The Rosie Project Page 22

\One time he brought me a chess set. Phil gave me girly stuff - jewellery boxes and shit. Pretty weird for a personal trainer when you think about it.\

\You play chess?\ I asked.

\Not really. That\s not the point. He respected that I have a brain. He and Belinda never had any kids of their own. I have a sense that he was always around. He might even have been my mum\s best friend. But I\ve never consciously thought of him as my father.\

\He\s not,\ I said.

The result had come up on the computer screen. Job complete. I began packing up.

\Wow,\ said Rosie. \Ever thought of being a grief counsellor?\

\No. I considered a number of careers, but all in the sciences. My interpersonal skills are not strong.\

Rosie burst out laughing. \You\ e about to get a crash course in advanced grief counselling.\

It turned out that Rosie was making a sort of joke, as her approach to grief counselling was based entirely on the administration of alcohol. We went to Jimmy Watson\s on Lygon Street, a short walk away, and as usual, even on a weekend, it was full of academics. We sat at the bar, and I was surprised to find that Rosie, a professional server of drinks, had a very poor knowledge of wine. A few years ago Gene suggested that wine was the perfect topic for safe conversation and I did some research. I was familiar with the backgrounds of the wines offered regularly at this bar. We drank quite a lot.

Rosie had to go outside for a few minutes due to her nicotine addiction. The timing was fortunate, as a couple emerged from the courtyard and passed the bar. The man was Gene! The woman was not Claudia, but I recognised her. It was Olivia, the Indian Vegetarian from Table for Eight. Neither saw me, and they went past too quickly for me to say anything.

My confusion at seeing them together must have contributed to my next decision. A waiter came up to me and said, \There\s a table for two that\s just come free in the courtyard. Are you eating with us?\

I nodded. I would have to freeze the day\s market purchases for the following Saturday, with the resulting loss of nutrients. Instinct had again displaced logic.

Rosie\s reaction to finding a table being set for us on her return appeared to be positive. Doubtless she was hungry but it was reassuring to know that I had not committed a faux pas, always more likely when different genders are involved.

The food was excellent. We had freshly shucked oysters (sustainable), tuna sashimi (selected by Rosie and probably not sustainable), eggplant and mozzarella stack (Rosie), veal sweetbreads (me), cheese (shared) and a single serving of passionfruit mousse (divided and shared). I ordered a bottle of Marsanne and it was an excellent accompaniment.

Rosie spent much of the meal trying to explain why she wanted to locate her biological father. I could see little reason for it. In the past, the knowledge might have been useful to determine the risk of genetically influenced diseases, but today Rosie could have her own DNA analysed directly. Practically, her stepfather Phil seemed to have executed the father role, although Rosie had numerous complaints about his performance. He was an egotist;he was inconsistent in his attitude towards her;he was subject to mood swings. He was also strongly opposed to alcohol. I considered this to be a thoroughly defensible position, but it was a cause of friction between them.

Rosie\s motivation seemed to be emotional, and, while I could not understand the psychology, it was clearly very important to her happiness.

After Rosie had finished her mousse, she left the table to \go to the bathroom\. It gave me time to reflect and I realised that I was in the process of completing a non-eventful and in fact highly enjoyable dinner with a woman, a significant achievement that I was looking forward to sharing with Gene and Claudia.

I concluded that the lack of problems was due to three factors.

I was in a familiar restaurant. It had never occurred to me to take a woman - or indeed anyone - to Jimmy Watson\s, which I had only previously used as a source of wine.
Rosie was not a date. I had rejected her, comprehensively, as a potential partner, and we were together because of a joint project. It was like a meeting.
I was somewhat intoxicated - hence relaxed. As a result, I may also have been unaware of any social errors.
At the end of the meal, I ordered two glasses of sambuca and said, \Who do we test next?\

11

Besides Eamonn Hughes, Rosie knew of only two other \family friends\ from her mother\s medical graduation class. It struck me as unlikely that someone who had illicit se* with her mother would remain in contact, given the presence of Phil. But there was an evolutionary argument that he would wish to ensure that the carrier of his genes was receiving proper care. Essentially this was Rosie\s argument also.

The first candidate was Dr Peter Enticott, who lived locally. The other, Alan McPhee, had died from prostate cancer, which was good news for Rosie, as, lacking a prostate gland, she could not inherit it. Apparently he had been an oncologist, but had not detected the cancer in himself, a not-uncommon scenario. Humans often fail to see what is close to them and obvious to others.

Fortunately, he had a daughter, with whom Rosie had socialised when she was younger. Rosie arranged a meeting with Natalie in three days\ time, ostensibly to view Natalie\s newborn baby.

I reverted to the normal schedule, but the Father Project kept intruding into my thoughts. I prepared for the DNA collection - I did not want a repeat of the broken cup problem. I also had another altercation with the Dean, as a result of the Flounder Incident.


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