The love Hypothesis by ALI HAZELWOOD ,Chapter 21

HYPOTHESIS: When given a choice between A (telling a lie) and B (telling the truth), I will inevitably end up selecting . . .
No. Not this time.
Olive had no doubt that Holden’s tales were highly embellished and the result of years of comedy workshopping, but she still couldn’t help laughing harder than ever before. “And I’m awakened by this waterfall pouring down on me —” Adam rolled his eyes. “It was a drop.” “And I’m asking myself why it’s raining inside the cabin, when I realize that it’s coming from the top bunk and that Adam, who was, like, thirteen at the time—” “Six. I was six, and you were seven.” “Had pissed the bed, and the piss was seeping through the mattress and onto me.” Olive’s hands flew up to cover her mouth, not quite succeeding at hiding her amusement—just like she’d failed when Holden had recounted that a dalmatian puppy had once bitten Adam’s ass through his jeans, or that he’d been voted “Most likely to make people cry” in his senior yearbook. At least Adam didn’t act embarrassed, and not nearly as upset as he’d seemed after Holden had talked about him pining after her. Which explained . . . so many things. Everything, maybe.
“Man. Six years old.” Malcolm shook his head and wiped his eyes. “I was sick.” “Still. Seems kind of old to have an accident?” Adam simply stared at Malcolm until he lowered his gaze. “Uh, maybe not that old after all,” he muttered. There was a large bowl of fortune cookies by the register. Olive noticed it on her way out of the restaurant, let out a delighted squeal, and dipped her hand in to fish out four plastic packages. She handed one each to Malcolm and Holden, and held out another for Adam with a mischievous smile. “You hate these, don’t you?” “I don’t.” He accepted the cookie. “I just think they taste like Styrofoam.” “Probably have similar nutritional values, too,” Malcolm muttered as they slipped out into the chilly humidity of the early night. Surprisingly, he and Adam were finding lots of common ground. It wasn’t raining anymore, but the street was shiny in the light under a lamppost; a soft breeze made the leaves rustle and stray drops of water scatter to the ground. The air was fresh in Olive’s lungs, pleasantly so after the hours spent in the restaurant. She unrolled her sleeves, accidentally brushing her hand against Adam’s abs. She smiled up at him, playfully apologetic; he flushed and averted his eyes. “ ‘He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.’ ” Holden popped a bit of fortune cookie in his mouth, blinking at the message inside. “Is that shade?” He looked around, indignant. “Did this fortune cookie just throw shade at me?” “Sounds like it,” Malcolm answered. “Mine says ‘Why not treat yourself to a good time instead of waiting for somebody
else to do it?’ I think my cookie just shaded you, too, babe.” “What’s wrong with this batch?” Holden pointed at Adam and Olive. “What do yours say?” Olive was already opening hers, nibbling on a corner as she pulled the paper out. It was very banal, and yet her heart skipped beat. “Mine’s normal,” she informed Holden. “You’re lying.” “Nope.” “What does it say?” “ ‘It’s never too late to tell the truth.’ ” She shrugged, and turned to throw away the plastic wrapper. At the last moment, she decided to keep the strip of paper and slip it inside her jeans’ back pocket. “Adam, open yours.” “Nah.” “Come on.” “I’m not going to eat a piece of cardboard because it hurt your feelings.” “You’re a shit friend.” “According to the fortune cookie industry, you’re a shit boyfriend, so—” “Give it here,” Olive interjected, plucking the cookie out of Adam’s hand. “I’ll eat it. And read it.” The parking lot was completely empty, save for Adam’s and Malcolm’s cars. Holden had ridden from the airport with Adam, but he and Malcolm were planning to spend the night at Holden’s apartment to walk Fleming, his dog. “Adam’s giving you a ride, right, Ol?” “No need. It’s less than a ten-minute walk home.”
“But what about your suitcase?” “It’s not heavy, and I—” She stopped abruptly, worried her lip for a second while she contemplated the possibilities, and then felt herself smile, at once tentative and purposeful. “Actually, Adam will walk me home. Right?” He was silent and inscrutable for a moment. Then he calmly said, “Of course,” slipped his keys in the pocket of his jeans, and slid the strap of Olive’s duffel bag over his shoulder. “Where do you live?” he asked when Holden was not within earshot anymore. She pointed silently. “You sure you want to carry my bag? I heard it’s easy to throw out your back, once you reach a certain age.” He glared at her, and Olive laughed, falling into step with him as they headed out of the parking lot. The street was silent, except for the soles of her Converse catching on the wet concrete and Malcolm’s car passing them by a few seconds later. “Hey,” Holden asked from the passenger window. “What did Adam’s fortune cookie say?” “Mmm.” Olive made a show to look at the strip. “Not much. Just ‘Holden Rodrigues, Ph.D., is a loser.’ ” Malcolm sped up just as Holden flipped her off, making her burst into laughter. “What does it really say?” Adam asked when they were finally alone. Olive handed him the crumpled paper and remained silent as he angled it to read it in the lamplight. She wasn’t surprised when she saw a muscle jump in his jaw, or when he slid the fortune into the pocket of his jeans. She knew what it said, after all.
You can fall in love: someone will catch you. “Can we talk about Tom?” she asked, sidestepping a puddle. “We don’t have to, but if we can . . .” “We can. We should.” She saw his throat work. “Harvard’s going to fire him, of course. Other disciplinary measures are still being decided—there were meetings until very late last night.” He gave her a quick glance. “That’s why I didn’t call you earlier. Harvard’s Title IX coordinator should be in touch with you soon.” Good. “What about your grant?” His jaw clenched. “I’m not sure. I’ll figure something out —or not. I don’t particularly care at the moment.” It surprised her. And then it didn’t, not when she considered that the professional implications of Tom’s betrayal couldn’t have cut as deeply as the personal ones. “I’m sorry, Adam. I know he was your friend—” “He wasn’t.” Adam abruptly stopped in the middle of the street. He turned to her, his eyes a clear, deep brown. “I had no idea, Olive. I thought I knew him, but . . .” His Adam’s apple bobbed. “I should never have trusted him with you. I’m sorry.” He said it—“with you”—like Olive was something special, uniquely precious to him. His most beloved treasure. It made her want to shiver, and laugh, and weep at the same time. It made her happy and confused. “I was . . . I was afraid you might be mad at me. For ruining things. Your relationship with Tom, and maybe . . . maybe you won’t be able to move to Boston anymore.” He shook his head. “I don’t care. I couldn’t care less about any of it.” He held her eyes for a long moment, his mouth working as though he was swallowing the rest of his words. But he never continued, so Olive nodded and turned around, starting to walk again.
“I think I’ve found another lab. To finish my study. Closer, so I won’t have to move next year.” She pushed her hair behind her ear and smiled at him. There was something intrinsically enjoyable in having him next to her, so physical and undeniable. She felt it on some primal, visceral level, the giddy happiness that always came with his presence. Suddenly, Tom was the last thing she wanted to discuss with Adam. “Dinner was nice. And you were right, by the way.” “About the pumpkin sludge?” “No, that was amazing. About Holden. He really is insufferable.” “He grows on you, after a decade or so.” “Does he?” “Nah. Not really.” “Poor Holden.” She huffed out a small laugh. “You weren’t the only one who remembered, by the way.” He glanced at her. “Remembered what?” “Our meeting. The one in the bathroom, when I came to interview.” Olive thought that maybe his step faltered for a split second. Or maybe it didn’t. Still, there was a tinge of uncertainty in the deep breath he took. “Did you really?” “Yup. It just took me a while to realize that it was you. Why didn’t you say anything?” She was so curious about what had been going on in Adam’s head in the past few days, weeks, years. She was starting to imagine quite a bit, but some things . . . some things he’d have to clear up for her. “Because you introduced yourself like we’d never met before.” She thought maybe he was flushing a little. Maybe not. Maybe it was impossible to tell, in the starless sky and the
faint yellow lights. “And I’d been . . . I’d been thinking about you. For years. And I didn’t want to . . .” She could only imagine. They’d passed each other in the hallways, been at countless department research symposiums and seminars together. She hadn’t thought anything of it, but now . . . now she wondered what he had thought. He’d been going on and on about this amazing girl for years, but he was concerned about being in the same department, Holden had said. And Olive had assumed so much. She had been so wrong. “You didn’t need to lie, you know,” she said, not accusing. He adjusted the strap of her suitcase on his shoulder. “I didn’t.” “You sort of did. By omission.” “True. Are you . . .” He pressed his lips together. “Are you upset?” “No, not really. It’s really not that bad a lie.” “It’s not?” She nibbled on her thumbnail for a moment. “I’ve said much worse, myself. And I didn’t bring up our meeting, either, even after I made the connection.” “Still, if you feel—” “I’m not upset,” she said, gentle but final. She looked up at him, willing him to understand. Trying to figure out how to tell him. How to show him. “I am . . . other things.” She smiled. “Glad, for instance. That you remembered me, from that day.” “You . . .” A pause. “You are very memorable.” “Ha. I’m not, really. I was no one—part of a huge incoming cohort.” She snorted and looked down to her feet.
Her steps had to be much quicker than his to keep up with his longer legs. “I hated my first year. It was so stressful.” He glanced at her, surprised. “Do you remember your first seminar talk?” “I do. Why?” “Your elevator pitch—you called it a turbolift pitch. You put a picture from The Next Generation on your slides.” “Oh, yes. I did.” She let out a low laugh. “I didn’t know you were a Trekkie.” “I had a phase. And that year’s picnic, when we got rained on. You were playing freeze tag with someone’s kids for hours. They loved you—they had to physically peel the youngest off you to get him inside the car.” “Dr. Moss’s kids.” She looked at him curiously. A light breeze rose and ruffled his hair, but he didn’t seem to mind. “I didn’t think you liked kids. The opposite, actually.” He lifted one eyebrow. “I don’t like twenty-five-year-olds who act like toddlers. I don’t mind them if they’re actually three.” Olive smiled. “Adam, the fact that you knew who I was . . . Did it have anything to do with your decision to pretend to date me?” About a dozen expressions crossed his face as he looked for an answer, and she couldn’t pick apart a single one. “I wanted to help you, Olive.” “I know. I believe that.” She rubbed her fingers against her mouth. “But was that all?” He pressed his lips together. Exhaled. Closed his eyes, and for a split second looked like he was having his teeth and his soul pulled out. Then he said, resigned, “No.”
“No,” she repeated, pensive. “This is my place, by the way.” She pointed at the tall brick building on the corner. “Right.” Adam looked around, studying her street. “Should I carry your bag upstairs?” “I . . . Maybe later. There is something I need to tell you. Before.” “Of course.” He stopped in front of her, and she looked up at him, at the lines of his handsome, familiar face. There was only fresh breeze between them, and whatever distance Adam had seen fit to keep. Her stubborn, mercurial fake boyfriend. Wonderfully, perfectly unique. Delightfully one of a kind. Olive felt her heart overflow. She took a deep breath. “The thing is, Adam . . . I was stupid. And wrong.” She played nervously with a lock of her hair, then let her hand drift down to her stomach, and—okay. Okay. She was going to tell him. She would do this. Now. “It’s like—it’s like statistical hypothesis testing. Type I error. It’s scary, isn’t it?” He frowned. She could tell he had no idea where she was going with this. “Type I error?” “A false positive. Thinking that something is happening when it’s not.” “I know what type I error is—” “Yes, of course. It’s just . . . in the past few weeks, what terrified me was the idea that I could misread a situation. That I could convince myself of something that wasn’t true. See something that wasn’t there just because I wanted to see it. A scientist’s worst nightmare, right?” “Right.” His brows furrowed. “That is why in your analyses you set a level of significance that is—”
“But the thing is, type II error is bad, too.” Her eyes bore into his, hesitant and urgent all at once. She was frightened—so frightened by what she was about to say. But also exhilarated for him to finally know. Determined to get it out. “Yes,” he agreed slowly, confused. “False negatives are bad, too.” “That’s the thing with science. We’re drilled to believe that false positives are bad, but false negatives are just as terrifying.” She swallowed. “Not being able to see something, even if it’s in front of your eyes. Purposefully making yourself blind, just because you’re afraid of seeing too much.” “Are you saying that statistics graduate education is inadequate?” She exhaled a laugh, suddenly flushed, even in the dark cool of the night. Her eyes were starting to sting. “Maybe. But also . . . I think that I have been inadequate. And I don’t want to be, not anymore.” “Olive.” He took one step closer, just a few inches. Not enough to crowd, but plenty for her to feel his warmth. “Are you okay?” “There have been . . . so many things that have happened, before I even met you, and I think they messed me up a little. I’ve mostly lived in fear of being alone, and . . . I’ll tell you about them, if you want. First, I have to figure it out on my own, why shielding myself with a bunch of lies seemed like a better idea than admitting even one ounce of truth. But I think . . .” She took a deep, shuddering breath. There was a tear, one single tear that she could feel sliding down her cheek. Adam saw it and mouthed her name.
“I think that somewhere along the way I forgot that I was something. I forgot myself.” She was the one who stepped closer. The one who put her hand on the hem of his shirt, who tugged gently and held on to it, who started touching him and crying and smiling at the same time. “There are two things I want to tell you, Adam.” “What can I—” “Please. Just let me tell you.” He wasn’t very good at it. At standing there and doing nothing while her eyes welled fuller and fuller. She could tell that he felt useless, his hands dangling in fists at his sides, and she . . . she loved him even more for it. For looking at her like she was the beginning and end of his every thought. “The first thing is that I lied to you. And my lie was not just by omission.” “Olive—” “It was a real lie. A bad one. A stupid one. I let you—no, I made you think that I had feelings for someone else, when in truth . . . I didn’t. I never did.” His hand came up to cup the side of her face. “What do you —” “But that’s not very important.” “Olive.” He pulled her closer, pressing his lips against her forehead. “It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is that you’re crying about, I will fix it. I will make it right. I—” “Adam,” she interrupted him with a wet smile. “It’s not important, because the second thing, that’s what really matters.” They were so close, now. She could smell his scent and his warmth, and his hands were cradling her face, thumbs swiping back and forth to dry her cheeks.
“Sweetheart,” he murmured. “What is the second thing?” She was still crying, but she’d never been happier. So she said it, probably in the worst accent he’d ever heard. “Ik hou van jou, Adam.”

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