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Academic Questions

by Nina Badzin

They were halfway between Kansas City and St. Paul on their way to Joanna’s mother’s wedding to a man nobody in the family had met when Greg admitted he was having an emotional affair at work. Although it was possible he was admitting to looking through Joanna’s emails. Joanna wasn’t sure.


Admit was too strong. It was not precise, and Greg was all about precision. He’d said: “Is it cheating if nothing physical occurs?” And since he was a family law professor, Joanna had reason to hope the question was academic and not a confession. Or an accusation.


Joanna pretended she had not heard and asked the kids to turn down their music, shows, or whatever they were blasting in the backseat.


“They have headphones on,” Greg said.


“I can hear the noise coming out of those things. It’s bad for their ears.”


Greg paused the podcast they’d been listening to and repeated Joanna’s request to the kids. Once the podcast was back on, she waited for him to pose the question again.

Author's Note

One version of this story is over twenty pages and focuses on Joanna’s concern that she’s never met her mother’s fiancé. She doesn’t know if she can trust her mother’s judgement or the fiancé’s intentions. However, I couldn’t get Joanna and Greg out of the car to arrive at the wedding. I suppose all I wanted to see was the problem in Joanna’s own relationship, which brought me to the exact moment in the story.

Nina Badzin is a columnist at the HerStories Project and a writing instructor at ModernWell in Minneapolis. Her work has been published in Compose Journal, The Ilanot Review, Midwestern Gothic, Modern Loss, Monkeybicycle, On Being, Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. You can find her at and on Twitter @NinaBadzin.

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