On my drive home this evening – after a stop at the UPS Store (work related) – I suddenly knew something about Nichole I did not just seconds earlier. Even better, I “saw” the reveal (in the episode below the fold) as well as something about her physically; that I don’t think will come out for a bit yet, but I might be wrong.
It’s such a joy to be writing again. To be creating again.
“Defiant” – Episode 3
The sun was now well below the West Hills and the sky was a complex palette of red to pink to purple. That was something new for her. She slowed her brisk walk and stared upwards, ranging her head from west to east. In the periphery of her vision more lights came on. Insects began to circle in about them. What was purple was now black and moving west.
Narrowing her eyes, she sang clearly:
<One of my night city walks
I don’t see anyone who walks the streets at night feel my own world feeling
A little good with the concrete cityscape…>”
She allowed voice to trail off. It was best she get to her dorm.
The sharp sound echoed around the school’s buildings. Startled that she’d let someone so close to her without knowing, she turned in the direction of the sound. The single clap was joined by more. Two young men stepped out of the shadows just ahead of her.
Students? She focused and first saw then read the badges they’d clipped to their navy athletic shorts. She relaxed. Slightly. The one on her right stopped his applause and smiled at her.
“That was absolutely beautiful! Even if I didn’t understand a damned thing past ‘Night’!”
He was a few inches taller than Nichole; maybe five ten, she wondered? But so powerfully muscled and broad under his gray tee shirt that it made him appear shorter. His hair color was difficult to tell in the waning light, but it was light – oh, as he came forwards under a lamppost, she saw it was an oddly faded brown. He smiled more broadly, revealing several missing teeth. His left hand held a sports bag of some sort over his shoulder. He extended his right.
“Hope we didn’t scare you too bad!” He laughed. “Kinda rare to see girls out after dark! I’m Joe Kreeft, by the way!”
She took his hand and gave a small shake with a tiny bow.
“You make me older. Thank you!” She replied. “My name is Nichole Clarke.”
Letting go, her hand hung slightly in the air as she looked towards the other. Joe punched his shoulder.
The other came forwards a step. Taller than Joe, and thinner, but wiry in his own right. He set down his bag and put his hand out.
“Gil. Gil Haven.” He said quietly, taking her hand.
At least seven inches taller than me, she thought. She could not tell where his black hair ended and the night sky began. He released her hand and stepped back lithely; cat-like. Nichole had an odd feeling. Something she’d never felt before. It scared her, a little.
“My pleasure,” she murmured.
“Hey!” Joe almost yelled. “We’re headed home after swim practice. Which dorm you in? We can see you to it!”
“Um.” She looked at the small envelope. “I’m in the Stratford, it seems.”
“’It seems…?” Joe’s face fell in puzzlement.
“You’re new here.” Gil said directly. She nodded.
“That’s right! It’s so interesting to meet new people!” She said brightly.
“Oh,” Joe said, recovering. “I’m at the Stratford, too! Mister ‘lone-wolf’ there actually lives just off campus. How’s about we head off…Nichole, was it?”
“Thank you for your escort.” She nodded towards Gil. “A pleasure meeting you!”
She and Joe had just taken a few steps when Gil called after them.
“That was Japanese. That song you were singing. Right?” She stopped and turned a bit.
“Yes, it was.” She smiled hopefully. “Anatawa Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka?”
He guessed at what she was asking.
“Nope.” He smiled for the first time; just a little. “But you’ve a lovely voice. See you!” He walked off into the twilight.
She continued on with Joe. Passing under another light, she saw him looking at her.
“Oh, nothing!” He laughed. “Gil’s only half-right! Not only a voice, but you’re a looker, too!”
Nichole looked ahead. She couldn’t blush, but she knew this would be a time to.
“That voice; those looks!” Joe continued loudly, “you’d make a great model!”
“I am. Number Five.” She said absently. Joe hesitated half a step.
“What was that?”
“Nothing!” She gave what she hoped was her cutest smile.
Silent for the few minutes of their walk, they drew up to the Stratford Building.
“It’s guys on the first couple of floors, girls on up.” Joe said. “Safer that way!”
Nichole nodded. What she had read at home was correct: ‘political correctness’ had died with mass famines of the Breakup. They walked into the entryway. Another young man – with a rifle behind his chair – sat at a desk just inside.
“’Sup, Joe? Who’s this? Your girl of the week?”
Joe knew to not argue with the armed, but Nichole was amazed to see him seem to swell even larger in suppressed fury.
“Shut your f—face, Bill!” He tossed his head in her direction. “She’s a new tenant.”
Nichole placed her two bags down and handed her envelope to the man called Bill. He looked quickly at the paper inside and nodded.
“Floor four, room eight.” He couldn’t seem to bring himself to smile. “Welcome to your new home, miss.”
“I’ll help you with your bag!” Joe called.
Off balance, he pulled up on the strap. She heard something…odd…from his shoulder.
“Ack!” He cried.
“Are you alright?!” Nichole stepped to him and pressed her hands into his left shoulder from both front and back. Ah. Nothing broken.
“What the hell is in there, rocks?!” He demanded. Then noticing her touch, he stopped. He looked down just as she looked up. Before, in the dark, he’d not seen the little splay of freckles across the bridge of her nose before.
“You….” He breathed.
“You’ll be fine!” She said, easily shouldering her main bag and picking up her other. “See you later!”
Joe watched as she made for the stairs. It wasn’t until Bill cleared his throat that he collected himself enough to make for his own room.
‘Lightly furnished’ was more like ‘barely furnished,’ she thought as she made her way about her little room. The bedroom and bath were separate, but the rest was an efficiency kitchen and a table with two chairs. Ah, well. A place is only a place: it’s people that make the difference. She parked her large bag in a corner and set her smaller one on the table. Opening it, she removed the cord. There, by the stove, was a plug for one end. She draped the other end over the back of one of the chairs.
“I hope I can do my best!” She said softly to the dark.
She unbuttoned and removed her mauve blouse. Then, the lime sleeveless undershirt below. For just a moment, her right hand reached across her chest to let her fingers just touch the small tattoo on her upper left arm. She shook her head.
She arched her left arm behind her head. Inches below her neck, her fingers pulled the skin apart. With her right, she plugged the other end of the cord into herself. Her emerald eyes flared slightly at the power input. It had been a big day. Time to rest.