There are days... days when her hip is so stiff that she has to knead the muscles around the joint into submission just so she won't fall over when she rolls out of bed... days when the Boston winter seems to settle in so deeply that she can enumerate every cracked rib, every broken bone in the history of Olivia... days where, for just a fraction of a breath, she wishes she'd taken the easy route. And then it passes. She does roll out of bed, showers - hot enough to banish the ache for the time being- and puts on her game face. Coming back from the dead is a long, difficult climb.
Olivia wraps a towel around herself and wipes the steam from the mirror. She takes an eye-pencil from the cup on the shelf and it's not until she's halfway done the second eye that it occurs to her that she can't recall ever buying the eyeliner. The temptation to wipe it all off is almost overwhelming, but as she catches herself in the closing medicine cabinet door, there's something about her reflection that feels right. Besides, she kind of likes the way the makeup draws attention to her eyes so people will look at her, not through her like she really shouldn't be here. She lets it ride. The bangs though, she can't stand, so she carefully pins them back and out of the way.
She tosses the wet towel on the bed and pauses when she hears the empty thwap of it hitting the floor instead. A satisfied smile curves the corners of her mouth when she remembers that she moved the bed. The room looks off-balance now with it over in the corner, under the window, but last night was the first night that she truly relaxed enough to sleep soundly since she was released from the hospital. She's taken back a little corner of her apartment, a tiny piece of her life, and it feels good to have that semblance of control for the first time in ages.
The forecast calls for rain and she has to crawl across the bed to shut the window now. It's awkward, with the room arranged like this, but there was something about the cool night air and a heavy quilt on the bed that had soothed her. Maybe because Frank always liked to sleep with the window open a crack, even in the winter.
She shakes the thought away and dresses. That's not her memory to dwell on. Olivia's never slept with Frank on a cold winter's eve, never prodded him with her elbows until he finally, finally relented and closed the window because the snow was blowing in across the sill and dusting the bed. She's never spent the rest of the night, tangled up in the sheets with him, sweaty and breathless until she capitulated and let him open the window again, just a crack because it is the middle of winter and he promised he'll keep her warm.
She thought about moving, really, she did. Just packing a bag and running somewhere untouched by that imposter. But in the end, Olivia is practical. She's lived through enough, survived enough to know that the old adage about hardship building character is true. That each experience, good and bad, tests you and pushes you in ways that no classroom or instructor ever could. The kid who watches the drunken stepfather and learns, not what happens when the liquor destroys any sense of self-control, but how far she can push it before she crosses that line herself. The child who is used and abused in the name of science, but who can skip through universes at the plunge of a syringe, and has the compulsion to protect those who can't protect themselves woven like threads into the very fabric of her being. All bits and pieces – memories - the other Olivia never picked up along the way. It makes them as unique from each other as fraternal twins.
And so she stays, because she has good memories here too. Of sleepovers and "girl's nights", of serious discussions over pancakes and chocolate milk about kissing boys and deciding what to be when they grow up, and long talks over dark chocolate cake and Wiser's about not kissing boys and wishing they didn't always have to act so grown up. Of falling asleep with Ella already breathing softly against her neck, and waking up to the flat morning light and a crick in her back from lying under her niece's sleep-heavy body, but with a feeling that for a moment, everything is just right in the world.
She picks up her gun from where she left it on the table next to one of the new chapter-books she picked up for Ella's next visit; something about a pair of adventurous girls, a red dog, and a title she vaguely remembers from her own youth. There are some things she doesn't want to have to rebuild from scratch; she's got enough foggy patches to worry about.
Olivia checks the safety on her gun before returning it to its holster, but stops because the piece feels wrong in her hand. It's the same weapon she's carried since graduation from the Academy, yet the balance feels off, like it's the wrong size for her hand. Her muscles remember the heft and the shape of handguns and rifles tuned and fit just to her so as to give her that competitive edge. This gun isn't one of them. Maybe that's why she's never been a perfect shot.
She will eventually forgive Peter, of that much she is certain, for how could he have known that the other Olivia wasn't her if she, the Olivia who belongs here, still can't tell the difference sometimes herself? She slides her weapon home, clips it to her waistband at the small of her back. It's a comfortable fit, though she's not sure which one of them prefers to wear their gun there. She has to stop and think about it. No, the other Olivia prefers a thigh holster; she likes to show it off. She likes the swagger.
It's not that Peter was fooled so easily – they all were. She understands this on an intellectual level; she hadn't realized Charlie had been replaced until he'd tried to kill her. She suspects Peter has been re-examining every moment spent with her and chastising himself over each missed slip, and Olivia knows that when he's worked out his own guilt over being too wrapped up to know better, when they can actually stand to look at each other through all the false memories and lies, she will forgive him. Once she forgives herself for failing Charlie.
What hurts is that while lives were carrying on, and memories were being made, nobody even knew she was missing. Least of all, Olivia.
Her keys are not on the table where she usually just tosses them. She grabs them from the key hook by the door, where they always are and pauses.
Sometimes, she's still not sure.