No Scar for Happiness || Sansa Stark & DotCom

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Sansa Stark, Apr 2, 2016.

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    “It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness.
    We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.”


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    "Hey."

    Riley knew from elbow to the ribs and the subsequent snort what was going to come next before her petite and delightfully foul-mouthed best friend could speak.

    "No," she answered at the same time Ellie asked, "Have you heard -- yes!" She dug her phone out of her pocket with one hand, swinging her faded, Sharpie'd-to-shit backpack over her shoulder with the other.

    "I texted it to Joel this morning and he said, 'funny', with a big F! That's basically a 4 of five stars in Joel-speak."

    Riley, all long limbs, and giant brown eyes, smirked, pushing a coil of dark hair out of her face.

    "Yeah, so are you gonna tell me the joke, or are you just gonna brag about it?"

    "Both," Ellie answered coolly, flicking a thumb down the screen of her phone. "Alright, ready?"

    "Ellie!"

    "Did you hear the one about the two antennas who fell in love and got married?" Riley gave her friend an expectant sidelong glance, waiting. Knowing full well Ellie wasn't really waiting for an answer at all. Sure enough, half a second later, she burst out eagerly, "The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent! Ha!"

    She held a hand out for a high five. Riley rolled her eyes and then gave her one. "That one hurt," she said, laughing.

    "But you're smiling," Ellie wheedled. "That's all I ask. D'you ever crack open that joke book I got you for your birthday?"

    "What, you mean 'Very Clean Jokes for Christian Kids, Volume 6'? Fuck, no. What the hell am I supposed to do with that shit? Hang right here, I need to grab something from the cafe."

    Ellie groaned loud enough to draw a few stares as she and Riley crossed the common, but obliged, because it was Riley. "Aw, c'mon, Riles, that shit's a gold mine."

    "Yeah, well, if I take all the good ones, what'll we have to talk about?"

    Ellie shrugged and tucked her phone away again, swinging her backpack around to rest on her chest as she walked. "Dunno. Don't care. You're stuck with me, awkward silences and all."

    "Yeah, right, like you could stay quiet more than six seconds with a joke book in your hands -- "

    "Aw, shit," Ellie cursed, stopping abruptly. A kid who'd been following the concrete path immediately behind her stepped sharply to the left.

    "Maybe watch where you're going?" Riley gave him an apologetic grin, but Ellie didn't appear to notice. She was rooting through her bag, her bangs dangling in her eyes.

    "What'd you forget this time?" Riley said, a hand on her hip.

    "Notes from that last class. And I'd ditch 'em if I could, but it's that fucking...polisci bullshit..."

    "I still don't understand why you're in that class..."

    "It's the history part of art history, Riles. And the boring part of everything. Fuck me. I have to go back, can you wait?" She was already backing down the path, just narrowly avoiding the other students who parted around her with mutters of general irritation she ignored completely.

    Riley shook her head, raising her voice as Ellie started to run back to her classroom. "My next class is in six minutes."

    "So, I'll catch up with you tonight then, yeah? It's pizza night!"

    Riley laughed and shouted back, "It's been pizza night three nights in a row!"

    "That's how pizza night wo -- hey, dude, watch where you're going! Later, Riles!"

    Riley raised an eyebrow and waved, though Ellie had already disappeared into the crowd. She chuckled to herself. "Classic Ellie," she murmured, before pulling out her student card and hoping she had enough points to get a coffee.

    --

    "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck...please still be in there, please still be in there, please still -- oh. Shit, sorry!"

    Ellie skidded to a stop just inside the classroom at the end of the hall, freckled face flushed, her faded red Converse squeaking conspicuously on the linoleum. She was, at least in her own estimation, what precisely no one would call pretty. She was short and wiry, with unimpressive brown hair and unimpressive hazel eyes, and a mouth, Joel said, "like some kinda fucking sailor". But she had a laugh that made her eyes light up like a meadow under a setting sun, and more shitty jokes than she knew what to do with. The back of her right hand (and the inside of her wrist) was littered with a mixture of school notes and doodles, one of which she stopped to smudge in a not-quite apology for having interrupted whatever was going on in the in-fact-not-empty-classroom.

    "Um," she added, clearly her throat as she stared up at the ceiling and started counting tiles. "Sorry. Didn't think anybody else'd be in here, I'm just...grabbing my notebook, don't mind me..."

    She sidled sideways into the room and pretended not to notice Professor Whateverthehellhisnamewas talking to a pretty girl whose face was just now near as red as her hair.

    Because that wasn't awkward as shit.
     
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    It wasn't the first time Sansa had cried to a professor, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. Too often had her daily life gotten in the way of her passion, her studies, her focus in life, but now it all seemed to blur together to the point where nothing was dominant but the need to survive. A whirlwind, some called her. That was a drastic understatement. After family trauma, two self-proclaimed caretakers and an international move, Sansa Stark was a shadow of who she used to be, and it showed in her grades and work ethic. The young student stood before the desk of Professor Baratheon with a slouched back and anxious face. He was not known to be compassionate toward his students. Sansa could only hope she could make him understand.

    "Professor," she insisted. "Please, I worked tirelessly on this. If you would just look over it and--"

    "I did, Miss Stark. Your grade is final." The professor turned to her with a stern expression. "I'm not sure why you're here."

    "I'd like an explanation as to why I got a D." She held out the graded paper with a large, circled red letter condemning her to a lesser GPA. "What was so unacceptable about my proposal? I don't think ending sexual assault with stricter punishment is against any kind of right."

    "You suggested that high schools teach consent as a part of their curriculum nationwide, which I saw benefit to, but your mention of reopening cold cases with law enforcement would crush the already sluggish system."

    "Task forces!" Sansa shot back. "Are there not ways for it to happen? It would create jobs, seek justice where it was denied earlier, open new routes for victims and the falsely accused--did you read my essay at all?"

    "It wouldn't work. I cannot offer a sterling grade to a proposal that wouldn't work. Not to mention your guilty-until-proven-innocent rhetoric?" The professor shook his head in disapproval. "It is biased, Miss Stark, and politicians cannot be biased. There is no benefit that can come from slower--"

    The door to the lecture hall opened. Sansa turned to the girl who'd abruptly entered, hearing an apology but not taking it to heart. She had lost this battle. A low grade was a horrible stain on her record, and while she was infamous for obsessing over perfection, this was a new low. An anxiety-triggering low. Professor Baratheon handed her papers back with a deep, unfeeling frown. "I'm sorry. You will have to work harder next time."

    Sansa was never a woman with a temper, but when tested, she was fierce in protecting her interests. She took her assignment from him swiftly, straightening her posture to one of authority and determination. "I will work harder," she told him. "Hard enough to make you change your mind. But how can I? You're a man. You don't understand, not at all. The thing you fear about prison is the thing we fear walking down the street at night. You will never know how it feels. Politicians can't be biased, says the American, but are they not allowed to be compassionate either? Sympathetic? Offer encouragement to a plan that could be a beneficial step to ending violence against women in your country?"

    Still, she felt like she was talking to a brick wall. The professor's jaw seemed to drop with remorse, as if he'd only just solved the riddle she was presenting him with. He'd figured her out. But Sansa didn't want his pity or his apology; she wanted a good grade, and to be told her decision to skip Bran's recital to finish her paper was a good one. It wasn't.

    "I'm sorry," she mumbled. "Goodnight, professor."

    And she left without another word.

    The fresh evening air could give Sansa no comfort. She was able to staunch her tears for a time, digging for her keys in a purse as organized as her life, but when she could not hear the jingle of her keychains or see the silver by lamplight, she burst into unexpected tears and sat on a bench helplessly. She covered her mouth and clenched her eyes shut, begging, praying that she could hold it in for just an hour or two, so she could go home and make dinner for the family in one piece. They didn't deserve to see her sad like this, but it seemed there was no stopping the emotions that had been bottled for too long. She buried her face in her hands and wept without control.

    "Holy shit," came a voice minutes later, a sweet one laced with concern and care. Sansa looked up to see another girl, another student, approaching her carefully. "Hey, are you okay? You don't look too good."

    "No," Sansa replied. "I guess I don't." She sniffled and wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Thank you for checking up on me. I'm fine, really."

    "Whoa, a Brit! Cool. I'm sorry you're sad. I'll sit with you if that's okay--there are a ton of weirdos around at this time of night, yeah? Good to stick together." The quirky stranger sat beside Sansa, careful not to endanger her space, which she was very grateful for. Sansa awkwardly folded her hands in her lap and tried to compose herself. "So, uh...you sure you're alright?"

    "Yes," Sansa replied. "Well, no. My professor's a bloody nutter."

    "'Bloody nutter,' huh? Ellie'll love that one." The girl offered her hand and smiled. "I'm Riley, by the way."

    "Sansa." She shook the student's hand. "Sansa Stark."

    "Nice to meet you, Sansa Stark. Which professor do you have? Anyone I know?"

    "Professor Baratheon." Sansa sniffled. "Political science. Or, he thinks he can teach poli-sci, but he can't. It's miserable."

    "Ugh! I hate that guy. My best friend has him, she's just--oh, there she is!" Riley stood up from the bench and waved her arms maniacally. "Heeeey Ellie!"

    Sansa, in horror, recognized the approaching stranger immediately as the one who'd interrupted her conversation with the professor. She paled and kept still like an animal caught in headlights. "Ellie, meet Sansa!" Riley said happily. "She's from England!"
     
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    Ellie felt her stomach seize the very moment she figured out what it was the girl was arguing about. Not her paper, but it's topic. She was almost sure nether of them were paying her any attention, but she kept her stride even anyway, as best she could, started counting backwards in her head the way Riley had taught her to keep her pulse from racing out of control. It'd been longer than she knew since the last time she'd had a panic attack, and by now, she knew most of her triggers well enough to avoid them. But having one here, now, would be beyond conspicuous.

    And based on what Professor Baratheon was saying, he totally wouldn't fucking understand, anyway.

    She had just ducked into the hallway again, breathing a quiet sigh of relief when she heard the other girl's voice suddenly change. She could still hear the quiet anxiety there, the frustration that went behind every perfectionist's 'but what did I do wrong' argument. But there was anger layered over the top of it now, a sort of quiet, if righteous fury laved with determination. Ellie found herself stopping to listen...and then hurriedly ducking into the nearest bathroom when she heard the girl coming. She felt sort of bad she hadn't managed to argue her way out of the D. But maybe their Professor would at least listen next time someone handed in a paper on...that.

    Ellie walked outside a few minutes later, halfway through telling herself a pick-me-up knock knock joke. She was only a little surprised to find Riley sitting on one of the benches outside the building. Significantly more surprising (though still totally Riley) was the girl she was sitting next to, who, somehow, of course, was the girl who'd just told off their professor. Only her face was much redder now and clearly tear-stained. Ellie felt her heart squeeze in sympathy. Instinct was telling her -- yelling at her -- one thing, but she'd been in the real world, out of foster homes, with Joel and Riley long enough to know what she wanted to say was maybe not what she should say. At least not the way she wanted to say it. Not yet.

    Instead, Ellie gave her a lop-sided grin that Riley couldn't help but notice made her eyes go that exact sunset-on-the-meadow golden green.

    "Fuck, yeah," she said brightly. "I noticed when you were giving Professor Dickwad hell back there." She made a face. "Sorry about your paper. Dude is such a fucking shithead he couldn't see sense with his nose halfway up its ass, but -- "

    "Jesus, Ellie, English please?" Riley nudged with a laugh, and Ellie started to laugh back, until she saw Riley was giving her that calm-down-or-your-going-to-scare-the-people-away look. Ellie grinned sheepishly.

    "Oh, right. Sorry. England," she added, as though that meant something. "So, anyway. You okay?" She waited half a breath for an answer, then immediately brightened. "Hey, what're you doing now? It's pizza night, you wanna come with?"

    Riley started to object. "Ellie, I have class. You have class."

    "So, skip it!" Ellie said. "It's still early enough in the semester no one is saying anything that important." She looked back at Sansa. "So? Pizza? We'll just go to Zach's down on main, this early in the week, we'll be there like an hour, max."

    Riley snorted and rolled her eyes, looking at Sansa. "Sansa, meet Ellie," she said. "She doesn't understand the word 'no'."

    "Don't make me sound like a creep," Ellie teased, though now she was giving Riley her own pointed look. "I'm just a firm believer in spontaneous plans." She thought about that for a moment, then snorted laughter. "And oxymorons."
     
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    Ellie had quite the foul mouth, didn't she? Sansa couldn't help but chuckle. This American girl was so very much like Arya--spunky, loud, outspoken and humorous. It made her feel comfortable, or as comfortable as she could be around a total stranger. "Lovely to meet you, Ellie." Sansa wiped her cheeks and fought hard to show a genuine smile. "That's very kind of you to offer pizza, but I do have to get home. I live with my family and I have to cook dinner. There's also my paralyzed brother to worry about, unless my sister could handle it..." When was the last time Sansa had gone out for a change, anyway? She sniffled and dug in her bag for her phone, an Android three generations old, and texted Arya quickly.
    SENT 6:04 PM
    Bad day at school. :( Do you mind if I took the night off? Might go out for pizza...:pacman:
    RECEIVED 6:04 PM
    Dude same. About school anyway. What happened?
    SENT 6:04 PM
    Baratheon thought my proposal was stupid. I argued. Brought up some bad feelings.
    RECEIVED 6:04 PM
    Ugh. 'Murrica. :gloomy:
    RECEIVED 6:05 PM
    Yeah, I can do it. Rickon misses you though. Better bring me home a slice or I'm locking the fucking door. Then we can talk about our day and stuff.
    RECEIVED 6:05 PM
    With pizza. And beer.
    RECEIVED 6:05 PM
    Seriously, don't forget.
    SENT 6:05 PM
    I won't. Thanks so much.:heartbeat:

    Sansa set down her phone and looked up to the two strangers, the only ones thus far who had been kind enough to offer her their time. "I...actually, she just said she could take care of it. If you don't mind company? I really don't want to intrude on your time or anything. I understand wanting space."

    "Relax, girl! You're more than welcome. If Ellie says it's okay, I say it's okay." Riley gestured for Sansa to rise from the bench. "You know where Zach's is, yeah? It's just around the corner. You take a left on main, and then a right at the sign. Super easy."

    "I'm sure I'll find it." Sansa folded her hands in front of her, feeling quite comforted from her earlier outburst. "Thank you, both of you. Really. I can't remember the last time I went out and did something like this."

    "Hey, it's all good. We can get drinks and meet a new friend. Always worth a few tears, yeah?" Riley elbowed Ellie, as if the two had some sort of inside joke regarding the subject. "Anyway, see ya there!"

    Sansa waved to the pair of girls. Still struggling to find her keys, at least she could face the predicament with a smile.​
     
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    Ellie waited just barely long enough for Sansa to get out of earshot before turning to her taller friend with a wry grin.

    "So, that didn't take long," she accused, slinging her bag over her shoulder.

    Riley faked affronted, though the slight blush under brown skin was hard to hide. "What does that mean?"

    "Oh, you know exactly what it means," Ellie teased easily. "What happened to 'swearing off women 'til springtime'?"

    Riley made to punch her in the shoulder and Ellie dodged...directly into a couple trying to pass them walking the other direction. She threw them an apologetic grin, though she was still laughing at Riley.

    "Nothing happened," Riley replied honestly. "She was upset; I wanted to help."

    "Well, yeah," Ellie agreed, smiling now, though not as brightly. She made a face. "Bare-ass-eon was such a dick, man. Like, I don't know fuck all about public policy, or whatever, but she at least sounded like she knew what she was talking about, and he wouldn't even pretend to hear her out. And her brother...jeez, can you imagine?"

    "Don't want to. But we'll just make sure she has fun tonight. I'll bet it's been ages since she's been out in the real world."

    "It's been ages since we've been out in the real world. You think maybe she'd wanna see that new superhero movie next weekend? I'm supposed to take Tucker and his little girlfriend -- "

    "Oh, my God, when did Tuck get a girlfriend?"

    Ellie made a sort of excited yip sound and whipped out her phone again, like she always did when talking about any of her three little cousins. Granted, eight-year-old Tucker and his twin four-year-old sisters, Maya and Maddie, weren't actually related to her by blood. But they were Joel's nieces and nephew by his brother Tommy, and his sister-in-law, Maria, and they each of them had Ellie completely and totally wrapped around pudgy little fingers. Not that it took much for Ellie to become completely and totally attached to any small, vulnerable thing. She worked most weekends scrubbing cages at the local pound for what she liked to call "shit pay - literally", mostly for spending money, but also because she loved to watch strays get adopted. She just had a better claim on these.

    "Holy fuck, check out this picture from her birthday party last month. Her name is Jordan, and she is absolutely the cutest girl in the whole third grade..."

    And just like that, Sansa was, at least for the moment, forgotten, though Ellie couldn't help but think maybe one of them should have gotten her number. Just in case.

    --
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    Joel yawned, scratching at a week's worth of stubble, a beard, really, as he dropped his badge and belt on the cluttered kitchen table. It'd been...hell, a couple weeks at least since he'd last cleaned the place, but with Ellie gone he didn't spend too much time in the house now. He worked down at the local sheriff's station most weekdays, and on weekends ran the occasional freelance security job, mostly just trying to keep busy and pretend the house wasn't empty. Pretend it didn't make him feel half crazy some nights.

    His phone buzzed in his pocket and he knew without looking it was Ellie. Partly because she'd done some weird magic with his phone to make her text tone -- something like a foghorn -- different than everyone else's. But mostly because almost no one texted him, and certainly not at this hour.

    He scowled through the dark at his phone as he felt for the kitchen light switch with his free hand, holding the cell up to his face in the dark. Ellie had shown him a few months ago how to make the text bigger, but bigger text wasn't worth much when your screen was only the size of a playing card anyway.

    Hey Joel! =) Hav sum free time this wknd, u want me 2 swing by?

    He grunted noncommittally before remembering she wasn't actually there with him. Ellie had been gone away at school, just a few hours' drive, almost a year and a half at the school now, but with how often she sent him texts and videos and pictures and those damn jokes of hers, he sometimes forgot she'd ever left. Not that he minded. They'd been at their little two-bedroom, one-bath bungalow since they'd left Texas, and it was tiny, but it'd grown on him quick. There were still days it seemed too quiet. He couldn't remembering having thought of anything as 'too quiet' before legally adopting Ellie.

    Don't gotta do that, Ellie, he typed back. Stay and get some work done.

    Her response, unlike his, was instantaneous. Most of the time, he just wished he could call her, but she'd been telling him near every day since her seventeenth birthday when he'd gotten her her first phone -- when you got a text, you were supposed to text back.

    "Damn kids," he grunted, squinting at the phone again.

    :cry: U wound me, she sent back. Course ill come back & w a surprise! See you late Friday :bouncy::bouncy::bouncy:

    K. She'd taught him that one, too. He knew she hated it, but damn, it was a hell of a lot easier.

    Luv u 2! Joel grunted again, but couldn't help the small smile that spread across his face. So, maybe he'd be cleaning up the kitchen earlier than expected.
     
    #6 DotCom, Apr 3, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
    • Love Love x 1
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    Zach's Pizza Parlor was a small place, homey and comforting for all its customers. In truth, Sansa had never been there before. Arya had always wanted to, but if Sansa took Arya out she would have to take the boys as well. She never had the money for that. Instead, they'd order pizza in their small two-bedroom home near the military base. They gave discounts for family members of deployed officers, and most of the soldiers knew the Stark family by name. It wasn't every day that a British civilian joined the United States military, but their story was quite strange. Almost as strange as having never been to Zach's, despite living in the area for nearly four years.

    Sansa parked her rundown '87 chevy in the parking lot and turned the engine off, sitting in the driver's seat in silence. She needed to gather her thoughts. Sansa had always been there for her siblings, and skipping her duties for a night weighed heavy on her conscience. She thought about turning around and driving home until her phone buzzed, alerting her to a text.
    RECEIVED 6:15 PM
    Enjoy yourself, nerd. And I want pizza so don't you dare come home without it.

    Sansa laughed. Arya always had a way of knowing what was needed to cheer her up. They had fought like dogs as children, but now that all they had was each other, there was an unbreakable bond between them that nothing could break.
    SENT 6:16 PM
    Gee thanks. Love you too. Liver and dog hair on yours?

    Feeling more confident, Sansa exited her vehicle and entered the small pizzeria. It was just as cozy as it looked from the outside, with small tables and vintage paintings lining every visible wall. "How many?" asked the waitress, and when Sansa held up three fingers, the woman grabbed the right number of menus and gestured for Sansa to follow. She was given a table by the window that looked out on the highway, on the fast-moving headlights and streetlamps illuminating the dark cement. Sansa rested her chin in her hand and admired the scenery while she waited for her potential new friends, mostly silent until Arya's reply made her burst into giggles.
    RECEIVED 6:19 PM
    Nice mom joke, but I think the blood of my enemies will do just fine.
     
    • Like Like x 1
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    Out in the parking lot, Riley wriggled out of the sixteen-year-old pickup Joel had gifted her just before she'd left for college, dropped a foot to the ground, then slammed the door behind her, jogging in out of the cool night air, before remember she'd locked Riley in the car.

    "Hey!" she called from halfway across the parking lot, tapping the lock/unlock button on her keys as Riley wrestled with the door. "Come on, chica, we're already running late!"

    "We're always running late," Riley said, once she'd finally caught up with her. "Since when do you care?"

    "Since you decided to befriend a new friend and then bail on her at a pizza place. C'mon, Riley, who are you? Me?" The bell overhead tingled, and the girls got a faceful of warm, cheese-scented air. Ellie took a deep breath, flushed with pleasure and warmth after the drive over. Zach's wasn't too far from campus, but she'd had to circle around to pick up Riley, who lived off campus, and her AC had been busted since last spring. She probably could have asked Joel to fix it, but she knew once he did that, he'd only find something else wrong with it, and either try and fix it all himself, or send her to a mechanic and force her to let him pay. Since neither of those was an option, she figured she could just keep buying cute sets of mittens. You could never have too many mittens.

    "Hey! Sansa!"

    Half the restaurant turned to look as Ellie rose to the balls of her feet to get the other girl's attention. Luckily, half the restaurant also knew Ellie. She'd worked as a waitress the summer before her freshman year to save up and buy herself a Wii. That plan had gone down the drain just as soon as she'd decided she wanted a new set of paints, but there was nothing lost by trying.

    "Sansa! We're over here! Hey!"

    "Yes, and now everyone and their mother knows." Riley punched the younger girl in the shoulder without so much as a backwards glance.

    "Ow!" complained Ellie, though precisely none of the light had left her eyes. She did, however, roll her shoulder a second later and make a face. "It's gonna fucking rain tonight," she said, sliding into Sansa's booth next to Riley. "God, I hate that I know that."

    Riley laughed and gave Sansa a conspiratorial grin. "Ellie here has old lady joints."

    "Fuck off! No, I don't!" Ellie laughed back, then immediately stifled her giggles with a hand as a young mother two tables over shot her a glare over her sleeping baby. "Oh, shit, sorry!" she added sincerely. Then, realizing that she had sworn again: "Fuck. Fuck! Sorry. I didn't -- "

    "Oh, sit down and take your foot out of your mouth already," Riley snorted, yanking Ellie down beside her. "Not like it's doing any good in getting you to shut up."

    "Nope," Ellie said brightly. "That would be a very large slice of sausage and pepper." She grinned at Sansa. "What're you thinking? Did you get a chance to check out their specials, or you just wanna wing it?"

    Riley elbowed her friend, then offered Sansa a softer, more sincere smile.

    "What she means is are you feeling any better? Did you day pick up at all once you left your asshole professor back on campus?"

    "I was getting there!" Ellie insisted. "Hey, listen, don't worry too much about the grade, okay? I mean, yeah, it's shit that he won't give you what it's worth. But I had a friend take this class last semester, and she said Bare-ass-eon only takes the top four essay grades, anyway." Then she snorted and ran a hand through her hair.

    "Course, if you're anything like me, that won't matter all that much. I just barely scraped by with a C on this one, and that's not including points docked for turning it in late." Ellie shrugged. "Oops. I'm an illustration major, anyway. I just need the social science credits. Two more, and I'm done, thank God. What about you, Sansa? What're you studying?"
     
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    Sansa was alone, and then she wasn't. Like a whirlwind, Ellie and Riley had come into the parlor with loud voices, confidence and plenty of conversation topics to last hours, or so it seemed. She blinked when words were thrown at her. They were not unkind, however, and Sansa nodded with a smile to the offers of support. She had made friends here in America, but none seemed to be quite so...colorful. Enthusiastic. This dynamic duo had certainly crushed all Sansa's expectations, but as they chatted amiably to her, she supposed she didn't mind. Friends were hard to come by after all. Sansa could use a little more light in her life.

    "I'm feeling better," Sansa admitted with a little smile. "I think some pizza will lighten the mood considerably. I talked with my sister, too, so that helped ease the burden. She has a way with words I think you'd appreciate." She took the menu from the top of the table and scanned it for something she would enjoy. Sansa always preferred alfredo sauce on pizza, and mentally took her order in preparation for the arriving waiter. "Oh, and I'm a political science major. I want to work in politics. Or...something like that." She curled her hair behind her ear. Most young people didn't care about politics as much as she did, and it was often a turn-off for potential friends. These two didn't seem like the political type. She hadn't planned on discussing it further until Riley clapped in approval.

    "Dude, nice! We need more women in government. Too many old white dudes with lame opinions. Kick 'em all out when you get there, Sansa!" She made a fist and shoved it to the sky, and Sansa chuckled, but her support was halted when her phone began to ring. "Ah, one second--I gotta get this."

    "It's alright." Sansa smiled and sat politely, waiting. Riley seemed rather disappointed and hung up the phone after a short conversation. "Bad news, guys. I gotta babysit my brother. Mom's back in the hospital with my grandpa--he's got a heart condition. Not a great dude, but I don't wanna stress my mom out by not being there."

    "Oh. I understand." Sansa frowned. "I'm sorry about your grandfather."

    "Nah, it's alright. He's like 800 years old. It's a long time comin'." Riley turned to Ellie. "But you can enjoy pizza night with Sansa, yeaaah?"
     
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    Ellie made a face as unappealing as she could muster when she was caught between sympathy, amusement, and mild irritation.

    "It's the very least I could do," she agreed. "Literally. Good luck with your gramps. Text us if you need a rescue pizza, alright?"

    Riley rolled her eyes and waved over her shoulder, and Ellie turned back to beam at Sansa sitting across from her. The table felt sticky under her elbows, but she didn't mind that so much. It gave the place a sort of charm, or at the very least, a strangely comforting familiarity, though she didn't blame Joel for that. She had lived in a lot of houses before she'd gone to stay with him. A lot of houses, even more apartments, bedrooms, basements. Only one home, though.

    Recognizing her thoughts getting away with her, she gave Sansa more of a sincere, if lopsided smirk.

    "So, guess it's just us, then. Don't worry, things are way more fun when Riley 'stick-in-the-mud' Williams isn't around. Anyway, glad you're feeling better. Think you can tear into a pizza with me?"

    She waved over Sansa's head as she caught the eye of a waiter she recognized. "Whaddya like on your pizza? Riley's, like, a strict vegetarian, or whatever, but I like meat." She tilted her head, studying Sansa's face carefully, trying to get a sense of what the other girl was thinking. She'd always been good at reading people, but Sansa seemed different. Riley and Joel had been different, too. It'd taken her years to learn what all Joel's different grunts meant, and that when Riley rolled her eyes at you, she was only saying, 'love you' in a whisper.

    But Sansa, at least so far, didn't grunt or roll her eyes. What was she supposed to do with that?

    "Seriously, you don't mind Riley's gone, right?" Ellie ventured after a moment. "It's cool, really, I know I can be...um...kind of a lot. We can try somewhere else, if you'd feel better? Pizza back on campus is pretty good, too. No Zach's, but then we can use the campus meal plan anyway," she added with a laugh.
     
    #10 DotCom, Apr 15, 2016
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
  11. [​IMG]
    It had been too long since anyone cared about how she felt. Her family was quite good at it, ensuring her comfort when they knew she was feeling anxious or tense, but Sansa didn't feel that way around Ellie. She was upbeat and energetic, but underneath that unorthodox exterior was a tender heart. Sansa could see it. Because of this, she was considerably eased and her shoulders sank from their uptight position. She was barely thinking about pizza anymore; being around Ellie was what sounded best.

    "Hm? Oh--no, pizza is perfect. Don't worry about it." Sansa flashed Ellie a warm smile. "If I was uncomfortable, I would let you know. But I really appreciate your concern. It means a lot." She curled her hair behind her ears and nervously cleared her throat. These were the nerves of butterflies, however, and not needles made of fear. "I'd love to, what was it you said? 'Tear into a pizza'?" Sansa chuckled. "As long as it has mushrooms. Those are my favorite." The waiter came by and took their order, which Ellie and Sansa eagerly gave, and Sansa sipped at her iced tea pensively after he left. What was there to talk about? She felt like she was on a date--not that she'd ever been on one before, though. But it felt like one regardless. The young Stark folded her hands atop the table and wrung them together, feeling anxious in a strangely good way.

    "What is your major, Ellie? Surely nothing to do with politics. I'm going to make a guess and say you're into art."
     
  12. [​IMG]

    Ellie felt Sansa relax more than she saw it. Ellie would swear up and down she missed stuff like that, that Riley was the one who was good with new people, getting them to calm down and settle in and spill their guts, or whatever it was she did to make people love her. It was...mostly true. Ellie wasn't off-putting, exactly, and certainly people did like her, as long as they could put up with her energy and her non-stop puns and her tendency to forget when she was shouting. But she was also the type to forget her car keys in the car, and her cellphone on the sunroof and what she was saying to you thirty seconds ago if she got distracted.

    She knew people, though. The ones she liked, the ones she connected with, she knew, and she knew well. It didn't take Ellie long to be loyal, and once she was, it was a loyalty that stuck fast and ran deep, and watching Sansa, feeling her relax, Ellie felt good. Like, really good. Good enough that the goofy, ineffable grin that usually graced her lips faded a bit under a softer, more genuine, and pleasantly surprised smile. A sort of half smirk Ellie saved up without realizing it, the kind of look new mothers wore when they saw their loved ones laugh for the first time.

    Ellie smiled and only realized she was watching Sansa and not really listening when Sansa's question had already been hanging in the air for a few moments. She shook herself at once.

    "Sorry, what?" She gave a lopsided grin and shrugged. "Totally spaced there, sorry, Sansa. You asked...about classes, right? Oh! My major -- yeah, right. No way am I into politics, that's all Riley's gig, so you guys should geek out together sometime when I am not here."

    She looked up for a moment to give that same charming, not-quite-meaningless grin to the waitress, rattling off their order with an ease that came with eating pizza way more than Joel would ever approve of. As soon as the other girl had walked off, Ellie turned her attention back to Sansa.

    "I'm a double major, art and ECE," she said brightly. "Early childhood education. If I had my dream job right now, I'd be inking comic books and doing art therapy with foster kids in my off time. But then I'm a sucker for kids. And comics."

    She shrugged again. "Passion project, I guess. What about you? How'd you get into poli sci? It's gotta be something good to want to put up with Bare-ass-eon more than one semester at a time."
     
    #12 DotCom, May 8, 2016
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
  13. [​IMG]
    Bare-ass-eon. Arya would love that nickname. Sansa sipped at her drink and swirled the straw through the ice, watching Ellie move and speak with an ease that flowed from her soul. She was admirable. If Sansa was one for jealousy she would certainly feel it here, but time and experiences taught her the weight of envy. There were too many consequences, not to mention Sansa's life had been much harder than the average person's. One would think jealousy to be a common trait for the traumatized, but not with Sansa. Her mother's grace was strong within her. She perked up when it was her time to speak, admiring Ellie and the chance she had given her. A chance to be social. To find a friend. How many friends did Sansa have, now? Not enough to fill up her hand if she tried to count, that was clear.

    "I've always loved politics," Sansa admitted, though her expression fell sad at the mention. "My father was a politician back home. I come from a long line of politicians and I guess he sparked that desire in me when I was little. I didn't want to at first--I was all about dresses and marriage and happy endings, you know. But when he died, that all changed." She swallowed the lump in her throat, looking down at the swirling ice in her cup. "I feel like I owe it to him to change something about our government. There's such corruption. We could be so much better..."

    But that was a story for another time.

    Sansa shook her head and smiled. She was good at a cover-up. "Anyway. That's why. I've thought about double-majoring in dance, too, but I don't have time. Between work and home and school, I'm stressed out enough as it is." Sansa set her drink aside and folded her hands atop the table. Ellie had her full attention, now. "What about you? Why childhood education? If you want to practice, I've got a fourteen-year-old and an eight-year-old at home." She chuckled. "Assuming you could rally the younger one in, that is."
     
  14. [​IMG]
    Ellie decided then and there she liked watching Sansa talk. With Riley, and even with Joel, Ellie felted like she had to listen with her whole body, with all five senses, to pick up any subtext she was missing. Riley liked to gloss over anything she deemed too boring or too complex or too painful to talk about, and Joel still thought he was protecting eight-year-old Ellie from every monster under her foster-bed. Sansa wasn't like that. The other girl was far from an open book, but her eyes were too expressive to stay hidden for long. There was a pain there, talking about her family, her father, Ellie could see it, could understand it. But there was a strength there, too. It didn't present like callousness or distrust or denial. Just of a girl who had been hurt, badly, maybe recently, but who had chosen to go on simply because she had to.

    It broke Ellie's heart just a little, but the sudden unexpected wave of compassion that washed over her dulled that pain almost immediately. She brightened just as quickly as Sansa did, her expression settling from one of concerned admiration to one of open interest.

    "What kind of dance?" Ellie answered almost before Sansa was done talking. "Whoops, sorry," she added sheepishly a moment later. "Just...well, I guess classes get expensive, but I'd think...I dunno, if it's fun for you, maybe it'll help you relax, y'know? Riley used to take classes at the Y on the other side of town. I'll ask her, maybe she can set up a drop in for you. Anyway. Sure, yeah." Ellie shrugged casually, taking a too-large gulp of Dr. Pepper from her glass, grimacing as it burned and bubbled the whole way down.

    "I've always loved kids," she said again. "And I've seen what happens when they fall behind. Anywhere, really, but especially in school. Did you know kids aren't required to attend kindergarten here? In public schools, statewide, almost 60% of children are entering already a year behind, and it's almost impossible to make it up from there, especially if the family couldn't or wouldn't put the kid through kindergarten. So they don't make it to high school, and those that do are only ever there for free lunches, y'know, and -- well, it's like you said. The system's just fucked, y'know? And waiting on anyone to step in, to fucking care what happens to those kids, well. I've never been very patient. So I figure if I can help even a little...I kinda have to. Y'know?"

    Ellie blinked and looked at Sansa, almost surprised. She wasn't one for diatribes, and was even less for saying anything...not sarcastic for more than a few seconds at a time. But Sansa had pulled something else from her, something that felt awful close to passion. Or maybe anger.

    "Heh. Geez, sorry to go off on you like that," she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I pretty much turn into Godzilla when I'm hungry. Anyway. You were saying you have siblings? Just the two? I've never really had any brothers or sisters, or none related by blood, but I have little cousins I just love, and -- oh, hey. Hey, wait! Sansa, what are you doing this weekend?"

    The idea had come on her all at once, like a seizure, and now she could hardly sit still. If Riley were here, Ellie might have taken the extra few minutes to think it out, to reason through, consider how odd it was to invite this girl she'd only just met on an hour-long drive in her shitty shockless truck to visit her adoptive father just because Sansa had been reminiscing about hers. Whether that was anything like what Sansa could ever want. But Riley had left, and once again, Ellie was left to her own devices, for better or for worse, wearing her heart, if not quite on her sleeve, then at least in a place where it was all too likely to get the rest of her in trouble.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  15. [​IMG]
    "Well I prefer ballet but I haven't practiced in years, and my sister really enjoys freeform and hip-hop, and...wait, what?" Sansa blinked at Ellie's shouted request, unable to miss the excitement there. She'd been preparing a reply about faults in the childcare system and wasn't planning on facing Ellie's enthusiasm in the middle of her thoughts. "I--well, I have most of the weekend off, all I planned to do was homework and reading books, and work at my aunt's shop..."

    Maybe getting out wouldn't be a bad thing. Especially not with her. Sansa bit her lip and blinked up to Ellie again, her stomach slightly fluttering.

    "What did you have in mind?"
     
  16. Ellie beamed and shrugged. "Nothing much, I guess, but only because I don't really plan. I got a cousin turning four on Saturday, and I got this bakery out of town to make this -- hang on, I gotta show you."

    Ellie dug in her pocket for a moment, then flicked through countless images of she and Riley, random internet puppies, and more weird looking bugs than she could count or remember having photographed, until she found what she was looking for.

    "Sweet, here it is. Look!" She handed the phone across the Sansa, and waited, watched the red head's face carefully, trying to ignore the fact that she was suddenly nervous about what Sansa Stark would think of her weird little doodle.

    "She's really into superheroes right now," Ellie explained. "And every little kid ever is still obsessed with that movie Frozen, have you seen it? Probably don't, you'll be singing that snowman song until the sky falls down if you do. But anyway, a girl in one of my art classes works part time at a bakery in the next town over, and I got her to decorate this cake with a drawing I made for Ava. It's Queen Elsa rescuing Spiderman from the Green Goblin -- that's the freaky looking green dude in that ice cage in the corner." Ellie snorted.

    "I mean, obviously it's pretty cool, that she's into comics and all that at four. But I figured you put anything on a cake, it pretty much makes that thing, like, twenty times better, right? So, anyway, I'm gonna go grab the cake Friday afternoon and head back to my...dad's house. He lives a little under two hours away from here. You wanna come? You can bring your siblings if you want, no problem."
     
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