Marigold watched her boyfriend Thule sleep. Even while sleeping, he managed to look tired these days. Stripped to nothing but a pair of shorts, he lay with on his back with one arm flung across his eyes. At least he was coming back to the house to sleep now. For a while, he'd been crashing in his dorm room on campus to avoid even the twenty-minute drive from there to here.
He was getting a full six hours of sleep s night now, too. He'd refused to sleep any longer than that since the attacks on New York and Washington. He'd gone from being the silent owner of a security firm to an active participant almost overnight. Coupled with the rigorous class schedule and the trial he was testifying in, he had little to no free time.
Marigold had tried to convince him to sleep more and take a less active role in the business. But, Thule had an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. A number of FBI agents had gotten themselves suspended from the bureau for helping him investigate the Vandevoorts. When Thule had managed to cash in on his notoriety over the case, he'd used most of the money to start the company and hired most of the suspended agents. Now, he considered the success of the business to be part and parcel with his responsibility to do right by those first employees. Marigold admired him immensely for his attitudes, but the work made him so tired sometimes that she was afraid he was going to literally work himself to death.
She'd tried to talk to him about it, but chosen her timing particularly poorly. He'd gone to sleep one night as Marigold was getting home from a study session. She'd made dinner, spent an hour studying another subject, gotten ready for bed, and entered the bedroom just as his alarm clock went off.
"Thule," she asked. "Are you getting up?"
Thule nodded, "I've got a ton of reading to do for physics and some documents to look over for the current round of financing. Then, I need to work out and eat before class."
"Thule, isn't there anything you can delegate?" Marigold asked. "You can't keep up this pace."
Thule shook his head as if even that tiny bit of physical effort was taxing. His eyelids were still heavy with sleep, "What am I supposed to delegate, Little Flower? Nobody can study for me. Nobody can eat or work out for me. And, I have to do due diligence on RSS's financing. I'm the owner."
Marigold couldn't argue with any of the points he'd made. So, she said, "I don't know, Thule. I just worry. I go to sleep, you're working. I get up, you're working. I almost never see you..."
"I'm sorry, Marigold," he said quietly. "I know I'm ignoring you. I'll make it up to you soon."
The idea that he would give up what little sleep he was getting to spend time with her alarmed Marigold, "Thule, I don't want you to make it up to me." She smiled at him, "Come back to bed, just for a couple of hours."
Thule scowled at her, "I can't, Marigold. I told you I would be busy this year. Why can't you understand that?"
It had deteriorated from there. Thule had thought Marigold was complaining that he didn't spend more time with her. Marigold didn't realize that he thought that. He kept promising to make it up to her. She kept telling him not to. He took that to mean that she wanted his attention right now. He'd come as close to storming out as Marigold had ever seen him. Instead, he left calmly, saying that he could think better at the library. Marigold had gone to bed in tears, more afraid than ever that Thule wasn't going to get the sleep he needed to survive.
That had been the last serious conversation they'd had. The next day, Marigold had seen him working far into the night on the financing agreement and painfully regretted the time she'd cost him the night before, arguing.
After that, she'd started spending more time away from the house. She loved Thule and wanted to spend time with him, but was horribly afraid that he would sleep less if she were there, wanting to spend time with her. Worse, part of her wanted him to and she was afraid that she wouldn't be able to reign in that desire.
Up until that point, she'd been slow to make friends at school. She didn't really have a lot of experience making friends at all. Most of her "friends" throughout high school has been people with whom she was more interested in currying favor than actually bonding. The two people she really considered friends were Dawn and Thule and it wasn't like Harvard had a "people like Dawn and Thule" club.
Plenty of people had made overtures to her. More correctly, plenty of men had made overtures. Once she made it clear that she wasn't interested in jumping into bed with them, many of them went away.
Still, she had made a few friends or, at least, protofriends. She made a conscious decision to spend more time with them. The opportunity arose next when she was in the offices of the chemistry department.
"Hey, Goldie," said Alan Hall. It wasn't a nickname she particularly liked, but she'd never bothered to object to it. "What brings you to our dusty, little neck of the woods?"
Marigold smiled, "I'm here to see Dr. Cordero. I didn't understand some of his lecture points in Organic Chem today and was looking for some extra help."
Alan smiled back. As she'd been several times before, she was keenly aware of how startlingly handsome he was, "Dr. Cordero isn't in, but maybe we can help with your problem."
Marigold hesitated. Alan had made it clear that his interest in her went beyond friendship. But, unlike other guys who had done so, had continued to be friendly and easygoing with her when she'd made clear that she did not return his interest.
This time, she brushed away her hesitation and let Alan and the other students in the chemistry department help her. She discovered that not everyone who was spending time in the department's offices necessarily worked there. Most of the people taking chemistry at Harvard wanted to be doctors either for the prestige or because of a legacy of doctors in their family. The people who hung around the chemistry department either didn't want to be doctors or didn't fit in with their classmates. Somehow, Marigold found a place with them. Sitting in the chemistry offices, she'd had her first serious college-level debate on the subject of livestock and antibiotics and discovered herself completely unable to hold up her end of the debate. It had taken several such debates for her to feel comfortable arguing strenuously.
Not wanting to appear the intellectual lightweight that she was starting to be afraid she might actually be, she'd chosen her battle, waiting for her moment and brought up a subject on which she'd done her research: genetically-altered food.
She'd felt good about the discussion. Even though everyone else in the room disagreed with her, she held her own well, making point and counterpoint. She might have won too if Dr. Anton hadn't chosen that particular day to make an appearance.
"Dr. Anton," said Eric Volmeyer. "Welcome back. How was Soweto?"
"Very trying," said Dr. Anton. "I do not know where the pro-starvation protestors get the stamina needed to convince so many people that they can eat pretty words."
"Maybe you could ask Marigold," offered Jennifer Wickman. For some reason, Jennifer had taken an immediate disliking to Marigold when they'd first met. "She was just explaining why she disagrees with your work."
To Dr. Anton's credit, he didn't rise to the bait. Instead, he shook his head and retired to his office. It was Marigold who pursued the subject.
Coming into his office, she said, "Dr. Anton, I was wondering if I could ask you a couple of questions. I'm not one of your students, but..."
He smiled, "Seeing as how I have no students, that's something of a certainty. You're the young woman who was arguing against genetically modified food. Marigold, was it?"
"Yes, sir," said Marigold.
"Did you come to argue with me today?"
"A pity," he said. "Would you like to?"
"I beg your pardon," said Marigold.
"You may or may not know this," he said. "But, I am one of the world's foremost authorities on genetically modified food. As such, I've been trying to write a book about them for the general market. But, since I am such an authority, no one wants to argue with me about it. As a result, I have to guess at what people are thinking. Would you like to argue with me about it?"
"I don't think I can," said Marigold. "I'm not really qualified..."
He indicated a stack of photocopies on one of his shelves, "That is a copy of the source material I've gathered for the book. If you read it, you would be qualified to be my devil's advocate."
Marigold looked at the stack, "That's quite a lot of reading. I've already got a lot on my plate."
Dr. Anton fixed her with a stare, "Marigold, do you want the Harvard experience?"
"Yes," she said automatically. She'd heard the phrase so many times that she didn't need to think about it.
"This is the Harvard experience," he said. "Become an expert on something and argue about it with leaders in the field. I'm going to Iowa for two weeks. When I get back, I'm going to start working on my book. I would like to have a devil's advocate to make my arguments strong. Steel sharpens steel after all."
Marigold was unable to resist the challenge. For the next week, she brought whichever article she was working her way through with her wherever she went. By the weekend, she'd managed to clear away all of her class-related work and focus on the denser, more scientific articles. Some of the articles presumed knowledge that she didn't have which led her to the library.
.... There is more of this story ...