2007-09-04: Been A While

Starring:

Niki_icon.gif Tina_icon.gif

Summary: Avon An old friend comes knocking and catches up. Somewhat.

Date It Happened: September 4th, 2007

Been A While


Sanders-Dawson Residence

Queens, New York City

A frenetic energy seems to fill the modest Sanders-Dawson residence today. Early afternoon sun casts a faintly reddish glow into the living room, at war with the cooler-hued light filtering out from the open door of a bedroom, and the over-bright manmade light from the bathroom. Everything between the bathroom and the spare room which has, for several long months, been Niki and D.L.'s - and for the past four, been Niki's alone - is a complete disaster. Monica will never know the state of disarray her family-by-marriage-to-a-dead-man has made of her house while she's at work. Luggage is open on her unmade bed, clothes and odds and ends are all over the floor, things are scattered all over the bathroom counter. No one ever accused Niki of being the neatest person in the world, especially when she's in a hurry — and this mess is definitely the work of someone in a hurry.

And in contrast to the flurry of one-woman'd activity inside the home, Tina Murphy is caught up in a sort of static limbo just outside, approaching the door at a casual if slightly slower than usual pace. Dressed in a professional looking feminine suit (even if the skirt is a little high) with a pale blue silken blouse beneath it, she looks as though she could very well knock on the door with the cheery announcement of "Avon calling!" and get away with it, but that's not what she's here for. Clasping her handbag, she moves the rest of the way towards the door and knocks briskly. This is certainly the place, if the address she was given is of any reliability, and as she waits for a response, she notes the sound of the taxi cab she pulled up in driving away. Well! That bridge now burned, she anxiously craves a cigarette, and knocks again for good measure.

After whisking through the bedroom, Niki is standing in the open doorway of the closet when the door sounds. She shoves a few outfits aside on their hangars - she won't need anything special, for this trip - to reveal some back shelves. With a more ginger, almost tentative touch, pushes away a shoebox marked 'Photos - 2002-2004' in feminine scrawl, her handwriting. She looks over her shoulder; she heard the door, but it's a distant annoyance right now. The knocking draws a tense line from her lips, and then she looks back into the closet to move the box aside a few more inches. Behind it is a pistol, collecting dust. Eventually, seeming to decide whatever she was thinking is a bad idea, and God know she doesn't need anymore of those, Niki stalks out into the living room. Stuck between irritated and wary, she peeks out the window beside the door… and her expression changes entirely.

Niki opens the door slowly, as if she can't believe what she's seeing. She flat-out gapes at the woman outside. In contrast to Tina's put-together appearance, Niki looks like she hasn't slept… or showered… and although the pants she's wearing are nice, grey dress pants, her shirt is just a white silk camisole worn haphazardly on her body. There's a bruise from some sort of injection on her arm, she's pale, she's tired. She's looked better. "…T-Tina?"

Put together is correct, from the carefully constructed waves of bright red hair to the neat little black leather highheel shoes. As the door opens, revealing her friend, Tina's expression sort of changes to one of disbelief - as if she were half-convinced it wouldn't be this easy. Hell, life often ain't - Tina's opened plenty of doors before only to discover they were the wrong ones, metaphorically speaking, and so she's a little stunned to see her long-time friend so easily appearing right there after only two bouts of knocking. "Hey there, Niki," she says, an uncertain smile now dawning as she anxiously grips the strap of her handbag. "Been a while." Then she extends an arm out, stepping forward in an offer to embrace - she's not quite seeing the tiredness or the bruise just yet, even if her are eyes wide.

Niki just… stares. Her flat-out shock makes no differentiation between surprise and being happy to see her old friend - it could be easily mistaken for horror, all things considered. And maybe it is, a little bit. What does Tina think, after everything— ? The blonde's expression starts to soften, however, increment by increment. A shell-shocked smile starts and she steps onto the threshold to take Tina into a grateful hug. "How did you even find me?" How can be easily changed out for why. Niki is ever-so-slightly teary-eyed when she steps back — against the open door, to let Tina inside.

Cling! Tina shuts her eyes, arm tight around Niki's shoulders as they hug, and when she steps back, there is a glimmer of moisture threatening to put Avon's anti-streaks mascara to the test. "I got my systems," Tina says with a dismissive flap of her hand and a wider smile at Niki, before stepping inside so that the other woman can shut the door. "I rang up D.L.'s mama," she admits, almost tentatively - without regret, certainly, because she is Niki's friend and has rights to be invasive, but— it's still a little invasive, all things considered. "She mentioned you was staying with that cousin of his, gave me an address. I was comin' up here anyways and I thought…" She trails off, and shrugs with a twist of a smile. "I missed you, girl." And was worried. And a little freaked out by. Oh yes, Tina hasn't exactly forgotten that last encounter - but how do you even approach that subject?

Niki indeed closes the door, and locks it, after Tina's inside. She looks through the window, out the driveway, before slowly trailing from the door to the living room past the redhead. "You did?" Surprised, touched, and understandably uncomfortable all at the same time because she knows they're both thinking of the last time they saw each other, Niki walks through the room slowly in a way that indicates she probably doesn't know where she's going. So she offers the mundane: "I… I have… coffee…"

"Yeah. I did," Tina says, moving to follow Niki. Now, she takes in her friend's appearance, a little critically. "Coffee would be great." She sets down her handbag onto a flat surface, and awkwardly smooths out her jacket, skirt, lifts a hand to make sure her hair is still as artful as ever - all of which are unconscious moves as she tries to come up with suitable things to say that aren't about whether or not Niki might be crazy the last time Tina checked, or her incarceration last year, or a million other confusing things that just don't add up good and proper. "So," she starts, with a conversational smile, "New York, huh? Didn't we always plan to drive up here some day?" Her smile fades almost as quickly as it brightened, hands placing themselves on her waist. "I don't mind telling you that you simply don't look as though you been takin' care of yourself."

Coffee it is. Plain, normal, coffee. Normal. What the hell is that? Tina is a jarring reminder of what used to be. Niki sets about putting on a pot of coffee in the kitchen, which, open and attached to the other room, doesn't put her far away. Tina draws one of those long ago memories from Niki and she smiles as she puts a kettle of water on the stove, but like her friend's smile, it fades. "You… caught me at a weird time," she says by way of excuse, stepping back to lean against a counter, gripping the edge tightly with her hands. The poses makes her shrug. "I'm— about to go away for a few days." It's her turn to try on a conversational smile. "What're you doing in New York? I never planned on staying here, but it was just one of those things, you know. It just happened before I knew was was goin' on."

There is a twitch of an apologetic smile at the corner of Tina's mouth, as she leans against the counter as well. The conversational diversion seems to work, however. "Me? Well," she says, shaking her head in a slight hairtoss, a more genuine smile crossing her face. "I got a job with this big old international makeup company, and I'm up here for this sort of… convention thingy," dismissive gesture, "along with other women from across the states. It's gonna last just a week but I'm thinkin' about hanging around a lil' longer. I could do with a change of scenery, I'll tell you what." Then, she ducks her head a little, partly obscured her face with a curtain of red hair before she brushes her head. "I'm sorry, Niki, I shoulda called ahead. You know me, though."

"No, I'm… it's good to see you," Niki is quick to insist, smiling genuinely, though there's an uneasy trepidation in those tired blue eyes of hers — like she's almost wary. "And, I'm glad. Sounds like you're doing good for yourself. I mean, if there's one thing you know…" It's make-up! Niki smiles as she tries to joke around, but finds herself watching the coffee pot. It provides no distraction; it's going to take awhile. May as well cut to the chase. "I didn't… really think I'd ever see you again, after…" she says quietly to Tina, trailing off, but they both know what follows "after". She tucks a strand of blonde behind one ear. Her hair was straight at one point a day or two ago. "I'm sorry, you know, if sh— " Backtrack. "If I scared you. I shouldn'a got you involved."

Scared? Pfft! Tina was just jogging when she fled, not— heh. Tina smiles wearily at Niki, this time more strained than natural. "To be honest, I wasn' sure if I was gonna see you again either," she says, raising a shaped eyebrow. "I…" She trails off, cutting off whatever excuse she was about to make. "I still don't really get what happened there, you know? And I still can't figure it." She looks across at Niki contemplatively, then raises a hand, manicured nails making tapered points at the end of her fingers, that familiar twist of a smile returning. "But you know, I'm sorry for runnin' away as much as you're sorry for, well, whatever, so, let's stop bein' sorry because I got some free makeup products I figured I should share with you and we're not gonna get nowhere near those if we keep this up." She reaches for her handbag to paw through it and share in the treasure of complimentary makeup.

"…" Dot dot dot. In the midst of staring incredulously at Tina, Niki laughs. It's short, but real - and a touch relieved. "Free make-up," she repeats. "I'm there. God knows, I could use some, I must look like…" She shakes her head and runs her fingers through her hair. But she presses the base of her palm into one eye. "But you were right," she tacks on in a suddenly dire note despite the subject change; by contrast, she moves to a cupboard to get some coffee mugs. "To run." The mugs are set on the counter, separated from Tina's side by the kitchen sink. Niki leans over them, staring down. "And maybe— you'd still be right. I'm not safe to be around," she confesses, looking earnestly to Tina and shaking her head over and over, just enough that her hair swings, distraught. Time has changed a lot, but some things, it seems, never change. Niki's still surrounded by trouble.

The handbag is gently set down again, along with the few items extracted from it - lip liner, lipstick, a few compacts of eyeshadow - and Tina approaches. "Niki, if there is one word I'd give to describe you, past and present?" she says, in her usual-matter-of-fact way. "It wouldn't be 'safe to be around'." Okay that's not one word, but you get the picture. However, the dire note does capture Tina's attention, and her brow crinkles a little in concern, studying Niki's face. "Honey," she sighs. "I ain't scared of you, okay? I was a chicken at the time, but I know when somethin's up. I don't wanna run from you, we've always been there for each other in the past, you know?" A pause. "You, uh. You still seein' 'Jessica' in the mirror?" she asks, cautiously. Ever since that one, brief encounter… well her cynicism's been shaken. Just enough to at least humour the idea. "That still got you worried?"

"It's more than just… in the mirror," Niki explains, speaking in half-whispers and a half-broken voice, vexed. She gives Tina a sidelong look — a variety her friend will probably know well. The 'you'll never believe how far I am over my head this time' look. She's perfected it all the more, these past months… and months… "Oh God, it's been so long," she breathes, making the stride to the stove. She takes the coffee pot back to pour coffee, as if this was a normal, casual conversation, but not a drop winds up being poured. She simply stands there with it. "After I got out— " Of prison? "I tried— to get help. There were these people, doctors… and," She starts to smile, remembering, "I almost got better. I got— I got rid of Jessica…" But. There's a but. Welcome back, Tina, your friend is a crazy person.

Th-that's okay. Any fool could see that Niki wasn't exactly well, by the end there. Which is the scarier thing, than Tina's own personal safety. "I'm glad you got some help," she interjects, because that was the next thing on her mind - get professional help, though god knows how one can afford that kind of thing. She digs again through her handbag, locating a pack of smokes and a lighter. "Can I smoke in here?" she asks, glancing back to Niki— then towards the untilted coffee pot. Lalala. She strikes up a flame, touches it to the cigarette before Niki can answer, and moves to open a window. "There's a 'but' in there somewhere, ain't there?"

Niki lets Tina smoke — or rather, doesn't seem to care one way or the other. She's a little distracted by her own problems, not spending much time on thinking about whether or not Monica has smoking rules. "Uh huh," she answers. Tina's glance at the coffee pot reminds her to make use of it, at least, and coffee goes pouring into the cups. "D.L., he was having a hard time, taking care of Micah on his own again," she says, drifting on automatic around the kitchen to collect things like milk and sugar. She makes Tina's coffee how she remembers she likes it. "He thought he was dong the right thing— breaking me out. And maybe he was, maybe I'd be even worse off now if he hadn't. The people that tried to help me used to work with Linderman."

Either Tina doesn't mind how her coffee is done, or Niki gets it right, because the redhead reaches out a hand to take the mug, smoking cigarette pinched between the fingers of her other hand as she listens to her friend. Well, she can count on Niki to be consistent - things are rarely uncomplex around the woman. And Tina is consistent as well, in that she has an opinion for everything. Or everythang. Even if she doesn't know the whole situation. It's a talent. "I'm inclined to say he was doing the right thing," she says. "You got enough problems to worry about now without needing to get all tangled up with the likes of that name again and you know it. There's gotta be other help out there for you? And you said Jessica's gone now?" she prompts, a little hopefully. She has no idea if Jessica is a delusion, is real, what she would be even if she was real, but as long as Niki thinks she's kaput, Tina's satisfied.

Niki regards her friend in silence for a moment or two or three, on the edge of answering, but transparently considering how much she should say. Before she says anything, she pours her own coffee. Caffeine is not something she probably needs, the woman looks wound up as it is, but… "You don't… know how bad it is," she says quietly, the shake of her head as she stirs milk and sugar in lending her answer to Tina — who she doesn't look at, now; the counter is her focus. "I— thought I was stronger than this, but something happened… I've been getting help. Tryin' to, anyway. I'm running out of options."

Broodingly, Tina lifts her mug of coffee up to her mouth to delicately sip from, then the cigarette to breathe in, blowing out a calm stream of smoke in the general direction of the window. "As long as you still got options, honey," she says gently, with a wry twist of a smile, though she looks a little sad now. With a step, she reaches to tap cigarette ash into the sink as she says, "The last thing you said t'me was that you didn't need my help anymore." Well, not quite the phrase, but it's less confusing to state it like that. "You know you still got it, right? Whether you like it or not."

Confusion is the first sentiment to pop up when Tina says what she does - but Niki realizes fast enough that it was Jessica, not her, that told Tina that she didn't need her help anymore. Pursing her lips, her brow full of apologetic furrows, she says, "That wasn't me - I didn't say that." It's spoken slowly — she's not really sure her friend understands the full extent of what's happening. She can't. All the same: "Thanks." Niki manages a hint of a smile, although it's hard to say whether she's just humouring Tina or not.

Hard to say if Niki's not humouring Tina, as well, and the redhead sort of just raises an eyebrow at Niki as she takes another sip of coffee. This, she then sets down in favour of folding her arms, studying her friend critically. "So that was Jessica," she states, as if trying to cement this concept in her mind. "Well hell, Niki. If it's not my help you need - no matter who thinks that - then I hope you find the kind you're looking for. Here." She moves back to her handbang, takes out her purse, and extracts a card - the number of the hotel she's currently at, and she sets this down rather than hand it to Niki. "You call me after you get back from wherever you're going, okay?"

Niki, arms crossed even as she holds her cup, looks out the kitchen window; despite the sun, her expression is a dark one, conflicted, undoubtedly lost in her own thoughts (at least they're her own right now!). But Tina's extraction of the card jars her back. "You're leaving?" Good, it's safer that way — and Niki has to finish getting ready to go. But she sounds almost disappointed anyway. She steps closer, touching the card with the number of the hotel. The blonde smiles more sincerely, more brightly. "I will, Tina. I'll only be a few days… a week, maybe." That's a whole other story. "Thank you… for looking me up, after all this time. Most people, they'd just run the other way. Especially from back home." People here are another matter.

Tina's smile is a little kinder as Niki's becomes more sincere, and she steps forward to draw Niki back into a hug. "You'd better," she says with a chuckle, drawing away, arms clasped low on Niki's arms. "I'll come a-knockin' otherwise." What she doesn't state is her reason for leaving - maybe she has an appointment elsewhere, or a meeting, or late lunch with other door-to-door ladies. Maybe she just simply wants to collect her thoughts. "You'll take care of yourself between now and then, right? I need you to show me around the town when you get back," she adds with a merrier twinkle in her eye. Shopping in SoHo! Or something.

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