Glimmer – Luz trémula
Twenty-Five Years Earlier
Mike came through the back door, grabbed Maggie, and swung her around. When he set her down, she realized he had a bottle of champagne clamped in one hand. Not to mention he was home from work three hours early.
“What’s going on?”
“You, my love, are looking at the newest vice president of Lillith Pharmaceuticals.”
“Oh, Mike, how wonderful. Congratulations.” Maggie put her arms around him and kissed him.
He kissed her back, then stepped into the kitchen and began twisting the cork out of the bottle. By the time it emerged with a pop, Maggie had the glasses ready. He poured and lifted his glass to tap hers. She smiled and took a sip.
“And the general-manager-in-waiting of the new plant in Puerto Rico.”
The champagne went down wrong, making Maggie cough and splutter. “The . . . new . . . what?”
Frowning, Mike set his glass down. “You okay, love?”
Maggie, still coughing, held up a finger and nodded. “Ah . . . I thought you said . . . something about Puerto Rico?”
Mike nodded. “I did.”
What Maggie wanted to say was, Well then, it’s Puerto Rico or me. But she was still having difficulty talking, which was perhaps a good thing.
Mike gave her a worried look. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
The truthful answer was, Not really. But what did he expect her to say about their fourth move in fourteen years of marriage?
“I thought John Anderson was the one going to Puerto Rico.”
“That’s what we all thought. You know I would have told you if I’d known this was coming.”
“What happened with John?”
He gave her a wry look. “The official word is he has health issues. The unofficial is that his wife refused to move.”
“Oh. That works, does it?”
“Yes, but I’m afraid it’s what’s known as a career-limiting move.”
“Did you accept the position?”
“Of course not. I said it was a huge surprise, which it certainly was, and that I needed to talk it over with you.”
“But you just said it would be career limiting to turn it down.”
“And it would be. No question. But if you absolutely hate the idea . . .” He sighed.
“But you don’t. Hate it, that is.” Examining her husband, Maggie could see that was true, and her heart sank.
“Since I didn’t think it was a possibility, I didn’t waste any time thinking about it. But now, yeah, the idea is kind of exciting.”
It wasn’t exciting for Maggie, though. “When do we get to settle somewhere for more than five minutes, Mike?”
“The assignment is for five years.”
“And then another move.” Maggie struggled to sound something other than aggrieved. It was, after all, the arrangement she’d agreed to—Mike had accepted full responsibility for the family finances, so his career was the one that took precedence. Maggie, who had to make do on the career front, was free to take any position she wished without being concerned about what it paid. She could also choose not to work.
But that decision, to put Mike’s career first, although an obviously reasonable one when she made it, hadn’t been so appealing in practice. It was something that never occurred to Maggie when she decided to go to graduate school—that getting a PhD would limit instead of expand her career opportunities, and that marrying Mike and having two PhDs in a family would be even more limiting.
“What about Julie and Jillian,” she said. “Have you thought about them?” Julie was in second grade, Jillian in pre-school.
Maggie, whose family had moved often, hated moving, and she didn’t want it for her girls. And Mike knew that.
“Of course I have. I think it will be a terrific experience for them to live in a different culture and learn another language. And this is the perfect time for that, while they’re so young.”
“But what about my career? Do you seriously think my editor is going to keep me on to write a column for the Boston Globe while I’m living in Puerto Rico?”
“I don’t see why not. It’s a science column, not local news. All you need is access to a good library.”
“Will I have that?”
“Hmm. Should be no problem.” He rubbed his forehead, frowning, then his expression cleared. “The University of Puerto Rico has a medical school, so they’ll have a library. I’ll see what I have to do to arrange for you to use it.”
Maggie suspected the question of the availability of a Puerto Rican library containing medical and scientific journals hadn’t crossed Mike’s mind until that moment, but he got points for a quick recovery.
“The company will pay for us to visit, you know. We can go down, check everything out, make sure you’ll have what you need—”
“And then we move anyway.”
“I’m afraid that’s the plan.”
Maggie sighed. If only this promotion had come up six months ago, she might have more easily bought into another move, because she had been finding Boston a difficult place to feel at home. Part of her unsettled feeling had been due to her inability to find any sort of a position that utilized her training and expertise.
But now, just as she was finally settled with a job she found challenging and enjoyable, Mike was proposing yet another move, to a place that while it might be high on a vacation list, wasn’t somewhere she’d particularly like to live.
Worse, despite Mike’s optimism, she wasn’t at all certain her editor would go along with her continuing to write her column while she was living in Puerto Rico. Much easier for him to simply replace her with one of the many under- and unemployed scientists floating around Boston.
At the memory of how difficult it had been to find that position, exhaustion washed over her. Up until the editor called with an offer, no one had been even the least bit impressed with her credentials—a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Kansas, a postdoctoral research position at Walter Reese Hospital in Chicago, and an adjunct professorship at a small college in Hartford.
There had come a day during her lengthy and fruitless job search that if one more person had said to her, “Honey, everybody wants to teach at Harvard,” she might have actually burst a major blood vessel and bled all over that person’s desk.
During that entire frustrating time of following up on leads that never panned out because she was “overqualified” and of getting excited about first interviews that never turned into second ones because “that budget line has fallen through,” she’d found herself envying not only Mike but the girls as well.
The three of them took off every morning with places to go and things to do, Mike to work and Julie and Jillian to school, leaving Maggie sitting alone at the kitchen table in her bathrobe, drinking another cup of coffee, the whole day stretched out in front of her like a blank slate.
The idea of writing about science had dawned on her only gradually after she noticed the science articles published by the Boston Globe always focused on something reported in either Science or Nature. The two journals were fine in their way, but there were a lot of exciting discoveries in other journals that the Globe’s science writer obviously never looked at.
I can do better than this, Maggie had thought more than once after reading a column that reported on something she had just read about in the unabridged form.
When she’d finally said it out loud, Mike’s response had been typical. “So, why don’t you?”
“The articles are written by a staff writer. Probably they aren’t interested in an outsider. Besides, I bet it doesn’t pay anything.” Maggie had no idea where all the excuses were coming from.
She’d stopped speaking abruptly, which unfortunately gave Mike an opening to say exactly what she’d expected him to say. “And none of that is worth two cents as a reason not to give it a shot, and you know it, hon.”
She could almost mouth the words along with him. Lip-synching. No one had warned her she’d reach a point in her marriage when she would, almost without exception, know what her husband was going to say. Except maybe that bit about moving to Puerto Rico. That wasn’t something she could have predicted.
Eventually she’d decided she might as well try writing a column. Nothing else was working. Besides, what did she have to lose besides a few more illusions about herself and her ability?
Three days after she hand-delivered two sample columns to the office of the managing editor of the Globe, the editor called and offered her work as a freelancer. In the beginning, he’d wanted only two columns a month, and the payments were enough to treat Mike and the girls to lunch at McDonald’s and a movie. But recently he’d upped that request to four, and he’d begun the process of syndicating her column to other papers. Already editors of the Fort Worth and San Diego papers had expressed an interest. Things were finally looking up for Maggie.
She pulled in a breath and gave her husband a direct look. “You do know you need to sell me on this, because if you don’t, I’ll make your life miserable.”
Mike pulled her to her feet and into his arms. “The only time you ever managed to make me miserable, Maggie Chase, was when you were dating what’s-his-name. The one with the ears.”
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