█ act one: way down we go ▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔
Natalie observed that smudge being removed from Melanie's cheek with bewilderment. Huh... I literally didn't see that. I guess I was blinded by something. She thought to herself as Oleander did his best to clean things up. It was a flurry of people, greetings, and old feelings stirring. Pleasant for some, too much for others, like a kid getting three rounds of ice cream in a single day. Natalie found herself in an awkward position, to say the least. She was positive that things in her own perception of herself had changed. Her entire approach to other people had been as different the past year in comparison to Ritman as the color black is to white. Natalie was rather surprised that some of these individuals even bothered to say hello, let alone use her name. She gave Dante a nod and smile in return. It was good to see that he was still himself despite what the gals did, all the while Natalie herself did nothing to stop it in the usual fashion. Natalie kept her mouth shut, though. Perhaps it was best to say nothing for a bit after that Chubby Cheeks comment to Samuel. How the fuck did I let that one slip out? Her mind muttered.
In the old days, Natalie would have committed some kind of crime after being called the wrong name. Back then, she was somebody—at least she thought she was—and there was Hell to pay for any wrongdoings. Now, on the other hand, she simply kept quiet after being named 'Natasha' by Trystan. Could she really blame him? Blame anyone? Many of them had a right to do much worse to Natalie if they wanted to, and there was absolutely nothing she could or should do about it other than let it happen. Luckily, or perhaps hopefully, they were all good people, much better than Natalie had been and probably was ever going to be. She shrugged at the mispronounced name and glanced at Melanie to see if she noticed it at all. So many things were happening all at once, so much background noise of chattering and movement, that it would be no surprise if it flew under the radar and Natalie was the only one that somewhat reacted.
Natalie held her fort next to Melanie until the capsule opening. The evening had damp, chilling air to set the mood, even if it was the beginning of summer. The jean jacket and deep V-neck top that Natalie wore did not quite measure up to keeping cozy. Her slim-fitted jeans were strapped so tight that blood circulation was but a faint memory, so she did not feel anything down there anyway. A bit of stand-still walking to keep the motions going kept her warm until Meir returned with the capsule itself. "Out of breath already, Meir? Better take it easy on those drinks." She said with a mischievous smirk. Before the thing was opened, Natalie remembered what she had put in there all those years ago. It was a video of Jennifer Elkmann, one of the gals that had given so many of those currently present a hard time. Natalie had captured the chick puking her guts out at a party and making an ass out of herself. The video was a solid five minutes of embarrassing shit that Natalie actively encouraged Jennifer to do more of, all stored on a USB stick.
"Moment of truth! Here we go!" Natalie said excitingly loudly and gave her hands a few claps as Meir demolished the capsule with his boyish masculinity. However, the excitement was short lived. There was apparently nothing in the metal tube except some old, ragged book. Natalie leaned forward slightly to look inside the thing as someone else inspected it further, and it was true—the thing was empty. Natalie clearly remembered putting the USB stick in there, so someone had tampered with the capsule after that day at some point, which did not go well with the fact that Meir had to Hulk his way inside of it—a paradox. "What the Hell? I know I put a USB in there with a funny video of Jen. Maybe this is the wrong tube?" She said with a pale tone.