Love in an Erlen Meyer flask

In 2008, Jacob Moore wrote a paper on starfish and how their regenerative capabilities could be reproduced in living tissue. It attracted some attention and he was invited to speak at a few conferences. Two small research grants allowed him to continue his research, and he stepped away completely from teaching. He spent all his time in his lab, in the library, or at a small bar called Strings, conferring with former colleagues.

Then Blair came along. Beautiful, smart, witty Blair, of Rochester, New York, who for some bizarre reason stepped into Strings one night with two girlfriends in tow. The place was out of the way, down a small side street, and generally only attracted academics and students. It was quiet, apart from the quiz night, which were intense.

Jacob had never been good with women, and the ghost of a longer relationship that ended badly a few years prior still haunted him, so he did nothing. Didn’t even stare that much. Her smile lit up the place, and the three women attracted a lot of attention from the patrons. Drinks were sent over, conversations were started, the mood in the whole place shifted into something else. A feeling of opportunity to explore maybe.

She came over as he sat in a booth talking to Oscar, a friend from college and a teacher of microbiology.

“Hello,” she said. Jacob and Oscar both looked up and smiled.
“Hello,” they said, simultaneously.
“Buy me a drink,” she said to Jacob. He just stared. She had dark short hair and brown eyes, and was so far out of his league it wasn’t even funny.
“Uhm, sure,” he said, and stood up.

And so it began. A drink and some conversation and a drink and a three hour walk and a soft kiss by her door.
“I will call you,” she said, and she did. Two months later he moved into her place.

Blair came from money. Old money, a lot of money. But you wouldn’t know it unless you came to her apartment, which was a loft like something out of a movie. Wall to ceiling windows, a library the size of Jacob’s own apartment, everything in the apartment expensive but discreetly so in every way.

When the research grants ran out, she paid for his research. It wasn’t even a discussion, she just did it.
“I want you to be happy,” she said.
She seemed happy with her own job, as an investment strategist, whatever that meant, for a hedge fund. They both worked odd hours but made it work anyway.

They decided soon that the next step into their relationship was to look after a living being together, as a sort of a trial run for any future offspring they might choose to bring into the world. So unanimous was their decision, so in sync, that it caught Jacob off guard when they could not for the life of them agree on what living being to raise.

Plants quickly struck off the list–any one thing easy to ignore was nothing like a newborn–but after that, finding common ground was like pulling teeth.

“A cat!” Jacob had suggested easily, remembering the summer days he spent reading books on his meemaw’s floor, Jakey the cat curled up next to him.

“A newt!” Blair countered. She’d seen faded photographs of Jakey, and new species of newts that had colouration resembling the tabby cat’s fur patterns.

“A mouse!” proposed Jacob next, for perhaps Blair was simply intimidated by the independence of a cat and wanted something smaller and more easily surveyed.

“An axolotl!” Blair recommended, for its dopey smile sure to attract at least as much praise as an adorable mouse.

“A songbird!” cajoled Jacob. The bright plumage had to rival the millennial pink of an axolotl.

“A planarian!” cried Blair.

“What?” Jacob blurted out as he was caught off guard and frankly, disgusted. After all, a planarian was a flatworm and he had gone through such a nasty experience with them during that one expedition through the southern swamps.

“We could spend our afternoons bisecting them!” Blair motioned with her slender fingered hands, as though wielding a scalpel. “By the time our romantic dinners are finished, they will have regenerated! How they thrive in hardship! How we will thrive on hardship!”

“Oh dear,” said Jacob, and his brow furrowed with consideration.