The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.
-John Pierpont Morgan
I didn't know what the hell I was doing in India, although I suppose if someone asked I would cite my recent desires to become a better person. That, and Dylan asked me to come, and Dylan never asked for anything unless he really needed it.
But perhaps I didn't think it through, or perhaps I didn't have a true vision of where I was going. Because suddenly, I was overwhelmed with sounds and sights that I wasn't sure I could get used to. Coupled with exhaustion and a slight bit of hunger, I wasn't feeling so good about my impulsive decision.
"I must really love you."
Dylan smiled and hiked my duffel bag up his arm. We were only cousins but he looked more like me than my brother had. India had made him much tanner, but his hair was the same dark brown and his eyes the same bright green.
"I'm only giving you an outlet to become a better person," Dylan laughed, sidestepping a child playing on the ground.
I contemplated this as I looked around at the cramped, dirty village. People were hanging from doorways and many of the children were staring at me with wide eyes. Dylan seemed to know a lot of people already, and nodded in greeting as we trekked through the town.
Despite my best efforts, my mind flew to vain things like showers and chocolate, and if I'd really see those things in the next few weeks. Dylan, taking my silence for something else, slung his free arm over my shoulder.
"I appreciate you coming. We need a lot of help at the orphanage. And I kind of missed you."
"I didn't have much keeping me at home," I said, nudging his shoulder. "Plus I'm a fantastic person."
"Of course," he said, shooting me a smile that I could tell was not real. "But you know…how are you doing?"
The answer had been my go-to lately, and in fact one of the reasons I'd been eager to get the hell out of New York. Too many people knew too many things there, and asked me too many questions that I did not want to hear.
"Aunt Hannah told me you dropped out of med school."
Coldness wrapped my bones and froze them, making me heavy and tired all at the same time. I had come to escape my mother's words, not be haunted by them.
"I did. And no, I don't want to talk about it."
I wasn't a talker. It didn't provide me catharsis. It just filled me with regret and anger until I was sure I was going to explode.
"Scar," Dylan said, rolling his eyes. "You talk tough, but I know you. You dropped your life to come here. Something must be wrong."
"I didn't drop much," I offered with a small smile. "It seems like the least I could do to help someone who really needs it. And I'm here for the children too."
Dylan rolled his eyes, but the smile was back on his face.
"There's my girl—"
"Don't 'my girl' so soon. You know it gives me the creeps, like you're my dad or something—"
"Scar?" he said, pushing a piece of hair from my face.
"Shut up," he laughed, flicking my nose. "Now hike up those pants, we've got another mile to go."
"Cover your whole hand," I told them, painting my own with bright blue as I spoke. "And press it hard against the stone."
The children watched in fascination as my handprint transferred to the stone steps, cracked but now a little brighter. "See? Easy."
The children eagerly began to grab the paint brush, some opting for the subtler dark green but most of them heading for bright yellow or red.
I knew this was an invitation for a mess, but it was a lot harder to entertain children without television or video games. Plus, now this place looked a little more like their own. They could know that even without a steady family, they belonged somewhere.
The first child, Madira, pressed her hand flush against the stone, pulling it away a moment later with a wide smile. She was the most confident of the group, always quick to join an activity with little trepidation. The others usually looked to her before they did something, even though she was one of the smallest there.
The other children scrambled to find their places after that, most of them already having paint dappling their arms. I smiled as a rainbow of handprints emerged on the stone.
"Good job everyone."
I watched them for a second longer, wiping sweat from my forehead with my non-painted hand. It was much hotter here than I'd anticipated, even though I was clad in a loose skirt and tank top.
"You guys keep going, I'll be right back."
I headed inside, toward the shade, looking in the mirror on the wall. It needed desperately to be cleaned, but even in the haze I could see my face was flushed and red.
I rubbed my eyes and took a few breaths.
Was it food poisoning? Heat stroke? I had been trying to forget what I'd learned in med school, but I silently went over the list of what they'd warned me about.
Malaria. Typhoid. Dengue. Measles.
I'd gotten shots to cover most of those things. It was probably just something bad that I'd eaten...
"Scarlett! Did you leave the children unattended with paint?"
Dylan appeared a moment later, his hair and neck streaked with blue. I almost had time to laugh, but the nausea overwhelmed me immediately, heaving my stomach in a way I hadn't felt in a long time.
"Hold that thought."
Bruce never slept that well, so he was barely angry at being jostled at 7 o'clock in the morning by a man waving money in his face. He wasn't too concerned with worldly possessions these days, but he was interested by the man's perfect English, and found himself following him down the dirty road.
"She's had a fever and nausea since yesterday, and today she has a rash. She refused all help, naturally, but she couldn't even get up to help the children today."
Bruce listened somewhat more attentively than usual, because the man he spoke to was distinctly American. He would've been worried it was some sort of agent, but his green eyes were laced with worry that seemed too genuine to be faked.
"She's only been in India a week. I was thinking food poisoning, but I really have no idea."
"It's probably nothing serious," Bruce offered, the best condolence he could drudge up. He wasn't used to having such rambling conversations after being here so long.
"Doctor..." the man trailed, halting his steps. "She's my family. If something is really wrong, please help her."
Bruce almost shivered. He hadn't had someone to care about him in a long time, and it almost embarrassed him being close to someone so worried. Still, he tried his best to be polite.
"Of course." Bruce nodded his head and pushed up his glasses. "Let's go take a look."
Saw the Avengers last week...couldn't help myself. It might have inaccuracies but it's just for fun so no worries. This chapter isn't my favorite, probably because beginnings are not my favorite. But it gets better, hopefully. :) Thoughts?