Brave New World
Chapter 1: Venturing Out
A spec of dust wandered lazily through the air, in and out of the single beam of sunlight that peeked through the still, dark curtains draped over the windows. Her eyes followed it without focus as her pen tapped lightly over a textbook she'd all but memorized. Her desk was littered with other such texts and papers filled with little notes and diagrams she'd drawn.
Her peers recognized her as an overachiever, but the fact was that she simply loved the material. Cosima, for all of her nose-pierced, dreaklocked, San Francisco origination, was just captivated by science. From her 10th grade biology class on, she'd been overcome with her interest in the field. The idea that species could change in physical makeup over time to meet their needs based on the environment and its inhabitants was endlessly fascinating to her. Adaptation, genetics, evolution; she could talk about it, study it, absorb everything she could of it for days at a time.
This enthusiasm turned out to be a double-edged sword however, as it meant she was constantly ahead in classes and appeared to her classmates to be something of a teacher's pet when she knew all of the answers before they'd been discussed in class.
This summer she'd gotten an apartment just off the University of Minnesota campus, where she'd be starting classes the next day, but she had still yet to have any real social interaction. She'd spent the past two months in a new place full of strangers, and with all of the insanity that was Beth and Alison, she wasn't in the mental space to get into any personal drama.
When she'd first met the two women, and the term "clones" came up, Cosima had been invigorated with the prospect of scientific advancements profound enough to accomplish such a feat.
But then came the complications.
They came in touch with Katja, the German, and the realization that there was almost certainly someone keeping tabs on them, as Cosima knew she would do if she were in charge of an experiment of such caliber, dawned on them. It was rather jolting - terrifying, in fact - the sudden knowledge that anyone could be monitoring their lives.
So, for the last eight weeks, rather than go out and make friends or participate in any sort of social event, she'd holed up in her little two-room and appeased self-doubts with claims of "nesting". She read five of the six textbooks she'd purchased for the classes that were to start the next day, and she'd still had enough time research as much as she could about her situation with Beth and Alison.
But, it was only human nature to seek companionship. Cosima was becoming more and more aware of how alone she was.
She glanced back down at the book on her desk and, deciding she already knew it better than she'd need to even for the length of the course she'd be using it in, used her pen to flip the cover shut. Leaning back in her chair, she looked around the darkness of her lonely apartment. There were clear signs of habitation. Her clothes, both clean and worn, littered the floor around her dresser. Her bed had quite visibly been slept in - the blankets were unkempt and one of the pillows hung halfway off the mattress. Two Chinese take-out boxes sat on the coffee table, one with a pair of cheap wooden chopsticks still sticking out the top. What Alison would undoubtedly refer to as 'drug paraphernalia' was scattered among her notes and books on her desk. The whole living space had clearly not seen visitors in some time.
She chewed her thumbnail and looked out the sliver of light that cracked through the wall of shadow created by the curtains in her window. She stood and pulled her hair out of her face as she crossed the room to pull back one of the curtains. It was a nice day outside. The sky was practically cloud-free, and there was finally that feeling of business that came with having students moved in for the school year.
"Screw it." She grabbed a joint from her desk, slung her bag over her shoulder, and made her way out the door.
The campus coffee shop nearest her apartment, though open all summer, was experiencing a newfound hustle-and-bustle as students were reappearing for the fall semester.
Cosima examined the menu board as she took a place in line behind a girl with short blonde hair. Once she decided on a simple iced vanilla latté, she peered around the room; all of the people, gathered around the little round tables, chatting idly over cappuccinos, seemed to know each other. Cosima tried to suppress the miniscule frown that depressed her brow. Her solitude had been self-imposed. She was alone for a reason.
She broke from her distraction and realized that the line had moved only when the barista at the cash register called her forward to place her order. "Hey Glasses, you gonna stand there all day, or you wanna order somethin'?"
She shuffled toward the man waiting impatiently behind the counter, flustered, and consequently bumped the shoulder of the girl in front of her, who was just about to take her drink and go, knocking a notebook clear from her hands.
"Shit, sorry," she muttered as she bent to retrieve the fallen leather-bound book and noted that there was what appeared to be a complex polymer diagram sketched into it before she closed it and made to hand it back to its owner. She paused when she met the girl's eyes. There was something about them that made her pause; something about them seemed familiar; or rather, they seemed to find her familiar. Cosima handed her the notebook and looked down to her feet. "Sorry."
"It's alright," she heard as the blonde accepted the book, grabbed her drink, and headed in the direction of the door. There was a certain inflection in her voice. She was definitely not a local.
Cosima placed her order hastily and took her drink outside. She couldn't say why, but she felt a sudden, unrelenting urge to go after the girl. After searching the area for a couple of seconds, she crossed a bit of green to where the blonde was sitting on a bench, skimming through the notebook she'd so clumsily bumped from her hands. The girl wore gladiator sandals on her feet, and a pair of high waisted shorts with a simple, loose tank top. Her short but wavy hair fell just above her curved shoulders; the color reminded Cosima of honey in sunlight, which was weird, because usually to her, hair was just brown or blonde or red or whatever. There was something about this girl that had Cosima infinitely curious, but at the same time wary.
As always, curiosity won over.
She approached the girl slowly, careful not to stumble over her own feet again. She reached a wavering hand out to tap the girl on the shoulder. The blonde turned with a questioning but open expression, and her lips quirked up in a small smirk when she realized who it was trying to gain her attention.
Cosima swallowed but greeted her with an easy, self-depreciating confidence. "Hi. I'm really sorry about before; I'm not usually that clumsy. I guess I was just a little distracted."
The girl bobbed her head. "It's not a problem. My notebook wasn't hurt, so I won't hold it against you." She couldn't be sure, but for a second, Cosima was sure she saw the girl wink.
They both chuckled softly. Cosima gestured to the mentioned notebook. "So, I couldn't help but notice some of your notes. Are you in the science department here?"
The girl looked pleasantly surprised that she was able to interpret what was written. "Yes, actually. I'm getting my PhD, specializing in immunology."
Cosima's smile brightened. "Oh, wow. That's really cool. I'm in evo devo, so..."
The girl seemed to draw a blank and then snapped her fingers as she made the connection. "Evolutionary developmental biology! That's a very interesting field." She trailed off for a moment, then shook her head and offered her hand. "I'm Delphine."
Cosima let the woman's accent wash over her. It was elegant and suited the blonde's classy but casual demeanor. "Delphine." The blonde cocked her head but grinned, and Cosima blinked embarrassedly. "Oh, right," she accepted the outstretched hand, "I'm Cosima."
"Cosima... That's an unusual name," Delphine said with a hint of intrigue.
Her lips quirked as she said, "Well, I'm kind of an unusual girl. And I'm from San Fran, so," she shrugged as she pulled the blunt from behind her ear and twirled it between her fingers.
Delphine bowed her head slightly as she let out a small chuckle. "I see." She paused. "I like it. Unusual is good." She tilted her head back slightly and allowed the sun to glance off of her face as her eyelids fluttered closed.
Cosima took a breath, but before she could point to the bench and ask, Delphine said, "Would you like to sit with me?"
She slipped casually into the vacant seat with a contented sigh and a lazy sip of her latté. They sat, side by side, without saying anything for a while. Cosima observed the world around her. Sunlight gleamed in every direction. Occasional clouds wandered across the blue of the sky in white, insignificant wisps. The grass that covered the quad on which they sat was almost startlingly green, and many other students seemed to have had the same idea, as they spread out over the lawns with books and ipods, happy to spend the afternoon enjoying the sun before they were back to work the next day.
After several moments of comfortable silence, Cosima glanced at her new acquaintance curiously out of the corner of her eye. "So, Delphine... Do you...?" She held the joint up to wordlessly finish the question.
Delphine cocked her head slightly and examined her with a hint of amusement. "Do I... smoke? Why, are you offering?"
Cosima shrugged one of her shoulders and twiddled the blunt in her hands. "I mean, it's cool if you're not into it. I know some people can be kind of uptight about this sort of thing."
"Oh, no, it's not so much that," she shook her head, and her curls bounced around her shoulders lightly. She leaned in, close enough that Cosima could feel her cool breath on her cheek. "Can I tell you a secret?" Cosima ignored the goosebumps that rippled over her skin and nodded. Delphine's voice dropped to a whisper, and she glanced around with a coy grin. "I have never tried marijuana before."
Cosima released a hearty laugh. "So you're a weed virgin, huh?" Delphine hid a slight blush behind her coffee cup as she took a long drink. Cosima licked her lips. Everything about this girl was just so... endearing. With a chuckle, she said, "If you wanted, I could, y'know, take you through it. You can come back to my place if you want, make sure you don't make a fool of yourself in front of the general public."
Delphine smiled shyly, but her eyes were wide and sincere. "You would do that? I wouldn't want to impose. We've only just met, I couldn't ask you to do all this for me." She bit her lip, and suddenly Cosima had to force herself to take deep breaths.
She waved her off. "Yeah, I've been bored anyway. It'll be fun; I can be your pot guru." They both laughed at that. "I've been a little on the short end as far as a social life goes, so it would really be my pleasure. And honestly, I can't think of a better way to get to know someone."
"Is that so?" Delphine giggled as she spoke, and it only served to make her accent that much more prominent to Cosima. She took a large gulp of her latté.
"Oh yeah. I'm going to get you so baked," she muttered with a little giggle.
Delphine's eyes twinkled. She plucked the little white stick from Cosima's fingers and stuck it between her lips. "Okay."