18 January 2012

Edward's Lab Partner

With science, she blinded me. Or maybe it was her hips swaying gently as they moved silently through the lab. Either way, my throat was dry and my upper lip twitched as if some voltage was trying to find its way around my moustache. Instinctively, I switched off the miniature generator I had been working with and found my way to where she was now standing, peering over the railing and down onto the floor of the warehouse. Moonlight radiated through the gaping skylights above, softly outlining the curve of her ivory cheek, atop which a bold pair of corrective lenses perched in dark rectangular frames. Her face proved conclusively that phi existed; her ratios were more perfect than phi could even predict. There must, therefore, be some mathematical reason why reddish-brown hair, when bobbed, is especially striking against such unblemished ivory skin. In that moment, I could feel my heart rate increase. Was that a hint of adrenaline in my bloodstream? A drop of perspiration pushed itself from a pore somewhere near my frontal lobe. I casually brushed it away with a flick of my finger.
She wanted something from me, but I couldn't tell what. She was very quiet, just staring down over the railing. I was very close to her; I could feel her thermodynamics through my lab coat. In these late spring months, she was in the habit of wearing blouses that kept her cooler in the lab, but, for some inexplicable reason, kept me warmer. There must have been some biological reason for it. I made a note to call an anthropologist friend of mine to ask.

Finally she sighed, an expulsion of air that sounded as if it should be so very sweet, delicate, as if spun from the finest silicon. My heart jumped slightly, a feat I didn't think was biologically possible. Blood was draining from my head to other, more primal organs; I thought I might swoon, but a strong voice in my mind said that would be a dreadful thing for a man to do and told me to "buck up." I would have to look up the phrase later when I got to my study.

Then she turned to me and I noticed something cold and dark in her sinistral hand, a device that, when loaded with a projectile whose back section was packed with a combination of sulfur, carbon, and potassium nitrate, could pose bodily harm to those standing in front of its barrel. In a word, a gun.

"What?" I asked.

But before I asked that simple, incredibly open-ended question, I smiled. It is a strange, silly thing to do, really, when one has a dangerous weapon pointed at one, but it was a thing I did, nonetheless. I smiled because, for the first time since we began working together, I noticed she was left-handed. It is hard to say why this would pose as something amusing or, at least, smile-inducing. Again, something to ask my anthropologist friend.

She was incredibly calm for one holding such a powerful weapon. This fact did nothing to relieve my attraction to her. Her hair in the moonlight was, indeed, radiant, and the way her lab coat accentuated her true-to-phi figure was captivating. She wore high black boots with a good heel on them, adding approximately ten centimeters to her diminutive stature. On days I was particularly bored with my research, or just to clear my mind for a bit, I would estimate certain data: her natural height (150 cm), the circumference of her waist (53.34 cm), the volume and mass of her... well, that's not important. What was important was, in that moment, a very lovely woman, a co-worker, was pointing a very dangerous gun at me.

"What?" I asked again.

"You know what," she finally said. The frequency range of her voice was, for some reason, always pleasing to listen to. Even when she was holding a gun at me at a distance of, say, twenty centimeters.

"I'm afraid I don't know what," I said. "Specifically."

She walked around me ninety degrees, so now my back was to the railing. The moonlight once again highlighted her face down to her sternum. She came closer and gently pushed the tip of the gun into my abdomen. She looked up at me over her glasses, and more perspiration formed on the skin of my squama frontalis and more blood drained from behind it. This feeling of being so close to mortality and yet so close to what I can only describe as fantasy was perplexing.

"I'm pregnant," she said calmly.

Blood rushed back to my head. "What?" I said.

"You heard me," she said. The gun metal pushed against my stomach. I feared it might cause some sub-epidermal rupture, but a bruise was the least of my concerns right now.

"Yes," I said. "But what does this have to do with me?"

She never stared at me more intently. Her green eyes bored deep within my own mundanely brown ones. She was so still, so sure and calm. It was breathtaking, but perhaps not as breathtaking as having a firearm pointed at some vital organs.

"I'm pregnant," she said, pressing her reddish-brown eyebrows together, "and you are the father."

Then my life flashed before my eyes. There was a sudden burst of sparks and a loud bang, accompanied by the smell of sulfur and a warmish feeling where the gun had been pressing. I clung onto the railing as I watched my parents age in fast-motion, my teachers change and become stricter, more precise, and diplomata and degrees thrust into my hands. It was a quick vision, after which there was pain where there was warmth. I sank to the floor; she still stood there with the pistol aimed at me, but her calmness was cracking. Saline streams dripped down those smooth cheeks, now blushing. The ringing in my ears receded at just the moment she started speaking again.

"When I got the news I was pregnant, I didn't believe it. There was no way. I hadn't... But the doctors were absolutely certain. I ordered a paternity test as soon as I could have one, which is pretty fast these days, especially when you know people."

I coughed up warm red liquid, a mix of hemoglobin, bile, and stomach acid.

"Anyway," she continued, "I found out it was you. It was you. But how? It wasn't possible. We never... So I discreetly asked around the lab. That's when I found out..."

Now her calmness waned greatly. As for me, the pain was being replaced by a sort of fuzziness.

"What?" I whispered. I wanted her to keep talking. It was keeping me alive, thought the less logical parts of my brain, of which there were few. I estimated that my life would be limited to another one to three minutes.

She grimaced. "You... I always wondered why I woke up in the lab after the holiday party. I was too drunk to drive home, you said."

She was shaking. Or I was, I couldn't tell.

"You fucking knocked me out," she said. "And you... Ugh!" She expelled the contents of her stomach on the floor next to me. I coughed up more blood in solidarity.

"Sara," I whispered. I really needed to get this out before it was all over. "I...." It would take all my remaining strength. "I...." There was no mathematical formula, no scientific knowledge to help me here. Yes, I knew what she was going to accuse me of as soon as she said I was the father. Yes, she wasn't fabricating anything. I did everything she said I did, and more she didn't. It was a moment of extreme weakness for me. Desperately lapsed logic. I really, desperately needed to tell her, "I'm sorry."

There. The words came out. I did it. And I really meant it, too. I had been full of remorse the following day, but I couldn't apologize then and tell her what happened, what I did. Now was the only chance I would get.

"I'm sorry," I said again, as clearly as I could.

She stared at me, those green eyes now bloodshot and glassy. Then she sobbed loudly and held me tightly. Just before my heart stopped and I officially expired, I smiled. I had to smile. She whispered directly into my ear words I never thought I would hear, especially after sustaining the fatal bullet wound caused by her.

"I always loved you, Edward" she said, and she rocked me gently in her perfect arms as I peacefully died on the lab floor.

Our relationship, even to death, was complicated.

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