Walking on One Shoe


judah_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title Walking on One Shoe
Synopsis Judah receives a phonecall from Tamara on her birthday.
Date March 4, 2009

Le Rivage — Judah's Apartment

When was the last time you saw her?

Can you think of anywhere she might have gone?

Do you know of any friends your daughter might be staying with?

Judah Demsky has heard the questions a thousand times before — straight out of his own mouth. He never expected that he'd ever find himself in a position to answer them. The past week has been rough on the detective; although his job with the NYPD has given him intimate familiarity with the process, he struggled through Colette's missing persons report, filing it several days after she disappeared without a copy of the letter she left behind.

Her confession, he reasons, isn't going to help his colleagues track his adopted daughter down any faster. Even in times of dire need, Judah remains a private person. Letters addressed solely to him shouldn't be photocopied and passed around the bullpen for everyone to read, no matter how relevant they are.

His long, lean form stretches from one side of the couch the other, bum leg draped carelessly over the furniture's leather arm. With his face buried in the crook of his elbow to block out the late afternoon light streaming in through the apartment's windows, it would be hard for another person to know if he's resting or asleep, but Jupiter has no difficultly discerning one state from the other as he sits quietly beside the couch and rests his head on one of the cushions near Judah's face, panting softly in his ear.

Someone else doesn't need to wonder whether Judah is awake or asleep, though she herself is a long ways away from the apartment; farther than she's gone since Judah first met her. It's not often Tamara actually leaves the bounds of New York City, but she has. Distance, however, can be crossed in ways other than in person — and today, she makes the effort to bridge it.

The sound of Jupiter's panting is abruptly drowned out by the insistent ring of Judah's phone.

It's not unusual for someone to be calling Judah's cell, not when there's an investigation underway, and especially not when the investigation involves his family. He reaches into his pocket with his free hand, closes his fingers around the phone and then fishes it out, not bothering to check his caller ID before he flips it open and holds it up to his ear.

He thinks he knows who it is. He's wrong. "What is it?"

If he had checked the caller ID, all the useful information it would've given him is an area code far from here. Tamara smiles at Judah's gruff… it isn't even a greeting, but it's eminently typical of the detective. Not that Judah can see her smile — but he can hear the attenuated sounds of children at play in the background, and even more distantly the muted rumble of occasional automobiles passing by.

The voice on the other end is bright and affectionate, also slightly wistful, and very, very familiar. "Hello, Judah."

Just as he can't see her smile, Tamara won't be able to detect the smell of alcohol on Judah's breath, but the slight slur with which he speaks indicates that he's probably been drinking. So does the prolonged pause between the teen's greeting and his response. "Tamara?" he asks, raw and hoarse. Until he heard her voice on the other end of the line, he'd forgotten what day it was — now it all comes rushing over him, flooding his mind with abrupt comprehension. "Where are you?"

"Not close enough," the teen replies glumly, in a quixotic change of mood. "I'm sorry." Judah can imagine, in the momentary silence that ensues, Tamara's puzzled-but-game frown; the I'm going to try really hard to answer this even though you ask impossible questions expression she so often gets when such inquiries are made. "There's… shops and grass and a road. And slides and things. I like the chain rail. It's a… a…" The frown deepens; Judah knows the way her nose wrinkles when the girl is searching for an elusive word. "I don't know!" Tamara finishes, rather cheerfully. "But you can look at the phone."

Slides and things. If Tamara was still in New York City, that might help. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that this isn't the case — a cursory glance at the phone's face reveals an unfamiliar area code that Judah commits to memory. He'd ask her if she knows Colette is missing, but he stops himself before the words can come tumbling out of his mouth.

This is Tamara he's talking to. What doesn't she know? Apart from how to convey where she is.

"Do you want me to come find you?" Want, not need. If she needed anything, she'd tell him.

Soft laughter is carried across the digital interface, a gentle amusement. "Nooo… Judah got lost," comes the girl's singsong response; he can hear her grin. Anyone would, trying to find 'slides and things' two timezones away from their usual stomping grounds. He could argue that Tamara wouldn't let him…

…but then again, maybe she would.

"It isn't finished. Isn't even started, really. But there wasn't so long left." Flippant good cheer replaced by solemnity; not the child, but the seer. "Not so long. The circle closed; the end and the beginning, but… different." There's a pause; the pause stretches.

"Don't leave, Judah," Tamara finally says softly, abandoning the role of prophet once more. "Don't lose the shadows. You can't see them but they were there, they really were."

Judah's eyes lid shut and he exhales a strained sigh through his nostrils. The only thing worse than feeling useless is feeling helpless. Don't leave, she says. Don't leave. "I won't," he promises, and not just because she told him to. He can imagine how skipping town while Colette is still missing might look to his superiors — worse, he loath to think of what it might look like to Colette if she had a change of heart and decided to return home in his absence.

"I miss you," he offers lamely, voice growing tight as he reaches up to drag the knuckles of one calloused hand across his unshaven face. "Everything is falling apart."

"Not yet," Tamara assures him gently. "The trees look funny but the forest is okay." A beat of silence, brief but definite. "I know. I am sorry," the girl says again; it means something, that (if context is anything to go by) she can express sentiment for a past/present circumstance and not the intangible, ephemeral possibilities of the future. Some measure of how important their peculiar amalgam of family is to the seeress. But the moment passes. Laughter again, bright and merry. "Bad pennies always came back when you least expected them."

"It's— hard," Judah insists, but leaves it at that. He swallows, hard, feeling his throat involuntarily contract under its own power. There haven't been tears in his eyes since he first discovered Colette's farewell letter, so maybe it's a good thing they remain closed. "Is it my fault, Tam'?" he asks thinly. "Did she leave because of me? Because of what I did? I never meant to hurt—"

"The mirror can't see why," Tamara reminds the detective gently. Which means only that she can't be certain. That inference and extrapolation are the seer's tools here. But she has a whole host of words to work from. "You know… what she said. She… left for you," the girl continues, the words slowly spoken. They don't come easily, and she has to feel her way around each and every one. "She forgets the road goes both ways; that it's really not so good to walk on one shoe."

Judah is silent now, calm stretching out across the line, spanning the distance between them. When he starts to speak next, his voice cracks as his Adam's apple jumps in his throat, but he quickly wrangles control over his emotions and smoothes it out again. "Th— Thank you." He pulls in a deep breath, then shakily lets it back out again. Once he's sure that he can maintain his composure, he opens his eyes, bloodshot, and rolls his gaze all the way up to the ceiling. "Happy birthday, kiddo."

Silence is returned with silence; Tamara can wait until he's ready to speak. She usually does. The girl grins broadly at Judah's words; the phone vaguely picks up the sound of gravel crunching beneath her feet as she drops off whatever she was sitting on. "I have to go — my ride's here." Such a normal teenager statement, that one. Jarring juxtaposition. Tamara chuckles. "Happy birthday, Judah!"


Judah claps his phone shut and lays it down on his chest, turning his head to look down Jupiter's muzzle into the dog's large brown eyes. One hand goes behind his ear, idly rolling a loose flap of furry skin between his fingers. "I know, boy," he murmurs, letting his head loll against his shoulder, "I know."

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