You Loved Him


gillian_icon.gif lene_icon.gif

Scene Title You Loved Him
Synopsis Gillian celebrates Jolene's birthday.
Date October 10, 2018

Most days, Gillian doesn’t take the entire day off. She usually works at least a few hours, even if she doesn’t work any longer than that, sending out emails from her office at the library, working on a future book, all of those things. But this morning she didn’t even leave the house at the right time. Instead she can be heard moving through the brownstone, with the smell of actual eggs and real bacon. She’s also not dressed in her usual business casual attire, all subdued. Instead she’s wearing something more like what she’d worn when the girl first met her in the past.

Black top, jeans, her hair hanging around her shoulders. Still blonde, but it gives a different appearance, even then. She’s there, standing in the door frame of Jolene’s room, which despite the possible new addition to the family is still hers. The room’s on the first floor, after all, has the set up for handcap assistance. It will always be her room. Except those few times that people borrow the bed cause it was the first one they saw.

“You awake yet? I’ve made breakfast.”

The young woman should have been going into work at some point today— if Gillian hadn’t made a special trip by the radio station and made a personal request with a promise of giving a personal interview in a few weeks. She has plans for the day— and she’d been preparing for it for almost the entire year.

The room is empty, bed made haphazardly. Jolene’s never really liked the ground floor room, she's always stubbornly wanted to be on the second floor, always wanted it because it wasn't easy. Her window is open, however, and looking deeper into the room Gillian finds her daughter just outside the window, the top of her burgundy-dyed hair just barely visible over the bottom sill. Her crutches are leaning up against the window frame, and she seems to have just… climbed out, rather than using the front door.

Situated beneath the ground floor window on a narrow strip of mossy soil that borders the space between the brownstone’s front face and the sidewalk. Barefoot and in her sweats, Jolene has a book braced against the back of her knees, hair tied back with an elastic, feet damp in the morning dew.

That’s one of the advantages of having a first floor room, which Gillian would likely point at at some point. Her feet wouldn’t be able to touch the dirt at all, wouldn’t get the feel of the soil and the dew. For a moment, the unnaturally blond woman just observes, watching from the doorway with a slight tilt to her head. The fresh air does smell nice, carrying the humidity of the bay into the house with that slightly cool air.

At least she’s awake. Moving up behind her, looking down through the window with one hand braced against the jamb, she tries to make some noise in her approach so as not to startle, before saying again, “I made breakfast.”

And some plans, but she can say that later.

Jolene doesn't reply right away. Instead Gillian watches her fold up the book she was reading with a strip of paper for a bookmark, then slowly and unsteadily pushes herself up to stand. Good hand braces against the wall, Jolene sets the books on the sill and then with a grunt of effort and a grimace levers herself up to sit on the sill. She could go around, to the front door, back inside; this isn't about practicality.

Once she's seated on the sill, Jolene tugs at her legs one by one, assisting in moving them first into a somewhat side-saddle position, then moving them through the window with more attention paid to her bad leg. Once she's inside she ducks under the window frame and drops down onto her good foot, retrieving her crutches and leaving the books to sit.

“Waffles?” Lene asks with one brow raised, a hint of a smile spread thin.

No hand is offered, though Gillian takes the book laid on the sill and sets it on a nearby nightstand, so that it doesn’t accidentally fall in or out, glancing briefly at the cover to occupy herself while she resists the urge to help her daughter. She knows, in part, what this is, more than practicality. She almost felt like this must have been something she shared in common with her father, cause it seemed like a Peter-thing to do. Trying to prove that she can do the impractical.

“Waffles,” she agrees, as that had often been one of the breakfast choices that they had had. Waffles had actually been more easy to come by even in the food shortage. Often vegan waffles, technically, with the shortage of eggs and other products, but it still counted as waffles. Tasted much the same. This time though she had eggs. And milk. And even a small bottle of maple syrup.

“With Maple Syrup, even. And butter, straight from the Barrens,” Maple syrup, also, tended to be difficult to get their hands on, but the waffles themselves were still there, often with crushed fruit piled on top. “And eggs and bacon as well.” She had made those purchases specifically for this. “After we have breakfast, I was thinking we could go out,” she tries to say it in a casual way.

Predictably stubborn, Lene ambles across the room with a hand to brace herself on the furniture until she reaches her small desk, retrieving the fire-damaged locket she's carried since before her trip back in time. She ties the locket around her neck with a little effort, only then does she go back to retrieve her crutch. “You didn't have to do all this,” sounds subtly embarrassed, but the smile Lene bears shows how shallow her refusal is.

“But uh,” Lene falters as she starts to make her way out of the bedroom and toward the dining room, “out? What were you thinking? Like— is— do you need to do something for work, or…” There's a certain amount of anxiety there for Jolene. It's always been hard for her in public since the war ended. More so since she was nearly abducted a few months ago.

The fire damaged locket mirrors the undamaged one around Gillian’s neck. She was almost never without it, even if it’s hidden under a buttoned up shirt. Two objects, generations apart. Only she knew that hers had pictures in it. Not the same ones they had had once, but ones she had added after searching to find the pictures she’d wanted to put in there. Sometimes she wished she had places for others, many lockets. But those pictures she kept somewhere else, in a small book next to her bed. Pictures she had printed out on glossy printer paper. Pictures of missing and dead, pictures of family and…

As she makes her way toward the kitchen behind the younger woman, she shakes her head. “I wanted to. It’s been a long time since either of us has had a real breakfast.” Pancakes she could make sometimes, with powdered milk and powdered eggs and vegetable oil instead of butter. There had always been substitutes for animal products for baking, and it hadn’t been hard to find them when fresh dairy was difficult to find. And powdered versions just stored better. The plates were already prepared, set up for both of them on the kitchen island rather than the dining room table. She watches carefully, for the slightest hint that Lene might need help, but she won’t actually reach out until she sees it. Whether the help is welcome or needed.

Either way she won’t sit until she’s seated, just in case.

“No, I— don’t need anything for work. I just wanted to spend the day with you. Even if you just want to sit around and watch movies here. But I do have one idea, if you’re willing to humor me.”

Stubbornly independent as always, Lene makes her way around the kitchen with the occasional grimace to hide her discomfort. She sets up on the stool at the island, crutch leaned against it and hooked on the corner of the arm-rest just so. Sitting there, hands folded in her lap, she looks notably thinner than eight years ago. The war she came from, the war she'd lived here, all have taken their toll on her. When they first met, she was a child-soldier in a battle she was born into. She looked the part; strong, confident, powerful.

Now, less of all of that.

“Yeah we can… we can do something. I'm going stir-crazy in the house. Ever since Lance started working at the station Pines hasn't needed me around as much so… so it's been a lot of schoolwork and…” Staying in her room doesn't need to be said for Gillian to know. Jolene was always a free spirit, coming and going, but the loss of her mobility and ability were a double blow that has left her fearful of the outside. Of being alone. Watching Ingrid get married and become distant… just compounded things.

“I met someone I knew from the future.” Lene admits unprompted, for lack of anything better to say. “At the market.” Green eyes flick down to one hand covering the other in her lap. “Couple weeks ago…” She looks up to Gillian. “She died when I was little. But I'd heard stories of her…”

Lene furrows her brows and looks away, focusing on a distant point in space. “She has crutches like I do…” is hard for her to say aloud. “She walked normal in my future too.” That's harder.

There were things that Gillian wished she could do something about, and the changes in this young woman in the last eight years would be among the most of them. She donated money when she could to places she thought might look into something that could help her in the future, but for the most part she just tried to make sure she was around. When she could be. Even when the young woman stubbornly tried to stay somewhere else, or would not even admit she might need help.

Help she’s not sure she could give, anyway. What she could do was try to make today something special, even if she didn’t want to say what she was doing just yet. “Emily?” she asked after a moment, pushing the plate of food closer, as well as the fork. “She stopped by the library, asking for help on passing her GED. I gave her the study folder that you used.” The one she had helped prepare, but she assumed her daughter wouldn’t mind. She didn’t need that anymore. But her mother had still kept it. Her office in the library was almost as big as the one in her house, and definitely saw more use, due to the internet access.

“She looked a lot like someone I knew,” she offers after a moment. Well, she looked a lot like Julie really, but Gillian had been thinking of Liette more so, to be fair. Her future was different from this world, they both knew that. The fact that some changes may not have been for the best, though…

After a moment pause, she slid from the stool once again. “I’ll be right back. Eat.” That last is given a mom finger toward the food, very much, unknowingly, to something she had done years from now and worlds away, when the girl had been much younger— and often to her older brother as much.

That Gillian knew it was Emily Epstein comes as no small surprise to Jolene, she's used to her mother knowing everyone, it's her secondary superpower, as far as her daughter is concerned. In the time while Gillian is away, Lene does eat, though it's more picking around at the corners of her meal, waiting for her mother to get back.

In the interim, Lene withdraws her phone from her back pocket and sets it down on the table, flipping the screen on with a swish of one finger, then sees the No Signal notification and exhales a breathy sigh. “Couldn't have technopathy could you, Squeaks?” She mutters to herself before turning the screen off.

It doesn’t take long. Gillian took the stairs quickly and returned back the same way and comes through the side door into the kitchen holding a wrapped box. She frowns when she notices that the food is in the same place it had been when she left. Cause yes, moms notice those things. “Expecting a text message? We could stop by the library so you can get reception. Or your work, for that matter.” The box is rectangular, somewhat tall. Big enough for a few items, or one decently sized one. But nothing that can not be carried in one hand.

“Well now I’m going to have to insist you eat first.” Since the young woman hadn’t used her time wisely when she had the chance. She had been planning to give it to her later in the day, but for some reason she had changed her mind. Maybe because of how sad the girl had seemed. That maybe starting with the present would make her feel better.

Even more than the breakfast was supposed to.

“Expecting?” Lene was only partly listening. “N-no, it— I was just…” she closes her eyes and shakes her head, flipping her phone over and rakes the fingers of her good hand through her hair. “I guess I was just hoping, not expecting.” She furrows her brows and toys with her bottom lip. “I thought Ingrid might…” She cuts herself off, staring down at the table. It takes a moment for Jolene to look up from the table to the box in her mother’s hands, then up to make eye contact. She smiles, anxiously, then hunches her shoulders forward and picks up her fork again to pick at her food a bit more diligently.

After a moment of fork-on-plate silence, Lene looks back up to Gillian. “I can multitask,” she admits with an attempt at a good-natured smile. “I mean,” she makes a gesture with her eyes from the package to the table and back again, “you know, if you want someone to take it off your hands.”

Ingrid, huh? Gillian makes a mental note to attempt to send the woman a text, just to reminder her, before they even get in range of the towers in hopes that she gets it and sends her one if she hadn’t already. Cause she’d rather the message be ‘your mom reminded me it was your birthday, happy birthday!’ then no message at all. Though she’s not sure Jolene would feel the same. At least she’s eating again, which earns a genuine smile as she plops back down on her own stool and keeps the box in one hand.

Alright,” she responds after a second, pushing it closer. “But only if you don’t stop eating.” The box is nicely wrapped, the kind of wrapping that looks as if it took a long time. The kind of wrapping that people read books with diagrams to get right. Because that’s exactly what Gillian did. Birthdays were never really her thing until the Lighthouse, and even then she hadn’t done much for it. That had always been Brian.

And Doyle.

But this was different.

She wanted this birthday to be better. Better than the ones before. She had never forgotten, once she knew what day it had been, but she had usually just gotten her a book. Maybe this one would be too. Though the box was bigger than what would be needed for one book.

Suspicion and uncertainty make Jolene hesitate as she eyes the box. Green eyes lift up to Gillian, struggling for focus for a moment, then look away and to her meal. “I can't remember what Nate got me,” Lene says out of the blue, fingering her fork and rolling it between her fingers. “I've been trying to. He— made me something. When we were little…”

Trailing off, Lene sucks in a slow breath and exhales a deep sigh, cutting into a waffle with the side of the fork, but not getting much further than that. “I've been trying to remember what it was for years. It was— I used to think about it when we first got here. But after the war I just…” Lene looks down at her lap, guilty, then over to Gillian.

“I'll keep eating,” Lene changes the subject of her own digression. “Promise.”

“I wish I could have known him. I did get two dreams, but…” Gillian shook her head. Seeing the boy as a child under the tutelage of Colette and seeing him again as a teenager had not been enough, really. She wished she had more of those dreams. But that was why she dedicated a book to the boy. A memory of a tomorrow, really, just like the book was titled. Even if it would never be her tomorrow, it was still a tomorrow.

But she does let the subject change, sitting to help unwrap the present so that the young woman can continue to eat. Real milk, real eggs. None of it condensed. She even had maple syrup straight from Canada. That alone could have been considered a birthday present, but no, there’s more. Under the wrapping is a shoebox, by all appearances, with no labels, but about the right side, with a lid that comes off.

On top is a DVD with a stylistic artwork design on the cover. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. “This was my favorite movie when I was growing up.” Some part of her imagined herself retelling some of the stories to her daughter, but that had never been in any of her dreams or memories, and she doubted a copy had survived long enough to be watched.

She doesn’t admit that she had once tried to give the exact same movie to her father. Once.

“I was thinking we could watch it together at some point.”

Under that, though, is a wooden book stack, decorative, that opens up. Inside are printed pictures. Some old, some new. She’d done a lot of looking to find them. Pictures of people that Jolene didn’t really know, and some she did. Petrellis and Childses mostly.

And a keychain that seems particularly out of place. Of a carebear. Cheer bear, with the rainbow tummy.

Jolene’s promise is put aside with the promised meal, forgotten in the face of the thoughtful gifts. The movie is handled with some small measure of surprise, and it — above all else — seems to be the most cherished thing based on Jolene’s reactions. There’s a soft, croaking squeak in the back of her throat as she holds it fast in both hands, then looks up with tear-filled eyes to her mother. “This— this is it.” As though she was holding the Ark of the Covenant in her hands.

“Y-you— we used to watch this when I was l-little…” Jolene stammers, photos not even fully looked at as she turns the DVD over and brushes her hand over the back. “I— I remember the cover. I couldn’t ever remember the name. I just— I knew there was a fast guy in it… and the moon and…” One hand claps over her mouth, and Jolene’s shoulders tremble as a few ragged sobs escape her. “Nate loved this movie.

Of course he did.

And of course she did. If she could have found a copy of the movie, Gillian knows she would have shown it to her children. She had thought of sitting Squeaks down to watch it, maybe having a family movie night, which was when she realized that she’d never shown it to Jolene. For the longest time she had avoided even thinking of that movie, cause of other memories associated with it, but the last few years that seemed to have faded away. It was hard to be angry at a dead man about something as ridiculous as watching the movie she’d wanted him to watch with her with another woman.

But of course, even with all that, she would have shown her kids. She had just doubted that one would have existed in what little she had seen of that world in her dreams. Nate had loved it.

The mention of Nate always tightens her chest, but an already tight chest and the fact the young woman in front of her can’t hold back a sob or two, it means this time there’s tears in her eyes and she’s closing that small distance between them. The breakfast is forgotten as she pulls her into a hug, grasping the clothing against that trembling shoulder. There was so much she’d like to know about Nate. About them growing up. About all of the things she’d missed out on. But instead she says, “It’s okay.” Her voice is tight, sounds of the tears forming, but steadier than she might have expected.

Jolene winds her arms around Gillian’s waist, burying her face at her shoulder in much the same way she did when she was a little girl. Moments like this, moments where Jolene seems like Gillian’s daughter more than a cousin or a sister are few and far between. But allowing herself to be small and vulnerable in her mother’s arms again is both comforting and gut-wrenching all in one. Fingers curl into the fabric of Gillian’s shirt, and Jolene raggedly sobs into the embrace.

Trembling, Jolene does not move to pull from her mother’s embrace. Instead, she seems to melt into it. “I can’t remember his face,” she whines into Gillian’s shoulder, followed by another broken bout of sobbing. It’s been so many years since Nate died in her timeline, so many years since she’d been stranded here in a past that was both familiar and alien to her. So many years without even so much as a photograph.

Doesn’t even remember his face. Gillian closes her eyes as she leans into the embrace even more, her hands sliding down the younger woman’s back in an attempt to soothe. She wondered if those dreams could ever be made to happen again. She only ever saw him twice. She couldn’t really remember much about that herself, just that he was taller than she expected, with hair that needed to be cut and eyes that reminded her of Peter. She had sketched him, and the young girl that she had seen in the dream, but those sketches had been long lost when the island fell.

She doubts even if her belongings had survived, she had kept them in a small chest under the cot that she used, that they were in any decent shape now. If she even dared to go there.

The memory of those birds still haunted dreams, occasionally. She sometimes didn’t trust birds when she saw them in the distance. “You don’t need to remember details, only the emotions,” she murmurs after a moment. The details helped, that was why people had pictures. That was why she scoured records to find pictures of the Petrellis, of the parents who raised her. And the ones who hadn’t had the chance, but of them she found very little.

“You loved him,” she adds, sounding as if she believes that was enough.

Jolene remains there, small and vulnerable in her mother’s arms. Fingers curl into the fabric of Gillian’s shirt, nose presses into the crook of her shoulder, and though the sobbing has ended her need to be close to her mother hasn’t. Jolene nods, just the once, and clings to her mother tighter and in a desperate way she hasn’t since she woke up from her wartime injuries in the hospital.

This wasn’t the day Gillian had planned for her daughter, but nothing about Gillian’s family life has ever been planned. Nothing has ever been easy or simple. Perhaps that’s why she has the life she does, because nothing worth doing is ever easy.

“You sound like dad,” Jolene whispers, because nothing is ever easy.

Or simple.

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