The door pulled open, and she was instantly sent into the past within her own memories. The building hadn’t changed in her seven-year absence. Instead, it seemed almost petrified in time. The air was still stale and hard to breathe. The rancid scent of the chemicals that were kept on the third floor still seemed to permeate through the building as it did so many years ago when she belonged in a different lifetime. Now she was nothing more than a novelty for the brass that she had impressed so easily back then.
She couldn’t go into the field now. She was shellshocked, and she had a few other reasons that she couldn’t be deployed anymore. She was now more of a pawn for them instead of the shining star she once was before life got in her way. No one begrudged her for her life’s decisions, but at the same time, they didn’t know what to do with her either. So they sent her back to the beginning hoping that she could be a spark for some other willing student who could fulfill her promise and destiny.
She knew that was what she was supposed to do at least. It was what they wanted her to do. She had other ideas. She was going to make sure the next genius they picked knew the risks. The damage it did to you. She wanted to save someone else the heartache of everything she had gone through and the very real consequences she had now. She loved her job, she repeated over and over as she carried the box to the back hallway where the instructors offices were kept. She had to swipe her ID card for the double doors to open. Again she was lost in her memories of this hallway and the meetings she had so many years prior as she made her way down the hall looking for her own name on the wall by a door.
“Can I help you?” A voice asked from behind her.
“Looking for my office.” She said politely as she turned around.
“And you are?” He prompted.
“Dr. Coleman.” She replied.
“You’re doctor Coleman?” He asked as his golden-brown eyes lit up for a second.
“That would be me.” She said, “I would shake your hand, but the box is in the way.” She flashed a smile at the man.
“Let me help you.” He said as he stepped forward and took the box from her arms, “Your office is the last one down the hall.”
“Thank you.” She replied as they started down the hallway together. She knew he was trying to read her as they walked in silence.
“What brings you to a place like this?” He asked.
“Brass thought I would be able to find my replacement.” She said with a small chuckle.
“Excuse me?” He asked.
“The brass invested a lot of effort in me. Unfortunately, I can’t go into the field or be deployed anymore, so they have little use for me personally anymore. They stuck me here for two reasons to be punished in a way and to find the next me.” She replied as they neared the end of the hall.
“Are you always so blunt?” He asked.
“One thing this job taught me was to be a realist. I lost all my dreams of a normal life when I took it.” She said.
“How pragmatic of you.” He chuckled. “This is it.” Standing beside the open door that had been opened that morning to be aired out he waited for her to go into the empty space.
“Has this even been used since Howell had it?” She asked.
“Not sure who Howell was, but it hasn’t been used in about five years since I’ve been here.” He laughed.
“Nice to know they stick me in the farthest most unused place.” She said as she looked up to find him smirking. “What?”
“Well it seems to fit you. A hole in the wall for a little mouse.” He said with laughing eyes.
“I don’t even have a desk in here.” She sighed. “I thought they would at least have things ready for me to move in.”
“Ah, the brass would do something like this.” He said. He went towards the door as he placed her box on the floor.
“I didn’t get your name.” She said suddenly.
“It’s Akechi, mouse.” He smirked at her. “I will be back in a moment. I am going to call maintenance to get them down here for at least a chair.”
“Thank you.” She smiled as he walked out.
He called out from the hallway, “It is the least I could do for my neighbor.”
She had to look at the figure leaving her empty office. He didn’t know who she was, she had to smile at that. He wasn’t that bad to look at either. As she walked around the office opening the windows to let the mustiness of the room escape. It looked like the office hadn’t been used since she remembered sitting in it as a student in the building. She had been destined for greater things, or so they all thought. Unfortunately the reality of her situation had been something no one had seen including her but as she rolled with the punches like the waves. She looked down at her watch, and she knew she had a few more minutes before she had to leave.
She could hear the man speaking threw the open window in the office next door. He must have hung up the phone as she could now hear his boots trudging back down the hall.
“They will have a desk, chair, and shelves in here tomorrow morning.” He said as he walked in and saw her standing by the doorway.
“Thank you.” She replied. “How come you are the only one here?”
“It is stand down between courses.” He said. “The rest show up for muster but then leave. I am rewriting my course, so I stay a little later.”
“What exactly do you teach?” She asked as she tilted her head to look at him.
“Forensic interrogation.” He replied.
“Oh.” She said as she looked at him again. He did have that hard edge that the interrogators had that she had met beforehand. Still new at this whole idea of teaching she wondered if she could get some tips from him, though at the moment her watch started dinging to alert her that she needed to go. “Thank you for the help.”
“Leaving so soon mouse?” He asked.
“I have to.” She smiled as she grabbed her bag that she had tossed into the box before bringing it into the building.
“I will lock it for you as you don’t have your key yet. All the locks are the same, but I don’t believe we are supposed to know that. Probably budget cuts.” He said as he waved her off. “See you tomorrow mouse.”
“Goodnight Akechi.” She said as she made her way through the hallways again. For now it was good enough to have found the office. Tomorrow her life would change and become something different from what she was, tomorrow could wait for a bit.
Her life was nothing like she had planned out it. She went from being the premier to the barely thought of, this transfer wasn’t a promotion it was a step-down. A peace offering to keep her right there and under their thumbs but also out of their hair. She couldn’t go back into the field at all now. However she knew too much and had to be kept close enough to be watched. As she drove home she wondered about her newest place and if she would enjoy it. She didn’t enjoy all that much these days. She knew she had to let go and accept her decisions for what they were. They were her own.
She pulled up I to the driveway of the adobe-style house as the older woman walked out and leveled a look at her with a tiny toddler attached to her side.
“You’re late.” The older woman said.
“No I’m not.” She replied as she looked at the time again.
“You should spend more time at home child!” The older woman said sternly.
“I have to pay the bills, Juanita.” She said as she reached for the toddler who squeezed into her as his chubby arms wrapped around her neck. “And how is my little guy today?”
“Mommy!” He said proudly.
“His fever is gone,” Juanita said as she walked back into the house.
“Thank you, Juanita. Same time tomorrow please.” She said as she walked in behind her as she gathered her things and she bent down to kiss the boys cheek and pat her on the back.
“You need a man to take care of you,” Juanita said as she cupped the younger woman’s cheek. “One that will teach him how to be a man.”
“Thanks Jaunita.” She said softly. A man, she thought as she watched the older woman leave. A man didn’t help her when she was alone and pregnant. A man didn’t help her as she had her baby alone. She didn’t need a man. Though she did miss having one around. She was still bitter about being traded in for a newer model. That had stung more than anything. That hurt more than him denying their son was his. The son he said he wanted to have with her. She was hurt. She honestly didn’t know if that hurt would ever go away.
She had resented her own son for a long time until one day she had realized it wasn’t the child’s fault his father was a prick. When people had commented on the boys looks she would smile and nod. Her son was different but beautiful in his own way. Every other child was the same, but she wondered if this was her punishment in a way for dropping her guard and letting the pathological liar in.
“Mommy!” The boy said again as she stood there holding him.
“Yes Josh?” She asked as she looked at the boy in her arms.
“Juany go bye-bye,” Josh said, and she smiled. He was now two and had begun forming real words. She had been so proud of him.
“Juanita had to go to her home, Josh. She will be back tomorrow. Mommy will take you to the park if you are feeling good. I will when I get home from work.” She smiled at the boy as she put him down on the ground. He toddled off towards the main living area where his toys were scattered throughout the room. He plopped down and began playing as she looked and saw Juanita had already made dinner and his area was messy, so he already ate. She looked at the clock, and it was nearly seven already. It had been a long day.
“Come on Josh time for a bath and then night.” She said as she went to pick the boy up and carried him to the bathtub and ran the water to the boys delight. This was the best part of her day.
Soon the lights were off, and she was going down the stairs, and she curled up on the couch and began to drift off herself.
A man, she thought again, what a joke, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either.