Alameda Turning a New Page
#1
You never know how much something is weighing you down till its gone. Natalie was currently living that experience with the secret between her and Amber cleared away all because of a change in leadership allowing rules to shift enough to make it okay.

Home after picking up food for them, she’d take off shoes, juggling the bag of chinese with squeaking of takeout boxes. Where Natalie had been a heavy miserable blob full of dread pushing down her stomach the last few days, now she was the opposite, wanting to share her day, feeling as light as air. The wolf was just as bouncy, urging them further into the house to their friend, excitement and the general good mood feeding into her own.

”Katya?”
#2
Katya was outside, hunkered down with a blanket over her shoulders, staring at some old news on her phone about a strip club that'd gotten caught on fire. Her brain was literally working through the motions of recognising the name, a name of an establishment she'd stood outside of and talked trash about, when the sudden sound of Natalie at the front door drew her to the real world.

In fact, it wasn't sudden at all. Just seemed sudden.

Folding her phone between her hands, screen down, she called, "I'm in the yaaaard." Running her hair back, she leaned into the chair and turned to look in the direction of the back door.
#3
A muffled response came back, but it was enough. Directing her footsteps, Natalie left on her jacket as she made for the back door. Katya’s form in the chair looked back and she grinned, lifting the bag of food before sliding it open. The track rolled as she soon joined her outside, the air eagerly nipping again.

”Hi,” she started, door pulled back into place with a lean of her body before Natalie made her way over to the small table. Putting the food down with a rustle of the bag, she looked over while hands went to work untying the knot. ”Did you have a good day?”
#4
Natalie knew how to make her heart sing. Takeout was a dumb but regular tradition, one that quickly made her face lift and hands drum at the knees that hugged her chest.

Bags bags bags. She had a guess of what was inside. "Yeah. Got out early for once," Katya replied, glancing down to the chair next to her and reaching for a second blanket. She didn't hand it over yet, instead holding it until Natalie got cosy and sorted the food. "You coming from somewhere?"
#5
Katya was the picture of anticipation and it brought a smile to her face, the bag opening just then. She’d gotten out early! ”That’s great!” Attention back to the bag, she’d start pulling out the styrofoam and paper assortment of boxes filled with their favorites. Setting out the plasticware, she’d bunch up the bag and put it under the table before joining Katya.

Taking the empty chair, she grinned appreciatively at the offered blanket. ”Thank you.” Settling to then pull it over her shoulders so she could wear it like a cape, Natalie nodded to the question. ”Yeah, I was at the duck pond in Starling.” She picked up the packaged fork and knife set, tearing open the plastic seal. ”Y’know the friend I mentioned who might know what I am?”
#6
She said nothing to the thanks, only lifting her smile into one chubby cheek knowingly. All good.

Once the blanket was handed off, Katya leaned forward with about the most minimal effort she could muster, moving her phone off to the side and sliding takeout boxes and sides open in no particular order. Sauce and aroma squashed through the rest of the air.

It'd been a long time since the event Natalie was mentioning. She remembered it mostly because she was pretty sure it'd been a fucking hot day, and they'd been lounging on her bed talking. "That one with the Blair thing?" she asked vaguely, because her memory was vague at best.

Oh, yep. Remembering now. Katya had tried to back Blair into a corner about it. Fun times.
#7
Crinkling the plastic off to the side only for it to spring open again as the fork and spoon were placed onto the table, Natalie nodded at the question. ”Yep.” The one with Blair thing which that event had even been brought up to during their talk today.

Pulling a small box open would reveal crab ragoons and she plucked one out by a golden brown edge. ”Er, she… I ran into her the other day in the library in Starling and it was kind of a disaster. Dakila had to help me.” Natalie’s face heated up some, suddenly very interested in how the casing pulled apart, taking a broad brush to the whole thing that Katya could probably see through.

”But, we had a good talk afterwards and he said I could tell her what I am.”
#8
The library, like the library or like another library. Katya watched her with some alarm to her eyes, efficiently downing a scoop full of rice and lemon chicken. The onion and sesame for garnish all went without proper chewing.

”Who is she?” she asked on the gulp.

Seemed like the obvious question.
#9
Crab rangoon half plopped into her mouth, the sweetness was welcoming as Katya gave air to a question Natalie hadn’t considered to come up first. Dakila knew, but out of the two, she’d have trusted Katya first and foremost with it. It was only due to the way things had fallen that the path had already been paved making for the answer to come a lot easier even if this instinct to hide the information away was still very much there.

”Her name’s Amber, she’s a really talented photographer around here.”
#10
"Wait like," Katya started up, stabbing at another piece of chicken with the fork. Eyes fell down to the task. "Same Amber that hung out with us at that party at The Cove?"
#11
It only took but a second for her to recollect, but the entire night came right back up. ”Yep, that’s her. That was a weird night.” Weird because of the situation and how she’d wanted the floor to just drop out from under her the entire time.
#12
"I didn't pick up on that," Katya replied, softer. If Amber knew who and what Natalie was then... Katya doubted she was safe from being outed by association. But. She wasn't gonna think about what hadn't yet come to affect her.

She exhaled heavily, smiling into her dimples in a show of support, cheeks packed with rice and chicken.

"Blair wouldn't sell her out when I asked her to. So... how'd it go."
#13
Moving to open a lid of sesame chicken, she thanked the stars that the awkwardness hadn’t been picked up on at all. To Natalie it’d felt like an entire spotlight had been on her and thoroughly wondered how she hadn’t left that night in fur.

So far Katya seemed supportive which was a relief, not that she’d expected anything bad persay. It was just nice to see the worries assuaged a bit.

Blair was definitely loyal to Amber for sure and it was a welcome thing to note.

”It, um, it didn’t start great. It actually started going terrible pretty fast,” Natalie recounted, a nervous laugh exhaling that cooled immediately as a chunk of chicken was stabbed. ”She was really angry at me for being so distant and not letting her help, which I understand. I would’ve been hurt, too.”
#14
Angry, but not angry for the reasons Katya had been conditioned to expect. Not because being what they were made them evil or because it was a death sentence. Amber had been angry because she'd been deprived of having the choice to help.

It reminded her almost immediately of her own sit-down with Cris at the gardens. How fucking shit it'd all gone. The cluster of awful, hurtful, emotions the conversation had been filled with resurfacing even now, years later, at the thought. Smoothed over only by Natalie's better news.

"Yeah," Katya said in both understanding and prompt, face a worn washcloth that twinged with concern.
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