The Same Mistakes


colette4_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif

Scene Title The Same Mistakes
Synopsis I never did grow up
Feels like I never will
My friends are all adults
I'm still a teenage girl
Date March 6, 2020

Bay Ridge: Nicole's Home

“Here we go!” Nicole sets two plates down on the dining room table. One in front of an empty setting and the other in front of the seat occupied by her little sister. “Tortellini with ham and alfredo sauce!” As if that isn’t abundantly obvious just by looking at the offering in front of her. “Your favorite!”

The kitchen is the chef’s next destination, however, as she moves to retrieve two bottled drinks from the refrigerator. A beer for Colette and a ginger ale for her elder sister. Only after setting the bottle opener down in front of her guest does Nicole move to take her own seat.

If there’s one thing Daniel Linderman taught his protege in their years together, it was how to cook and how to make it look appealing. After all this time, even with her ridiculous work schedules, Nicole hasn’t lost her skill or affinity for it.

“Go on. Dig in.”

She’s awfully cheerful for a woman with several stitches across the back of her left shoulder. They apparently have her on the good drugs. Or she’s secured some of her own. Equally plausible.

Colette’s been sitting in silence for a moment, her expression somewhat inscrutable. She’s smiling, but there’s also a tension in her brow and an unfinished quality to the smile. “Nicole,” she says with a bubble of nervous laughter, blind eyes unfocused. She doesn’t pretend with them around her sister. “You know, I… I haven’t had this since I was like— god, twelve? Thirteen?”

It isn’t that Colette’s unappreciative, it’s more than she’s amazed Nicole remembered. She picks up her fork like it’s an alien implement, turning it over in her hand with another crease of her brows and a work of her jaw from one side to the other. “You’re acting manic right now,” she says with what feels like a look up from her food to her sister; there’s subtle tells even if she doesn’t move her eyes. “Are you sick? Are you dying?

“What? No! Surely not—” Nicole scowls with confusion at her sister. “Thirteen?” It can’t be that long ago, can it? Her face falls then, suddenly worried. “Oh no. Do you hate it? I can make something else.”

But the look on Colette’s face apparently isn’t about the meal, but about the reason why they’re having dinner together in the first place. That brings Nicole’s smile back, a dismissive wave given with her hand, the fork held between her fingers. “No, no, no. Nothing like that. Can’t I be excited just to be alive and having dinner with my baby sister?”

Setting down her fork, Colette goes still for a moment and seems immediately uncomfortable. “It’s fine,” she says, not having eaten a bite. “Nicole are— what’s wrong?” There’s a tension in the air, like a tea kettle reaching a boiling point that no one is taking off the heat.

“You’re acting weird,” Colette says with a hesitation. Because she almost said you’re acting like mom. The worst part is, it feels the same.

Nicole sighs and finally lets her own nervousness show in her expression. “I really can’t put anything past you, can I?” To be fair, Colette can’t get much past Nicole, either. The elder girl pokes at her food, pushing a cube of ham along the plate with the tines of her fork.

Then, she sets it down and looks back up to Colette, meeting her blind eyes with her own glowing ones. “You remember Zachery, right?” While they haven’t met - to the best of Nicole’s knowledge - since that visit to the hospital after the car accident, Nicole’s at least told her sister that they’re still seeing each other.

Maybe that’ll make this next part less of a shock?

…Probably not.

“Car accident asshole? Yeah,” Colette says flatly as she turns over her food with her fork, stomach twisting between hungry and upset based on the ebb and flow of the conversation. “If he got arrested there’s nothing I can do about it,” she basically jumps to the worst-case scenario. “I don’t know the DA very well and honestly I think he’s a little homophobic anyway, but…”

Colette exhales a sigh through her nose. “Did he get you in trouble?” It’s hard for Nicole to tell when Colette became a responsible adult with responsible notions and suspicions. It was somewhere between her stealing from an orphan and running with terrorists. Surely.

“No. No.” Nicole shakes her head emphatically. No, he’s not been arrested. “Please,” she scoffs. “I have enough clout of my own to handle that.” She doesn’t need her baby sister buttering up to the DA on her behalf. Who does she think she is?

When did Colette get to be this way? Nicole isn’t sure if she likes this better than the usual sass she’s come to expect. “Nnn—” That would be a lie if she finished that word, and Nicole tries very hard not to outright lie to her sister. Not anymore anyway. “He proposed to me. I said yes.

Oh.” Colette says in the exact same tone she did on Christmas Day 2000 when she was gifted a Smurfs onesie that she wore precisely once and never again. The last Christmas they would spend together before Nicole moved out.

“That’s— That’s absolutely something.” Colette struggles to sound positive, even if she’s forcing the biggest smile she’s ever made, which comes off as even more disingenuous. “How uh— how long have you two been… dating?” Then, sucking in a sharp breath, Colette tries to hide a dawning look of concern. “I mean you’re not pregnant, right?” She says with a laugh.

Because that’s ridiculous.

Nicole did not pick that onesie out. Brownie’s honor. But she does know that tone of voice, and it tempers any excitement she might have had about sharing this news — which was supposed to be joyous — with her sister. Colette may as well have responded thanks, I hate it.

With a brief peel of nervous laughter, Nicole lifts one hand to scratch at the back of her neck. “Almost a year now?” she says of how long they’ve been dating. “We met shortly after I got moved from the liaison position and into the field.”

Now, she feels like she has to give out the resume. “He’s really good, Sissy. He’s encouraging, he pushes me to succeed, not to let people use me as a doormat. When push comes to shove, he does the right thing.” She never made her sister justify her relationships. It feels unfair to have to do it now, but… Maybe if she would have pushed more when Colette was young, instead of trying to be the cool sister in place of a guardian, she would have spared her a lot more pain.

Maybe she can see where Colette’s coming from. Even if Nicole is well past old enough to make her own choices, even if they’re mistakes.

And she’s not saying she isn’t pregnant. Because, really, trying not to lie about things to Colette.

“He seemed like kind of a shit when we met in— ” Colette sets down her fork and rests the heel of her palm against her brow. “It’s fine. He’s fine. I’m sure he’s fine.” Sighing, Colette slouches forward and rests her forearms on the table on either side of her plate.

“Sis,” Colette says with a hitch of breath, almost starting her sentence one way but deciding another. “Isn’t this— I mean Pippa. Her dad just died.” There’s a slight tremor of her jaw when she says that. Colette didn’t know Ben Ryans well, but any time a member of the old Ferry passes, it’s hard. “Does she know yet?” About the wedding, about Ben.

Nicole can’t hold her sister’s gaze when she brings up the father of her daughter. “Yeah… Yeah, she does. We told her about the engagement before—” Before all that happened happened. “She knows. She knows Zachery is never going to replace her dad. Nobody involved wants him to.”

Blue eyes shut for a moment, a sigh passes from her lips as she considers how to say what she wants to say next. Reopening her eyes, she looks at her sister again finally. “Ben wouldn’t want me to put my life on hold.” Her mouth works around more words that at first only come out as another sigh. “And… I can’t do this alone. Yes, I have you. I have Ingrid, and I have Lucille and Delia. But you don’t live here. You’ve all got your own lives. Your own families to look after.”

Shaking her head helplessly, she lays it out: “None of you bring in a second income. None of you are going to be here to raise my kids.”

“If this is about money…” Colette says in near exasperation, reaching out across the table toward Nicole.

“Oh, yes,” Nicole fires back with a purse of her lips. “Because I want so much to live on my sister’s charity.” Yes, that’s a point of pride for Nicole. “You’re a cop. We both know there’s no money in that.” She’s meant to be looking after Colette, not the other way around. “No,” she counters firmly now. “It’s not about money.” Not just about money, anyway. “I’m well-compensated for what I do.”

It’s that last part that’s the issue. In part, she’s grateful Colette didn’t catch on to the slip of the plurality. Yes, Nicole has daughters, plural, but one is fully grown and doesn’t need any help being raised.

With a sigh, Nicole reaches out to meet her sister halfway and take her hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. I’ve… been under a lot of stress lately. I’m sure you can imagine.”

“It sounds like I don’t know how much stress you’ve been under.” Colette says a bit sharply, but it’s clear she’s trying to drain off tension from how hard she’s gripping her fork. That this didn’t turn into a shouting match shows how much she’s grown over the years.

“Zachery’s not…” Colette makes a noise in the back of her throat, “I’m sure he’s got some good qualities,” somewhere goes unsaid, “but this feels like a rebound. I don’t— I’m not trying t’dictate shit for you I just— I’ve seen your patterns, and I— I just— with all the stress, with everything that’s happened with Ben and— maybe you need to take a minute and think about this more?”

There’s no getting around this, is there? Nicole had hoped she’d get Colette to accept the impending marriage on its own without having to resort to… Well, the rest of it. “If I wait a minute, I’m not going to fit into a wedding dress.”

Nicole can’t meet Colette’s gaze after that, biting down on her lower lip and staring down at the table as though she might spark a fire on the tablecloth.

Jesus Christ,” Colette says into the palm of her hand, immediately averting her eyes from Nicole down to her dinner that is getting cold. She swallows tightly, looks back up with fingers still spread across her mouth, then shakes her head and runs that hand up along the side of her face and into her hair.

What the fuck were you thinking?” Colette suddenly barks out. “You— you hardly know him. You two haven’t even known each other a year have you? And you’re— are you seriously telling me you’re fucking pregnant?” The look of abject shock and confusion on her face is writ large. It’s the complete and utter opposite of her reaction all those years ago to finding that Pippa was on the way.

“I’ve known him a whole hell of a lot longer than I knew Ben!” Nicole snaps. She regrets it immediately. It hurts. It hurts badly to use his name. Especially, perhaps, for this argument. “I’m not fucking proud of myself, okay?! I already beat myself up enough, Sissy. I don’t need you to pile on.”

Sitting back in her chair, maybe if their upbringing had been different, the elder sister would be shouting about how the younger is not her mother. But that’s abundantly obvious. Evangeline Nichols never cared about the messes her eldest daughter got into as long as it didn’t embarrass her personally. Sometimes not even then.

Nicole bites back a comment about how she’s not a teenager fucking off to go commit acts of domestic terrorism. Even if they weren’t apples and oranges, Nicole is sure Colette would twist it into something about how her actions had been righteous and Nicole is just an idiot.

“I’m sorry to be a continual disappointment to my baby sister, the early adopter freedom fighter. The fucking paragon of society!” Nicole throws up her hands, voice getting more shrill as she goes. “Everything you do — even the stupidest fucking shit you’ve ever fucking conceived of — turns to gold!”

But it isn’t that Nicole believes that Colette thinks she’s better than her. It’s that Nicole knows that she’s not as good as Colette.

“That’s because I listened to people!” Is Colette’s quick comeback. “Jesus Christ, look at yourself. You’re not in your twenties anymore! This is the kind of shit I would’ve expected you to pull when I was a little kid, it’s like you’re aging in fucking reverse!

Getting up from the table, Colette presses one hand to the side of her head, starts to turn away, then turns back again. “I didn’t give you shit about Ben because I was nineteen! It seemed fucking romantic because I was a kid!” She waves one hand flippantly at her side.

“You’re almost forty!” Colette shouts, voice cracking. “You have a stable job, a good career, you have Pippa and now you’re— this fucking guy is like a— he’s like the rebound husband a divorced housewife gets after a trip to fucking Vegas!

If Vegas existed anymore. But that’s besides the point.

Colette closes her eyes and scrubs her hands over her face. “How the fuck did you even meet this guy? I… I don’t even know anything about him. And you’re— gonna marry him? Have his kid?

“At least neither of us shot up Liberty fucking Island!” Nicole shouts back. She’s still not quite sure how Colette managed to get out of that one. Nicole can fight hard for her loved ones, but even she doesn’t have that much pull.

Propping an elbow on the table, Nicole rests her forehead in her hand, forcing herself to just shut the fuck up and let her sister rant. She has had time to come to terms with her situation. Colette hasn’t. “I can’t be like you,” Nicole says in a softer tone of voice, more evenly now. “I don’t know what it is about— Maybe it’s because I got you out of there early.”

Even if Colette’s situation was horrible after the bomb, at least she wasn’t with their parents.

“I don’t know what’s fucking wrong with me, okay? I’m in fucking rehab and I’m trying to get my goddamn shit together.” Which is huge for Nicole. Firm believer in therapy for everybody but her. “I am trying to be a good mom and have a stable life for my freaking kids. And part of that plan is getting married to Zachery, because I love him.” Nicole lifts her head, braced for another volley of how she fucked up again. “If it turns out to be the wrong choice… again? That’s why divorce lawyers exist.”

Jaw set and hands clenched at her side, Colette takes the Liberty Island comment on the chin, but doesn’t snap. She reserves that for the latter content. “Oh yeah because the best choice for raising two kids is to get into a hasty fucking marriage and then divorce him if it doesn’t work out!

Colette kicks the chair in front of her, sending it clattering against the table. She turns around like she’s going to storm out, gets as far as two paces away and then whips around again. “Do you even hear what you sound like right now? This isn’t a fucking pair of pants you’re trying on this is a marriage and a human being!” She lifts her hands up to her head, then waves them at Nicole with a frustrated shout.

“There is no harm in waiting! In finding out if six months from now he’s— dangerous or— or Pippa’s not safe around him.” Colette’s voice hitches when she voices that deep fear. “Jesus Christ, Nicole, has Ingrid even met him? Has anyone? Or is this just some fucking dirty secret you’re springing on us when it’s too late to talk you down from the fucking ledge?!”

Three.” Nicole lifts her voice to be heard again. Just enough to be firm. No, Colette is not mishearing. “Three kids.”

At first Colette opens her mouth to correct Nicole. Then she stops. Then she opens her mouth again and then just steps away from the table again, running her hands through her hair. “Jesus Christ,” she mumbles. “Jesus Christ,” comes a little louder the second time. Then, turning back around to the table she throws her hands in the air. “Jesus, fucking Christ!”

Slowly, Colette’s fingers curl back against her palms. Nostrils flare. Eyes close. She slides her tongue across the inside of her cheek and shakes her head, then spreads her hands again and walks backwards a few steps. “You know what? Fine. Fine.

Colette gestures at the table. “This is what you want to do with the rest of your life, or— whatever. I need— some space. I can’t deal with this right now.”

Colette may as well have stabbed a knife into Nicole’s chest for all that she hurts right now. “I’ve never known, Colette.” What she wants to do with her life. “Zachery is a decent man. We didn’t plan for this, but it’s… where we’re at. We aren’t just making the best of things. We’re embracing it. I love him, I’m going to marry him, and I’m going to have his children.”

Nicole blinks away tears. “And I want you there for all of it. I want you to walk me down the aisle. I want you to hold my babies and… bitch when I still haven’t named one Colette Junior.

The older sister closes her eyes and nods her head finally. “If I seem to be aging in reverse,” Nicole postis, “maybe it’s because I never got to be a kid.” Her jaw sets tight. “Mom didn’t care about what the man we called dad—” She closes her eyes again, takes a moment to gather herself, then meets her sister’s gaze as well as she can. “It was only ever just me. I only ever had me. I didn’t have a dad come out of the ether to pick me up and try to shape me into a functional adult.”

Daniel Linderman was never a father figure in Nicole’s eyes. She never wanted a father after the one she’d been born to.

“So if I’m making stupid mistakes now, well… It’s because I never had the luxury of making my mistakes young. I had to keep it together and live my life for you, so you could have the room to live your life and make those mistakes. So I could be there to bail you out when you got busted for shoplifting candy bars. For breaking curfew. For pouring red hair dye into the Bethesda Terrace Fountain.” But for all of those examples of the errors Colette has made over the years, Nicole harbors no resentment. “I’m glad I was there to catch you when you fell as much as I possibly could be. I’m just asking you to cut me a little fucking slack, ‘Letty. I’m doing the best I know how.”

“This isn’t about me and my choices.” Colette says flatly. “Just because you had it hard doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for your own shit.” She closes her eyes again, massaging fingers at the side of her head.

“You don’t need a father to have people in your life you can listen to, take advice from, and trust.” Colette says with a tightness in her voice. “Before I had Judah I had you. Maybe once in a while…” she shakes her head and rakes her hand through her hair, “you could listen to me.”

Colette lifts up her hands and takes another step back. “I need to go. I can’t— do this with you. Not right now.”

Nicole opens her mouth to argue that it is about Colette. That, for her, it is always about Colette. But instead she pushes out a heavy exhale, letting the last of the fire drain from her. It feels like all the patience and understanding she gave her sister over the years, every opportunity she afforded her, has been taken for granted. Like the sacrifices she made aren’t enough to provoke a little bit of compassion.

But neither sister is good at feeling compassion for one another in the heat of the moment. That’s just a fact Nicole’s had to come to accept over the years. Colette requesting space is a huge step forward from the way they used to fight for hours. This is a comparatively brief blow-up.

“Sissy… No matter what, I love you more than anything, okay?” That has always been true, and if Colette hasn’t figured that out by now, she never will. Even if Nicole’s not great at showing it all the time, it’s still true for her. “When you’re ready to talk again… I’m here.” Until then, she’ll brood and she’ll stew, and she’ll give Colette the room to make her own choices.

Colette lingers in the doorway, blind eyes looking vacantly at Nicole. There’s a tension in her brows, no anger, just distress and disappointment. “Yeah…” she says in a way she learned from Avi; a blanket response that means both everything and nothing.

“I love you too.” Colette says on her way out.

That’s what makes watching Nicole do this so hard.

Nicole stands up from the table to start clearing the untouched dinner. She’ll just feed it to Zachery for lunch tomorrow. It all keeps in Pyrex. “Fuck,” she mutters under her breath as she scrapes tortellini and sauce into a glass container. It leaves her space for rumination on the notion of all the people in Colette Demsky’s life that were there for her and helped shape her into the resilient woman she is today.

And how Nicole feels like she wasn’t one of them.

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