The data was what we wanted. I had been in periodic contact with Nathaniel via text and email but I actually called him with the good news.

"It is Galapagos tortoise." The implication was that 'the clipper' had most likely gone around Cape Horn but further investigation of the rest of the ship's contents would have to tell.

"This should cinch the project," he said. "We'll celebrate when I get into town."

I agreed in my enthusiasm before I remembered I should hesitate but I didn't take it back.

On my final leg home I heard the text chime several times. I only opened the one from Nathaniel as I dropped my carry on and collapsed on my couch, home at last Friday evening.

>It might not be a bad idea to start compiling list of anyone you'd like to approach about joining our team. I could use recommendations.

>That is if you are interested in being my lead research assistant?

No matter how things turned out between us personally at least I wasn't afraid it would affect this opportunity. The project would be all too short anyway and then on to the next grant.


I hit send and went to take a hot shower to get the airplane and subway grime off.

When I came out, towling my hair, to find some clean clothes I was looking at a startled Jonas standing in my foyer.

"What the fuck, Jonas?" I yelled, so angry I had to remember to drape the towel to hide my breasts, glad I was already wearing clean underwear.

"You weren't supposed to be here!" He protested.


"I just came for my black dress shoes-" he was in his black suit jacket and brown loafers. The opening!

"I asked Candice and she just said you weren't back and walked away. I didn't know she was lying."

"She wasn't," I said and went to the front closet, grabbed his shoes, and threw them at him.

"Hey!" he ducked. "Can't we talk-"

"Have the decency to not leave your shit around if you're going to cheat on someone."

"Don't you think you're overreacting. We need to talk this out-" I threw an extra shoe for good measure. "Liv when you finally calm down and realize what a mistake you're making-"

"Get out! And leave your key. I'll get the rest of your junk together and give it to you later."

The nerve! The belching, stupid movie watching, ex stalking jerk... Who needed it.


"How would you like to celebrate?" Nathaniel asked.


I was sort of kidding but he considered. "We could, which would be a perfect mix with seeing the Kowase prints they put up last month. Have you been already?"

"Not yet. Let's plan on that. I'll send you some names too. We can talk about them over the drinks."

"Good. I'll pick you up at your apartment." I guess I needed to clean anyway, I thought. I looked around. Actually, other than a shoe thrown in the floor, things looked fine. There was nothing a glance from the door should reveal that was going influence outcomes. So, I decided- for the rest of the night at least- no more stressing about trying to decide the whole direction of the rest of my life!

I dressed knowing he'd have on at least his usual tailored uniform. I chose a slim gray knee length skirt and a black and gray paisley blouse with magenta highlights. I guess he also knew me well, for when he arrived, under his gray pinstripe vest his silk tie was also magenta.

"Don't you two look fit to paint and hang over the mantel?" A elderly docent in the gallery said.

We smiled and I might have even blushed a little. Out of earshot I joked, "If only I could afford you, there's an empty spot over my couch. What do think, who would match the reading chair in your study?"

"Ah, but I am not a man who wants just any work of art or just to fill an empty space. When I find something interesting I study it, I research, and I seek out exactly the one that I want and then set about finding a way to acquire it," he smiled and reached for my hand.

"So you can just acquired a person- me?" I bantered back.

"Not through monetary means, but aren't affairs of the heart and mind an exchange of spiritual commodities- emotional collateral? Give and take?"

That shut me up. He won and he laughed knowing it. So I wondered ahead of him to the next gallery to hide my face.

By the time we were eating at the izakaya I had relaxed again. I was happy in the moment and was determined to keep it that way. We lounged on the zabuton with our sake and drifted away from discussing postdoc profiles.

As we walked around and I enjoyed his company it was harder not to think about whether we had a future and that maybe I needed to not lose myself until I had decided. I didn't want to just be filling a space over my couch. As I sobered he took note of the mood shift. We were at the stoop to my building.

"Everything else aside, this will be an amazing project and I'll be proud to have you on board." I nodded as I looked at our shoes, torn about how to end the night.

"Sit a minute, I want to tell you something. Then I'll let you go.

"When I was still at the university, a student told me a story that was surprisingly touching and it has stayed with me:

She said she had never been interested in animals- dogs, cats, rabbits, no little girl horse phase, she just found she didn't really care to be around most of them, especially overly energetic dogs. If a cat sat next to her at a get-together she didn't actively shoo it away and she was even okay feeding someone's pets when they went out of town but it didn't occur to her to actually seek one out.
One day she noticed a cat in her neighborhood. It wasn't exotic but its markings were unusual and interesting..." Suddenly I thought I might know this story but I let him finish to see where he was taking it.

"When it wondered onto her porch she enjoyed petting it and put out some water. She figured it must belong to someone but it kept coming around and one day it walked right into her apartment and stayed. She said it was the perfect cat for her, well mannered, undemanding, she didn't have to do anything differently in her routine and it made her happy to have it around. Then, it just left. She kept putting water out on the porch but she didn't go looking for it. She was sad but she also didn't want to get a new kitten or adopt another cat. It could have had the same patterns but it wouldn't have been the right cat. A year later the cat came back and ..."

"And Candice still has that cat and loves her to death. She's pretty old now- Ameowthea."

"Was that the silly name? I couldn't remember," he smiled.







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