smudge

pg | no warnings apply

The squeaking drew his attention. Not quite mouse-like, oddly familiar. Turning into the dark room, he found her at the white board, rubbing the eraser against it repeatedly. As he drew closer, he saw smudges of black ink, stubbornly clinging to the surface, fighting against every pass she made.

He came up behind her, gently holding her wrist, stilling her movements. His chest was flush with her back, his nose dangerously close to her hair. The skin of her neck -

(it tastes like salt and coffee and vanilla)

- practically begged to be touched. She turned her head just slightly, although he knew that she was aware of who had stopped her the minute he made contact.

"It's a new e-e-eraser," she stammered, her voice half-broken. "And a new marker. It's been up for too long. It's been up for too long."

"Get a wet paper towel," he murmured. "You know that'll take it off easily."

She nodded; of course, she knew that, but it didn't seem right to him that 142 hours of work could be so easily erased, and he was sure she felt the same way. Even now, with most of the scribbling gone, he could make out words. Fight. Car found. 911 call. Husband. Alibi. She had seemed defeated last night -

(when he drove into her, trying to make them both forget)

- but she was devastated now. The tear tracks on her cheeks were evident; he imagined the only reason she wasn't crying now was because she had exhausted her reserves in the bathroom earlier.

"I can't do this," she said softly, and he wasn't sure if she meant the job or the ... whatever they were doing. "And don't tell me that I'm not supposed to get used to it or that I wouldn't be human if I wasn't affected or that I did all I could."

"Okay," he said, in the absence of knowing what to say.

"What kind of man would do that to his -"

(wife)

"- daughter?"

She took down the picture, barely-shaking fingers tracing the outline of a dead woman's face. Her shoulders were heaving, but the tears didn't fall. "I was ... upset. Last night."

(he didn't know why he assumed sex would have made them feel better)

"Yeah. We both were. It's been a hard case."

She nodded, stepping away from him. "I'm going to go get a paper towel."

"Sure."

(it was never going to go anywhere anyway)

(fin.)