Run, Girl (If You Can) - novelonlinefull.com
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Once the hammock was delivered, Keeley spent hours in it soaking up the sun every day for the rest of August. It quickly became her favorite thing to do. Whenever Aaron couldn't find her, he would check the highest terrace.
He ended up setting up his three terraces' furniture differently. The lowest one held a table, chairs, and a grill. The middle one had a sectional couch surrounding a fire pit. The top one held the original lawn chair and the hammock.
She tried to spend as much time as possible outdoors before being cooped up inside for the rest of the semester so she also taught Aaron how to use the grill. They ended up eating a lot of steak and chicken at the table on the lower terrace.
Keeley also taught him the fine art of s'mores, which he didn't quite get at first. He kept getting melted marshmallow all over his fingers and then would pull a disgusted face. She tried really hard not to laugh at him but he looked too funny.
"No, no, you have to squish the other half of the graham cracker down on top of it first and then pull the stick out," she explained while demonstrating on her own s'more. "See? The marshmallow only gets on my face, not my hands."
"…this is very messy."
"Yeah, it's kind of the point. Isn't it good though?"
Aaron nodded with his mouth full, making her laugh again. He was actually kind of cute sometimes once you got past the ten layers of ice. In their last life, she never would have called him cute. Ever.
She contentedly finished off her s'more and set to roasting another marshmallow for the next one. Spending time with him like this after coming home from the lab was actually kind of nice. The silences weren't awkward anymore.
"Oh hey, before I forget. I'm going down to Maryland this weekend. Can you take care of Molly for me?" she asked.
Even though they lived in the same house they were still each responsible for the feeding and litter box cleaning of their own pet. It was kind of an unspoken rule.
"Sure. Why are you going to Maryland?"
Keeley turned over the marshmallow to examine whether or not the underside was golden brown. It wasn't quite there yet. She would give it another minute.
"Do you remember my friend Jeffrey? I'm going to go see him and his girlfriend. Oh wait, she's his fiancée now. They got engaged last week."
"Vaguely. Was he the one you went to the Valentine's dance with? I think he was afraid of me," Aaron said a bit ruefully.
She laughed and patted his shoulder. "Everybody was afraid of you back then. You're much more approachable now."
He scowled. "I know, it's annoying. People think they can just come up and talk to me at work."
Small talk, an introvert's worst nightmare. Poor thing. Although she couldn't imagine just anyone approaching him for a friendly chat.
"Are you referring to Cameron and Aiden?"
"Mostly but it's not only them. After I got fake engaged n.o.body would stop approaching me," he said with a genuine shudder.
Keeley snickered. "That's your own fault. People always get excited about things like that."
For someone so meticulous for the most part, Aaron really didn't know how to think things through. It was probably why he frequently found himself on the short end of the stick. You'd never notice that though unless you really knew him.
She wondered if anyone else even did. His work friends certainly spend the most time with him but did they really understand him? It was virtually impossible to get inside his head.
Aaron's expression suddenly grew serious. "Keeley, do you like it here?"
Did he mean here as in New York or here as in his apartment? Probably the latter.
She shrugged, answering casually. "Of course I do. The mattress is great, I have pretty much full ownership of the TV remote, and get to do fun stuff like this because you have the coolest terraces ever. Why do you ask?"
He set down his roasting stick and the marshmallow slid right off it into the fire. He didn't seem to notice or care.
"Do you really have to leave in January?"
Oh. A pit formed in her stomach. The past few weeks had felt sort of like a vacation from the real world since she hadn't done anything school related other than buy the last textbooks she would ever need—that had been a sobering experience.
But as soon as she got back from Maryland, school would start again and the threat of not having a job after graduation would be very real. She needed to talk to Dr. Kim about staying on but didn't want to appear pushy.
"I'm not sure yet," she admitted. "It depends on where I can find a job."
"Do you have to work at a university? What if there was a lab that was working on what you want to research?"
Keeley scoffed. "Yeah, like that would ever happen. It would be too perfect."
Aaron cleared his throat and fiddled with his hands nervously. She had never seen him this nervous before. What was he thinking?
"Um…what if I funded it? So you could stay in the city. I looked into it a little…labs are always looking for backers. I could help you continue your research. I know how much it means to you. Wouldn't it be the best of both worlds? You could stay in the city you love researching what you want to and I…wouldn't have to be alone," he finished lamely.
She blinked at him in shock. She never expected him to offer to fund her research. Every scientist dreamed of having a rich backer! But it didn't seem fair if he was only doing it to keep her here with him.
"I'm not sure what to say," she said honestly.
He interlocked his fingers and finally met her gaze. "You don't have to answer now. You still don't know if NYU will decide to keep you on or not. Just know that it's one of your options. You don't have to leave the city you love if you don't want to."
With that declaration, Aaron speared another marshmallow and began roasting again as if nothing had happened.