Date: May 3rd, 2010
A pleasant afternoon in Central Park proves to be just the sort of relaxation three women and two dogs need after the craziness that has engulfed their lives of late.
Uptown, NYC - Central Park
Central Park in spring is a popular place, as the large green space gives a respite from the urban jungle that surrounds the lush green space. Beyond the park's perimeter, there is nothing but traffic and concrete, asphalt and metal. Skyscrapers loom around the edges of the park, as if peering into the sprawling oasis where children frolic; college students throw frisbees or nap and study on the grass; and roller bladers, joggers, and bicyclists make use of the many paths and trails to get a breath air and exercise.
Coming down a path is one small blonde woman, lime green earbuds in her ears as she walks two dogs — one, a clumsy chocolate lab puppy of perhaps three months; the other, a frisky Pomeranian that looks irritated by the lumbering antics of the already larger pup.
Shen is also in the park. Perhaps out of stubbornness alone, she is standing in the grass doing tai chi. The woman is alone, rather than participating in the activity with her usual group. The slow, fluid movements actually manage to make her appear graceful for a change.
Elisabetha has been locked up in the house for the past three days. Ever since the night of the 30th, on the subway… Well, she was pretty reluctant to go anywhere at all. But gradually, she has realized that she hadn't been the man's target. She had gotten involved on her own. She was unlikely to be tracked down. So she has taken a taxi to Central Park. The traffic is pretty awful, but it's better than taking the subway.
Elisabetha is garbed in a jogger's outfit. Lycra top, lycra bike shorts, and running shoes. She brought along some sunglasses too, but isn't wearing them quite yet. She wants to enjoy the light while it's here. The darkness has become very frightening… Full of horrific possibilities she would rather not entertain. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman thus jogs and soaks up the atmosphere. It's almost like she's seeing everything new. As though it were the first time she has ever experienced it.
A woman is exercising on the grass. Bicyclists are bicycling… And a young lady is walking two dogs. Elisabetha grins and jogs in Claire's direction, hoping to get to pet the puppies (though one is actually full-grown). It's not like she can accidentally hurt things anymore.
"Wizard, heel," Claire instructs, tugging the leash that leads to the puppy's collar, clearly trying to teach the other dog, while Mr. Muggles eyes the puppy with his tiny Pomeranian derision. Look, I can heel. Only babies don't know how! he seems to say, daintily prancing with tiny paws. His four paws combined are still smaller than one of the clodhoppers of the pup.
All of the blonde pom's haughtiness falls away when a squirrel scampers up a tree right behind Shen, and the tiny ball of fluff scrambles, his toenails scraping the concrete path beneath his feet. Wizard, thinking the other dog wants to play, lunges for him in a puppy tackle, tangling Claire up in his leash, causing her to fall down in a squealing laugh. "Wizard, no-" she reprimands — even as she tries to lunge for Muggles leash from where it had fallen on the sidewalk. The little pom is off, running to chase the squirrel — and darting between first Elisabetha's and then Shen's legs to do so.
Shen finishes the set, holding the position for a few heartbeats. Though a laugh from nearby gets her attention, and she takes up a more natural stance. The small Chinese woman grins as the scene explains itself. A woman on the ground with a puppy and a hurtling pomeranian. A sucker for dogs, Shen remains where she is. If the dog gets close enough she'll make a grab for its leash for the owner. Maybe she'll get to pet the small dog as well.
Elisabetha watches, eyes widening as things become complicated for the lady with the dogs. She pauses, unsure whether to run to help or stay where she is. And then Mister Muggles takes the decision out of her hands, and charges right at her. The blonde woman begins to ready herself to try to catch the dog, but at the last second, a memory flashes through her head. A memory of what happened to her own dog when she was little. She's fairly confident that her 'gift' is gone now, but that split-second of hesitation allows the pomeranian to run right between her legs while she stands there uselessly, doing nothing.
Shaking off her stupor, and seeing that someone else is taking care of the pomeranian's retrieval, she instead hurries over to the fallen dog-walker. "Are you alright, miss?" she asks as she gets close enough to offer her hands to Claire, in an attempt to get her back on her feet and help her get untangled without losing hold of the excited puppy.
The sprawled woman is scrambling to unwrap the leash from her ankles so she can save the pedestrians of Central Park from a Muggles on the loose. "Oh, hey, I'm sorry, this is our first group walk and clearly it's going so amazingly well, right?" Claire tells Elisabetha, leaning around her to see that Muggles is still barking up the squirrel's tree as Shen grabs his leash. Claire accepts the hand and hops up to her feet, keeping one hand on the leash but letting it fall loose enough that she can step out of its entangling loops.
The puppy puts fat little paws on Elisabetha's legs, hopping up and down and trying to get her to look at him. "Down, Wizard," she tells the pup as she reaches to scoop him up. "Thanks!" she tells Elisabetha as she moves toward Shen to take the leash of the wayward pomeranian. "Bad Muggles, I am telling on you," she reprimands the other. "And thanks," Claire tells Shen. "I'm so sorry he interrupted your thingy."
Shen smiles at Claire as she escorts Muggles back to her. "You're welcome. At least your dog is healthy and fit." she offers as consolation as she hands back the leash. "They must be a real handful. Though I'm sure they'll learn to walk together sooner or later." She gives Elisabetha part of the smile as well, nodding a greeting.
Elisabetha is lucky she has been exercising. It used to be that, if she had tried to help Claire up back then, she would have been pulled down due to her lack of strength. But now she only has to strain a bit to get the other blonde onto her feet. "It could be worse," she offers, making sure to smile instead of saying what's on her mind. "They're both alright. And you as well! You could have skinned a knee or broken something."
She grins down at the lab puppy, half-happy and half-sad. She doesn't pet him until he gets down from her leg. Positive reinforcement! Then Shen comes up as Claire moves to meet her. Elisabetha nods and smiles to the Chinese woman and says, "Better reflexes than I have, apparently. Must be the training you were doing, right?"
Claire can't help but smirk a little at the words 'you could have skinned a knee.' She had, actually, skinned the palms of her hands when she landed, but they've already healed by now. "I better get used to it before this one gets bigger. He's gonna be big enough to pull me off my feet without tangling me up first before long," she says with a smile.
The puppy squirms, leaning first toward Shen and then toward Elisabeth, wanting to be free and to play with two new possible playmates he's found. Mr. Muggles growls and whines, looking up at the tree. "Oh, hush. That squirrel totally would have kicked your ass," Claire tells the tiny dog. "He thinks he's so tough," she tells the women with a roll of her eyes. Of course, he did help defend her from Alpha Protocol — but she's not about to share that story. "Sorry to interrupt both of your exercise, though. I appreciate the help rounding them up."
Shen shakes her head, crouching to give first the puppy a scritch behind an ear, and then Muggles. "I was done anyway. I only think I managed to get your dog because I had more time to prepare. And the squirrel had gone up the tree." she says, almost appearing apologetic as she glances Elisabetha's way. "I'm Shen Liu." Rising to her feet, she offers her hand to Claire first.
Elisabetha stays back, laughing a little at Claire and her interactions with Muggles. "So, he's going to get a lot bigger… And… He won't?" She indicates the tough dog with one finger. Seems pretty obvious, but some people don't have a lot of experience with dogs. She shakes her head at Shen. "It's fine. I'm just slow. My name is Elisabetha. Nice to meet you both."
"Claire," the younger blonde says, taking Shen's hand when it's proffered. "Nice to meet you both. This is Mr. Muggles," she says, reaching down to push the pomeranian's bottom into a sit as he stares up at the tree waiting for an encore squirrel performance. "And this is Wizard." She notices Elisabetha hanging back and she smiles. "They won't hurt you. Especially the puppy — do you want to hold him?"
Shen smiles at the dogs' names as she shakes hands. Elisabetha is offered a handshake as well, though only a brief one. "I like the little pomeranians. They look like dandelions with legs. All that fur." A pause, as she looks toward the tree where the squirrel went. "I don't think it's coming back." she says to Mr. Muggle.
Elisabetha accepts the proferred hand, and shakes. She blinks in surprise as Claire says the dogs won't hurt her. "…Oh, that's… Not what I was worried about, exactly." She doesn't really want to talk about it, even though she simultaneously feels compelled to. But these are strangers. They may know each others' names, but that's all they know. So she spares Claire and Shen her history with dogs and instead just smiles and moves forward to pet Wizard. But she doesn't accept the offer to hold him. "Thanks, but I'll pass on holding the bundle of energy for now! He might get too excited and pee on me." She laughs, to show she's joking.
Wizard wriggles with glee at being pet, and Claire finally sets him on the ground where he does indeed pee — on the tree, however — not on Elisabetha. "Yeah, he does that," Claire says a bit ruefully. Mr. Muggles wanders over to investigate Shen's foot, having given up on the squirrel — for now. "I suppose I should get on with the walking and let you two ladies continue with what you were doing before we interrupted so very rudely. Yes, Mug-Man, I'm talking about you." She does not use the sweet baby talk her mother uses with the beast.
Shen doesn't seem to mind Muggle checking out her foot. He had plenty of chances to bite her already and he is old enough to have some control of himself. "Alright. It was nice meeting you. Good luck working their energy off!" she waves at both women, stepping off into the grass to allow room for the dogwalking.
Elisabetha nods. "It's fine. If they hadn't decided to make a break for it, I wouldn't have gotten to meet you two. Or four, rather." She looks between Wizard and Muggles, before giving a small wave to Shen when she moves to get out of the way. Leaving Elisabetha to do the same. She hurriedly moves aside, and then says, "It was nice to meet you all. Maybe we'll run into each other again sometime." She certainly hopes so. Claire is funny, and Shen is nice too.
Claire laughs. "Thanks. Bye!" she says cheerfully — after all, it's a beautiful day and she's out free in the city, with two mostly lovable pups. Things could definitely be worse — a fact she knows from (too much) experience.
Shen would agree with that sentiment. No bullets flying, just a peaceful parting. Waving again, she heads off for her own home.