Missed Encounters

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Chapter 2

The Third Encounter

Professor Wells’ attire was much more relaxed for his third interview-

Polo shirt.

Khaki slacks.

Sneakers.

Looked more like your average college student than a professor. In fact, he reminded Wendy, who was looking lovely as ever, of her boyfriend Devon.

Her head dropped at the thought of his name.

It’s been three months and yet the grief is still just as strong. Now’s not the time to think on such things, she has an interview to do after all.

“So, tell me Layton,” Wendy began, not even hesitating to use his name as she did when he first insisted during their initial interview. She had been worried on how to address him during their sessions, but when he first suggested by his name she figured why not. And while it may have seemed a bit flirty, she knew it was him just being nice.

“Why the name ‘Reed-Wells particle’? ‘Wells’ obviously for you since it was your discovery, but where does the ‘Reed’ come from?”

“Dr. Eugene Reed was a brilliant man. I never had the pleasure of meeting him sadly. He disappeared about eight years ago tragically.”

His words sent a shiver up the entirety of Wendy’s spine. And while she tried her best to control the look of shock on her face, she knew she failed. Thankfully, Layton didn’t seem to notice, or perhaps--

“So, was his research something that lead you to the discovery of this theoretical particle?” She asked driving back the sting still shivering her bones.

Layton’s eyes shifted to their corners. He took a long drawn in breath, choosing his next words carefully.

“In the most minute of ways,” Wells lied. “The man’s personal research at that time had really nothing to do with my own,” he told truthfully, “but I feel had he continued on this earth he might have been led on a trajectory that intersected with mine.”

Wendy’s confused look was very evident.

“That was the--” he paused again. “--inspiration that led to my discovery. So, to honor that most bizarre of muses I named the particle after him.”

“Interesting.” Wendy said, unable to find the proper word. “It is very kind of you to honor him such a way.”

“Was the least I could do, believe me.” Wells mused, looking out his office window, while Wendy began scribbling in her notepad. From his vantage point Wells could see the varsity track-team’s afternoon practice, which reminded him--

“Your fiance runs track, does he not?” Wells asked, turning his glance back to Wendy.

Her head shoots up to meet Wells’. No hiding the shock in her face this time.

“I don’t have a fiance.” She blurted out, her own words magnifying the loss even more.

“Oh,” Wells breathed. “I’m sorry I thought you had mentioned--” He trailed off, gesturing with his hand for her to fill in the blank. This surprised Wendy, she was certain she had never mentioned Devon to Layton. She certainly would have remembered doing so.

“We were never engaged.” She said after what felt like a lifetime. “We talked about it a lot, and I’m certain we would have been if he hadn’t--” She stopped herself from continuing. Three months and she still finds it difficult to talk about.

“Wendy,” Wells said softly. “What happened?”

She swallowed hard, her eyes welling up. “Devon, my boyfriend, disappeared three months ago. Just up and vanished.” She blinked, freeing the built up tears to glide down her soft cheeks.

“I’m so sorry.” Wells apologized and leaned forward, placing his hand on your knee. “I wasn’t aware Devon Meyers was your boyfriend.”

Wendy nodded silently, while carefully wiping the tears off her cheeks.

“Three months,” Wells said in disbelief. “It doesn’t seem it’s been that long. I remember the early reports said blood was found inside his dorm room but--” Wells, after seeing Wendy frown with grief at his tactless recalling, went silent. “I guess now would be a good time to bring this interview to its conclusion, Wendy.” Wells suggested.

After a moment of composing herself, Wendy nodded in agreement. Packing her notepad away in her bag, Wendy stood from the armchair and began making her way out of Professor Wells’ office.

“Wendy!” Wells said, stopping her just as she opened the door. She watched in silence as the Professor made his way to her, overshadowing her inside the door frame. “Grief can be a powerful thing, especially if we allow it to grow silently inside of us.” Wells rested his hands on both of Wendy’s shoulders, which made a feeling of uneasiness to fill inside her. “I know our next interview isn’t for a couple of days, but--” Wells hesitated. Her beauty sent his nerves into overdrive, but he was finally able to spit out, “--maybe we could meetup tonight. Talk about things other than the Reed-Wells Particle?” A jumpy smile shook across his face.

Wendy stood frozen. Only able to stare silently at the Professor’s unflinching gaze. The quiet grew uncomfortable as the ticking of Wells’ timepiece grew louder and louder.

“I can’t.” Wendy said after a lifetime of ticks. “There’s a search meeting for Devon tonight. I know three months and not a trace, but I’m not giving up. I’ll never give up. He was the one.”

Wells smile slowly disappeared, leaving behind a look somewhere between sadness and embarrassment.

Wendy gave the floor a quick glance and said, “I’m sorry, Professor,” then walked out the door, leaving Wells standing there alone.

Alone with his ticking.


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