Don’t mess up.
I chant as my surgical knife slices a tiny portion of the sample I picked up the other day and I move it to the test tube filled with hydrochloric acid slowly, before dropping it and watching the microfiber light up like a lit splint in a matter of seconds. A shy smile spans across my lips as I jot down the positive results of my hypothesis, thus proving that this was indeed human hair. I place the specimen I used back in its case and place it somewhere I’m sure I’ll be able to find it when I run a microfiber hair analysis.
One thing worried me though, the strand wasn’t long enough for a successful test but I needed to store the data electronically into all security databases in case the killer decides to strike again and his DNA is tested somewhere else.
Two hurried figures dash outside the laboratory’s blurry glass doors and I’m stunned to see a grinning Nathaniel with a panicked Walter right behind him. I gawk awkwardly at the two; the lab is my sanctuary and having someone who clearly doesn’t belong here barge in makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I attain a professional stance before excusing me and my guests outside the lab.
“Alright,” I mumble tugging my face mask and latex gloves off before tossing them into my pocket “why did I have to be interrupted while I was working?”
“I tried to stop him Jae but then he flashed his badge -” Nathaniel interjects with a tedious tone.
“I was merely showing everyone that I should be respected,”
“More like you were abusing the authority role you were given and using it to your leisure.”
Nathaniel shrugs with a snort and wink, “guilty as charged. You want the handcuffs too?”
My lips twitch into a smirk and I turn to Walter, “I’ll take it from here boo.”
Walter backs away from us slowly before glaring at Nathaniel menacingly and plunging two crow eyes in his direction, “I’ve got my eyes on you.”
Nathaniel merely laughs off Walter’s comment and shifts to me. His copper-sandy-blonde hybrid hair is slicked back today and a inking etched on his neck catches my attention. I’ve always found tattoos attractive but I could never get one. Creativity has never been my thing and it’s more of Mona’s thing - whose body is littered with them.
“Take a picture, it lasts longer.” Nathaniel offers cheekily with a wide smile and I can’t help the one spreading across my face.
“What do you want Nathan?”
“I need to talk to you about something serious.”
As if I’m already programmed I shoot at him and quite impressively may I add, “Blair Avery Armel is twenty-two and single. She enjoys long walks to the fridge and tickling unhappy puppies. No, her boobs are not fake, and yes, red is her natural hair color. Anything else you’d like to know about the future bearer of your children?”
Nathaniel, who obviously isn’t impressed with my response, smiles wryly at me before clearing his throat, “are you quite finished here?”
I take a quick glance into the lab and nod, I’ve done the majority of the work, and a hair analysis test is all I have left to do, “yes but -”
My speech is cut short once Nathaniel’s hand cuffs my wrists and he tugs me behind his quick pace. I tried to protest but being dragged by a 5′9 male through a laboratory building makes talking quite a task. Nathaniel is built, no lie. I’m not skinny but Nathaniel must be lifting weights pretty well because he makes me look like a paperweight compared to my actual weight.
Finally, we reach the newly-opened cafe on the balcony of the office building and I’m not a happy tropper. I yank my dainty wrist from his hand before mustering a bitter scowl, which didn’t have any effect on him at all because his pearly whites were in my full view.
“What did you call that back there? Huh? Trying to get me fired or something?”
“I just really needed to talk to you about something.”
“Something? I gave you the basics of what you needed to know so you could ask Blair out.”
“Y’know, the whole lisp thing gets me distracted and I’m getting aroused instead of feeling guilty.”
My eyes bulge out of my socket and I choke on my spit. Instantaneously, I start coughing vigorously and a smooth hand skims my back before pulling away as if it’s just been burnt. I finally recuperate and his wide smirk tells me he’s already concluded me.
“Prudish?” Nathaniel grins with heated chocolate eyes “cute.”
“Please just tell me what you want.”
He gazes at his Rolex watch briefly before smiling, “Lunch. I want lunch and I’ll be paying.”
I couldn’t say no to free food and it was basically lunch but what motives did Nathaniel have? Reluctantly, I agreed to lunch.
“I’ll have two extra large red velvet cupcakes and a café latté.”
“With cream cheese icing or the complimentary jam?”
“Both.” My taste buds were about to be in ecstasy in a few minutes.
“And you sir?”
“Just coffee and a salad.”
“Black or white?”
“Swirl,” Nathaniel adds cheekily and something about that word - oh god! Heavens! He couldn’t possibly be insinuating - no! Nope! “Kidding, just black.”
After the waitress left, I picked at my lab coat while stealing a few glances of Nathaniel. Finally, after meeting his gaze for the sixth time since we’ve sat down I spoke up, “you do know that by ordering a salad and coffee whereas I ordered calories on calories makes me feel large, right?”
"My apologies,” my eyes find his tattoo once again but I can’t cast it as English “why haven’t you called me though? Am I that ugly?”
“Heavens no!” I panic shaking my head “I mean...look at you.”
“What about me?”
“You look straight out Cosmopolitan magazine.”
And the smirk is back on full display, “are you telling me that you’ve been reading that magazine? Oh Jaenelle Marks, how filthy could you be though?”
“Besides, your type is more Blair - how do you know my last name?”
I couldn’t see any change of demeanor nor facial structure as he admitted this, “your sister. Ramona Marks has even written one of her songs about you. I mean, after Blair gave me your name everything pieced itself together like a jigsaw puzzle.”
I was bored out of my wits and I hated Rapture, the song Mona wrote for me. It explained how toxic our relationship was yet I was the only angel to redeem her from her demons. I don’t know if it’s due to the fact that I don’t possess creative intellect but I could never understand the metaphors she used. Just like comparing our relationship directly to a pendulum, I could never understand that metaphor.
“You don’t seem keen on talking about Mona and the black Vinyl.”
Her band, I despised her band.
“I’m not,” and the sweet scent of our food arrives.
“Why not?” Nathaniel probes further.
“I wish she would do something more practical, y’know? She could’ve been a successful businesswoman yet she decided to chase the wild dream.”
“You’re so different from your sister,” Nathaniel muses quietly while his eyes train on me “you’re more about being grounded, quiet and working hard whereas she wants to be known, she wants to make her mark.”
I chew slowly at his deep revelation, “and how would you know Mona?”
“Interviews.” He dismisses and we eat in silence thereafter. I don’t hate Ramona, absolutely not because she’s my blood sister but I just hate her decisions. Yes, academics weren’t exactly her strongest point but she was creative and she could’ve created a successful business.
I made a quick decision as I awaited Nathaniel to finish his small meal. I haul out my iPhone from my lab pocket and call Nathaniel - whose number may or may have not been saved on my phone. The phone buzzes in his blazer and I end the call with a small smile, “now you can call me or am I that ugly?” I mock him with a snort.
“Seriously, we’ve got to stop meeting like this,” Nathaniel rolls his eyes dramatically as he joins me on our run.
Nathaniel and I have built quite a refreshing friendship this past week. We’re almost always together due to the cases and our jogging sessions three times a week. Nathaniel is lightweight, adorable and quite the charmer - just not my type of guy.
I love all men entirely. I’ve been able to capture beautiful, dark, tall and handsome black men even though I wasn’t aware that I had it in me. Indian men would shoot me a wink and that is also enough to fuel my scorching yet minimal flirting abilities. Semitic men found the mocha tone of my skin enticing and enrapturing and I always failed at projecting my attraction without coming across as juvenile.
Caucasians are my hardest to approach.
They are attracted to slim, athletic figures and I was nowhere there, no matter how much I jog. My exercise regime even cost me my chest, the reason why I look like a pubescent teen with mosquito bite breasts. My bottom half is African, no doubt but I just wish the same could apply to my chest.
“Very funny Nat.” We went from Nathaniel, Nathan to Nat. Just Nat.
Sabrina’s yeah yeah blares in his back pocket and we slow down so he could attend to his phone. I tried to hide my smile, Sabrina is his ringtone and Nat is Italian - how cliché. Nathaniel backs away from me momentarily while enunciating the sexy language on the phone, however this time he was more tensed. Eventually, before ending the call, he submitted and his tone became softer.
“Anything the matter?” I ask stretching my legs I lunge around the park bench.
“Do you mind if we reschedule?”
I shoot him an incredulous look, “we’ve barely covered a block.”
“I know,” he rubs his neck awkwardly before advancing towards me “I’m sorry caro.”
And he was gone with the wind and all I had was the fiery feeling of his lips on my cheek.
I did do something wrong, right? I was probably too fast and he felt pressurized to agreeing to whatever I suggested because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Who was I to suggest jogging sessions three times a week? I should’ve probably lowered the bar to at least one jog together a week, then he would’ve felt comfortable with me being in his personal space.
God, I’m horrid human being, aren’t I?
The screen of my phone lights up and swiftly, I swipe the screen and place it on my ear. There’s a slight rustle in the distance and the background is filled with cheers.
"Uh...Jae," my heart constricts in my chest once I hear her rugged voice ”I need your help. Please just...please come get me."
“Where are you?” I ask her while grabbing the car keys of my beat up purple Beetle and my bunny slippers “Mona, tell me where you are?”
"Jae," tremors evident in her soft, sweet voice ”Jae, I’m scared."
“Mona!” I panic jugging the key into the old keyhole before giving up “tell me where you at and I’ll come get you, okay?”
A deep voice warns Mona off the phone and my heartbeat increases rapidly ”Destiny Arch. Jae, just come get me."
Destiny Arch, that’s like half an hour away from where I am, “I will okay? Stay put.”
I’ve never raced this much for anything in my life, ever. The tears lining my eyelids casted the flashing lights as blurry stars but I couldn’t care less about speeding tickets at the moment. I swerved, swayed and veered but I didn’t step on the brakes, I couldn’t bring myself to fail my sister and not help her.
Dozens of cars littered the parking lot so I thought fast and parked in front of another car, a black sleek Porsche. The harsh smell of alcohol, sweat and marijuana burned my nostrils as soon as I marched in and it was not a sweet combination. I pushed through the sweaty throng of bodies swaying to Lucifer’s loud tune on the dance floor until a harsh sting resonated on my body before transitioning into a harsh grip. Without thinking, my arm juts into the crowned jewels of the person who has attained the harsh grip on my arse and I feel the grip loosening, freeing me of this hell.
I approach a big burly man with skin the colour of night and beady dark eyes, “I need to get in there.”
“Only VIPs are allowed ma’am.” he dismisses flatly.
“My sister, Ramona...she’s in there!” I panic, pointing to the passage that is decorated in red draping and dark figures probably engaging in acts no eyes should witness unless it’s porn.
“VIPs only.” He dismisses once again and I sigh in frustration because he just added fuel to my burning inferno.
Raucously, I ram my slipper-clad foot into his crotch and while he’s doubling over, I sprint in. Sexual angst, desire and pure lust reek from this passage and the music is now softer and lower. I hear the bouncer calling out for me but I ignore him and focus on my main objective, finding my sister. I split the dangling strips of diamonds apart and enter the room only to find a body contorted awkwardly on the plush carpet.
An inking on the female’s back catches my attention and I take to the body before rolling the cold cadaver over. Bile rises up my oesophagus when I find Mona staring blankly into the ceiling with a seven inch pipe stuck up her nasal cavity. Blood continues to flow from the fresh wound and the tears couldn’t stop flooding my cheeks.
“Mona!” I cry cradling her close to my body while brushing her perfect tresses out of her face “Mona! Wake up! Wake the bloody fúck up!”
Figures begin to charge into the small room and I hear quiet gasps accompanied with murmurs. I didn’t care that I was getting mucous on her perfect hair, or getting some of my tears on her eyes. I wasn’t quick enough. I wasn’t quick enough to save my sister and I failed immensely. I could’ve stepped on it sooner and quicker.
I hug my sister tightly while paramedics charged in and they begged me to let go of her cold comatose body. I refused to let her go. I even tried to do the heart palpation myself but I was pushed away from her.
I failed at being the angel to redeem her from her demons.
I failed to save Mona.