When I told my dad I wanted a summer job, this definitely wasn't what I had in mind. If I have to clean up any more bodily fluids, I may just add to them myself. I stop, drop the mop back into the bucket and move to the door, not caring as I hear the handle hit the wall of the cell. Outside in the corridor I slump against the wall, one hand clutching my churning stomach and the other pressed against my clammy forehead as I struggle to hold onto my breakfast.
"What's up, Cullen?" A smirking police officer stalks past, apparently unaffected by the vile stench emitting from the cell behind me. "Not up to the job after all?"
I glare at him, not trusting myself to answer in case I get myself into trouble. "You're not going to pass out, are you? I'd hate to have to call your old man out to you on your second day in the job."
I wonder again about my father's motives for finding me a job at the police station of all places. I'm not convinced it was purely out of convenience, despite the fact he's the new on-call police doctor.
The officer chuckles loudly and the burning heat of my anger rises. My automatic response gives me the answer. I guess I knew all along.
Anywhere else, anybody else, I'd have them laid out at my feet by now. But not in a police station, and not a police officer. And definitely not in Forks, because Forks is our new start. We can be whoever we want to be.
Or rather, we can be whoever my dad wants us to be. Apparently my opinions are moot.
The asshole officer turns the corner and disappears from view, taking a chunk of my dignity with him.
With a sigh, I put my head down and walk back into the cell to finish up. I mis-time the deep breath I take to brace myself, instead filling my nose with the smell of feces and vomit that festers in the small space. Retching noisily, I double over and puke all over the floor, feeling it spatter over my pants and shoes. There's no let-up as my body is wracked with violent waves as my stomach contracts over and over, until all it produces is bile, burning my throat as it travels up and out of my body.
I stagger from the room, gasping for breath and swiping at my streaming eyes. The bathroom is down the hall, around a corner and through a security door. I'm more than grateful to make it the whole way without seeing another person. I only breathe normally again once I'm through the door, bent over the washbasin and splashing cold water from the faucet onto the heated skin of my face.
"Fuck!" I jump a foot in the air as I raise my wet face to the mirror, and catch the image of a girl standing behind me. She smirks and brushes past me, turning the water on in the washbasin next to mine.
"Sorry. The ladies' bathroom is out of order."
I wipe my hand down my face, and then onto my t-shirt as I turn and stare at the girl. She's around my age and not what I'd expect to see in the men's room at the police station. I try not to stare, but my eyes flit traitorously over her. She's a lot shorter than me and dressed casually, her jeans clinging to her slim figure. I notice the water makes dark splashes against the blue of her t-shirt, and her chucks squeak on the tiled floor as she turns to grab a paper towel from the holder on the wall. I'm not the kind of guy who notices details, and the fact these tiny things leap out at me from her makes something inside me dance a little. The feeling makes me uneasy.
She raises her eyebrows as I lean back on the sink and brazenly watch her walk past me to the exit. She's pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way, her long brown hair hanging loose around the fair skin of her face. Her eyes are dark like her hair, and as she looks back at me, I see something familiar about them that's so unexpected it makes my knees buckle and I have to catch hold of the cold, white sink to stop myself from hitting the ground.
"Hey, are you ok?" The girl steps toward me, her hand reaching forward. I glance down, seeing nothing but her chipped nail polish, a different colour on each finger.
"Are you sure? You look kind of pale." She tilts her head to one side as she peers at me more closely. Her right hand snakes over and behind her head, hooking her hair and pulling it so it all lies over her right shoulder, and I glimpse a flash of ink behind her ear.
"You have a butterfly tattoo."
She smiles self-consciously and reaches up to touch it. I know her eyes are on me, but mine are on her fingers.
"Yeah, me and half the inked female population."
"It wasn't a criticism."
"I don't really care either way."
I believe her; her face is passive. Even the tight concern she'd regarded me with earlier when I almost collapsed, has faded. "Well, if you're sure you're okay…" She gestures toward the door, taking a step back, putting space between us.
"I'll be fine," I say. I don't go so far as to tell her I am fine, because that would be a lie.
She turns and leaves, letting the door bang shut behind her.
I only realize how uptight the interaction has made me, when the tension ups and leaves my body in one huge wave, giving me cause to grip the washbasin for balance once again. Seriously, the last half hour has me feeling closer to seventy than seventeen. I avoid looking in the mirror again for fear of seeing yet another ghost lurking there.
After a moment or two I feel steady enough to stand unaided, and I leave the bathroom to make my way to the office, ready to throw in the towel. I don't care about the consequences; the anger from my father I know this will ignite, there's nothing in this world that will keep me mopping up that shit - and I use the term in its literal sense - for one more second.
"Something I can do for you, son?"
I have no idea what makes me hesitate. It could be the tone that melts around the desk sergeant's words, making them soft and easy, or the kind look on the weathered face that regards me from beneath thick gray eyebrows. Maybe it's the sudden pang of fear when my father's face flashes briefly through my head. Whatever, I pause and glance around, suddenly nervy. That's when I see her again, through the viewing window. She's in the chief's office, sitting on his desk with her feet on his empty chair, swinging the seat left and then right, over and over. Her head is back as she stares up at the ceiling, brown hair trailing down behind her, and the ink of her butterfly on show again, a dark figure, impossible to make out from this distance, against her skin.
A raised voice startles me. I'd been so focused on the girl, I hadn't even noticed Chief Swan standing in the corner of his office, hands on hips, until he yelled at her. He's pacing now. Whatever's going on, he's not happy.
I recognize the scene all too well, it plays out in my house all the time since Alice…
I'm slower than usual at blocking the thought. This day is fucking with my head; my defenses are down.
The sergeant is watching me when I turn back to him; a good-natured, yet knowing, smile on his face.
"The chief's daughter," he tells me. He serves his words with a side of warning. A small, delicate portion, but I can taste it all the same.
I turn, glancing back at her more than once as I head back to my cleaning job.
"Was there something you needed?" the sergeant calls after me.
I don't even bother to look at him.
"Never mind," I call back.