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Marian was grateful that not much had changed in the past four years, as she walked into the familiar building. Although her anxiety was twisting her into this mousy girl that she did not recognize, she was not oblivious to the fact that she had softened on the train. She’d let Drake chip away at her great wall of anger.

Exhaling she concluded to herself, As long as I slowly gain the upper hand, I can allow moments of weakness. If he trusts me or believes he’s gotten me to trust him, I’ll be able to control the course of our relationship.

She smiled merrily. That was probably why I married him. I found a way to maneuver him to do my bidding.

  For the first time, Marian actually accepted the fact that she was indeed married to Drake despite the fact that the marriage license he’d carefully left on the coffee table did little to make her believe.

Documents can easily be forged, but who can argue with obvious motives, she decided.

If she could see an angle now, and she was in the same mental place as she was four years ago, then clearly when Drake had proposed, she had seen that same angle. And instantly, the self-loathing stopped. She could relax into herself, knowing that she was not the complete fool she had been imagining. There had never been any love lost on Drake Finch.

“Are you nervous, Marian?” Drake’s question pulled her focus out from her mind.

She noticed the elevator had almost reached the floor that he’d selected.

“Well, let’s just say I am not sure what to expect, but I’d better get at least a few of my questions answered.” She didn’t smile because she needed him to know that she was serious.

“We’ll see,” was his only acknowledgement of her demand.

The elevator door opened and and he stepped out before turning and waiting for her to follow. She took a breath and straightened her shoulders. They then walked down the hall for what seemed the length of a block before Drake stopped, pulled a key from his lanyard, and swiped it through the lock of a white, windowless door.

If Marian thought it was suspicious that their lab entrance had no peephole or window she knew better than to mention it to her husband.

“Here we are, home sweet home.” Drake opened door wide and frowned as he stepped aside for her to enter.

“Drake, where is everyone?” she groaned.

He looked down at his watch. “Ah, Marian, they are all at lunch. It’s almost 1:30.”

“You let them all leave at the same time, with no one to watch the lab?” She was incredulous.

“No, my dear, that is what security cameras are for. Besides, you usually stay behind during lunch.”

“And what about you, second in command?”

He smiled. “Why, I fetch you your lunch, Doctor.”

Marian nodded, seemingly satisfied with his answer. “Seems like we should have an intern do that,” she threw out as she began to inspect the various stations separated by imagined cubicles.

Each researcher seemed to have their own desk sitting next two two standard sized utility tables with black counter-tops.

As Drake had left her comment alone, she voiced a question as she knocked on the nearest counter with her right fist, “Drake are these laminate or resin?”

He smiled. She remembered that there was  a distinct difference, between the two, the first was cheaper, but the second was much more resilient to heat, pressure, and chemicals.

“Resin. They’re nice aren’t they.”

“Seems a bit extravagant for a simple research lab.” Marian hedged, hoping he’d spill some tidbit of information.

“Well, I’m not complaining. It’s not as if we paid for it. Do you want to get some food while we’re waiting for the team?”

“What you’re still hungry after all those eggs. Wait til we leave. We have important business here today.”

He looked at her, his eyelids crinkling. “And what business is that?”

Marian walked away from him to examine a refrigerator unit.  “Oh, the usual, proving to myself that I’m neither crazy nor trapped in some kind of government conspiracy where I wasn’t supposed to wake up.” Giving him no time to comment on her statement she asked, “Ok let’s hit my office.”

“You’re looking at it.”

“Here, but this is where all the staff works. I’m the chief.”

He smiled as he nodded. “I agree with you of course, but you insisted on sharing a workspace with us. You said it made for better productivity, being as we’d literally be apart of each others work. You are big on collaboration these days.”

“That’s absurd. You should have known me better than that, Drake. I love hierarchy, especially when I’m on top.”

“Hence the “Dr.” that is used before Marian when they speak to you.” He was still enjoying this too much.

Before she could utter another protest, the door they’d just come through opened, and five people with matching lanyards spilled in. Their lighthearted banter seemed to fizzle into silence at the sight of Marian.

After several heartbeats, a medium brown skinned beauty rushed to Marian and threw her arms around the startled Dr.

“Oh, Dr. Marian you’re well. We were so worried this time.” Before another word was thrown in what was said, Drake came over and hugged the woman as soon as she released Marian.

The woman seemed as confused by Drake’s hug as Marian was. “Uh, it’s good to see you too, Drake.”

No one else moved. Marian forced herself to keep a straight face, so tempted to grin over the morsel that was dropped in front of her accidentally. This time. She said this time. Hah. Mr. Finch has got some ‘splanin to do.

El Fin

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