Married…Again

By: Stephanie Doyle

CHAPTER ONE

Trondheim Research Facility, Norway

“I CAN’T BELIEVE you right now,” Eleanor Harper shouted at her husband even as he walked down the stairs away from her.

“Nor, I’m not going to have this fight,” he said over his shoulder.

“No! No! You are going to have this fight. We are going to have this fight. Max, stop!”

He stopped at the door, his packed duffel bag slung over his shoulder. He turned to her, and she could see it in his expression. Before he even opened his mouth, she knew that he wasn’t going to back down.

That all the yelling and pleading and begging in the world wasn’t going to change this.

He huffed. “Nor! This is who I am. This is what I do. Do you get that? I’m an oceanographer who studies the impact of climate change on the ocean. This planet is dying one damn inch at a time. I have to do this work now. We’ve talked about this before. I thought I had your support.”

That wasn’t fair. This wasn’t about her not supporting his work. “You do have my support. You have all the support a wife should give to her husband, but where is my support? You dragged me to this research facility, and I said fine. I’ll go where you go. No questions asked. Then as soon as we get here you’re turning around and leaving me. For months at a time. I have no friends here, no family.”

Max rolled his eyes. “Oh, please, Nor, don’t sit there and tell me you’re pining away for your mother.”

“That’s not the point. Like it or not, she’s my mother. I miss my family. My sister. I miss my life back home. And none of that would matter if I had you. But now you tell me you’re leaving me again. Not for three months this time, but four months. That’s almost half of a year. I’m supposed to just sit around here and wait for you?”

Eleanor watched as he dropped the duffel on the floor beside him. Maybe she was getting through to him.

“It’s not fair, Max. It’s not, and you can’t tell me otherwise.”

He walked toward her and put his hands on her shoulders, pressed his forehead to hers.

So close she could smell him. She loved the scent of him. No matter how long he’d been on shore, to her he always smelled like the ocean.

“Nor, look at me. There are times you have to accept that some things are bigger than any one person. Bigger than any one relationship. Four months is nothing to us. A blip in our life.”

She shook her head and stepped out of his reach. “No, it’s four months this time. Then five months the next time. Then a year after that. It’s always going to be you needing to be on the ocean finding more and more data. Thinking you can prove that climate change is happening and suddenly everyone will listen to you.”

“Yes, Nor. The data I collect. It’s important. Not just for me but for everyone on this planet.”

“You have to make a choice. You have to choose. A life with me or a life on the ocean. But you can’t have both.”

He frowned. “Ultimatums? You’re sitting there, right now, issuing me an ultimatum. How crappy is that?”

Eleanor could feel tears welling up, but she worked hard to make sure her voice didn’t crack when she said it. “Max, do you love me?”

“With everything I am.”

She smiled sadly. Because it was true. It’s what she felt every day. But only when he was here. Only when he was with her. They had dated a mere seven months before he proposed. Before she accepted. Her mother had thought the proposal had come too soon. So much so that she refused to put together any kind of wedding until the two of them came to their senses and waited at least a year.

Giving Eleanor no option other than the obvious one. They’d eloped. To this day, almost three years later, her mother was still furious about it.

“We’ve been married nearly three years, and in that time we’ve only been together eighteen months. I can’t…I can’t…keep doing this.”

“Well, maybe it’s time you thought about your own passions.”

It felt like a slap of some kind. “What?”

“Look, I know it’s hard when I’m gone. It’s hard for me, too. You think I like spending my days with a bunch of other smelly scientists and rough sailors on the freezing cold Arctic Ocean? I like spending my days with you. I like spending my nights with my wife. I like screwing my wife. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think it was vitally important. So while I’m gone, maybe you need to find that thing, too. The thing you think is important.”

“I think you’re important,” Eleanor told him. Not sure why he was saying what he was saying.

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