Actions

Work Header

Depth Perception

Work Text:

Rachel crushes the dried petals in her fist. The water comes to a boil on the stove. She opens, petals crumbling, over the loose dark leaves along the bottom of the pot, for steeping. She sets them on the soapstone countertop, and cools the burner, lifts the kettle.

Cups the pot with her hand as she pours gingerly, perfuming the air—a light hair falls on her satin sleeve. Blonde again, after quite some time. So that her clone might recognize her.

She replaces the lid and stares out the spotless window for five minutes, drinking in the flower scent. At Charlotte’s soft-heavy footsteps, she reaches into the cupboard. Passes over her own cup (the chipped one) for one of a few, identical and unused.

“Good morning, Charlotte... I’ve prepared your tea. Rose Black.” Pouring gingerly.

Charlotte, looking utterly rested, seats herself on a tall cushioned stool behind the counter adjacent. “Thank you. And good morning, Rachel.” She sets her phone to her left.

“Should you desire a lighter variety, you need only ask. And of course you’re free to scour the pantries on your own, morning or night.”

Charlotte takes the cup of tea Rachel offers, and breathes deep, eyes closed. “I love it already!” opening on Rachel.

“Don’t let a small thing like its flavour change your mind.”

So Charlotte drinks, and doesn’t. “It’s the most delectable morning tea I’ve ever had.”

(Owing to the clumsy pile of Ledas heretofore in charge of the girl’s care, Rachel could almost believe her.)

Her phone’s quiet thrumming pulls them from what was already threatening to become a lull in conversation. Charlotte gleans the message in a second. “Cosima says yo.”

“How very—“ More thrumming. Rachel squares her jaw.

Charlotte snickers at the screen. “That was Sarah.” Nonchalant, and back to her tea.

“Oh, do go on.”

She returns to the screen. “It’s a series of, erm, conflicted emojis. The last one is vomiting.”

Standing there feeling exposed in her kitchen, Rachel roughly smooths the front of her robe. “At least they are aware you’ve arrived safely.”

“I know I should’ve sent the message yesterday evening. Or perhaps thoughtlessly letting them worry was all that they expected.” Looking off to the far wall.

Should she reach for Charlotte’s hand? (Mentally she slaps herself.) “You will not scold yourself in my home, darling. Scold me, if you must scold someone.”

Charlotte sips, and smiles at the opportunity. “Alright... Where’s breakfast?”

“I usually skip it,” Rachel says, flat-footed.

“As do I.” She slides off the stool, leaving her phone. “Sarah does too, isn’t that funny?” Taking the cup into the living room. She’s wearing the most aggravating shorts—a veritable battery of colour, mercifully faded through improper washing.

Rachel follows her, empty-handed, bumping the coffee table. “I left out for you a robe, and pyjamas. Didn’t you notice them?”

“Why, no,” placing her tea atop one of the bookshelves. She looks back. “You bought us matching jammies, sestra?”

Rachel blinks inordinately. “Not matching.”

Charlotte pulls down a blue hardcover. “Remember the books you would send? I remember this one! Shite, this edition is gorgeous.” Her accusatory brow turns teasing.

“Yes, I sent you the brittle first edition by mistake. Unconscionable.” (Unconscionable that Charlotte’s eyes should be level with her own.) “This one I purchased in Amsterdam, to read on a flight to Helsinki.”

Charlotte hands Rachel the book, reclaiming her tea, blowing into it. “I eventually gave them all to Joe. His mother approved. She read them all, you know.”

Joe. Sarah’s second child. Named after one of the esteemed punks, of course. She puts the book neatly where it belongs. “What does he look like?”

Charlotte’s laughter is far from the sound Rachel’s imagined throughout the years—and better for it. “A lot like us,” she answers.

“Well.” She stares as Charlotte goes for a drink from the cup; Charlotte notices and lowers it, brow mocking. Rachel clears her throat. “Would you care to help me rearrange my furniture this morning?”

“You might be asking the wrong person, ey?”

“I only need your eyes, sweetheart. Mine isn’t so cooperative on its own. It won’t take long.”

Charlotte finishes her tea.

In half an hour they’ve moved a lamp, and the coffee table, and rotated the leather sofa ninety degrees, to Rachel’s satisfaction. There they sit.

“I understand why Sarah does not want you here.”

“Right... it’s not that. It’s that she doesn’t understand why I want to be here.” She ducks, and drops from the sofa, crawls on hands and knees—in those horrid shorts—to open a low drawer.

“Well?”

“This is a VCR,” Charlotte says, incredulous.

Rachel exhales. “Of course it is. I have... old tapes. Home movies.” Those few she could save.

“Do you really? Wish you had a record player.”

“I have no records to play.” The blonde hair, still on Rachel’s sleeve. “It would be quite useless.”

“Until you found records for it, bitch.”

She looks again: the hair is gone. “Shops aren’t open at this hour.” The drawer slams (it’s prone to catching), and Charlotte is sprawling on the carpet. “Restless, dear? Was the tea too strong?”

“Not at all!” she claims. “Er, the tea, I mean. I just... usually I’ll take walks in the mornings. Don’t say it.” Her face remains smooth, even while wearing a frown—the wonders of youth.

Rachel smiles down at her. “Never. You watched me learn to walk, once. May I walk with you?”

So they put on layers, and venture out into slumbering Pau, France, as the sun peeks over the distant Pyrenees mountains.

“How near they seem today,” Rachel opines. Turning back to Charlotte, on her right: “Your gap year is drawing to a close.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Ornithology... You’re certain?”

The cool wind whips them. Charlotte pulls her collar up tight. “I want to save endangered birds.”

Rachel tucks swept hair behind her right ear. “Don’t they remind you of the island?”

“Why shouldn’t they?” Charlotte asks, taking on a loftier stride—and then it’s all Rachel can do to keep up. “You terrified me on the island. Not the birds. When you picked up a kitchen knife.” She looks at her, so smooth. “Yeah, I was naive trusting you as a kid.”

“You’ve scolded yourself again, Charlotte,” a notable reediness to her voice.

“Well, we’ve left your home. And I scolded us both.” Charlotte slows; Rachel takes this as an excuse to stop.

“Oh, yes, I suppose that’s fair enough.” Reediness managed. She averts her eye, grimacing. (She is herself only by the sum of her failures.)

“Should we go back, and fetch your cane, Rachel?”

This question would come as an offense, from any of the others. “No thank you, to the cane.” Rachel blinks. “What do you say to more tea, and my old tapes?”

“What, indeed.” After a second, Charlotte shrugs. “Sounds like fun?”

They go back, because they should go back. She will reach for Charlotte’s hand tomorrow.

Charlotte volunteers to hook up the bloody VCR, as Rachel prepares the tea.

“How’s life, Rachel? Any friends out there?”

Cupping the pot with her hand, pouring gingerly: “A woman named Geraldine comes over once a week; she cleans, and I pay her,” staring out the window. “Then we share a meal. It’s the closest thing to friendship I’ve—Oh!”

“What is it?” Charlotte calls from the living room.

Rachel places her hand under the running faucet. “I’ve only scalded myself again.”