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Oct 20, 2018 9:20 PM
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jean and imrainai in the good place
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"You see, in the Good Place," Michael's saying, behind her, "every person gets to live in a home that perfectly matches his or her true essence."

Karen's true essence, it appears, is open and airy and decorated in precisely selected shades of just-barely-not-white, walls and plush carpets and furniture, in that way that suggests the simplicity is not only deliberate but very expensive. It also features quite a lot of throw pillows. And knick-knacks.

The whole house appears to be more or less one room, with half-walls and screens and alcoves that hint at divisions without ever really interrupting its unity. There's potted plants scattered everywhere in it -- some on the floor, some on tables, some hanging from the ceiling. The sitting area has shelves of books; the kitchen has a waffle iron and an ice cream maker and a pasta machine and any number of less readily identifiable gadgets; there's a grand piano and a sewing machine and a crafting table.

Along one wall, stenciled in swirly gold calligraphy, is the Serenity Prayer:

      grant

         me the SERENITY

to accept

              the things

I cannot change;

COURAGE to

                     change

the things I can;

            and the

WISDOM

     to know the

           difference.

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She wanders around the house for a bit, noting various objects and smiling at some of them. When she notices the prayer, she smiles very genuinely, like she's just been tremendously reassured of something.

"It's beautiful, thank you. Is there a reason there are so few walls?" she asks, trying really hard to sound cheerful about it. It's not actually hard to come up with explanations for why not having walls might be good for building character (maybe it's supposed to help her trust her community, or just keep her from shutting herself off from her community?), but she's curious about what she's supposed to be getting out of it.

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"Well, it lets in the light to all the parts of the house, and it means you never have to be away from the people you love. Isn't it perfect?"

There's a knock at the door, and Michael beams. "Ah, speaking of which!"

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A smiling young man peers around the corner of the door, smiles wider still, comes all the way in.

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"Karen, this is Jean Dulac, and he is -- your soulmate."

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Aw, frick. She'd known they were going to do something with the soulmate thing at some point, but she'd been assuming she didn't have to think about it yet, because surely even an incompetent heaven with even a basic understanding of her would be able to tell that they couldn't just throw a complete stranger at her and tell her the person was her soulmate and expect that to go even passably well.

At least he's cute, supplies the part of her brain that isn't screaming about danger and terrible matchmaking procedures, before she can tell it to shut up.

She forces a smile, mostly because that seems like the safe-and-polite thing to do. Tries to look reasonably enthused about the situation. Only mostly succeeds. "Hi! I'm Karen."

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"Karen! It's so lovely to meet you."

He takes her hand -- bows over it instead of shaking it, just barely brushing his lips over the backs of her fingers, so smoothly it almost seems like a normal thing to do.

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Michael beams and laughs.

"Now excuse me. I have other people to attend to."

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Frick frick frick frick frick that's so cute and also there is no way she's going to be able to handle this situation without ruining everything somehow -

"Of course," she tells Michael, with the 25% of her brain that's still working. "Uh, have fun!"

Frick frick frick -

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Her soulmate waves to Michael, kicks off his shoes, perches on the back of an oddly-shaped couch, still grinning at her.

"So! Karen. Is 'tell me all about yourself' too broad?"

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She nervously clasps her hands in front of herself. Mentally promises her brain that it only needs to make it through this one interaction, and then they can absolutely faceplant on a pillow somewhere and quietly scream. "Um. Possibly. Uh, I don't know what you've been told about me - I haven't heard anything about you at all yet - but, uh, I'm a certified nursing assistant and assistant librarian from Missouri, and I like - " come on, brain, you must have liked something at some point, just say something " - writing things, mostly fiction. I don't know if I was ever any good at it, but they claim that a lot of people benefitted from reading them, so that's something."

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"Oh, that's amazing -- I'd love to read some, sometime, if you were all right with that -- but I'm sorry, I'm putting you on the spot. Is there anything you'd like to hear about me, or shall I investigate our new house and let you settle in?"

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"Oh, yeah, lots of things? I'm not sure how to break them down in a way that'll make them easier for you to answer, but, uh, I don't actually know - anything about you, really?"

Frick, this is probably terribly rude, and she's handling this way worse than everyone else, but it's not like it's actually particularly reasonable for anyone to just drop her in a house without walls with a strange man she's never seen before and if her brain isn't working at optimal levels right now then it's not really her fault -

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"Oh! Well, let's see. I'm an actor; my favorite living poet is Tahar Bekri; I died in a riot; I speak English, French, Arabic, and a smattering of Hebrew; I can juggle flaming torches, hold my breath for three minutes fifteen seconds, and wiggle my ears -- probably all at the same time but I haven't actually ever tried."

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"Oh! Cool. Very cool." 

She's already exhausted and her heart hurts and she's not actually sure how she's going to live in this house with this person for longer than a day without making it painfully obvious that she's entirely too upset to be in whatever sort of good afterlife this place is currently claiming to be.

"So you're sure we're dead, then," she says, staring at one of the plants instead of at him. "I don't remember dying, I wasn't entirely sure it'd actually happened."

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"I certainly remember it. I think there are ways you could have died that are quick enough there'd be nothing to remember? Or maybe you were in shock -- I don't know how being in shock interacts with being dead..."

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"Yeah. That makes sense. I've, uh, never been dead before."

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He giggles. ...And then pauses and visibly thinks about it again and starts giggling again and ends up falling off the couch and having to pick himself up off the floor, still giggling.

"You saw nothing," he informs her. "Anyhow. It's my first time too. We can figure it out together."

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She smiles and visibly relaxes at this reaction. "Good. We should probably figure out whether this house has anything that can be described as a room, at some point."

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"One hopes there is at least a bathroom."

 

There is, as it transpires, a bathroom, tucked away next to the bedroom area. It has a door that locks, even.

The bedroom area has two twin beds, about three feet apart, like it's straight out of a Hays-Code-era movie. The elaborately carved headboards form the two halves of a heart, separated down the middle.

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"An interesting design choice," she settles on, frowning at the bedroom. "Lots of interesting design choices around here."

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"There are a few, at that," he agrees.

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"It's not really a bad house? It's just, uh, missing certain generally agreed-upon elements of houses," she says, uncertainly.

She goes to check whether there's any food in the kitchen. Food is a good thing to keep in kitchens.

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There is food! Shelves and shelves of lovely ingredients, arrayed colorfully in various appropriate glass containers. There's six different kinds of rice she can see, and at least eight of legumes, and quinoa, all with cute little scoops for measuring out the appropriate amount to cook; there's white flour and wheat flour and rye flour and cornmeal; there's squashes in interesting shapes and colors, more varieties of leafy greens than she knows names for, bottles of creamy milk, a whole shelf of little spice bottles in alphabetical order.

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Gah. She knows how to cook rice and quinoa off the top of her head, so she's not going to starve, but she was really hoping for, like, pizza rolls. Maybe some waffle mix to go with the waffle iron. Maybe some eggs, even fancy kitchens should have eggs, and hardboiled eggs aren't a terrible food item. But probably the kitchen isn't set up for her, given that she has no idea what to do with any of this. Maybe Jean will get something out of it.

"So, uh, do you know anything about cooking?"

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