"Oh, my goodness! I can't breathe." Maya unbuttoned her pants and slouched down in her seat. "Thanks to y'all, none of my clothes fit."
"Good. It's great to see you developing some curves." Camille replied.
Maya gave her friend a snide look. "30 years post-puberty?"
Camille returned the sneer, "Better late than never."
Their student assistants looked from one Doctor to the other, then to each other with knowing glances.
"You look great to me, Doc." Joe piped up, then turned beet red when it dawned on him how inappropriate that sounded.
"I mean, you look really healthy. You know, your color is all rosy and all . . ."
Samuel placed his hand on his friend's shoulder, "Quit while you have some pride left."
Joe hung his head and wished he could crawl under the table until the rest of his co-workers left the pizza parlor.
"Come on guys, give him a break." Camille chided. "Let's get going. It'll be another long day tomorrow."
Everyone said their goodbyes and headed for their vehicles.
Camille put her key in the ignition of her rented Ford Focus to the sound of a dull click. She pumped the gas and tried again. . . click . . .
"Having technical difficulties?" Maya leaned against the driver's side door.
"Yeah. Can you give me a lift to my apartment? I'll call the rental office on my cell phone on the way. I'm too tired to sit here for hours waiting for a tow."
The two women had become closer over the last few weeks. They enjoyed working together and Camille was thrilled that Maya consented to joining the group for dinner after work nearly every evening. She loved seeing her relax and laugh and watching her gain a healthier appearance.
The drive was too short for Camille's liking, but they had indeed reached her apartment in just a few short minutes.
"Won't you come in for some wine, coffee, show you my etchings?" Camille wiggled her eyebrows in mock seduction.
Maya smiled and shook her head. "You are incorrigible. You know that?"
"I've heard I can be very . . . umm . . . shall we say, entertaining?"
"Don't forget humble." Maya proffered.
"Come on up. Don't you know you're supposed to escort a lady to her door?"
"Ok, but just to your door, then I'm gone."
"Just the door. Yes ma'am."
The friends walked up to the apartment door. Camille stepped in and turned, then leaned against the door frame. "Can I tempt you with a glass of wine?" The small woman looked longingly into deep blue eyes.
Maya grinned and leaned against the opposite side of the door frame. "How old are you?"
"Old enough." Camille evaded the question.
"The truth." The older woman insisted.
"28 last Christmas."
"You were some Christmas gift . . . I am 45 as of June 13th. Soooo, you can see the problem." Maya stated as if it should be clear.
"No, Maya, I don't. You are a beautiful woman." Camille pushed off from the door frame and stood barely two inches from her heart's desire. She reached up to gently rub Maya's right arm. "Why shouldn't we enjoy each other while I'm here? Who would care?"
"I would. I'm 17 years older than you and have lived my life. All I want is some peace now. I appreciate all you have tried to do to make this task less traumatizing for everyone. I've learned to enjoy myself with the kids we are working with. But, I don't want anymore baggage in my life . . ."
"Now, I'm baggage? Gee, thanks." Camille's neck was turning a deep red as her temper flared.
"I didn't mean that. . ." Maya back-pedaled.
"That's what you said. Is that how you see getting sexually involved with me? Tell me, Doctor, when was the last time you had a fulfilling sexual experience? What do you normally do, pick up some piece of meat at a girl bar? ‘Wham bam. Thank you, ma'am.' Is that your style?"
"You should stop before we don't have any friendship left." Maya growled.
Camille turned toward her empty apartment, taking deep breaths to get her
temper under control. "I'm sorry. I guess I don't
take rejection well. I just wanted you. I still do. I know
you have a lot of pain you keep compartmentalized so you can feel safe and
Maybe I'm a threat to your stability. Maybe you just don't want me."
"Camille, please don't do this. You are a beautiful, intelligent young woman with your whole life ahead of you, full of hopes and dreams. Any woman would be blessed to have you in their lives."
"But, not you?" Camille felt her eyes sting with unshed tears.
"I do have you in my life. We're friends. I share my work with you every day and a good laugh nearly every evening. That's enough for me." Maya replied, looking away from the young woman.
"It doesn't have to be. . . I'm sorry. I'll let it go. Just, forget this evening ever happened. I'll see you in the lab in the morning." Camille went to shut the door.
Maya held out her hand to stop the door from closing. "Don't you need a ride to work? You don't have a car, remember." Maya offered.
"No, thanks, Dr. Preston. I'll catch a ride from one of the students. Good night." With that, Camille shut the door without ever looking in her friend's sad blue eyes.
"Shit!" Maya walked to her car.
. . .
The atmosphere in the lab had been tense all day and Maya was getting a major headache.
"Whoa, Doc, look at this." Samuel held up a large white object.
Doctor Preston took the object from her student's hand and studied it under a free-standing magnifier. "I believe we have the tooth from a very large and ancient reptile, gentlemen, and lady. This victim had an unfortunate confrontation with an alligator and, from the size and wear on this tooth; it was between 10 and 14 feet long. I'm surprised there were any remains left for us to identify."
"Cool!" Joe exclaimed, bending over to study the tooth.
"Back to work, guys." Maya placed the tooth in a baggie and labeled it. Then, the team returned to their efforts.
Camille needed to get away from Maya for a few minutes and breathe some fresh air. "Hey, boss, I'm gonna take a break. Be back in fifteen minutes."
Maya didn't look up from her task. "Take your time."
. . .
"Dr. Preston? I need to show you the ID that came up for #3068." Danny called his boss over and whispered to her. "I think we have a problem with this system . . ."
The young doctoral student pointed to the computer screen.
"Oh shit!" Maya blurted out.
"Could that be a relative of Camille's? I mean, how many Marie Geaux's could there be?"
"Oh shit, shit, shit! Don't say anything, Danny. Let me tell her."
"Doctor Preston, I've found something in the body bag for #3068. I'm not sure what it is. It looks like a shark's tooth." Samuel cleaned the object, carefully, placed it in a baggie then handed it to the Doctor.
"It's a shark's tooth necklace. It belonged to Camille's mother. Look, guys, tell her to meet me at my car when she gets back. Don't say anything about our identification."
"What if she asks why?" Joe piped up.
"I don't care. Tell her I need her help with some confidential materials or something." Maya said, then placed the baggie in her lab coat pocket and quickly left for her car.
. . .
"Where are these ‘confidential' materials you needed my help with?" Camille asked, hands on hips.
"They're at the University. Hop in." Maya instructed.
"Yes, ma'am." Camille saluted and got in the BMW, looking away from her estranged friend.
"Hey, this isn't the way to the University. Where are we going?" Camille inquired with suspicion.
"You'll see when we get there. Can you be just a little patient?"
"I have work to do, Maya. What's this about?" Camille was getting more irritated by the mile.
The older woman pulled off into an area of City Park that looked deserted.
"Camille, I have something to tell you." Maya tried to find the right words.
"What could you possibly have to say to me that requires your abducting me?" Camille was totally flabbergasted.
"Camille, please, could you pretend you don't hate my guts for just a minute."
"Ok. You have one minute. Let's here it." Camille shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
"We got an ID today. We double checked and there was really no room for error." Maya reached into her lab coat pocket and fingered the baggie there.
Camille's heart sped up and she felt there wasn't enough air in the open convertible.
"It is your mother." Maya gently stated the fact as she handed the shark's tooth necklace to her friend, who slowly took it from her.
The older woman looked at her stricken friend, wondering what she could possibly do to help make the news easier.
"I knew they were dead, you know. I just kept hoping for a miracle. But, I guess there aren't any left to go around." Camille kept staring at the baggie in her trembling hand.
"I'm so sorry, Camille. Is there anything I can do?" Maya reached out and rubbed her friend's leg.
Camille shook her head, slowly. "I think I would like to take a walk." With that she got out of the car and headed into the woods.
Maya wasn't sure what she should do, but didn't want to leave her friend alone. She kept a respectful distance as she followed her through the trees. She stopped when Camille stopped and tried to stay inconspicuous.
She wasn't sure how far they were from the car when Camille let out a tormented wail and slid down a nearby tree to pound her fists into the ground.
Maya's heart broke for the grieving woman. She ran to Camille's side, took her into long arms and held her tight, making comforting sounds and kissing the blonde's head. The women stayed like that until Maya noticed the sun beginning to set. She helped her friend to stand and supported her to the car. Instead of returning to the lab, Maya called Joe and explained the situation. She drove Camille to her apartment and helped the emotionally exhausted woman wash up and crawl into bed.
"Don't leave me." Camille grasped for her friend.
"I'm not going anywhere. Just going to clean up a bit and I'll be right back." Maya made the decision to give her friend whatever she needed to get through this night. She went to the bathroom and freshened up. Returning to the bed, she removed her shoes and jeans and slid between the sheets in her t-shirt and panties. "Come here." Maya welcomed the exhausted young woman into her arms.
Camille laid her head on her friend's chest and listened to the erratic beat of her heart until she fell into a deep sleep.
Maya gently rubbed her friends back until sleep took them both. She was surprised at how right it felt to hold the young woman in her arms. She was nervous at first, but soon got past that and just enjoyed the closeness and the opportunity to give a little of herself of her own accord.
. . .
For the past 6 months she hadn't touched another woman; however, she'd
gotten to know herself very well. Maya grinned at the thought.
Perhaps it was time to move on. That thought filled her with guilt and prompted her to slide out from under Camille's dead weight, retrieve her clothes and escape to the kitchen to fix them both breakfast.
Camille awoke to the tempting aroma of eggs and sausage sizzling on the stove.
"Wow, she's not only beautiful, she can cook too." The disheveled woman walked up behind her friend, wrapped her arms around her and rested her head upon a slim back. "Morning."
Maya responded to the little woman's touch, feeling the warmth invade her entire being. "Morning. How do you feel this morning?"
"Better than I expected. Thank you for staying. I can't tell you how special you made me feel." Camille let her hands wander over a taught belly.
Maya felt the warmth heading to parts south. "I was glad I could be there for you. Let's eat." Maya pulled away from the wandering hands.
Camille noticed but felt she had made progress. After they finished clearing the dishes Maya decided it was time for her to go home and get ready for work. To her surprise Camille decided to clean up for work, too.
"You don't have to go to the lab today." Maya offered.
"I want to. More than ever I want to help identify these people and give their loved ones closure. I feel somehow freed. I don't know if I can explain it. . ."
"I think I understand. Well, then I'll pick you up in an hour."
"I'll be ready. And, Maya, thanks again. You've helped me more than you know." Camille impulsively hugged her friend and smiled when her hug was returned.
"I'm glad I could be there for you."
. . .
The team worked harder than ever, their spirits raised with every positive ID. Maya and Camille loved sharing their ideas and creativity. The process of reconstruction was not an exact science, but more of an art. They were pleased with the end results and were thrilled when the New Orleans Coroner's office called to tell them their efforts resulted in a positive identification.
Maya made a point not to miss any evening get-togethers and admitted she needed to go shopping for larger clothes.
"Can I come?" Camille asked, with enthusiasm.
"Shopping! I love to shop for clothes; especially, when I'm not the one paying."
"Are the shops open on Sunday? That's the only time we have off these days." Maya inquired of the group.
The young men all looked at each other and shrugged their collective shoulders. "Beats me, Doc. I'm not much of a clothes horse." Joe proffered. Danny was, but was too shy to say a word on the subject.
"Come on, Danny. I know you shop. You have great taste, by the way." Camille offered.
Danny turned beet red. "Thanks, Dr. Geaux."
"Oh please. . . the name is Camille. Now, where do I take my friend here for a hot pair of jeans?"
"Camille!" Maya balked.
. . .
"Those look very hot on you." Camille circled the embarrassed woman. "Mmmm, mmm. Maya, I do believe you have developed a nice arse."
"Is that your professional opinion, Doctor?" Maya teased.
"You bet your sweet arse, it is."
"You are terrible. You know that?" Maya blushed.
"It's just an objective observation, Doctor. This is, after all, what I've been highly trained to do." Camille grinned lasciviously.
Maya ignored her. "Now, I need some new t-shirts."
"Don't you ever wear anything other than t-shirts?"
"Not if I can avoid it."
The women browsed through the t-shirts, pulling out what interested them. Maya pulled out 2 white and 2 black t-shirts with short sleeves and thicker cotton to hide the fact she didn't wear the hated bra. Camille picked out t-shirts with sayings that tickled her.
"How do you like this one?" Camille held up a deep red t-shirt with a large Devil's tail and pitch-fork, that read "Red Hot". Isn't it the cutest?"
Maya's jaw dropped. "You must be kidding. I can't wear that to work."
Camille shook her head. "You gotta get a life."
Camille didn't notice the scowl on her friend's lovely face. Maya took her purchases up to the cashier without looking back.
"Hey, don't you want some more shirts?" Camille brought her choices up to the cashier.
"Put those back. I have no use for them."
"Come on, Maya, loosen up and have some fun." The petite woman goaded.
Maya turned toward her friend with a look that could melt glass. "That may be an appropriate style for your age, but not for mine. Please put it back."
Camille sighed in resignation. "All right. You win, as always."
The women brought the bags to the car. "You ready to get some lunch?" Camille asked.
Maya was still stoking her temper. "No. I'll drop you off at your apartment."
"Uh-huh. You are going to ruin our day, just like that?"
"I am not ruining our day. I just don't want to eat junk food and talk girl talk on my one day off."
"I just drive you nuts, don't I?" Camille grinned.
"You can be so irritating." Maya huffed.
. . .
Maya was resting with her feet up, reading the latest Harry Potter novel, when her cell phone rang. She looked at the caller ID before answering.
"Hey Frank, long time no bitch at." Maya chuckled.
"I want to let you know what a great job you and your team are doing. We just got another positive identification using your computer images. You and Camille have had more success than we hoped for. My only complaint is our time is almost up and we'll have to return you to Dean Connors."
"Afraid so, my friend. You have me for just 16 more days." Maya hadn't thought about that and was surprised at how disappointed she felt.
"I don't suppose you want your old job back? Sincerely, Maya, we need you." Frank had to ask.
"Frank, please don't. I'll do my best to accomplish as many identifications as possible with the time we have left. However, I'm not coming back home."
"Well, if you change your mind, you know my number. Sleep well, old girl."
"Thanks for calling, Frank, I think." Maya hung up, shook her head of the fleeting desire to continue their project, then went back to reading her novel.
Continued in Part 3 of Identity
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