also the home of the Pulitzer Prize. Its student body is very diverse, and active in myriad pursuits, from student-run WKCR, what may be the oldest FM radio station in the world, to the Columbia University Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs. It is home to thirteen fraternities, four sororities, and several multicultural organizations.

As Thanksgiving Break approaches, classes at Columbia University are drawing closer and closer to final exams. This means that professors are introducing the final sections of material that they want to cover in the semester, and in the English department, it is also the Time of the Term Paper.

With the only things left to do involve lectures and grading papers that haven't been turned in yet, Dr. Anselm Gilbert is using this time between classes to sit in his office and relax. As he hasn't been here long, the office lacks the flair and comfort that his space at Oxford had, but it's not without some charm. Pictures of his family cover the wall above his desk, and the other three are lined with bookcases, though they're markedly empty.

Anselm leans back slightly in his leather office chair, a small, hardback book minus its dust jacket in his hands. A novel, undoubtedly, to help pass the time.

Regretably for the good Doctor, however, his relaxation in his office is disturbed by the rapping of knuckles on his office door. "Um, uh… P-professor? Uh, Gilbert?" It's a young voice on the other side, hesitant and awkward in her referencing of the name stenciled on the door's frosted glass. And without even so much as an invitation, that doorknob turns and the door opens, through which hesitantly pokes a messy head of black hair belonging to a girl much too young to be of College age.

"Er, s-sorry for um," The girl looks down at the floor as she edges her way into the office, "I was wondering if you had a minute?" When She looks back up to the much older man seated behind the desk, one hand brushes back her bangs from her face, tuckng them behind one ear to reveal her right eye, pale and white, clarly blinded.

Anselm isn't the type of person to stare, but being interrupted, and by such a unique face, causes him to look at Colette's right side for a bit longer than he might have otherwise. "Ms. Haversing can give you information about the department, dear. I'm afraid I'm not the best source." As if his accent were clue enough. But in order to get to his office, Colette would have had to walk right by the receptionist's desk, which causes the professor to pause. "Or…" Was she here for admission information at all? "What did you need?" Anselm is genuinely interested, and closes his book while leaving the end of his index finger between the pages to mark his place.

"Um, not — " Colette grimaces, pointing over her shoulder, "S-she said you'd be — " It's clear the girl is a bit intimidated by the environment, if not Dr.Gilbert himself, "I — I just wanted to ask you a question? Um, I — I promise not to take too much of your time, s-sir." One hand reaches into the front pocket of her suede jacket, retrieving a rather badly dmaged photograph. "I um, I came around here last month a-and I was looking to see if, um, anybody here might've remembered my sister?" She raises both of her brows, one of them disappearing behind her restrained bangs, at least until her head tilts to the side, and that dark hair falls like a jagged curtain over her blinded eye.

She approaches the desk, in a hesitant and anxious manner that a child who feels they're about to be reprimanded may, with aixiety and uncertainty in each step. "She — She used to go to school here, um, t-two years ago?" An auspicious time, to be certain. "Nobody I talked to taught here back then, s-so um, they said I should ask some of the older faculty, and… one of the students said you might know?"

Reaching out a hand, Colette lays the picture face up on her side of the desk. It's in remarkably poor condition, burned in half, charred around the edges with warped bubbles in the surface. What isn't damaged beyond recognition resembles a candid photo of a dark-haired woman in her twenties making a very awkward expression that can be best described as a puckered grimace; not the most flattering image. She's seated in a restaurant of some variety, with another figure who is mostly obscured by the burning. "H-her name is Nicole Nichols." Someone's parents were a fan of alliteration, "I… I don't… um, know what her major was, or uh, anything like that. S-she… she disappeared on November 7th, 2006." The day before the city was turned upside down.

Not wanting to damage the photo, Anselm merely places a hand beside it as he lays his book back on the desk and spends a moment studying it. After all, he can understand what it is like to lose someone dear. But when Colette mentions the date, he lifts his head, his somewhat milky blue eyes, surrounded by age-creased skin, soften to the nth degree.

"You poor thing," he murmurs. "No, I…I came to New York, and Columbia, after that devastating day." He lifts his hand to rub uncomfortably at his beard before he extends it to pluck a framed photo from the desk and hand it to the young woman.

It's a headshot, softened around the edges, of a girl not too many years older than Colette herself, though she could pass for younger. There is a soft, smile on her lips as she looks at the camera past what appears to be a tree branch and from underneath a large, red knitted hat.

"Beatrice," Anselm says with a small smile, rubbing at his face again. "My daughter. She was attending New York University two years ago. I haven't heard from her since." Unlike many, Anselm and his wife didn't make it to the ceremonies held in remembrance of the bomb. With their daughter still missing, doing so would mean letting go of even one of the tiny threads of hope they cling to.

What at first is a very faint expression of disappointment, slowly turns into one of regret and worry as her brows raise and furrow as her eyes scan over that framed picture. Colette raises on ehand to the center of her chest, fingers curling around a tuft of the tan fur around the collar of her jacket. "I — " She can't take her eyes off of the girl in the photo, even if her jaw gives a slight tremble because of the implication. "I'm… I'm sorry." Her eyes downcast, finally pulling away from the depiction of Anselm's daughter.

"I — I didn't — I thought — " She clumbsily fumbles over her words, one hand nervously reaching out to take the burned photograph back, but she can't bring herself to look Dr.Gilbert in the eyes, not after having brougt up, even indirectly, a topic as cruel as that. "I — I'm sorry…" It's all she can say to the point, ruefully turning her head to the side as her fingers curl around the photograph, shakily taking it back to slide into her pocket.

"I — I didn't mean t-to — I mean, about your daughter. It — Um, I… I'm sorry for bothering you." Her shoulders curl forward as she manages to feign a half-smile, ducking her head and taking one step away from the desk. "I'm…" An idiot? Inconsiderate? Stupid for coming here? There's so many possibilities she can voice for what she feels. But the succinct, "Dumb," is about all she can muster.

Dumb? "Nonesense," Anselm says with a grave frown and a shake of his head, but the pronounced lines are not borne out of sadness. Anselm has cried his tears, and determination has replaced them. Or…most of them. There is a faint mistiness in his eyes, but there is something almost regal in his expression.

Standing, Anselm takes a deep breath and brings his hands around to clasp rub them together. "You're a brave girl, searching like that. No response any one gives you should dishearten you, because you believe you will see her again someday.

"Not a day goes by that my wife and I do not do our best to find Beatrice. Her picture is in every soup kitchen, every relief office, every…every Homeland Security registration center." A sad sort of smile slides onto his face, and the professor looks to his feet. "It's actually nice to know someone else is looking for someone. It makes the city seem…smaller, in a way."

A quiet, weak sound echoes in the back of Colette's throat at what Anselm says. Her eyes, distant and unfocused, aimlessly wander the floor as if searching for how to react to what is said. When she looks up, there's a very faint, if not somewhat penetant expression on her face. "I… I never thought about it like that before." Though her shoulders have slouched into a posture that speaks of her defeat, there is something of a hopeful look in her eyes as they rise up to meet those of the professor's.

"I do," she doesn't seem to think to explain the certainty at first. Not, at least, until it becomes clear to her in thought that it may be a bit ambiguous. "I — I mean, I do think I'm going to see her again. It… it's why I've, I mean, it's… it's why I try, you know?" There's a very faint smile there, "Until I know, one way or another, I… I'm not gonna' give up on her." There's reassurance in Anselm, that a man so many years her senior could cling to as much hope as COlette does. Perhaps, in a way, it makes her feel less childish, make her feel like she's not as weak for sticking to the slim thread of hope that Nicole has survived.

"Do… do you know anyone here who I might be able to talk to? Um, I… she never came home, the… the night before everything happened." Colette's eyes downcast for a moment, then drift to the side, as if chasing a thought. "This is the only place I thought she could be." Teeth tug slightly at her lower lip, "But… but so far none of the people I've talked to recognize her."

Helping people find people, or rather, hide from people who want to find /them/, is what Anselm does now, when he isn't teaching or scouring lists for Beatrice's name or description. "I think I might be able to help," he says before he sits back down and pulls a campus directory out of the drawer.

After a few page-flips, the professor is dialing a number. After a few rings, he's smiling and talking to whomever has picked up the other end.

"Hello, yes, this is Dr. Anselm Gilbert in the English Department. Hello, Andrea. I have a young woman here looking for a relative who went to school here two years ago. Yes. Nicole Nichols. Yes, I realize. I appreciate you taking the time. My office works just fine, yes. Thank you again, Andrea."

Off the phone, Anselm sighs and leans back in his chair. "I've called the registrar. They're going to get back to me when the find her name. That will give you a department, and possibly some former classmates. Is there a way I can get in touch with you…?" And it becomes uncomfortably apparent that Anselm doesn't know Colette's name.

Grimacing as she listens over the phone, there's a broad, almost admiring smile that crosses Colette's lips as she sees the professor go that extra mile for her that no one else really has. "T-thank you!" She blurts out with a broad grin, then with a squeak a moment after, she nods, "O-Oh, yeah, of course!" One hand moves to rummage around in the other pocket of her jacket, and she leans forward on her toes, over the desk, holding out what looks like a business card — certainly not hers.


Anti-Evolved Task Force.

On the back of the card is a printed phone number which has been crossed out with a blue pen, and another number has been written beneath that, with the name "Colette" written in rather femenine cursive. "That's where I'm living, he's my adoptive dad." There's an almost impish smile there when she says that, her nose wrinkling slightly. "My name's Colette," It is said more out of politeness than necessity, "It… It's really nice of you to do this for me, Sir." Perhaps a bit too formal.

Anselm takes the card and nods, Colette's smile somewhat contagious. He removes a sheet of paper from his desk and writes his own contact information, both his office and phone numbers, before adding "Dr. Anselm Gilbert" and handing it back to her in kind. "I would only expect that if you ever had a similar opportunity to help me find Bea…that you wouldn't hesitate." Anselm smiles, truly glad he could help. "If you need anything," even if it's just to talk, though she surely has her adoptive father for that, "…please don't hesitate to call."

"I… O-of course." Colette smiles warmly, "I… you know, I might know someone I can talk to about her. She — She's really good at figuring out stuff." Except for this, it seems. "Um, I… I really appreciate it, Sir." She slides the paper across the desk, neatly folding it into a square before safely tucking it away in her back pocket. "I'll ask Judah too, he might have some kind've favor he can pull with his department or somethin', maybe somebody's seen somethin'." Her smile grows a bit, and her eyes divert down to the floor as she considers something before looking back up. "I guess I'll try an' catch the next bus then, Mister Gilbert," Her head tilts to the side, eyes looking up and around the office meanderingly before settling back down on him. "I… I really do owe you for this."

"It's alright," Anselm insists with another shake of his head. "Where would the human race be without other members of the human race? Besides, if I help you, maybe the universe will help me. Or something to that effect. Take care of yourself, alright? I'll be in touch as soon as I find out who I can point you toward."

Nodding softly, Colette smiles to the doctor and takes another half-step back, "T-thank you so much!" She chirps out cheerfully, a complete turn-around from her previous expression. "Even if nothing comes of this, Mister Gilbert, I… T-thank you for everything." It's clear from her expression that Colette isn't at all used to this level of extra effort given to her search for her sister. Perhaps it's the sympathy of the situation that has given Anselm the guidance to follow-through as he has, that's what Colette will believe, and in a way, perhaps that's what is best.

But as the girl quickly skips out of his office, so much more cheerful than before, one thing is clear. He's colored her perception of teachers in an entirely different light. And that, above all things, may have been the best thing to comeof this meeting.

November 9th: Jump
November 9th: Revelations and Reunions
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