"Maybe it's a sign of weakness when I don't know what to say" - We Belong, Pat Benatar
The desk had felt familiar, and the familiarity had lingered in her fingertips, trickling into the palms of her hands with the consistency of slowly falling rain. If she brought her hands together now the residue from one would transfer to the other and were she to possess enough strength (she did; she thought she did) to look down at her palms she would see the expanse of decade upon decade spread out against the map of her own skin, a detailed account of her life playing across the imperfections, indentations and lines which came from age. To anyone else they would appear to be nothing more than hands, but to her, there was so much more.
She had stayed there at the desk for almost forty-five minutes, situating pens, papers, computer wires, photo frames and other things into their proper places, not where they had been on her previous desk, the one now covered in blood and impossibly destroyed, but where she had kept them once upon a school day ago, where the sun had shone brighter against navy blue and gold and had almost seemed to reflect, and the future had been thrilling because then it was a blank sheet of parchment paper and she held all of the markers in bright, brilliant colors, some of which she had never seen before, and there was no limit to what she could create with them.
The bright colors had come to follow her in a soft, blended train, a rainbow of memories visible only to her mind's own eye, but the smile on her lips, tucked into the corner of her mouth like a whispered secret, turned more than one curious head and sparked more than one blossoming rumor of a conversation. Instead of stopping to diffuse it with a sharp glare or dagger-filled remark she took a breath and a chance and let them have their fun, let the rumors run wild because for right now, the colors were too bright to be diffused or diluted by questions.
In the elevator there was no time in which to think, not because she didn't need to but because the ride was short, shorter than it had seemed to be in the past, and when the doors opened she swore the colors in the glass-reflecting corridor were brighter than they had been two hours ago, the last time she had seen them. The floor might have seemed different, too, had she stopped to look down at it but her eyes were fixed on the glint of one glass wall at the end of the hallway.
What she would say had become irrelevant, because she knew where it would begin and from there it would fall into place, one color at a time. Thinking in words was one way to approach a diagnosis and a proposal for a new endocrinology department, but thinking in colors was a better way right now because colors could be seen and felt, and their warmth carried on what seemed to be a bit longer. Cuddy had experienced a long, dry spell of emptiness when no touching words had come to her and in the back of her mind she recognized the possibility words would be a better way to think in, but for now she was holding on to the colors.
The glass of the doors and office reflected a slight image of her own face back at her and because of that small convenience a dozen or so offices in the whole hospital had to call their own she was able to see the smile on her own face the way others must have seen it, young and filled with hope and words which were meant for warmer times than the New Jersey weather outside. She could see that reflection, and then the way it changed to a startled, then pained mask not grotesque but something that she never wanted to see again.
Now the only color she could see was blonde, a shade of blonde which was not found in nature because cosmetic companies thought it better to create new colors instead of try to enhance ones already found. Blonde came attached to what appeared to be an artificial shade of coloring to the skin and a smile too white to be made without other assistance - everything about this was false - but his smile wasn't, and neither was his laugh.
The world changed to shades of gray and the words she had been ready to speak stopped somewhere in her throat, close to choking her with their sudden presence, and in that moment she lost all grasp on what she had been wanting to say. The words disappeared, down some fleeting cavern of memory and with them went the colors, and now there burned the question as to whether or not they would ever come back again.
The hallway swallowed up the echoing of her footsteps, faster now, chasing her, and she let herself run the last few steps to the elevator because if the echo didn't reach her ears then she could pretend she hadn't seen it.
At least, she could for now.
Muse: Dr. Lisa Cuddy
Word Count: 863