Monday, 27 November 2017

2.34 Unstoppable

Tula decides it's just best to rip off the bandaid. 

"I've been thinking about earning my own money, and I found a pretty good job." 

Paolo smiles warily, "Oh, what would you be doing?" 

"Giving tours..." 

" China." 

Paolo, who was putting his dishes away, pauses mid-stride. And he stays that way for a long...

"That's just a joke, right?" Sun asks, a tight smile on her face, "You're not serious, are you?" 

"I'm dead serious. I already filled out the visa application and the job application. I'd start in a few months. I'd be there for about a year and the money's pretty good," Tula smiles at her fear-stricken parents, "I need this change. Being here...there's too many bad memories. I need to get away from it." 

When no one says anything, Tula assumes they just need time to let it sink in. She silently gathers her plate and utensils, and heads for the dishwasher. 

When Tula takes her father's plate, the movement is enough to snap him out of his shock. 

"No, absolutely not. You're barely 18! You can't just go all the way to China on a whim," he snaps, a mixture of worry and anger flickering over his features, "It's not safe." 

Sun freezes, feeling like a deer caught in headlights. Why does she have to be here when they're fighting? 

"Too dangerous? You've been in the military since you were barely older than I was! How can working in Shang Simla be any more dangerous than that?!

"Don't try to turn this on me. I've never been deployed. You've never lived on your own- hell of a way to start, in a foreign country. Do you have any idea what could happen to you there?" 

"Do you? You've never lived outside of this tiny town!" Tula fumes, "Maybe that's ok for you guys, but I can't stand it here..." her rage melts into tears. 

Sun smiles sadly. "Come on guys, don't fight-," 

"Do you have any idea what it's like to see the place where it happened every single day? To be reminded that everyone knows whenever I go out? Do you know what it's like, looking at Haliya and realising that she could have gotten hurt because I didn't want to say anything?" 

Paolo's eyes fill with tears, "...I know exactly how it feels..." 

"Then you understand why I need to leave. Not forever, I'm not running away. I just... I just want to be normal. Somewhere where I'm just Tula Winterly, not "the girl that awful thing happened to", not someone who needs to be under lock and key..." 

Her voice becomes choked with sobs, "Please dad... I'm not doing this to hurt you. I know that you're only watching over me because you love me, but if I'm ever going to get better, I need to move on. I can't do that here, cooped up in this house. I can't do it here when everyone walks on eggshells around me... I just want to get better.

Watching his daughter cry and beg, Paolo's heart breaks. 

"Oh, Tula..." 

"I'm sorry, dad. I don't want to hurt you..." 

Paolo takes her into his arms. 

"Just...give me some time to think it over. I don't want to force you to stay here..." 

Tula looks up at him. "I'll be in my room when you want to talk..." 

Paolo and Sun wait until Tula's closed her bedroom door behind her. 

"Do you think it's smart, to let her go all the way to China by herself?" Sun asks anxiously. She understands Tula's intense desire to find her own job and live life on her own terms, but this seems risky to Sun. Like Tula said, none of them have ever left the city before. It would be so easy for her to get hurt or taken advantage of... 

Paolo smiles sadly, "She's either going to go with our blessing, or she's going to go crazy in here until she fights her way out. I don't see that we have much of a choice." 

"But there are probably other cities she could move to instead. Ones not so...far." 

"She's already made up her mind, it seems. I don't want to dictate what she can and can't do in her life..." 

Paolo stares down at the floor, eyes wide with disbelief. He's actually going to let this happen. His daughter is going to live in Shang Simla, by herself, for at least a year... 

"I think I need to lie down," he squeaks. 

Sun nods, "Me too..." 


Tula waits outside anxiously. Summer is drawing to a close, meaning that the nights are beginning to cool. Tula shivers a little as the sun dips lower in the sky, eager to get into a nice, warm car. 

She's heard that the weather in Shang Simla is still balmy and hot this time of year. 

"Your taxi to the airport won't be here for another ten minutes," Paolo says grumpily, "You don't need to be so eager to leave." 

Tula grins at her father, "I'll miss you too, dad." 

She turns to her father. He sighs, his eyes beginning to water. 

"I guess there's nothing I can say to stop you from leaving?" he jokes weakly. 

"I must say, you make a compelling case with that heart-breakingly sad face... but I'm going to have to say no." 

"Well, I just want you to know... whatever you do, and however this year goes... I'll always be proud of you, Tula." 

She throws herself into her dad's arms. 

"I'll miss you so much," she whispers to Paolo. 

Paolo hugs her tighter, "You better not forget to call." 

She laughs, the noise intermingled with tears, "Don't worry, I won't." 


"Cross my heart and hope to die." 

Sun walks outside, ready to say her farewells. 

"Hope I'm not interrupting dad and daughter time," she says jokingly. 

Tula pulls away, "I think we're about done." 

Sun decides to go for a much more upbeat goodbye. 

"You'll do great," she says, smile wide. 

Tula returns Sun's high-five, "You can count on it." 

"Promise you'll send pictures? I want to show Haliya what the rest of the world is like." 

"Of course! Hey, maybe you guys could visit me sometime..." 

Sun guffaws, "Ha, fat chance. I'm fine staying here. But if you can convince your dad, I won't stop you." 

No one can stop me, Tula thinks triumphantly to herself. At long last, she'll be living independently from this family. 

She can't wait. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

2.33 For the Best

"Hungry!" Haliya cries for her bottle. 

"Well, I don't have your bottle, but I have another treat for you..." 

Haliya watches eagerly as Tula slowly unveils a lollipop. 

"For me?" 

"Nope!" Tula takes a long lick of her lollipop. 

Haliya cries harder. 

After finishing her lollipop and finally feeding her sister properly, Tula makes her way downstairs for breakfast. 

"How are you?" Paolo asks. Tula glances at him. They do this every morning; Her dad waits until she wakes up and comes downstairs, then tries to make small talk. 

Ever since Guy was "sent away", Paolo has taken indefinite leave from work to be with his daughter. She supposes that she should be touched, or at least pleased that he's being more considerate of her as she used to want... and yet, Tula isn't. 

"I'm fine dad. Just fed Haliya her breakfast." 

"Oh, you know you don't have to do that, me or Sun can do it for you..." 

"I'm not a child, I can feed her myself." Seeing him flinch, Tula decides to soften her tone, "Besides, I like spending time with her." 

Paolo smiles uneasily, "Sure, of course." He pauses. "Any plans for today?" 

Tula sighs. Having helicopter parents wasn't what she had in mind, but it is what it is. 

"I suppose I could go out for a jog..." 

This of course "somehow" turns into a family walk to the park. 

Tula grits her teeth. She doesn't need to be babysat. She's a grown adult now and she would very much like to live like one.

"Want to stick around for the festival?" Paolo is immediately in front of her. 

Tula takes a deep breath and wills her irritation to disappear. 

"Sure, I guess." 

"What do you want to do?" 

She glances around. She knows if she doesn't say anything her father will become annoyingly persistent. 

"Rollerskating could be fun..." 

And so she dons a pair of skates and wobbles onto the rink. 

She inwardly curses at herself for choosing such a difficult activity. She has no balance whatsoever. Then she's going to fall and hurt herself and her dad and Sun will be all over her. How annoying. 

Sure enough, every time she so much as shakes, her father is right behind her, asking if she's ok or telling her to be careful. 

"I'm fine, dad!" she snaps. 

Paolo winces, "I'm sorry, I'm just trying to look out for you..." 

She decides to get off the rink after that. No use giving Paolo a heart attack. 

"If you want to keep exercising, we could always go to the gym..." Paolo suggests, thinking Tula's annoyance stems from being cooped up in the house. 

"Actually, I'm pretty tired. I think I'll head home. But you, Sun, and Haliya should stay here and have some fun!" 

"No, Haliya's probably tired by now anyways. We'll all walk home together." 

Of course we will, Tula internally seethes. 

"Sounds grreeeeeaaaat." 

While Sun puts Haliya down for her nap, Tula and Paolo have an early dinner. 

"Any plans for tonight?" 

Tula inwardly screams, but smiles externally, "Not sure. I was thinking of maybe going out for a drink..." 

Paolo tries not to seem too worried, but can't help his eyes widening, "Oh? With anyone in particular?" 

Tula shrugs, "Thought I'd go out by myself. Maybe I'll meet someone interesting." 

"That's a bit dangerous. Maybe I could go with you? Properly celebrate you turning 18?" 

Even Tula has a hard time finding a good response to that one. 

"On second thought, I think I'll just stay in tonight..." 

Seeing her disengage, Paolo feels bad for being such a nervous wreck. He doesn't want to keep her from enjoying herself, but the last time he looked away, she got hurt so badly... 

"Tula, I hope you know that I love you." 

Tula stares at her father, seeming slightly taken aback, "Well...yeah. I love you too dad." 

Seeing that Paolo is very close to an emotional outpouring, Tula excuses herself for a shower and turning in early. Paolo wordlessly watches her put their dishes away and walk into her bedroom. He doesn't move until he hears the soft click of her door. 

At the same time, Sun creeps down the stairs. 

"How is she?" she whispers anxiously. She's been giving the two lots of space, not wanting to come between father and daughter during such a difficult time. 

Paolo sighs, "I think she's doing better, but she seems frustrated with me..." 

Sun shakes her head, "I'm sure you're just imagining it. You're doing your best. Tula's a smart girl, and she's gotten through a lot. I'm sure she'll be ok." 

Paolo smiles tiredly, "You're probably right... I just hope that if I'm around more things will get better for her...and for all of us." 

Sun places a hand on his shoulder, then kisses him lightly on the lips, "She's going to bed soon. I suggest we do the same." 

The two walk hand in hand to their bedroom, ready for a good-night's sleep. 

Tula, on the other hand, has stayed up very, very late to get out of the house. 

"Thanks for letting me come over so late," Tula says in a hushed tone. 

Bree, Xara's young toddler daughter, blinks sleepily at Tula. 

"It's fine, I was just putting Bree down for bed when you called so I was up anyways. What's the matter, you said it was urgent?" It must have been, if she wanted to talk about it in person so late at night. 

"This is going to sound a bit crazy," Tula admits, now looking shy and uncertain, " travel a lot for work, and I was wondering if you knew how I could get a job somewhere...far away from here." 

Xara raises an eyebrow, "...I might. But I mean, why?" 

Tula looks down at the floor and plays with her hair, "I hate being in this town after everything with Guy happened. People stare at me. They might not whisper, but I know what they're thinking. And my dad...he means well, but he won't let me have any alone time anymore. He's afraid I'll get hurt if he's not there, but I want to show him that I'll be ok on my own," she tears up, "I want to be someone he can be proud of." 

Xara's heart melts. "Oh sweetie... he's already proud of you. We all are." 

Tula looks up at her pleadingly, "But I can't stay here forever, keeping my dad from work and living a normal life. Keeping me from a normal life. Please. Help me get out of here."  

"Look, I think you should talk this over with your parents first..." 

Tula shakes her head, "They wouldn't understand. They'd just freak out. If I can show them that I already have a plan and an actual job, it'll be easier for them to accept..." 

Xara sighs, seeing her niece's point. "I'll see what I can do." 

"Oh, thank you!" Tula says, tears slipping down her cheeks, "I can't thank you enough!"

Maybe don't thank me yet, Xara wants to say. Her brother's heart was going to get crushed...again. 

At least this time, it would be for the best. 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

2.32 Unlikely Story

Tulip sits, waiting for Sun to say something. Guy has been sitting in the interrogation room for several hours, waiting to be questioned. Tulip and Captain Sterling are the only officers in the small precinct with any experience interrogating domestic abusers, so Tulip is called in from her leave in Bridgeport. She arrives that same evening. 

"Neither of us ever noticed anything," Sun finally says, massaging her temple, "We saw those horrible bruises, but we didn't notice anything else... how did we not notice?" 

"Not everyone shows the signs. A lot of victims hide evidence that they've been hurt," Tulip says comfortingly. 

Sun buries her face in her hands. "Why? She could've told us. We would've listened to her." 

Tulip sighs, and puts a hand on Sun's shoulder. They're in for a long night. 

While Sun answers questions, Paolo accompanies Tula to the hospital for her examination. They need to see if there's any permanent or lingering physical damage. 

Paolo waits anxiously. He was so inattentive at home, and now his daughter is paying the price. 

He should have been home. He should've seen the signs, he should've realized that Guy needed help. He could've prevented all of this from happening. 

He's failed as a father, as a guardian, and just as a human being. 

Please let her be ok, he prays, Please let her be ok... 

Roman walks into the waiting room, and his jaw sets when he sees who he'll be talking to today. 

Life just won't give this boor bastard a break, will it? 

"Is she alright?" 

Roman sighs, "She's still going through the examination. You know we have to be thorough." 

Paolo sighs with frustration, "So why are you here? Aren't you a forensic analyst or something?" 

"Well, yes, but I work with the doctors here frequently. I get notified of these cases when they move into police jurisdiction." 

"So, what? You want to interrogate me or something? Ask me if I saw anything?" Paolo laughs bitterly, "I've been asking myself the same question. And the answer is no, not until a few hours ago..." 

"What did their relationship seem like to you?" Roman attempts to pull Paolo out of his spiral of self-loathing.

"How do you mean?" 

"Well, how did they act around each other?" 

Paolo sighs, and thinks. "Close, I guess? Like brother and sister. They were raised together ever since Guy was, uh, adopted. They did a lot of school activities together, especially after Tula's mother died." 

Roman nods. "And at home?" 

"They did their homework together a lot, if that's what you mean. I...I was at work when they were home, usually. By the time I got back, they'd be in bed most of the time," Paolo flushes guiltily, "I must sound like the worst father ever." 

Roman shakes his head, "It's ok, Paolo. Just tell me what you saw." 

"Well that's pretty much it. They would do homework together, um recently baby-sit my other daughter, Haliya, together, as far as I know they often had breakfast and dinner together too..." 

"And did either of them ever do anything out of the ordinary?" 

"No. Not that I can remember. Believe me, I've been wracking my brain for anything else. At the festival, Tula was nervous when I said we left Haliya with Guy. She didn't say why. I...I just thought she was scared he wouldn't be careful with her, because he's so absent-minded. I didn't think..." he chokes on a sob, "I didn't think it was anything more than that." 

"Did Haliya or Tula ever have any strange injuries?" 

"Haliya, no, she was always healthy. Tula..." Paolo takes a long moment to think, "...well she came home with bruises on her legs sometimes. She'd just blame it on being clumsy. She was always going to school dances and played on the soccer team, so I never thought anything of it. Oh god, do you think they were from him?" Paolo squeezes his eyes shut, "Just how badly did he hurt her?!" 

"Paolo, please, calm down..." 

"If it was your daughter in there, would you be calm!?" 

No, no he wouldn't be. Roman knows this and sighs. This was so out of the ordinary in their tiny, sleepy town, the mere thought of anyone hitting someone outside of a bar brawl was just...unfathomable. 

"I need you to be focused right now, so we can try and get to the bottom of this. I want to help you find out what happened to your daughter, Paolo." 

Paolo hangs his head and wipes his eyes, "I know... I know, I'm sorry." 

"So let's take this from the beginning..." 

Tula drums her fingers on the counter table and stares determinedly at the wall across from her. She's just finished changing back into her clothes after the physical examination. As soon as they let her get dressed, she recovered her bruises. They're quite the sight and she doesn't like how they mar her skin. 


Tula snaps out of her musings and stands with her hands uncertainly folded and fidgeting in front of her. 

"Can I go now, Ephraim?" 

Ephraim Blanco-Riffin, formerly painfully single teen rebel, now a married doctor, looks at his old high school friend. Their lives had certainly taken different turns. He never expected that they'd meet here, or under such awful circumstances. 

"I just need to ask you some questions first, then you can see your dad. It won't take long." 

Tula reluctantly takes a seat, and smooths her skirt with her hands. 

"So what do you need to know?" 

Ephraim flips through some papers, then glances up at her. "You told me the bruises on your neck were the only ones attributed to the attack." 


"What about the ones on your shins?" 

Tula stares straight at him, her face frozen, "Soccer practice." 

"There are a lot of them." 

She looks away evasively, "I'm a pretty clumsy person." 

"And the bruises on your back?" 

"I might have tripped during the summer dance." 

"Multiple times?" 

"Again, I'm pretty clumsy." Ephraim has no idea that she's actually telling the truth here. Hard to believe someone could fall so much in the space of a few hours, but she apparently has two left feet. 

"Do you want to talk about what happened during the attack? It'll be confidential." 

Tula squirms, "I don't want to think about it." 

Ephraim looks away, clearly uncomfortable himself. He's never handled a case like this before. 

"Ok, I understand." 

Several seconds pass, neither of them say anything. 

"There...there was another time," she admits slowly, "He didn't actually hit me or anything, just shoved me. In the mausoleum. It was the first time I'd ever seen him like that... I-I was so scared, but nothing else happened! I swear!" 

"Tula, I need you to be honest with me..." 

"I am! You can ask Armando and Teressa, they were there! He didn't hit me that time!" 

He's outwardly unaffected, but inwardly caught off guard when Tula suddenly bursts into tears. 

"He didn't mean it. Guy would never hurt me." 

Ephraim hands her a box of tissues. She takes several and begins dabbing at her face. 

"Why won't anyone believe me?" 

Maybe because it's an unlikely story, Sterling thinks to himself when Guy asks him the same question for the third time in a row. It's dubious that this is the first incident, as is the case with many perpetrators he's come across, and Guy's story is...doubtful. 

"But it's true! I don't remember hurting her! And I'd never hurt Tula or Haliya!" 

"So you admit that you might have hurt Tula and not remembered it?" 

Guy shifts in his seat, hiding his face. 

"What's your answer, Guy?" 

"...I can't breathe!

Was it more than just a dream? 


He finally shifts, facing Sterling.

"So what is it, Guy? Did you or did you not grab her neck?" 

"I don't know..." 

And it's the truth. 


An hour later, the three officers convene. 

"So what do we have?" Sterling asks the room. 

"Well, Paolo says he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. They spent a lot of time together, like siblings usually do, especially after their mother's death. Tula sometimes came home from school with bruises, but he says he thought they came from school activities. Now he's not so sure. She does have a lot of bruises, but most of them are old." 


"So she could be telling the truth about this being an isolated incident. Or the first of what would've been a series." 


"Sun says she didn't notice anything out of the ordinary either. She always thought they were both a 'little odd'," she uses her fingers to mime quotation marks, "But that it was just because they were uncomfortable with her being involved with their father. Like Roman said, now...she's not so sure." 

"So basically we have uncertain parents, a skittish victim, and a perpetrator," Roman sums up. He looks up at the ceiling, "Great. What did you get, Captain?" 

"He doesn't remember the incident, not all of it anyways. The medical exam conclusively proves that she was hurt by somebody, and she maintains that it was him, so we have a case for assault. But the boy needs to talk to a psychologist. The defense will probably argue for diminished capacity, or that he be sent to a hospital instead of prison." 

"Well, personally, if he's sick, I'd much rather he go to a hospital." 

"And what about what he did to Tula? Will he just escape punishment for that?" Tulip asks, her eyebrows high. 

"Oh come on, have some compassion. If he's unwell, he needs help. The justice system aims to rehabilitate, not punish." 

"Try telling that to Tula," Tulip grumbles. She's seen too many criminals get off too easily. Keith Chandra comes to mind, making her stomach churn. 

But, unbidden, the memory of Krista flashes through her mind. Krista needed help, although of a different kind, and she ended up dead. 

Tulip sighs at the skeptical look on Roman's face. "Ok, I get your point. He might be mentally unbalanced. That still needs to be determined." 

"So we'll talk to the DA, and his lawyer, and recommend him having a psychologist interview. We can't and don't decide the sentencing anyways. Alright?" 



Tula scrapes the ground with her feet. The past few days have been chaotic, to say the least. She's been through a revolving door of police officers, therapists, and doctors. She's ready for it to be over. 

"I appreciate you meeting me here on such short notice," the red-haired man says. 

"Yeah, well it's not like we really have a choice here," Paolo snaps. The last couple of days have been hard on him, too. 

"Dad, he's just trying to help," Tula reminds him quietly. 

Paolo glances at his daughter. How does she have it in her to be patient? he wonders in amazement. He feels like he's at his wits' end with having his life turned upside down, but Tula, the victim of it all, can still be civil. 

She turns towards the man, "Sorry, you were saying, Dr. Tavares?"

"Yes, I've spoken to your son-," 

"-he's not my son," Paolo cuts in. Ephraim winces. 

"...yes, I've spoken to Guy, and extensively with the police, his lawyer, and the district attorney. We all agree that he needs medical attention and rehabilitation. Seeing as you're his legal guardian, Mr. Winterly, we need your permission to send him to our facility in Monte Vista. I've asked Mr. Blanco-Riffin here to explain the particularities of our facility to Guy, and to you if you want more information..." 

"Will it stop him from hurting anyone else? Can you guarantee that?" 

"There are no guarantees in psychology, Mr. Winterly," Ephraim answers, "But it's Guy's best shot at getting better. We don't have anything like this facility in Appaloosa Plains. He'd just go to prison if you let him stay here." 

Dr. Tavares turns towards Tula, "I recognize that it must be difficult for you to be here and talk about helping someone who hurt you. What he did to you was deplorable, and I understand if you'd rather not be here..." 

Tula shakes her head. "He needs help. I wanted to be here to make sure he'd be getting it. To make sure this can't happen again." She turns towards her father. 

"Let them help him, dad. Please. For me." 

Guy was confused, but compliant, when he was transferred to a new cell, one for just him. 

He's cried himself out, stared at the ceiling, and avoided his cellmate for the past few days, thinking about home and wishing he could be alone. Now that he finally has some privacy, he finds that all he wants to do is sleep. 

He leaves for Monte Vista in the morning. He wonders what it's like.

AN: So I just want to say that having a victim to sit in on a hearing like Tula did would NOT normally be done, it's just because Tula insisted on being there and is a part of Guy's legally recognized family that she was there.