(1940-06-04) What Friends Are For
Details for What Friends Are For
Summary: Discouraged of her search for resolution to her painful past, Shelley has a minor breakdown.
Date: 1940/06/04
Location: Faulkner Residence
Related: No News

Shelley has been staying with Rena a short spell - but Charles still isn't about. She's spent most of her time at the house, keeping Rena company, but on one of her days off, she declares she has some errands to run. She doesn't return until after dark, clearly walking unsteadily as she enters the living area. Not having to go up the stairs is a plus, as she walks straight to the liquor cabinet and pours herself a drink. After standing there, staring at the bottle for a few moments, she picks it up and carries it along with her and her glass to one of the seats, and plops down - with only a little splashing of liquor.

As usual, Rena's reaction to hearing the door open and close is to jump and hold her breath, waiting to hear the familiar sound of Charles' voice or his step. However, her shoulders slump as she realizes it is only Shelley returning from her lengthy absence. The reports on the wireless had been grim that day, and she was idly toying with the piano, not playing any music in particular. Really, all she was doing was preventing herself from going mad.
Remaining at the instrument, Rena watches Shelley without saying anything. Her greeting died on her lips upon seeing the state of the other woman, and she isn't sure what to say.
Finally, dredging up the courage, she clears her throat quietly and asks: "Sorry, but… is everything alright with you?"

"Just fine," Shelley lies through her teeth, without making much effort to back up the falsehood. "Want me to pour you one, too?" she asks, before taking a drink from her glass. She lets out a quiet, appreciative sound. It's not the first time she's sampled Faulkner's liquor cabinet, after all, and she's always impressed with the quality. Her eyes go to Rena as she adds, "…what're you playing?"

Rena could not look more unconvinced by Shelley's lie if she tried. However, she doesn't remark on this for the moment. Instead, she just shakes her head at the offer for the drink: "No thanks, it'll be a while yet before I can 'ave that stuff again." This causes a faint little smile to tug at her lips; but, the moment is fleeting.
Instead of answering the question like a normal person, her fingers gracefully drift over the keys of the piano, and she sings in a soft, longing voice: "There's a somebody I'm longing to see - I hope that he turns out to be - Someone who'll watch over me…"

The piano takes over again, and Rena says: "I know Charles only keeps the best, but it still won't make problems go away."

The first few words cause a visible wince, before Shelley takes another drink from the glass. "No," she agrees. "It won't. But sometimes it helps." And she's not the only one who feels that way, she knows.

"I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood - I know I could always be good - For one who'll watch over me…"
Rena continues to sing sweetly, but somberly before lapsing into humming along with the music over the chorus. She's had her share of dire moments when she turned to the bottle for comfort, and she knows what it feels like to hurt enough to do so.
"And sometimes two heads are better than one to figure it out - whatever it 'appens to be," Rena offers over the music. Not that she claims to be particularly clever. If asked, she'll always deny it.

"I'm not sure there is anything to figure out, Rena," Shelley answers with a humorless laugh. "I may just be broken. But that's what those bloody Unspeakables'll figure out." Can they solve it? Can she let herself hope?

Rena looks understandably confused by Shelley's remark; however, she continues to play in the background for a short time without singing any further. Even under the best circumstances, that particular song has a very sad undertone… at the moment, it's downright dismal.
Frowning slightly, Rena finally asks: "You went to the Department of Mysteries? Why?" Not that she expects much of an answer. Unspeakables are by nature generally not to be spoken of as a rule. It might make for lively dinner conversation if any of them have families.

Shelley is silent a while - certainly long enough to make Rena think no answer is pending. Instead, Shelley is staring at the amber colored liquid in her glass, sloshing it idly to watch the light flicker through it.
"I stumbled on something called a soulbond," she finally remarks, without naming her source. "Bloody hard to find any information on it. But it's possible for two people to be… tied together, apparently. To know each others' moods, when they're in danger, when they're hurt. To feel it when they are." A few tears manage to sneak out of her eyes, despite the woman's usually formidable composure.

"I've heard the word before… and some rumours along those lines, but I didn't realize it was quite so… serious." Serious seems like a decent word. However, the word "Dire" also comes to mind, frankly.
Being the sympathetic and empathetic person she is, Rena can discern the emotional turmoil Shelley is holding in check by a thread. She doesn't know what to do, though. Any effusiveness on her part will almost certainly be met with hostility.
The music stops, and the young woman turns things over in her mind before asking timidly: "Is that maybe why you've been so unwell for so long?"

"I think it is," Shelley answers quietly. "I think it… broke me, when Alis died. I don't even know if they can fix it, or… or improve it, or… I don't even know if they're particularly mean to try." Abruptly, she hurls her glass across the room, letting it shatter against the wall. "They mean to study me!" She declares viciously. "But what choice do I have?" Some of the angry tension abruptly eases out of her as she slumps back into her seat. "What choice at all?"

The glass is hurled and little shards of glittering glass and droplets of sparkling alcohol go everywhere. The sudden outburst causes Rena to jump and grip the piano with one hand so that her knuckles quickly go white. Thank goodness for magic in this instance, or she would never have a hope of cleaning up the mess entirely.
Rising to her feet, Rena finally leaves the piano and moves over to Shelley's side. Hesitating and unsure of what she ought to do, she sits down beside the other woman and keeps her hands on her lap. "Shelley, don't you think you've suffered long enough? She wouldn't want you to keep on like this if you 'ad a chance… even a slim one of finding an answer. You know she don't want you to suffer - don't you?"

"Of course I do," Shelley answers. "She'd be the first to tell me what an idiot I am." She wipes at her eyes, some annoyance leaking into her despair, as she grows frustrated with her inability to keep her emotions in check. "I miss her. I'd do anything to… see her again, or turn back the clock. We weren't in love, you know. So many say it - but it was never true."
She shakes her head then adds, "What if there's no getting better? What if they poke me, and prod me, and study me - and I get nothing from it?"

Rena would make a remark about how people can be very stupid at times, without meaning to be unkind; but, this seems to be neither the time nor place for such an observation. The pain in Shelley's voice is enough to make her want to cry, too. If she could do anything to take away the hurt, she would.
"It sounds awfully unfeeling of me to say that you'd be no worse off than you are now. That isn't 'ow I mean it to be… But, if they can't 'elp, at least you will know one way or the other. You won't 'ave to spend your life wondering or getting up false 'ope for something that'll never work." Pausing, she tries to sound more encouraging: "On the other 'and, they might find a way to 'elp. But you won't know unless you let them try."

"I suppose that's all true…" Shelley agrees. She glances aside at the woman next to her. "I'm sorry," she adds softly. "There's so few people I can…" She presses her lips together, then offers instead. "I have so few friends."

"I don't exactly 'ave a lot of friends, myself." Rena says, trying to sound helpful. "Lots of people I know, but… not really a lot of friends, so I know 'ow it is."
Stopping a moment, the younger woman is torn, wondering what she can say or do to help. However, she seems to finally say "To hell with it" in her mind. "I am your friend, though. I 'ope you know that." She says carefully, putting her arm around Shelley's shoulders. Of course, she rather expects to be shrugged off, but it's worth a try.

For a few moments, Shelley's shoulders grow tense - but Rena is not shoved away. In fact, she slowly starts to relax. "Thank you," she adds quietly, before the tears resume in earnest.

Most of the time, Rena is known for nattering on when she ought to be silent. This time, she seems to know when to keep her mouth shut, and she just holds Shelley gently without a word beyond saying: "It's alright. Tears were meant to be cried."
They are fortunate to be isolated from the rest of the world due to being in Rena's home during the blackout. No on need ever know anything, and Rena certainly isn't the type to gossip. She can't lie about herself to save her soul - but she becomes a perfect mummy when it comes to discussing other people.

It's only after her tears have run dry that Shelley speaks again - her tone soft. "I've been thinking… a lot lately, that maybe it's time I leave the office. Find another path. The way things stand… I can't really be of help, there." With the tears gone, she goes from leaning subtly towards Rena, to straightening back up. She doesn't shrug off the woman's arm, though. Not yet, anyways.

"But, you do a lot of good there," Rena objects, gently. "And what with me expecting, I shan't be able to do much in a few months time - and for a long while. What would we do without you?" It's a rather genuinely frightened question. Not that she would stop Shelley from going if that was her final decision.

Shelley turns to stare at Rena, whatever thought running through her head momentarily derailed. "That's… That's great, though, Rena. Congratulations," she remarks encouragingly. There's a pause before she leans towards Rena to give her an awkward, brief hug - one arm draping loosely across the other woman's back before she pulls away again. She still doesn't shrug out of Rena's arm, though.
"I, umm… you really mean that, though? You're not just saying what you think I ought to hear? I feel so bloody useless sometimes."

Deer in the headlights. That's what Rena looks like for a brief moment as her eyes go wide. She's been lax on informing the office about her condition (mainly because she has been waiting nervously to be certain of it herself) and this is the first time she's allowed the news to slip out to a co-worker.
Shelley's happy reaction is a relief, and her fear quickly recedes into a somewhat bashful smile from Rena: "Yea… I'm afraid I've got to put in for being taken off the active duty roster soon. I'll 'ave to take on desk work or safe interviews I suppose for a while."
Sobering considerably, she gives Shelley a hard look: "I can't lie worth a damn and you know it! I'm useless at lies. I wouldn't say something if I didn't mean it."

Shelley lets out a quiet snort - a ghost of a smile making an appearance. "That is true," she agree. "I guess we'll be seeing even more of each other at work, then, soon." With forced hopefulness she adds, "Or maybe these Unspeakables will manage to do me some good - and I can get back to the active roster, myself."

Happy to see Shelley's mood improving slightly, Rena brightens up a bit and smiles: "Yea, more than likely. Or, as you say, they might be able to fix things and I'll just wind up taking your place as the desk jockey in the office." She adds, half-kidding. Everything around her is changing so fast lately, it's hard to know where she is or what will come next. But, at least she can take comfort in knowing that she is still able to help people, despite her condition.

Shelley nods in agreement - then pulls away from contact with Rena, at last, as she climbs to her feet. "Maybe I should get some sleep," she remarks. "Sorry to dump all this on you."

"Don't be." Rena replies - and that is all she says about the situation. She refuses to make Shelley suffer a cliche like… "That's what friends are for."
"We could probably both use some. But…" She hesitates before getting up and moving over to the piano once more. "I think I'll just stay up a bit longer. J-just in case."
Slowly, Rena resumes her seat, and brushes her hand idly over the smooth keys once more. "Just in case."

Guilt flits briefly over Shelley's features - she's here to support Rena - not the other way around. Maybe she should stay up with her a bit longer…
But the growing urge to get away from too much familiarity is hard to ignore. "Don't stay up too late," she encourages her friend. "And… Rena, congratulations. I really think it's marvelous. I'll, uhh… clean up my mess in the morning - when I can trust my wandwork." That said, she turns to walk towards the door - putting her hand out to steady herself as she stumbles near the doorway. Damnit…

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