It can never be said that Elizabeth Shaw doesn't know her own mind.
She knew her own mind when she first started seeing Stephen: a graduate student and a professor is not a pairing readily accepted by the academic community. And she knows her own mind in this moment as she walks in to the registry office and promises her life to Stephen, in defiance of her father and the expectations of her peers.
The wedding is a small affair - just a few friends - and Liz barely feels the passage of time between entering the registry office and leaving it a married woman.
Married. The word hardly holds any meaning to her, not really: Stephen had wanted it - her father had made it quite clear he didn't want her to agree - and Liz, being a woman perfectly confident of her own heart and having no fear of being held back by the institution, had seen no reason to refuse.
No reason to refuse. Now, leaving the registry office, it strikes her that it was perhaps a rather half-hearted reason to do this. And yet the sun is shining, she is happy and she is married to the man she loves; what do reasons matter?
Stephen takes her hand and smiles down at her, a shy, nervous smile she's not really used to seeing. "Well?"
"Well what?" she shoots back, mischievous. "Is something supposed to be different?"
His fingers play with the new ring on her left hand. "I think that was the idea."
"It was?" For all her teasing, she really doesn't feel a change. It's still just them, together, and she doesn't know why she expected anything else.
The car is parked a few seconds down the road and they walk the short distance in silence. Tomorrow they'll both be back at work, Stephen lecturing and her in the lab until some ungodly hour of the night; there's no time for a honeymoon but she rather thinks that's okay. They'd probably end up in a cottage in the middle of nowhere, both bored out of their minds after a few days of laziness. She'd rather be working, and while she doesn't presume to judge for Stephen, he probably would too.
She steals glances at him as they walk along. The weak summer sun illuminates his face and his hair is ruffled by the breeze, and suddenly she's struck by the enormity of what she's just done. Her hand tightens around his, clinging on, she thinks, to everything they are. They haven't changed. A few words and two rings don't change people.
They reach the car and with an affectionate smile he disengages his hand and opens the door for her.
She hesitates. "Stephen..."
For a moment she stands still, unknown words on the tip of her tongue, but the moment passes. "Nothing," she says, and leans in to kiss his cheek. "Nothing. Let's go home."
She's sitting down to breakfast. The tea is hot and the toast is buttered and Stephen is at the other end of the table with the paper. He gives her an affectionate smile as she reaches for the milk. It's every morning they've ever had rolled in to one, and she's struck by the sudden thought that it might be like this forever: toast and tea and a smile at seven o'clock, for the rest of her life.
Her hands curl around the warm mug of tea as she studies her husband. A fellow scientist, he's all she could ever ask for: kind, attentive and humourous. And yet the dominant part of her brain wants to be able to shout at him. She wants to argue over quantum mechanics, quarrel over the cooking arrangements and infuriate him to anger over ridiculous, inconsequential things.
She doesn't want to be taken quite so seriously.
In this moment she feels a little lost. They've settled in to a comfortable relationship, as if they're a middle-aged couple secure in their knowledge of each other, slightly old-fashioned and very distant.
It feels wrong.
Oh, she's fond of him, extremely so, but watching him frown his way silently through the editorial section of the newspaper she realises that this isn't how she wants to live.
This isn't who she wants to live with.
She pushes the mug away, abruptly enough that the tea inside rushes turbulently over the sides, and stands.
Stephen doesn't look up.
Four weeks later she tells him she doesn't think their marriage is working. The relief in his eyes is unmistakeable before he hugs her and whispers in to her hair that he thinks she's right.
They separate the next day and Liz returns to her solitary life with barely a regret; they still meet for dinner every now and then, their interaction all the more easy for the fact that they no longer share every moment of their lives.
And now it feels right.