(1937-10-12) Comforting Ranjali
Details for Comforting Ranjali
Summary: Audrey receives a mysterious letter, sending her into a panic to find Ranjali.
Date: 12 October, 1937
Related: The Morning After

A nondescript hoot owl drops off a small note. The sender is not indicated. Inside on the crisp white parchment is a single two-word sentence written in neat black cursive script: Find Ranjali

Ranjali did not go to work today. In fact, she didn't go anywhere. Except home. She was barely two blocks from Magnus' apartment before she apparated straight into her house, something she rarely if ever chooses to do. She's been there ever since, all morning and on into the afternoon, curled up in bed in a loose cotton nightgown and a faded pink robe. A box of chocolates sits on a nightstand next to her, though it remains unouched. The house is silent, almost peaceful even, only the smell of burnt cloth in the fireplace downstairs betraying the fact that anything might be wrong.

Audrey practically leaps out of the taxicab into the rainy London afternoon, throwing money haphazardly at the driver — who would mind more if not for the extremely generous tip. She runs up to the front door as fast as her high heels will allow, and hangs on the doorbell, rapping frantically on the knocker. "Ranji! Ranji, if you're there, please open the door! It's Audrey!" Never let it be said that Audrey Taylor does anything small. She even panics big!

Its nearly ten minutes before the door is opened. And it opens slowly, only a crack at first to allow Ranjali to see Audrey, and to assure herself that the woman is quite alone. "A-audrey?" Her voice is hoarse, and the eye that is visible is very red. "WHat are you doing here?"

Audrey spends those ten minutes loudly irritating the neighbours. "Ranjali! Ranji! Open the-" …door, and there she is. "Ranjali? Oh…my darling, what has happened? I…I got a letter." She looks around, noting a few scowls out of windows at her. "May I come in?"

Ranjali is starting to shut the door in Audrey's face when she notices her looking around. Oh gods, the neighbors! Quickly, she pulls the door open and grabs Audrey's hand, tugging her inside so she can shut the door again. She also looks away, hiding her face from the blonde. Though this gives quite the view of her hair, which is quite tangled from having gotten into bed directly after her bath. Well, her two baths, actually.

Audrey stumbles into the house, squeaking with surprise. Finally, she really gets a chance to take in Ranjali's state. "Ranji…oh, my God…what's wrong?" She reaches out to embrace her friend, looking on the verge of tears herself at seeing her so miserable.

Ranjali actually flinches from the touch, her arms wrapping around herself in a tight hug. "No, no no don't, I'm not… " She shudders, and whispers, "You shouldn't touch me." Then she pulls a hand to her mouth, trying to hold back sudden sobs, "Oh gods Audrey, I've done something so awful… "

Audrey pulls back at Ranjali's reaction, biting her lip. "Ranji…please. Tell me what's wrong. What have you done? Surely it can't be all that bad." She tries to sound as reassuring as she is able, though her worry seeps through every word. "Come…sit down. I'll make you a cup of tea." She looks about, trying to get the lay of the house to locate a sitting area and the kitchen.

Ranjali draws in a shaky breath. "I don't… I keep tea things upstairs." Slowly, as though moving pains her, Ranjali leads the way up the stairs to the more casual and open second floor, "I think there's an electric stove in the study… I-I usually just… use my wand… " Clutching her robe to her chest, she walks through the living room into the open study, where an electric hotplate does in fact sit, covered by a stack of old newspapers in a corner.

Audrey nods, seeing Ranjali seated comfortably before setting about tending to the tea. She has no wand nor magic to charm up a beverage. But she can whip up a mean cup of tea is relatively little time — something of a necessity in the long hours of an entertainer's life. Soon she is returning with a hot cup of Earl Grey. "Here, darling. Drink, and tell me what's happened." She takes a seat beside Ranjali, tense with anxiety.

Ranjali curls up on one of the soft yellow sofas in the sitting room, tucking her feet up like a small, scared child. She's still there, unmoving, the look in her eyes now fearful, when Audrey returns. But the tea helps. After a few sips she sighs, and some of the rigidness drains from her shoulders. Still, she shakes her head, "Its so shameful, Audrey. I can't even… you'll never want to see me again. And I won't blame you." Squeezing her eyes tightly together, she whispers, "I don't even like men, I still don't even like men. How could this have happened?"

Audrey just looks puzzled for a moment. "Men?" But Audrey has seen this sort of state before. Audrey has been in this sort of state before. "Oh…oh, I see. Oh, Ranjali," her tone turns immediately maternal and soft. "Sweetheart, I'm here. Don't you think for a second that I'm going anywhere. I'm here." She extends a hand, offering, should Ranjali decide she needs a comforting touch.

Ranjali looks up at Audrey, then down at her hand, her lips trembling with the effort to keep from crying again. But finally Audrey comforting presence wins her over and she reaches out, taking the hand in both of her own and holding it as though it is a life preserver. "I don't even remember it. I don't even remember the drinking! I-I'd heard of it, of drinking so much you forget. But I can't even remember why I went to the Cauldron in the first place. I just woke up… " Shuddering, she squeezes her eyes shut, "And I was in his bed."

Audrey nods in understanding, squeezing Ranjali's hand reassuringly. "Oh, sweetie. I've been there. I know…I know. So, it was a man? Do you remember meeting him, at least? Was he drinking as well?"

Ranjali starts to shake her head, and it keeps shaking as she answers, "No, no none of it. I was at Mungo's, and I left to run an errand… and then I was just waking up." She sniffs, still trying to keep the tears back, "Audrey he knew. He knew I don't like men, I already told him. Weeks ago. But he says I approached him!" The head shaking continues, her eyes opening to regard Audrey fearfully, "What's wrong with me?"

Audrey frowns suddenly. "He knew? You mean…this wasn't just some fling you met at the Cauldron? This is someone you know?" A fire has lit in her eyes. "Tell me his name. I will gut the bastard!"

"Mag- Magnus… Troy." Ranjali has to force the name out, she's having enough trouble just thinking it. After answering she curls up again, pulling her hands back to wrap her arms around her knees, which she draws up to her chest. "And Miss Cooper, she knows him, how can I ever face her again? What if I see him on the streets? What am I supposed to /say/ to him? How can I even face the other healers after what I did?"

Audrey's jaw sets, her eyes ablaze. "Magnus? That son of a bitch!" Was that an Irish lilt? Odd. "I will have his heart on a platter!" She leans in toward Ranjali, her voice stern, "Listen to me, Ranji. There is nothing wrong with you. Nothing. This was his doing, and he's going to pay for it. Genevieve will understand. She's a smart woman." Seeing Ranjali in this vulnerable state, she suddenly melts, and cautiously scoots closer. "Shhhh…darling, it's going to be alright. I promise." She carefully moves to put her arms around Ranjali.

Blinking at the sudden fierceness and the randomly appearing accent, Ranjali regards Audrey with wide, startled eyes. Slowly, as the blonde speaks, she nods. And as soon as she feels the comfort of her friend's arms around her, she too melts. Her own arms wraps around Audrey's waits, and she leans in close to rest her head on the singer's shoulder. "I just felt to shameful," She admits, unable to keep back the tears any longer, "I'm never going to drink again. Ever."

Audrey rubs Ranjali's head like a mother comforting a child. "I know, sweetness…I know. You just remember that you did nothing wrong. You let me worry about him from now on, and you stay away from him." She takes a deep breath. Time for the hard part. "You're sure you can't remember anything? Anything at all? Someone giving you a drink you didn't order, perhaps?"

Ranjali shakes her head, stopping again when the motion causes her to bump her head against Audrey's shoulder, "No, I can't even remember being there. It's all just some kind of blurr." Pulling a hand back, she draws up a corner of her robe and starts wiping her face with it, "But if… if I really did approach him then isn't part of this my fault?"

Audrey sighs, shakig her head. "He says you approached him. Men will say anything to make a woman feel beneath them. They really can be pigs, you know. No…you obviously wouldn't have come onto him. You've never felt attraction to him sober, right? Truly?"

Ranjali pulls back to shake her head, faster this time, her face pinched with disgust. "No! Never. He's not… " She closes her eyes again, hunching her shoulders. "He got out of the bed, and he wasn't wearing anything and… " Her hands go up to her face, pressing tightly to her eyelids, "It was so awful… "

Audrey strokes her hair, coaxing Ranjali back to her shoulder. "As I suspected. You mustn't believe him, Ranji. You are not at fault in this. Please…leave this to me." She tips a finger under Ranjali's chin to urge her to look up. "Do you trust me? I know…I know it must be hard to trust right now. I really do know. But please…think. Do you trust me?"

Swallowing, Ranjali slowly allows her chin to be lifted. She looks up after a few more seconds of hesitation, carefully searching Audrey's eyes. And then she's nodding. "Y-yes, I do. I trust you. What… do you want me to do?"

Audrey shakes her head. "Nothing. You focus on you, and getting your life back to normal. I'll be there to help with that, too. But when it comes to Magnus, I want you to let me handle him. You just keep away from him. If he tries to contact you, send for Genevieve. Just…don't even talk to him. You don't need that pain. Alright?"

Ranjali nods again, at first a little jerkily. "Yes… alright. But be careful." Her eyes widen again, worry returning, and she reaches for one of Audrey's hands, "Miss Cooper, she doesn't trust him. I don't know why, she'd never say, but don't… don't let him hurt you, because of me."

"Oh, I know how to deal with men, darling," Audrey reassures her. "I have more weapons than my fingernails and a few harsh words. But something tells me I should talk to Genevieve, as well."

Its very small, almost imperceptible, but Audrey's little joke does draw just the tiniest of grins from Ranjali. Sniffling, she nods, and once more reaches for the worn corner of her robe. "Yes, you should probably. She… well maybe she wouldn't mind, I don't know. Their relationship is so odd. But I'd want to know, I think, if I were her." As she's letting go of the robe again, she looks down, and rather suddenly blushes, "Oh just look at me. I can't believe… I'm so sorry, I must look simply horrible… "

Audrey gently cups Ranjali's cheek, giving her an adoring smile. "Ranji, you look beautiful. My midnight haired goddess, remember?"

Ranjali looks up, smiling and chuckling weakly, "And now you must be lying." Sighing, she reaches up and starts running her fingers through her hair, wincing at the tangles. "I'm almost certain I've never looked worse." She manages another small chuckle before her hands drop again, and her expression turns serious. "Audrey. You… thank you."

Audrey sighs, shaking her head. "Nonsense. A few tangles cannot restrain a goddess. You wait here." Suddenly, she's up! It's several minutes before her return, as she hunts around the house until she finds what she is looking for. A hairbrush! "Turn," she commands as she sits back down. "I'll deal with this."

The hairbrush is found on a table in the bedroom, the only room in the entire house that has any real color in it. Ranjali waits, shaking her head, and watches Audrey search bemusedly. When the blonde returns and she sees the brush, she blushes once more. But she does as instructed, protesting weakly, "You really don't have to… "

"Shhhhh," Audrey cuts her off. "Of course I don't have to. I want to." Actors tend to become amateur experts in make-up and hair, and Audrey is no exception. She wields the brush like she is weaving silk through Ranjali's hair, carefully untangling her locks until she can sweep the brush through those ebony strands in long, languid strokes.

As soon as the brush touches Ranjali's head her shoulders drop, her eyes drift shut, and she sighs in pleasure. For quite some time she is completely quiet, just feeling more and more of the tension leave her with each stroke. Then, after a while, she whispers, "It's… been a very long time since anyone did this for me."

"That's a shame. You have such lovely hair, Ranji." Audrey gives Ranjali a few soft rub on her back. "I could brush it all day. It's like silk."

Slowly, Ranjali turns, eyeing Audrey over her shoulder with that tiny grin, "And I would let you. I like having my hair brushed far too much." Turning around the rest of the way, she reaches for the brush and the hand that holds it. "You really are far, far too good to me."

Audrey smiles adoringly at Ranjali, and a blush starts to redden her cheeks at the touch. "Ranji…so few people see me as a person. But you…you see me for who I am, and appreciate what I do. I can't tell you how much I value that. You are very special to me." She places her other hand over Ranjali's, squeezing affectionately.

Ranjali's smile grows into a truly wide, happy one. And the tears that squeeze themselves from the corners of her eyes are happy ones now. "As you are to me." She murmurs. Pausing, she bites her lip for a second, then adds, "You, ah, aren't planning on looking for him today are you? Because maybe… maybe instead… well once I make myself a little more decent… you could stay for a little while?"

Audrey nods, reaching to touch Ranjali's cheeks and wipe away those tears. "I'd be happy to. Actually…I was ready to invite you to stay with me for a while. Wherever you would feel most comfortable. I will be with you."

"Oh." The offer throws Ranjali, who glances around for a moment to think about it, her blush even deeper now from that simple touch. "I… I'd like that." She's nodding by the time she looks back at Audrey again, "Just, ah… let me get dressed?"

Audrey nods excitedly. "Of course, darling. Pack whatever you need. I'll call a tax-…do you have a telephone?" A legitimate question in a witch's home!

"Ah, no." Ranjali grimaces apologetically. "I'm sorry. Standing, she looks around for a solution. "I… think there might be a phone box outside, though? Perhaps?"

Audrey is on her feet in a blink. "I'll call. You get ready." She flashes Ranjali a bright smile before slipping out to call for a taxi.

Ranjali nods. And twenty minutes later, dressed much more smartly in a white suit with a blue jacket, her hair pulled up into a jaunty little had, she carries two small suitcases down out of her house and carries them to the telephone booth to meet the taxi with Audrey.

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