Rosalind is at her desk, grading papers. Leah appears at the door. “Dr. Duchard?”
Rosalind looks up and gives her a knowing smile.
“Leah Walker. What can I do for you?”
Leah enters and sits in front of the desk.
“Just curious if you’ve had a chance to consider my request.”
“Esther said you’re persistent. I’m sorry, Leah, but my answer is the same.”
“You said you needed time to get to know me.”
“Yes. And one semester just isn’t enough. You are a remarkable student, no doubt, but I just don’t know how well we’d mesh.”
“Esther said you were obstinate.”
“Do you have any idea how many students have approached me about being their advisor? They’re all remarkable students as well, but, given my position, I don’t have much time for students. I have to be very selective.”
“I just don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. I want to keep my name fresh in your mind.”
“I could hardly forget you with all the questions you pepper me with in class.”
Leah shrugs. “My mom always said I’m too inquisitive.”
“Don’t apologize for asking questions. It’s how you learn. I’m sure your mother is very proud of your accomplishments.”
“I know she would be. She died last year.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
Leah looks away from Rosalind a moment, then an idea comes to her. “Well, there is an opportunity for us to get better acquainted more quickly. Esther said you’re looking for a lab assistant.”
“You don’t miss a beat, do you? Yes. I seem to recall her lobbying for you before she graduated.”
“You haven’t filled the position, have you?”
“No. As you’re aware, this was my first semester back from sabbatical, and all the senior students have assignments already.”
“Perfect. I’m available and I’d love working with you.”
“Well, I admire your initiative, that’s for sure, but there’s an awful lot of work involved. How do you know you won’t be overwhelmed with your studies?”
“Look, I know you don’t really know me and you’re taking a chance, but I work hard and I’m not afraid to put in long hours. I was just as driven at Wellesley and I managed that okay.”
“All right. I’ll give you the interview.” She sits up and folds her hands on the desk in front of her. “Tell me a little about yourself, Leah. I don’t recognize your accent, so I assume you’re not from Boston.”
Leah assumes a more professional demeanor. “No. I’m from Atlanta.”
“That’s a little surprising. You don’t sound Southern.”
“No Atlanta native does.”
“Is that where your family is from?”
“Not really. My father comes from Northeast Georgia and my mother from South Carolina. Melinda Rosales. Actually, around Charleston, they pronounce it Ro-Sales.”
“That’s rather odd. What’s the reason?”
“Her family’s been in the South since before the Revolution and the pronunciation evolved. She’s Sephardic.”
“You’re Jewish? Another surprise.”
“By birth, yes. I’m not observant.”
“My husband’s not observant either.” She throws up her hands. “Oh, what the hell?” She indicates the stack of papers in front of her. “As you can see, I do need someone, so I will take you on as my lab assistant.”
“In a year, if you’re still around and I haven’t taken on someone else by then — a big if — I’ll be your advisor. How does that sound?
“I won’t disappoint you.”
“When can you start?”
Leah pulls the stack of papers to her.
“How about right now?”
“Good answer.” Rosalind shifts the papers so they can both see them. “Let me show you how I handle grading.”
They work together for about forty minutes, before Rosalind says she has a lecture for which she needs to prepare.
“Do you have any plans for Saturday?” Rosalind asks as Leah is gathering her things. “We can work up a lab schedule for you. If you don’t mind handling students.”
“Not at all. I’m free during the day but have big plans for the evening.”
Leah nods. “My roommate and I are going out to celebrate my birthday.”
“Saturday’s your birthday? May 23?”
“You were born May 23? In what? 1970?”
Rosalind becomes very interested.
“You were born May 23, 1969?”
“That’s right. Is that important?”
Rosalind stares at her as though seeing her for the first time. “My god. Why didn’t I see it?”
“Is everything okay?” Leah says. “I’m sure a lot of people were born that day.”
Rosalind laughs. “Of course. You’re right. What can you tell me about the day you were born?”
“Not much, obviously. My mom said that my father was busy, so my aunt drove her to the hospital. Not surprising, actually.”
“Accompanied by two angels.”
“Nothing. It just reminded me of something.”
“Well, then, I’ll be on my way,” Leah says, pointing to the door.
Rosalind seems to be considering something as Leah backs toward the door.
“Leah, wait. I’ve just this minute reconsidered. I will be your thesis advisor.”
“Is this because my birthday is May 23?”
“No. Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. I just see that you have a lot of potential, and I want to be the one to guide you.”
“Perfect. I don’t know what brought about his change of heart, but I won’t let you down.”
“I’m sure you won’t.”