The love Hypothesis by ALI HAZELWOOD ,Chapter 18

HYPOTHESIS: When in doubt, asking a friend will save my ass.
Olive spent the following day in the hotel, sleeping, crying, and doing the very thing that had gotten her into this mess to begin with: lying. She told Malcolm and Anh that she’d be busy with friends from college for the entire day, pulled the blackout curtains together, and then buried herself in her bed. Which, technically, was Adam’s bed. She didn’t let herself think about the situation too much. Something inside her—her heart, very possibly—was broken in several large pieces, not shattered as much as neatly snapped in half, and then in half again. All she could do was sit down amid the debris of her feelings and wallow. Sleeping through most of the day helped dull the pain a great deal. Numb, she was rapidly starting to realize, was good. She lied the day after, too. Feigned a last-minute request from Dr. Aslan when asked to join her friends at the conference or on excursions around Boston, and then took a deep, fortifying breath. She drew the curtains open, forced her blood to start flowing again (with fifty crunches, fifty jumping jacks, and fifty push-ups, though she cheated on the last by going on her knees), then showered and brushed her teeth for the first time in thirty-six hours. It wasn’t easy. Seeing Adam’s Biology Ninja T-shirt in the mirror made her tear up, but she reminded herself that she’d made her choice. She’d decided to put Adam’s well-being first, and she didn’t regret it. But she’d be damned if she let
Tom Fucking Benton take credit for a project she had worked on for years. A project that meant the world to her. Maybe her life was nothing but a little sob story, but it was her little sob story. Her heart may be broken, but her brain was doing just fine. Adam had said that the reason most professors hadn’t bothered to reply, perhaps even read her email, was that she was a student. So she followed his advice: she emailed Dr. Aslan and asked her to introduce Olive to all the researchers she’d previously contacted, plus the two people who’d been on her panel and had shown interest in her work. Dr. Aslan was close to retirement, and had more or less given up on producing science, but she was still a full professor at Stanford. It had to mean something. Then Olive googled extensively about research ethics, plagiarism, and theft of ideas. The issue was a little murky, given that Olive had—quite recklessly, she now realized— described all her protocols in detail in her report for Tom. But once she began examining the situation with a clearer head, she decided that it wasn’t as dire as she’d initially thought. The report she’d written, after all, was well-structured and thorough. With a few tweaks she could turn it into a scholarly publication. It would hopefully go quickly through peer review, and the findings would be credited under her name. What she decided to focus on was that despite all his insults and rude comments, Tom, one of the top cancer researchers in the United States, had expressed interest in stealing her research ideas. She took it as a very, very backhanded compliment. She spent the next several hours carefully avoiding thoughts of Adam and instead researching other potential scientists who might be able to support her the following year. It was a long shot, but she had to try. When someone knocked
on her door, it was already the middle of the afternoon, and she’d added three new names to her list. She quickly put on clothes to answer, expecting housekeeping. When Anh and Malcolm stormed inside, she cursed herself for never checking the peephole. She truly deserved to be axed by a serial killer. “Okay,” Anh said, throwing herself onto Olive’s still-made bed, “you have two sentences to convince me that I shouldn’t be mad at you for forgetting to ask how my outreach event went.” “Shit!” Olive covered her mouth with her hand. “I am so sorry. How did it go?” “Perfect.” Anh’s eyes were shiny with happiness. “We had such great attendance and everyone loved it. We’re thinking of making this a yearly thing, and formally establishing an organization. Peer-to-peer mentoring! Hear this: every grad is assigned two undergrads. Once they get into grad school, they mentor two more undergrads each. And in ten years we take over the entire damn world.” Olive looked at her, speechless. “This is . . . you’re amazing.” “I am, aren’t I? Okay, now’s your turn to grovel. Aaand, go.” Olive opened her mouth, but for a long time nothing really came out. “I don’t really have an excuse. I was just busy with . . . something Dr. Aslan asked me to finish.” “This is ridiculous. You are in Boston. You should be out there in an Irish pub pretending you love the Red Sox and eating Dunkies, not doing work. For your boss.” “We’re technically here for a work conference,” Olive pointed out. “Conference shmonference.” Malcolm joined Anh on the bed.
“Can we please go out, the three of us?” Anh begged. “Let’s do the Freedom Trail. With ice cream. And beer.” “Where’s Jeremy?” “Presenting his poster. And I’m bored.” Anh’s grin was impish. Olive was not in the mood for socializing, or beer, or freedom trails, but at some point she was going to have to learn to productively navigate society with a broken heart. She smiled and said, “Let me check my email, and then we can go.” She had, inexplicably, accumulated about fifteen messages in the thirty minutes since she’d last checked, only one of which wasn’t spam.
Today, 3:11 p.m.
FROM: [email protected]
TO: [email protected]
SUBJECT: Reaching out to researchers for pancreatic cancer project
I’d be happy to introduce you and ask scholars about opportunities for you in their labs. I agree that they might be more welcoming if the email comes from me. Send me your list, please.
BTW, you still haven’t sent the recording of your talk. I cannot wait to listen to it!
Aysegul Aslan, Ph.D.
Olive did some mental calculations to determine whether it was polite to send the list and not the recording (probably not), sighed, and started AirDropping the file to her laptop. When she realized that it was several hours long, because she’d forgotten to stop her phone after her talk, her sigh morphed into a groan. “This’ll take a while, guys. I have to send Dr. Aslan an audio file, and I’ll need to edit it beforehand.”
“Fine,” Anh huffed. “Malcolm, would you like to entertain us with tales of your date with Holden?” “Okay, first, he wore the cutest baby-blue button-down.” “Baby-blue?” “Shut your mouth with that skeptical tone. Then he got me one flower.” “Where did he get the flower?” “Not sure.” Olive poked around the MP3, trying to figure out where to cut the file. The ending was just minute after minute of silence, from when she’d left her phone in the hotel room. “Maybe he stole it from the buffet?” she said absentmindedly. “I think I saw pink carnations downstairs.” “Was it a pink carnation?” “Maybe.” Anh cackled. “And they say romance is dead.” “Shut up. Then, toward the beginning of the date, something happened. Something catastrophic that could only ever happen to me, given that my entire damn family is obsessed with science and, therefore, attends all the conferences. All of them.” “No. Tell me you didn’t—” “Yes. When we got to the restaurant, we found my mother, father, uncle, and grandfather. Who insisted on us joining them. Which means that my first date with Holden was a freaking Thanksgiving dinner.” Olive looked up from her laptop and shared an appalled look with Anh. “How bad was it?” “Funny that you ask, because it is with the utmost disconcert that I must say: it was fucking spectacular. They
loved him—because he’s a badass scientist and because he is smoother than an organic smoothie—and in the span of two hours he somehow managed to help me convince my parents that my plan of being an industry scientist is bomb. I’m not kidding—this morning my mother called and was all about how I have grown as a person and am finally in control of my future and how my dating choices reflect that. She said that Dad agrees. Can you believe it? Anyway. After dinner we got ice cream and then we went back to Holden’s hotel room and sixty-nined like the world was about to end—” “A girl like you. Who figured out so early in her academic career that fucking well-known, successful scholars is how to get ahead. You fucked Adam, didn’t you? We both know you’re going to fuck me for the same reas—” Olive slammed the spacebar, immediately stopping the replay of the recording. Her heart was pounding in her chest— first from confusion, then from the realization of what she’d inadvertently recorded, and finally from anger at hearing the words again. She brought a trembling hand to her lips, trying to purge Tom’s voice from her head. She had spent two days trying to recover, and now— “The hell was that?” Malcolm asked. “Ol?” Anh’s tentative voice reminded her that she was not alone in the room. She looked up and found that her friends had sat up. They were staring at her, wide-eyed with concern and shock. Olive shook her head. She didn’t want to—no, she didn’t have the strength to explain. “Nothing. Just . . .” “I recognize it,” Anh said, coming to sit next to her. “I recognize the voice. From that talk we went to.” She paused, searching Olive’s eyes. “That was Tom Benton, wasn’t it?” “What the—” Malcolm stood. There was real alarm blooming in his voice. Anger, too. “Ol, why do you have a
recording of Tom Benton saying shit like that? What happened?” Olive looked up at him, then at Anh, then at him again. They were studying her with worried, incredulous expressions. Anh must have taken Olive’s hand at some point. She told herself that she needed to be strong, to be pragmatic, to be numb, but . . . “I just . . .” She tried. She really did try. But her face crumpled, and the last few days crashed and burned into her. Olive leaned forward, buried her head in Anh’s lap, and let herself burst into tears. —
OLIVE HAD NO intention of hearing Tom spout his poison again, so she gave her friends her headphones, went to the bathroom, and let the faucet run until they’d finished listening. It took less than ten minutes, but she sobbed throughout. When Malcolm and Anh came in, they sat next to her on the floor. Anh was crying, too, fat, angry drops sliding down her cheeks. At least there’s a bathtub we can flood, Olive thought while handing her the toilet paper roll she’d been hoarding. “He’s the most disgusting, detestable, shameful, disgraceful human being,” Malcolm said. “I hope he has explosive diarrhea as we speak. I hope he gets genital warts. I hope he has to live saddled by the largest, most painful hemorrhoid in the universe. I hope he—” Anh interrupted him. “Does Adam know?” Olive shook her head.
“You need to tell him. And then the two of you need to report Benton’s ass and get him kicked out of academia.” “No, I . . . I can’t.” “Ol, listen to me. What Tom said is sexual harassment. There is no way Adam wouldn’t believe you—not to mention that you have a recording.” “It doesn’t matter.” “Of course it does!” Olive wiped her cheeks with her palms. “If I tell Adam, he’s not going to want to collaborate with Tom anymore, and the project they’re working on is too important to him. Not to mention that he wants to move to Harvard next year, and—” Anh snorted. “No, he doesn’t.” “Yes. He told me that—” “Ol, I’ve seen the way he looks at you. He’s head over feet. There is no way he’ll want to move to Boston if you’re not going—and I’m sure as hell not letting you go work for this dipshit . . . What?” Her eyes darted from Olive to Malcolm, who were exchanging a long glance. “Why are you guys looking at each other like that? And why are you making your inside-joke faces?” Malcolm sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Okay Anh, listen carefully. And before you ask—no, I’m not making this up. This is real life.” He took a deep breath before starting. “Carlsen and Olive never dated. They pretended so you’d believe that Olive wasn’t into Jeremy anymore—which she never was in the first place. Not sure what Carlsen was getting out of the arrangement, I forgot to ask. But halfway through the fake-dating Olive caught feelings for Carlsen, proceeded to lie to him about it, and pretended to be in love with someone else. But then . . .” He gave Olive a side glance. “Well. I didn’t want to be nosy, but judging from the fact that the other day
only one bed in this hotel room was unmade, I’m pretty sure there have been some . . . recent developments.” It was so painfully accurate, Olive had to bury her face in her knees. Just in time to hear Anh say, “This is not real life.” “It is.” “Nuh-uh. This is a Hallmark movie. Or a poorly written young adult novel. That will not sell well. Olive, tell Malcolm to keep his day job, he’ll never make it as a writer.” Olive made herself look up, and Anh’s frown was the deepest she’d ever seen. “It’s true, Anh. I am so sorry I lied to you. I didn’t want to, but—” “You fake-dated Adam Carlsen?” Olive nodded. “God, I knew that kiss was weird.” She lifted her hands defensively. “Anh, I’m sorry—” “You fake-dated Adam. Fucking. Carlsen?” “It seemed like a good idea, and—” “But I saw you kiss him! In the biology building parking lot!” “Only because you forced me to—” “But you sat on his lap!” “Once again, you forced me to—not the coolest moment in our friendship, by the way—” “But you put sunscreen on him! In front of at least one hundred people!” “Only because someone put me up to it. Do you sense a pattern?” Anh shook her head, as if suddenly appalled at her own actions. “I just—you guys looked so good together! It was so
obvious from the way Adam stared at you that he was wild about you. And the opposite—you looked at him like he was the only guy on earth and then—it always seemed like you were forcing yourself to hold back on him, and I wanted you to know that you could express your feelings if you wanted to —I really thought I was helping you, and—you fake-dated Adam Carlsen?” Olive sighed. “Listen, I’m sorry I lied. Please, don’t hate me, I—” “I don’t hate you.” Oh? “You . . . don’t?” “Of course not.” Anh was indignant. “I low-key hate myself for forcing you to do all that stuff. Well, maybe not ‘hate,’ but I’d write myself a strongly worded email. And I’m incredibly flattered that you’d do something like that for me. I mean, it was misguided, and ridiculous, and needlessly convoluted, and you’re a living, breathing, rom-com trope machine, and . . . God, Ol, you’re such an idiot. But a very lovable idiot, and my idiot.” She shook her head, incredulous, but squeezed her hand on Olive’s knee and glanced at Malcolm. “Wait. Is your thing with Rodrigues real? Or are you two pretending to bone so a judge will give him custody of his recently orphaned godchildren?” “Very real.” Malcolm’s smile was smug. “We fuck like bunnies.” “Fantastic. Well, Ol, we’ll talk about this more. A lot more. We’ll probably only talk about the greatest fake-dating event of the twenty-first century for millennia to come, but for now we should focus on Tom, and . . . it changes nothing, whether you and Adam are together. I still think he’d want to know. I’d want to know. Ol, if the situation were inverted, if you were the one who stood to lose something and Adam had been sexually harassed—”
“I haven’t.” “Yes, Ol, you have.” Anh’s eyes were earnest, burning into hers, and it occurred to Olive then, the enormity of what had happened. Of what Tom had done. She took a shuddering breath. “If the situation were inverted, I would want to know. But it’s different.” “Why is it different?” Because I’m in love with Adam. And he’s not in love with me. Olive massaged her temples, trying to think against the mounting headache. “I don’t want to take something he loves away from him. Adam respects and admires Tom, and I know Tom’s had Adam’s back in the past. Maybe he’s better off not knowing.” “If only there were a way to find out what Adam would prefer,” Malcolm said. Olive sniffled in response. “Yeah.” “If only there were someone who knows Adam very well that we might ask,” Malcolm said, louder this time. “Yeah,” Anh repeated, “that would be great. But there isn’t, so—” “If only there were someone in this room who recently started dating Adam’s closest friend of nearly three decades,” Malcolm near-yelled, full of passive-aggressive indignity, and Anh and Olive exchanged a wide-eyed look. “Holden!” “You could ask Holden for advice!” Malcolm huffed. “You two can be so smart and yet so slow.” Olive suddenly recalled something. “Holden hates Tom.” “Uh? Why does he hate him?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Adam wrote it off as some odd personality quirk of Holden’s, but—” “Hey. My man’s personality is perfect.” “Maybe there is something else?” Anh nodded energetically. “Malcolm, where can Olive find Holden right this minute?” “I don’t know. But”—he tapped his phone with a smug smile—“I happen to have his number right here.” —
HOLDEN (OR HOLDEN BubbleButt, as Malcolm had saved him in his contacts) was just finishing up his talk. Olive caught the last five minutes of it—something about crystallography she neither understood nor wanted to—and was totally unsurprised by how smooth and charismatic a speaker he was. She approached him on the podium once he was done answering questions, and he smiled when he noticed her walk up the stairs, seeming genuinely happy to see her. “Olive. My new roommate-in-law!” “Right. Yes. Um, great talk.” She ordered herself to stop wringing her hands. “I wanted to ask you a question . . .” “Is it about the nucleic acids in the fourth slide? Because I totally BS’d my way through them. My Ph.D. student made the figure, and she’s way smarter than me.” “No. The question is about Adam—” Holden’s expression brightened. “Well, actually, it’s about Tom Benton.” It darkened just as quickly. “What about Tom?”
Right. What about Tom, precisely? Olive wasn’t quite sure how to approach the topic. She wasn’t even sure what she meant to ask. Sure, she could have barfed up her entire life story for Holden and begged him to fix this mess for her, but somehow it didn’t seem like a good idea. She racked her brain for a moment, and then landed on: “Did you know that Adam is thinking about moving to Boston?” “Yeah.” Holden rolled his eyes and pointed at the tall windows. There were large, ominous clouds threatening to explode with torrential rain. The wind, already chilly in September, was shaking a lonely hickory tree. “Who wouldn’t want to move here from California?” he scoffed. Olive liked the idea of seasons, but she kept the thought to herself. “Do you think . . . Do you think he’d be happy here?” Holden studied her intensely for a minute. “You know, you were already my favorite girlfriend of Adam’s—not that there were many; you’re the only woman who could compete with computational modeling in about a decade—but that question wins you a lifelong number-one plaque.” He pondered the matter for a minute. “I think Adam could be happy here—in his own way, of course. Broodingly, unenthusiastically happy. But yes, happy. Provided that you are here, too.” Olive had to stop herself from snorting. “Provided that Tom behaves.” “Why do you say that? About Tom? I . . . I don’t mean to pry, but you told me to watch my back with him in Stanford. You . . . don’t like him?” He sighed. “It’s not that I don’t like him—even though I don’t. It’s more that I don’t trust him.” “Why, though? Adam told me about the things Tom did for him when your adviser was abusive.”
“See, this is where a big part of my mistrust comes in.” Holden worried at his lower lip, as if deciding whether and how to continue. “Did Tom intercede to save Adam’s ass on numerous occasions? Sure. It’s undeniable. But how did those occasions come about to begin with? Our adviser was a piece of work, but he was not a micromanager. By the time we joined his lab, he was too busy being a famous asshole to know what was going on in day-to-day lab business. Which is why he had postdocs like Tom mentor grad students like Adam and me and de facto run the lab. And yet, he knew about every single minor screwup of Adam’s. Every few weeks he’d come in, tell Adam that he was a failure of a human being for minor stuff like switching reagents or dropping a beaker, and then Tom, our adviser’s most-trusted postdoc, would publicly intervene on behalf of Adam and save the day. The pattern was eerily specific, and only for Adam— who was by far the most promising student in our program. Destined for greatness and all that. Initially, it made me a bit suspicious that Tom was purposefully sabotaging Adam. But in recent years I’ve been wondering if what he wanted was something else altogether. . . .” “Did you tell Adam?” “Yes. But I had no proof, and Adam . . . well, you know him. He is stubbornly, unwaveringly loyal, and he was more than a little grateful to Tom.” He shrugged. “They ended up becoming bros, and they’ve been close friends ever since.” “Did it bother you?” “Not per se, no. I realize I might sound jealous of their friendship, but the truth is that Adam has always been too focused and single-minded to have many friends. I’d have been happy for him, truly. But Tom . . .” Olive nodded. Yeah. Tom. “Why would he do this? This . . . weird vendetta against Adam?”
Holden sighed. “This is why Adam dismissed my concerns. There really isn’t an obvious reason. The truth is, I don’t think Tom hates Adam. Or at least, I don’t think it’s that simple. But I do believe that Tom is smart, and very, very cunning. That there probably is some jealousy involved, some desire to take advantage of Adam, to maybe control or have power over him. Adam tends to downplay his accomplishments, but he’s one of the best scientists of our generation. Having influence over him . . . that’s a privilege, and no small feat.” “Yeah.” She nodded again. The question, the one she’d come here to ask, was starting to take shape in her mind. “Knowing all of this. Knowing how important Tom is to Adam, if you had proof of . . . of how Tom really is, would you show Adam?” To his credit, Holden didn’t ask what the proof was, or proof of what. He scanned Olive’s face with an intent, thoughtful expression, and when he spoke, his words were careful. “I can’t answer that for you. I don’t think I should.” He drummed his fingers on the podium, as if deep in thought. “But I do want to tell you three things. The first you probably already know: Adam is first and foremost a scientist. So am I, and so are you. And good science only happens when we draw conclusions based on all available evidence—not just the ones that are easy, or that confirm our hypotheses. Wouldn’t you agree?” Olive nodded, and he continued. “The second is something you may or may not be aware of, because it has to do with politics and academia, which are not easy to fully grasp until you find yourself sitting through fivehour-long faculty meetings every other week. But here’s the deal: the collaboration between Adam and Tom benefits Tom more than it does Adam. Which is why Adam is the main
investigator of the grant they were awarded. Tom is . . . well, replaceable. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very good scientist, but most of his fame is due to him having been our former adviser’s best and brightest. He inherited a lab that was an already well-oiled machine and kept it going. Adam created his own research line from the ground up, and . . . I think he tends to forget how good he is. Which is probably for the best, because he’s already pretty insufferable.” He huffed. “Can you imagine if he had a big ego, too?” Olive laughed at that, and the sound came out oddly wet. When she raised her hands to her cheeks, she was not surprised to find them glistening. Apparently, weeping silently was her new baseline state. “The last thing,” Holden continued, unbothered by the waterworks, “is something you probably do not know.” He paused. “Adam has been recruited by a lot of institutions in the past. A lot. He’s been offered money, prestigious positions, unlimited access to facilities and equipment. That includes Harvard—this year was not their first attempt at bringing him in. But it’s the first time he’s agreed to interview. And he only agreed after you decided to go work in Tom’s lab.” He gave her a gentle smile, and then looked away, beginning to collect his things and slide them inside his backpack. “Make of that what you will, Olive.”

Leave a Reply