Welcome to the next episode in Tom Baker's recent history. So far, our hero has seen and swooned over the future love of his life, the beautiful Kate Ramsey. He's talked his adviser into helping him land a job in her lab. And he's taken care of a little roadblock in the form of over-enthusiastic booty call, Saskia. Now he just has to figure out how to deal with his brother, Nate, who is adamant Tom make the move back home to Austin.
My brother is next on the list.
I still haven’t replied to his last text, but he hasn’t sent me any more, so I’m guessing he’s realized what a dick move it was. And I want to stay mad at him, especially as it will make it way easier to do what I’m about to do, but I just don’t have it in me. I love the guy. Even when he’s shoving my face in the dirt, or comparing me to our jackass dad.
I wait until the following evening and then head home, determined to suck it up and stand my ground.
But when I make it back to my apartment, my roommate Kevin is just putting the finishing touches on a batch of chili, so I crash his party and sit down to eat with him and his girlfriend Tara.
I tell them about Saskia, playing out the events of the previous night until Tara is doubled over laughing.
“I can’t believe she said that,” she says, shaking her head from side to side.
“She’s an actress,” I shrug, taking a swig of beer. “Everything has to be a little dramatic.”
“I can’t believe you turned down another chance to hit that,” says Kevin, and Tara kicks him under the table.
“What?” he cries, playing at innocence. “I didn’t say I wanted to.”
She narrows her eyes at him and swings back to face me.
“So what about this other girl then?”
“What other girl?” I say. But denial is futile with Tara. She knows me too well.
“You know which girl, dumbass.”
I flick the top of my bottle, eyes cast down.
“The hottie from the conference,” she says, annoyed at having to spell it out. “We got a fucking photographic account of the sexy white dress and the luscious curves.”
And I can’t help it, I smirk despite myself.
“Don’t play coy with me, Baker,” she says.
I wait a beat, because I can. But then I look up and nod. “I think I’m going to go work for her,” I say.
The table erupts with a single coherent “Whoa!”
“You sly dog,” Kevin says. “You gonna get busy with the boss?”
It earns him another kick under the table, but I smile at him and raise an eyebrow.
“Sure as hell hope so. I think I might be in love.”
I say it for comic value more than anything. And he gets the joke, laughing out loud and reaching across the table for a high five. But Tara just watches me and nods. She sees right through my bullshit.
It’s late by the time I actually get around to calling Nate. I’m buzzed from the beer and still exhausted from the trip. But the phone nearly rings out before he answers it, so I have a minute to gather my wits. And by the time we’ve cycled through the small talk, I know what I need to say.
“How was the conference?” he asks, his tone cautious. He clearly knows how much he fucked up by pulling the emotional blackmail shit on me.
“Good,” I say. “Great. Really great.”
“Hey listen, Tom,” he starts, but I can’t let him finish that sentence. I can’t let him apologize before I lay my plans on him.
“I’m going to Germany,” I blurt out. It’s a half truth, I realize. But I want it to be true, so I don’t feel bad about lying.
“You’re what?” He’s still on the back foot, but he’s mounting for a fight, I can tell.
“To Bonn,” I say. “To the biology institute there. It’s one of the best in the world.”
“To Germany?” he asks, and I leave it answered. Because what else can I say?
There’s a pause on the other end of the line, and then a long, low sigh.
“That’s really fucking far away,” he says at last, but his tone is resigned, like he’s backing down.
“It’s not that far,” I say. “And it’s not forever.”
There’s another silence, and I have clench my fists to stop myself from filling it. Because I hate this tension. I’m three seconds away from telling him I’ll move back home.
But then he fills it for me.
“I guess I’ve just been feeling guilty about leaving Texas,” he says, exhaling hard and fast. “I guess I’m trying to put that on you.”
I’m lost for words for a second, unsure of whether he’s just messing with me. But he’s not, I realize. He’s actually going to let me go.
“Germany sounds like an amazing opportunity,” he says. “You should do it.”
I close my eyes and smile. This is really happening.
“Thanks Nate,” I breathe into the phone. “You’re the best.”
Jump to Part 10.