Actions

Work Header

This Must Be The Place

Chapter Text

Therese was in that satisfied state of having enjoyed a good meal as she walked up West 42nd Street. Her stomach full of baked salmon and crispy parmentier potatoes, her usually sharp vision slightly blurred around the edges after a few glasses of startlingly expensive white wine, a warm fuzziness in her chest. She was tired, but it was blissful. The kind of tired that follows a long but productive day.

It was still warm out, though it had been dark for almost an hour. Therese looked to her left, over into Bryant Park, where people were scattered across the grass in their groups, black polka dots against a blanket of greenery. They were still in t-shirts, no need for a jacket.

Genevieve was wearing one anyway. Well, it was a blazer, actually. Grey pinstripe with matching pants, and a crisp white shirt underneath, all tailored to fit her perfectly. Therese paled in comparison, in her burgundy red button-up and plain black cigarette pants. She wasn't exactly well-versed in how to dress professionally. Not that it mattered. She'd gotten the job before she'd even arrived.

Therese had flown into JFK that afternoon, where Genevieve picked her up in a glamorous Rolls Royce that might have belonged to her or to the gallery. Therese couldn't tell, and she thought it would be rude to ask. Whoever owned the car, riding in it made her feel like a VIP as she watched the city slip by the window, sunlight reflecting off glass like the camera flashes of paparazzi who weren't really there.

Genevieve, as Harkevy's right-hand woman, seemed to have been assigned the role of looking after Therese while she was in New York, which she was grateful for. It was comforting to have a familiar face she'd be able to turn to over the next few days. At least, familiar enough. Therese still didn't quite know what to make of Gen. The woman reminded of her a villain from a superhero movie; cold and calculating, with a wicked smile that could disarm her at once. And yet, Therese knew she could trust her. It was she who had made all this happen, after all.

They had a dinner reservation with Harkevy at a high-end midtown restaurant, but before that, Therese had enjoyed a couple of hours to herself, plenty of time to check into her lavish suite at the Knickerbocker Hotel and get settled. She'd argued with Genevieve at first, when it was announced that the secretary at the gallery had booked a room for her. She didn't need a hotel, she could just stay with Dannie. Gen just told her that this was policy for all artists travelling from other cities, and if she didn't want the room, then it would simply stay empty for a week. Therese had conceded then, and, now she'd arrived, she was glad she had. Staying in any hotel was a rare treat, but especially one as luxurious as this. Hers was a corner suite, the bright lights of Times Square filtering in through the windows on two sides of the room, her own small sanctuary in the heart of the city. She thought about asking Carol to stay the night, but she was with Rindy, and Therese didn't want to interrupt their precious time together.

Instead, she had showered and dressed alone, straightening her hair and and spending more time on her make-up than she had in the past month put together. As seven o'clock rolled around, and Gen came to meet her, she felt like she might throw up. Gen had assured her that the dinner was more of a social event than a professional one, but Therese couldn't help but feel the pressure.

Harkevy looked exactly like she remembered, having seen him around the gallery on her previous visits. Tall, broad-shouldered, dressed impeccably in a navy blue suit and tie, with sandy brown hair flecked with silver and eyes so dark that she could barely see the pupils. He smiled politely as they entered, and as he reached out to shake Therese's hand, she noticed the enormous designer watch on his wrist, glittering with tiny diamonds around it's face.

As it turned out, though, she needn't have been so intimidated. She'd completely misjudged his character. Harkevy, despite his being 20 years her senior, had in his youth walked a similar path to Therese. He too was born in Queens, a child of immigrant parents, though his were loving where Therese's had abandoned her. He too spent his early twenties struggling to pay the bills. They laughed as they traded stories of their growing up in the city, Gen watching on in bewilderment. It was bewildering, Therese thought. She hadn't expected to feel this kind of kinship with Harkevy. Having frequented plenty of art galleries back when she was still living in New York, she knew that almost all the guys who owned them existed in their own privileged, high society bubbles. They were people like Genevieve, not people like her. She felt graced by good fortune, trusting that her work was in good hands, the hands of a man who understood her.

The conversation had, inevitably, moved to the show, which would be taking place from Friday to Sunday. Therese was due to visit the gallery in the morning to meet the team and work with them on the installation of her photographs. The prospect of it was so alien to her, and as Harkevy detailed their plans for the next couple days, she just nodded eagerly, hoping her expression didn't betray her naiveté. There were several uncomfortable moments in which she felt like a clueless intern who had stumbled into a meeting she wasn't supposed to attend, and she cursed herself, cringing internally at her own inexperience. Yet still, as she headed back towards the hotel, she couldn't help but feel optimistic. She was here because they believed in her, both the brilliant man they'd left at the restaurant, and the true ally who now walked by her side.

Gen nudged her gently as they neared Times Square. 'You're quiet', she remarked.

'Always am', Therese responded.

Gen smirked. 'Okay. I'll allow it'.

'I'm just thinking'.

'What about?'

'All this'. Therese looked at her, into her sapphire blue eyes. 'You. I know for some reason you won't let me thank you, and you always brush it off when I try, but I really do appreciate you taking a chance on me'.

A flash of surprise seemed to pass across Gen's face. She was caught, mouth slightly open, as if she was deciding whether or not to speak. It was the first time Therese had ever seen her look uncertain.

'I never like the art that people give me', Gen admitted after a moment. 'I said I'd look over yours, like it might be a favour to Carol. You're really special to her, and I thought she'd appreciate it, you know? But when I saw your pictures, I couldn't ignore them. I really love your work, and I mean that'.

She smiled then, that sardonic smirk she wore like armour slipping into something more genuine.

'Thank you, Gen', Therese said earnestly, only hoping she'd take it seriously.

Gen nodded, like she was finally accepting it. 'Call Carol when you get upstairs, won't you?' she asked. 'I get the feeling she'll be waiting'.

'I will'.

'And tell her I'm not coming home, so she shouldn't wait up'.

Therese frowned. 'Where are you going?'

Gen shrugged. 'Won't know till I get there'.

Then she shot Therese a wink, and turned on her heel to walk away, the sound of her stilettos on the sidewalk dissolving into the growing distance between them.

Therese went upstairs to her room, kicking off her shoes and flopping down onto her bed, shuffling so she could reach her phone in her back pocket. Finally. The evening had been wonderful, but with every passing second, Carol only weighed heavier on her mind. She just couldn't wait to call her.

'Hi, darling', Carol answered the phone.

Therese swooned at the sound. 'Hi'.

'How was your day?'

'Crazy. I only just got back'.

'Was dinner good?'

'Yeah. Harkevy was really nice. He was so . . . normal'.

Carol laughed. 'Normal?

'Like, he wasn't some hot-shot art guy. He was just good to talk to'.

'And the food?'

'Incredible'.

'Sounds like a successful day'.

'Yeah. It was'.

'Well, now you're a sought-after photographer, you might be too busy, but I thought I'd ask anyway. I was wondering if you'd like to spend the afternoon with Rindy and I, tomorrow'. Carol stumbled, suddenly. 'It's totally okay if you don't, but-'

'No, I'd really like to', Therese interrupted, relieving her of her doubts.

'Okay. Good'.

Therese could hear the smile in her voice.



They were waiting for her on the corner outside the hotel, laughing about something. Therese spotted them instantly as she stepped out of the cool lobby and into the stuffy afternoon. She almost didn't want to go over, feeling like she might spoil the lovely scene, but Carol had already seen her, and reached out her hand to wave her over. Rindy noticed her too, the smile fading from her face. She took a small step closer to Carol's side.

Rindy looked exactly like Carol might have done when she was a child. That was Therese's first impression of her. Her hair a little longer, a little straighter, but the same tall, slim frame, the same pale skin and blue-grey eyes.

'Hey, guys', Therese greeted them as she approached.

Carol put a gentle hand on her daughter's shoulder. 'Rindy, this is Therese', she introduced her.

Rindy looked Therese up and down, sizing her up. 'Hi', she said, a little cautiously.

Therese smiled. 'It's nice to finally meet you, Rindy'.

'Nice to meet you, too'.

'Rindy's decided she'd like to go bowling', Carol announced, ruffling the little girl's dark blonde hair. 'Is that okay with you?'

'Sure', Therese agreed. 'I haven't been bowling in ages'.

'Neither have I', Rindy added.

'Okay'. Carol nodded towards the crosswalk. 'Come on, then'.

Rindy followed her mother's directions, but Carol hung back just a little, letting her walk in front. Then she turned to Therese.

'Hi, you', she smiled, giving her a chaste kiss when Rindy wasn't looking.



The bowling alley Carol suggested was just a short walk away, on the edge of the Garment District. It was all shiny compared to the one Therese used to work at back in Queens, her weekend job while she was still in high school. She loved that place, even if it was kind of a dump. On less busy shifts, she and her co-workers would challenge each other, playing for money or bragging rights, and somewhere along the line, they all got really good at bowling.

But that was a decade ago, and Therese was a little rusty. She still won the game, by a lot. She didn't know if she should have let Rindy claim a victory, but the little girl didn't seem bothered. She was probably too old for that anyway.

After the game, the three of them found a free table away from the lanes, where families were eating and drinking in amongst a selection of classic arcade machines. Therese and Rindy each took a seat, but Carol hung back, hovering behind Rindy's chair.

'Are you hungry?' she asked her, stroking a hand down the side of her face. 'Shall I go get us some nachos?'

'Yes, please!' Rindy exclaimed.

Carol smirked. 'Therese?'

Therese nodded. 'I'm always in the mood for nachos'.

'Alright'. Carol squeezed Rindy's shoulder. 'Rindy, you stay here with Therese for a minute, okay?'

'Okay', the little girl agreed.

Carol shot Therese a wink, and headed for the bar. 

An awkward silence enveloped Therese and Rindy, the first time the two of them had been alone without Carol's presence, or the blessed distraction of a heavy bowling ball and ten pins in the distance.

Therese had no idea what to say. Fortunately, it was Rindy who spoke first.

'You're really good at bowling', she said, a little disinterested. It wasn't really a compliment, more an attempt at small talk.

'Thanks', Therese said anyway. 'I used to work at a bowling alley'.

That caught her attention. 'You did?'

'Yep. When I was 17'.

'Why'd you quit?'

'I didn't. It got closed down'.

'Oh'.

'But I found another job'.

'Doing what?'

'Waitressing'.

Rindy mulled this over for a moment. 'I'd like to be a waitress', she mused. 'My mom was one, before she had me'.

Therese nodded. 'She told me all about it'.

Rindy was quiet, and Therese could almost see the cogs turning in her head. She was making her assessments, Therese supposed, and she had every right to do so.

'How long have you known her?' the little girl asked. It sounded more like a challenge than a simple question.

Therese played along. 'Three months'.

'She never stops talking about you'.

'Oh, yeah?'

'Yeah'.

Rindy didn't flinch, just stared Therese down for a long, uncomfortable moment. So she knows about us, Therese realised. But that wasn't all she was trying to say with this silent confrontation. There was something too vaguely threatening about it all. Therese could only admire her determination. She was clearly very protective of her mother.

'Well, she talks a lot about you too', Therese told her, in an attempt to shift focus.

Rindy took the bait. 'What does she say?' she asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

'That you go to boarding school, and you're having a great time'.

She smiled, then. 'Yeah, I am', she said proudly.

'What's it like there?' Therese asked.

Rindy put both her hands flat on the table, leaning forward slightly, as if she had something important to say. 'It's this huge old stone building, with all the classrooms, and a couple smaller ones next to it', she explained, like she was telling a story. 'That's where the dormitories are, where I sleep. It's like a grid of six beds'. She drew imaginary lines on the table with her fingertip, attempting to illustrate it. 'Here's mine. And my bed is next to Bridey's - she's my best friend. Her parents are journalists in Dublin. Sometimes we see them on TV, on the news. It's so cool. Bridey's really good at doing hair. She taught me how to do all different kinds of braids. Now we practise on our other friends'.

Therese smirked as Rindy finally stopped for breath. Her enthusiasm was endearing, as was her childish manner of speaking, venturing this way and that into tangents that never quite interlinked.

'What are your friends like?' she asked.

'Really nice. Most of them are Irish. All the girls who I share my dormitory with are. But there are some from other countries too. I'm the only New Yorker, but there's a few other Americans. One from Washington DC, one from Hartford, one from . . . I forgot'.

'And you like living there?'

'The weather's bad, but yeah, I like it. It's so green. My school is right in the middle of the country, there are no cities nearby'.

'What do you do after class, then? And on the weekends?'

Rindy shrugged. 'We can take the bus into town, if we want to. Go shopping, stuff like that. I usually stick around, though, by the playing fields. Training. I'm on the lacrosse team, and the hockey team'.

'Sounds like you're busy'.

'Yeah, the year goes so fast. It's like, I'm here for the holidays, and then it feels like a couple weeks back at school, and then I'm home again for summer vacation'.

'No time to get homesick, then'.

It was an offhand comment, but Rindy faltered, like she'd been called out. Her shoulders drooped, as if all the energy had drained right out of her.

'I guess you could say that', she muttered. 'I miss my mom though'.

Therese frowned, worried suddenly that she might have implied something she didn't mean. 'Of course you do. You can be happy where you are, and still miss people back home'.

'No, I know', Rindy assured her. 'I just feel guilty about it sometimes'.

'That you're happy?'

'Well, yeah. I guess. Because I'm having so much fun at school, and I don't want her to think that I'm like, rubbing it in her face or something'.

'You worry about her', Therese realised.

Rindy nodded. 'I know she misses me. I worry that she gets lonely. I mean, I know she's not lonely. She has Gen - have you met Gen? She's the coolest. But I think it must be harder since my Aunt Abby moved away. She's my mom's bestest friend'.

'But they still see each other'.

'Not as often, though. She used to just drop by our apartment, or mom and her would go out to dinner or something. They can't do that anymore, you know?'

'Yeah. I guess you're right'.

'And that's why I worry', Rindy continued. 'Aunt Abby isn't around, but neither am I. Ireland is so far away. Sometimes I feel like I should come home or something. I know my mom would like that. But I don't want to'.

She looked down at her lap, ashamed. Therese was sorry to see it, but she was also surprised. It seemed slightly strange that Rindy would choose to confide in her like this, but Therese understood all too well that temptation of spilling secrets to strangers. Someone who doesn't know you, and doesn't judge you. After all, that's how it had been with Carol, that first day they met.

Of course, now Therese knew Carol, and she thought she knew Rindy too, through Carol's stories of her. She was confident, and ambitious, and independent. But it was those attributes that had been antagonising her all this time, had been making her worry that her mother was feeling isolated. And that was something Carol clearly wasn't aware of.

Therese didn't know how to make it better. She couldn't tell Rindy the truth, that Carol actually had considered pulling her out of school. Knowing something like that just made it worse. Therese had already had enough experience of it.

'I get it, what you're going through', she empathised. 'I know my brother wants me to come home, and I don't. I tell him no, every time he asks. I feel guilty about it too'.

Rindy looked up at her, tilting her head to one side. 'What do you do about it?'

'Nothing, really', Therese admitted, running a hand through her hair. 'I know I should call him more, to be honest. But . . . even though he doesn't understand why I'm away so much, it's never gotten in the way of our friendship. We're still as close as ever'.

'And he forgives you?' Rindy asked hopefully.

Therese smiled. 'Yeah. He does'.

Rindy nodded slowly as she considered it. 'Thanks, Therese'.

'For what?'

Rindy shrugged sheepishly. 'Making me feel better. And for making my mom feel better. She really likes you, you know'.

'I really like her too'.

Rindy smiled, and Therese smiled back at her, an understanding passing silently between them. Friends, Therese decided. And she was glad of it.

'So', Rindy said after a moment, leaning closer to the table. 'Do you really live in a van?'