Where The River Runs Quieter


joseph_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title Where The River Runs Quieter
Synopsis It's Sunday morning, and a visit to his church rewards Joseph with an unexpected encounter with another prophet who bears a gift and a message.
Date June 6, 2010

West Village: Outside the Ruins of the Guiding Light Baptist Church

It's practically hot today, for all that the morning has barely started: three days without a low below freezing, and the sun seems to be making up for lost time with how quickly it heats the air. Tamara's wearing shorts, even, blue denim ending just above the knee, despite the crisp edge on the morning breeze. Her T-shirt is also blue, darker, white silhouettes of butterflies and vining flowers chasing one another around the bottom hem. The girl's hair is loose, hasn't been brushed in the same way she hasn't slept last night; it's obvious, up close, in the nuances of appearance.

She sits on a bench, on a street almost free of snow. So near to almost that it seems wondrous — the first time in months there's been an actual city around the people, and not some kind of nearly-buried ice sculpture. Today there are still huddled heaps of white slush in the deeper shadows, and the concrete is dark with residual water, but it's not frozen. Perhaps that makes the charred husk of a building diagonal to the bench stand out all the more, a relic of fire's former presence in a place where water more recently held sway — or maybe not, as inured as the people of this area have become to its sight.

Tamara doesn't seem to pay it any attention, herself. She's reading. Or… she is leafing through the tissue-paper-thin pages of a small, squarish book at a pace just that little bit too fast to be actually taking in the words. To casual inspection, it passes for reading. The book's title has been stamped onto the front of its ivory-hued faux-leather cover, and in smaller font on the spine, gilt letters gleaming in early morning light: Holy Bible.

It'll be the first time, since the snow as Joseph's taken to simply calling the extended six month winter, that he's gone to see the Guiding Light. It's habit enough for him to have expectation in his stride as he moves down the West Village street, one hand tucked into the pocket of his coat with a scarf flagging loose around his neck. The other grips a lidded paper cup. There's been a time where he avoided this route entirely, but he's entered the phase of deliberate visitation — after a while, it might be just another street. Maybe.

His black eyes are down on the pavement in front of him, slick from slush but reassuringly stable and mostly uniced beneath the soles of his boots. Lifting his head, he first looks to the damage, the signature scar on the street that's yet to be smoothed out and healed — if you hadn't noticed, one burned out husk of a building is hardly a blip on the radar, in this city.

Next, to the bench he was expecting to occupy, and his shoes make loud scrapes in a halt when he too late sees it's been called for. There's a soft and rather thoughtless, if apologetic, "oh!" before he can't help but look at the King James in the girl's hands. That brings a rather compulsive smile to his face, before he's scanning the street for somewhere else to hang out. Likely he'll end up taking the other edge of the bench anyway.

Oh, indeed. "Please, sit," the girl says, lifting her gaze to look over the top of the book at Joseph. She smiles warmly at him, a crooked quirk of lips. "It was your bench, wasn't it?" A moment's pause, as if for thought, her expression considering… something. "You're no bother. More the other way around; sometimes that couldn't be helped." Apologetic, in her turn — but obliquely, and in a resigned way; however apologetic, that sentiment isn't going to change her course of action. Or choice of seating.

Folding the book closed, Tamara gestures with it towards the other side of — their — bench, equal parts invitation and demand. Rests her hands in her lap, with the Bible still caught between them, silent for the moments it takes Joseph to settle into his seat. Watches him, in a politely attentive fashion that has more of the attention part than the polite, really. "The sun still rises," the seeress finally observes, letting the context of the situation — of his interpretation — fill in whatever that statement might signify.

Well, it was. His bench. Joseph is moving to comply even after those words skate by him, registering around the time his spine hits the bench back and he has a moment to wonder why someone might know a thing like that. There's a glance of uncertainty traded her way, but dropped down to the cup in his hands when the girl already has her focus resting on him. He contents himself in peeling back the lid — not coffee or tea, but a watery if still reasonably rich serving of vegetable soup.

Shoulders curling inwards as he leans to take a sip. Betrays himself with a quick look towards his ex-church, then back to her. Hands clasp cup and settle between his knees. "Like clockwork. Some light reading?" he asks, with a nod for the book in her hands.

She smiles approvingly at Joseph — approval that skews into a lighthearted sort of wry amusement at his question. "Very light," she assures him, tone giving the words an odd subtext of personal joke. But Tamara doesn't linger there; doesn't leave the oddity hanging long enough for questions about it to fully form, if they begin at all. "The pages are almost like air," she continues. Maybe that explains the joke. Her thumb fans through the block of pages at one corner with a muted brrr, stops. "Like turning nothing," the girl adds, paging through several more in a seemingly idle fashion. "But it's much more than that, so much — if you stop to hear the symbols." Looking back up to Joseph, she holds the book out for him, fingers splayed to hold it open, as if in some well-meaning offer of demonstration.

He watches the passing of pages, the golden glint to their fine, fine edges and the tiny print like a blur when moved. Setting soup aside, just next to his thigh, Joseph obligingly takes the book, though lets it hover in between them as he tilts his head to read the passage she'd shown him beneath the thawing morning sun. Romans 5 is, like many excerpts, a familiar text to him — it strikes a chord that she can probably detect in the deepening of smile lines near his eyes, thumb pinning back a page with a degree of reverence.

"Symbols count for a lot," he agrees, without particular reservation for any oddness in the girl's choice of phrases and conversation. "There's a reason why every good Christian's got a cross 'round their neck." He nods down at the words. "To remember. You, uh," he glances up towards the church, focuses black eyes on her, "you ever went to the church? I mean. Before it…"

You know. "I'm sorry, you just seem familiar," Joseph adds, though he's not so sure she does.

That smile again, even before he asks — rueful, apologetic. "I know you," the girl says, "a little — but it's different. Not what you mean." Well that clears things right up. Tamara sits back against her corner of the bench, her own fingers folding together in her lap; silver glints in the sunlight, a curiously indented ring with a white stone gracing the third finger of her left hand. Apparently she doesn't want the book back immediately… or perhaps even at all. "I like churches," she comments, which may or may not be related. "The river runs quieter; sometimes it's almost like standing on the shore."

But he'll want to know about the other subject. The seeress glances away, blue gaze resting on the charred building with its drapery of black-and-yellow tape, on the tiny shards of color coaxed by sunlight out of soot-stained fragments clinging to the windowframes. "You don't know me," Tamara informs him, continuing to regard the ruined church. "At least, I don't think so. I don't read minds," she adds, glancing sideways, lips quirking in a smile to match the dry humor of the words.

That gets a soft moment of laughter, and Joseph balances the open book on his knee when she doesn't go take it back immediately. "Well," he says, leaning back in his seat and regarding blackened brickwork, dead windows and collapsed roof. The crucifix that once perched proudly atop the building, a cherry on a sundae, is completely gone — crashed down upon the charred pews within. "You never can tell with folks these days. I just— I used to meet a lot of people, before.

"So, not minds. Just good books." Or the good book, in this case. "How'd you know this was my spot?"

"You still met — meet — a lot of people, don't you?" Tamara points out. Maybe not as many as before, and not as regularly — but a good number. She shrugs at his query, looking down towards the pavement beneath her quiescent feet. "Roads cross," she supplies, cryptic but true. However one takes it. "I followed the shadows until the sun rose." The sun is here, he is here; apparently this is a recipe that works. At least once. The girl closes her eyes, leaning back against the bench. Quiet, for a moment, still; then her lips move, and her lungs, but she doesn't open her eyes to look. "That one. Five. What do you hear, when it speaks?" There's something serious in the query, grave beyond casual small talk of two maybe-acquaintances.

The Bible is held between two hands, now, square in his lap as Joseph reads over the familiar text — a skimming kind of scanning that comes when you've read the words before. If he's bothered by the sharp turn of conversation, it doesn't show. It's Sunday morning — a time to pay tribute to the word of God if there ever was one. There is a suspicious glance dealt Tamara's way, regarding the people he meets and the roads that cross— she's probably seen such a look in people's eyes before— but the text is, ultimately, given better scrutiny.

"Hope. You know, mainly." The pages flutter a little as his thumb runs over the gold edges. "A lot of people wouldn't take too kindly over the notion that we start out sinners and die as sinners, all through the actions of one man. The first man. But Christ died for our sins so that we may know the grace of God and eternity."

His fingertips patter against the pages and Joseph looks up again, to her and away. His soup turns to lukewarm next to him. "It's not a bad sen'iment to remember, when you've— you know. Done things. I reckon men and women a mite bit older'n you might find greater hope in it."

Eyes closed, perhaps she's unaware of his regard. The suspicious glance, and the pensive one after. "Hope," she echoes, testing the word. It works well enough. "Important to remember that," the girl agrees, with that same gravity — followed by a moment's levity, blue eyes slitting open to peer sidewise at Joseph. "You're 'a mite' older than me," she points out with playful smile. Lighthearted… but at the same time not, because there's a subtext not masked at all beneath that tone: remember this.

"Hope," Tamara says again. "And more than that." But she stops there; watches him for a few beats, a faint creasing of skin around eyes marking the fact of contemplation without revealing such thoughts as might arise from it. In the end, the seeress smiles again — the sort of expression, curiously parental in its affection, that a certain pastor himself likely bestowed upon many a flock member, once upon a time. She slides from the bench, one hand ducking into a pocket; steps in front of Joseph, and deftly brings something down over his head, around his neck, before the hapless subject can even quite register that intent.

"But that's the important part. Especially when one finds themself, all unmeaning, a hinge on which history swings; the river doesn't know kindness, Joseph," the sybil says softly, regretfully. Regretful to a depth that a twenty-year-old girl shouldn't be. "But it came full circle in its course: it had no malice either." She smiles; if the smile is bittersweet, it is also sincerely warm as her fingers rest just briefly against his shoulder. "I know that isn't worth much. You can leave — but a hinge is a hinge for a reason. Sometimes there's only one who can pay for the gift." Her hand falls away; the smile stays. "I couldn't do it, not this time.

"Keep faith." Blessing, benediction, and a prayer in its own peculiar fashion.

He only startles a fraction — fearful dogs will do this in their own way when uncertain as to the meaning of the hand reaching for them, flatten the line of skull to the base of their neck and roll their eyes to track the movement. Joseph only ducks a little, but his hands grip the Bible a little tighter as opposed to urge her hands away, and it's done. A troubled line writing between his brows, and his hand searches up for the thing hanging off its silver chain, resting against the cotton of his sweater and glinting in low sunlight. He looks at it.

The crucifix winks up at him, all silver edging along its four spokes, capping the flaring ends of each. Glass of stained colours makes the pendant something delicate and damaged, reminiscent of (if not the same as) the sharp, jagged remains of the heat-broken windows of the church's husk just diagonal to them both.

She doesn't need to say his name, before he's said it, to impress him, or make an impression. I'm trying, seems the kind of thing he shouldn't say, but almost does — enough so that Tamara can probably hear it even if she does not read minds. In the present, what Joseph says is, "I will. I have."

Another smile: affectionate approval, and the girl bobs her head in a nod. "You have," she affirms; trying is good enough, all any sybil can ask for. If she is an agent of anything, Tamara doesn't say. She steps back instead, away, apparently in prelude to departure; shakes her head to settle long blonde hair back behind her shoulders. Tips her head at a contemplative angle, her gaze going somewhere just past the right side of his head. "You can call me Tamara," she offers, in advance of any such query; a rare gift of its own, though Joseph has no measure of this. "…Brooks. You might know it better." Or maybe not, her smile adds as the girl refocuses on his actual face, forgiveness of the possibility granted before it even happens. "If you ever called at all. Don't worry: I wasn't offended."

And on that note, she turns to walk, shoes scuffing against the sidewalk's dank concrete.

"It was— " He knows that name. Pretty sure! There is a simple way of finding out, too, if he does, and Joseph's crooked smile goes unseen as Tamara already has her back turned. "Nice to meet you. Tamara." 'Nice' makes room for an amount of strangeness, and he sits back against the bench as his vegetable soup continues to let free the last of its steam and warmth as he instead looks down at the book still in his hands.

By the time Tamara is across the road, he turns a page.

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