This is the fifth part of a short story draft. Part I. Part II. Part III. Part IV.
I remember once, early in the development project, helping Becky run through equipment lists. David was not there. Perhaps he was off looking into something else, or perhaps he had gone home already. I had always worked late, and Becky began to do so.
Morgan Stimson stopped by, asking where David was. When told that David was not in the lab, he said in his fake jocular tone, "Well, at least the two of you know how to work. But you're the two that should most be taking a rest; you never seem to leave. Why not just leave everything for tomorrow?"
"There is far too much to do, Morgan," I replied.
Becky, who had been putting an order into the computer, finished the order and said, "We should probably get this done and out of the way."
Morgan with his usual fake smile made a couple of lame jokes about workaholism, then went home.
When he was gone, I said, "I do not know how he thinks he, of all people, has any right to criticize David for not doing work. I think he is jealous of David."
Becky was quiet a moment, then said, "Aren't you ever jealous of David?"
I was baffled by the question, and, to be honest, a little offended. "Of course not. David is a friend. How could I be jealous of him? What he has accomplished is not something to be jealous over; I am only proud of him."
"I am proud of him, too," said Becky. "But I am also jealous of him. To be entirely honest, I am jealous of you, too."
This baffled me even more. "How could you possibly be jealous of me?"
She turned to face me directly and threw up her hands. "You make it look so easy," she said. "Both you and David do. I can never keep up. I love you both, and would never want to detract from anything either of you have ever done, but you have it easy, Charli. You're a genius. David's a genius. I have only to mention a problem to David and he's halfway to a solution. You're the same. I've spent a good part of my life just struggling to keep up and not hold you two back."
"That makes no sense at all, Becky," I replied, still mystified. "You have done as much as either of us. More, even."
"Minor technical stuff."
"You have revolutionized an entire field; you have made it possible for David and I actually to apply our ideas. You have always been the engine of the trio, Becky. For that matter, you are the reason we are here at Trisagion, and this very project was your idea."
"There is that," she admitted. She did something or other on the computer, and then smiled, Becky-like. I always liked that smile: confident and sure of her way. "This project will be something, won't it?"
"I have never been more excited about anything in my entire life," I said. "The secondary issues alone are bound to lead to important applications. This is the best one can ask for in scientific work: ambitious, substantive, promising."
"But it will be best of all when we actually succeed," she said.
"Well," I said skeptically, "I have already told you that I doubt we will get so far. Capturing so much of someone's mental life would be like making a perfect simulation of a train wreck on the basis of indirect information. It is what we will discover along the way that will really make this project worthwhile."
"You underestimate yourself, Charli," Becky said. "And you underestimate David. Both of you will go beyond anything you or I can imagine. I have complete confidence in that."
"All three of us," I corrected.
She was quiet a moment. Then she smiled at me again. "Well," she said, "I hope to be able to play a part."
I cannot remember what else was said. We finished up and each of us went home.
I am not quite sure when I first had the suspicion that Becky was having an affair with Morgan Stimson. Looking back, it seems to be the only interpretation of a great many things. But at the time it did not seem that way at all. At the time Morgan was just an inconvenience who kept trying to butt into things that were none of his business. I think I could not wrap my mind around the idea that anyone would like fake-smile Stimson. Perhaps she never did. Who knows what she was thinking in those days? Perhaps it was just restlessness. Perhaps in one of her down moments she thought she deserved Morgan the fake smiler more than David the genius. Whatever the reason may have been, the two left no obvious evidence. Here and there Morgan seemed to take a minor liberty; I think I thought Becky was just oblivious to it.
I do not think David suspected at all. But I do not know what David thought or suspected in those days. Sometimes he would be his old self. At others, however, he seemed to retreat, leaving the outside world, and even his friends, very far away.
It was several months later that they told me about Becky's condition.
to be continued