I turned my head, barely able to see her over my shoulder. I liked seeing that she could admit that, most likely, every school would want her. But I also didn’t want her to get brokenhearted if she didn’t get an offer from her first choice.
I wondered if I’d pushed too hard for her to rank her preferences, to assume she had her pick.
“When do you expect to hear back from Harvard?”
She grinned, stretching to kiss my cheek. “I heard back from them today.”
I knew it was wrong to call Will quite so late, but I hadn’t been able to call him until now, and I absolutely didn’t want to wait until morning. The phone rang only once before he picked up.
“This is becoming sort of a habit,” he said, followed by the sounds of the bed creaking.
“I know, we have scripted lines and everything.”
“How was your day?” he asked, voice scratchy and deep. We’d been in a good place when I left for Caltech, so I imagined he’d probably been actually sleeping, not just trying to. I glanced at the clock and felt even guiltier for calling so late.
“It was pretty great,” I said, and noted the pause on the other end of the line. I’d always suspected this particular topic of conversation made Will anxious, but it was only now—since our big blowup—that I knew exactly how anxious, and why.
Looking back, I could admit to having some measure of tunnel vision about my job search. I’d had a list of possible candidates, and I’d checked them off, one by one, not attempting to form any sort of opinion on the outcome until I had all the possible information. I’d been looking at the situation with the logical side of my brain, and quite frankly, the logical side of my brain was an insensitive dick. But now, taking Will’s point of view into account, I could see how unfair that had been, and how it was something we needed to do together, as a couple, rather than me telling him what I’d decided.
I’d long suspected that Will would have preferred a school not in California—or anywhere along the West Coast, for that matter—but in usual Will fashion, he was withholding his opinion until I’d had a chance to express mine. Max was right, Will would probably pack up and follow me to Antarctica if I got a job I loved there.
“It was great,” he repeated, voice a little too careful. “Well that’s . . . that’s great then, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I mean, they were super accommodating. They must have done their research, too, because they knew my favorite band was in town. They took me to a concert at the Rose Bowl, Will. Floor seats. Who does that?”
He laughed in that slow, sleepy way of his, and I could imagine him rubbing his hand over his face. “My guess is a school that wants you pretty fucking bad, Plum. Did you have fun?”
“It was amazing,” I said. “Pasadena is really beautiful.”
The campus was beautiful, the houses were beautiful, the weather was beautiful, but just like with Berkeley, I couldn’t imagine my guy in the middle of it all. Will and palm trees just didn’t feel right. I saw him in the shadow of skyscrapers, hailing a cab and maneuvering us both through crowds and traffic while I rambled on about God knows what, oblivious to everything going on around us. He needed little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and adrenaline, a city with history and culture, four seasons, and winters where we could jog through the snow. Where I’d complain about freezing and he’d do something funny to distract me, and we’d see our laughter in the cold air in front of us. And when I thought about it . . . I needed that, too. Pasadena was great, but it wasn’t right for us.
“It was amazing,” I repeated. “But I don’t want us to live here, either.”
“Okay, so that narrows your choices down to—”
“I think I’ve decided,” I told him. “If you’re ready to really have that talk, of course. I know it’s late there. Or early? For a scientist I’m really terrible with the math of time zones.”
There was more rustling of fabric and I could tell that Will was sitting up. I imagined him naked, sheet riding just at his hips, his skin warm with sleep.
I was so homesick I could barely stand it.
“No, no. I’m definitely ready to talk,” he said. “Excited, even.”
“Okay,” I said, and blew out a breath. I could feel my pulse hammering in my chest, and I knew this was a big moment. “Are you sure you don’t want to wait until I get back? So we’re face-to—”
“Hanna,” he said, laughing. “I’m ready to start the rest of my life with you. Talk to me.”
“Right, right. Yes. Like I told you before, I couldn’t see you in Berkeley. And I’m definitely sure I couldn’t see you in Pasadena. Caltech was great, but not for me. Not for us. You okay with that?”
“I know there are a few things we’re still waiting on, but I think I like Harvard. Their program is amazing; the school is top-notch, obviously. It’s a little less money than Princeton, but I think I have some negotiating room there, even though I know New Jersey would definitely be the easiest in terms of living arrangements and the general upheaval of our lives—”
“You know that’s not a factor for me,” he said. “You haven’t spent your entire adult life building a career so you can do what’s easiest.”
“I know, and thank you for getting that. I see many blow jobs in your future for being such an amazing, understanding husband. I love you.”