DISCLAIMER: Geeky scientist and strutting cop... you mean to tell me neither one of these ladies is a lesbian?!?! I don't buy it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Where was she anyway?, I wonder, trying to focus on the umpteenth fluid-stained bed sheet in front of me. Poring over it for the last 15 minutes, I'd snipped a few pieces here and there, but mostly I just stared blankly while my mind wandered in ten different directions.
It's her case, after all. She should've been in the interrogation room, not Brass.
"Shit," I mutter, fumbling with the scissors in my latexed hand. Normally this sort of thing is not a problem for me.
Shift started an hour ago. What the hell?
"Sara Sidle, just the woman I was looking for."
That gravelly voice is coupled with her long form, sharply dressed in black slacks and a black dress shirt, draped across the doorway to the lab. I rapidly process her calmly confident appearance, in contrast with me, in all likelihood, looking like a hunched-over deer in headlights peering up from a crusty hotel sheet. I nearly scowl at the injustice of it all.
"Hey " I offer, peeling off my clear lab goggles and wiping a bead of sweat from the bridge of my nose. Fuck.
"Heard our guy didn't cop to anything even after your damning presentation of the evidence. He'll come around, especially if his lawyer's worth a damn." Sofia drums her fingers against the door jam and smiles tightly at me, waiting for a response.
"I guess "
"But hey, there's somebody I want you to meet. Carla," Sofia waves in a petite brunette from the hallway, "this is Sara Sidle. Best damn CSI in this place."
I'd really never felt such instant disdain for someone before, but, look at that, there it is.
"And Sara, this is Carla Iannotti, one of the police department's new interns."
The young girl couldn't be a day over twenty.
"Hey Miss Sidle, it's a pleasure to meet you," Carla intones, extending her hand to meet mine. I snap off the latex glove and brusquely shake her hand.
"Likewise Carla," I manage, eyeing the detective intently. The young woman looks back and forth between Sofia and I, her perky smile never waning.
"That's why I wasn't up here earlier. Would've asked Brass to make introductions with Carla here, but then you know, he might have scared her off police work forever," Sofia laughs a little at her own joke, but I remain nonresponsive, so she immediately straightens up.
"Well okay then, looks like Carla's gonna be shadowing me for a couple of days, so I'm gonna finish showing her around. Catch up with you a little later?"
"I'll be here."
I replace my goggles and grab another glove, eager to return to bed sheet, where at least I can stew in silence.
On any other given day, I'd be less than thrilled to be sharing the break room with a chatty Catherine, but tonight I don't mind it quite so much. I barely make it to the coffee machine when already she's mentioning the New Girl.
"Did you meet Carla? The PD intern?"
I roll my eyes at the wall in front of me. "Yeah, sure did."
"Seems like a nice kid. Better than the shithead frat boy they brought in here last semester. You know, the one who was all, 'Dude, is that like a dead body??'"
I have to laugh. "How could I forget."
"But Jesus, couldn't they have found someone a little less naïve?" Catherine deadpans, "I have a Chevy in my driveway older than her."
I don't know which I find funnier, Catherine's comments or the fact that Catherine and I are commiserating over coffee. After the laughter subsides, I gather my coffee and vending machine granola bar and head for the door.
"Back to the sheets already?" Catherine looks incredulously at me.
"What can I say? Mr. Maltin was a very busy guy."
"Semen, semen, and yup, more semen," I point out the various samples to young Miss Carla. She peers over to the next table.
"And what's this one?" She leans in closer to the piece of cloth, examining the stain. "Is that blood?"
"Nope. That's fecal matter." I love my job.
The young girl blanches a little bit, and steps back just a hair. "Oh."
Just then, Sofia strides in, sleeves of her shirt rolled up to her elbows. "How's it goin' ladies? Carla, is Sara showing you anything of interest?"
I nod, barely suppressing a smile.
"Oh yeah," Carla replies, "Yeah, definitely. I'm just gonna go wash my hands a sec."
"Alright," Sofia looks concerned as Carla swipes by her and into the hallway. Turning back to me, she shoots me a look of playful consternation.
"What?" I feign innocence. "She asked to see the Maltin samples."
"Lovely," groans Sofia as she has a look for herself.
I can't help but watch as Sofia pushes a stray blonde hair back behind her ear, her long eyelashes dancing as she squints at the tiny swatches. A vein at her neck strains, and I realize I am staring.
Carla enters the room with a loud sigh, her resolve obviously hardened. "Sorry, I'm still getting used to all this stuff. Really exciting work you guys do here, though."
"No problem, Carla. And listen, tomorrow will be better. We'll be out in the field, and you'll get a better feel of things. For now though it looks like you can knock off if you'd like. I won't make you stay for check-off till tomorrow," Sofia winks at the young woman, and I nearly gag.
"I've got just a million questions, Detective. It's a shame I only get a few days with the unit. You think I could pick your brain over dinner one night? You know, that way I could really get the inside scoop."
My eyes widened at the request. Is she for real?! Sofia, though, doesn't seem to be fazed by it.
"Absolutely. I'll see you tomorrow, Carla." Another wink and the girl bounces off, smiling. The whole terrifying scene that just transpired has left me speechless, so I glare at the detective yet again.
"What?!" Sofia shrugs her shoulders, propping up a toothpick between her lips.
"Do you think that's such a good idea? Having dinner with a glorified ridealong?"
"She's an intern, and yes. I think it's a fine idea."
"What is she, seventeen?" I ask over my shoulder as I straighten the lab for check-off.
Sofia falls in step, returning some metal trays to their storage cabinet. "PD told me she was 22, about to graduate UNLV. This is some senior credit thing."
I scoff and nod my head sarcastically, my back still turned.
"What's with you?" Sofia asks, dropping a box of gloves on the table.
"Nothing I just " I turn around and her head is cocked to the side, with that look: furrowed brow, slightly narrowed eyes locked on to me, genuinely concerned. Hands at her hips, the weight of her gun sliding her belt just a little off-center.
"I'm just in a bad mood," I lie. Chicken shit.
The hearty sound of Nick's laughter booms down the hallway. My e-mail inbox is chock full at the moment, but it's tedious work sifting through the spam and porn ads to get to the "real" mail, so I decide to scope out what's going on.
Three rooms away, Nick and Greg are really getting into ittelling war stories for Carla. The prepubescent intern is eating it up, her face flush with laughter and her generously exposed cleavage is practically jiggling. Catherine Junior.
"So then Greg looks at me and is like, 'Dude, where's your car?'" More fits of laughter.
"You mean like the movie?" Carla asks excitedly.
"Yeah, exactly!" Greg's eyes light up as though he has just found his soul mate, and I suddenly feel as microscopic as that DNA sample sitting untouched on the lab table.
"Oh hey Sara, what's up?" Nick finally asks, practically sweating from the efforts of his storytelling.
"Not much, just came over to see what all the commotion was about."
"Well, the guys were just telling me some of their favorite moments on the job," Carla explains.
The guys. I'm tempted to run out to the front gate of the building and make sure I didn't accidentally stumble into CSI High.
"Where's Detective Curtis?" I ask before I can even stop myself. I hope I remembered to insert the right amount of nonchalance into that question.
"She's upstairs on the horn with the NYC Crime Lab. Turns out that DB Warrick and Catherine processed? Might not just be your run-of-the-mill scumbagif the DNA's any indication, he was a three-time rapist in the Big Apple," Nick replies, gathering his jacket and sliding off the metal stool. "C'mon Greggo, that reminds me we gotta get that paperwork on Scumbag #2 to Grissom pronto."
"Mind if I tag along with you, Sara?" Carla asks, and so damn earnestly I have to say yes. "Thanks for entertaining me, guys."
Nick and Greg stumble over letting Carla and I through the door first, as though they've mutated into the most chivalrous of gentlemen in the last five seconds. I give Greg a friendly shove, and I'm almost relieved when he shoves me back.
"And she told me ALL about Academy, which wow, really sounds like hell," Carla gushed. "It's so inspiring, you know, to meet a woman who has really done it allworked the beat, made Detective even a CSI for a little while."
My mind flashed back to that brief period when Sofia was indeed a CSI. It seems like a hundred years ago.
"Like, did you know she had the top GPA in her academy class?"
I shake my head no, and continue my work at the computer.
"Well she was. I had to pry that one out of her; she's kinda modest."
Just when I think she's going to stop talking, there's more.
"And her dog? Ohhh my god, so adorable."
"Her dog?!" My head pops out from behind the monitor. "Curtis has a dog?"
Carla looks a little surprised. "Yeah ," she leans in and whispers, "We stopped off at her place to let him out before we got back here. I don't know if I'm supposed to "
"I won't say anything," I mumble, suddenly very despondent. This girl has known Sofia 24 hours and already she knows more about her than I do. Are we really that distant? Do I really keep us that distant?
Carla continues to blab on for what seems like an eternity, about this and that, about Sofia's dog (the cutest animal ever to walk the earth, apparently) and her family and her CSI experience. I stop listening when she starts mentioning her shoe size and her love of black and white movies, so I'm caught completely off-guard when she drops the bomb.
"And I asked her, you know, what it's like to be a lesbian on the Department."
The ringing in my ears blocks out pretty much the rest of what the young intern has to say, all of which I desperately want to hear, so I shake my head briefly in an effort to clear the clouds. "You what?"
Carla may be an infant, and she may be naïve, but she can probably tell by my wide-eyed response that I had no idea.
"Um you know, she said it's not that tough."
Don't you clam up on me now, girl! "That's what she said? That it's 'not that tough'?"
Clearly uncomfortable now, Carla attempts to swallow the foot in her mouth. "Pretty much. She said she just doesn't hide it, but doesn't advertise either. I think that"
"You guys alright in here? Sara? You look like you're about to pass out," Sofia makes her way across the room and puts a hand on my shoulder, eyeing me sideways. "Carla?"
"Yeah, we were just well, I was going on about you actually and I"
"She told me you were first in your academy class! And that you have a dog!" I blurt out in a rush. "I love dogs, Sofia. You've got to let me meet him. When can I meet him?" Whereas my face was previously white, it is now hot with blood, eager to change the subject.
"Anytime, Sara. As soon as you and I get some time away from this place, right?" Sofia jokes, the hand on my shoulder replaced with a gentle slap.
Noting Carla's rapidly improving composure, it looks as though we've averted that potential disaster. I finally breathe after what feels like eons.
"So," Sofia slumps down at the nearest chair, forearms on the armrest, palms dangling, legs spread. Jesus. "Long enough day for ya, Iannotti?"
"Definitely. I've still got to get the bus home and finish a paper for my History class. I'm just happy this is my last semester."
"And you, Sidle? Pulling another double or are you maxed out on overtime?"
I mock a swipe across my neck with my hand. "I'm cut off till the end of the month. Gotta go home, no choice."
Sofia closes her eyes and lets her head slide back against the chair, a faint, almost growling coming from deep within her. A quick glance to the young intern, and it's clear the eroticism of the whole moment is not lost on her.
Sofia's toes tap lightly and the wheeled chair sways with her movements. Some people prefer to have these intimate moments of relaxation alone; Sofia Curtis has them in the crime lab with two panting lesbians watching.
Finally, her exercise in torture over, Sofia's head swings back up with a start. "Alright, Carla whaddaya say we get the hell outta here? I'll give you a ride home."
The subtle look Carla gives me is the equivalent of a flashy ballplayer gyrating in the end zone. Oh, it's war now.
"So, what do you think of Sofia's intern?" I ask casually, camera flashing.
"Huh?" Warrick appears immersed in marking blood spatter on the concrete with yellow placards. "Make sure you get this shot here."
"Gotcha," I pause for a moment, adjusting my vest that's causing me to bake in this heat. "The intern, you know, what's her name," As if I don't remember! "Whaddaya think of her?" Flash.
"Sara, come on, man. I'm married. Someone yells 'intern' and I close my eyes and run in the other direction. Know what I mean?" Warrick snorts as he drops another yellow card.
This draws a smile, despite the heat and my cranky demeanor. "I gotcha." Flash. "But Greg and Nick, they fall all over themselves the minute she walks in the room. It's irritating."
Warrick looks up at me from his squatting position. The sun is killing him too, as the sweat just rolls down his face. "You jealous, Sidle?"
"No! No way I just " Damn Warrick for being able to see through me so well. "It's irritating."
Warrick arches an eyebrow, and throws me a quick nod. "You said that."
Back at the lab, I retreat to the locker room to grab a quick shower while I wait for various test results. I scoff at the preposterous notion that Las Vegas is a "dry heat" as I peel off several layers of soaked clothing.
The cool water instantly relieves a lot of the tension I built up over the course of the afternoon. Outside the sun would be setting right about now, and suddenly I wish I were out there, camping maybe, at least a hike. To feel the brush against my bare legs, the sound of the dirt crackling beneath my feet.
Alas, there's never enough time for daydreaming as I can hear my pager going off on the bench just outside the shower. Toweling off and jumping into my jeans, I check it out: it's Sofia's number, from upstairs.
My back is still wet as I throw a blue shirt over my head, making it cling in odd places and not nearly enough in others. I frown in the mirror, and then at myselfwhat the hell am I thinking? I'm going up there to check on a case, not ask her to the spring dance.
The sound of heels on the tiled floor echo in my direction, and in a moment I see Sofia Curtis peering over at me from the row of lockers. Her hair is pulled back, sunglasses resting on top of her head, still a little shiny with sweat.
"Thought I'd find you here, slacking off, as usual," she smiles.
I flip her a quick middle finger, tempered with a crooked smile back. "Where's your sidecar?"
She laughs. "You mean Carla? Upstairs."
I don't say anything, although secretly I'm relieved. I run my fingers through my hair, shaking out what's left of the water before I brush it. Sofia just watches me, arms crossed, body completely still, almost as if she's stopped breathing.
"So what'd you want?" It sounds a little harsher than it did in my head, and I have to keep myself from grimacing.
Sofia shrugs, steps a few feet closer to me. "Dunno, just wanted to check up on you I guess. You were acting strange last night. Everything alright?"
"I appreciate that," I offer sincerely, "but I'm fine."
It takes a fine amount of concentrated effort to sound blasé, and to brush past her calmly but not coolly and I pull it off masterfully.
Heading out the locker room door, I bite my lip in tentative victory. After a rocky start, it looks like I've got her right where I want her.
With shift only halfway over, I find myself slipping into an uncharacteristic funk. Sloppy and tired, I twirl my pencil in my hand. First clockwise, then counterclockwise. Clockwise, counterclockwise. Clockwise
I start thinking that maybe the 'couldn't-care-less Sara' I was giving Sofia in the locker room wasn't such a great idea. I mean, isn't that what I give everyone all the time? And the fiery, headlong-look-out-here-I-come approach seems to work for Catherine
Now I know I've lost it. Am I really considering Catherine's approach to anything as superior to my own?
"She's also slutty, Sara you wanna go there too?" I tease myself, the sheer lunacy of it all driving me to announce it out loud.
"Who's slutty?" Catherine interrupts, not even stopping in the doorway but simply barreling in.
Goddammit. "Nobody, I was just rambling to myself." Yes, make yourself sound crazy, that's a good idea.
"Well it just so happens your ramblings are relevant," she explains, propping herself up on the stool opposite the light table. "Figured you'd wanna be in the pool. Warrick says you're no big fan of Carla either. And we're talkin' two hundred bucks here. Might buy you a nice night out or whatever."
I let the dig slide, my interest peaked. "What pool?"
"Turns out Carla's been schmoozing it heavy tonight around the lab, and I mean thick. Stroking Greg's arm at the scopes, tossing her hair at Nick," Catherine mimics the move perfectly. "Stuff like that. Now you know as well as I do where that'sheaded."
"You probably know a little better than I do," I drop in, unable to resist.
"Probably," Catherine doesn't miss a beat, "but you get the idea. This kid's on a one-way train to Hickeyville and I wanna make a little money before she's out with the unis next week catchin' more than that. We drew straws "
She unfolds a piece of white paper in front of me, with pairs of names. "Warrick drew Greg, I got Nick, goddamn Hodges got Sofia, and you drew Wendy."
I frown at my 'assignment.' Everyone knows Wendy's saving herself for Catherine.
"Well " Catherine senses my disappointment. "You can switch to Archie if you think he's got the balls. Fifty bucks each."
"And what if Little Miss Sunshine makes it outta here next week unsullied?"
Catherine snorts, "Like that'll happen! But if it does then we all go out to a bar and get trashed. And leave Hodges on I-15 somewhere."
"We've got smudged lipstick!" Catherine reports excitedly, her back to the door she just slammed shut behind her.
"Smudged what now?" I ask, my thoughts somewhere between the robbery from last night and the 419 we just returned from.
"Smudged lipstick, on Carla. Hodges is probably on his way down here right"
A hurried knock at the door. Catherine lets Hodges scoot in, then seals the door back up behind him.
"You two really ought to consider an off-strip comedy act," I muse.
"Har-har. You didn't see the guilty look on that teenage harlot. Someone's gettin' paid tonight, baby and I think it's gonna be me," Hodges tugs at the lapels of his jacket.
I could punch Hodges right now.
"Hodges, I could punch you right now. Stuff a sock in it," Catherine barks, rolling up her sleeves, eyes darting around. "Follow the evidence, Sparky. Didn't ya catch Nick exiting stage left like his head was on fire? If anyone's getting paid, it's me."
"Both of you, calm down," I scowl. "This is still a crime lab, after all."
The two of them straighten up, and exchange accusatory glances.
"You're right. I I don't know what I was thinking," Hodges decides, visibly pulling himself together. "You're not gonna tell Grissom, are you?"
I roll my eyes at the thought.
Catherine looks disappointed but resigned, shoulders slouching, all that energy from a moment ago seemingly evaporated. As she holds the door open for Hodges, though, she adds, "What was Doc's preliminary findings on that DB, anyway?"
"Apparent natural," I reply, knowing exactly where this is going.
"And you're already running the trace?"
"Yup, that bun's already in the oven," Hodges replies, his eyebrows dancing.
They both look at me expectantly, and a smirk slowly crawls across my face completely against my better judgment. "Alright, but I'll handle Curtis,"
"I'm sure you will," Hodges answers smugly. "Do remember you're a scientist, Miss Sidle. Fair and objective."
"Come on Hodges, let's go play good cop/bad cop with Nicky," Catherine suggests.
"Ooh, can I be the bad cop?"
I take it as a bad sign that when I arrive at Sofia's office, Carla is perched on the edge of the desk, listening intently to Sofia's explanation of an arrestee's debriefing.
"Oh hey Miss Sidle," Carla declares, a hint of what is that? Proprietorship? in her posture and tone. Whatever it is, it stinks. Good thing I'm wearing my piss and vinegar boots today.
"Hey, yeah, you um got a little smudge there," I point out, my movements quick and exaggerated. She brings her hand to her face and immediately excuses herself.
"Whatever I did, I'll plea out. Just have mercy on me," Sofia pleads, her open palms in the air, a lazy smile across her lips.
I stop just short of the detective, who's still leaning back, looking relaxed in her desk chair turned to face me. I thumb toward the door. "What's up with you and her?"
"Me and who?"
"Oh please. When she's not pawing half the lab, she's in here with you doing who knows what," I think I may have forgotten to sound like I was joking just then.
A smug smile creeps across Sofia's face. My ears are ringing, blood surging to my face. I'm suspended in that odd, sickening moment where you really don't want to hear what's about to be said and you also absolutely must.
She rises from her chair dramatically, never breaking my stare, smile never wavering.
"I knew that blow-off in the locker room was BS," she spats.
"That whole you-talkin'-to-me?, cool as the other side of the pillow routine," Sofia brings her face closer to me as she speaks, driving me back. "This isn't about Carla this about you. And me."
Turns out that wailing in my ears was the sound of the tables being turned.
"No, this is about I wanna know I mean, I just I just wanna know if I should continue respecting you or"
"Or what?" she dares. Her chest heaves mere inches from mine, her scent a tantalizing blend of mint and clean laundry.
I probably should've rehearsed this before I came marching in. Because right now, my slack jaw? Not much help.
"You may not know that I have a dog," she continues, drawing out the words deliberately, "or that I was a smartass in police academy."
She's got me on my heels and continues to advance, the fire in my belly from just a few moments ago now sufficiently extinguished. "But you know, Sara, that I would never go for the easy get."
Sofia winds her way behind me now, like a lion toying with its prey. "I would consider it a waste of my talents," she hisses.
Coming to a stop in front of me once more, I realize: Jesus Christ, this woman is scary.
"Just as you would consider indulging your curiosities about me and simply asking to be a waste of yours."
Icing me with the final dagger, she has successfully sapped me of all fortitude. And, while she was at it, dignity and self-respect.
Which of course would be Carla's cue to come waltzing back in, face properly powdered, tits properly arranged.
"So don't worry, okay? I'll take care of that for you and we'll be all set for court on Monday," Sofia takes me by the shoulder and guides me to the door, eyes gently insisting that I play along.
"Okay, yeah I'll see you Monday," I turn. I wish I could say I nailed the dismount but "I mean," turning back, "I'll see you tomorrow, but yeah."
Both of them smile politely as I exit, my brain feeling like I just went twelve rounds with a heavyweight.
Slinking back to my work in the lab, I catch Archie messing around with some video out of the corner of my eye.
"Hey Sara," he smiles, genuinely, brightly with a smudge of the same sickly pink shade Carla just reapplied.
"Ohhh Archie," I groan. He looks confused by my browbeaten expression. "You just cost me fifty bucks."
The Carla era came to an end quietly at the lab. Catherine pouted, Hodges moped Greg positively mourned. But I still don't know what to say to Sofia. On one hand, she had some nerve making that arrogant speech of hers. And on the other, she's absolutely right.
At four in the morning, on a night with no new calls and nothing but paperwork to catch up on, any distraction is a welcome one. So when Catherine comes sauntering in, I find myself greeting her with a warm smile.
"What's up Cath?"
"Mm, not much," she replies, leaning on her elbows over the table. "Came here to give you this."
She tosses a rolled up wad of cash in front her, and I pick it up, confused.
"Oh yeah, she was double-dipping. Warrick saw her outside kissing Wendy goodbye in the parking lot. He told me at the beginning of shift, but I didn't have the chance to come down here till now."
"Really? That's so " I search for the words to describe what I mean.
"Nasty? I know. But I guess when you're 13, after a week parting is such sweet sorrow," she mocks, rolling her eyes. "But the upside is, Wendy is already a 3 to 1 favorite over Archie in a garage brawl. Any interest?"
Luckily, she's kidding. "I think I'll pass this time."
Catherine smiles, and grabs a pen from the table and starts tapping it lightly. "Sooo " It's odd to see Catherine not completely at ease. She looks so human. "It may have taken a common enemy to unite us but I'm glad things between us have improved."
I steeple my fingers, examining the older woman for a moment. "Yeah, me too. It's better for the lab."
She looks disappointed. "And better for... you know, us. You can never have too many friends, Sara."
Now it's my turn to roll my eyes. "I know, Catherine. And I'm glad." I see an opening here, but my heart rate ramps up when I think about running with it. I really wish this wasn't so hard for me.
"Especially since I really screwed things up with Sofia the other day," I admit, my voice barely above a whisper.
"I dunno I went in there, allowed my feelings to get the better of me, and I basically acted like a child," I'm surprised by my own honesty. "But don't worry, she handled me pretty good. Chewed me up and spat me out like one of her damn toothpicks."
I don't want Catherine to know how deeply it affects me, so I give her a lopsided grin and a "what can ya do?" shrug of the shoulders.
"I'm a mother, Sara," she states plainly. "I know what all that," waving her hands at me, "means. You feel like a dipshit, and you don't know how to fix things. You've got to much pride to go in there and eat crow, and shit I don't blame you. It sucks being so far off the mark."
She takes in my cheek-nibbling and eye-averting. "Notice I didn't say wrong. Because Sara Sidle that girl's never wrong," she jokes with a wink.
"Look, you're an intelligent, beautiful woman who sometimes lets all those brains mess up her head. Know what I mean?"
I let my silence indicated that I do indeed understand.
"So, what kind of feelings?"
"You said you let your feelings get the better of you. What kind of feelings are those?" Catherine presses, leaning in, eyes narrowed.
"Ahh " I wince, unwilling to go any further.
"Alright," she smiles. "Next time then."
Keep your hands open. It'll keep your palms from getting sweaty.
In my car at the end of shift, I appreciate the still morning, relatively quiet and not yet warm enough to require the AC. The radio squawks now and then, but it seems that the slow night has given way to an even slower day. I've already watched Catherine leave, and Warrick too, his cell phone at his ear the entire time. Sofia's truck is still here, and my eyes scan the parking lot for the tall blonde with the John Wayne gait.
If memory serves me correctly, the last time I did this was sophomore year at Harvard, in Jonathan Appleby's dormitory hallway. I can still remember the sound of that George Michael song, 'Praying for Time,' pouring out of some girl's dorm, like a soundtrack to my deliberations.
It didn't turn out terribly. We dated for a little while, until he came out of the closet. First Jonathan, then George Michael. Looks like we went three-for-three.
My little trip down memory lane almost causes me to miss Sofia striding toward her car, sunglasses drawn over her face and her hair let loose over her shoulders. I hop out of the car and find I have to break out into a light run just to make sure I don't miss her.
"Sofia, wait!" I shout.
She turns at the sound of my voice and smiles. "I usually work out before shift, but I've got my running shoes in the trunk if this is an invitation?"
I stop short and compose myself briefly, scrutinizing the woman in front of me. "Sun's barely up, Detective. You hiding from the paparazzi or something?"
"Nice rejoinder. I see you've been practicing since the last time we spoke."
We each take a second to independently size each other up, and when she pulls her glasses off I feel a rush of heat to the back of my neck. I always like to imagine her looking at me, but seeing her actually do it? Makes me a little self-conscious.
"You wanna have dinner with me?" I ask, surprised at how easily it slides out.
Sofia's expression betrays her own surprise. "I yeah, I'd like that. I'm off tonight if"
My offensive clearly rattles the detective. "Wow, so tonight then? Where shall I meet you?"
I toss around a couple restaurant ideas in my head, but none of them fit the bill. I'm not out to impress her, I just want a chance to get to know her. For her to know me.
"My place." Oh man. "Maybe 8-ish?"
"That sounds perfect," she replies, cocking her chin towards my car across the lot. "I'll just look for the eco-friendly mobile in the drive."
What's wrong with my car?
Sofia climbs into her truck and backs out, leaving me standing there to ponder dinner menus and place settings when I'm not even sure I have two whole sets of anything.
"It gets amazing gas mileage, y'know," I shout to her open window. She nods and puts it into drive.
Just when I think my excitement has finally eclipsed my nervousness, my cell phone bleats and vibrates against the kitchen counter.
"Hey Sara, it's me. I'm downstairs."
And with the sound of her voice, somewhat raspy for some reason, I fall right back into the state I found myself at various points in the day: scared shitless.
"I'll buzz you in."
Snapping the phone shut, I quickly estimate how much time I have before Sofia Curtis is standing in my living room, without the pretense of lab results, or court testimony, or dead bodies to save me. Her legs are about as long as mine, elevator's been kinda slow I've got just enough time to throw that rope I made out of my bed sheets out the window and climb to safety. But no.
I'm in the bathroom spraying on that perfume I debated over when the knock at the door comes. Padding across the living room, I wave my arms about wildly, trying to disperse the scent. A quick tug at the hem of my shirt, and I'm ready. But no.
I sling the door open and meet her with an uneven grin, which I follow up with the ever-eloquent and omnipresent, "Hey."
Opening my stance to let her in, she slips by me and my eyes follow her, dressed in black pants and heels and a conservative but slim-fitting top. We seem to have fallen closely together on the casual vs. formal scale, and for that I am grateful. I tossed and turned in my bed this afternoon hoping this sleeveless shirt wasn't too relaxedI dressed it up a bit by adding my favorite silver necklace.
"This is my first time inside your place," Sofia notes, unwrapping a bottle of wine at the center island. "It's great."
"Thanks, I don't have many guests it's starting to feel unappreciated." Dumb joke, Sara.
But Sofia smiles. "I think I know what you mean. My dog gets more visitors at the door than I do."
I pull two wine glasses from the cabinet and pray they aren't noticeably dusty. "Sit down please," I motion to the couch and then fish around for the corkscrew. "So what kind of dog is this anyway, the one getting all the play over at your place?"
"Ah," Sofia carefully chooses a spot on the couch. "He's a Boxer. His name is Jerry, and he's quite the ladies' man."
I let the wine bottle hit the counter hard. "Jerry? You named your dog Jerry?"
"He looked like a Jerry to me," Sofia shrugs.
"Interesting," I respond, handing her a glass. I sit down next to her, trying to gauge what the appropriate distance might be.
"Why don't you sit over there instead?" she asks, throwing me off a little bit. Reading my confused expression, she continues, "It's your favorite spot, isn't it?"
Where is she going with this?
"Inconsistent wear on the cushion, a coaster still on the side table, proximity to the window and bookshelf I'm guessing you read there."
I drop my head slightly, a little embarrassed by the intimacy of the evaluation, and the accuracy.
"What? Someone once told me I don't do enough detecting. I thought it'd make for good foreplay."
I stand up, turning to the kitchen as I feel my face reddening. I take a sip of the wine and idly stir the rice one more time. "This is a nice wine. Who'd have guessed? A cop with class," I figure a gentle ribbing will put her back in her place. And give my blushing face a rest.
"Not exactly. I did have three beers in the parking lot before I came up here," she smiles over her glass and then presses her lips to it, causing me to impulsively stir the rice yet again, faster this time.
"You wanna come over here and keep an eye on this pot while I finish getting everything together?" I demand more than ask. Not that her little quips aren't cute, but I'd much prefer a little incidental contact in this tiny kitchen.
"So you're sayingwhat then? The city should just plant a few flower boxes, put wreaths on every door and hope for the best?" Sofia asks, forehead crumpling.
"No, you're oversimplifying what I said," I reply, placing my fork at the edge of the plate. "But I definitely don't think razing the entire complex and building another playground for the rich while displacing the poor really serves the community as they like to imagine."
Sofia ponders my argument as she stabs another piece of broccoli. "But look at Emerson Heights. They knocked down the old towers in favor of some lowrises and all it did was change the job descriptionnow the dealers work out of concrete courtyards instead of urine-soaked stairwells. Six in one hand, half a dozen in the otherexcept now we've got a complicated network of alleys and cuts to run. No uniform could ever know that place like the residents do. There's a million places to hide and less stairs to climb trying to evade the cops. It completely backfired."
I shake my head, and pour us both a little more wine. "That's because the city didn't bother to bring in any other community services vocational training, counseling, after school activities they're the ones who threw up a fresh coat of paint and then forgot about these people."
"I don't know, Sara. It all sounds good in theory but it's hard to have sympathy when you've been spit on and kicked and had doors slammed in your face just trying to help. I hate to say it but good riddance."
"Oh please," I sigh, exasperated. Seconds extend into minutes as we both push our food around our plates, neither one of us backing down.
"You know, this is kinda hot. The fact that I can't stand you right now," Sofia smiles coyly.
"Agreed," I nod.
We finish the meal avoiding all talk of any substance, her eyes peeking up at me every once in a while.
"This was excellent, Sara. I didn't know you could cook."
I shrug my shoulders. "I didn't know either."
She exhales into a laugh and gets up from her seat, taking her plate and mine with her to the kitchen sink.
"Don't do that," I reprimand, following her into the kitchen. "I'll take care of all that later." My hand instinctively goes to her wrist, the tips of my fingers finding the ridge of bone there. I pull away, and instantly wish I hadn't.
Sofia sighs, her arms limp against the edge of the sink, her head turned to me. Blue eyes blink furiously. "I was so nervous," she confesses, "that I couldn't get any sleep this afternoon."
I bite my lower lip slightly, finding her admission terribly cute and intensely erotic.
"That why your voice sounds like you just smoked a pack of cigarettes?" I tease.
"Yeah," she replies. "Always happens when I don't sleep."
"Didn't seem to stop you from tearing me a new one over my revitalization 'theories,'" I argue, curling my fingers into quotation marks.
"Oh, here we go again," she whines, turning her whole body to face me, her hip resting against the counter. I smile back at her, admiring the way her jaw flexes when she purses her lips. She leans into me, hooking her thumbs over my belt. Her head tilts
"Did she come on to you?" I ask, breathing the words practically into her lips.
"Carla?" she asks, not pulling away. "Like a light switch."
"And nothing. I told you," she smiles, lips dangerously close to mine. "Too easy."
"And this?" I continue, feeling the tension in my legs wind all the way up through my midsection and surge upward. I really hope I'm not blushing again.
She sighs again, this time drawing her head back from mine, "Getting more challenging by the minute, I'd say."
"Good," I state plainly, closing the distance between us and more, capturing her bottom lip for a playful, if somewhat off-balanced, kiss.
She looks stunned, as though she hadn't just been about to plant one on me herself a moment ago. "Sara Sidle " she gasps, her voice coarse and dark.
We kiss again, the contact hesitant and exploratory at the surface, but Sofia's hold on my waist gets tighter, giving away what must be roiling beneath the detective's relaxed exterior.
I begin to back up, moving us both out of the kitchen and towards the couch, our bodies surprisingly fluid considering the mix of alcohol and my usually bumbling romantic nature.
Sliding down onto the couch, Sofia smiles against my face. "What? Kitchen not doin' it for ya?"
I kiss her again, chancing a touch of that sexy jaw line with my fingers. "Your sense of humor " I momentarily lose my train of thought with the scent of her. "puts me at ease."
I can feel her smile again, and then kiss me back, a light tug at my upper lip. "Your quiet confidence," she whispers, bringing her lips to my neck, "scares the shit out of me," she laughs, her breath hot against my skin.
Rolling my eyes at no one, I brush her blonde hair back at the crown, down the slope of her neck and off her shoulders. She slides back, out of the crook of my neck and straightens up. "I like this," she says, looping her index finger around my necklace.
"Thank you," I look away, shades of awkward and inept Sara creeping in. It washes over me like a cold shower, the moment seemingly having passed.
"Don't," Sofia admonishes, perhaps perceiving my uncertainty. "Everything was perfect. The dinner, the conversation you." She tilts my chin back toward her. "Jerry."
Her hand drops to her lap. "Jerry. I should get home and let him out," she rises from the couch and proffers her hand. I take it, my legs suddenly a little unsure. "But you gotta meet him. So come over," she turns to the refrigerator and scribbles on a sticky pad affixed to the door, "tomorrow. Anytime. We're just hanging out, watching TV and reading the paper. Or chewing it. Whichever."
I nod, grateful for Sofia's deft sidestepping of anything awkward. "I'll be there."
"Thank you for dinner, Sara," Sofia places both hands on my shoulders and lets them slide to the back of my arms, pulling me in for a hug. Her collar grazes my chin, and I squeeze my eyes shut, exhausted from the effort but also buzzing with excitement.
She kisses my neck again lightly, and then rests her cheek against mine before placing another on my lips. "Tomorrow."
Letting herself out, Sofia disappears down the hallway and I immediately turn to the yellow paper stuck on my fridge. Now it's my turn to lay sleepless.
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