No, I am not getting up... Briana mumbled to herself. She was very cozy where she was, and there was no alarm going off or annoying light. There were small sounds though, from elsewhere in the house, that she could identify as her father getting ready for his day. Even on Thanksgiving, there were things that had to be taken care of on the farm.
Acceding to her conscience, Briana sighed and pushed herself clumsily up to sitting. She knew it had to be before 7 AM, and likely 6 too. The next step was standing. Now upright, and more coherent than she'd been, Briana grabbed her warm old robe. She put it on, but left it untied.
Trudging out into the narrow hallway, she was able to discern that the sounds shed noted earlier were kitchen ones of silverware and a pan on the stove. Coffee brewing. Her destination was obvious.
The scene when she reached the kitchen was a familiar one. Her father, dressed in a sturdy plaid shirt and jeans, was standing near the table with his favorite chipped coffee mug in one hand and supporting a section of the newspaper with the other.
"Kitten... didnt expect youd be up."
"Morning, Daddy. It just seems like the chores will go quicker with both of us." She finger combed her hair to get it marginally presentable.
"True. Then we come in, clean up, and start cooking." They both smiled. "All the same, you dont need to get out there right away. Id rather work half an hour on my own to have you fully conscious around machinery."
Briana nodded. "I know." She moved to the coffeemaker, and retrieved her mug from the cupboard above it. It was plain white, with conventional black lettering that read Thats Queen Bitch To You. Shed gotten it for her eighteenth birthday from a friend whod constantly tried to nudge her into being more assertive. Briana had surprised herself by actually liking the irreverent attitude of the statement. Shed had her morning coffee at home out of it ever since.
Her father finished up his morning routine by folding the paper neatly, and rinsing his mug out in the sink as she prepared her coffee by adding a bit of creamer and sugar.
"See you out there in a bit." He placed a kiss on her forehead, and headed out.
Briana took her first sip of coffee. Ah... This was a perfect start to the day. Part of her wished though that Harlan could share it. She doubted her friend was having as good a time as she was.
There were few people out and about on the streets of Portland Thanksgiving at noon, and most of those were in groups usually families heading to celebrations or preparing for them by working up an appetite. Almost none of the shops were open, much as shed expected.
One that was though, as indicated by the open door, shed never been in before. Hmm. She altered her course to take a look.
The lighting was dim, and probably meant to evoke candlelight. At first glance, she couldnt characterize the store other than as having a lot of... stuff. There were small, richly decorated pillows, candleholders, and Harlan also thought she saw a shelf of books.
There was a counter, with a glass display case and cash register atop it, off to one side. It was tended by a woman of indeterminate age dressed in flowing clothes. The woman didnt greet Harlan, but acknowledged her presence with a nod.
Harlan walked closer to the glass case, which she now saw contained jewelry. Most of it was better suited to a more flamboyant taste, though she enjoyed the rich colors of the beads used and the ingenuity of how the pieces were put together. She was about to move on, when out of the corner of her eye she noticed a pair of far simpler pieces.
They were silver dog tags, each on its own ball chain. One had BF4 engraved on it, while the other read EVR. Best Friends Forever Harlan translated. Shed seen similar friendship necklaces, but usually aimed at girls in elementary school or junior high. This was a grown-up version.
"How much are these?" she asked. The woman glided over, glancing into the case to see what her well-dressed customer as referring to.
"Unique, arent they? Just came in a few days ago from a local artist. And, its thirty for the set."
"Ill take them..." Harlan didnt know when shed give Briana hers, though a scared little voice said it hoped it wouldnt be soon. She ignored it. Perhaps Christmas... "I was actually surprised to find there were any places open."
The woman removed the necklaces from the display, and began to wrap them neatly in tissue paper. "Well, dear, Im actually closing up in about an hour. My familys get-togethers dont start until a bit later, so..." She gave a bit of a shrug.
"That makes sense." The woman set the tissue package in a small box, and secured the lid with tape as Harlan produced the necessary cash.
The woman completed the sale. "Would you like a bag?"
"No, thank you." Harlan took the box and tucked it into her purse. The woman nodded, almost a bow using only her head.
"Briana, are you all right?" She glanced up, realizing shed just been moving her food around.
"Yes, Daddy. I was just thinking." Getting her mind back on her meal, she took a bite of turkey.
"About what?" He helped himself to a bit more of the greens.
"Couldnt say, really." A small sigh escaped her. "Woolgathering, I guess."
He nodded. "Youve had some good ideas turn up after doing that... Your mother was the same way. Shed stare into space for ten minutes, then a little after suggest a way to open up a whole new market for our horses." Briana smiled at the comparison.
"I dont know if mine are that productive." Briana paused. "Daddy... things seem much quieter here after being away. Its nice, but strange too."
"Well. That does make sense." He set his silverware down. "It must be different going from being around three people in that little apartment to one in this house."
Uh oh, time for a little damage control. "It is. But, its great to spend some time at home." That was true. It just would have been nice if Harlan was present, too.
"Representative Daniels has indicated hed like you to clerk for him this summer," Harlans mother informed her. The dark haired young woman fought off a scowl, recognizing her mother couldnt catch every snake.
"What hed like is to show me the error of my ways and how much happier Id be sleeping with him." Harlan speared a vegetable with more force than necessary.
"Youre accusing him of harassment," her father said. But, she sensed his readiness to trust her.
"I know. At that dinner, just after you two left the table he asked me to dance before he asked his wife, and she was sitting right there." If a relationship isnt working, people should at least have the decency to end it, instead of the callousness he showed. Mrs. Daniels had never been very strong, though.
"Then, of course we dont want you working with such a man," her mother said, awkwardly.
Her father nodded. "Weve been concerned enough with the people youll be around in politics without putting you under the care of someone like that."
With that pronouncement, the conversation drifted immediately back to the usual discussions of work and classes, and social events attended. Harlan knew Daniels would never be mentioned again; while she had full leave to deal with him as she saw fit not even Leigh would ask how that had felt. Briana would. I wish she was here...
Out of excuses to put off discussing Briana and the potential living situation with Colette, Harlan rapped her knuckles on the white door.
Harlan did, and was happy to see Colette was alone. The house leader was seated Indian-style on her vibrant purple and ruby swirl bedspread, a color theme that extended to the rest of her space. As a way of keeping her eyes from crossing in response, Harlan focused on Colettes calm face.
"I just got back in."
"Figured as much. So, was there something you needed to talk about or are you just here to give me a thrill?" Colette teased, giving Harlan a long look that started at her boots and didnt let up until it reached her hair.
Harlan just smiled. "Youd get that anyway."
Colette tapped at her chin, pretending to think seriously. "Actually, I believe youre right."
"I do have something a bit more serious to talk about though." A beat. Colette, with effort, shifted to a more businesslike demeanor.
"Alright then... what is it?"
"You remember my friend Briana..." Getting an answering nod, Harlan continued. "Her roommates are just... well, theyre terrible. I brought up the possibility of her moving in here. With me."
Colettes brow furrowed. "Theres certainly space."
"Yes..." Harlan could read the concern in Colettes face, and resented it. "Is there some other problem with her moving in Im not seeing?"
Colette let out a quick breath. "Not with her. Shes a sweet kid."
"Then what is the issue?"
"Have you told her, even hinted, about the nightmares?" Harlan felt a large bucket of cold reality hit her plans. I am such an idiot...
"Ill figure something out," she insisted aloud.
Colette unfolded her legs and slid off the bed. "Harlan, Ive always lived where theres at least a room between us but I will be old and flirting with the nursing home orderlies and still be able to remember those screams."
The dark haired woman had no answer to that... and, if she was honest with herself, she found the nightmares embarrassing. All she knew was that she had no idea of why she had them. Remembering even a little of the nightmares would probably help uncover that cause, she supposed, but that never happened.
"I understand wanting to help a friend..." Colette continued. "Especially one as close as Briana. But ask yourself if this is really the best solution... the one where both of you are happiest."
Harlan made a rueful little sound. "The best solution would be for me to stop having the nightmares." An image presented itself, of a slightly disheveled Briana looking down at her with such sleep-deprived annoyance it became animosity.
Colette gave her a sympathetic look. "Yeah, it would. But the chances of that..."
"I know." Harlan recognized now that there was only one ethical thing to do. "Ill tell her, and then she can decide if she still wants to give this arrangement a try or find someone else to live with. Shes so easy to get along with she wouldnt have much trouble."
The blonde grinned at some private joke. "If she does decide she can put up with you, shes part of Lilley House. That really was my only concern."
"Thanks, Colette." Having abased herself enough for one afternoon, Harlan formulated a plan to spend the rest of the afternoon in her room taking care of Presidential paperwork. Most of it simply required her signature to formalize decisions made in council, but there was enough of it to justify not being seen again until dinner.
While she waited for Harlan to complete a phone call, Briana wandered about her friends room. Shed seen the amazing but seemingly little used sound system and the full bookshelf before. There was also a plain, leather bound photo album out she didnt remember, and Briana wondered if perhaps Harlan had brought it back from Thanksgiving break. She picked the volume up and gave her friend a questioning look.
The dark haired woman nodded, and gave her a smile. Now that she had permission, Briana set out to put her science-sharpened deductive abilities to the test. Opening the album randomly about three quarters of the way through, she found a picture of a slightly younger Harlan standing in the snow in front of a rich-rustic wood lodge. Briana had never seen Harlan quite so mussed her dark hair had been blown about and dampened, and there was a knit cap pushed somewhat unevenly onto her head but there was a huge smile on her face. She looks so free... Who had taken the picture? Somehow, she didnt think it was a family member.
"Briana?" Harlan was just two feet in front of her now.
"How do you do that?" A rhetorical question. "Theres a picture of you in here in ski gear. I didnt know you were into that." Harlan moved slightly, to be able to see the picture.
"Im an upper-class Oregon girl," Harlan said sardonically. "Its required. My parents took me for the first time when I was three. Ive gone skiing once or twice a winter since, but Ive never been on a team or anything so organized."
"Still, youve got to be good having started that early..." The only activity Briana could remember learning that young was riding horses.
Harlan shrugged. "I do it for fun, not to impress anyone." Pale blue eyes lifted to meet Brianas. "If you want to try, you could come with me this year. I always go the weekend before finals."
Briana had never seen a ski in real life, but she knew enough to know the equipment was expensive and so were lift tickets and so was staying at the kind of lodge in the photograph. "Harlan..."
"Id be going regardless, and Id like the company. My parents worry when I go alone too."
Harlan, you are not going to just charm me into this. "I admit that I dont know exactly how much it would cost for me to go, but it would be more than I could pay or feel comfortable asking you for."
"I have a lot of respect for you not wanting to take what you see as charity. But, the expense is really not a concern for me and I want to show my best friend something special. Even if you dont take to skiing the mountain is gorgeous. Or, you could count my visit during Christmas as paying me back."
"Has anyone ever said no to you?"
"Yes... but, not often." Harlan grinned, blue eyes playful. Briana felt her own lips curve into a smile in response. After a beat though, a weightiness entered Harlans expression Briana had only seen once or twice before. "I... actually have a bit of a disclosure to make, before you decide. It has some relevance for whether you would want to move in next semester, too."
"I doubt whatever you have to say will change my mind," Briana said. She doubted her friend had any bad habits to compare with Rianes poison.
"Just let me talk..." Harlan said gently. "Its easier if I can just go through it at once. Ive had very bad nightmares regularly since I was about fifteen... I dont remember what happens in them. The only way I even know they happen is Ive torn sheets and woken people up yelling. It scares them." Briana listened to the words, but also the way Harlans eyes no longer met hers.
Shes ashamed of this...
"After my mother died, I had some really awful nightmares too. I was never told much about what happened other than that it was a car accident, so my imagination filled in the worst possible details in my dreams." Briana worked to ignore the images that, even now, came back so easily. "No matter why you have them, I dont think theyre silly."
Harlans posture changed in some subtle way, and Briana knew her words were getting through.
"Briana, you were a kid who had been through a very traumatic experience. They went away after a while, right?"
The blonde shook her head. "Over about a year, I started to have them less and less. But I still have that nightmare sometimes, when theres a lot of change in my life." Back on topic... "If youre still having them so badly, it just means you havent figured out what will help yet."
Harlan was a quick learner. Defeated, she said, "And Im going to start on a program to do so, arent I?"
"Yep." came the confident reply. It seemed natural, somehow, to be firm where Harlans emotional health and certainly sleep quality were involved.
"And, if it doesnt work?"
Briana reached up, and set an arm on Harlans shoulders. "Ill buy earplugs."
Harlan gave her a grateful smile, and moved to turn the page. "I really like this next one " Displayed on the next page was a photograph taken at a beach. From the light sand and the water almost as blue as Harlans eyes, Briana guessed it was Hawaii. Harlan walked through the surf toward the camera, smiling, a much smaller girl seated on her shoulders.
At first glance, Briana thought the girl no more than twelve. But, another second or two and Briana saw a more developed body than a twelve year old was ever allowed. There was also something much more adult about her face
"You and your sister?" Briana caught a nod in response.
"At Eleuthra last summer we went to one of the tiny islands just off it. It was a blast."
Briana studied the picture again. "She has Turner Syndrome, doesnt she?"
It took Harlan a moment to answer. "Yes how did you pick it out?"
The blonde met her friends mild eyes. "The height is a big clue, when youre pushing six feet. Then, her neck looks a little wide and her hairline a little low. How is she?" She made a mental note to add Leighs health to her prayers.
"Better than anyone expected. She has some hearing loss, and required some special training to learn to drive. Other than that, shes a relatively healthy, boy-crazy eighteen year old. By now shes probably dated half the males at Stanford." Harlan gently took the photo album into her own hands, continuing to the next page.
The drive had seemed to go on forever, with little but forest and growing amounts of snow on either side of the road. There were few other vehicles either, and Briana had found herself lulled into dozing. She felt a nudge, which brought her back to the waking world.
"Welcome back..." Harlan teased. "Weve only got about another half hour, and I figured you would want to be fully conscious." Briana slapped her cheeks lightly, and looked outside... the snow was a good foot higher than she last remembered.
"Woah. How long have I been out?"
"An hour, hour and a half." Harlan skillfully got them across a patch of ice, the four-wheel drive of the SUV shed borrowed from her family helping.
"Uh, Harlan, did something happen to your Jaguar?" Briana had asked, seeing the unfamiliar vehicle.
Harlan had blinked those amazing eyes. "No... I just dont want to expose my baby to the weather up on the mountain. It doesnt have ski racks either, and Im not having the top off with the temperatures well be in. So, I borrowed this from Father."
Harlans explanation made sense. But... "Your family isnt going to need it, will they?"
A dark head shook. "Not a chance. Its only used in situations, well, like this." Harlan had grinned.
That enthusiasm had lasted the entire day so far, and Briana had seen more unguarded smiles out of Harlan than she ever had, even around her housemates. Being up here definitely does something for her and its great to see.
Harlan set her luggage against an open part of the nearest wall, and glanced around her room for the weekend. Shed reserved a two-bedroom suite, which would give them each some privacy and a separate bed. It seemed like the perfect arrangement to allow them to get to know one anothers habits without being in tight quarters.
Cant blame that poor clerk for being confused my past three visits its been a one-bedroom. And no pre-planned company. Harlan bounced on her heels a few times, to release some excess energy, and went in search of her favorite blonde.
She found Briana in the other bedroom, unpacking. Or, more accurately, working on breaking some unpacking record. She didnt run, but seemed to have figured out exactly how many steps it took to reach the dresser and closet and didnt take a single one more.
This display went on for another several seconds, until the suitcase on the bed was emptied. Briana blinked herself out of whatever altered state shed moved into, and then noticed Harlans presence.
"Uh, been standing there long?"
Harlan shook her head. "Just long enough what was all that about?"
The blonde looked mildly embarrassed. "To be a paramedic, its important to be able to move fast but not be knocking things over. So, I challenge myself to stuff like this sometimes."
"Ah well, I think you won." Harlan grinned at her friend.
Briana blushed. "Well, Ill have to see how I do against you next time."
"Hmm. In that case, I should probably start training now " Groomed black brows rose in mock worry.
Briana settled into bed that night feeling like a small child whod seen and done too many new things in a day, but loved it. Harlan had signed her up for a proper skiing lesson, then overseen her fittings for boots, skis, and poles with such care that the clerk whose job that was had been superfluous. The blonde smiled at the memory. Her friend was so determined to see that she enjoyed herself on this trip.
The bed was plusher than Briana was used to, with an excellent mattress and what she suspected was a down comforter that formed to her body like a cocoon. With a minimum of tossing, she found a good sleeping position and closed her eyes. All the softness soon lulled her to sleep, despite its unfamiliarity.
She found herself awake again suddenly, and didnt know why for a moment until a scream that twisted her stomach and made her want to cover her ears until it was over reverberated through the suite. Thats Harlan
Briana scrambled out of bed, leaving most of the covers in disarray on the floor. There was so little light she decided to feel her way along the walls, and quickly made her way out into the hall. The scream stopped then, but was replaced a breath later by inhuman whimpers that were almost as loud.
She picked her way across the room to Harlans bed. Silver highlights suggested the outline of Harlans body, which was held so rigid her back had begun to arch and her hands, clenched into fists, had begun to spasmodically hit the mattress.
God, help me to know what to do how to ease this Briana prayed fervently. She set a hand on her friends nearest forearm, ready to jump back if needed. But, no violent reaction came. Slowly she moved the hand up and down, just like petting a cat. Her friends body recognized her touch, or at least the gentleness of it, and began to calm. It took longer, until Harlans body had relaxed, for the whimpers to quiet.
Briana was relieved that the nightmare was over for now, but unsure what to do next. I certainly cant stand here all night holding her hand. But, if I go back to bed shell probably start screaming again. 2 AM was no time for deep thought.
"Briana?" Harlan said groggily.
The blonde kneeled down to Harlans level, uncomfortable looming over the bed. "Yeah, its me you had one of your nightmares."
"Shh you seemed to calm down a bit when I touched your arm." Harlan tried to focus her eyes on her, unsuccessfully. "Im not scared."
Harlan didnt speak for a moment. "I ought to let you get back to your own bed."
An idea presented itself in Brianas mind. "Actually I have an experiment to propose. Have you ever shared a bed before?"
Briana nodded. "Im wondering if just having someone there might help. Willing to give it a try?"
Harlans response was to pull the covers aside with a rustle. Its a queen size bed, Briana reminded herself. We wont have to get in each others space. She slid in, and tugged the covers up to her shoulders. Harlan shifted onto her side, burrowing her head slightly into the pillow.
"Night, Briana "
"Good night, Harlan."
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