The After Wife by Cass Hunter
When Rachel and Aidan fell in love, they thought it was forever.
She was a brilliant, high-flying scientist. He was her loving and supportive husband.
Now she’s gone, and Aidan must carry on and raise their daughter alone.
But Rachel has left behind her life’s work, a gift of love to see them through the dark days after her death.
A gift called iRachel.
‘One step closer,’ Rachel commanded.
Luke sighed and moved nearer. He was now standing directly
across the desk.
Rachel paused as she made a small adjustment. ‘Okay. Ready.’
‘What do you want me to do?’
‘Make eye contact, for a start.’
Luke raised his head. His eyes were deep blue and fringed with
thick, dark lashes. ‘Eye contact established. What now?’
‘I need you to be feeling a powerful emotion. Something
recognisable. So, think of something that you feel strongly about.
Don’t say what it is.’
Luke’s gaze flicked to Rachel’s and then away again. She saw
him draw a deep breath and then narrow his eyes in concentration.
He stared, with electric intensity. Rachel observed him
closely. He seemed to have forgotten to breathe. She saw his eyes
are. His pupils widened visibly, and she heard a change in his
breathing. His hands tightened into fists.
‘What do you see?’ she said.
The voice beside her was low and quiet. ‘Pupil dilation, respiration
shortened and more rapid, up to twenty breaths per
minute, heart rate increased by—’
‘Luke’s wristband is picking up his vital statistics and I can
read them on my screen,’ Rachel said impatiently. ‘Tell me what
he’s feeling. What do you sense?’
There was a long silence before the figure at Rachel’s side spoke
again. ‘He is focused. Not agitated, but concentrating very hard.’
‘Good,’ said Rachel. ‘Keep going.’
‘He is frowning. His temperature is steady, and I see no signs
of anger. I don’t believe I have made him angry.’
‘Not yet,’ said Luke.
‘He said “not yet” as if it were a warning, but I detect a smile.
Was that a joke?’
‘As close to a joke as you’ll ever get from Luke,’ said Rachel.
‘Is this going to take long?’ said Luke.
‘I think I have it!’ The voice was excited. ‘He is impatient because
we are taking up his time.’
‘Impatient,’ said Rachel. ‘Was that it, Luke? Was that the emotion
you were expressing?’
Luke laughed and visibly relaxed. ‘I would have said irritated.
But, yeah, impatient is close enough. Can we stop now?’
‘Don’t be a spoilsport,’ said Rachel. ‘It’s going so well. Just a
few minutes more . . .’ She checked her watch. ‘Oh no! It’s so
late. I must get away on time today – it’s our anniversary. Eighteen
years. Can you believe it?’
‘I can,’ said Luke drily.
‘Aidan’s booked us in for dinner at the Old Saxon. I was so
thrilled when he told me. You can’t get a table there for love or
money. He must have organised it months ago.’ Her smile was
wide with excitement.
‘Sounds like fun,’ said Luke. ‘Happy anniversary.’
Rachel stood up from her chair and stretched. The last rays
of sunlight slanted in through the windows, dappling the teetering
stacks of paper on her chaotic desk. She moved over to the
window and looked out at the smooth lawns which surrounded
the laboratory building. It had been a beautiful spring day and it
promised to be a lovely evening. She imagined holding Aidan’s
hand across the restaurant table, sipping a cool glass of wine. She
would put work out of her mind for once and relax. Yes, there
was a tiny glitch she’d spotted in the experiment, and she’d have
liked the time to run the sequence one more time and solve it,
but not now. Now was the time to switch off .
She looked over to Luke’s side of the lab. He had crossed to
one of his workbenches and was recording some data on a clipboard
in his small, meticulous handwriting. She made fun of him
for writing things out by hand before he entered the information
into his computer, but he was insistent.
‘I like to form things manually,’ he’d say when challenged. ‘If
it doesn’t exist physically, it isn’t real to me.’
She laughed at that – she could make mountains move and galaxies
whirl with the keystrokes of her computer and that was as
real as any column of handwritten figures. But Luke was adamant.
‘I think with my hands,’ he’d repeat insistently. And he did. She had
never worked with such a fi ne mechanical engineer. If she could
conceive of something, Luke could build it. His obsessive attention
to detail equalled her own, and his creativity was boundless.
When she’d joined Telos she’d imagined she would be working
in a large team. But the organisation’s policy was to pair scientists
with complementary skills. They held excruciating meet-and greet
induction events to matchmake researchers.
Luke, who had joined at the same time as Rachel, had refused
to participate in the speed-dating event. He’d sat alone at a table,
working on his laptop, not talking to anyone. Passing behind him
on her way to get coffee, Rachel had glimpsed a 3D diagram of a
human hand. He was trying to model the motion of a finger and
thumb pinching together. But there was an error somewhere and
the movement had a judder which he couldn’t seem to remove.
Rachel could sense his frustration, but his squared shoulders and…….
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