2010-01-13: Cry on Cue



Date: January 13th, 2010


It's the hallmark of truly great actresses.

"Cry on Cue"

Erin's Apartment, Uptown, NYC

"Yeah. I know. I know. Just— See what you can do, okay? She's really got no— I know. Look, give me a call back when you figure something out. Yeah. Bye." With a sigh, Erin hangs up the phone. After what happened, keeping herself busy is extremely important. She's kind of frightened about the whole thing, very nervous, and wondering if adopting a teenager is really the best idea she's ever had. But… That can come later.

Setting the phone down on her counter, Erin runs her fingers through her hair. It still has those crazy black streaks in it from her role on Afterlife, which seems almost too comical for a situation like this. Plus, she hasn't even told Beth why she really understands what's going on. That's going to be a fun story.

After awhile, she pulls out one of the barstools and takes a seat. It's late; she imagine's Beth's probably asleep in the spare room that used to belong to her roommate, Alyssa. How anyone can sleep after what happened is a mystery to Erin, who feels partially responsible for the death in the first place.

Kids can be weird like that. Not that Beth entirely qualifies as a kid, although between her emotionally stunted upbringing and the trauma of killing her own mother…she's probably entitled to a little regression. The thirteen year old has been sleeping a great deal, alternating that with bouts of crying and refusing to come out of the room. But eventually, something has to give.

In this case, it's Beth's bladder.

The door to the bedroom cracks open and one shadowed blue eye peeps through the opening. Then the girl herself eases out, a rail-thin teenager in a pair of flannel jammies, hair stringy and hanging into her face. She darts into the bathroom. The door slams, the toilet flushes and eventually she re-appears.

This time though, Beth lurks in the doorway of the kitchen and fixes an anxious gaze on the woman who saved her (and knocked her out). "Erin?"
Erin's so tired, she doesn't even notice when Beth leaves the room — until she's directly addressed. She's already nodding off when she hears her name. "Hm?" is her reply. "Oh, you're up," is added a moment later, gently, with a smile. She's not sure how to handle a kid who can so easily kill another person. Accidentally, yes, but still. It's a little scary. Erin isn't really scared, though. More like empathic.

Sliding off the stool, she looks down. "I… tried to make Mac and Cheese earlier, but I burned it, so I ordered a pizza… It's in the fridge, if you want any." They also really need to talk about a whole lot of stuff. "How're you doin'? You okay?"

"I had a bad dream," the girl whispers, as if saying it in a louder voice would summon up the nightmare. The offer of food gets a shake of her head. Beth is shifting on her feet as if she wants to run at the older woman but she stays back, keeps her distance. "You…you…" Her voice cracks and her face twists before she gets ahold of herself again; hands are tucked safely behind her back to hide any sign of static. "Are you okay? Did I hurt you?"

"Yeah, you'll have those a lot," Erin says quietly, too quietly to really be heard. "Didn't figure you'd be hungry." Taking a seat on the floor, Erin leans back against the counter, not missing the fact that Beth is staying a good distance away from her.

"You didn't hurt me. I'm fine. Taine's fine. You got a bit of a bump on the head when that book fell on you, but I'm pretty sure you'll be okay." Yes, it's a lie. Maybe she'll tell beth the truth one day, but for now, it's… just best to play it safe. "So… Look, I know what you're going through. Why don't you sit down? You can stay over there if you want to, but it'd be nice if you came a little closer. We can talk."

Normally, girls Beth's age would be learning about the birds and the bees, and going through much more mundane shifts in their life than learning they have some sort of super-powered ability. "What happened in your dream? You wanna tell me?"

But Beth lingers in the doorway, her fidgeting growing by leaps and bounds. A brave face is put on but threatens to shatter with every hitching breath. She shakes her head again. "I…I was thinking about it and…and…and I should go and…and give myself up to the police." Because that's what murderers do on TV, when they're good people! See, there's even a script for matricide. That's somewhat reassuring.

"If they find me here you're going to get in trouble for…for…" What's the word. Oh yes. "Harboring a fugitive." The teenager crouches down to put herself on a level with Erin, skinny arms around her knees. "It was…it's not important. The dream. You tried to help me. But you were…it was bad. I don't want to talk about it. Please, Erin? Is that okay? I really…don't want to talk about it. What I did. The dream. If I do I'll…I'll start crying and then you might get hurt."

Man. Her heart's never quite broken like this before. It almost makes Erin want to cry! Kids shouldn't have to go through shit like this. Really. "No. No, we're not gonna go to the police. And 'cuz I don't believe in hiding stuff from people just because they're kids, I'll tell you why. There's people out there who want to hurt people like you and me, just 'cuz of what we can do. And, Beth, I'm not sayin' what you did was right, but it was an accident. A bad one, but me and Taine are already taking care of it. That school trailer was old. The wiring was crap. The fire department was already there, and that's what they decided. I can't let you take the blame for something outta your control."

Unfortunately, others watching might suspect something different. That's why Erin has to keep Beth safe. "The police aren't gonna come looking for you, or me. Those bastards I mentioned before? They might, though. And if I do… Really, you want me protecting you. Not the police."

Waving off Beth's explanation, Erin isn't going to make the kid talk about it if she doesn't want to. "At first, it's gonna be hard. Everything's going to seem like it sets you off, because you can't get it out of your head. But you'll learn to control it. I'll help."

There were a lot of concepts in that stream of words. Concepts that Beth isn't entirely capable of grasping all at once. For instance, the use of the phrase 'people like you and me'. But some things do stand out. The bastards. Oh yes, she remembers what that means. And, of course, the concept of accident. "But I killed my mom," she whines. "I killed my mom. I can't just…they can't just say it was an accident, she's dead and I killed her."

Erin's been a smart woman about all of this; the book "falling" on Beth's head, giving her her space. So she's probably being pretty good about watching for signs of a repeat performance and she'd get that in the way Beth's silky fine hair begins to drift away from her head. Static.

Thankfully, the kid tightly closes her eyes and begins to hyperventilate, which seems to help. There's no light show. "I don't want it!" she wails. "Why do I have to be like this?"

Erin doesn't have anything to say that's even remotely comforting. "What do you think they're gonna say if you go in and tell the cops that you killed her? Huh? They're not blind or stupid. They saw what happened. As far as the world's concerned, people with abilities don't exist. They wouldn't have the capacity to believe you.

"But there are people out there who would, and I don't want you to have to spend the rest of your life in some… hot box." It's the only thing she can think of at the moment, because that's what they did with Tracy. "…for the rest of your life. We'll deal with it. We can deal with it. But not that way."

Erin could bring up the fact that Beth's mom was a god-damned shrew, but that wouldn't help.

Crap. The signs of Beth's ability being triggered are imminent, so Erin suddenly shuts up, not wanting to prompt something worse. When it seems to be under control, Erin adds softly, "I didn't want mine, either. I haven't told anyone this…" Except Tracy, "Awhile ago, I accidentally killed someone, too. I tried to fix it, but I couldn't. I had lots of bad dreams, and I'm still not over it. But it wasn't my fault. This isn't your fault, either. Trust me. I know what you're going through."

"You…you killed someone?" Beth had listened silently throughout that reply, attention divided between agonized listening and fighting the urge to let the lightning leap free of inexperienced control. But getting to picture Erin in that light is an even more effective distraction than cookies would have been. "You're like me? And…the girl in that video? Was it your mom?"

Like a shy horse drawn in with a carrot as bait, Beth duck-walks a few steps towards the older actress to get a better look at her face. Hers is tear-streaked, a few having escaped during the impending hysterics. She sniffs a couple of times, then runs the back of her sleeve across her nose.

Manners are always the first thing to go when you're on the run from the law.

"What are we going to do, Erin?" And just like that, Beth accepts her idol's explanations. Sure, the nightmares might continue. Her mother's still dead. But she's not alone! Youth is so resiliant. And she trusts Erin.

Erin nods. "Some people came after me. See?" She pulls back the sleeve of her shirt to show off the long scar there. Most people believe it's just make-up for the show, but it's very real. "I was scared, just like you were, and I couldn't hold my ability back. And I had some close calls, too." She smiles again, reaching a hand toward Beth, motioning her closer. "You can ask Taine about that one day. I'm sure he'll love to tell you all about it." She's not sure about the girl in the video, but she can only assume that Beth must have seen something. It's really amazing that more people don't know about Evolved.

The smile fades when she sees Beth's face, though. "It's not fair. I know it's not fair." Killing someone changes you. Erin's even pretty sure she's ready to do it on purpose if she has to… But she's thirty years old to Beth's thirteen. It's like a single moment swept down and stole what was left of the kid's childhood from her.

It's just too bad that Erin doesn't know what she's going to do. "I'm… going to try to adopt you. I know it might not be what you want, but I think… I think it'll be good for you. And like I said, I can help you. You'll get through it, okay? Trust me. You'll get through it. And when…" When funeral leave is over… "When you're ready, we're going to go back to the set, and we're going to keep working. That's what we do."

There's a longer moment of silence this time. The girl just stares at Erin, mouth agape. Then the older but shorter woman is subjected to something that may well be every bit as bad as having to get decked out in wereporcupine makeup: a flying hug. One minute Beth's over by the door, the next she's launched herself over to wrap skinny arms around Erin's neck.

The good news is that there's not even a hint of electricity in that embrace. Not so much as a static pop. The bad news, with the hugging comes more crying, all over Erin's shoulder.

"You going to adopt me? You're going to…I can live with you? I don't have to…go away?"

For a second, Erin thinks she's said something wrong. Maybe she shouldn't have posed the adoption as an option quite so soon. Or maybe there's someone Beth would rather stay with. A quick look up said that, really, her mother was the only family she had.

The question is answered when she's hit so hard by a hug, that if she weren't leaning on the counter, she'd go sprawling. It's not more than a second later that Erin's arms wrap around Beth, holding her close, unconcerned about the fact that her hair and shoulder is being soaked in little kid tears. A fate worse than three hours in the make-up chair!!

If Erin had any doubts as to whether this was the right course of action or not, they're gone now. "I'm gonna adopt you," Erin says. Is that moisture in her eyes? No, it couldn't be. Thankfully, the only one here to see her crying is Beth.

"I'm so, so sorry this had to happen to you," she whispers into the child's hair. "But we're going to make the best of it. I promise. You're going to be okay."

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