Ellie lay on the bed beside Alan, staring pointedly at the wall and not saying anything. Out of the corner of her eye she would occasionally see him glance at her and she wondered if he was even picking up on the fact that she was upset. She felt she was being quite blatant, but he'd proven he could be extremely oblivious to female emotions before and he could be so difficult to read. After a time, he looked up from the papers he had been going over and looked at his watch. He put them aside and stretched out a little more. He turned to her.
She said nothing.
"Ellie?" he repeated. "Psycho is coming on in a few minutes? Want to watch it?"
"Not really," she said shortly, and turned her back to him. She was a little bit surprised by her over-the-top sulkiness, but although she didn't feel like bringing up what was wrong, she needed to talk about it. But she didn't want to force it upon Alan. He had to ask about himself.
"Really? But you're always raving about Hitchcock. You're always saying I need to see more of his mov-"
"You can watch it if you want, Alan," she said flatly. "I just don't feel like it right now."
"Are you alright, El?" he asked, finally. She rolled over to face him.
"I'm fine," she said, although she wasn't. "It's just that the whole thing with Dr. Harris has me feeling a little bit down."
Alan looked at her, not the slightest hint of concern on his face. He waved a hand dismissively and snorted, "Ellie, you shouldn't even be thinking about that." He turned to the bedside table and started reaching for the remote, missing the hurt that sprung to her eyes.
Ellie Sattler prided herself in being a woman who didn't let little things bother her. Even as a teenager, she hadn't let things like boys and clothes upset her. She didn't think she was being unreasonable here, but Alan's expression had made her feel like an overemotional child or a raging hypersensitive lunatic. She thought of the events of the day. For each day of the weeks since he had called, Ellie had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Dr. Daniel Harris, fretting and worrying in a most uncharacteristic manner. The famed paleobotanist had been one of her professors while she was completing her undergraduate degree. His lectures on the long extinct plants of the ancient world had been what inspired her to pursue a higher degree in the field.
Apparently he had heard about some of the specimens she and her team had found and was interested in coming out to see them. Feeling something like a kid on Christmas, she enthusiastically agreed, pondering countless questions, from whether he would even remember her, to what he would think about the paper she was writing and the theories she had come up with. He had recently published some ideas that turned out to be the first thing she disagreed with him on, and she had read everything he'd ever written. She had been looking forward to engaging in an interesting debate with him.
They had debated, that was true. But it wasn't terribly interesting. It was nasty and humiliating and the worst experience she'd had academically since receiving her doctorate. She had spoken excitedly with Dr. Harris for a few hours after he arrived, discussing various new discoveries and theories in the field while she gave him a tour of the dig site and showed him their most interesting plant specimens. Afterwards, he had agreed to talk to all the botany students at the dig site, along with any other students and volunteers who had an interest in listening to the famed paleobotanist. Quite a crowd had turned up to hear him talk, about twenty students as well as Alan and the other PhD holders working at the site.
When he brought up his recent ideas that contradicted her findings, she couldn't help but call him once he allowed for a question and answer session. Her hand had been the first to shoot up and he beamed at her, telling her ask away. She had phrased her dissenting opinion as politely as she could to the man she respected so much. However, he seemed highly unimpressed by it and quickly uttered an unsatisfactory response with darkened features. When she'd pressed further, he'd responded, and before they knew it, a half hour of arguing had passed.
Eventually Dr. Harris showed his strong dislike of her by throwing around phrases such as 'incompetent,' 'flawed research,' 'foolish,' and a whole slew of further insults in a long winded and furious speech. He closed up his briefcase, strode over to her and informed her that he would not be staying at the dig site overnight, as previously planned, disappointment and annoyance in his eyes.
Ellie felt the humiliation burn through her again as she relived the event of being insulted and degraded by her hero in front of her colleagues and those studying under her. Tears stung her eyes. How could Alan expect her to stop thinking of it instantaneously? He hadn't even given her so much as a pat on the shoulder afterwards. Knowing that he thought her weak along with Dr. Harris thinking she was stupid was painful enough to cause the outburst that had been waiting to explode for hours come forth.
"Look, Alan. Just because you're this hard ass, macho, man of few words that would probably die of a brain hemorrhage if he felt a human emotion, doesn't mean the rest of us are so perfect. We can't just forget complete and utter humiliation in the blink of an eye. Forgive me for asking for a little sympathy. I shouldn't have expected so much of you," she said bitterly.
She wanted to turn her back to him again in a huff, but she was more interested in seeing what his reaction would be. If there even was one.
He raised his eyebrows so high they almost disappeared, and merely said, "Ouch." A wave of guilt washed over her as she saw a twinge of hurt and surprise flicker in his blue eyes despite his attempt at being casual. Then he was quiet for a long time, deep in thought. Finally, he spoke, "Ellie…I hope you…you haven't been thinking that by not offering sympathy I didn't care, or didn't think you deserved it. I simply thought that the encounter with Harris was so black and white that it didn't require further discussion," he said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. She hadn't the slightest idea what he meant, and told him so.
"Well, anyone with half a brain cell could see what transpired during your debate," he said, again seeming confused as to what she didn't see.
"Well if you mean they watched one of the most respected paleobotanists in the world make a total fool out of me in front everyone, then yes-"
"No, Ellie," he interrupted, looking at her like she had two heads. He chuckled and she became furious. "That's not what happened at all."
"Huh," she said, unconvinced. "Well, you explain it to me then, Alan, in your infinite wisdom, because with my theories being 'ridiculous and filled with assumption' I'm a little reluctant to attempt a guess," she said scathingly reciting Harris's words. Tears stung her eyes as soon as she did though.
Again, Alan gave her a look of disbelief and shook his head. She thought it was because he was surprised at the rudeness with which she was speaking to him. She had never shown such anger in his presence before, and the worst she'd ever done was playfully tease him. On this account, she actually was wrong, which she realized quite quickly after he began to speak.
"Alright, Ellie. I'll tell you what I saw, which is exactly what everyone else at Harris's talk saw. Which, quite frankly, I was sure you saw as well. You were simply trying to engage in a polite academic debate with an egotistical hotshot who was not expecting to be challenged by someone as young as yourself. I suppose he was a bit baffled by your being female as well. I know the type. Their views are dated but impossible to change. He was clearly expecting to show off his findings and please the crowd. Instead, he was hit with hard evidence by a gorgeous, young woman who was a former student. You had an astonishingly articulate, and sometimes witty, rebuttal for every point he made, and he lacked a response to quite a few of yours.
"Ellie, Harris was the one humiliated. Not you. He realized he was unprepared to grapple with you intellectually, got backed into a corner and resorted to juvenile name-calling masked by some fancy vocabulary. Everyone present had the mental capabilities to see through it. He was remarkably transparent. He stormed off like a child having a temper tantrum, for God's sake," Alan exclaimed, and finally took a pause longer than was needed to take a breath.
He watched her for a few moments. The entire time he had, her mouth had been opening and closing with the desire to interrupt and defy him, but now she wasn't sure what to say. After a moment, Alan spoke again.
"You really have no idea how amazing you looked up there, how impressive you were, do you?"
Ellie gaped at him. She looked into Alan's eyes, and both the kindness and conviction she saw in them caused a wave of relief to wash over her. The memories that she'd been subjectively replaying in her mind, in which she had looked like young and fool, disappeared. She had been viewing the event through the emotions she felt, rather than as it actually happened. When she calmed down enough and allowed the self-doubt Harris had instilled in her to fade away, she was left with the facts. Had she been viewing the debate, rather than being involved, she surely would have seen Dr. Harris's behavior as immature and even a bit pathetic.
Then a feeling besides relief came. She looked at Alan, who looked truly incredulous and even disturbed by the idea of her not feeling good about herself, and a warm smile crept onto her lips for the first time since the debate with Harris. Dr. Alan Grant could be truly infuriating at times. Again, she'd never been especially girly, but she would occasionally feel the need to get a compliment or two from her boyfriend without having to drag it out of him.
Finally though, it seemed she understood. Alan wasn't lax about dishing out compliments because he didn't think she had nothing to compliment. Based on the manner in which he spoke about her just now, he simply felt that her positive traits were so obvious that there was no point in mentioning them.
She thought about all the men she'd known in her life. Before she started going out with Alan, three months previously, she had been flirted with by a lot of men. Hell, she'd been flirted with a fair few times since then as well. She thought about the times she'd received praise and compliments from them before, and realized that the majority of them, while they'd sounded eloquent, were somewhat empty. Alan Grant had never given her undue praise, and she realized that it was one of the things that had attracted her to him so much. Alan was an honest man. When he said something nice, it was because he truly meant it, and he hadn't shied away from giving her criticism when he felt it was necessary either.
He didn't always say the right thing. Sometimes he didn't say much of anything. But throughout the relationship, and even back when it was just friendship, he would occasionally speak with such a tenderness and sincerity that meant the world to her and made her feel like she could never feel about anyone the way she felt about he didn't always say what she wanted to hear. But he said what he really believed and what he clearly believed her to be a far greater person than she'd ever thought. She watched him. He lay beside her on the bed, watching her and she knew that he felt very deeply for her, even if he would never express it in sonnets or poetic language or lovesick ramblings.
With a jolt she realized that what she was feeling, that wave that washed over her was love. Even before she had become involved with him, she had felt more strongly for him than any other man she'd ever met. In the three months since they'd become an official couple, little moments of affection, kindness and laughter had been building up between them, and her feelings had grown considerably. But she never would have realized how close they were to love. It seemed she had been standing on the edge of a cliff and Alan's objective, even annoying, analysis of her embarrassing moment turned out to be what she needed to finally fall off it. I love him, she thought, amazed. Her heart swelled and beat against her chest wildly. She had to tell him. She had to say it.
"Alan, I-" she said abruptly, making both of them jump. The movement made her freeze. When she spoke again, a couple of seconds later, it was in a lower, softer voice. She reached out to hold his hand in hers. "Thank you."
She was somewhat surprised at herself. She had never shied away from making the first move in the relationship. She had to, given the fact that she had taken on the difficult task of dating Dr. Alan Grant, but had never minded. Feminist that she was, she saw nothing wrong with going after what you wanted. She had asked him out first, kissed him first, initiated sex first and made the decision to move into his trailer.
Why then, at the prospect of telling him that she loved him, did she suddenly feel so vulnerable? She'd never worried about his reactions too much before, always feeling that if they weren't what she'd hoped for, she would figure out a way to deal with them and move on. Why then, was she suddenly nervously wondering about how he would react, what he would think, whether he would say it back and what it would mean for their relationship? Perhaps it was because she was still feeling a slight twinge from Dr. Harris's words. She was sure she'd have the courage to say it in a few days. There was no rush.
For the moment, however, she decided that the only thing to do was to slowly pull him towards her and engage him in a slow, long kiss. As she did so, she couldn't help but wonder if her actions were giving it away regardless of her decision to wait.
Alan almost laughed at the sudden change in her from worried and upset and angry at him to this, but his funny, brilliant and intelligent girlfriend's kiss gradually deepened and left him capable of only one thought: God, I love this woman.