My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Page 41)

So it is both nice and surprising to find Ed already there, going through it with her. It looks like they’ve been here for some time already: notes are scattered across the conference room table, the slide projector is on, and Shaylene is bent over her laptop, editing a slide.

Perhaps not surprisingly, things are still weird with Ed. Mostly what’s weird is treating him like any other employee in the lab, rather than my right hand and one of my best friends. He’s been nothing but professional since all the crap with Millie and Cat went down, but it stings a little when we both go to make an old inside joke then abruptly stop. Or when I see him leaving to go meet Chris and Alex for lunch and he no longer asks if I want to come.

Ed looks up when I come into the conference room, and with a quiet “Hey, Reid,” he bends to collect his notebook and pen, like he’s going to gather his things and leave me to help Shaylene prep solo.

“Stay, Ed,” I say. “I was just coming to make sure everything was going okay.”

We’ve spoken; it’s not like there’s a complete silent treatment happening in the lab, but I’m sure everyone notices that something has changed. Shaylene looks back and forth between the two of us, concerned.

“She’s good,” Ed says. “I pretended to be Scott and grilled her about all the experimental minutiae, and she seems pretty firm on everything.”

Shaylene confirms this with a nod. “He was really helpful.” She glances at Ed and gives him a shy flash of a smile. “Thanks, Ed.”

“Good; good job.” I hesitate, unsure whether either of them needs me there. I am increasingly aware of having become The Boss in the past year or so—especially after procuring tenure. With that awareness comes the next one—that I am somewhat scary, and therefore not always a grad student’s first choice to work out practice talks. “Okay, I’ll be down in my office if anyone needs me.”

I turn to leave, but Shaylene stops me. “Dr. Campbell? Would you like to go get coffee with us?”

She looks at Ed and nods, like she’s prompting him. He wordlessly scrutinizes her for a few beats before quickly nodding, too.

“Yes. Coffee,” he says. “Right.”

I check my watch. I’ve generally avoided spending much time with Ed if I don’t need to, but right now I don’t have any good reason to decline. “Sure.”

But as soon as we get out in the hall, Shaylene pulls up short. “You know what? I think I want to go tinker with my transition slides a little. You guys go on ahead. I’ll catch you in a bit.”

Ed and I stand there, aware that we’ve been set up by a wily twenty-two-year-old. We watch her walk down the hall toward the stairwell leading to our lab.

Ed growls, and then silence descends. I feel him turn to look at me. “We don’t have to go grab coffee, you know.”

“Did Shaylene really just set us up?” I ask.

“Yup.” He reaches up, and his fingers disappear in his mop of hair as he scratches his scalp. “The joke in the lab is that Mom and Dad are fighting.”

I stare at him, somewhat speechless.

“I think I’m the mom,” he clarifies. “Which is pretty rad.”

And I don’t know what it is about this in particular, but I just burst out laughing. At first unsure, Ed finally grins. And then he throws his arms around me, pressing his face to my shoulder. “I missed you so much. I’ve felt like complete s**t. I’m so, so sorry, man.”

I reach up and pat his back. Forgiveness is so f*****g freeing. I feel immediately like I can relax my shoulders for the first time in weeks. I feel the tiniest bit closer to not only the freedom of forgiving Millie, but the relief of being near her again, too.

From: Millie M.

Sent: 1:11 am, May 10

I guess you need an update on the Elly/Dad situation if you’re going to understand the rest of this ramble, so here goes.

Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about a year and a half ago. I should have told you, I know. We hadn’t known each other long, and diseased parents turn conversations serious, real fast. I’m shitty at talking about personal stuff not only because I feel awkward talking about myself, but also because I don’t like turning a conversation into a downer.

Anyway. From the start, they started Dad on a medication called Sinemet, which I’m sure you know all about. So, for a while it was okay—it helped.

But as the dopamine cells in his brain continue to die, the Sinemet is less effective, right? Because it relies on the remaining healthy cells in order to work? I’m trying to understand the science behind all of it. Anyway, his neurologist is recommending deep brain stimulation, and he’s resisting, even though Elly really wants him to try it.

Elly has been managing whatever he needs help with, but with the twins she’s exhausted. She’s asked me to come home a few times, and I have—for a weekend here and there—but she wants me home for a good month so that she and Jared can take a vacation, and probably also just so that Dad has some time with me.

I’d been resisting because I hate being home. Do you remember that time we went to Hendry’s Beach to watch the dogs in the water? You knew something was off, and you didn’t push me to tell you what was going on, but I’d just found out about the diagnosis. I lasted maybe four hours after I found out, and then flew back here. I felt so guilty, but I hate being there, and hearing that Dad was sick was like getting Mom’s diagnosis all over again.

So, there are two things I’m telling you. One, I started therapy two weeks ago. I’m going twice a week and so far it’s been really great. I’m actually talking. Her name is Anna, and she’s funny and seems to get me, and is helping me fix my stupid emotional brain.

Two, I’m going home for three and a half weeks in July. Dad’s having the surgery on June 22, and I’ll be there when he gets out of the physical rehabilitation facility on July 2 until the 25th.

I don’t even know what else to say. I’m dreading the trip, but I feel relieved, too, like I’m finally doing the things I should have been doing all along. It feels really good to tell you this.

I love you,

Millie

For eleven days I’ve read her messages and let them sink in, let them carefully smooth over the jagged damage her betrayal caused, but I can’t stay away anymore. I slam my laptop shut and grab my keys as I jog past the counter. If I was asked to recount the drive from my place to hers, I would describe only a blur of scenery punctuated at the end by the high-pitched squeal of my tires coming to a stop in her driveway.

I can barely pull in a deep breath, and when she opens the door in her pajamas, with her hair messy, and eyes red from crying, I think I stop breathing entirely.

She doesn’t say anything before she bursts into tears, and melts into me when I wrap my arms around her.

Chapter seventeen

millie

It’s about twenty minutes before I can pull myself together and stop crying, but throughout all the sobbing, and hiccupping, and senseless babble, Reid guides me inside, pulls us down onto the couch, and holds me. When he presses a kiss to the top of my head, it just makes me cry harder.

He’s here, at two in the morning, which means that he read my last message and came right over. It means he’s probably been reading all of my messages—just like I hoped—and that I wasn’t just throwing my words into the vast internet void.

It also means that he doesn’t want me to be alone after everything I told him in my last note. He read what I said about Anna, and my dad, and heading home this summer.

He made me wait over a month, but isn’t going to make me wait anymore before telling me what he’s decided. Relief is in the distance—even if he tells me he needs to move on, at least I’ll know.

I sit up, reluctantly pulling out of his arms, and wipe at my face with the bottom of my pajama top. When I drop it, I realize I’ve just flashed my underboob at Reid. He blinks up to my face, a little dazed.

“Oops. Sorry.”

He gives a wicked half smile that makes a flurry of bombs go off in my belly. “No red silk.”

“I hoped you’d remember that detail.”

The smile slowly straightens into something more pensive—but thankfully still fond—and he reaches out to tuck my insane hair behind my ear. “There’s a lot to respond to in those messages, but after the one you sent tonight, I had to come over.”

An opening. He’s just given it to me, and I don’t want to mess this up. Sure, it’s easier to write all this to the computer and hit SEND, but the important piece happens when he’s this close to me, his hand resting on my knee.

Anna’s voice rings in my ears: If Reid were here right now, what would you want him to know?

Well, Reid is right here.

“I really missed you,” I say simply.

An easy start. Baby steps.

I watch his mouth, mesmerized, as his tongue slips out and is drawn across his lower lip. “I missed you, too.”

Needing air, I pull my attention away and study the rest of his face. He’s stubbly, and his eyes are a little hollow, like he’s gone for a long run without drinking enough water. On instinct, I lift my hand and press it to his cheek. “You did?”

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