Gomez and Peters stood outside the interrogation room; Peters was buried in a phone call, but Gomez was focused on Nielsen. After describing what sounded like the start of every typical bad romance between a prof and a student, Nielsen had begun to wheeze. Peters had wanted to know more, but Gomez had decided to let Nielsen have a moment alone. It did him no good if Nielsen incapacitated himself before revealing crucial information. In truth, Gomez had simply not wanted to stay one more minute in that freezing room with Nielsen. Catching his icy gaze was like taking a kick in the teeth.
“Gomez. I think it might be time to call in Dr. Weiss. From what it sounds like–”
“Peters, from what it sounds like, we got what Weiss can claim is a simple misunderstandig between a traditional Mexican girl and a cold Nordic man. There’s no there, there.” Gomez turned to see an exasperated Peters–this time he had moved on from peeling away his cuticles to ripping at his hangnails. Peters was a paint by numbers. straightest laced, cornstarch collar pressed man of the badge; Gomez knew Peters felt that Weiss probably deserved the noose just for kissing a woman outside of marriage. But in terms of the law, unless Daisy had reported it, the kiss meant nothing.
“Come on, Gomez, you’re Mexican yourself and I can see it from your face that you don’t believe those kisses were simple farewell pecks.” Peters practically snarled. His phone rang again, and once again Peters buried himself in it.
Gomez hated him for it, but Peters was right. Nielsen might not have known enough in the moment to understand, but Weiss had definitely kissed Daisy in an act of affection, of romance–a feeler pressed out towards a girl half his age, probing for boundary. From what Nielsen had alluded to, Weiss had found none.
Gomez turned again to the glass that divided him from Dr.Nielsen. Nielsen had taken out the tiny, multipetaled flower once again, making it dance between his thumbnail and forefinger. A stream of tears flowed steadily down Nielsen’s cheeks.
“Call Weiss in. We can start to shake him down while Nielsen gets his act together.” Gomez hated the words the instant they were spit from his mouth; but what he hated even more was the bleak despair emanating from the glass beside him.
“That’s what a man likes to hear!” Peters smacked Gomez on the back–the thud was loud, if painless. Peters waddled away, presumably to fetch someone to fetch Weiss. Gomez simply stared back into the glass, watching even his reflection be dwarfed by Nielsen’s huge body.
“Dr. Nielsen? Is it okay to speak with you?”
Nielsen looked up at the soft, bell-like voice. In the reflection of the computer monitor, he saw Daisy’s soft, wide body. For a moment, he felt overwhelmed by the perfect roundness of her: from the perfect oval nature of her face, to the soft curves of her bust and hips, the delicate swell of her tummy, and the thickness of her legs. Her hair–long, perpetually multicolored, and softly curled at its ends, was what captivated him most of all. Even in the dank resolution of the screened reflection, Daisy’s hair seemed to glimmer and glint in the sunlit room.
He turned to face Daisy, hoping the flush was gone from his face. Sitting down, he was nearly as tall as she was. It made him feel awkward, oversized, out of place. Nielsen checked his watch, mostly to check his face in it’s reflection, but also to see if he had time to speak with her. At most, he could give her ten minutes before his next project.
“Sit down. We have time.” He motioned to the chair on the other side of the desk. Daisy caught his eyes, and he saw her blush nervously, the deep pink of a split fig. She sat down, carefully adjusting her powder-blue dress as she did. The desk sat between them, but neither of them touched it. Daisy began to pull at a chunk of her multicolored hair, running her fingers through it as if she were trying to smooth it into oblivion.
“I-Ijust wanted to apologize to you for Dr. Weiss. I know he didn’t react in the nicest way to you, he just gets really uptight about how-”
“Why are you apologizing to me, for what Jay did?” Nielsen interrupted Daisy. He hated that she was nervous, that it brought out her baby talking and stutter. Her real voice was beautiful, precious crystal–he wanted those dulcet tones to wash over him. Her nervousness hurt him profoundly, and he could think of no way to assuage her fears except to interrupt her train of hysteric thoughts.
Daisy’s lip trembled, and she bit her lip, smearing red lipstick onto the translucent pearl of her teeth. Regret, dark and heavy, bloomed in Nielsen’s chest.
“Because I know you only reacted like that because you wanted to protect me. And I know Jay only reacted how he did, to protect me from you. It’s just a bad misunderstanding and it’s my fault.” Daisy began to twist the same unfortunate chunk of hair, tighter and tighter, a cyclone of purple and pink and gold. Nielsen could see the dark roots of her hair flattening against her skull in protest.
“It isn’t your fault, Daisy. And, if anything, he and I should both be asking you for forgiveness. We put you–I put you–in a bad situation, when it was unwarranted.” Nielsen leaned in closer to Daisy, to whisper to her. “Daisy, if something is happening, if Jay makes you feel un-”
“Jay is my best friend on this campus. He does everything to help me feel at home here.” Daisy’s voice was flat, no affect–grape soda left open overnight. Nielsen recoiled from her.
“Alright. I believe you. But I want you to know what you can always come to me, I can help you. For anything.” Nielsen wished he was better at comfort, at espousing warmth; he felt like there was something in his voice or body language that kept getting in the way of real communication with Daisy.
He noticed Daisy shifting around with something under the desk. She pulled out a small golden box from her backpack. Daisy stood, her soft bronzine hands glinting almost as gold as the box.
” I made this for you. I know it’s really small, but I tried really hard to make it beautiful. I know carnations are your favorite flowers, so here is this one to rebuild good faith between us.” Daisy opened the box to reveal a diminitive, multipetaled paper flower. It glowed like polished moonstone in the midafternoon sun that filtered through the window of the office. Daisy placed the flower in her palm and held it out to him.
Nielsen was overwhelmed. He had known Daisy since she was nineteen, but they had never exchanged gifts. The flower was so beautiful, so tiny and fragile, that Nielsen was afraid to pluck it from Daisy’s outstreched hand.
“Daisy, its wonderful.” Nielsen reached for the minute blossom; clumsily, his fingers bumped it from Daisy’s hand. It fell to the desk, spiralling down in a flicker of white.
Nielsen and Daisy both reached for the flower; in seconds, the space between them had closed and their hands met over the tiny carnation bloom. Daisy’s gasp rang in Nielsen’s ears as their eyes met. For a moment, their panicked faces were reflected perfectly off the glasses of the other.
Nielsen felt the blood rush to his face as he withdrew his hand. In the moment in which his eyes met with hers, in which he lost himself in the deep caverns and rivulets of ebony and umber that formed her irises, he knew she could sense his feelings for her. They pulled away from one another, and Nielsen could smell the faintly sweet aroma of Daisy’s hair as it follwed the motion of her body.
“Daisy, I’m sorry, I-”
Daisy beamed, and Nielsen lost himself in the contrast between the white of her teeth and the oxblood red of her lips. “It’s okay, Dr. Nielsen. It’s small, its easy to be clumsy.”
Daisy took the flower and placed it gently in its box once more. She left it in the middle of the desk, and in one fluid motion took her backpack from the floor and swung it to her back. Daisy left without saying goodbye, but her scent remained, still on the other side of the desk between them.
Nielsen took the tiny bloom once again in his hands. He lost track of himself in it’s endless intricacies of carved paper and shiny resin. When he next looked up from the flower, it was only because Jay’s voice boomed in the doorway.
“Hey, Roland; did you forget about the departmental meeting today?” Jay’s face– a study of chiseled angles and German features–was sincere, if concerned.
Nielsen gazed at his watch. It had been two hours since Daisy had sat across the desk from him.