"I deserve my own project," Cliff said, raising his eyes.
"There is no such thing as your own project in this lab," Mendelssohn declared.
"Look, this is a team," Glass said, "and you need to pull your weight, not drag everyone else down with your personal flights of fancy."
Down the hall, in the lab, the others gathered like near relations at a funeral.
"They wouldn't fire him," Prithwish said loyally. He was Cliff's roommate, after all.
"They will not fire him," Feng agreed.
Natalya thought about this. "My feeling is Mendelssohn would not, but Glass would." She was Russian and had been a doctor herself, before coming to America. Natalya had never taken to Glass.
"They'll be arguing, then," said Prithwish.
"They'll let him stay," Aidan predicted, "and make him so miserable he'll leave by himself."
"He was miserable before," Prithwish pointed out, but the others hushed him. Cliff was coming back down the corridor.
Instantly his friends scattered, vanishing into the clutter of glassware and instruments like rabbits in the brush. All but Robin, who pulled at Cliff's sleeve. Silently they slipped into the adjoining stockroom, the lab's poisonous pharmacological pantry.
She closed the door behind her. "Are you all right?"
His cheeks were flushed, his eyes unusually bright. "I'm fine."
She drew closer, but he turned away.
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know," he said. "They've already tried to pawn me off on you."
"They suggested that you work with me?"
"Six months ago, but I said no."
She was surprised, and hurt. "You never told me that."
"What was the point? I didn't want to work on your stuff."
She folded her arms. "What's wrong with my stuff?"
"Nothing!" he lied.
She had spent five years working on what had once been considered a dazzling project, an analysis of frozen samples of blood, collected over the years from cancer patients who had died of various forms of the disease. Sandy Glass had been convinced that somewhere in these samples was a common marker, a significant tag that would suddenly reveal a unifying syndrome underlying his patients' tragic and diverse conditions. Glass had presented the project to Robin in her first year with a flourish, as if he were bestowing upon her a great gift. He'd told Robin he was convinced there was a Nobel Prize in this work; that this above all was the research he himself had hoped to do if his clinical duties had allowed. Then, having bestowed his blood collection along with a great deal of disorganized documentation about each donor's illness and death, he'd left her to work alone.
He'd chosen her for her fierce intelligence, her passion for discovery, her ambition--and, of course, Glass had always liked a beautiful postdoc. Robin's eyes were a warm brown, brilliant under pale lashes, her blond hair silken, although she tied it back unceremoniously with any old rubber band she happened to find. Her features were delicate and easily flushed, her teeth were small and almost, but not quite, straight. On the upper right side, one tooth overlapped another slightly, like a page turned down in a book. With her fine eyes and shining hair, she'd always seemed to Cliff like a girl out of a fairy tale. Still, even she could not spin Glass's dross into gold.
"So there's nothing wrong with my work, but it's not good enough for you," she challenged Cliff.
"No, I didn't say that."
"That's what you were thinking."
"Look, if I ever thought that, I'm sorry. Just, please . . ."
Gravely, she turned on him. "But you aren't sorry."
"I just thought . . ." she began.
Excerpted from Intuition by Allegra Goodman Copyright © 2006 by Allegra Goodman. Excerpted by permission of The Dial Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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