Natalie might've known no stranger, but that didn't mean she knew no enemy either. Actively hating others wasn't something she felt was the right direction to channel her energy in, and so she doesn't actually hate anybody. Not her exes (abusive or not), not inmates who were dedicated in making her time in prison insufferable, not the 'friends' who had left her alone in dangerous situations more than once/twice/thrice, not even the shop lifting ring leader who had groomed her from the age of 17 to hopefully join their enterprise in the future & become one of his many girlfriends that he had on the road.
These days, she lived her life in peace. No longer flying down the fast lane with a warrant in almost all 50 states attached to her back like a 'kick me' sign. Natalie would be lying if she said she didn't miss an on-the-go lifestyle but she had to admit: stability for once really did feel right. As for her past, thinking of it did nothing but depress her at this point. In order to help herself even reach the plea deal that shortened her sentence from 30 to 10 years, Natty had to name names and a lot of them. Most were people they'd already caught, but who they wanted the most was the ring leader which is exactly who Natty gave them. The others had been too afraid to share the information, but she didn't seem to think twice. If she ever thought at all period.
Not that she was worried about it even now though. He was gone. Locked away for a long, long time. The exact number, she was unsure, but she knew that he could no longer hurt anyone or anything wherever he was.
"Aye...." Gruff voiced croaked through the still silence of her trailer park, the summoned femme jumping right out of her skin and letting out a squeak of surprise as she turned in the lounge chair she set right outside of her own personal mobile home. Her eyes deceived her. They must be.
Of course recognizing him took only half a second, even through the ever growing darkness of the night surrounding them. In the years they hadn't seen each other, he'd changed but not enough for her to be unable to recognize him via every unique feature plastered across him. But what was he doing here? On Richards Island of all places? And what was he doing out of prison already?
"Oh my God!!! I didn't think I'd ever see you again!!!" She continued after the initial shock of the encounter, a coy grin tilting the corners of her tiers as she seemed to be more confused rather than afraid. She wasn't afraid of him. She never really had been. Maybe there had been some points where she was positive that if she made any wrong move during one of his bad moods, he'd flat-out murder her, but regardless, the love that she once had for him seemed to minimize every other toxic trait of his. Including his penchant for violence. In fact, she'd go as far as to say she had even grown to love his savagery, "What the heck are you even doing here, Mister!!! When did you finally get outta the dog house???"
Slowly, the man approached closer and closer to the estranged figure sans response to her inquiry regarding when and why he was suddenly released back to the streets. Subconsciously, Natalie knew something was off, but it was like her brain had been rewired right back into full submission for him. All she could do was remain seated, waiting for him to close in that space and perhaps even take the chair next to hers. Yet, that wasn't what had occurred in the next series of events. Before she could even have proper reaction time to flinch away, he had grabbed her face firmly within his grasp, tilting her head up in order to match his gaze directly.
"Look at you... Christ, 'Nilla, you've grown." He cooed out, Natty's breath hitching in her throat at the nickname she hadn't heard in years. What the f*** was happening? The thought raced through her head once, realizing that the difference between her a decade ago and her now was that she actually seemed to have the ability to recognize danger. This was certainly danger. He was danger. But why wasn't she moving, kicking, screaming, running away?
She'd missed him. That had to be the one and only answer. Smaller palms reached up to cup his face in return, thumbs gliding across those aged facial features that had only wrinkled even further through the years. The scruff, the sun spots, the rough texture of his eternally sun-kissed skin. She had regretted the absence of them all. No matter how many times he hurt her both thoughtlessly and purposely. No matter how badly she suffered through his moods, good or bad. She was in love with him then, and for the rest of her life, she'd always have a soft spot for this beautifully broken man.
The shared silence was cathartic in a way. Years had passed, but feelings hadn't. Or so she thought. She didn't even feel the need to keep asking questions anymore, even as his touch traveled down from her face to the space around her neck that his hand fit perfectly. "Remember when you said you'd die for me?" He had sliced through the growing tension with his words, having her exactly where he wanted her. Natalie might be able to recognize danger these days, but it didn't mean she was always willing to find a way out of it.
As for his question, there was no doubt that she remembered. His rose-colored rage and fruit-flavored punches, all of which sugar coated death to the point where it excited her. "How could I ever forget?" Her voice was small, meek. Completely unlike the loud, bubbly personality she was well-known for nowadays. At this moment, she was no longer Natalie. No longer her own person capable of her own decisions. At least, that wasn't what she wanted him to perceive her as. For her safety, she had to submit. She had to behave and answer gently to everyone of his inquiries.
Slight pressure began to close in around her throat, the airflow restricting ever so slightly but not enough to really harm her just yet. This was it. Now she knew exactly what was happening. And yet, completely still she remained, never once breaking their fixed stares. You deserve this. For betraying him. The love of your life. The inner-monologue argued against the half of her brain that was now frozen in fear of him. A type of fear that she had found herself unknowingly longing for again.
His grip tightening into something a bit more vice, the look in their eyes said everything they couldn't in the moment. He'd always been a man of few words. It was what drew her to him in the first place. Filling in all of his gaps was what made it easy for her to romanticize his soullessness, "Just do it. Do it, I deserve it." She pressured, the hands on his face sinking to his wrist, clenching onto his sleeve as her face twisted in a slurry of emotions. Though, she was only met with an overall look of indifference, the strength of his chokehold now forcing her chair back against the pink slates of her trailer and rendering a fit of coughs from her that she fought to keep down.
For a few split seconds, Natalie considered the situation. Death had never really been that big of a deal to her, however. Like with anything else in life, she was committed to being ready for whatever thing at whatever moment. She only had a few seconds of pondering left before his grip rendered her unable to really think of anything but getting oxygen back into her lungs. There was no fear of leaving anything behind. Natty had done a good job at keeping herself free of all strings, except for him. Her only focus now was air. How badly she needed it, perhaps even more than what he was doing to her. Then, all of a sudden, the thinking dulled down, her frantic hiccuping slowing to a complete stop as the pain even seemed to shy away now.
If she could offer him any last thing, it was a smile. With the very last inkling of strength left in her, pink lips curved upwards into a faint simper, wanting him to know that he did the right thing. That again, she owed this to him. It was only right, given the rules of living life on the run. The fairy lights hanging all around her trailer faded steadily, but her smile never did, eyes at half mast as her body seemed to relax against her seat. Though, she was really going limp, the man having gotten exactly what he came for with minimal struggle.
Having been a sentimental type of person her entire life, Natty was always prone to taking little knick knacks and memories along with her each and every time she said goodbye to a place she resided in, no matter the length of her stay. Growing up, she was keen on keeping a rock from all 50 states, even managing to snag one from Alaska once she was in her late teens. After living the fast life on the road and soon being booked into prison, however, she didn't get to keep much of those old memories at all.
When presented with her late mother's old RV soon after being released, Natty knew she couldn't keep it. It would be far too painful, and she had no way and nowhere to keep it stored safely. Not much within it was salvageable after over a decade of neglect. All she could find within were a box of friendship bracelets Natty had made for her mother throughout their years of traveling the open road, the little girl having had nothing to do but sit and make her one and only friend these string bracelets that the woman was always proud to wear either around her wrists, ankles, or even her hair. In this small shoebox laid all those memories, those times now long gone and instead replaced with years of misfortune and anything but true freedom.
The box was the only thing Natalie had the heart to take. Her mother's memory was something too sacred for her to want to mess around too much with, so exactly the way it was was how she sent it to be completely destroyed instead of picked apart for parts. Nowadays, she wears only a few of these bracelets herself, not even attempting to handle the ones that seem too fragile to worn with time.
Prior to prison, Natalie had spent no more than a month settled down in one place. It had always been hard to track her down, up until she was left with no choice but to stay put in a single penitentiary for 6 years. Ever since then, the desire to run and keep running had died down significantly, but never fully. Pieces of Natty accepted that, at heart, she'd never be fully satisfied staying in one place 'till she died. Jumping from location to location as an ex-fugitive just wasn't a life she had the luxury of living any longer, though.
Sanctum gave her a stable place to settle down. A community to immerse herself in that wouldn't guarantee her a spot back in prison. Or so she hoped. Natalie had changed a lot since pre-rehabilitation and she often wondered if it was for good or not. But as she stood in the reception office of her up and coming business, she realized that perhaps she was better off than she was before.
"You sure you don't wanna stay just oneeee day longer?" Animated frame seemed to sway side to side along with her words as she spoke them, gaze consciously avoiding the figure standing right in front of her thought she couldn't be talking to anyone else. In the 5 quick days he'd spent here, the mysterious Jack had quickly intrigued Natty to a strange level. He'd done it all, it seemed, down to the odds and ends of even coming to visit a place as random and hidden away as Richards Island. As polite and well-spoken as he was, though, there was also a certain vibe about him that almost.... Unsettled her in a way? She wasn't sure how else to describe the feeling. He had at least 20 years on her but had she still been in her early twenties, she would've fallen in love with him immediately. Now, she wasn't too sure. Maybe if she got to know him for longer than almost a week.
"I'm heading down and seeing Yosemite, next. So, I gotta get going. It's beautiful this time of year. You ever been?"
Immediately, a bright smile crept across her features. Yosemite held a plethora of bittersweet memories for her. Bits of her mother's ashes were scattered there, and she hadn't been back since the memorial. "Have I ever been? I've been like 5 times! I can hear that waterfall now. Literally deafening if you go close enough." She responded finally, avoiding any and all reference to what it meant to her nowadays. That being said, Nat had always promised to go back when she could just to say hello to two old friends again. "I've been meaning to visit, just haven't found the time. Adult life caught up to me. How the heck do you do it?" She asked, already somewhat knowing the answer considering she'd already lived his life eons ago. Life on the road wasn't an impossible feat. Most of the time, the only thing that people had to do in order to accomplish it.... Was to just start driving.
"I just do it." A shrug of his shoulders showed a type of indifference that was honestly... Kind of hot. He wasn't dirty trailer trash like 95% of her exes either, so she didn't even feel bad about finding him intriguing enough to be attractive. "Why don't you do it with me?"
The suggestion garnered a fit of giggles immediately, the femme having obviously taken it as a joke. "Silly!! Don't tempt me."
"I'm being serious. The RV I'm renting from you is multi-person isn't it? Why don't you leave the place with someone for a bit and come down with me? It'll be fun!" In a tone more serious, they were both stood right outside the mobile home she had been loaning to him for the next few weeks. Where he was going hadn't been made clear to her just yet, but now she had an answer. Yosemite, and back. If Natty went with him, coming back didn't even have to be an option. But she'd just gotten here, surely she should want to stay.
"Well..." Natalie began, almost in disbelief that she was even debating saying anything but a polite decline of his offer, "Honestly, I'd love to!! But I just got soooo many responsibilities here. It's like a baby. Don't wanna leave it alone.... For too long." Her throat cleared, the fact that she was unconvinced of her own excuse evident but she was also not keen on being pressured any further either since she knew it would be easy to genuinely convince her.
In a way, Nat could tell that Jack was aware of this as well. The cryptic man seemed to know exactly what she was thinking at any given point, it seemed. "I'm like... The only person that's come to stay here in the past five days. You really got that much going on?" He challenged, features impassive despite a troubled look on his counterpart.
It was true. Business wasn't exactly booming and she hadn't much to really dedicate her time to aside from the Program.... But getting into that would simply be too complicated right now. Especially given the fact that it was all apart of her parole deal as well, her sentence not something she had even brought up once in their short acquaintanceship. The idea of being on the road again would always be something she felt inclined towards, however. Visiting her mother was certainly something she had to do, and soon...
But it almost felt too soon. Nevertheless, turning him down was by far one of the most difficult things she's had to do since being released. "Listen here, Mister!" She squinted right at him, holding zero semblance to the troubled thoughts slurrying within her, "Quit your convincin'! I'm perfectly fine where I am, thank you very much!" She swiftly handed him the keys to the ignition now that he had paid the initial travel deposit, "Don't be surprised if you end up seeing me there, though. Now you got me thinking about it." Natty admitted with a playful pout, ending the interaction there before he could even keep trying to persuade her. She had to end it. If she didn't, she'd be in the passenger seat of this RV on her way to Yosemite tonight. She couldn't do that to the Program, to her parole officer, or to herself.