Post by kait 🛠️ felicity carrow, d3 on Aug 28, 2023 16:18:08 GMT -5
She's ten years old the first time she befriends a crow.
Tegan's mother goes into a fit when she brings the thing in from the balcony. She's got her tiny little fingers gently cupped in front of it, little dribbles of water pebbling on the ground every time the bird bends down and takes tiny sips.
"I think he was hot, Momma," Tegan has said, staring at the creatures black feathers with awe and wonder. She'd been outside having breakfast. She liked it out there. The sounds of pedestrians on the streets below her, the vehicles milling about the road, they did a good job of drowning out every time her mother and father started arguing. "He flew right up to and tried drinking the leftover milk from my bowl."
Mrs. Ezra hadn't been nearly as calm. She didn't waste a second watching the way her daughter delicately tried to scritch the creature on the back of his head, just started waving her hands frantically, shooing it back towards the balcony. Her was so shrill Tegan thought her eardrums were going to burst, how afraid she was as soon as that voice started shouting. Tegan remembers the way her mothers hands felt when they pushed on her shoulders, shoving her backwards through the french doors she'd left ajar. She remembers the breeze that came whirling through them at the same time, the way it caught her mother's thick, curly hair and plastered it across her face. She remembers the way it felt like the only thing that saved her. It's the only reason she lost her grip on Tegan.
The thing that's faded from her memory after all these years is the expression that might've been on her mother's face when she went over the railing. The way she sounded when she screamed. The pause in her body when the cries cut short.
That was the first time Tegan watched someone die.
Her father always thought it was strange how much time she spent on the balcony after that.
It was his own fault, Tegan always thought to herself when he made the point to question her out loud. This didn't happen very often, and only happened less often as she grew into a peculiar young woman while he grew into a bitter old man. You see, her father had been the one to buy her a telescope. She tested it out in her bedroom at first, enjoyed the idea of having it in her own private space. She quickly discovered, however, that there was another building facing out the window of her bedroom though, and getting a view at the stars meant shoving herself against the wall and trying to angle the telescope up though the top corner.
Tegan wasn't doing that.
It's not her fault that the city engineers put a park outside the balcony window, and it's not her fault that her parents bought the apartment with the balcony in the first place. And it definitely isn't her fault that the present he bought her as a distraction from Mom dying turned out to work.
Maybe he should've tried talking to her about it instead of yelling at her. Maybe then she might have listened.
Tegan hadn't hesitated going out onto the balcony; she thinks that's what made her father angry the first time. There hadn't been any conversation about Mrs. Ezra's untimely demise, just a funeral and a wake where everyone told Tegan how beautiful she was growing up to be and what a great job her mother had done with her. No one ever wanted to talk about the things that her mother had loved, the sort of things that might've made her laugh.
Then she got home and her father drank the entire bottle of whiskey his parents gifted them as a wedding present and told Tegan it was all her fault. She did this to them.
After that, he stopped saying much of anything to her at all except to buy her presents which she's fairly certain his assistant was picking out. The look on his face when she unboxed some doctor game and it buzzed the first time she tried to take one of the bones out, well, let's just say it made Tegan laugh.
She supposed going out on the balcony didn't start as a test at first, but then he got upset about it and looked at her, really looked at her for the first time in two months. She'd be lying to herself if she didn't admit she did it again the next day just to see if he'd look at her again.
When she's thirteen, she has her telescope pointing down towards the park.
Summer break has been hard lately. Everyone likes to throw parties as the week of the Reaping gets closer, but no one ever wants to invite Tegan so she spends most days alone reading books she stole from the school library. Mrs. Altman told her she really needs to stop doing that because one day they aren't just going to threaten to fine her, they're going to put it on her record and a Peacekeeper is going to show up at her door to give her a ticket. Tegan has a very shrug attitude about that one though.
Why be a well behaved and mind numbingly boring idiot when you could be brilliantly mischievous? There's only sense in the sensible when what you're doing is going to lack consequences.
If you want life to change, you need to risk it.
Most kids, she's found, have tended not to agree with the way she practices this though. This leaves her alone in the apartment she and her father share on early summer afternoon, and instead of her nose in a stolen book, she's got it scrunched up to her eyebrows while she pressed her cheek against her well-loved telescope. She's being nosy, and she knows it, pointing it towards the sides of nearby buildings to catch glimpses of other peoples lives.
(she doesn't know how to tell people she's lonely.)
Her father comes home to a small team of Peacekeepers standing in their cramped living room, Tegan answering questions. It takes him a week to get it out of her himself, little fragments he manages to catch before being scared to try and deal with it, deal with her, and finding a new business deal to drown himself with.
Tegan though, she never forgets watching the man run into the park. In her memory she sees his grey zip up catching in the afternoon breeze, the way the light caught on the top of his bald head. She never forgets the long, ugly knife he'd held at his side, or the way he used it to carve open two women having a picnic. The choked sound the Peacekeeper made in the back of his throat when she called their office and told them what she saw happening in the park.
Turns out he killed three other people that day. Tegan was the only witness.
A crow lands where Tegan sits outside for lunch, intelligence behind the eyes. They stared at each other wide eyed and fearless, heads tilting in unison. Quick, dark eyes examined each other measure for measure.
During fourth period the creature flew to the windowsill and started beating insistent wings against the glass.
"I think he wants to come in," Tegan had said, unfazed. "How loyal."
Mr. Bainbridge keeled over of a heart attack while everyone else stared out the window to where the bird crooned against the cloudy sky.
Star Jenkins is really nice to her for two weeks after that; walks her home school, gives her one of their sides during lunch, lays a jacket over her shoulders when a breeze catches Tegan unexpectedly and she shivers into them. Star gets hit by a coin falling from a high rise that kills them almost instantly. Catastrophic brain damage.
With hindsight, she can confidently say this was what made her go into medicine.
All of Star's friends swear they could see a lone crow perched on the roof.
It follows Tegan throughout school, her education plagued by a string of suitors who were only by her side to see if they could survive. Strangers would kiss her at the few parties she went to, catching her unawares, sometimes dared by their friends and sometimes just being dicks. The worst part was not actually being in control of who got punished for coming near her.
A lab partner in Biology, one of her Leadership and Impact professors, a sports player she never had the pleasure of actually knowing save for the time he ran into her trying to catch a ball. Her cracked his head open on the curb. Tegan remembers the frill on the bottom of her skirt getting stained with the blood that slowly pooled out of his head. It didn't matter after that if something could be explained easily—heart attack, lighting, logic—Tegan Ezra was pure bad luck. It was like the universe wrote some rule that said if something bad happened, someone had to point the finger at Tegan.
Tegan gets far enough in her medical training to get put in an operating room but quits as soon as she has to tell the patients family their daughter died on her table. When she left the hospital that night, there was one of her familiar dark feathered friends sitting on the bike railing, right next to where she'd locked hers into place.
She reached into her bag and procured a small sachet of nuts, handing the creature a pistachio. It took it, fluttering down to the ground to crack it open while Tegan got on her bike and headed towards home.
After that there are two blissful years where she doesn't get invited anywhere and she keeps her nose buried in a book about quantum physics, throws herself into engineering, finally bothers to take the linear algebra classes she neglected earlier in her education before finding herself a research position at the observatory.
Thirty eight and it's been nine years since a crow showed up on her doorstep. At the two year mark she starts working low level tasks, weather predictions she's responsible for communicating to the local radio stations. It was also an unspoken rule at the time that no one else in the office was going to brew the coffee, and if she didn't do it of her own volition then someone was going to tell her to.
Low man on the totem pole, Tegan had to chain smokes cigarettes in order to stand the day but at least no one complained about her regular brood-by-the-cracked-window breaks.
Plus, they gave Tegan the keys to the place.
She spends all her time there after hours, demanding from herself that she uses that doctorate she worked so hard for, even if the men around her wouldn't let her. She finds her favorite stars and watches the evolution of the universe unfold in front of her every night. She'd reckon that was worth a million coffee pot refills, at the very least.
At the five year mark, she meets Malachi Blackstone and she loves him right away and she's terrified the entire time.
Year eight, Tegan quits smoking because she gets pregnant; she and Malachi live in a townhouse with cherry wood trim window seats and wild ivy climbing up the front of it. The twins bedrooms are ready and waiting on the top floor, ready to be loved and lived in once they grew out of the nursery they occupied. Year nine, and no one notices the sickness spreading in Malachi's lungs until it's too late. They are laying together in bed when he goes. "Let's call him Midnight," he'd said, gesturing to the window behind Tegan. She'd turned around gently, still holding her husband in her arms, to look over her shoulder at the crow she knew would be waiting in the open window. They'd opened it to hear the patter of the rain outside better. One could barely see it through the darkness, only the slick of light from the bedside table catching on its feathers gave it away. "He looks like a Midnight."
Tegan's forty when she spots the asteroid and it's damning trajectory. The war is just starting to come to an end and she's vowed to be done with weather prediction when she calculates the path of 13 Asteria to be headed towards somewhere a little too close to home for comfort. She gets commendations from on high for distracting people away from the war, and people tell her she's responsible for saving Panem when they manage to engineer a rocket that goes to break the thing apart before it can reach a ground zero. They ask her to teach at the university after that, grant her some prize and the President gives her a medal in front of a crowd full of eyes that make Tegan's skin crawl.
She spends a lot of time in her observatory after that.
There are stray semesters where she uses the office they keep for her at the university, where she teaches classes on fluid dynamics and condensed matter physics to minds she wishes desperately to catch up to her own. She cares for her son and her daughter by hiring nannies and attendants she spends rigorous hours vetting and researching. She neglects them both terribly, terrified if she loves them then they will be ripped from her, too.
Personal invitation from the President, master the mechanics of her Hunger Games. A crow lands on Tegan's windowsill that morning and doesn't fly away.