Just lying there...
"This is how you found the place."
I nodded. In my throat was a knot, about as big as the one in my gut. I kicked a book as I stumbled across the room. Glass crunched under my feet. I took off my glasses, wiped the sweat from my eyes.
"Could you explain, again, how you happened to be here just in time to put out the fire?"
"I told you, I was working late, in the lab across the hall. I heard glass shatter and went to investigate. There was smoke...and..." I couldn't finish. I'd already told the story a dozen and a half times to at least as many officers, the dean, and now this hot shot detective.
He nodded, scratched his head with the backside of his pen and scribbled something down in his well worn notebook.
"Don't go too far away," he said gruffly and sauntered over to a group of coffee guzzling professors and the dean.
I rolled my eyes. As a research assistant and PhD student, I had access to the labs at any hour of any day. Or so I was told. It now seemed I was in a heap of trouble just for being on campus at 8pm on a Saturday afternoon. I glanced over at the dean. He held a hand up, shook his head slightly. I'll talk to you later.
Again my eyes fell on her. She was ... just lying there. Like discarded lumber. But she wasn't. O, she was so much more.
I lifted her from the rubble, gently, so as not to lose any of the pieces. Carefully I laid her on the ruined desk after brushing away the ceiling tiles and broken beakers. She'd been there for me, all through my college years. Nervous freshman, confident senior, now apprehensive yet studious doctoral candidate. Now...I didn't know if she'd recover.
"I know you're not to blame for this."
The dean. I stood from the stool I'd been perching on.
"Yeah but that cop-"
"He's just doing his job. I have personally vouched for you. They're going to dust for finger prints. You can go home."
He looked at the table. Winced, "Are you going to be okay?"
"I ... yeah." I swallowed hard. One last look. She'd be thrown out along with all the other garbage. No one would understand.
"Do you want to take her with you?"
I looked at the dean. "Really?"
"I know how much she means to you."
I chewed on my chapped lips. "No. It's time to let go. She was old anyway. Other students will come along and ... and a new mannequin will be needed."
He blinked then smiled. "It's about time. I knew you could let go." He patted my shoulder. As he got to the door, he turned and said, "You know, she's not the reason I admitted you to the doctorate program."
It was my time to blink. "She's not?"
"No. You can do better. That's why I admitted you." He smiled again and was gone.
I looked at my hands. I'd spent six years working on that mannequin. Anatomically correct, used by both the art and the premed department. It was my crowning glory as an artist, as a scientist. My hands started shaking. No. I would not mourn those lost years. I knew she wasn't perfect. But better? How...
I picked her up off the charred table, her knee joint cracked and one foot fell off. Didn't matter. I had plans for her. I'd been working on some other sketches, other...ventures. I'd take her home, see what I could do. Maybe...just maybe...
Besides, there was a thunderstorm in the forecast.