Part Two - Direction of the acceleration is the same as that of the force
There was no doubt that Dana and Grace had been caught up in an F5 whirlwind, first the circumstances of their meeting, then the frightening illness of Grace's father, and finally the Beta scare. Neither one had had much time to breathe, or sort out her feelings, or really understand where they were headed. And, meteorologically, sooner or later pressures do change, affecting the weather patterns, and storms lose their powers, and the debris begins to fall back to the earth, usually leaving something of a mess to clean up. And, even if it does set you down gently, who knows where that place may be, perhaps at one's own back door, or on the opposite side of the county. Heck, sometimes it will even drop you on top of a wicked witch.
In Dana and Grace's case, they fell on completely opposite sides of the Nanoverse.
Dana spent the days of May and June alone at the boat yard readying her boat for the sailing season. She had completely sanded and repainted the hull, rudder, and keel. She had scraped the propeller of the inboard, repainted it as well, and scrubbed the decks. She waxed the teak of the cabin to keep it from molding.
She enjoyed the toil, the sun, and the fresh air. The smell of the seaside filled her body, and the aching work was a reaffirmation of life. She could not wait to cast off and say good-bye to Connecticut and the stresses of being in one place for too damned long. She still worried about another attack, always mindful of strangers in the boat yard, or when she walked to her house. Dana kept a watchful eye on things. And then there was the freedom of the open seas.
Most nights Grace came home late, after dark, and Dana would be in bed already or sitting around waiting to talk excitedly about their plans.
Grace spent most of the weeks of May and June traveling across the country surveying fellow university research facilities and trying to recruit personnel for the Yale program. Her largest concern was to find a candidate for the technical administrator position for the Small-Cell Carcinoma Nano Project, which was going to be the facility's prime focus and big-money target. And she also began the long, political process of acquiring the funds. When she did come home, she was exhausted or stressed beyond her capacity. She would usually crawl into bed and fall asleep within two or three minutes of hitting the pillow.
"Hey, Grace?" Dana asked one night after the blonde had slipped quietly between the sheets.
"The boat's finished. We put up the mast today."
Grace's eyes flickered open in the dark. Her body felt leaden and fatigued. She had spent the day with Dr. Barbara Buchler strategizing a grant for several million dollars.
"I was thinking...it's awfully pretty down in the Keys this time of year."
She rolled up on her side and faced Grace in the darkness.
"I can't go anywhere right now. I have too much to do with the program. I have six interviews lined up over the next two weeks, and after that we have to work on establishing a technical plan."
Dana felt her stomach knot. "When will you be able to go?"
"I don't know."
Dana lay back and stared at the gray shadows on the ceiling. It was raining lightly outside, and she could hear the pattering on the roof.
"Maybe now that you're feeling better you might reconsider talking to Barbara."
"About what--her hairdo?"
"No, about working on the project and paying off the bill."
Dana sat up and hung her feet over the edge of the bed.
"I'm not interested, and I'll find another way to pay." She was referring to the bill for two hundred sixty-eight thousand dollars for her hospital stay and kidney replacement treatment. Convicts did not receive benefits from the state, and unless they held a job, they were responsible for health costs.
"You don't have that kind of money."
"I'm not going to let them chain me into slaving for them because of a debt."
Grace bit her lip and sighed. "Why?"
"If I want to work, I'll work anonymously and publish on the Web for everyone's benefit, not just one fox hoping to keep all the eggs for herself."
"I'm the fox?"
Silence. "No, your buddy Babs is."
"Dana," she said softly in that way that really means "you're being unreasonable."
"Grace, I can't stay here."
"Please think about it."
"This isn't right for me; I like being out there."
"On the water?"
"Away from people."
"Away from me?"
"I've asked you to come."
"But this is what I think I want to do with my life.
"You don't have a clue about the Nanoverse, Grace, not a clue."
"I think I've learned a lot the past few months."
"You haven't learned shit."
Grace sat up, insulted, and faced the opposite wall. "Dana, who do you think wrote all of the technical reports and sat through the inquisitions with the Feds? It wasn't you with the answers, it was I. And I took all of the responsibility."
Dana looked over her shoulder at the outline of the smaller woman, who wasn't listening. "They didn't accept your answers because they were good; they accepted them because once Rachel posted everything on the Web, they had nothing to steal and hoard for themselves."
Grace was becoming angry. "I think I know what this is about. You're jealous."
"I'm not jealous."
"You think that all this nano business is yours."
It was hers, in a way. It was her solace, her ecological niche, and the place where she survived. "You don't understand me at all."
"How can I? You rarely tell me anything."
A long pause. You don't have time to listen, she thought. "Do you know what I think about all day?"
"Your boat," she replied.
"No, Grace, I think about when or how they'll try again."
Grace dropped her head and closed her eyes. She tried not to think about that. She was so tired. "I've thought about it too."
"I have to leave, and I want you to come."
The rain continued to fall against the house. "Can we talk about this tomorrow? I'm too tired to think clearly."
With reluctance, Dana lay back down. Grace wrapped an arm around her waist and fell back to sleep, but Dana lay awake all night, struggling to ward off the disappointment and anxiety.
The next day, they settled nothing. Grace went to work, and Dana hung around the marina, cleaning her sails and tuning her lines to make sure they were tight enough and worked properly. And, as usually was the case, Grace returned home after sunset, after a grueling set of financial meetings with Dr. Buchler and the Research Board.
She also came home with an offer for Dana from Dr. Buchler. Although it was a low-level technical position, right along the line of janitor, in Dana's opinion, Grace presented it as if it were the Presidency.
"You have to be kidding me. I'm a flunky, not an idiot," Dana scoffed.
"Dana, we can't have--"
"--What can't weeee have? A degreeless sociopath running a multi-billion-dollar program? Or is it because I created the Beta?"
"They don't even know about that."
Dana slammed down the pot she was filling with water to make rice, startling Grace. "Tell them, and then see if the offer still stands."
"We're offering you a chance to do something about that."
Dana opened the oven and slammed it again. "God, now you're offering Karmic payment options." She began to laugh sardonically. "You friggin' academic types."
"Do you know how many people die from cancer every year?"
"I have an idea."
"You can help save them."
Dana was feeling trapped, confined, and bullied. She turned to the stove and poured in the rice. "I can't do anything about those people that one of your candidates can't."
Grace was becoming irritated as well, her fuse already short from the stress and strain of the past months. "So you only save yourself, Dana?" She knew she never should have said it, but it was too late--it was out there.
Dana felt her heart implode and prayed it did not show on her face. "I'm going for a walk."
Grace swallowed nervously. She had not seen it for a long time, but Dana had put on that impenetrable mask that could hide her hurt and anger. And then the door slammed.
Dana came back home around seven a.m. and walked to the couch where Grace had fallen asleep waiting. She kneeled down next to Grace and gently touched her arm, and waited for the lids to open. "Grace?"
Grace swam through the haze of slumber until she realized Dana was leaning over her. "Dana, I'm sorry. I should never have said what I did."
"Grace, do you want me?" It was a hard question for Dana to ask aloud, but that's what it came down to for her. If Grace wanted her, she would wait a little while longer.
Stunned silence. Her look left Dana needing to explain further.
"I mean, with the illness and all, you took me in, and we fell into this...this domesticity, but we never really discussed staying together. And I don't think you really want this." Phew.
Grace rubbed her eyes.
"I felt comfortable with you, but I...I...things are different now. You're going somewhere that I don't want to," Dana said.
"No, you are," Dana stated pointedly.
"Not all the time."
"Most of the time." Silence. "Please be honest with me. I need that right now." She said this with a surety to cover the quaking of her soul. "We hardly know each other, and to set up house, that's a commitment. And you want something here, and I need to be somewhere else."
"Dana, you can't run off all the time."
A long silence.
"I think you still have some conflicts about my past."
"No, I don't."
"You need to be honest with yourself. I am. It's hard enough for me to live with myself after what I did."
"Do something about it."
A frightening void.
Grace was frustrated. Why couldn't Dana see how much she could do? "Maybe we do need some room," she finally said softly with a sigh.
"Okay," Dana said without the hurt that she felt, as if it were settled. And she realized something immediately: never, never give away something you will want back, especially your heart, and don't ever lend it if you are afraid it will come back broken.
Stoic pale blue eyes met tired green ones, two fraudulent, understanding smiles sliding to their faces.
"I need coffee," Dana said, lifting herself from the floor. Grace also climbed off the couch and went to get ready for work. While Grace dressed and applied her lipstick, Dana made coffee and threw leftovers into a container for Grace's lunch as had become a habit.
Grace came into the kitchen and helped herself to a mug of Java. She was standing at the counter next to Dana, who was pretending to read the paper, flipping through the stocks. Grace pulled her hair from her suit collar.
"Where will you stay?" She asked a question that had popped into her head while she was stirring in two scoops of sugar.
"I'll find a place."
Then a thought. "What about money?"
"I'll be fine, Grace."
"No." A sharp retort. "I can never go to Ruth again. I'll find a job."
Grace touched her arm and Dana instinctively flinched.
Dana ignored the comment, still not having looked up from the paper.
"When does the boat go into the water?"
Dana must have told her twenty times. "Thursday."
Another thought. "How will we communicate, I mean, how will we make plans?"
"I'll call and leave a phone number on the machine, or if you need me before that, call the marina. They'll come get me if I'm docked."
"Are you planning to ship out?"
"I haven't made any plans." She still did not look up. "But soon." Dana was building her walls as quickly as she could slap the mortar down, pushing the ache as far away from herself as possible. But those not-so-old feelings of inadequacy were charging at her from all sides. She had never been able to make anyone she cared about happy. She looked at her watch. "It's seven-thirty."
"Ah, shit!" Grace said, setting her cup down, grabbing her lunch, and racing to the door. She had an eight o'clock meeting. She ran back to grab the keys off the table. "See you later?" she asked with an unsure smile.
Dana looked up over her silver rims. "Later."
And then the door shut.
Dana finished the paper and straightened the house, including washing, folding, and putting away the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and dusting the electronics in the front room. When she finally finished vacuuming, she walked to the bedroom, packed her clothes and her few toiletries. Leaving the porch light on for when Grace came home after dark, she and Rip left the house. She had no money, no home other than the boat that was in dry dock, and no computer.
The repairs and the painting were done. She was nearly five thousand dollars in debt to the marina for storage and supplies. For a moment, she entertained the thought of stealing away, but having never been a thief and hearing the echo of Grace's words "you can't run away from everything," it was not a plausible solution. She knew of only one way to pay her marina debt and hospital costs.
She decided to take up a local restaurant owner on one of his periodic offers on her boat. In order to assure its seaworthiness, and to spend one last night aboard, even if it was on dry land, she worked on her Tartan all night.
The next day, after the launch, she received a cashiers' check for more than its appraised value but for far less than it meant to her, and she handed over the title and the tethered key from around her neck.
When Grace came home late that first evening, she was not shocked to find her house sparkling clean, but the fact that it was empty did not go unnoticed. Maybe in her haste that last morning she had not fully understood that when Dana meant she was moving out, she meant right then. Although Dana had had very few belongings in the first place, she had left nothing. Not even her preferred brand of gentle toothpaste remained in the cupboard. Rip's Tupperware bowls were washed and stashed in the pantry. Even her wonderful additions to the house music collection were gone. "Well, of course they're gone," she said to herself. "Holy shit!" she whispered and collapsed in exhaustion and numbness onto the couch, her couch, and realized that this was not what she wanted. She curled her legs under her, still in her silk suit skirt, and flipped on the television for company.
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