Happiest of happy birthdays to the wonderful musesfool, who, aside from being an extraordinary writer, manages to be both passionate and clear-eyed, which is a combination of traits I admire immensely. Honey, I hope this works for you. (Title from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.)
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Her skin prickles with the heat - July in Delhi is no joke without air-conditioning - and she brushes away beads of sweat that feel like tiny dancing insects as she crouches down to examine the spines of the book in the overcrowded bookshelf. Only one row has titles in English, and of those, there are only five that don't look like books bought for school assignments - Hardy, Dickens, things like that. She pulls a cheap-looking paperback off the shelf to make out the faded lettering on the spine. Complete Sherlock Holmes, it says, and she grumbles a sigh. It's better than nothing, if she has to sit here and wait for her cousins to get back from school.
She sits on the thin mattress of the tiny bed that is hers for two weeks every year and opens the wilted book. The pages are rough beneath her fingers, and more than once condensation from her bottle of boiled water dots the paper and blurs the words. Sherlock Holmes has black hair, just like her. He's kind of a jerk, but he's got the brains to back it up, and he never backs down.
She's startled by a hand smoothing her hair back in a familiar gesture. Her grandmother is looking down at her, asking a question. About the only word she understands is beti, girl-child, and she wishes people would remember that she doesn't speak Hindi, that no one in Ohio except for her parents speaks Hindi. But it's pretty clear what she's being asked, so she holds up the book with an apologetic smile and says, "Sherlock Holmes."
All she's expecting is a grandmotherly nod, maybe a harmless scolding for having skipped lunch in favor of holing herself up in this dim, warm bedroom, so she's surprised when her grandmother smiles widely and beckons for her to get off the bed and follow. She keeps the book in her hand, one stubborn finger marking her place, in case this is yet another attempt at a bonding session, pointless because her grandmother doesn't speak English.
It seems wrong that she's already the same height as her grandmother. She follows dutifully, down the worn steps and into the downstairs bedroom her grandparents use. Her grandmother takes a small metal lockbox out of one of the cabinets that run floor to ceiling along one wall; the scent of the little sachets that perfume the heavy stacks of silk saris reaches out to tickle Kalinda's nose. The box goes on the bed, and she inches closer, wondering what's inside. She's heard about her grandmother's jewelry, gold that not even her mother's can match and waits for her grandmother to pull the heavy chain from where it's pooled inside her sari blouse and locate the key.
Instead, she gets another surprising smile, and her grandmother reaches up to the bun that has always rested at the nape of her neck and pulls free an ancient-looking slade pin. This close, she can see her grandmother's skin is papery and dry, untouched by sweat. Her grandmother's hands are wrinkled, but still steady as she inserts one end of the pin into the lock. In less than a minute, Kalinda can hear the click, but her grandmother doesn't open the box. She sets the lock and hands Kalinda the pin, and Kalinda gets a smile of her own.
It's too loud to hear anything the girl is saying, but the strobe lights are bright enough to make out the curve of lips, the flick of tongue, and it looks like the girl is saying Lara.
She could be a Lara, pretty with her long, narrow, ice-blue eyes, long and slender limbs balanced on the delicate spikes of stiletto heels. She kisses like no one Kalinda's reached up to kiss before, a melting mouth hot beneath the ice still on her tongue. She tastes like mint, like a mojito, and her hair is feathering against Kalinda's face.
Kalinda's back hits the wall, and in this moment, music pounding through her, another tongue dancing with hers, it feels like she's riding the best sugar high of her life.
She pushes her hips into Lara's and keeps the party going.
The day before her interview at the state's attorney's office, the heel of one of her bargain-basement plain black pumps snaps off. She's never liked those shoes, but there's nothing else in her closet she can wear with her slim-fitted light-grey pantsuit and wine-colored blouse. That outfit has seen her through a dozen interviews already.
Maybe the whole outfit should be retired, she thinks as she eyes a killer pair of black leather boots; it's not like it's brought her any luck so far. Fuck it, she thinks as the guy behind the counter rings up the boots and leers in a disarmingly friendly way at her. So she'll be eating off the dollar menu for the foreseeable future. At least she'll look the way she feels, instead of like someone preparing to sell Tupperware door to door.
She gets more than a few raised eyebrows when she walks in, right on time, in her short skirt and boots, and Kalinda just smiles inwardly and saves her energy for the people who could decide her future.
She lets her smile show - barely, just a quirk at the corners of her mouth - when she realizes how easy it is to read office politics just by the way she's handed from person to person, by who makes time to actually listen to her answers, by who keeps an eye on the clock. It's not her dream job, but she can see that she'd be kept busy, in this industrious hive of workers; she could make this work.
And then there he is, Peter Florrick, authority written over every inch of him, and his eyes drop from hers to her skirt and boots unapologetically. He clearly likes to look, likes what his place has granted him, and she knows better than to read invitation in his gaze. No one's filed a sexual harassment charge against him; he must have his appetites under control.
She's not going to change for anybody. The boots give her extra height, but the sway of her hips as she leaves is all her.
She pins up her hair, securing the twists with three slim slade pins. She pulls on her boots.
She's ready to face the day. Such simple steps, an endlessly repeatable magic spell. She locks the door behind her.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.