It is unfair.
She didn't ask for it.
It just happened.
After all – you can't choose who you fall in love with.
It is a devastatingly powerful force. Relentless. Unstoppable.
Sometimes she wishes she could numb herself – stop herself from feeling, because often, it becomes overwhelming.
She has no control. She feels she needs to take it back, she needs grip the reins – guide her life – but she can't.
This is how he describes her. Caring. He says it with his nose upturned and a hint of disgust to his voice – as if it is deplorable. As if she is deplorable – an unfortunate, weak creature. Pathetic.
At times, he behaves as if he is allergic to her. As if her moral certitude, her opinions, her demeanour, her smell, the sight of her – as if everything about her causes his body to twitch and rigidify in a violent reaction of repulsion.
This is how she interprets it, anyway.
This interpretation is adaptive, in a way. It motivates her – gives her something to work on.
She has also considered the fact that it may be his method of denial – that he may be focusing on the things he dislikes about her in order to comfort himself – to pretend that he doesn't want her.
She watches her reflection in the mirror as she dresses for work. Thin arms. Too thin, her mother would say. She had lost a few pounds recently. A few – that's an underestimation.
Simple white blouse on simple white skin.
Sometimes her eyes are a shocking cobalt blue. Sometimes they are a simple grey.
Today, they are a simple grey.
Simple Grey skirt. Simple grey eyes.
She has been told that she is beautiful. She has been told this many times, in fact. She had been told this by her late husband, she has been told this by her mother, her father, her sister… by a dirty construction worker on the street.
She has been told this by ex-boyfriends, male and female friends, random men in bars.
She has been told this by him.
I hired you because you are extremely pretty.
It was the most uncomplimentary complement she had ever received. Of course, it was not meant as a complement. It was merely an observation. He had turned his nose up to her again. Disdain.
You're pretty, but that means nothing. You're just pretty.
She thinks about him far too often.
She is disturbed by the things she thinks of.
What does he do when he goes home by himself at the end of the day? What cereal does he eat for breakfast? Does he eat cereal? Where does he send his dry-cleaning?
Stupid, irrelevant details. Stupid irrelevant details that she wishes she knew – because in order to know them, she would have to be close to him. Intimate.
She wishes to know the appearance of his scar. She wishes to know the feel and texture of the hair on his chest. She wishes to know the taste of him. She wishes to know the push of him inside her.
He watches her at work. Watches her with his cold blue eyes.
She pretends not to notice. She tries desperately to focus on Forman's voice as he argues his opinion of their latest case.
But she cannot concentrate. She knows his eyes are scanning her – thinking, judging.
She prods at her salad with her fork. Cucumber, tomato, lettuce, eggplant, artichoke.
No cheese, no avocado – too fatty.
Moments later, the room is clearing. Forman and Chase are leaving with files and papers – ready to fulfil their duties. She has not heard what her task is. She will have to catch up to Chase and ask him. She stands and frantically gathers her effects.
'Cameron,' his low, gruff voice stops her.
They are alone in the room.
She looks at him. Sure enough, he is staring – burning her skin with his penetrating gaze.
'Is that all you're having for lunch?' he asks, eyeing the plastic container in her hand.
What? Why is he asking me this?
It takes a moment for her to respond.
'Ah, I don't have time…' she says.
This is a lie. Fact is, this is all she will allow herself to have.
'Then take some time,' he says, standing and moving to the door of his adjoining office, 'go to the cafeteria and get yourself a burger or something. I don't want my Immunologist wasting away…'
'I'll be fine,' she says.
'I'm serious,' he says, his voice changing.
For a moment she detects something genuine. Concern?
'Don't worry, I'll cover you… I'll tell Chase and Forman you've got women's troubles…' he says, returning to his usual sarcasm so abruptly that she doubts she had detected something softer in his expression.
He turns from her and enters his office. She watches him sit in his chair and open a draw – removing his Gameboy.
As she walks away down the hall, she succumbs to her usual routine. She over-analyses every one of her encounters with him. This conversation will play throughout her mind for the remainder of the day.
She realises that she hadn't heard the designation of her task, because she hadn't been designated one.
He has given her a break. But why?