Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 25byrpsuch©
Jeff was over my apartment so often we agreed he should just pack up his stuff and move in. He never returned to his room.
There was no discussion about how this fit into our long-term plans. We didn't have long-term plans. This wasn't we're going to get engaged so this is a logical step.
We just wanted to be together, so we were.
One day he returned to find me in a state of deep melancholy. I had no idea why. It may have been hormone related. Nothing I could think of worked to break me out of it. Nothing he could say would bring me out of it, until he said it.
He lifted my chin and smoothed his fingers over my cheek and said, "Come on, Fifths, cheer up."
"What did you say?"
"Come on, Fifths, cheer up."
It all melted away with the nickname that told me more than how much he appreciated my thoughtfulness. I squeezed my arms around him.
"I love you so much, Jeff."
"I know. I love you too. It amazes me how much."
That was our first time. First times can be difficult and awkward. This was as natural as breathing.
I hadn't noticed how much work Jeff was doing. He didn't seem to do anything but study and spend time with me. And he was studying more, like it was actually taking an effort on his part, which seemed unusual.
I didn't realize it until he warned me he might not have much time for me during finals. Last semester, finals had seemed easy, almost casual for him. Now he seemed to be working with single-minded devotion. I asked for an explanation.
"The university agreed to give me credits for some of the things I placed out of. They also agreed to give me credits for the rest of them if I do better than a 3.6 this semester. Altogether, I'll be getting credit for a little more than a year."
"So what's the problem? Have you ever gotten anything other than an A?"
"Yeah, in Art. I'm basically hopeless," he said.
"But you're not taking Art now."
"No. But I'm taking a massive load and it could be difficult to perform to my usual standards."
"What's massive? You took a heavy load last semester."
He was unusually quiet. Maybe it wasn't unusual; he was always reticent.
"Come on, out with it. How much pressure did you decide to put on yourself?"
"If I do better than 3.6, I'm graduating," he answered.
It must have sounded like the reaction to his confessing he'd been cheating on me with my best friend, if I had one. I was incredulous. I was furious.
"When were you going to tell me? We have this great year and you're gone? How could you?"
Then I started to cry. I hated it. It was a sign of weakness.
"No, Fifths, I'm not leaving."
He put his arms around me. I sobbed against him.
"I'm not going anywhere. I start grad school in the fall."
When I calmed down, I hit him, pretty hard this time.
"How could you let me think that, even for a moment? That's cruel."
"I didn't, I had, I didn't realize you'd hear it that way. It never crossed my mind for a second to go anywhere without you. How could you think that?"
Now he sounded incredulous.
"I don't know. It just sounded like, I have no idea. I'm sure there's a good reason in there somewhere, but I don't have a clue what it is. Maybe I'm just insecure. I've never done this before.
"You know lots of people are in love and then they're not."
"Not going to happen, Fifths. You've saturated me so completely, you've become part of my DNA."
"That's probably very romantic in the nerdiest way possible.
"I think I know, maybe I just want to hear it, but you've started calling me 'Fifths' lately and I was wondering why."
"When I think of you, it's your most defining characteristic. You so want to do things to make other people, me, happy, that you're willing to sublimate what you want."
"You so don't know me," I said.
"You so don't know you" he responded.
Could he be right? I hoped so because it said something about me I would really like to be true, and also because it would mean I was worth continuing to love.
Interestingly, for the first time in my life, my defining characteristic was not my beauty.
"Graduate school? Are you going to have a Ph.D. before I graduate?"
"Don't be silly," he said. "I couldn't possibly get one before that."
"Before that? You could really get one that fast?"
"We haven't worked out the details."
"Wow, this is your last summer of freedom."
I knew there was more from the look on his face. I asked with my own look.
"I've got a job. It's actually part of a whole package."
I waited for more but there was none.
"That's it? That's the end of what you're telling me?
"You really are my idiot savant.
"You're so smart it sounds like you have almost your whole future assured before you finish your first year of college.
"And you're such an idiot you won't tell the woman you love about it. How did you get like this?"
"Practice, practice, practice."
"I know how you got to be a smartass. Why don't you want to tell me?"
"I don't know. It feels like I'm bragging if I talk about it," he said.
"It feels like you're keeping it from me if you don't."
"I didn't do anything to get these brains. They just showed up."
"One day I was self aware and there they were. It seems really immodest to have pride in something you didn't do anything to earn."
"I, gee, that actually makes some sense.
"But there are other people involved when you decide to keep something to yourself. Think of how it makes me feel when you don't tell me this kind of stuff.
"Besides, it's not the brains you were given that's impressive, well, it is that anybody gets them, it's what you do with them."
"I'm sorry. I wrote a paper for a class and it got published in a journal. It intrigued some people at Second Foundation Biomed. They contacted me and the school, and put together this deal so I could start working for them sooner, rather than later.
"If I have a degree, they'll feel more comfortable paying me a real salary instead of what they'd pay an intern."
I waited. It was clear from his look that there was more. He had more reluctance than I had patience.
"And?" My voice was starting to get louder.
"They're paying for grad school. They set it up as a scholarship. And I'll be working for them for part of the breaks. The scholarship covers the Ph.D. After that, I have a five-year contract with them.
"It's like locking up a basketball player with a long-term contract coming right out of high school before he gets to be so expensive later they won't be able to afford to keep him."
Nice analogy. I was a little surprised he knew about that.
Still, "When were you going to tell me all this?"
"When the time was right."
"And when would that be?" I asked.
"I have no idea. It kind of overwhelmed me. I didn't know what to say."
He could hear the emotion, the pain in my voice. I made no effort to hide it. Tears were forming in my eyes.
"I thought it never crossed your mind to go anywhere without me. Where does this leave us?"
"My first year of grad school is here. That might be all it takes. But I can go anywhere after that; wherever you work, wherever you're going to school. I just have to be near Radnor during the summers before I finish school.
"It happened so fast, and you know I don't like to talk about myself, and, I didn't know what to say."
"My guy. Well, at least you'll be able to take me out sometimes now."
There was that look again.
"They are paying you, aren't they?"
"Yeah, they're paying me."
It wasn't a simple statement. There was an air of mystery to it.
"Are they paying you a decent amount?"
After all, I could be living with him for the entire length of the contract. I certainly hoped so.
"Well, I've got a minimum guarantee through the life of the contract, but we expect to renegotiate when the five years starts."
"Oddly enough, that's not an amount."
Now I understood what Jen had meant about pulling teeth.
"Are you contractually forbidden to tell me what you're making?"
"Would you believe that?" he asked.
"Do I look that stupid?"
"Couldn't you just be gullible?"
"Why don't you just tell me?"
Just a little more hestitation. His eyes drifted downward and voice got lower.
"Holy shit! Per year? Every year? To start?"
He blushed and nodded.
I thought I was the basketball player. Had there been a sudden bout of inflation since the last time I went to the bathroom?
Nobody should be paid that kind of money unless they did something really important for society, like recording music or playing sports.
"They must really want you," I said.
He took a deep breath. There was more?
"There was a little bit of a bidding war. Another company got wind of the negotiations and things got kind of hectic."
"Gee, I'm surprised they didn't give you a piece of the company."
He had that look again.
He tried to suppress it, but he started to laugh.
"I just wanted to have a little fun with you."
"Shut up. I may have to upgrade my opinion of you. So how much are you really making?"
"$240,000. I was just kidding about getting a piece of the company."
"When you exceed your 3.6, you owe me dinner at a very exclusive restaurant."
"It will be my pleasure."
I decided this would be a good time to have some pleasure of my own so I took his hand and led him to the bedroom.