Matt was exhilarated. After months of very hard work, the paper was finally finished. Just this morning, they had submitted it to Nature, and he was certain it would be accepted for publication. The results were most surprising and would revolutionize the way people thought about many body physics.
In fact, their professor, Phillip, had been so pleased with the paper, that he invited the entire group home for a celebration. As Matt entered Phillip’s living room, his eyes searched for Emily. He rushed up to her, and they bumped fists. This achievement was a product of their partnership.
In a few minutes all the group members had arrived. Phillip poured every one a glass of champagne and then called for a toast. “To Matt and Emily, the dream team.” He said raising his glass.
“To Matt and Emily!” Everyone shouted in unison, holding their glasses up.
Matt and Emily were indeed a dream team. Matt came up with completely wacky ideas, that some how made sense. He did not just think outside the box, he simply did not realize a box existed, and perhaps for him, it did not. He was great at coming up with theories and seeing complex patterns.
Emily was a wiz at numerics. No matter how crazy Matt’s ideas were, Emily could always figure out a numerical model to verify his results. They worked wonderfully as team, coming up with novel theories and path breaking results. Emily’s numerical analysis and models helped substantiate and lend credibility to Matt’s revolutionary ideas, long before they could be experimentally verified. Fate had brought these two together, and their partnership held a lot of promise.
Matt had been a loner and preferred working alone. Yet Emily, a new graduate student in the group, had changed that. She had read one of his papers and come up with a numerical model to verify it. She walked in to his office, introduced herself and presented her model.
Matt was taken aback. No one had ever approached him so directly and talked with such ease. She did not seem to find him either odd, unapproachable, sullen, or intimidating, like most people did, or may be she did not care. Soon they started working together on a regular basis.
In this last project Emily, had not just verified his end result, but had helped him develop it. In the past, his abhorrence for numerical work, limited him to relatively simple models that could be solved analytically. But with Emily’s help, he could come up with more sophisticated theories. At each step Emily would do some numerical analysis to guide him in his thinking.
They worked together for long hours, often in a state of heightened excitement, as they brain stormed together. Occasionally, Matt had felt a mild whiff of sexual tension developing between them. At times he felt an impulse to hug her, when they shared a small victory, but he had resisted. Their professional relationship was perfect and there was no reason to jeopardize it. Besides, he did not really know how she felt about him.
Matt was brooding in a corner, as was his custom at all parties, when he felt a whack on his back. “Are you always so grumpy at parties?” Emily asked with a twinkle in her eye.
So unusual was such an occurrence, that Matt almost choked on the cocktail sausage, he was munching. Emily laughed, and there it was, the mischievous expression that so enamored him. “Usually.” He responded after he had managed to cough out the piece stuck in his throat.
“Come on. I hear music. Let’s go dance.”
“Dance! Absolutely not.”
“Why not? Haven’t you ever done it before?”
“Well then, all the more reason to give it a shot. Come on. Come on.”
She had caught hold of his arm and was leading him to the dance floor. Matt tried to resist, but how does one resist a fierce tornado? Phillip was surprised to see Matt on the dance floor, but he and the other group members encouraged it. After a few minutes, Matt stopped feeling awkward and self conscious. He enjoyed the dancing, and for the rest of the party, participated in the chatting, joking, eating and drinking, lots of drinking.
Since the next day was a working day, everyone dispersed by 8:00 pm. Matt was feeling too pumped to work. As he sauntered home, wondering what to do next, Emily caught up with him. “Hey I am too excited to work or read tonight. Do you want to come over and play Wii?”
“Mm, yeah, sure.” Matt enjoyed video games of all kinds and was pretty good with the Wii, but in Emily, he found a formidable opponent. They were well matched and the tennis matches got highly competitive. Both Emily and Matt were concentrating hard, and Matt could feel the adrenaline rush through him.
At one point, after a well executed smash Matt exclaimed, “Take that sucker!”
“Hey watch your language Mister” Emily retorted.
They looked at each other and laughed. They were sitting really close to each other on the couch.
“You sound like my mother” Matt complained.
“Do I now?” Emily raised one eye brow and looked him in the eye.
Matt felt a tingling sensation. “Perhaps not.” He said looking down and holding her hand. He wondered if she would pull back, but she did not. So he looked back at her, and she looked straight in to his eyes. He held her gaze for a moment, and then leaned in and kissed her.
With the potent cocktail of the alcohol and adrenaline, coursing through his body, the night took a turn for the carnal. Good sense was long out of the window, and neither of them cared that they did not have condoms at hand.
I am still a few days away from ovulation Emily reasoned, and Matt, driven by lust beyond his control, hardly cared.
In the light of day, the night’s escapades seemed stupid. Both Matt and Emily agreed it was a mistake and decided to chalk it up to a one time drunken episode. Thankfully, they found that they still shared a productive professional relationship.
All was going well, until a month later Matt noticed, that Emily wasn’t as sharp as usual.
“What’s up Em? You seem to be off your game. Did you stay up too late binge watching some sci-fi show?” He snickered, well aware of Emily’s one weakness.
“No. I don’t understand what’s going on. I feel really queasy. It must be the sushi, I ate last night. But Taste OF Tokyo always has fresh stuff.” She barely managed to finish her sentence, before she had to rush off to the restroom to throw up.
Matt did not see anymore of Emily that day. He wondered what had happened. She came to his office the next day to resume their discussion, but her face was the picture of misery.
“What happened? Did Patrick Stewart die?” Matt asked knowing her absurd obsession for the man who played Jean Luc Piccard.
When even such a glib remark about her beloved actor failed to get a reaction out of her, he got really worried. “What happened Em? Is everything okay?”
“Not really.” Em replied.
Emily was the most direct person Matt had ever met. Her evasive demeanor frightened him. “Em, you are my only friend. Please tell me. Whats wrong?”
“I -- I, I'm pregnant.” Emily could barely get the words out.
“What? How is that even possible? Oh!” Then realization dawned. “Oh! No. No, no no.” He protested.
“Yess.” Emily hissed.
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. I took four tests.”
“Okay. Okay, okay. I am in my final year. So we can figure this out. I’ll talk to my mom. I am sure she will help.”
“What, in god’s name, are you talking about?”
“We need to figure out a way to look after the baby.” Matt replied, puzzled.
“Are you insane? I am going to have an abortion. It’s been only 31 days, so I think I can just take a pill.”
“Abortion! You are going to have an abortion?” The color drained from Matt’s face.
“Yes, of course. What did you expect?”
“Right. Makes sense. You are in your first year of grad school. Raising a baby is going to be impossible for you.”
“When are you getting it done?”
“In a couple of days, I expect. In these cases, the sooner the better. I’ll call today and get an appointment as soon as possible.”
The two of them sat quietly, lost in thought, and no amazing physics ideas came to them that day.
Matt went home at lunch time and called his mom. Then he went to see Emily at her apartment. Emily answered the knock, and then dashed off. Violent retching sounds from the bathroom informed Matt that she was puking. He sat on the sofa and waited for her to return. He wished her morning sickness was not so severe. It was going to make it less likely, that his request would be granted.
“Whats up Matt?” Emily asked plonking herself on the sofa.
“Em, is there any way you would agree not to have an abortion?”
“What? Are you crazy?”
“I’ll take full responsibility for the baby. I won’t ever expect anything of you. I promise. My mom has agreed to help me out.”
“You must be insane. No. No, absolutely not. And you have no say in this matter.” Emily shouted in anger.
“I am the father, right?”
“Of course. Don’t you remember what happened on this very couch, a month ago? Do you think I go around doing that everyday? But that does not give you the right to tell me what to do with my body.” She was fuming.
Matt was hurt and angry, but he had to stay calm, or he would have no chance at all. “No. But please. As the father, I feel a responsible for this child.”
“Of course you are, but you know very well, that the decision is mine. I don’t need your approval.”
“I know. That is why I am pleading with you. Please have the baby. I will take care of everything else. I’ll give you my word and I’ll even give it to you in writing in front of witnesses if you want so it is legally binding.”
“Why does this matter to you so much? It can't be convenient for you to care for the baby either. You will be graduating next year and searching for a postdoc. Your situation is hardly stable. So why?”
Matt sighed. “I am the product of a one night stand and my mother almost had an abortion. At the last minute, in the hospital, she had a change of heart, and that is why I exist. So I can’t bear to have this baby lose a chance at life, for my folly. I am begging you. I, of all people, should have known better. I am older than you too. I know, I failed you that night and I have no legal right to ask this, but please.”
In spite of her anger Emily couldn't help feeling sorry for Matt, but she had to be firm. “Oh Matt! I am so sorry, but I cant endure the pregnancy for 9 months. I must focus on my research. Even if the morning sickness goes away in 3 months, and that is not guaranteed, the third trimester is no joke. Besides, the longer I stay pregnant the more my brain adapts to be a mother, and the harder it becomes to give up the baby. If I actually have the baby, I may not be able to give it up to you. I can’t take that chance. I have worked too hard to get here and I am in no position to give a baby a comfortable life. I can’t do it Matt. I am sorry.”
Matt got up to leave. Then he turned around to ask, “Would you like me to come with you to the hospital, when you go for the procedure?”
Emily was in tears. “If that’s not too much to ask, I could really use some emotional support.”
Matt nodded and left. He was upset, that he could do absolutely nothing. He wanted that child. It meant the world to him. Yet the law gave him no hope. He understood why, but that did not make him feel any better.
Two days later, he sat beside Emily at the hospital. The doctor had checked her up and then handed her the pill. He looked at her meaningfully. “No Matt, I am not changing my mind.” Emily said shaking her head.
He held her hand, while she took the pill and he whispered an apology and a farewell to the baby he had so wronged. Then he sat there staring at the wall and crying silent tears. He felt great resentment for the law, and the woman who wasn’t willing to make any compromise. He felt angry and helpless.
But that was only until he looked in to her eyes and saw the sadness there. For all her certainty, Emily was sad too. How much harder it must be for her, since the life is blossoming inside of her, he thought. He stopped resenting her.
As they held hands and walked out of the hospital, Emily thrust her head on to his chest and broke down crying. He realized her rational, practical arguments were a facade to help her go through the abortion, the thought of which, was upsetting her deeply. He wondered how hard she had to fought her emotions to keep it together. He patted her head and stayed with her the rest of the week, helping her recuperate.
During the week, they both realized that, they did not want to be in a relationship, at least not for a while. They both needed time to process the abortion, but perhaps some day. Until then, they would be colleagues and may be friends.
For the next few months they drowned themselves in Physics and were glad to find that they still enjoyed working together.