We Need More Light


emily_icon.gif julie_icon.gif

Scene Title We Need More Light
Synopsis Sometimes when things seem darkest, the solution is a simple one.
Date August 28, 2018


«…in other news, Yamagato Industries has announced a resolution to the extended blackouts that have plagued the Safe Zone for the past week.»

The tinny sound of a small radio echoes through the high-ceilinged space of a warmly-lit Elmhurst apartment. In spite of being in the same neighborhood as Elmhurst Hospital, the neighborhood that shares its namesake isn’t exempt from the blackouts. For the last week, it has been a state of total blackout from 5pm to 11pm. It’s hardly a noticeable difference , though, for those who work long hours.

«This is supported by reports early this morning from Williamsburg and Bay Ridge that rolling blackouts in those neighborhoods ended on schedule. We will be collecting updates from other neighborhoods as the day goes on, but at this point it appears things are back to normal.»

Seated at the narrow kitchen table by the sliding glass door, Julie Fournier-Raith listens to the small, battery powered radio sitting in front of her. A half-wrapped protein bar sits on the table in front of her, picked at in part and pieces, beside a bottle of water. It’s the best she could scrounge up for dinner, with the food rationing still ongoing. Outside, the sun is setting in the west against the purple-pink sky, burning like an orange dot as it dips down to the city skyline.

«This is WSZR Radio, and it is 7:45 pm. We now end our broadcasting day, transitioning to repeater status for WRAY out of Manhattan, Kansas.»

As the radio switches over from a woman’s voice to music, it’s something caught mid-song. Creedence Clearwater’s Bad Moon Rising gets all of four notes before Julie switches the radio off and the apartment falls absolutely silent. There is no electricity in Elmhurst at this hour, not even with the blackouts restored to their usual schedule. She rises from her seat, aching feet still in her work sneakers, still dressed in the dark pink scrubs from work. She walks over to the sliding door, hauls it open to let in fresh air, and steps out onto the balcony.

The noise of the city is close here on a ground-floor apartment, and the balcony overlooks the sidewalk and scrub undergrowth that was once a garden in the apartment building’s perimeter. Two horses trot by, laden with brightly colored rolled tarps, backpacks, and coolers bungee-corded to a pack saddle. Reaching inside of the right front pocket of her scrubs, Julie sneaks out a nearly flattened pack of cigarettes with her good hand, trying to shake them out without disturbing the other arm that still rests in a cast from elbow to wrist.

She fumbles the pack, dropping it to bounce off the railing, then tumble down into the overgrowth below the balcony. “Fucking fuck— fuck.” Julie hisses, slamming the heel of her good palm against the iron railing with a resounding clang, followed up by a tired kick.

It’s been a long day.

It's a thought that Emily shares as she fumbles with her keys by the front door, habitually fussing with them first rather than checking the knob itself. She's exhausted to the point she's barely on her feet, having spent the day helping fill informational packets and decorate classrooms at the new Winslow-Crawford satellite down at Brooklyn College. She wasn't too proud to argue against the pre-paid taxi ride offered back, grateful to be home before dark, even if it's just barely. The volunteer experience was way out of her comfort zone, both physically and mentally, so she's ready to just be DONE with the day.

She pauses just before putting the key into the lock. Judging by the yelling she just overhead from the other side of the door, Julie's in the same boat. "Oh." Emily intones to no one in particular. "She's home already."

Twisting the already-unlocked knob, she pushes the door open and wriggles her forearms free of her crutches, looking across the living room to stare at Julie with a raised brow. "Something wrong?" she asks lightly, rhetorically, leaning the crutches against the inside wall just beside the doorway. As she shuts the door behind her, the wall shakes just enough that the woefully balanced items make a graceful slide scraping down the wall to hit the floorboards with a much less grateful clatter. It's a metaphor for her mood and her person, honestly. Emily gives them an exasperated sigh at them, fingertips grazing the wall as she takes a few uncertain steps toward the couch and then falls headfirst onto the cushions, face in a throw pillow.

The sigh she lets out then is relieved, instead of exasperated. She's home, after all. She lies prone only a moment to savor being off her feet, then wriggles up onto her elbows, brushing her hair out of her face while looking up at her cousin. "You haven't even taken your shoes off yet." she observes sympathetically. She hasn't taken hers off either, after all. "Must have been a rough day."

“Could've been better,” is Julie’s diminutive response from the balcony. She supposes it's better she dropped the cigarettes, than get caught sneaking a butt in the house. Or at all. “Just— hospital stuff.”

She leaves the sliding door open when she comes back into the apartment, letting fresh air flow in from the outside. “How’d the stuff at the college go?” Is an easy deflection, focusing on simpler problems than her own. Julie meanders to the couch in that time, settling down on the arm and only then starting to unlace and wrench off her sneakers.

"Oh, watch those kids not even appreciate all the hard work into making that place look pretty." is Emily's immediate cynical response, and she stares out the balcony doorway in a silent threat for anyone to dare to mess up the decorations. Then her expression slacks and she rolls to the side so there's more space to sit down on. It's convenient enough, letting her shove the throw pillow under the side of her head with one hand bracing it to make it more comfortable.

"It was all a bit surreal, actually." she murmurs, the quietness of the comment a sure indicator it's an honest response. "A school for SLC kids, where they don't have to worry about prejudice? Makes everything just seem… normalized." A shift of her eyes to her cousin, to add. "And it's not like it's segregated. They'll let anybody willing to pay private school tuition go, assuming they're not… you know." Her face screws up for a moment in a bit of a grimace. 'You know, a bunch of regressionist assholes.' the look says.

Julie is somewhat more optimistic, but only just. She expresses it by way of a huff of laughter as a shoe falls to the floor with a thunk. When the next drops, she slides off of the arm of the sofa and down into the space Emily evacuated for her. “Having a place to grow up… where you can feel free?” She looks down and over to Emily, the stress creasing her brows fading some. “That's worth more than any amount of money.”

Slouching back against the leather sofa, Julie closes her eyes and unties her hair from the bun at the base of her neck, rolling the elastic down onto her wrist. “If people had pulled their heads out of their asses a decade ago and got behind that idea, we wouldn't be waiting for the fucking power to come back on right now.”

It's going to be a long wait.

All Em can do is let out a hum of agreement, looking off at nothing in particular as the inside of the room grows dim as the sunlight continues to recede toward the distant horizon. "Kept telling me I was good with kids, that I should come back around. Volunteer. Job, maybe." She says abruptly, all stream of consciousness. A glance back toward Julie with a small frown interrupts it, briefly. "It's pretty far. Long day, probably. Less long than today, maybe. But I don't know. Tired enough as it is." Before she can make any more excuses to try and cover up her own indecision, she decides it's best to segue.

"Mom called yesterday. Asked me what I wanted for my birthday." It's said wearily, like she wants to scoff at the concept but knows better than it. There'd be no talking her mom out of the idea, since it was already in her head. "'You're in Kansas. I'm in New York. You really think it's getting to me any time soon?' I ask her. 'Oh, that's a good point. I'll have it delivered by courier.' she says. Because… that's… normal." Emily wipes a hand down her face, grumbling at the retelling, since she can't grumble at the person responsible for the grumbling. "Here I was, just trying to dissuade her from the effort at all, and she had to go overboard about it."

She sits herself up on her elbow again, glancing down at her couch buddy. "I don't know. Sounds like she's sending something no matter what. Anything you think we need? As much as I hated it at first, that little solar-powered lamp's been pretty nice." Speaking of it, Emily turns to look for wherever she left it last night, since the sun's going down. "Figure we might as well ask for something useful, before she sends something ridiculous."

The sigh Julie exhales goes on for nearly as long as Emily had talked for, just a slow deflation in response to everything. “You should do it,” Julie sidesteps the topic of the birthday present for the moment. “The job, I mean. Whitney is loaded and if you can land a position at the school… even just as an intern,” she swipes a quick look over to Emily. “That could be huge, long-term.”

Always the pragmatic one, Julie laces her hands behind her head, crossing one leg over the other at the knee. “Have you given any thought to… what you want to do? Long term?” Realizing how that sounds, Julie is quick to append. “I mean, you're welcome to live here — with me — for as long as you want. I meant more… professionally. School? The fact that it's even an option anymore is…” her attention tracks to the solar powered lamp, hanging on a hook beside the sliding door. Birthdays go unspoken still.

That sentence hadn't ended at all how Emily had thought it would. Her jaw works as she chews on the well-meaning question, head giving an almost imperceptible shake as she feels Julie prep to try and soften the straightforward question with explanations behind it. She really didn't need to. Honestly, Julie had more right than anyone to ask her that.

"It… I mean, I'm sure if I started working there, there'd probably be reduced tuition cost." she points out conversationally. It's not an agreement to look into it, though. "So one thing could lead to another."

The nod Julie gives at that phrase is more knowing than it needs to be. “Yeah,” has a touch of weight to it. “School would be good for you, I think. It's about time someone other than me appreciates how sharp you are. You could probably work on your GED while you're there and then just transition to college courses when you're done. I doubt it'd take you that long. I can help with all the…” She makes a motion with her good hand as if trying to define an abstract. “The paperwork. Details. I had to jump through a lot of hoops in Canada.”

Mentioning Canada has Julie looking distant for just a moment, followed by a slow blink and then a look to Julie with a ghost of a smile replacing the pensive look in her eyes. She stares at Emily for a moment, then, pupils dilating to far beyond their normal width before narrowing back down again. “Still haven't manifested,” she confirms, as both an aside and a distraction for herself.

For some reason, Emily's possessed to sigh when it's suggested she should get out there and show the world what she's made of. Suddenly not comfortable lying down, she pulls herself more properly up onto her arms and twists about to try and scoot her legs out from behind Julie. Her legs are screaming at her, aching and exhausted from the day, not wanting to cooperate, so she grabs her knee to help better swing herself out and get her shoes off.

It's easier to avoid answering directly, being doubled over like she is. And she can't believe she's dodging all of it to begin with. World's your oyster. Jules is offering to help you out and everything. Committing to something like that right on the spot didn't feel right though, and anyway… Just what DID she want to do with her life? She'd have to do some soul-searching.

Kicking away the tennis shoes, she takes a moment to massage her calves before sitting back upright, an amused snort escaping her as she's confirmed to be another day unordinary, but still mysteriously so. "Oh, good. Well, that's one less worry."

She sinks back into the sofa, head leaning back so she can look up at the ceiling. Lips part as she takes in a breath to speak again, and then holds onto it for a while before finally deciding what to say. "Let me think about it. The answer's … probably…" she trails off. Maybe 'probably' is the whole response.

She bites down on the inside of her lip, shaking her head to herself. The rest of the breath still hasn't been spoken or exhaled yet. "I mean, what's the worst that could happen?" is finally sighed out, both her hands exhaustedly lifting up from her lap only in order to flop back down. "There's nothing locking me into just one thing, after all. I should just try something, anything, see how it fits, and move on if it doesn't."

It'd be hard to be patient with herself, and with the process. She knew already that she'd have to fight back the urge to roll her eyes at anything she couldn't stand, like unhelpful processes. Unhelpful people. Things taking too long for her liking. The list stood to be long, and would have to include blank space to account for bullshit she didn't even know she'd have to face yet.

She wanted to rocket off the couch right at that instant, go get it all taken care of and lined up right then before the impulse left her. There was a slight problem there — business hours being over, namely. That, and a commitment like college would take more than just a kneejerk decision to get into. Like Julie said, there would be paperwork. Process. Bureaucracy. Not just something you could cannonball into. Declaring you were up for it didn't just make it so.

Her head suddenly lifts off the couch and she pushes herself to her feet, deciding she's had enough of trying to manage her own expectations, instead of just facing matters head on. "I'll sleep on it." she definitively promises out loud, hoping to end that trail of conversation. Her right leg is spasming, making her steps more shuffled and uncertain than she'd like them to be, but she stubbornly crosses to the sliding door to unhook the lantern and hold it up as an excuse for a segue as she turns back. "So? What do you think?" she asks, hoping the best for the shift in topic.

Julie’s expression is briefly chastising, but it's quick to fade when she sees Emily take the lantern and come back with it. Affording herself a smile, the blonde leans back on the couch and looks from the light to her cousin, then back again.

“I think if we wrapped you in a sheet, you could pass as Lady Liberty.” There's an uncommon wryness to Julie’s tone there, the corner of her mouth creeping up into a half-smile.

“I think we need more light.”

Emily grins broadly at that, thrusting the lantern up into the air, looking to the 'sky' and declaring, "Let there be light!"

It'd have more of a dramatic effect if there was a switch on the handle. As it is, it's on the top of the lantern instead. She sets it down on the coffee table, flipping it on so they're not staring at each other's shadows instead of each other's faces. The faint glow it casts around the living room tilts it slightly away from the shadows' favor.

"Best I can do, under the circumstances."

Coming to stand by the sofa's side, leaning against the wall, she folds her arms, brow raised. "So what's going on at the hospital? Anything worth venting about?"

“Not photokinetic, check.” Julie notes with that mirthful wryness creeping back in. “And uh, no. Nothing, really. Some folks were shitty to Sasha behind his back at work today,” Julie admits with a look into the lamplight, “so I put salt in their coffee when they weren't looking. He tries,” she insists. The jury is out on that.

“Otherwise… no, I mean… it’s been quiet.” Julie lies with a vacant look in her eyes. “No rat swarms, no idiots playing the tuba in a trauma ward.” Her smile feels just a touch forced now, but still there as she looks back to Emily. “Sometimes I wish I'd taken up something else. Maybe… more school or…”

Emily skeptically clicks her teeth off the inside of her cheek at the mention of Sasha. She has her reservations.

"Maybe we could take classes together!" she suggests brightly, before she even realizes she's gone back to the topic she'd swore off for the evening. She seems all too happy to consider the change of pace for the sake of perking up Julie's mood. "I'll not let you copy my work, though. Much."

Shifting awkwardly in her seat, Julie looks aside and her smile fades for a moment, then comes back as she exhales a breathy and brief laugh. “It’s not like I didn’t go to school,” is said somewhat defensively, if only because it’s a tender spot in her pride. “I was assisting with microbiology and…” she closes her eyes, one hand coming up to rake fingers through her hair. “None of my education is on paper.”

Which is of exactly zero help for Julie. She reclines back against the sofa again, head back and chin up, staring at the ceiling. Blonde hair rests in curving tresses at her collarbones, spills over the leather of the sofa in sharp contrast to its chocolate hues. “I had to go to classes for nursing. I’ve been putting in IVs since I was ten.” She’s bitter, about a lot of things.

It's not like she has the experience without the proof, like Julie does, but Emily certainly understands the frustration. "Well, then look at it this way, you'll breeze through the courses." she offers back, challenging with her light tone just what the big deal must be. How quickly their roles swapped. "If you promise not to tell the professors the proper way to do things, I'll promise to…" she trails off, pondering just what would make the deal worthy.

“Actually cook dinner?” Julie blinks a look over at Emily, reaching up to brush her hair off of her collar and sweep it behind her head. “Because if one of us doesn’t start something soon, I’m going to cannibalize you.” One blonde brow raises slowly. “And…” she glances kitchenward, “it… will be hard, with an electric stove and…” her eyes close, brows furrowed, “…no electricity. Won’t it?”

Ruefully, Julie’s smile turns to a grimace. “Dinner cereal?”

In return, Emily grins sheepishly, shoulders shrinking up into a shrug by her ears. "Probably a bad time to mention I had a late lunch before leaving the campus." she says, not exactly apologizing. She makes ready to receive and deflect any thrown objects, the best she can. At least to make sure it doesn't hit her right in the face. "No breakfast bars left? I mean, if you hold out for a few hours, I'll make you real dinner?" Though she might just be saying anything to avoid the wrath of a hungry relative.

Sliding her tongue across the inside of her cheek, Julie levels a half-lidded stare at Emily, then slowly shakes her head and rolls her eyes. “You're fucking impossible,” she says with a smile, slowly rising off of the couch and walking across the floor to Emily’s side. “You figure out what we’re cooking without fire,” she drapes one arm over Emily’s shoulder, “I'll supervise so as to not uh, burn everything, and then…”

Julie levels a look down at Emily and pulls her in to a brief, gentle embrace. “…Then we can go up to the roof, bring the radio with us, and watch the stars and listen to music.”

For all her stress and tension, Julie never once takes out her daily frustrations on Emily. Perhaps it's because of her uncanny familial resemblance, perhaps it's the fact that for the last seven years Julie has been half the person she ever was before. Perhaps it's because in a way, Emily is as much a surrogate sister as she is a cousin.

Perhaps, the finer details don't really matter.

As long as the end result is happiness.

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