“I mean, there’s basic neurochemistry involved in falling in love—or lust, for that matter—and it has definitely been shown to affect brain function . . .” I realized what I was doing and gave him a guilty grin.
“You two really are bloody perfect for each other.”
I didn’t say anything and instead looked out at the path in front of us. Max was right; Will and I were perfect together. At least it felt that way, and I’d never been happier in my entire life than I had in the time we’d been together. But my career was important to me, too, and if anyone was going to understand that, I thought it would be him. The lab was important to me. My research was important to me. But so was he.
Why couldn’t I have both?
“So how are the interviews going, anyway?” Max asked, snagging my attention back into the conversation. We were nearing Columbus Circle again, and the number of people on the trails and in the park had definitely picked up.
He nodded. “I have a few clients that live up that way. It’s gorgeous, so I try to stay an extra night or two when I can—not so much these days,” he added, smiling fondly down at the stroller.
“I’ve only been a few times on family trips. It could be nice,” I said.
“So, not your first choice, then?”
“I don’t really have one yet, to be honest.” The sound of a siren burst through the air a few blocks away, growing louder as it neared the park before fading off into the distance. Once it quieted, I glanced at Max and shrugged, adding, “Think I’m just trying to get through the interviews first. And trying to imagine where Will might want to live.”
“Trust me, your husband thinks you hung the fucking stars. You could tell him you’d chosen a school in Antarctica and he’d ask if you were ready to start packing.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” I said. “I mean, I know he loves me, of course, but the rest . . . picking where we live? It’s so huge.”
“Well, before all this happened—Will, the wedding—where did you see yourself?”
I blew out a puff of air, watching a small cloud of condensation form in front of my lips. What did I want before Will? I’d had a plan—I always had a plan—but the days before Will were a little hard to recall. I could see them, but they felt dusty and distorted somehow, dull.
“I never really set my sights on one particular school,” I told him. “I’ve always liked Harvard? Caltech, maybe?”
“Back home,” he said, and hummed thoughtfully, brows drawn together while he considered it. “Harvard could definitely be interesting. Imagine how often I could remind Will of that time he tried to get a leg over in your parents’ house.”
I nearly choked at the word tried.
Will did more than try on that trip, and I basically molested him as soon as we walked into my old bedroom.
My pulse tripped at the memory of later that night. Looking back on that time, I realized Will had essentially professed his love to me, and I had been too thick—or too lost in the amazing sex on the floor—to hear it. My face flashed hot and I quickly changed the subject.
“So it really wouldn’t be a problem then for Stella & Sumner? Us relocating?”
Max looked at me like I’d just said something absurd. “Things would be a bit more complicated, but you two need to do what’s best for you. We’ll make the rest work.” Then he smiled wide. “Benefit of being the bosses.”
After leaving Max and Annabel at the park, I wasn’t quite ready to head home and face Will yet. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I would even say to him. Instead, I turned at the corner and headed in the direction of the Fifty-Ninth Street and Columbus Circle station, deciding to take the subway to the lab.
There have only ever been two things that felt easy in my life: one was science; the other was Will. Outside my normal circle, I’d never been very good with people. I had a tendency to overshare, and my verbal filter short-circuited ninety-eight percent of the time. But with Will—somehow—it didn’t matter. He found it endearing that I never seemed to shut up, and I never had to be anyone but Hanna with him. It’d always been easy.
But last night . . . I wasn’t sure where any of that came from. I knew Will didn’t love my unpredictable hours, but that was part of running a lab. I always thought that as a scientist himself, he understood that. Will wanted me to take on a teaching position, but that was something you did when your career was slowing down, not starting out. I wanted to do research and publish papers, contribute to our broader scientific knowledge. I wanted to make a difference. Wasn’t the entire beginning of our relationship based on his helping me learn to find balance? I’d done it then, so why was he so quick to doubt me now?
I unlocked the door and stepped into the dark room, the silence immediately pierced by the sound of crunching glass beneath my shoes.
It was just bright enough to see that a shelf near the door had collapsed from where it attached to the wall, its contents spilling out onto the one beneath it and across the floor just below.
“Of course,” I muttered, tossing my keys onto the counter and flipping on the light. I regretted it immediately. Glass and papers were strewn across the floor, some smaller shards scattered as far as the other side of the room. And because I was the only one here this early, it looked like president of the cleanup crew would be me.