It’s rare that a lab assistant gets to hand pick her successor, but if she has any say in the matter, Esther Gershon plans to do just that. She already knows the perfect candidate to take her place, working for the extremely demanding Rosalind Duchard (nee Worthy).
Esther has been Rosalind’s right hand for much of her time as a graduate IT major at MIT. She comes from a family of Hasidic Jews who immigrated from Europe in the latter part of the 19th Century, settling in and around Boston. Her father, Mordecai, owns a large electronics distribution company, and sent her to school after being unable to find her a suitable match among the eligible men in their community. Esther is considered headstrong and never shies away from offering her opinion, solicited or not, and she discovered rather early in life that she found her female companions much more attractive than the guys, many of whom were more concerned with allying with her family than spending a lifetime with her. Mordecai concluded that if she would not bring him a son-in-law, she could be an asset to the family in another way.
Once she was away from her family, Esther embraced a fully secular lifestyle, much to the disdain of her relatives. She remains observant, but in all other aspects, she resembles an out college student in a large Northern city.
Esther’s choice for her successor is an incoming doctoral candidate named Leah Walker. They first met when Leah was an undergraduate at Wellesley, taking master’s level courses at MIT in preparation for applying there for a doctorate. Esther was months away from defending her thesis, and Leah showed up in a seminar Esther was instructing. The minute Leah walked in, Esther took note of her, with short, spiky, auburn hair and piercing blue eyes.
Unlike other undergrads, who sometimes shrank away from instructors, Leah strode in, wearing shorts, T-shirt, and sneakers, and took a seat on the front row.
“Not afraid to sit the splatter zone?” Esther remarked.
“I’ll manage,” Leah said.
She looked Esther directly in the eye as they chatted while the room filled in and asked very insightful questions during the discussion period.
Based on Leah’s look and her frequent references to “Dottie”, Esther made a number of assumptions about Leah’s sexuality, most of which proved to be insufficient for summing up her new protégée. Esther learned Dottie was a friend with whom Leah shared an apartment. Recently they had begun a contentious, exclusive relationship with one another which didn’t sound very comforting for either. Esther also discovered, much to her surprise, that Leah was a Jew, though not observant.
“I was raised in Temple until my Bat Mitzvah,” Leah told her. “After that, Mom gave me the option of going or not and I stopped.”
“What did your mom say about that?” Esther asked.
“She was disappointed but respected my decision.”
Esther’s goal of choosing Leah to follow her as Rosalind’s assistant faced a major challenge when Rosalind married Paul Duchard, a professor in the Math Department, and took off for a year-long sabbatical to Europe just after Esther defended her thesis. Assured in her choice, however, Esther knows it’s a simple matter of getting them together for Rosalind to realize Leah’s potential. To this end, she’s started talking up Rosalind to Leah, and assuring her she’s just the sort of student Rosalind loves to guide.
In the meantime, she plans to get to know Leah on as intimate terms as Leah will allow.