2011-02-01: 221

Starring:

Clara_V5icon.pngKitty2_V5icon.png

Date: February 1st, 2011

Summary:

When Clara and Kitty meet again, one learns more about the other's place in life. (One has no idea what's going on.)


"221"

Times Square

Manhattan

The sun is bright, the sky is bright, the snow is bright, the skyscrapers reflecting light are bright, Times Square is bright with colorful signage and storefronts blaring ads and lights and business; what was that about dark winter months?

In all the dazzling glare of the city, with the worst of the recent snow ploughed away so its citizens can once again navigate the streets, it's easy to forget that winter isn't just a nuisance for some: it's a harsh reality.

The figure standing in front of an electronics store is one of them, though to passersby she just appears to be a window-shopper. The dull green Anorak jacket swallows up most of her form save for dusty black pants and, in lieu of winter boots, sneakers barely poking out from beneath. Television screens flash a dozen identical images out the window, cartoons and commercials and a thousand colours that could induce a seizure in the susceptible. Clara presses bare fingertips, tinged red in th chill, to the glass; to any who bother to glance her way — most don't — her face, shadowed by her hood, is just a reflection in the window, barely there between flashes of television entertainment for sale, a pair of fascinated eyes. She's been standing in the same spot for upwards of ten straight minutes.

A faint whistle can be heard coming from behind Clara as a pair of brown cowboy boots come into view accompanied by the wear, Kitty Hanner. Her doe brown eyes squint as she peers at Clara before nodding and coming to stand right next to her. Dressed in a long dark grey wool coat that falls to her knees, nobody can see the mint green dress that she's wearing underneath.

"Psst!"

She whispers, trying to look normal, she nudges Clara with one of her elbows and holds out a cup of something. Hot coco, one for Kitty and one for Clara. "Hot." She mutters darkly, it seems she burned her tongue a bit on hers, the way she's poking her tongue out and rolling her eyes.

She moves her shoulder just a bit, making sure her dark green messenger bag doesn't slide down her arm. Brown hair hangs free, a little windswept and messy. She must have not been home for a few hours.

It takes a moment. Psst… no response. Nudge… Clara only jostles to one side like a rag doll, not taking her attention off the window. It's only when the other woman's reflection catches her eye in the glass that she seems to notice Kitty is there because of her. A rustle of her hood; she turns her head. Her eyes widen on Kitty — not because she recognizes her, as no such thing seems to alight — instead she seems alarmed, a jarred upset rounding her eyes to saucers. Pitch black eyeliner lines those eyes, smeared and blurred into dreary, diluted grey upon her cheeks. Fingers wrap about the cup without giving it study. "You were on the trains," she says in a quiet, cracked voice with that non-native accent. Recognition after all.

"We were on the trains." A slight correction, though that's a given that Clara was there, unless she was like astral projecting right? Kitty looks down at her cup and takes a sip. Sighing, she puts one hand in her pocket and tilts her head over at Clara. "The window is all muggy, hazy." She muses softly, stepping closer to the window and pressing her face against the glass, making an absurd face before stepping back again and looking back over at Clara.

Her lips form an 'O' as she blinks and looks up and down the street before looking over her shoulder and whispering to Clara. "You didn't find it yet." A statement, not a question. Kit takes another little sip of her hot drink and frowns at Clara.

A smile comes and goes erratically across the face of the older before one hand drifts from her cup, following her gaze back to the window. Clara's fingers run over the cartoons that she can't touch, and she curls short, jagged, dirty nails against the glass with a certain insistence. Her other hand is left with a tenuous grip on the cocoa. One nudge and she'd drop it. She seems to try to speak— nothing; confusion wracks her face in deep lines, and she winces as if it pains her to try.

"Come on.." Kit says in a singsong voice, then she's digging into her pocket and pulling out a chocolate bar. "Milky Way?" she asks absently as she rips it open and tears it in half, one half going into her pop. The other for Clara, that's a lot of chocolate.

A furrow of her eyebrow makes Kitty frown even more as she regards Clara. "You're gonna hurt yourself, doing that." She states as she munches on the candy. Tapping the glass, Kitty stares at the cartoon. "Their fates are already known?" In terms of.. the writers and artist of the show?

Clara has no problem taking the chocolate donation, except that it takes her away from the TV screens; she glances to Kitty and back several times before lashing her hand out to take the bar. It disappears into her coat; she looks down without a thank-you, unsettled. It's an ill ease that clings to her as she keeps on looking down — at least, this way, she remembers the cocoa, and wraps both hands around it to lift it up for a sip. Through the trail of steam, green eyes regard Kitty, a kind of desperation behind their haziness. No luck. No comprehension; as such, back to the cartoons. Simply, she only states: "I like them. The cartoons." That she knows.

"Do you wonder what would happen if they ran around here?" Kitty gestures to the city with a wave of her hand, still munching on that Milky Way. Another sip of her drink and she sighs, looking up towards the sky. "It's not over yet." Kitty says softly to herself and then she's shaking her head.

Leaning on one hip, Kitty breathes on the glass to make it foggy and quickly scribbles something in the glass before it can fade. A simple, a helix of some kind and then.. the numbers.

Two-twenty-one.

Her eyebrows raise and she rubs her forehead before looking over at Clara. "It's always the same."

Clara reveals no grasp of understanding of the young woman's words. By all appearances, she doesn't seem to be listening anymore; she's angled to the window now, turned all the way toward it, chin resting atop the cup she every so often sips from, eyes on the playful cartoon characters as they hop about and go on adventures in colorful worlds that don't exist, in which there's always a happy ending. Her fascination grows, rapt in the moving pictures meant for children, but the lines in the foggy glass do the trick— a spark of attention flickers, fascination shifting from the televisions to the helix. She reaches to touch it, stopping just short, her fingers trailing over air to hover in front of the numbers.

Words. Letters. Two-twenty-one.

"Two— " Clara says out loud, fingertips hovering longer, shaky, over the next word. She looks to Kitty, her forehead furrowing, searching for approval, "twenty? Two-twenty. Two-twenty-one." It's like a key fitting into a lock, when the number, spoken by her own tongue, is heard by her own ears. She looks down the street, one way, the other, across Times Square, as if, suddenly, she doesn't know where she is— when the fact is likely that she didn't know all along. "I got left," she states, not with any alarm or resentment, just an explanation. "It was dark where they left me." Unease rises as she looks down, her hood following with its shadowy overhang. "I couldn't see it anymore. Two-twenty-one. I didn't know what road…"

Kitty looks over to the older woman with a tilt of her head. "Why did they leave you?" A simply enough question. Kitty's eyes squint a bit up at the sunny sky before she looks back at Clara. Taking another long sip from her cup, she pats the window, under where she wrote the letters. "Sometimes we can left.. lost."

"But we have to remember, so we can go back. Always go back." Kitty nods at Clara and blows a strand of hair out of her own face. Bending down to peer up under Clara's hood, she smiles gently. You're getting there babe.

Without a shift of her head, Clara's eyes peek up at Kitty, forcing her eyebrows into her forehead. She searches the near stranger's face in wonder and confusion that Kitty, this time, is — in her view — the one who doesn't understand. "Because," she starts, as if it's the most simple, innocent thing; as if to say isn't it obvious… "They were done with me." Her gaze goes ever-so-slightly distant up and over Kitty's shoulder. "I get lost, sometimes," she admits, "and sometimes," a wince pulls her mouth to one side as she looks off down the street, into space, "I don't remember how to get back."

A straight is what becomes Kitty's mouth and she nods her head as she regards Clara in a new light. "I get lost too sometimes." She muses, playing with something in the air smiling gently up in the air. She turns her head to stare at Clara again and simply holds her hand out. The implications of this hand being held out could be interpreted into many things. But for Kitty and very likely Clara, the hand's meaning is really simple.

"Let's find our way back."

Clara needs no coaxing; like the last time, in the subway, she just takes the hand when it's offered, hers warmed ever-so-slightly by the hot cocoa.

Flash: an old brick building that would be out of place in Times Square, the sun shining down just as it does this afternoon. Pigeons loiter on the front steps. A young woman, unfamiliar, pale, dark-eyed with heavy make-up and dark clothes, opens the door. "Where've you been? You were supposed to— whatever, it doesn't matter, just get in before they ask questions and friggin' blame me again…"

A giant coat heads up the steps, heeding this call — her hood is down, revealing flat blonde hair; it's Clara. She reaches out to touch the outer wall, where metal numbers and a plaque are affixed to the weathered brick.

221

MEMORIAL STREET SHELTER

Clara's hand squeezes into place. She's not even looking at Kitty; she's watching cartoons, just waiting, expectantly, to be led.

As the vision assaults Kitty's senses, she opens her eyes wide as they turn from their doe brown to milky white. "Memorial Street Shelter." She says softly and her eyelids flutter. Dark brown eyes scan Clara's face before she nods her head and pulls Clara along gently. "Places to be." She says with a wave of her free hand, well her newly freed hand. Because she just tossed her half empty cup of hot coco on the pavement, the liquid splashing and running down the curb.

Kitty leads her down the street, her free hand touching lamp posts and newsstands lightly. Humming, she pulls Clara along gently. "Found it." She beams proudly at the other woman, a secret smile for a secret that only the two of them share.

Clara looks over her shoulder at the drink left behind uselessly on the pavement, seeming moved sadly by its sudden loss — though not hers — as if Kitty had just ran over a pet. Along she goes, however, not questioning the fact that Kitty knows where, or what, two-twenty-one is. "Okay," she says simply to the beaming woman, and they go on their way. "Places to be…"

* * *

221

MEMORIAL STREET SHELTER

Streets upon streets; they all look the same, at least they must, to Clara, who's walked on with barely a word and barely a reaction save for an occasional wrinkle of her nose against the cold when they walk into the wind. Recognition hits suddenly when the bland brick building comes into sight and she breaks away from Kitty into a run. "Hey, we found it!" she exclaims up ahead with a childlike delight. She's not exactly welcomed with open arms. Even the pigeons are unmoved.

Shaking her head, Kitty comes to the steps and looks down at the pigeons. "I told you to look." she says with a bright smile and she's bouncing up the stairs, looking at Clara. Gesturing towards the door for her to knock. This is Clara's place after all. "Go on." She says quietly with a light smile, she'll be right behind you.

Though her eyebrows raise at the building and she narrows her eyes at it. "Clar.. is this.." she doesn't finish though. She can't finish, her mouth drops open as she studies the building. "Ahh." Is breathed out.

In lieu of knocking, Clara just grapples with the heavy door one-handedly — the other now very fixed to her cup of diminishing cocoa — and starts to haul on it. She's delayed by Kitty, blinking back at her with a smile on her face. Innocently triumphant, she bears none of whatever the sentiment is, exactly, that caused the other woman to stop talking; perhaps not even realizing Kitty trailed off— or spoke at all. She looks her right in the eye for a long moment. "You have a funny name."

Eyelids flutter as she hops up the steps to land next to Clara and she sticks her tongue out at the other woman. "You need a bath." she says in reply and ruffles the back of her head. "Ready?" Because if she wasn't.. too bad. They've already knocked. Kitty grabs Clara's hand gently and squeezes it. Tilting her head at the door, waiting for the answer. Waiting for the reveal of who Clara is.

Clara, on the other hand, doesn't wait. She spins back around to give a haul on the heavy door before anyone has time to answer it. Once she has a grip on it, enough to slip through, she does just that — she wiggles her way in with no regard for the fact that Kitty may want to also enter.

The interior is dim. It's a bit bigger than it looks from the outside, if only because it's one large, spacious room, undivided by walls. One side of the room is filled with long, cafeteria style tables and chairs; the other is full of rows of cots. Where there's not a cot, there's a mattress; when the mattresses run out, there are just blankets on the cement. It's overcrowded. People of all ages, genders and races are scattered about, finding shelter here when their only other option would be the street, all bearing the signs of having done so in recent times; not a healthy face among them. Clara almost disappears into them; after all, she blends in. This is who she is.

"Don't leave me!" For fear more of being alone then being left in the unknown that is the mystery, Clara. Kitty slips into the building and spins around as she takes in the sight and smiles softly. "Home." She whispers softly before running after Clara, staying just behind her. Humming softly to herself, Kitty grins widely and then stops grinning. She's frowning now, her eyebrows raised as she looks around the place again before rushing to Clara's side.

"Here it is." She says a bit nervously to the older woman.

Nervousness isn't a factor for Clara in the here and now; not even acknowledging Kitty, she falls into a sort of routine, winding her way around the maze of beds and makeshift beds — despite the full crowd, all of them empty; everyone lingers near the tables — with her arms wrapping instinctively tight around her body, keeping her jacket close to her. She searches out a table and sits upon a chair at one end, bringing her legs up to fold knees-to-chest, quietly getting warm, which the cup of cocoa seems to help with; she sits it on her knees. Her eyes, drifting, catch Kitty as if seeing her for the first time. "You're not supposed to be here…" she states. Far from a shun, it's another simple statement: one of these things is not like the others.

Clara isn't the only one who noticed; a middle-aged woman wearing a name-tag that says LUCIA approaches Kitty, sharing some of her nervousness. "Afternoon miss. Can we help you…?"

"Don't leave me!" For fear more of being alone then being left in the unknown that is the mystery, Clara. Kitty slips into the building and spins around as she takes in the sight and smiles softly. "Home." She whispers softly before running after Clara, staying just behind her. Humming softly to herself, Kitty grins widely and then stops grinning. She's frowning now, her eyebrows raised as she looks around the place again before rushing to Clara's side.

"Here it is." She says a bit nervously to the older woman.

Nervousness isn't a factor for Clara in the here and now; not even acknowledging Kitty, she falls into a sort of routine, winding her way around the maze of beds and makeshift beds — despite the full crowd, all of them empty; everyone lingers near the tables — with her arms wrapping instinctively tight around her body, keeping her jacket close to her. She searches out a table and sits upon a chair at one end, bringing her legs up to fold knees-to-chest, quietly getting warm, which the cup of cocoa seems to help with; she sits it on her knees. Her eyes, drifting, catch Kitty as if seeing her for the first time. "You're not supposed to be here…" she states. Far from a shun, it's another simple statement: one of these things is not like the others.

Clara isn't the only one who noticed; a middle-aged woman wearing a name-tag that says LUCIA approaches Kitty, sharing some of her nervousness. "Afternoon miss. Can we help you…?"

As Kitty slides into a chair next to Clara, she picks at her hair and sighs. When Lucia comes up to her, her eyebrows raise and she looks up at the woman. "Food?" she asks simply with a tilt of her head. Nudging Clara with her elbow, Kitty leans in to whisper to her loudly. "Is she safe?" Because Lucia isn't right there or listening to them.

Her doe brown eyes scan the immediate area and then flick back to Lucia. "Is there food here.. for us?" she motions to Clara and herself. Totally innocent.

Clara is lightly jarred out of looking into her cup, which has become her source of fascination for the last several moments while Lucia hovers nearby. The gaze that alights on Kitty seems, at least, to understand the question — but her answer is a widening of her eyes and a pull of her mouth to one side, offering a shrug of her shoulders: an animated example of I dunno! "She gives out food; she makes beds," is clarified — that's all that matters — before half her face disappears behind the cup she tilts to her mouth.

The middle-aged, name-tagged Lucia sets her critical sights on Kitty, looking back and forth between the undercover heiress and the unkempt Australian beside her. Ultimately, she shrugs, too, and gives a heavy nod. "We do, just in time, lunch's in ten, so sit tight. Haven't seen you here before miss, so I'll tell you what I tell everyone, no loitering around after that until night if you need a place to sleep." With that, she bustles off, soon interrupted by the hungry demands of an old man in a tattered winter hat.

Clara twirls her cup upside-down, watching it swivel between two fingers. It's empty. Disconnected from her play with the paper cup, words drift along: "They have rules."

The undercover woman watches Lucia until she's far from ear shot and she laughs softly. "Don't they all have rules?" A brief smile before she's staring at Clara. "What do they do to you here?" She shudders a bit as she tries her best to stay as lucid as possible, she can't afford to go off on a crazy tangent right now.

"Do they hurt?" she runs a finger down Clara's arm gently before taking her hand back and staring up at the ceiling. "Or do you like it here?" Kitty whistles softly and swings her legs as she squares her shoulders and tries to look serious, failing miserably.

The slow spin of the paper cup goes on and on— stops suddenly when Kitty touches Clara's arm — then picks up again slightly slower. Clara watches it without pause. A shoulder lifts, her head leans toward it; it could be a shrug, or it could be an idle stretch, given that all her attention seems to be on the rotating upside-down cup. Then: "Could you do that again," she pipes up — out of nowhere, but indolent, "I like the sound."

Without another word.. Kitty is whistling and closing her eyes, hands behind her head and tapping her feet. It isn't a few minutes later that Kitty opens her mouth to sing in a soft tone, "Tell me what ya want, what ya really want.." Grinning widely, she whistles again and looks over to Clara, giving her the 'go on' look. She knows the song.

"I'll tell ya what I want, what I really really want." Clapping her hands, she shimmies in the chair and looks at Clara, okay.. any minute.. come on in..

Slowly, a smile forms on Clara's lips; it doesn't bring much brightness, as her eyes stay on the cup, but as Kitty starts to sing, the smile breaks open. She abandons the empty plaything to the table and wraps her arms around her legs, and she toys with the folds of her pants as if keeping rhythm — slightly unmatched to Kitty's lyrics — smiling on the verge of silly laughter. But it stays only on the verge. No singing; she shakes her head wildly no through her amusement, knocking her hood off to reveal long, flat and mussed hair.

A wall of the room then opens up with a metallic grating, the space above a counter rolling up to reveal the kitchen beyond: lunch time. The sound serves as a cue to everyone waiting, and there's a sudden clamor to get in line. Clara doesn't seem to notice, holding tighter to her legs and placing head upon knees to watch the impromptu pop star.

"If you want my future, forget my past." Kitty hops to her feet and dances around in a circle. "If you wanna get with me.. better make it fast." She sings a little louder and stomps her foot, laughing as she claps her hands and twirls. "Now don't go wasting, my precious time. Get your act together, we could be just fine." Kitty's eyes are wide as she cracks up and falls back into her seat, drumming on her legs.

"I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want." She sings to Clara and leans in with a grin and fiddles with her hair before snickering and falling into laughter as she sits in the chair. "Ah.. food's here." She comments softly to the blonde haired woman.

Clara's hands come together in one giddy clap, a whispery giggle emerging for Kitty's song and dance. On its end, she squints until her eyes nearly shut, her smile disappearing slowly, mouth open until it fades without expression; it takes her a few long moments comprehend anything that goes on sans music. "Alright," she says then, subdued, as if Kitty had not just mentioned food but, in fact, instructed her to go to it. Obeying this non-present instruction, she lets her legs drop off the chair and turns to plod, head down, to the line which has already formed a long trail of homeless.

Trailing after her, Kitty skids from her seat and comes to stand behind Clara in line. Hoping the grub is good, she bounces up and down on the balls of her feet. Still humming along to the song in her head, she places a hand on Clara's shoulder, looking around at the other homeless people.

"Are you coming to my house?" An innocent question from an innocent girl, that is. Kitty's eyebrows raise as she tilts her head and peers closely at Clara. "Wash and food." She nods sagely, deciding that's the best option for her friend. "If they let you.." she whispers in her ear, like two girls on the playground trading secrets.

But some secrets are puzzles, and puzzles are problematical. Clara turns her head, over the hand upon her shoulder, and studies Kitty — as hard as she can, even then a distance, cloudy quality barricading her focus; heavier lines worry her face, eyebrows perking upward into unsettled, unsteady curves. "No, I don't want to go to a house," she says, every bit statement enunciated and sure, if deeper in tone by emotion — negative emotion. A flash of panic lights up her eyes and she rolls her shoulder with sudden harshness, the slippery outer layer of her coat working away from Kitty's attention. The woman strides purposefully ahead when the line moves. "It gets all wrong, I'm all wrong, I don't want to go again, I only visit houses when I go away. I visit. I visit."

"Don't be mad." Is uttered softly to the other woman and Kitty looks wounded. "I'm.. lonely." She says in a whisper and encouraging nod towards the woman. She means no harm, one crazy woman to another. Kitty folds her arms and nods her head.

"I visit all the time, I can't stop it.. where do you go when you visit?" The seer asks with a tilt of her head, forehead wrinkled with thoughts. Tapping her foot, Kitty whispers again. "Do they know you visit?" A fearful expression on her face as she studies Clara.

Again, a turn over her shoulder; Clara's long hair whips around. Searchingly, as pangs of panic still assault her features, she stares at the whispering woman. "Who?" she queries; so simple a question and yet she so clearly doesn't understand. "I don't want to go. To— to your house, I don't want to," she directs at Kitty in a murmuring, moody mumble, blinking fast in alarm and wrapping her arms tightly around her own shoulders; yet there's a sort of acceptance in her next quiet words, expecting an inevitability: "Are you going to take me?"

"Them."

Whoever 'Them' is, they scare Kitty. Because she leans away from Clara to check around them before leaning in again. "I won't ever take you, unless you want to.. promise?" she holds out her pinky for Clara to hook with her own. Eyes flick to the line as it moves and they're holding it up. The young woman looks down at her pinky and then boots. "It's scary." Is all she says as she twitches a bit at the thought of something. Her dark brown eyes scan upwards til they find Clara's face again. "It's always so dark."

While Clara takes easily to the childlike gesture of promise, swiveling just far enough to sneak her pinky finger out of her sleeve to loop around Kitty's, the deal is sealed with the kind of robotic going-through-the-motions that implies she can't be quite sure what she's agreeing to… but, seeming to get the general idea, she looks down and nods along in agreement. "Don't be scared," she says, face still downcast. Bump— a man waiting in line behind them is shoved from somewhere down the row and stumbles toward Kitty. Holding up the line, indeed. Clara's finger unlatches, and she moves along.

A glare for the man behind them before she moves forward as well and says softly, "I can't help it. They never stop." Kitty shakes her head as tears well up at the corners of her eye and she looks back and then up at the people behind them. Kitty almost sinks to her knees as she eyes flutter and they move around the room at rapid speed. "I'm sorry."

There is some vague hint of sympathy in the glance Clara gives the other woman when she's the one who seems upset now— or, at the very least, sadness to match. Clara is no bastion of comfort, however; wriggling her shoulders, unsettled, she's quick to turn her head from Kitty. "Okay," comes her response, sounding rather indifferent. She fidgets restlessly with her coat as she hugs herself and simply moves along when the line does. A few people are ahead of them yet, but the people — mostly volunteers, and Lucia — working the kitchen have the process down to a brisk science. Soup is poured into bowl after bowl. One, two, three, Clara's turn. Her hands wrap around it without a glance to Lucia who deals it out. Four; Kitty's turn.

When it's Kitty's turn, the woman shakes her head and walks out of line. Coming to stand shoulder to shoulder to Clara, she looks absently at the other woman and down at her food. A grimace and then she's walking away to wherever she's headed. Apparently, to the door to leave. "See you later." She says in a soft singsong voice and then she's backing away before hurrying towards the door, weaving in and out of people effectively. One last look is over her shoulder as she looks at her new friend and a smile crosses her lips. "Visit me!" She yells louder over the roar of people to Clara and the door is opened, letting in the cool chill.

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