“Give me one good reason why you’re marrying my sister. Other than the fact that she’s hot, which obviously runs in the family. C’mon, Reed. One good reason.”
Reed blinks at Johnny, and blinks back down at the glass in his hand, which is empty even though he doesn’t remember drinking it. He doesn’t remember a lot, actually. Like the answer to Johnny’s question.
“She’s…smart.” Reed offers finally. “Passion for science, all that.” He waves his hand vaguely as if Johnny is supposed to understand ‘all that,’ though he knows perfectly well even in his less lucid moments that Johnny’s comprehension of what Reed finds attractive in a woman is decidedly different from Johnny’s own tastes.
“Lots of girls are smart, Reed. What’s the real reason?”
Reed holds his glass up to the light and admires the diffraction for a long moment. “There used to be lots of reasons,” he says finally. “Before.”
There were, once, Reed is as sure of that as he is of the twenty-fifth decimal of pi, but somewhere between where they were and where they are, Sue has become someone else in a way that has nothing to do with radically altered DNA.
“She was fun, in college,” Reed says, not aware he’s thinking aloud. “Ben kept telling me I needed more fun. And she didn’t mind saying what she wanted, like what movie to rent or which restaurant to pick, and I was just glad she was willing to say what she wanted instead of making it some mind game. And she had a nice smile.”
Somewhere in there his glass was filled again. Reed was pretty sure it was empty before, but he holds it up to the light and admires the way the light refracts through the liquid, as if it wants to drown in it.
“And now?” Johnny’s voice has this “I don’t really know if I want to know” tone to it, but also a hint of “I think I know already.” Reed wonders if he’s reading too much into two syllables.
“Come to think of it, ‘I do,’ is only two syllables,” he says.
“You’ve lost me, man. Are we still talking about Sue?”
“’Brittle’ is two syllables too,” Reed persists. “That’s what happened. Sure became pushy, and fun became anger, and sweet became brittle. Or maybe bitter. It all decayed. Did I do that?”
“Doubt it,” Johnny says as he removes the glass from Reed’s hand and slings Reed’s arm over his shoulder, poking him when Reed continues to sink towards the floor. “Hold it together there, genius,” he mutters before adding, “Sue’s always been a bit, I dunno, radioactive. All those good qualities, they have a very short—what’s that word—half-life. Trust the guy that grew up with her. Sweet Sue has a very, very short half-life.”
“And does that run in the family?” The words are out before Reed knows he’s thought them.
Johnny, mercifully, laughs. “Nope. Me, I’m pure nuclear fusion.”