2007-05-04: Running Into Each Other


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An unfortunate run in brings Claire and Cass face to face. Claire gets hit by a car and then she and Cass have tea in Enlightenment Books. That's right. You read that right.

May 4th, 2007

Running Into Each Other

East Village and then Enlightenment Books

New York City is almost always busy. However, on a rainy Sunday like today, the pedestrian traffic is down to a minimum and the cars that pass by the small side street Cass is taking to one of her favorite little tea shops are sporadic at the most. Wearing a bright red raincoat and holding up a rainbow colored umbrella, the book store owner really isn't paying attention to anything around her or anyone. She's got her earphones on and some good music playing and as far as she knows, she's the only person out on the New York City streets right now.

She may be one of few, but Cass certainly isn't the only person on the streets right this very second. Equally absorbed in her music, trying to brace her umbrella against her shoulder with one arm as she rifles through her purse for something, Claire Bennet is painfully unaware of Cass' existence. She's still around the corner, out of sight. Still, as she begins to turn the corner, Claire doesn't glance up from her bag. There's a cell phone ringing loudly, and the girl is having some trouble locating it.

Glancing down at her watch, Cass frowns and picks up her pace as she nears the corner Claire is about to turn around. However, the increased speed and an unexpected gust of wind from behind catches her umbrella. Much like a much less poised Mary Poppins, she is propelled her forward with a squeak of surprise, gripping onto the handle as tightly as she can. The slippery sidewalk gives her no purchase and after the quick burst of wind dies down, she's off balance. Already going much faster than she planned, she goes falling forward, flailling to try and right herself.

This is no simple case of stumbling into one another, brushing off the dust, and moving on; neither Cass nor Claire can be said to be particularly lucky. It follows that when two unlucky souls meet, the results can be near-catastrophic. Since she doesn't so much as glance up from her bag the entire time, Claire is in no position to get out of Cass' way, and they collide. Hard. Fortunately for both of them, it's Claire who finds herself thrown backwards by the collision… straight into the path of an oncoming car. The driver is going somewhat faster than the speed limit, and the screech of tires is painfully loud to Claire's ears — though not nearly as painful as the actual car, which rams straight into her side. She's thrown onto the roof of the car, then from there back to the pavement as the car tears down the street.

Even after she collides with the previously unseen Claire, Cass is propelled forward and lands face first onto the wet pavement. Her umbrella goes clattering to the ground in front of her, but none of that means all that much to her. What does is the fact that the girl she just ran into was pushed in front of oncoming traffic and is tossed over the car and onto the ground. She should get the number of the car that goes tearing down the street away without stopping, but her attention is more on Claire. "Oh God. Oh God!" Panic sets in, realizing what she's caused, and she scrambles to her feet and runs over to check on her. Digging desperately through her purse, she tries to find her phone to call 911 as she attempts to find a pulse.

Her heart is beating when Cass checks on her - not strongly, perhaps, but there is a pulse. A short few seconds later, Claire is moaning, pushing herself up from the ground. For the moment, she doesn't stand, opting instead to remain seated on the pavement. Holding one arm out in front of her, she runs the opposite hand along its length and seems to apply pressure in several places, grimacing as she does. She doesn't seem all that badly off, all things considered, but the car struck her side - where jeans, a shirt, and a raincoat hide any potential internal injuries.

Having found her cellphone, Cass quickly punches in the numbers for 911. She's found a pulse, which is perfect, but it's a little faint. "Hi, yes, I've got a girl struck by a…" the woman's panicked explanation to the dispatcher is paused when Claire starts to push herself up off the ground. This time she's obviously talking to the younger girl. "Wait, wait, you really shouldn't move, I'm calling an ambulance. Just…stay sitting down. They'll be here soon and we'll get you to a hospital." There's some mumbling coming from the phone, but Cass doesn't answer them. Instead, she's peering curiously at what Claire is doing. "You…you shouldn't do that. You'll hurt yourself even more."

"I'm fine," Claire protests, suddenly looking at Cass for the first time with an expression more concerned than angry. She doesn't seem particularly upset, despite having been pushed out into traffic. Whatever she was doing with her arm has stopped, and now she runs both hands down the length of her right leg, surreptitiously pressing down on her knee. "I don't need an ambulance. It just clipped my side." As if to prove a point, she flattens both palms against the ground and shoves herself up to her feet.

"I…you were struck by a car, flipped over the roof and back onto the pavement." The fact that Cass is more upset by this than Claire is confuses her. And worries her. When she pushes herself up to her feet, the store owner quickly stands as well, holding out an arm to catch Claire because she's convinced she's going to just collapse when she does so. "I'll call you back," she tells the 911 dispatcher distractedly. Pressing the end button, she doesn't quite pocket her phone yet. "I'm so sorry. I just…wasn't looking where I was going. But…I…you're okay? Seriously? That looked like a really bad hit. I mean, you were over the car." She frowns. "At least let me look over the side that got struck. You could have something broken and not even know about it."

Raising her arms over her head, her umbrella long-forgotten and carried far away down the street by the wind, Claire shows Cass a range of movement that doesn't seem to be hindered by any injuries. "It looked worse than it was, I guess," she says, brushing some dirt from the side of her coat and her face. "If I had a cracked rib, I wouldn't be able to breathe without it hurting. And I couldn't do this, right?" She bends over to touch her toes, never once wincing. "I'm okay. Don't worry about it."

"That's true." Cass watches Claire exhibit her movement, carefully studying her for winces of pain or for something she may not be able to do. "That's…remarkable. You don't even look like you got hurt at all." Her voice is confused and curious now, hard to mistake. Her own umbrella is probably with Claire's, somewhere far off down the road. And she doesn't quite mind it, either. Despite the rain. "Look, we're both getting wet. Let me get you something warm to drink, at least, for pushing you into oncoming traffic. Even if you're okay." The woman is still shaken by what her actions caused and she's wary to let Claire out of her sight. She can't tell if it's because the girl should have some injuries and doesn't seem to or because she's convinced that she may just drop over dead belatedly.

Eager to get off the street before emergency services decides to track down Cass' number and send an ambulance regardless, Claire casts the woman an uncertain smile, ducking her head in a nod. She's quickly becoming drenched, her hair soaked through and clinging to her face. "Sure," she says, finally stepping off the street and slipping the strap of her purse back up over her shoulder. Running away right now would make it plainly obvious that she has something to hide, so Claire accepts the invitation, even adding for Cass' benefit: "If anything starts to hurt, I'll tell you, okay? I think I'm just going to have some bruises."

As they're not too far off from Enlightenment, Cass starts leading the way to her store. The coffee and tea is free there! Plus, if Claire collapses, it won't be in a public area. And so much has happened at her bookstore lately, that she's pretty sure she won't even have to give directions to her store should that happen. "Okay. Good. My store's not too far from here. I've got coffee and tea there. Plus, a first aid kit. I've got some arnica cream….you should use some of that for helping with the bruising." She studies Claire with a worried expression, then, to break something that could be an awkward silence, she adds, "My name's Cass, by the way. Cass Aldric. Just in case you need to talk to the authorities and emergency services and need the name of the crazy woman who ran into you for the report."

Briefly, Claire considers giving the woman a fake name, just in case the woman decides to try and sell the story to the tabloids. Ultimately deciding that more interesting things happen in this city, however, and remembering how she was forced to live as someone else for months, the blonde teenager offers Cass a hand. "Claire," she replies, paying more attention now to where she's going. "You have a store?"

"That's a nice name," Cass replies friendly enough. It's only a few quick blocks to Enlightenment and the woman starts to rustle around in her purse for her keys. "Yeah. It's under some renovation right now, so I'm kind of the owner of some empty shelves. It's Enlightenment Books." She doesn't expect Claire to have heard of it, but that's okay. As they approach the shop, the window is still covered with plywood, but the front door has been fixed and has a nice new lock. Taking the keys relevant to the store, she unlocks what she needs to and opens the door to reveal, just like she said, a store with mostly empty shelves. A few boxes of water damaged books sits by the door, ready to be picked up. "Come on in. Let me find that first aid kit and put some water on."

The state of the store seems to take Claire by surprise; she isn't sure what she had been imagining, initially, but a store with plywood covering the windows and water-damaged merchandise, the shelves mostly empty, was certainly not it. "What… happened?" Her inquiry is tentative, spoken as she steps inside and ducks her head instinctively, as if something might fall from the ceiling at any moment. Frowning faintly, she looks to Cass and adds, "I'm guessing it doesn't always look like this…?"

Once Claire is inside, Cass shuts the door, but she doesn't lock it. What with the sign out front that says 'Closed for Renovation' she's not expecting anyone to try the door. "A long string of bad luck. Someone broke in, then the sprinklers went off. Paper and water don't really mix that well." Seeing her duck, she smiles. "Don't worry. There's nothing structurally wrong with the store. It's just the merchandise." As she heads to the back room, she flips on the hot water and calls back, "Would you like tea or coffee, Claire?" She waits to see if she should put coffee on until she gets a response and instead goes right for her desk to pull out the first aid kit.

"Tea, please." While Cass is in the back room, Claire finds herself walking the length of the store, looking at the empty shelves and reading the titles of what few books remain out in the open. "Wow. I hope your insurance covered the damage," she remarks, her frown lingering. "Why would someone break into a book store?" Especially a small one in New York, she thinks, but doesn't state aloud. "Did they steal anything?"

Pulling down mugs, Cass also takes out tea boxes - Chamomile, earl grey, english breakfast, various assortments. On those shelves would be a couple books about telepathy, time travel, and the one copy of Activating Evolution that she found in the back that wasn't so badly water damaged that she would still be able to sell. "Come on back," she tells the girl. "I'll let you pick out what you may want." As for herself, she drops a bag of earl gray into the mug she'll take as hers. "Most of it." She shrugs. "I can handle what they didn't, luckily. The woman who did it was….disturbed." She's not about to get into the real details with a young girl she doesn't know. "She didn't, luckily." Then, back to the desk and to the first aid kit. She plucks out a tube of arnica cream and some bandages - just in case. "Here. Use this for your bruises. It really helps. You're sure there's nothing else? I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but you were hit by a car and don't seem to be hurt at all. It's…I mean, I know that teenagers are resilient, but this is kind of…" she doesn't have a word for this is yet, so she doesn't finish her sentence.

The books certainly catch her eye, but Claire's curiosity is highest once she spies the copy of Activating Evolution. Not suspicious so much as nervous, she says nothing to Cass about her knowledge of the book. "It was a woman who did this?" She steps into the back room, glancing over the assortment of tea and selecting one - chamomile - for herself. "Wow. You don't usually hear about women doing that kind of thing." A frown marks her brow again as she glances back over her shoulder, considering the room beyond. "I don't think I was hit as hard as you think. Maybe I just got lucky. Stranger things have happened, right?" She offers Cass a quick smile, meant to be reassuring. "I'll put some of this on anyway, if it makes you feel better. Do… you have a washroom somewhere?"

"Yeah." The hot water boiler shuts off, meaning that the water is ready and Cass pours enough into each other their cups to cover the tea bags. "I know. If there was anyone in need of a book here, it was her, I think. Meditation and soothing the soul, right?" There's 'not getting hit hard' and there's 'being flipped over a car'. The two don't really match in her mind, but she holds out the tube for Claire to take only saying, "Hm. I guess." But she doesn't really sound all that convinced. She doesn't push the matter yet, though. "Yeah. It's that back door." She indicates another door that leads to a tiny bathroom meant for employees.

"It all happened kind of fast," Claire admits, rolling her shoulders in a shrug. "I'm not really sure what happened. I'm just glad I didn't break anything." Taking the arnica cream and bandages from Cass, she glances in the direction of the washroom. "I'll be right back." Her purse is left behind on the chair. She's gone for several minutes, certainly long enough to have gone into the washroom, examined her injuries, and applied the cream. The water runs, and Claire reappears, her coat removed and her clothing slightly misaligned. "Thanks," she says, handing the first aid supplies back to Cass. "The girl who trashed your store— why did she break in?"

"Me too," Cass replies. And she really is, because she'd be in a large spiral of self-hate if she had caused Claire any real harm. But, still, the whole situation is sort of strange to her. Maybe it was a weird angle. All the same, though, it's still /weird/. In the time that Claire has gone, the tea has steeped and she's removed the tea bags for both of them. The mugs are still steaming and Cass has hers in a chair by her desk. Putting down the mug and taking the supplies to put back in her kit, she smiles. "You're welcome. Nothing out of the ordinary? No bones sticking out? No strange discoloration? Anything very tender to the touch?" She's going to go through the routine just to make double sure. "Oh, well." As for the woman who broke into her store, she shrugs. "She took one of the books I stock too seriously. Thought I had something that I didn't and then became violent when she learned the truth. Needless to say, she's not welcome back here any more."

"Nothing except a bruise that might get me out of gym class tomorrow," Claire replies brightly, flashing the store owner a swift smile that is tempered by a measure of mischief. "I'll probably be sore when I wake up tomorrow." As she settles down into her seat and takes the mug of tea into both hands, Claire considers what the woman says about her break-in, a frown marking her face again. "Wow. She trashed your store over a book?" A glance is cast over her shoulder, in the direction of the shelves. "God, what a psychopath."

The dash of mischief is taken with a smile from Cass, too. Well, if she really is fine, then she's fine. Just…she'll keep a close eye on the girl. "You're lucky, then. I thought you were much worse off." There may be something else here at work, but Cass isn't going to bring it up so immediately and without any sort of lead up. "She wasn't really the one that trashed the store. She broke the door, but the main damage came from the sprinklers coming on when they shouldn't have. It wasn't really over a book, per se. It was just kind of a misunderstanding that got out of hand." It's all getting a little too complicated, and the store owner shrugs, taking a small sip of hot tea. "We get all kinds here. Or used to."

"That's still pretty messed up," Claire replies with a shrug of her shoulders, lifting the mug to her lips for a long sip. "I guess it could have been a lot worse, though. At least the store is still standing." Images flash through her mind: the coffee shop gutted by fire, the pictures in the paper of the Primatech lab in Hartsdale utterly destroyed, and a chill creeps down her spine. She almost doesn't want to ask, afraid to know the answer, but Cass did say that it was the sprinklers that did the damage. That's reassuring, she decides. She hesitates for a moment, watching Cass over the edge of the mug. Finally, Claire asks, "Did anyone get hurt?"

"Oh, I'm not saying otherwise," Cass laughs, shaking her head. She's not about to argue Elle's sanity. Especially when she thinks Claire doesn't know her. "Yeah. It could have been much much worse. It was just the books that got damaged. And the door. and the window." Okay, stop listing things. "But structurally, the store is fine. Which is good. Otherwise it'd take me a lot longer to get up and running again." Thinking of what could have happened, she suppresses her own shudder. "Sort of. I hit my head off the counter. One of my friends, Peter, got a little shaken up when he tried to help out. But he's fine now. He's a fast healer." Kind of like Claire. "So, that's another good thing."

There are red flags popping up all over the place now, and a thousand different scenarios in which this woman might know her uncle… and might be dangerous because of it. Or she could be harmless, despite knowing Peter. Or she could just happen to know someone named Peter who gives the impression of being a fast healer by virtue of being healthy. …these and more are the thoughts racing from her mind, and Claire distracts herself with the cup of tea, taking another long sip. "That's good," she says, looking back to Cass. "That he's a fast healer, and that no one was really hurt. I feel like all I hear about any more is how many people get hurt around here."

Though there may be red flags popping up in Claire's head, Cass is mostly just trying to figure this other young girl out. Did she see things wrong? Or is it possible that she has some remarkable power to bounce off cars without getting hurt? Instead of distracting herself with the tea, she's merely holding her mug and allowing it to cool some more. "Yeah. Me too. You'd never guess it by looking at him that he's so resilient." Grinning, she finally does take a sip and then lets the mug rest on the desk for a moment. The grin fades into a very serious expression when she mentions people getting hurt. "Yeah. Me too. I know it comes with being in a big city, but it seems like it's been happening so much more. And to people I know."

Tracing the outline of the mug with one finger, Claire drops her eyes to the table, listening to Cass with a slow, sympathetic nod once she's finished. "I know what you mean," she says, looking back up to Cass, her expression faintly apologetic. "It's like… every day, I get home from school and find out something happened to someone else. I must know the unluckiest people. Sometimes, some of the things that happen to them…" She smiles at the store owner, shaking her head. "I guess it's like the car today, huh? Unlucky. But really lucky."

One thing they certainly have in common is unlucky friends. Though Cass has got her own little frown, she doesn't drop her eyes from watching Claire. She's not studying the girl anymore, she's just keeping eye contact. "I know. People being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just…strange things happening. A couple of months ago I'd never have thought someone would come in and threaten me and my employees over some perceived notion." A short shake of the head and she pulls the mug back over to herself to drink from. "Yeah. I'm just glad you're alright." She'll say that a million times over because it just keeps on being true.

"It's new to you too, huh?" Claire can clearly sympathize with this newfound life of mayhem, and her apologetic look lingers as she looks to Cass again. "I just moved here from Texas. I thought if we left Texas, things would be normal again, but everyone is unlucky here, too. I don't think there's a right time to be anywhere, any more." Maintaining appearances, she raises the hand holding the mug of tea, using the opposite hand to press experimentally against her side. "No internal bleeding yet."

Giving Claire a wry smile, Cass nods. "Yeah. I can't imagine the day when it's not new to me." Letting the younger girl talk about Texas, she just nods. "I've been here for a couple of years and it wasn't like this before. Dangerous and edgy…but not quite like this. Maybe I'm just seeing it in a different way, though." The information is received with a relieved smile. "Good, that's good. You feel any sharp pains or if you start feeling sluggish, tell me and I'll get that ambulance."

"There are still good things," Claire says, looking down into the mug of tea and watching as she swirls the remaining tea around for a few seconds. "I just keep reminding myself about that. About the good things." She finishes what's left of her drink and sets the mug back down, managing a swift smile for hte woman. "I should probably go. Before I was hit by a car and defied death--" A joke, judging from the amused tone in which she speaks. "--I was on my way home."

"There are always good things." Cass smiles warmly at Claire. She is the queen of trying to see the best in things. It's good to remember that. "It makes everything easier to remember that." Reaching into her desk, she pulls out a card with her name, the address of the store and her number. This she holds out for Claire since she's getting ready to go. "Of course. I'm really sorry about what happened. If anything happens or if you just want to stop by when the store is open again, here's my card." The smile turns into more of a grin. "Sounds familiar. I should probably head that way, too."

Taking the card, Claire pushes back up to her feet, the mug left on the table. "Thanks for the tea," she says warmly, running her hands through her hair in order to tie it back in a knot. "And for… not making me get into an ambulance. My parents would pitch a /fit/ if they thought I got hit by a car, even if I'm fine, you know? I'll definitely come by some time and see the store once it's open." With another kind smile, Claire raises a hand in a wave and heads back into the store proper, on her way to the door.

"Any time. Least I could do." For accidentally shoving her in the path of a car. Cass stands up when Claire does and starts trailing after her into the main room. "You're welcome. I know how overprotective parents can be. It was nice to meet you, Claire. Even if it was under strange circumstances." Still smiling, she opens the door for her to exit through.

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