“Dr. Nielsen? Would you like a drink, or a smoke?” Gomez was standing at Nielsen’s side. Nielsen had finally stopped crying, but the man’s pallor worried Gomez. If Nielsen passed out before spilling the big beans, Gomez would never hear the end of it from Peters.
“I’m fine.” Nielsen didn’t move his body at all. Only his lips moved: it gave his voice a gravelly, disembodied quality. Gomez decided to seize the moment here with Nielsen. He sat across from Nielsen, and opened the case file. He placed pictures of Jay and Daisy down on the table. Nielsen’s tears began to flow again.
“Nielsen. What else can you tell me about Daisy and Jay? What else did you see?”
Nielsen grimaced. “Do you want to know about the rumors or about what I saw?”
Gomez leaned in. “That depends. How much of the rumors did you see, and how many did you just pass around the mill?”
Nielsen recoiled. “I would’ve never soiled Daisy’s reputation. Jay, on the other hand, could gladly fester for all I could care. I wasn’t the only one in the department who voted against Jay for tenure. He needed no help ruining his reputation.”
“What really upset you about Jay? His impropriety, or the fact that his impropriety was with Daisy?”
“Both. He took advantage of a student’s trust in him. It’s even worse that it was with Daisy, and that he didn’t care to hide what was happening. She was all alone here in the States, and he used that to ensnare her”
“If Jay was so public with the relationship, how did everyone peg you for the man trying to sleep with Daisy?”
“Jay started that rumor after I saw he and Daisy in the office.”
Gomez sat up. “The time you told me and Peters about?”
“You saw them in the office?”
“I saw enough to know that something was wrong.”
Daisy twirled a chunk of her rose-gold hair, flipping the soft strands over and over in her fingers. She was waiting outside Jay’s office, as always, to speak with him. Their meetings were useless, of course; she was already a well-versed forester, and Jay was only useful insofar as his mammal identification skills helped her determine who was destroying her field equipment. It was largely a pretense for doing lo que se supone between a young woman and a handsome man.
Daisy could feel herself blushing and she twisted her hair even more in embarrassment, mixing the rose gold pieces near her face with the long orange fringe of her bangs. I have to calm down, or he’ll notice. Both her and Jay were empaths–so when she has stumbled into him as a rambunctious first year student in her PhD program, she had immediately known how he thought of her. He had known what was on her mind as well–namely, that she would gladly drown herself in the riverine blue of his eyes.
At first, it was merely a tantalizing game to Daisy–she knew she was beautiful, and that he was a married man. Sure, she wasn’t the average slim, blonde American woman; but wasn’t that part of the allure? Daisy-who, in her real life as a Mexican national in the USA,was named Xochitl-had played this game with white men before. Usually, Daisy could stop the game before things got too serious; but with Jay, she found that the game of four-dimensional chess was harder. Every time she thought she had him figured out, he dove in a different direction. The only thing that never changed was their meeting time; and every Thursday Daisy would wait obediently on the other side of the wall for Jay.
This time, Jay caught her attention by knocking on the doorframe. Daisy couldn’t help but look up at him as he towered over her in the doorway. Daisy might’ve been the tallest woman in her village in southern Mexico, but in Jay’s shadow she was just another tiny woman. Jay ushered her into his office, closing the door behind them with a soft click. Daisy felt the space between them fill with electricity, vibrant and silver. Daisy centered herself, and felt the gem in her forehead glimmer as it awakened. It dimmed her sense of hearing and balance drastically, but as her gem gleamed in her forehead Daisy could see Jay’s emotions in full color. As he looked at her, his eyes gleamed a fluorescent blue; that same blue began to drip from his canines.
Daisy knew what was next: the gem in her forehead had been telling her what would be next since it manifested on Daisy’s seventh birthday. She barely managed to free her backpack from her shoulders before Jay had buried his teeth in her left shoulder. His lower canines-outlandishly large in proportion to the rest of his teeth-sank into her flesh, drawing blood. Daisy responded by digging her nails into his shoulders as Jay picked her up, driving the tips of her fingers into the underneath of his shoulder blades. Daisy could hear Jay growling as she did so, could feel it reverberate from his mouth into her flesh. Daisy and Jay hadn’t consummated their feelings yet–Jay had a wife and children at home, and Daisy had been reluctant to physically trespass on their marriage. Jay also vacillated between the violent blue of his feelings, and cold carmine of his guilt. Daisy could see the change with her gem; Jay’s teeth and eyes would stop fluorescing, and instead the carmine would begin to drip from his forehead. He would apologize, and then Daisy would sit calmly in the chair on the other side of the desk and speak science with him. It always ended this way.
Daisy waited for this change as Jay kissed his way up her neck. As he sank his teeth into her lower lip, Daisy let herself stare into his eyes. She loved the fluffy, cumulus cloud-like nature of his irises; she almost wanted to scoop it up into her hands and drink it like water. Daisy turned her gaze to Jay’s forehead, waiting for the red to begin to drip. Daisy let her hands get lost in Jay’s hair as his fingers crawled along her thighs. Jay had pushed Daisy against the desk–as she sat down, he parted her legs like water.
Daisy felt something like panic blossom within the gem in her forehead–for a moment, her vision was tinged burgundy. This time it will really happen. Daisy wondered if she should be the one to stop it now, if she should trigger his guilt by thumbing the ring on his finger or by pushing him away. She probed at his feelings with her gem, willing his psyche to render a way out of the game. Instead, Daisy found herself at a precipice, staring down into an inky blue. In the ink, she could see Jay’s body outlined in the same blue fluorescence that dripped from his lips. Now, she could also see his gem–it was a dagger-like sliver of diamond between his lungs. Daisy felt her fear turn to exhilaration as the gem began to fluoresce blue. This is it.
Suddenly, Daisy sensed a new energy coloring its way down the hallway. Struggling to bring herself from the precipice’s edge, she pushed Jay away both with her hands and with her gem. The sensation of falling away from him, of tumbling uncontrollably in space, severed Daisy’s connection to her gem. For a second, Daisy’s entire world flashed the deep burgundy of her own feeling of fear; the next second Daisy was on the floor of Jay’s office, the cold linoleum on her cheek the only thing keeping her conscious.
Jay immediately swept down and enveloped her in his arms. Daisy could hear him, but the world was still strangely muted in sound. A deep ringing in her ears, like the flapping of leathery wings on glass, was the only real sound she could perceive. Weakly, Daisy peeked her gem open once more; she could feel her heartstrings groan in protest. She finally recognized the deep green energy emanating from outside the door. It was Dr. Nielsen, and for whatever reason he was about to burst in to Jay’s office. Daisy tried to push this thought to Jay’s gem; but she could no longer sense it.
It was too late to save face. Nielsen opened the door, and the only thing wider than the open door were his eyes. Daisy could see the scene reflected in Nielsen’s glasses–of herself limp in Jay’s grip, of Jay’s arms wrapped around her like a snake. As Nielsen’s voice rang out into the room, Daisy’s normal sense of hearing returned and her gem went dark. Daisy heard Nielsen ask “What is going on here?” before her world was enveloped in static again–this time, Daisy felt her consciousness slip away into the prosaic hum of neurons firing in the dark.