FPL HOME * Characters * Current Battles * FPL Forums * Player Utilities
Rose Wendell & the Greatcoat
She had thought it would be a nice and quiet walk through the city. She hadn't expected the winds to pick up or for the sky to tear itself open. She walked under whatever overhang she could find, keeping herself mostly dry except for her shoes. She shivered briefly, clutching tightly at the greatcoat folded in her arms. It had gotten very cold, and she was glad that she hadn't been soaked. That could only make it unbearably more cold and uncomfortable. She didn't like to be miserable when she was outside, but sometimes it was unavoidable. And now she would have to cross the street, exposing herself to the rains that were changing ever so slowly into torrents. She stood on the sidewalk, staring across the street to the barely-visible signs beyond.
She looked down to the coat she held in her arms. Its gray matched its bleak surroundings, but it stood out somehow. She stared thoughtfully at it, and decided to try it on. She gently slipped off her backpack and let it settle on the ground, then slung the coat over her shoulders, sliding her arms inside the sleeves. She adjusted it until it fit comfortably across her shoulders and back. It was a perfect fit.
She sighed in a sort of contented awe, curling it tightly around her, letting it envelop her in new and welcome warmth. She could only feel the wind blowing across her face and ankles now. The greatcoat protected her from the bitter cold. It was so comfortable, relaxing even. She didn't know how long she stood there, didn't care to know. It was being wrapped tightly in bedcovers on a chilling winter night, it was taking a warm bath after building snowmen and snow castles, it was hot chocolate before the fireplace after a day of shoveling or raking. A beautiful warmth that she wanted when she remembered what it was.
It was still raining. She opened her eyes and forgot that she should care. Picking up her backpack, slinging it across her shoulders, and wrapping herself tightly in the greatcoat, she continued out into the rain.
Once they were inside, weaving by groups of students hanging around the rows of lockers that belonged to them, My spoke up. "Rose?"
"Your coat.... It's purple."
"Not purple, violet." She had always wanted a violet coat.
My's eyes turned to the ceiling, momentarily puzzled. "Wasn't it gray before?"
"Are you sure?"
"...No, I guess not. But I don't think it was violet."
Rose shrugged, hands tentatively sliding into the pockets. Something poked at one of her fingers. A piece of paper. She fingered it for a moment to make sure it wasn't just a tag, then pulled it out. It was a folded-up note. She unfolded it and began to read.
To the person wearing my jacket,
This is your jacket now. Take care of it and it will take care of you.
Sincerely and with love,
Gary Spencer, the former owner of this jacket.
She smiled when she read the word 'love'.
She looked up and saw something that was falling towards her. It was made of polished wood and was very pretty. She didn't move, couldn't or wouldn't get out of the way fast enough. She could imagine it hitting her shoulder, throwing her to the ground, dazing and breaking her. Directly above her it stopped going down, instead shooting to her left and into a building's brick wall. It shocked her, she stumbled towards the edge of the sidewalk.
There was a car in front of her, engine running, driver sitting stunned behind the wheel. She did not move, the car did not move her or touch her even. There were handprints in the hood.
She looked at the windshield and saw someone leaning over the hood instead of her own reflection. She knew who it was. He looked nervous.
Moisture in the foggy air. Cars passing a little fast. Feet of all sizes and shapes. Newer things now. The scent of fresh-baked bread from a bakery, even through the taxi's hot smell. Someone whistling a Beatles tune as loud as they could.
She sat in a beautiful, solemn content. She was safe. She felt free.
"Hi Rose." She eyed her daughter's coat. She hadn't seen it before today, despite Rose having it for a week. "Where'd you get that jacket?"
"A friend gave it to me."
"It looks kind of old."
"I like it."
"Is it from anyone I know?"
"No." Rose reached into her pocket and fingered the note. She thought a moment about telling her mother everything. The school roof, the sand that was no longer in her pockets, the walks home, the phone call they'd likely receive tomorrow about a damaged car.
She drew the note from out of her pocket. Paused. Unfolded it. As she glanced at the note, a look of puzzled wonder crossed her face.
To the person holding my coat,
Could you please give my coat back to me? It's a very nice coat and I like it very much, so I would like to have it back.
Sincerely and with thanks,
Rose Wendell, the current owner of this coat.
It was in her handwriting this time. She didn't recall writing it.
"What's that?" Her mother glanced at the paper, disinterested.
"It's something I wrote for myself earlier." She folded it back up and slid it in her pocket.
She'd see him there and in other mirrors every now and then. She knew he was the same person she saw on the rooftop - Gary. He had the same shoes and pants and shirt. He didn't wear the jacket, that was hers now. Sometimes he looked tired or sleepy. Most of the time, he smiled. One time she saw him wiping something off his face. It looked like sweat and soot.
She wished he would be in the mirrors more, to see if she could talk to him and find out who he was. She knew he was the one who protected her now.
She could only smile as she lifted her arms up from her sides. If only she could do what that boy did. Lift up into the sky. She started to turn on her heels, closing her eyes as she moved across the roof in her lilting circles. Feeling the breeze blow through her hair and around her ankles while she danced, humming a tune to herself. She hardly noticed when she went over the ledge, still spinning in circles with her arms raised and her hands outstretched. She could only hang in the air and spin. She didn't notice when she floated back over the roof and touched back down again, slowing in her spinning until she stood still again and stared at the horizon. She smiled, coming so close to wondering if she was dreaming it all....
Cities and forests were her favorite places to be. There was so much in the outside world. She loved walking home through the city especially. She had even gotten Rose and My into it. They'd people-watch, sometimes making up their own stories when the stories weren't evident. My's were irreverent, sometimes edged with cynicism or darkness. Angel's were usually love stories, lost or unrequited or passionate and very seldomly straying. Rose's were about passion and energy: overwhelming wanderlust, driven competition, lifetimes of preparation and education for the sake of their goals, needs and wants and desires, things she was beginning to understand better.
So much life. She took it in like breaths of air. It made her feel complete.
He used to be physically fit because he made himself train five days a week. He was intellectually capable because he forced himself to study anything and everything that struck him as good to know. He was well-off financially because he worked every summer and even part-time on school weekends when he could, and even ended up earning himself partial scholarships to various schools (which was unintentional on his part but not unwelcome at all). Beyond school and work, there was not a night that he spent without friends or other people whose company he enjoyed. He brimmed with energy, with warmth, and, if you paid close attention to how he treated the people close to him, with something not unlike love.
Gary's want to live was so great that he sometimes had no choice but to share. One of his best friends was Tim Parden. He used to be a short, overweight, antisocial kid a couple of grades below Gary. Gary had gotten to like Tim, because he could be funny, but it was mostly masked by bitterness. So Gary helped him up. Told Tim how he ate, what he did when he trained, how he cleaned himself up every morning, pressed on him to be better. A year-and-a-half later, Tim grew up into something unlike his younger self. Lean, storky, bouncy, constantly grinning and joking and laughing, maybe going overboard with his relationships with a wide variety of girls and sometimes breaking hearts, but otherwise he had become a good kid.
It took one night for Gary to lose everything, the life he had, and the future he was building. He died in his sleep, alone save for the smoke raking at his lungs. Afterward, he recalled and felt nothing but that deep need to live. It was so strong that he clawed himself back up from the strange all-engulfing emptiness he felt was waiting for him beyond life. From there he could do nothing but follow a compulsion to say goodbye to friends he could not remember making.
His last goodbye was at a middle school. Dying had shredded his memory, but the place was important. Something about the teachers? The conference room where all of them were meeting had gone into hysterics by the time he left, anyway. Gary was about ready to give up and cross over when he felt an urge to go to the roof. The sun was setting by then, and the view was awe-inspiring. He wasn't the only one there. Dozens of students were up on that rooftop, none of them at home with family, some eating cheap vending machine suppers, most separated into their own little cliques, and all of them watching him. Waiting for him to do something. He hadn't understood what he had done next. Maybe he'd remember eventually and finally comprehend the nature of it.
Until then, Rose had his jacket, and that meant keeping her from the cold in more senses then one. She had been sullen, yearning for the impossible, fretting over the insignificant, constantly craving the warmth her parents withheld. Gary did not understand how it happened, but he did understand that his presence was somehow helping her grow up. She became happier, friendlier, started pursuing hobbies, learned to laugh more, and that was only the start. He also didn't understand how every moment she spent growing up would change him somehow. It was satisfying and made him determined to help more, but this was something else. It was a strange feeling that was distantly familiar. He felt... stronger? Less in a sense that he felt more powerful, but that he had the capacity to do more, endure more..? It didn't matter. If he could use it to help Rose, he would. The world could be dangerous, and she was accident-prone. He would keep watch. She would live the life he couldn't have. Happiness would be something they could achieve together, and that he could live with.