Into My Heart by Rosalie Ferdinand

The main problem, I reflected as I absently worked on a sheet of pH equations for shits and giggles, was that I wasn't a violent type of person. I had no experience with violence. I was an only child which could explain a lot; no bratty sibling had ever goaded me into 
Into My Heart
Into My Heart by Rosalie Ferdinand

giving them a good smacking. In elementary school I'd been the silent nutbar who sucked on gluestick and swapped yoghurt-covered raisins with her imaginary friends. I barely talked let alone got into schoolyard fistfights and everyone avoided me anyway because my favourite colour was brown.


That grubby, weird little girl had evolved into the compassionate wimp that I was today. I wasn't able to kill spiders or ants when I found them lurking around the house. I didn't eat meat. I cried whenever I heard stories about rape or child molestation on the news. I have a big phobia of anyone yelling at me. In other words, I was basically a non-confrontational, passive softie.


Which was why the very idea of a dud like me beating the shit out of someone was entirely a la Dodo Bird, i.e. non-existent and crap sounding. Especially if said someone was a six foot two, rich-ass, popular linebacker. Me against him would be reminiscent of those mosquito verses donkey fables, because yeah Conner McGregor was completely a jackass of the first water.





"Jackass of the first water," I snarled in a thick Newfie accent to mix it up. I began scraping my teeth against my smushy, white eraser to relieve some brain tension. I generally thought I was an okay person but in trying times like these, it wouldn't have hurt to be a bit more like that Kill Bill girl and a bit less like Florence Nightingale.





The cheesy wanna-be punk rocker sitting next to me gave me a cynical, revolted look and raised a heavily pierced eyebrow at me. He was a grade A bimbo; judging from the tattered patches safety-pinned to his health hazard of a schoolbag, he didn't seem to know that Green Day and Good Charlotte and Billy Talent weren't real punk. Way to fight the establishment buddy.





"Only by taking the negative log of your H3O can you find out the pH," I intoned, showing him my chemistry binder.





"Fucking weirdo," he growled and went back to scratching out some angsty poetry on his arm with a blue Uniball.





I contemplated this snub. Only in a high school setting could an idiot wearing eyeliner and sock cuffs around his wrists get away with calling a lover of the Sciences a freak. Well I would live. I was sure that he'd do a good job mowing my lawn and pruning my hedges once I became a wealthy Chemical Engineer. I gave him my constipated smile. "If you are given the pH and wish to find the H3O then you must remember that H3O is equal to ten to the negative pH. Any monkey knows that."





Pseudo-punk boy gave me the finger. He was hardcore like that. He was also any monkey.





I returned to pondering my too kindly nature. It wasn't like I was scared of Conner McGregor...well okay yeah it was. Conner McGregor was hulking mass of beef. His biceps were the size of my head and it was rumoured that he could lift a car after drinking half a keg of beer. Whether this idiotic claim was actually true or not (I was leaning heartily towards a 'yeah fuck no' myself) did nothing to negate the fact that Conner had done a very horrible thing and deserved to be punished for it. You couldn't always rely on karma to take care of bad shit because karma was known to be on the slow side. I didn't want some spawn of Conner's to pay for his crappy ways some twenty years down the road.





This was why I, Jane Beatrix Hazelton, was planning on taking karma into my own hands and teaching an evildoer a lesson. True, I might not have been the type of girl who could lay ten kinds of beatdown on Conner's bullying ass but I did have a respectable fifty dollars sitting in my Chequings account. I figured this sum would be enough to hire someone to do the beating down for me.





I glanced over at pseudo-punk boy. He was now defacing his desk with his house keys. "Hey chump," I hissed and spit some eraser bits at him. They got stuck in his wacky green and black spiketastic hairdo.





He pretended not to hear me.





"Say you broke both your hands in a...um mosh pit and you hadda beat someone up 'cause he's a big dick, who would you get to help you out?"





Pseudo-punk boy gave me his undivided attention. I had finally snagged his full interest with talks of violence, the uncultured heathen. "I'd go find Jamal Williams and Tyrell Jones and all them guys. They can totally fuck you up."





A gang of angry black guys pounding the piss out of one lone white guy wasn't exactly what I had in mind, especially when a couple of those guys played football with Conner.





The girl in front of me turned around. She was wearing a baggy 'Lord of the Rings' t-shirt and had frizzy, bleach-blond hair, dark brown roots and a retainer. "No no, if you wanna get a big old ass-whooping going on then those crazy Arab guys is where the pain's at." She pronounced Arab 'A-Rab' because she was classy like that. "They're pissed off 'cause people stereotype them and think they're all terrorists. They don't speak a lotta English but if you point out someone you hate and do a few punching moves, they get what you mean."





There were a fair few Muslims at my school and the cooler guys had formed something of a posse. They all wore black puffy thug jackets and spent their time scowling, talking loudly in Arabic and, like most students around here, smoking pot in the parking lot. They seemed to live in peace with the black posse, nodding to each other and exchanging complicated hand gestures, unified in their struggle against their white oppressors...namely the Vice Principal (the actual Principal spent all his time golfing and hitting up the casinos) and the Guidance Councillor.





"I was looking for something a little more subtle actually," I said, quickly picking up my pencil and scribbling a bunch of wavy lines across the top of my page. Mr. Holtz went back to listening Stanley Stevens blab on, satisfied that I was analyzing 'The Edible Woman' like I was supposed to. "Like just one guy, you know?"





"If you wanna fly solo then Rafe Moretti's your man," pseudo-punk boy replied. "Once he was so pissed off that he beat the fuck outta three Phi Kaps with a two by four."





"And that was while he hadda broken leg," Lord of the Rings piped up.





"Put one of the guys into ICU for like a month too," pseudo-punk boy added as Lord of the Rings nodded knowingly and slid around her retainer.





This was all sensational news to me. "I've never heard of this guy."





They both exchanged significant looks. "That's 'cause you're a big time nerd."





I gnawed a bit more on my eraser. This was true of course, though really, who was a chubby 'Lord of the Rings' fan to talk?





"I heard Moretti ran over this Lebanese dude 'cause he was talking smack about his Mom," pseudo-punk boy told Lord of the Rings.





Lord of the Rings bounced excitedly in her seat. "I heard that too, it was at Devon Randall's party last month!"





They continued to gossip until Mr. Holtz threatened them both with detention.





After English class, I had a free period. I dumped my books into my locker, retrieved my lunch and drifted around asking random people if they knew where I could find this Rafe Moretti character. No one knew for sure; most people either hadn't heard of him or merely launched into lengthy tales of his infamous doings. One upstanding young fellow told me he'd give me ten bucks if I showed him my bra. I thought about it before politely declining; I was only wearing a boring black thing from the Bay and not an exciting coloured one from Le Senza. Buddy was in my French class so it was good to know that I had a source of extra cash, should an occasion warrant such funds.





Eventually Lou the janitor heard me interrogating a group of annoying chicks, all of who had matching sparkly mauve cell phones, and Lou informed me that Moretti was outside with Katrina Edwards. He knew this because he'd told Katrina off for writing shit about her KCL teacher on the side of the school in white-out. I knew Katrina Edwards pretty well...in grade one she'd peed on the story time shag rug and blamed it on me. Everyone called me Pee-Pee Pants for the rest of the year. In grade seven, she leaked red pen all over my seat so that I walked around all day like I was on the rag in my cool new white jeans. After that, I never worn white again.





I wandered around outside but couldn't see Katrina's bright auburn hair anywhere. I started on my lunch since futile searching made me hungry. Stuffing my face, I approached two grungy skaters who were busy bickering over who had more board-related injuries. In between their squabbling and smoking of cigarettes most stank, they managed to point Moretti out to me. He was all the way at the other end of the parking lot, leaning against what looked like a real wreck of a car, a tall black dude at his side.





"Yeah well what about the time I cracked my head on the railing outside the Bank of Montreal man?" one skater was demanding as I left them to it.





From a distance Rafe Moretti seemed like a pretty normal guy; tall and lean, dark spiky hair, dressed in olive green cargos and a sleeveless black t-shirt. Nothing to suggest a vicious temper and a fierce desire for violence but hey, that's what drugs and booze were for. As I came closer and closer to Moretti, something else became blatantly apparent...this guy was not the hardened Italian thug I'd been envisioning.





He was cute. And by cute, I didn't mean 'Omigod what a ripped hottie' Brad Pitt in 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' cute but more like a pinch-your-cheeks cuddly wuddly schoolboy 'Aww shucks' kinda cute. Moretti had a smooth complexion the colour of clotted cream and a face full of cinnamon freckles. His eyes were wide, dark blue and fringed by lashes that were longer than mine and Katrina Edwards put together. This guy wasn't a guy but a lad. He didn't look Italian at all, he looked like a fifteen year old Irish schoolboy. Throw a chappie hat on him, soot his face up some and he could be selling newspapers for a shilling in the 1800's.





I had the biggest, overwhelming urge to pinch his cheeks. I really, really wanted to. How was I to help myself? He was just too damn adorable! Course maybe this was why he had decided to pursue to a life of crime...too much cutesy cheek pinching from junior high teachers and matronly Aunts? Too much Irish chap and not enough Italian stallion?





Even the fact that he was wearing what appeared to be a length of wire around his neck, had a detailed tattoo of a scorpion on his muscled bicep, sported a large, nasty abrasion on his other arm and was sharing a joint with his pal couldn't diminish his utter, innate cuteness.





"You can stuff a duck into a pair of galoshes," I thought, chewing on a mouthful of banana, "and call it Duck a la Mer but sometimes a duck is still a duck."





It was the freckles and Cover Girl skin. Moretti could get a thousand tattoos done, he could be bruised within a centimetre of his life and pick his teeth with a switchblade and every old lady in Canada would still wanna take him home and feed him apple pie. He just gave you a lot of maternal urges. I half wanted to lick my thumb and smooth down his eyebrows myself.





"Hey pal, you Rafe Moretti?" I chucked the banana peel onto a nearby Nissan Pathfinder and sauntered up to the guys like I was a cool fellow smoker of the weed.





Rafe tilted his head a few centimetres in a nod, blew a mouthful of dope into the air and looked perturbed at my presence.





The black guy frowned at me. "Girl, don't be chuckin' shit, that ain't tight."





"I'm regurgitating biological waste as a statement against the oppression of Mother Nature by SUVs and Petro Canada," I declared dramatically, even though I was doing no such thing. That hulking tin can belonged to Melinda Towner and I was pissed because she had stolen my idea for the Biology research project and now Mr. Miller thought she was awesome and brilliant and I wasn't. I hate when teachers don't think I'm awesome and brilliant; they're the only people around here who are impressed by me. Even my Grandma thinks I'm a weirdo stick-in-the-mud but then again she likes to smoke cigars and brew her own beer.





"Word," the black guy said. He may not have known what I was talking about but he sure as shit understood oppression. Rafe passed the joint back to him, the black guy gave him a twenty and then he strutted off, telling Rafe that he'd hook up with him after school.





I leaned against the car, caught a whiff of Rafe's reefin' ways and coughed myself silly, eventually spitting up a loogie the size of a twoonie. I nudged Rafe in a buddy-buddy sort of fashion and nodded towards my spit, which gleamed in the noonday sunlight. His freckles were even cuter up close. "Good haul for a chick eh?"





Rafe looked like I'd taken a dump there instead. My daydreams of creaming him in a spit-off were instantly dashed. "I have a girlfriend," he told me flatly, sans le Irish accent.





"I nod knowingly," I replied, nodding knowingly.





He scratched at his neck, looking harassed. His arms were really buff.





"That barbed wire must be some scratchy." I frowned as I unloaded my cramped schoolbag onto the rusty hood of his lemon. My biology book weighed as much as eight Eritrean kids. "Or I guess I mean itchy don't I? Scratching's what you do once the itching happens. It's always been a confusing matter to me, like papaya and jackfruit, mostly 'cause I don't like either. My neighbour's gynaecologist said that papaya smells like a woman's hooch and that's probably why he gets woodies around tropical fruit salad."





Rafe began edging away from me like I was some kind of STD. Okay, so I only have one friend and virtually no social skills. What was I suppose to do about that, other then pinch Rafe's iddle widdle cutie cheekies? How could I help it if society refused to encourage my alternative conversation methods? "Don't put your bag on my car," he finally snapped.





Geeze, talk about snotty city. "That weed guy had his bag on your car," I pointed out. "Remember the weed guy? He was schoolbagging all over your rust-heap."





Rafe patted his car, like I'd wounded its junky feelings and scowled. "Bryson paid me twenty bucks for the privilege."





Well that was an opening if I'd ever heard one. I leaned in close to him and slyly said, "How about we forget your car and I give you fifty to beat someone up?"





Rafe leaned away from my banana breath. "...what?"





"I have it on sorta good authority that you're the man for solo jobs," I bragged, buffing my nails on my zip-sweater in a suave fashion. I met his annoyed Atlantic Ocean eyes with my warm turd ones to convey my sincerity. "I'd do it myself but sometimes I have trouble opening heavy doors because my arms are like linguini, all limp and weak and good to chew on but not having a lotta taste. Know what I mean Jelly Bean?"





The pot clearly was having an effect on the poor 'bloke'. He rubbed his eyes with his fist and that made me wanna tuck him into bed and kiss his forehead. "You want me to gank someone for you."





"That would be nice."





"Who?"





"Conner McGregor."





Rafe's eyebrows shot to his hairline. Everyone knew Conner, he was one of the most popular and the most shitty guys in the entire school. No one messed with him. Rafe stopped edging away from me and looking annoyed. He seemed serious now. "Why him?"





I dumped my schoolbag onto the ground so as not to further offend Rafe. Now came the crucial parts. "Do you know who Suril Shah is?"





"Yeah, he tutors me in Pre Calc. sometimes."





Seeing as how Suril was top in our honours Calculus class, this didn't surprise me. He tutored a lot of dumbasses. "Conner beat the shit outta him this weekend." As I spoke, I noticed a fat orange caterpillar oozing along the asphalt, near the tire of the car next to us. I had a vision of the poor little guy flattened with x's for eyes and his tongue hanging out. He deserved better than that, I thought, just like Suril deserved better than being beaten up by a shitheel. I scooped up the little wriggalata and biffed him over Rafe's shit-on-wheels onto the lawn behind us. "Suril's my best friend you know, ever since he moved here from Edmonton in grade seven. We're like a Hydro-Carbon bond."





Rafe was frowning as he glanced between me and over his shoulder, no doubt concerned for caterpillar's safety. "Why would McGregor go after Shah?"





"Because he's a racist shit-bully," I said, sniffing miserably. I wiped my nose on a pack of gum I found in my pocket.





"McGregor's girlfriend is that Su Ling chick," Rafe pointed out. He narrowed his eyes at me. "So try again."





I pensively chewed on my lip before shrugging. If he didn't wanna help me out after this, then I supposed I could always go the route of the Arabic gang. "Conner's a homophobic shit-bully," I amended.





"Ah."





"Not that Suril's gay or anything," I hastily added, as visions of Rafe regaling the whole school with this news filtered into my brain. "Conner just er...thought he was."





"I don't give a shit what Shah's into." Rafe scrutinized me. "You're serious about this?"





I nodded gravely. "Suril's never hurt anyone in his whole life. Why should he be attacked because of something he can't help? That isn't right."





"And still it happens all over the world," Rafe said quietly. A dark expression crossed over his face; I supposed I could see how he might be dangerous once riled. "So what do you want me to do exactly?"





"I've got it all figured out." I was proud as I'd been plotting and planning ever since yesterday. "Conner's having a big party this weekend 'cause his parents are going away right? And next weekend he's playing in that game against Maplewood right? And he's all psyched 'cause it's the last game of the season and some big recruiter from the States is gonna be there to check him out right? So all you need to do is go to his party, break his legs and maybe a few ribs for shits and giggles and then he won't be able to play next week and all his hopes and dreams will be mashed up like a bad case of diarrhoea."





Rafe stared at me for a while. I could understand that; he obviously needed time to ingest such a convoluted plot, the poor smoker of the dope. "And you're gonna give me fifty bucks to pull this shit off?"





My extravagant budget didn't seem to impress him much. "Well I can swing another ten from this buddy in my French class who wants to see my bra, maybe even twenty if I show him my undies."





"Christ." He shook his head, like I was a shame to his ancestors.





"Well it's not like he'll be getting ten bucks worth 'cause I'm not stacked. But if you saw the guy then you'd know why he has to pay to get some action."





Rafe suddenly smiled; maybe me in my underpants wasn't that disgusting of a concept to him. "You haven't told me your name yet."





I thought about that. I guess I hadn't. "Jane Hazelton," I proclaimed regally and thrust my hand out.





He shook it gingerly, perhaps recalling that it had sheltered a fatso caterpillar not so long ago. "You're fucked up Jane, you know that?"





"Suril tells me that all the time, only he says 'messed up' instead of 'fucked up'." I sighed wretchedly and stared off into the distance. "And still he's my friend. He doesn't even care that some mornings I get so brain dead that I wouldn't even be able to tell you that a gas's rate of effusion is inversely proportional to the square root of its molar mass." Suril was the best person ever. He had a heart of gold and was a fellow science-lover. It didn't matter to him that I trouble relating to people because he did too or that during exams I got so nervous that I brushed my teeth until my tongue was numb or that I ironed when I was bored. He liked me just the way I was, a la Mark Darcy to Bridget Jones. And Suril's Mom loved me too, like a daughter, and she always stuffed me stupid with awesome Indian food.





"Forget the money," Rafe said abruptly, jostling me from my sudden craving for biriyani and poori.





That took me a moment to register, clearly I was inhaling marijuana via osmosis, and when it did, "Okay!" I flashed him a mouthful of fillings. "You're in? For sure?"





He shrugged and slouched. "Shah's decent and McGregor's a dick."





"Le Chatelier couldn't've put it better himself!" I screeched, right into Rafe's ear, judging by the way he winced. "Are you sure you don't want any money?"





"Yeah." He gazed at me, all dark and intense and attractive. "I want you instead."





Well that was something you didn't hear every day.





He couldn't elaborate further as Mrs. Walsh chose that moment to stick her head out her classroom window and shrieked for Rafe to get to her class.





"I'll find you later Jane," he said and stalked off.





"Wait!" I chased after him and when he turned around, I gave in to my urges and twisted his cheek in a good, hard pinch.





I hoofed it when he lunged for my throat.





*****


Fundamentals of Fluid Mechanics


I didn't catch gas of Rafe all afternoon, though I did catch someone's gas. Cafeteria poutine really did a number on the plumbing innards like that. I thought it was ironic that I'd spent all morning contemplating the lack of violence in life and upon deciding to hire Rafe, he attempted to strangle me. Probably I shouldn't have pinched his cheek. Probably he didn't like that. Probably I didn't care. I chalked the incident up to 'testing the merchandise'; at least I knew that he wasn't all rumours. There seemed to be a lot of rage trapped behind that Irish chimney sweeper's face. Once Rafe tapped into it, Conner McGregor would be mashed up falafel.





After school ended for the day, I decide that it would be a wise idea for Rafe to know my phone number and locker number. That way we could work out the logistics of injuring a ruffian most rank. I was excited for the gouda to get rolling; I'd never paid anyone to extract justice for me before. Rafe was an elusive character around school but his locker certainly wasn't. It was a hot spot reminiscent of the dark room where people went for quickies. Five geeky band students and a couple of passing by Gap adverts all informed me that Rafe's locker was 311 and that he dealt 'the good stuff.'





This explained a lot.





I headed to the third floor. I wasn't about to waste a whole piece of paper writing numbers to Rafe, so I dug around a garbage can and found some crumpled loose-leaf stuffed in a Doritos bag. It smelled cheesy and had 'I Love Wayne Fung' written a billion times on one side but I didn't think Rafe would mind. This was recycling afterall. The other side of the paper was covered in French Revolution notes. I jotted down my numbers with some brown eyeliner I found on the ground once.





I jammed the note inside Rafe's locker and jumped a year when my name was screeched out, accompanied with a, "Get the fuck away from my boyfriend's locker!"





Katrina Edwards stuck her beautiful, furious face right up in mine. I did some shrieking of my own and tripped over my feet. Katrina Edwards scared me like my average dropping down to ninety-seven percent scared me. Plus I hated when people got mad at me, it made me feel stinky-pants.





"The whole school saw you mackin' it up with Rafe down the Quad third period!" Katrina's spinach green eyes were spitting. "You after my man or what cunt-eyes?"





"I j-just wanted some weed," I lied pitifully, cowering against the lockers. Katrina and I had virtually no contact these days; I was in honours everything and she was in honours nothing. The last thing I needed in my final year of high school was her nastiness. "I didn't know how to get any but I really need it 'cause I'm stressed out with university applications and the war in Iraq and the anniversary of my dad's death."





Katrina softened and smoothed down her little blue tank top uncomfortably. I'd learned early on that talking about my parents' death was a good way to make people uneasy and leave me alone. "God I'm such a bitch today. Sorry Jane – I'm trying to quit smoking you know." She tinkled out a little laugh and tossed her glossy auburn hair over her shoulder. "I don't know what I was thinking, getting all up in your grill like that. Like you'd ever steal my boyfriend! That Lakeesha ho was just talking out her fat ass, going on about you and Rafe. Whatever. She's gotta be trying to steal him away from me."





I resumed breathing normally, now that I was no longer in the danger zone. "Fur on animals not on humans."





"Girl, you always crack me up!" She glanced around furtively. "I'll talk to Rafe and he'll hook you up. How much you want, a gram?"





I shuffled my feet. "Um...well I'm still debating. Pot's bad for your pores you know."





Katrina's eyes widened. "Where'd you hear that at?"





"This month's Cosmopolitician," I replied, nodding in confidence. "Latest study from the labs of, um...Teynampet, Chennai."





She frowned. "I just read the latest Cosmo and I didn't see that article."





"Broccoli is as kumquats do." I shrugged in a hey-shit-happens sort of manner. "Well gotta catch my bus now, chowder!"





I ran down the nearest stairs, ploughing through a kegger of grunting jocks and hoped that Rafe would be able to keep his girlfriend away from me. She was too much cool-cruel for a wimpy moron like me to handle.





I caught my bus and went straight to Suril's house. It wasn't too much of a detour since he lived across the street from me. The front door was open and as I stepped inside, the warm, familiar smells of exotic spices and fragrant Indian cooking ruffled my nose. As usual, Suril's mom could be found in the kitchen. She was a grade four schoolteacher and the minute she got home, she hit the stove.





"Hi Ma," I said, dumping my schoolbag at the kitchen table. One of the best moments in my life was the day Mrs. Shah ordered me to call her 'ma'. She said if I didn't she would beat me brown with her slipper. "What's cooking?"





Mrs. Shah was a small woman with golden skin and dainty features. Her shoulder-length hair was thick and shiny, her eyes almond-shaped and black. She wore a small diamond stud in her nose that Mr. Shah had given her on their first anniversary and always smelled like jasmine. She was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen in my entire life.





She kissed my cheek and soothed my tangled hair out of my eyes. "Onion and potato pakoras."





I swallowed back a mouthful of drool. Pakoras are all-time my favourite Indian snack. You cut up onions and potatoes into a spicy chick pea flour batter and fried it all up. Then you ate them with this awesome coriander chutney or just ketchup. They were also Suril's favourite and I knew that was why Mrs. Shah was making them; she'd been making all this favourites foods ever since he'd limped home Saturday night, bruised and bleeding.





I took off my sweater and got to helping Mrs. Shah with the frying. "You don't have to worry anymore Ma 'cause today I took karma into my own hands."





Mrs. Shah arched one long, thin brow at me. "Is this so?"





"I hired an Italian guy at school to beat up that Conner McGregor."





"Italian boy eh?" She was pleased, as I'd known she'd be. "Like on that 'The Sopranos'?"





"Yeah," I said, gently sliding the pakoras around in the hot oil. If there was an Italian-Irish lad on the show then Rafe was just like him, sure. "Once buddy knocked out four other guys with a plank of wood while he hadda broken leg."





"So you got his resume then. Smart girl." Mrs. Shah grew nostalgic. "Oh how we used to beat the rascals in India. We had this one washerman when I was girl who would constantly steal my knickers. Daddy thrashed him soundly. Never did he again attempt such vulgar deeds. Then when I was first married, there was a post master in Surat who would read our letters and steal our packages. I got so fed up with that scoundrel that one day I took the champaal off my foot and beat him until he gave me one thousand Rupees."





I sniggered as I began taking out the first batch of pakoras from the oil.





"Sometimes a beating is the only thing that will work, take my word for it," Mrs. Shah passionately went on. "Once we were having over for supper some very important guests and the hen would not lay any eggs...and what is goat curry without boiled eggs I ask...so I gave the hen a good thump and what do you think popped but an indu!" 1.)





I did some on-the-spot hip hop moves and blew out a cascade of steam as a scorching hot onion pakora blistered my tongue. Mrs. Shah whipped out some raitha, a cold yoghurt and cucumber side dish, to sooth my burning mouth.





"Okay Jane dhikra?" she asked, calling me 'child' in Gujarati. "Is there enough salt?"





"Yeah, these are awesome," I replied, spooning raitha into my face. "Just hot. You know me Ma, I never learn."





She ruffled my messy hair affectionately. "So this Italian, what is his flat rate?"





"I told him I have fifty bucks." Which was true. "I guess Suril tutors him and he was outraged. We didn't get to talk too much 'cause he had to get to class but he said he'd definitely do it."





"Good." Mrs. Shah was satisfied. Half unconscious after the bashing, Suril had accidentally let Conner's name slip and since then both Mr. and Mrs. Shah have been clamouring for a public beheading. "Keep your money, I will give you the fifty dollars."





"Ma don't worry about it," I protested guiltily, since Rafe Moretti didn't exactly want money. "I got it covered."





"Pomp and nonsense," Mrs. Shah scoffed, cutting up more potato into the batter. "Suril is my son no? I tell you, if I was not a respectable schoolteacher, I would go and teach this Conner scallywag such a lesson that his forefathers will feel the pain! Loutish racist rogue. I would cut off his balls with the hedge trimmer and mail them third-class to his mother. Let her die of shame then!"





Have I mentioned that Mrs. Shah is the shits?





We finished frying and I took a big platter of pakoras and two cans of Coke up to Suril's room. Suril was laying on his bed, reading a university level textbook entitled 'Advanced Engineering Mathematics'. It was an okay read though neither of us found it very advanced. Certainly it was nothing like 'Fundamentals of Fluid Mechanics', which Suril and I both agreed could be pursued again and again.





Suril was five foot ten, rail-skinny and attractive. He had inherited his golden skin and sloe eyes from his mother and his wavy hair and long nose from his father. He had recently grown a scruffy goatee to piss his Dad off, (he thought it made Suril look Muslim, heaven forbid) and it actually looked good on him.





Currently, Suril sported a nasty black eye and a fat lip. He also had a sprained ankle and bruised ribs. I felt upset and depressed just looking at him. I mean, how could someone attack Suril for being who he was? Why was it that good, pure-hearted people were always the ones hurt? How could people continue to bring kids into the world when it was so craptastic? Suril hadn't hurt anyone, he hadn't been doing anything wrong.





What fucking right did Conner have to touch him?





Saturday night was supposed to be a magical, unforgettable night for Suril. It had been his first gay date ever. The guy was this Brazilian bouncer named Paulo who worked out at Suril's gym and who Suril had been lusting after for the past few months. Conner and his cousin, some idiot frat boy who was in university, had caught sight of Suril and Paulo making out in front of Paulo's building, waited until Suril was alone and then ganged up on him.





"Come on Jane, stop looking at me like that," Suril chided, putting away his book. "Gimme some food I'm starving."





I set the Cokes down on his desk, stuck the platter on his lap and crawled onto his bed. Angry tears slipped out of my eyes and pooled around my nose.





"Oh shitbricks." Suril dunked a pakora into some ketchup and shoved it into my mouth. "We've already been over this kiddo – I'm fine. You know I am."





Maybe he was fine...he was handling the whole bashing really well in any case...but I couldn't help it. Seeing him bruised hurt my heart. It felt like I was having heartburn. "I don't like when bad things happen to my only friend." More tears dripped off my chin. "You volunteer for fuck sakes!"





He smiled and mopped up my tears with his sleeve. "It could be way worse though, couldn't it? Imagine if Dad saw me with Paulo...I'd be stuffed in an urn then."





Needless to say, Suril hadn't come out to his parents and had no current plans to. Insofar as they knew, he'd been attacked by a racist schoolmate and that was that. "You shouldn't have to hide who you are," I mumbled, snuffling as I skated a pakora around in the ketchup bowl. "That's why I hate the planet Earth. All we do is hate each other and be bad and it's not fair."





"Neither is my stupid nose but I've got to live with it." Suril popped open his Coke and took a swig. "I'm taking an optimistic outlook on things. What's the point in sitting around and being depressed? I can't change what happened but I can learn from it. I'm Hindu, I believe in karma. Conner'll get his, watch. And anyway, the actual date was fucking awesome. Paulo is a fantastic kisser and God is he ever hung."





Which reminded me...I mopped my face on Suril's comforter, cheering up. Conner would get his, I was making sure of that. "I've got gifts for you!" I booked it down to the kitchen, grabbed my schoolbag, tasted a spoonful of daal soup Mrs. Shah was making and booked it back up.





Suril was interested. "Tell me you've got homework, I'm going stir crazy here. There's only so many times a guy can redo last month's assignments."





"Well I got that too." I dumped his homework onto the bed and then handed him a brown paper bag. "This should make the time go by faster."





Suril opened up the bag and pulled out three magazines. "Porn!" He burst out laughing. "You're the best Jane!"





"I thought this fellow cut quite the dash." I gestured to one cover which featured a blond beefcake whose little jean cut-offs were in grave danger of falling off. "He seems to be sporting quite the package."





"Who let you buy these anyway? You're underage!"





"Grandma picked them up for me. She was super excited. You should've seen how long she spent in that store."





Suril was still laughing as he flipped through Raging Rods. "How awesome is Grandma?"





"Pretty awesome." My Grandma was antics galore and I loved her like I loved differential equations.





Suril showed me a page that revolved around a muscular hunk getting to know himself. I figured if you had a body that good, you'd be too hot to trot for yourself too. "This is kinda what Paulo looks like. Tell me he's not worth it."





"Yeah he's buff the stuff" I agreed, taking a closer look. "I'll bet he hadda wax that chest though...he looks like he'd normally be the hairy type."





"When you have a tool that big who cares if you're hairy?"





That was a fair point. It was certainly the biggest willy I ever saw. "I got another present for you but it's more of a long term investment."





Suril didn't look up from his magazine. Mount faux-Paulo was now erupting. "Yeah?"





"I've decided to take karma into my own hands." I paused theatrically. "That's why I hired Rafe Moretti to break Conner's legs so that he can't play in the big game next week."





Suril sprayed Coke all over the spraying faux-Paulo.





"Well it's not like I could do it, I'm a cocktail wiener. I think I'm also something of a non-pacifist. I mean I'm a vegetarian right?"





"Rafe Moretti?"





"He came highly recommended to me." I was proud of the stupendous shock on Suril's face; this was a real humdinger of a gift afterall. "Even if he does look like an Irish immigrant. Did you know he ran over some Lebanese guy in his shitty car?"





"But Rafe Moretti...he actually...you just..."





"Went up and asked him yeah. He was smoking weed in the parking lot with some black dude." I popped an onion pakora into my mouth. I was feeling a lot better; porn and plotting brutality were powerful brightening agents. "He said that you're decent and Conner's a dick. I hadda tell him that you were gay though because he didn't buy the whole racist thing – I guess Conner's dating some Chinese chick."





Suril froze. "And he didn't care?"





"Nah. He doesn't give a shit what you like."





"Well then." He raked a hand through his hair, overwhelmed. It wasn't everyday that he was given the gift of Justice. "I can't believe you went through all this trouble for me."





"Of course I did, you're my best friend!" I huffed. "If Katrina Edwards smacked me black and blue wouldn't you hire someone to smack her back?"





Suril grinned at me and tapped my nose. "Of course I would...but it wouldn't be Rafe, that's her boyfriend."





"I thought she was gonna kill me when she saw me putting my number in Rafe's locker." I shuddered at the memory of her livid face. "She started shrieking and I got scared so I told her I wanted some weed and she said she'd get Rafe to hook me up with the good stuff."





"Everyone goes to Rafe for the good stuff." Suril licked ketchup off his fingers. "So how much did he ask you for?"





"Well that's the real pelvis-punter. I told him that I had fifty bucks and he said to keep it 'cause he wanted me instead. What do you suppose that means?"





Suril's gaze flickered to his magazine where one strapping young man was attempting to pass his orals, as it were. Suril smirked. "Maybe Katrina isn't putting out."





"I don't think I can do that," I said, examining the magazine dubiously. "I never even kissed a boy before. Probably he just wants me to do his homework so he can get into a good university and sell drugs there."





"That's boring ass. I'll bet he wants to make you his love slave. Christ if he was straight...mmm."





I scrunched up my nose. "You don't think he'd make me wear those funny kinds of see-through pants do you?"





Suril rolled his eyes. "He doesn't live in Persia idiot."





"Well I just hope he has some connections to the mob." I wiped my oily fingers on my cords. "What if he has a great street name like Two By Four Moretti because that's his weapon of choice? And imagine if he has a body in his freezer? I'd be so scared, I'd puke."





"He doesn't live Chicago either, dumbo."





"That's boring ass," I mimicked and thought that Rafe would make the best kind of Hit Man because honestly, who would take him seriously? Especially if he hadda kill a lady, she'd never see it coming. She'd be too busy babying him.





Suril and I spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the plan in great detail, verbally abusing Conner and Katrina and doing our Physics homework together. Suril was still in a state of awed disbelief; he couldn't believe that Rafe agreed to mess with one of the most popular guys at school. But mostly he couldn't believe that Rafe didn't want money but wanted me instead. It was pretty sketchy. I figured I'd make a wigwam when I came to that clearing. Both of us were happy that Conner was going to get his and we were even happier that we weren't the ones giving it to him.





I left Suril's house at suppertime. Mrs. Shah forced a doggie bag of dry chickpea curry, lemon cashew rice, daal soup and pakoras on me, not that I was an unwilling recipient. Mostly I left to check up on Grandma...she was known to get up to shenanigans once left to her own devices.





I found her sitting in the kitchen, pouring over the freaky, bondage magazine she'd gotten for herself from that porno shop. "I'm flipping through this to get some inspiration for my tattoo," she told me. "See the bloody old heart this fellow in chains has? Now imagine a tarantula making a web on it. If I got that, it'd scare the pants off that Dr. Polanski next time he decides I need a bowel exam."





I didn't ask Grandma where she wanted the tattoo. I sat down beside her. "That one's pretty racy," I said, pointing out a masked guy who had a naked woman all sprawled out and pouting etched on his back. "Check out the rack."





"Ain't that a chestnut? I'd get some man parts put on her instead though – that way there'd be something for everyone to look at."





My Grandmother's name is Muriel Zeggil and she's my mom's mother. She's a sixty-three year old, scrawny loudmouth who curses like she's a gangster thug, hustles college boys at the pool hall on campus and has all of her own teeth to boot. If she saw Rafe Moretti, she wouldn't've pinched his cheek, she would've bought a gram off him and skinned up right then and there. And she would've slashed Katrina Edwards tires.





Grandma's got that quintessential curly 'do that every old lady on the planet has, with the exception that her 'do is a soft, light purple colour. This wasn't because of a dye mishap, she just got it coloured that way. She thinks it's fun. She likes to wear frosted plum lipstick and opaque lilac eyeshadow to match it. I say why not? She's the one who taught me that life's too short to live by society's rules. She's a firm believer in making her own rules, which is why she's done time and paid fines for various misdemeanours. Once in the eighties, she took a dump on the local Alderman's Cadillac because he wasn't fixing the pot holes down on Chadwick Street quick enough. She still cackles her head off at the mere memory.





Fighting authority has been Grandma's lifelong mission.





"Ma set over food," I remarked, removing a bunch of Tupperware containers from the plastic bag. "Chickpea curry, rice, daal soup and pakoras."





"Well that's a good haul seeing as how I never started cooking yet." She gestured to a bunch of veggies sitting on the chopping board. "I got sidetracked by this tattoo business. 'Course when you were born, I wanted to get one that said 'Grammy 4 Life or Bust' but your Mother wouldn't hear tell of it, God rest her soul."





My Mom died of Multiple Sclerosis when I was four so Grandma moved in with Dad to help out. Dad, who'd been a criminal lawyer, had thrown himself into his work to get over Mom's death and had no time for me. Grandma was the one who raised me, which might explain a lot. When I was nine, Dad died in a car crash on the 101. He got caught in the middle of a blinding snowstorm and veered into the path of an oncoming eighteen-wheeler. Grandma told me it was better that Dad was with Mom because he had missed her so much that it had torn him up and made him empty.





I liked to think that they were both together and happy and had a good laugh watching me and Grandma bumble our way through life.





Grandma put together some salad while I heated up the food. Then we sat down to eat and she began her daily ritual of questioning me about my school day.





"You do any drugs today?"





"No."





"Skip any classes?"





"No."





"Kiss any boys?"





"No."





"Any girls?"





"No."





"Father fucking Time." Grandma shook her head in disgust. "I don't know where I went wrong with you."





"Well I did hire an Italian guy to beat up Suril's basher but that wasn't on your list of options."





Grandma's face lit up like a circuit board. "Well it's about damn time you did something interesting Janie!"





I gave her the scoop. She said she was never so proud of me in all her life and offered to kick Katrina in the teeth. She's been making this offer for some years now. I thought it was lucky that the two of them had never crossed paths because Katrina would've killed me after Grandma was done with her.





After a dessert of Hoof Prints ice cream, Grandma invited Edith Duggin, our next-door-neighbour over for tea. Both of us hated Edith Duggin; she was a nasty old pessimist with a beak like an eagle and a moustache like a Greek. She was the type of neat freak who couldn't stand a mess and whenever she was over, our kitchen just happened to be a mess. The sight of unwashed dishes and cluttered counters were too much for her and so she always got to it. We thought it was a good deal; Grandma could smoke her cigars in Edith's face, catch up on all the daily gossip since Edith was a big blab and when Edith left, we made fun of her moustache in our nice, clean kitchen.





I was quick to flee to the safety of my room when Edith arrived. She never had anything good to say about anyone and every time she caught sight of me, it was all 'Don't wear socks on your hands' and 'Stop chewing your hair' and 'You better be wearing a bra'. I wanted to ask her why I ought to conform myself to fit her image of what I should be but I was too spineless to. Her cats had a mysterious habit of disappearing every time she cooked venison for supper.





I spent the rest of the night going over university applications and reading 'Applied Vector Analysis' for shits and giggles. Suril would be jealous that I'd gotten through it first. Around midnight Grandma and I played a few rounds of night Frisbee-Baseball with old Mr. Yakama, Grandma's on-again-off-again boyfriend and Ivan Shestov, a weird Russian kid who barely spoke any English and was prone to wandering around in the dark in his galoshes.





Mr. Yakama and I lost when I dove for third base (a skinny Hemlock tree) and ended up in Mrs. Weagle's garbage instead. I was embarrassed because Mr. Weagle had to pull a rusty paint can off my foot and he's the local Weather Man.


*****


The Trouble With Hess's Law


I wrote this message to Rafe:





Meet me at 12:07 in the Math Hallway. Do not share this information with anyone.





Anyone being Katrina Edwards. She seemed like the sort of girl who'd snoop around her boyfriend's locker. That was why I was prudent enough to write the note in Pig Pen, a tricky little code that was used during World War II. We learned all about Pig Pen in history class last year so I figured Rafe would be able to decipher it without any problem. He dealt with weed so surely he had to know codes and cryptograms to protect his buyers, right?





I left Rafe's locker at ten after seven, secure in the knowledge that no one had seen me. I went back to my own locker and spent the next hour and a half working on a sheet of old Kinetics equations and graphing exponential functions to get me ready for class. It was a good way of stretching before another day of scholarly work-outs.





We preformed a Titration in the Chemistry lab second period and since my group was done first, Mr. Barker let us leave early. I headed for the library so that I could do my lab write-up and hand it in by the end of the day. That way, when I got home I could finish off 'Applied Vector Analysis' without being distracted by Chem. homework.





I was slowly trekking down the stairs to the second floor...I have a large phobia of stairs and falling down them...when something cold clamped around my wrist.





"The end point of a titration is when the indicator changes colour!" I shrieked hysterically, clutching onto the banister for precious life.





"Shit!" It was Rafe. He released my wrist at the speed of light. "What the hell's wrong with you?"





People grabbing and scaring me in spooky old stairwells was what was wrong with me. "I have titrations on the brain," I gasped, nosily sucking in air.





"What?"





"Titrations are a method of reacting a solution of known concentration with one of unknown concentration." I plopped down on the stairs since my heart was still competing in the Toronto Marathon. I took solace in the familiar, unscary world of Chemistry. "I just did one using HCL, NAOH and Phenolphthalein as an indicator."





"Uh huh." Rafe sat down next to me. He was wearing a camouflaged bandana and an olive green puffy vest over a long-sleeved black top. He looked like a buff street orphan ready for combat. I hoped he'd wear this kickass get-up when he got brutal with Conner, it was cool. "So what's the deal with you stuffing garbage in my locker?"





That didn't register on my seismograph. "Pi r squared?"





He blinked at me, his long lashes fluttering. It was like he used Revlon Fabulash every day. "Katrina saw you putting that 'I love Wayne Fung' paper in my locker yesterday. You want me to set him with you or something? I don't even know the guy but if I were you, I'd ditch the cheese-flavoured love notes."





"I don't know who Wayne Fung is either," I answered indignantly. As though I was idiot girl enough to resort to such frivolities. "I found that paper in a Doritos bag the trash. Didn't you look on the back? I wrote my phone number and locker number there so you could find me."





"The back was a big brown blob on a bunch of French Revolution notes."





"Oh. Guess the eyeliner smudged." Liquid eyeliner you found on the ground was tricky like that. I adopted my best French 'guy-from-Just-Visiting' accent. "Sen tem to zee guillotine Thibault Malfete!"





Rafe braced his elbows on his thighs, frowning. "Why didn't you just write on paper with a pen like every other normal person around here?"





He certainly thought a lot of himself didn't he, the uncultured heathen. "Why would I waste a whole piece of paper on you?"





Rafe had no answer to that. His ego was deflating beneath this massive blow, I could tell. "What about this weirdass shit then?" He yanked out the encrypted note I'd written and shoved it at me. "You think I care that you got a hundred and twenty on a history test in grade ten?"





I made a grand production of turning the paper over. "You can't blame Maybelline this time. QED chump, QED."





"What, you didn't wanna waste English on me either?" Rafe snapped. His fingers were twitching under his chin.





"You're like Hydrogen Fluoride – very volatile," I mumbled, squashing myself against the banister to avoid being strangled. On the one hand Rafe's rage was excellent as it showed me how he'd wield it to smush up Conner but on the other hand I didn't want him to smush me up. I didn't like when people got mad at me. "But don't tell Katrina I said that. She thought I was being flirty with you yesterday and got pissed off. That's why I wrote the note in Pig Pen Code. We learned about it in history class last year, remember? I thought you'd know it 'cause you handle drugs."





He stared at me with those deep, navy-blue eyes for a while. "I don't write in Pig Pen Code, Jane," he finally said, taking back the note and shoving it into his pocket. "No one does. How about you forget about Katrina and stick to English?"





"Sometimes completing the square is unnecessary when you can just factor," I agreed, sighing. It wasn't nearly as fun, not writing in Pig Pen but if Rafe didn't know it then I may as well have been trying to floss with egg salad. At least I had Suril – we still used Pig Pen all the time. It came in handy when Suril wanted to gush over some guy's bum. "But you should know that I suffer deeply from an old binomial called Katrinaphobia. It's plagued me ever since the days of grade primary."





Rafe looked amused. It was a very hot-to-trot look for him. "Katrinaphobia."





"Yes, it's most true. She cut off my braid during nap time once and blamed it on the handicapped kid." I chewed on my scraggly hair as the memories came flooding back. "Everyone thought I was a boy after that – but also I did eat a lot of pink crayons."





Rafe snorted. "Lemme guess – you still bear deep emotional wounds from Katrina's foul treachery."





"Well, not so much. I was kinda glad she did it, to tell you the truth, 'cause I always wanted to be a boy." That was one good instance actually; I'd hated sitting there, flinching while Grandma brushed out my tangles and then braided the whole mess too tightly. "I'm still scared of her though."





"Well now's the perfect time to face your fear." Rafe smiled at me and was so attractive that I just goggled at him. I wanted to smush my hot, two-pimpled cheek against his cute, freckled one and hug him tight. "I'm breaking up with Katrina."





That penetrated through my fog of yearning. "Oh no way brother," I cried, straightening up. "I can't dump her for you, that's just too cruel a bobcat."





Rafe cocked an eyebrow. "Did I ask you to?"





"Oh." I went back to slouching. "Phew that was kilocalorie close."





"Katrina's high-maintenance," Rafe told me, like I hadn't any idea of this fact. "If I dump her, she'll freak out and make a big scene and go all girlie on me. Then she'll wanna get back together 'cause she's already planning our wedding...who wants to deal with all that shit? I'm only eighteen for fuck sakes."





"Tell her you have Gonorrhoea," I advised, licking my hair. "I hear girls don't like that."





"Fuck that noise," Rafe snapped angrily. "I glove my love."





I erupted in a sudden fit of laughter that left my eyes and nose streaming. "Yeah good one!" I choked out and thumped Rafe on the back. What a funny fellow. What a comedic cad. What a hilarious hooligan





He watched me hooting for a few minutes and then shook his head, smiling slightly. "You're outta this world Jane." He leaned close to me, his legs pressing against mine as two girls came trooping down the stairs past us. He didn't smell like weed today.





I scoured my dripping face with the strap of my schoolbag and caught my breath. "Man, the last time I laughed like that was when Suril forgot the molar mass of Strontium."





Rafe's smile broadened. "And he calls himself an honours student."





I glanced around. No one was coming up or down. "Don't tell anyone this but once I messed up a Hess's Law question," I whispered in great confidence.





Rafe tilted his head. He blinked.





"I know, I looked up the wrong Copper Sulphide value! How much of a dipshit do you have to be to mess up Hess's Law?" I sulked at the memory. "I was kicking myself for weeks. Suril wouldn't shut up about it either – he kept saying that I'd have to go to community college."





"Well there's no need for that kind of dirty talk."





"That's what I told him. I mean who thinks that..." I trailed off. Rafe's mouth was twitching above his steepled fingers. Hmmph log base A. This was the last time I'd ever share tragedies from my past with the likes of Rafe Moretti. I should've known that some lad-faced, drug-smoking hired thug wouldn't understand how important school really was. He probably didn't even know what Hess's Law was, the dim-witted, adorable lout.





"Why don't you want my money?" I asked abruptly.





"Because I don't need it." Rafe stretched and leaned back, his arm resting on the step behind us. "What I need is to raise my average. You're obviously a genius and I wanna graduate with honours for my Mom so I figure you can help me out."





My opinion of Rafe rose, though mostly it was because he'd referred to me as a genius. "Maybe attending class once in a while would be a good way to jumpstart things."





He poked my arm. "Hey this is legit, I'm on a free."





Well if he wanted to call a canine a k-five then what business of it was mine? "So I just tutor you and you don't get fifty bucks?"





He shrugged. "I might get you to do other stuff, depending on what comes up."





My eyes widened. My chest seized up. "I will not deal...the dope...not even for the pursuit of Justice."





"Christ Jane." Rafe gave me a disgusted look. "I'd never get you involved in anything like that. Anyway, this dealing shit's only temporary while Masher's on probation. He'll be back at school in a couple of weeks and then I'll be clean again."





"Masher of the West Evington Mashers I presume? Why I say old bean, how droll." I tittered in a hoity-toity 'I-shop-at-Harrods' fashion and then stuck my face in Rafe's. "If it doesn't aggravate my Katrinaphobia then I'll do."





He smacked his palm to my cheek and shoved my face away, sighing. I guessed he wasn't impartial to Shreddies breath. "Okay, so I might need some help getting Katrina to dump me. I was just trying to ease you into this because of your Katrinaphobia."





"If by 'help' you mean that she'll never know I'm helping, then yes I'll gladly help."





"She's already picked out a goddamn wedding dress! She wants to name our kids Severn and Astra!" Rafe took on a wild, desperate look that was not unlike the noble bison that once roamed the plains of Saskatchewan. "The least you can do is hear me out."





Aucontrairemonami "The least I can do is nothing."





His eyes narrowed. A couple of hefty librarians climbed by and Rafe pushed against me with more force than necessary.





"Okay I'll give it a try."





Smirking, he laid out his plan. "I told Katrina last night that you're tutoring me and she's fine with it. I'll study with you all week and then this weekend we can meet up at McGregor's party. It'd be the perfect place to get trashed and then get caught making out. Katrina'll blow her stack, dump me and then I can go and beat the shit out of McGregor for you. How about it?"





I thought about the fifty dollars Mrs. Shah had offered me and the fifty I already had. "I'll give you a hundred bucks." Hell, even Grandma would even join the cause if I asked her too. "No, a hundred and fifty, I promise. I'll give you the money tomorrow. If I don't you can tell the Mayor on me."





Rafe grinned. "How many guys are you planning on showing your bra to?"





Guy from my French class! "No, a hundred and sixty dollars."





The bell rang then, signifying the end of second period.





"Meet me at my locker at lunch," Rafe said as we headed down to the second floor. "We'll talk more then."





What was there to talk about, other than the Chinese Financial Market and cuts to Health Care? "I've never been to a party before, I've never had alcohol before and I've never kissed a boy before."





"Well what works out pretty good because I've never kissed a weirdo brainiac before." Rafe pushed me up against a 'Smoking isn't Cool, Respect your School' poster and kissed me. "Two outta three Janie," he whispered against my stunned mouth, his tongue dipping out to trace my lower lip.





And then he strutted off.





Maybe he did like Shreddies breath afterall.





"I saw that one." A tall, pretty brunette was standing on the stairs that led down to the first floor, watching me with pale eyes. "Katrina's gonna flip the fuck out."





I wrenched out of my brainless torpor, did a dash and grabbed the girl's hand. "Don'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttell." I paused to gulp in air. I felt like I'd been snuffling linseed oil again. "Don'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'ttelldon'tell-"





"What'll you give me?"





"I'll show you my bra?"





"...okay."





xxx





Katrina and Rafe were kissing when I arrived at Rafe's locker. A horrible thought eclipsed my post-Physics brain saturation. Rafe's mouth had touched my mouth and now his mouth was touching Katrina's mouth. Did that mean that Katrina and I had kissed via osmosis? I chewed on my wrist, revolted and terrified. When Grandma would ask me if I'd kissed a boy or a girl today, could I reply 'yes' to both? Was I now a woman of loose virtue? I was sure that McGill and UFT and Mount A still gave out scholarships to tartlets...didn't they? Had I shamed my Mom and Dad's memory? Had I gotten a one hundred on my latest English assignment? Not that I gave a castrated antelope about English but it was important for the continued maintenance of my ninety-nine point nine average.





"I love you sweetie sugar cookie," Katrina cooed, rubbing her nose against Rafe's.





Rafe mumbled something incoherently. He caught sight of me over Katrina's shiny auburn hair and abruptly let her go.





My stomach ruffled loudly. I wanted a sugar cookie without the cookie so bad.





"Hey Jane," Rafe said. "Ready to get studying?"





"Let's get dinnering first." I patted my stomach in a 'there there my pretty' kind of gesture. "Doing Calculus on an empty stomach gives me the runs for some reason…that burnt sienna kind that makes shitty toilet water plop up on your arse. Mass times acceleration equals force, if you know what I mean."





Rafe and Katrina exchanged revolted looks. I could tell that they knew what I was talking about – who wouldn't, except for poor people who had no toilets. Suril told me that in a lot of places in India they don't have toilets and you have to go in holes in the ground. He said that sometimes you can see eyes looking out of the holes and when you squat down, you can get bitten on the bum. I thought that was understandable – I'd want to bite someone too if they took a dump on my house.





"She was always really weird," Katrina told Rafe as she reapplied some glimmery mocha lipshine that came out of a tube.





"Only a fool would pickle gingersnaps when the crescent moon passes through the House of Capricorn," I replied sagely. This was an ancient Tibetan proverb and it meant that when one's character was maligned most foully, one was to turn the other cheek. I smacked my other cheek. "See how I mean? It's defence."





"You can't pickle gingersnaps dummy," Katrina gingersnapped, sliding her arm around Rafe's waist and leaning close.





I frowned as I took up teething my wrist again. "Maybe it was unagi?"





Rafe laughed.





"Jesus." Katrina did some gooey, noisy, kissy thing to Rafe, who got through the offence by groping her perky little butt. "I'll see you in Global huggy-wuggy honey bear."





"Yeah," Rafe grunted, peeling her arms from his puffy vest.





"You two have fun," Katrina trilled, her sassy straw wedges clomping as she flounced down the hall.





I flopped down and opened up my schoolbag. "Let's eat now, don't say no."





Rafe wiped Katrina's lipgoo transfer on his sleeve. "You're in the middle of the hallway."





Sighing loudly, I did a backwards scuttle until I hit the wall. For a drug-dealer, Rafe sure was picky-pantaloons. People could walk around me couldn't they? I pulled out my lunch bag and peered inside.





"You're growing on me," Rafe remarked as he sat down next to me. "You're like no one I've ever met before."





I glanced at him suspiciously. "Is that supposed to be one of those 'pick-up lines' I keep hearing so much about?"





Rafe laughed as he opened up a bottle of Dr. Pepper. "I don't need to pick you up Janie, I've already got you."





What pomp and arrogance. I wasn't some kind of STD he could pick up from Katrina's Silk and Satin thongs. If Mrs. Shah was here, she'd have taken off her sandal and beaten Rafe like a stubborn hen. "What you did was a travesty of justice."





"Yeah? And what did I do exactly?"





"You kissed my mouth while being another girl's huggy-wuggy honey bear."





"Now you can see why I wanna dump her." Rafe unwrapped a gigantic donair that stank to Medicine Hat. "She's way too clingy. What guy wants to be called fucking huggy-wuggy bear? The girl's on crack."





"Maybe you shouldn't have sold it to her then," I pointed out as I opened up my yoghurt container.





Rafe swallowed hastily and gave me an indignant look. "I didn't sell her fucking...what's that smelly shit?"





"It's not caribou jizz." I rummaged around for my spoon. "Today's my S day. That's why I made soup for lunch."





"What the fuck's in it?"





"Squash, shallots, satsumas, soybeans and seaweed."





"That's nasty." Rafe waved his hand around like his lunch shat tiger lilies. "What else do you have on this prestigious S-Day?"





"7UP, spanikopita, sunflower seeds and a strawberry strudel." I slurped up some soup. It tasted like a pig hoof. I'd only been able to season it with salt, sage, and saffron. "This is what weirdo brainiacs do."





He eyed my soup and wished me good luck. I popped open my 7UP to mask the soup taste but it didn't work. I'd used Japanese Nori paper, the seaweed used to make sushi, in my soup and it was some pungent-ass shite. Probably I should've done without but it had been sitting there from the last time Mr. Yakama came over to make sushi for Grandma and I didn't want to waste it. Grandma and Mr. Yakama were on the rocks at the moment – he said that his dead wife didn't approve of his relationship with Grandma and that's why she was haunting his vegetable crisper – so who knew when he'd ever come over again? I didn't like wasting food, even if it was stank and came from the sea.





Rafe finished his gross, dripping donair in about thirty seconds and started up on a bag of ketchup chips and a box of Smarties. He was watching me eat like I was going through Anaphase. "So about McGregor's party this week-"





"I've got a hundred and sixty dollars with your name on it," I interrupted around a mouthful of sunflower seeds. "Think of how many joints you can buy. It'll be like a concert. You know, a real rock one, not like the violin-piccolo kind."





Rafe rolled his eyes. "I didn't kiss you for nothing Janie."





"You must feel so desecrated." I unwrapped my spanikopita. "Hey could you tell I had Shreddies for breakfast when you did the deed?"





"How could I – your mouth was all pinched up like a librarian's tit."





I burst out laughing and choked, spraying food bits into my hand. "You're a hoot and a half bud!" I wiped chew-up spanikopita on my cords, sniggering and coughing.





Rafe dug up a crumpled tissue from his schoolbag and handed to me. "See Katrina would never laugh like that – she'd be all pissed at me for saying 'tit'."





"It's better than saying teat."





"This is why I want your help this weekend and not some other chick's." Rafe took hold of my wrist and poured a bunch of Smarties into my palm. "You're a messed whack-job but you're kinda awesome too."





A funny feeling rumpled my stomach. I thought it was because I'd never been called kinda awesome before but it might have been from the sketchy S soup. "You still cheated on your girlfriend." I ate the red Smarties first to prove that I wasn't a stooge susceptible to cheap marketing ploys.





"No I didn't. As far as I'm concerned, we've already broken up. And anyway, you needed the practice."





"It takes more than a negative charge to make a Polyatomic Ion...with the exception of Ammonia which has a positive charge of plus one."





Rafe set down his Dr. Pepper, his eyes narrowing. It seemed he wasn't a fan of the Polyatomic Ions. After he tutored with me, I was sure he'd feel differently. "My charge for trashing McGregor is you getting Katrina to dump me."





I moped as I played with my soup. Why couldn't I have been strong enough to beat up jocks on my own? "I guess I'll be sharing a hospital room with Conner after Katrina beats me up for fooling around with her wuggy honey sugar cookie. My Grandma'll be thrilled, she always wanted me to get a cast so that she could write dirty couplets on it."





"Like I'd let anything happen to you Janie," Rafe scoffed, as though he was a match for the wrath of Katrina. "I'll act like a drunk asshole at the party and you can be all 'not-before-marriage' when I corner you. You kick up a big struggle while we're kissing and when Katrina sees that, she'll dump me and feel all sorry for you because I'm such a pig."





What moon was this fellow orbiting? Did I look like a Juno winner thespian? "I don't know how to do that. It's weird and...not very metaphysical"





"Are you saying that a scientific genius like yourself can't act like a normal teenage girl for a few hours?"





"I am saying that, yes." I plugged my nose with one hand and finished off the last of the soup with the other. It clogged my sinuses and made my cheeks sink into my tongue. "So do you wanna study Chemistry now? That's my favourite subject tied with Math and Physics. I'll probably get goosebumps while we're working but don't worry, that always happens when I crack open a really invigorating textbook."





"Do you or don't you want McGregor to pay for what he did to your best friend?"





I stared down at my strawberry strudel miserably. My clever ploy of skirting the issue with talks of tutoring hadn't worked. I was a dud-pie fit to be beaten with a fifty Rupee pair of sandals like a Post Master from Surat. "But I have a hundred and sixty dollars."





"We're working on my terms Janie," Rafe reminded me in a low, pissed off voice. His eyes glittered in a non Irish-urchin kind of way. He now looked capable of beating up three guys, that was for sure. "I don't want your fucking money."





I picked sunflower seeds out of my teeth with my tongue. Even the rate of a forward reaction is equal to the rate of the reverse reaction in an equilibrium system. "Then I will shift in the endothermic direction."





"Is that a yes or what?"





I grunted and jammed half the strudel into my mouth to keep from pondering my flourishing Katrinaphobia and the now stemmings of Rafephobia.





"I knew you'd come around." Rafe smirked and pinched my cheek so hard that I saw Ursula Minor.





I didn't feel bad when I spewed strudel all over his cool puffy vest.


*****


Shifting in the Endothermic Direction


Rafe invited me to his house after school. I said yes because I thought that his brain was in need of an oil change. We had spent the remainder of our lunch hour going over his math notes and we didn't get very far. Rafe was behind like a camel's hump. While I personally had found the session to be a great warm-up for my Pre. Calculus class that afternoon, (and a great escape from fretting over the upcoming horrors of going to McGregor's party) Rafe shared my enthusiasm. Like when he tried to get Lou the janitor to incinerate his notes on the Standard Vertex Form. Rafe thought analyzing parabolas was stupid.





I had to wonder how he'd spent his grade eight afternoons.





When class was done for the day, Rafe met me at my locker. He now knew where it was as I had decoded the Pig Pen message for him. I'd hoped that once he saw how easy it was, he'd embrace the bacon so that we might be able to communicate in a more secure, Katrina-free manner. He said he didn't find it easy at all and just graffitied up the wall. I thought it was lucky that he was so good-looking because he didn't really know how to have a lot of fun.





Rafe leaned against the row of lockers opposite mine, his arms crossed over his chest, while I loaded up my bag. I found him so cute and attractive at that moment that my maternal urges took over and I tried to get in a quick cheek pinch. He caught my hand before I met epidermis and told me that if I ever did than again, he'd punch me in the heart.





I brightened and hardly felt any fright at all. "Yeah, why don't you? Then we can skip all the mushy-kissy stuff. If Katrina sees you battering up my aorta then she'll dump you like they originally dumped on Arrhenius' theory of Ionization."





"Like hell I'm doing that." Rafe looked highly affronted. "It was an empty threat you idiot. I'd never actually hit a girl – my Mom would slaughter me first."





Well that worked out quadratically-neat because I didn't really want Rafe to hit me, I just figured if he did, he might be a bit gentler than Katrina.





Rafe held the double doors open for me to prove that he wasn't a thumper of women, just a thumper of homophobes. I sailed past him feeling too cool for school. Thinking about how widely accepted Arrhenius' theory was nowadays made me giddy. I was part of the ongoing evolution of science, I knew I was.





The corridors were packed. We struggled against the rowdy, jostling crowd and could just make out the parking lot through the doors at the end of the hallway when someone grabbed onto my sleeve and didn't let go. I latched onto Rafe so he wouldn't leave without me.





It was the tall, pretty brunette. She glanced at Rafe, glanced at my hand holding his wrist and then glanced back at me. "Let's go to the bathroom."





"I don't wizz in public lady." I quickly let go of Rafe, disturbed by this new development. I wasn't the kind of girl who liked to tinkle in pairs. "And anyway I don't need to go, that soup is still farting around my guts."





"I think she wants to talk to you Janie." Smirking, Rafe patted the top of my head like I was a local mongrel-stray.





Pretty brunette glared at Rafe. She was probably remembering him kissing around on Katrina.





I followed pretty brunette into a nearby bathroom. Three small blond girls were clustered around the sinks, swapping Lip Smackers and griping about how unfair a ten o'clock curfew was. Pretty brunette kicked a stall door hard with some cool boots and said, "Scram."





The three blonds scrammed.





I was amazed out of my Medulla Oblongata. Whenever I said 'scram', Grandma said 'jam' and threw a spoonful over her shoulder to ward off genital warts. "Tyrannosaurs means tyrant lizard, did you know?"





Pretty brunette leaned against the radiator and checked out her flawless reflection in the speckled mirror. "You tell anyone about this, including Moretti, and I'll tell Katrina you were kissing her man."





"NO NO NO, don't tell, not ever, I'll be flattened into a parallelogram, oh ye Gods, I have so much Astrophysics left to learn," I babbled, wringing my hands and doing a 'I-have-to-pee' foot to foot dance. "I didn't even kiss Rafe back 'cause I dunno how and it was my first kiss ever and no one likes me because I'm ugly and have no social skills and please don't tell Katrina."





"You're not that ugly," pretty brunette muttered flatly. "Lemme see your bra."





I blinked at her. "X squared?"





She took out a cigarette from her trendy little handbag and lit up, even though smoking inside school was against the rules. She didn't seem like the kind of girl who gave a neutron about school rules.





My clever little math joke was obviously lost on her. "Again you mean?"





She blew smoke out the open window and scowled.





This was certainly unusual; she'd already seen my bra once today. Was it something of a memory loss situation? Or did she just suffer from self-esteem problems? I mean sure she was a real looker but maybe her parents were cruel duds and called her fat and stupid and made her mow the lawn in hailstorms. Or maybe she had no talents. I had mathematics and the world of science but what did she have...smoking diesel fuel and buying overpriced handbags that resembled hotdogs?





I shrugged in what-the-Fibonacci manner and showed her my bra. Again. She was lucky that I'd decided to wear an exciting La Senza bra today; it was a sunshine yellow cleavage-inducer with clear, detachable straps in case you wanted to wear something strapless. Not that I had anything fancy like that but who could say no to something yellow, especially when it was only $5.99 and especially when I had no cleavage to speak of?





Pretty brunette stared at my over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder while inhaling lung cancer.





"This double decimal's from La Senza," I explained, hitching my tan cords up over the waistband of my blue flamingo undies. Undies weren't in the bargain so I wasn't about to let pretty brunette see mine. "Grandma got it for me to cheer me up when I caught the flu on Spring Equinox. It was a shitcakes experience. I was so stuffed up on buyable meds that I wouldn't have even been able to explain the difference between the Quotient Rule and the Chain Rule. That's some wacky, eh?"





"Get lost."





I yanked my t-shirt down. Pretty brunette was like a chimney, I reflected as I pulled on my small, brown zip-up hoodie. Smoking and tall and nice to look at but kinda rude and didn't say a whole lot. "Vitamin E is essential for reproduction and foetal development." I pushed up my imaginary glasses to make me appear extra creditable and did the 'I-have-to-pee' dance out of there.





Rafe was standing around and chatting with a few chunks of beef near the water fountain. I was glad when he left them because I was a vegetarian and didn't wish to partake of any beefy, meaty nonsense. They were probably even dumber then Rafe and Rafe didn't even know what a Vertical Transformation meant.





"What did Daphne want?" Rafe asked me as we headed towards the exit.





I chewed on some hair. Yeah as to that, why had she wanted to see my bra a second time? The first time wasn't her fault; I'd blurted out the invite without thinking too much about what I was saying. The fact that she might've blabbed to Katrina about me and Rafe kissing had made H2SO4 stew out of my cranial innards. Sure my bra was a real party but if she'd wanted to know where I'd gotten it from she could've just asked. She wasn't much for talking, true, but I understood hand gestures as much as the next donkey. Also, she had boobs too and they were way bigger than mine, if what she'd been advertising in that tight little red top was unstuffed. She could've just checked herself out and not bothered with me. "We were discussing Ohm's Law. VIR, if you recollect."





"Uh huh." Rafe gave me a suspicious look as we stepped outside. "Why would she wanna discuss Ohm's Law with you?"





"Because I'm a brilliant young scholar." There were a lot of things I wasn't – pretty, popular, cool, normal – but the one thing I knew I was, was smart. When I was forty and my peers were busy spending thousands of dollars to maintain a youthful face and body, all I had to do was check out the library scene in order to maintain my brain. I didn't care what the cellophane looked like, I wanted the transistor orb inside.





"Yeah, that much is true." Rafe waved to a big bunch of people hanging around and smoking. "I've never even heard of Ohm's Law. Hard to believe Daphne has."





"The current flow through a conductor is directionally proportional to the potential difference and inversely proportional to the resistance." I picked up an interesting sedimentary rock that was the exact shape of a rhombus. I would have to investigate it further. "It's all the latest to-do in Cosmopolitician. Girls like to recite Ohm's Law to fortify their oral cavities, if you know what I mean."





"No, I really fucking don't."





"That's because you're from Jupiter and I'm an unknown asteroid belt. Everyone knows that, dudsicle."





Rafe led me to his shitmobile. It was a rusty, peeling, dented heap that looked as though it had taken part in the Serbo-Croatian war. There was a spidery, circular crack defacing the back windshield glass that was the size of Quebec City. The back bumper was hanging on by a rusted thread and the driver's door seemed to have been rammed by a Boeing 747. Someone had sprayed something in yellow Italian on the hood and it didn't look too friendly.





I pointed. "What's that say?"





Rafe scowled. "It's a comment on my sexuality. My shithead cousin Claudio wrote it, that fucker."





So that's what a comment on someone's sexuality written in Italian looked like. Elliptical. "If you're ever feeling bi-curious Suril'd be more than willing to lend a hand." I chortled uproariously at my own joke. "He thinks you're as fine as the Ideal Gas Law!"





Rafe just stared at me, revolted, so I quickly got into his car before he could get mad at me. Rafe's car wasn't locked. That was probably because it had nothing in it that anyone would ever want to steal. It didn't even have a tapedeck. There was a lot of duct tape holding shit together. My window had no glass in it and Rafe had to sit on his seatbelt because apparently if you buckled it up, you were stuck.





"Okay so Angelina needs some work," Rafe said over the whines and shrieks of the engine starting. "What woman doesn't?"





"My Grandma and Suril's Mom don't, they're perfect," I replied, holding onto the rusted door handle as Rafe laid a rubber strip out the lot. "And neither does Marie Curie. She's an inspiration to us all. She's my favourite hero tied with Bill Ny the Science Guy. It's my dream to one day discover a new element like she did. I'll call it Surilium after the only friend I got."





Rafe gave me a sidelong glance. "Shah's really lucky to have you for a friend, you know that?"





"Yes I do know that. I made him a fake ID so he can get into those gay clubs downtown." I scratched my nose with the rhombus rock. "I'm a very decent friend. I can talk to him about Multivariate Analysis and rimming over hummas. I hear it's not easy that you can find someone to do that with."





"Uh...right." He was looking revolted again. He must not have been a big fan of hummas.





Rafe's car huffed and puffed and fumed and loomed and released enough stinking emissions to kill off a couple hundred kilometres of wildlife. Angelina turned corners like a beluga whale, barely made it past fifty-five kph and smelled like King of Donairs. She was pretty cooltastic.





We pulled up to Rafe's house in a cloud of puttering diesel a while later. His house was fairly big, with a gigantic porch and a neatly cultivated lawn. A silver Lexus LS-430 sat gleaming in the driveway.





"That's quite the freebooting 'ride'," I remarked, tossing in some cool vernacular so that I seemed 'with it'.





Rafe's mouth twitched. It was hard to believe that he had put in on mine. "It's my Mom's. She'd die before ever letting me drive it. It's practically her fourth child."





"That's a good fourth child to have. For example it'll never put fish sticks down its pants so that it can go swimming underwater."





"...tell me you aren't speaking from personal experience."





"It made some sense at the time," I said as Rafe unlocked the front door. "I thought the fish could show me all the cool underwater hangouts. How why I to know it was dead?"





Rafe's house smelled like baking cookies and was the neatest house I'd ever been in. It looked like the kinda house you saw in cleaning product commercials. Everything was shiny and perfectly aligned and free of dust. I could practically see my reflection in the silver Maple hardwood floor.





"Ma I'm home!" Rafe bellowed as we took off our shoes. He hung up my hoodie and his puffy vest in the closet, which was a miracle in organization. I didn't even know closets could be clean. "She's probably over at my Aunt and Uncle's," Rafe told me. "They only live across the street."





Sensitive to the fact that it was still S day, Rafe hunted out some sugar cookies and a couple cans of Sprite. The kitchen was so bright and sparkly that I felt I needed prescription sunglasses. Even the cookies glinted in the streaming sunlight.





We took our loot to the TV room. It was a cosy space filled with wide leather sofas, a couple of lazy boys, neatly lined bookshelves and an expensive, silver entertainment system. The walls were covered with all things Italy – maps, gorgeous tourism posters, replicas of famous paintings, the Italian soccer team. We got settled on the sofa and laid out our textbooks and binders on the glass coffee table before us.





Rafe drank some pop and elbowed me, smirking. "Wanna practice making out now?"





I pondered the persistence of the average teenaged boy's hormones over a really good sugar cookie. I had pinched Rafe's cheek. I had eaten disgusting soupslop in front of him. I had accidentally spit some chewed-up strudel on him. And still he was willing to kiss my mouth. Well, even an object that's at rest will remain at rest, provided that it's not subjected to an unbalanced force. I was not, if anything, an unbalanced force.





I took out a pencil and a receipt from a graduated cylinder I'd purchased over the weekend and wrote on it f(x) equals -(x plus 3)2 - 1. I handed it to Rafe. "I'll practice with you if you can graph this and tell me where the y-intercept is and what the vertex is."





Rafe goggled at the receipt incredulously. "Are you shitting me?"





"All angles are congruent my friend." I leaned back against the sofa, feeling extremely superior. I'd been able to analyze parabolas by the age of thirteen. Graphing had masked the horrifying pain of realizing that I was going to have to bleed once a month until I was fifty. When you were thirteen and already felt like a bumpy buffoon for growing lumps out of your chest, monthly bleed-a-thons truly were horrifying.





"Fine." Rafe also leaned back and rested his arm along the back of the sofa. "But I'm not graphing it now, I'll do it before you leave. Or have you got a time limit on this thing?"





"You can graph it on the next Bongo Bongo Day," I said, shoving another cookie in my mouth. "I just don't wanna have to kiss your mouth."





"Why the hell not?" Rafe demanded, indignant. "All girls wanna kiss me!"





"Then I am a glockenspiel." I picked up Rafe's Chemistry textbook with excitable, shaky hands. "Holy domain and range did I ever have some good nights with this old scalar. Me and Suril pulled an all-nighter and read this sugared up on Smarties and Root Beer and rainbow gumballs. I'll never forget our drawings of electrolytic cells. Har har, I miss grade eight a lot."





Rafe blinked a couple of times, momentarily distracted from the crushing weight of his slumping ego. "You and Shah had a sleepover and read a grade twelve textbook? Jesus, no wonder either of you weirdos have any friends."





"Well why should we be friends with people like Katrina Edwards?" I clutched the textbook to my chest, stung. "She used spend all her time calling Suril a Paki and spreading rumours about how I stole other girls' underwear because I was too poor to afford my own. Suril doesn't think I'm a weirdo, he likes me how I am. So there, that's proved a la mechanisms but I'll bet you don't even know what mechanisms are."





"No, I don't." He scooted close to me so that all I could see were his adorable freckles and wide bromothymol blue eyes. "Jane I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. Anyone can see that you're ten times better than Katrina. She may be totally hot but she's always been a little on the mean side."





My eyes widened. Whoever heard of a teenaged boy saying that I was better than Katrina? It was wacky junction most extreme. "That's like saying polygons less than 180 degrees actually do exist. "





"Uh huh." Rafe skimmed his fingers across my knuckles. It made me feel like I'd just eaten a mouthful of S soup. "At first I thought you were creepy and really weird and, well I still think you're really weird, but you're also loyal and smart and you don't give a shit about what anyone thinks of you. That's decent."





I was amazed. "No one who's not my Grandma or Suril or Max Planck ever told me anything like that before."





"Planck? That shitty stoner who works at the Petro-Canada down on Cedar?"





"No, the German physicist who proved mathematically that the amount of radiant energy absorbed or emitted by a body is proportional to the frequency of the radiation." I took a gulp of pop and rubbed my nose to get rid of the bubbles fizzing up there. "I dream a lot about Max Planck. We eat mashed potatoes sandwiches and study Thermodynamics together. He has his own constant you know. Planck's constant; 6.6262 x 10 -34 joules. It's widely known."





"Sounds kinda like that Avocado's number we learned about at the beginning of this year."





I laughed so hard that I got 6.6262 x 10 -23 stomach cramps. "Avogadro's number," I gasped out, wiping my watering face on my pop can. Rafe sure knew how to crack me up.





We spent the next couple of hours working on Chemistry. It was a real noble gas. Sometimes I got too enthusiastic and couldn't really speak properly, between all the bouncing in my seat and excitable gesturing and dribbling of Sprite, so Rafe made me take walks around the room to calm down. He didn't laugh at me but I could tell that he wanted to. I didn't mind because I was feeling proud of him. Once he put his mind to learning, he wasn't half dumb at all. By the end of it, Rafe was able to redo an old Solutions assignment that he'd originally gotten a three on and this time he got an eight. I was so thrilled that I shed one tear and Rafe said I was a spazzy dumbass and kissed my cheek. He was a very strange lad, I thought.





We decided to take a break after that joyous event; I needed the bathroom and Rafe wanted to check his e-mail and some basketball scores. The bathroom Rafe showed me to was another gleaming tribute to Mr. Clean, not that I'd expected anything less. Everything was cream and lilac and smelled like a garden. There were a few hundred integers of fancy hand creams and oils and delicately-shaped soaps lining the marble-topped sink counter. Six fluffy vanilla towels of varying sizes were meticulously arranged on the towel rack. I did my business as fast as I could because it felt like a crime to desecrate such a spotless, fragrant bathroom. I was too scared to mess with the towels...and I had no clue which one to use anyway...so I just wiped my dripping lavender-scented hands on my cords. I was glad to leave that bathroom because it was a bit petrifying.





Back in the TV room I found Rafe lounging around with two new guys.





"This is Jane," Rafe said. "Jane, these are my brothers Guido and Lucan."





The only things Rafe had in common with his brothers were dark hair and blue eyes. Guido and Lucan looked like brothers and were obviously Italian while Rafe looked like a pick-pocket and was obviously Irish.





Guido was slouching in one of the leather lazy boys and he was the biggest guy I've ever seen up close in my life. He completely filled up the far side of the room, radiating macho all over the place. He made Conner McGregor look linear. Guido was swarthy, with a shaved head, a nose that looked like it had been broken a few times and a fading black eye. He was wearing a grey uniform with short-sleeves that showcased his watermelon-sized, rippling biceps. He looked like a hardcore thug. I thought it was too bad I hadn't met Guido before Rafe; Guido would've massacred Conner and ate his car for dessert.





Lucan was sprawled out on the couch with Rafe. He was also swarthy, with messy hair and a thin, neat line of facial hair that went from sideburn to sideburn. He was lean and rangy and had an easy-going, languid air about him. His stomach was concave beneath his white wifebeater and he was covered in tattoos...from both wrists to shoulders, his knuckles, beneath his left ear, what I could see of his chest. I could tell that he was one of those 'bad boys' that girls seemed to get all idiotic over.





"Halo-gens," I quipped, shuffling in and sniggering at my own joke. Sometimes I was a too funny bunny.





"What'd you do to your pants?" Rafe demanded, staring at my wet cords.





"I got scared by all those fluffy towels." I dumped down onto the other lazy boy since Rafe and Lucan had taken up all the sofa space. "I didn't know which towel I was supposed to use...at home I just wipe off on my Grandma's nightdress. She says it's good for her eczema."





"Yeah, that's how it should be," Lucan said, looking vaguely impressed. "None of this Martha Stewart fancyass shit."





I asked Rafe, "How come you look Irish and they don't?"





"Yeah, we've been wondering that too," Guido drawled out, smirking. He had a quiet, deep voice.





"I'm not fucking Irish, I'm Italian," Rafe snapped, jerking away as Lucan elbowed him in the ribs, guffawing. "What's that supposed to mean anyway – I look Irish?"





"Why do you think I always wanna pinch your freckly cheeks?" I scooped up Rafe's Chemistry book so that I had a covalent bond in the midst of all these two new faces. "You're such an Irish lad. You're a chimney sweep. You shine Wellies for a shilling. You steal fruits from the marketplace and get in pickles with the Bobbies. You sell newspapers-"





"No I goddamn don't," Rafe growled, his freckles suffusing with boiling, red heat. "Shut up Jane."





Guido was chuckling in a low, gruff kind of way. "You're such a little fucking chimney sweep. You keep stealing those potatoes and one day you'll have enough to make passage back to Belfast."





"Piss off!" Rafe glowered in my direction. "Quit it with this Irish cockshit!"





"That's no way to talk to such an enterprising young lady, fuckface," Lucan told Rafe, still snickering. He punched Rafe in the shoulder and nodded to my t-shirt. "I gotta say Jane, that shirt owns."





Yes, it really did own, though I hadn't expected someone like Lucan to ever appreciate it. Suril had designed it for my last birthday. It was little and black and proclaimed in bold red letters, 'Math and alcohol don't mix...PLEASE DO NOT DRINK AND DERIVE!' "You're the only person who's ever liked this shirt besides my math teacher and Max Planck."





"That greasy fucker who works down on Cedar?" Guido looked disgusted. "What's he know about anything that's not crack and porn?"





"I think she's referring to the Max Planck who first showed that the emission spectra of atoms could be explained by assuming that electromagnetic radiation is quantized," Lucan explained. He winked at me. "Am I right? Weird science dreams from too much cramming?"





I could feel my eyes enlarging up and out of my skull. I had been winked at. Winked at by a super-cool dude who got my hilarious t-shirt and who knew what Max Planck was famous for. A wave of dizziness cosined over me. Lucan seemed to be shining in white, twinkling light, almost as though Krypton had been energized around him. "You've heard of Planck?"





Lucan smiled at me. "Sure who hasn't?"





"Oh Jesus," Rafe grumbled irritably. My alluding to his Irish ancestry seemed to have made him most cranky. "I never heard of Max fucking Planck."





I was beaming so hard my premature wisdom tooth twanged. I thought Lucan was as beautiful as a balanced Redox equation. "It's true, Rafe thought Planck's constant sounded like Avogadro's number."





Lucan had a good hoot and thumped Rafe upside the head. Guido joined in by punching Rafe in the ribs. Rafe didn't look so thrilled and there was a lot of swearing in Italian involved. I snatched up my rhombus rock so it wouldn't get roughed up. Rafe, Lucan and Guido were a real family of real guys just like on TV. I'd never seen anything like this in my life. I wanted to go over and whack Rafe like everyone else was doing but then he might've punched me in the heart and I would've cried a saline solution.





"Assholes," Rafe spat, rubbing his side. He kicked Guido, which had all the appearance of a spaghetti noodle striking the CN Tower. "That fucking hurt."





"I'm trying to toughen you up, you ungrateful little shit," Guido snapped, knocking Rafe's jaw. "You wouldn't last a day in Juvie."





"You're gonna have your hands full trying to teach this numbnuts," Lucan informed me. "He couldn't even find the molar mass of water."





"I fucking can so, dickwad," Rafe contradicted, incensed. His cheeks were a livid shade of methyl red.





Lucan calmly thumped him again.





"He really can, I taught him how," I told Lucan, nodding earnestly. "He learned loads today. Hey, do you wanna hear a hilarious chemistry joke?"





"Fuck, on that note I'm outta here," Guido said. He stood up and cleared about 6'4. He was a mountain. "You sticking around for supper Jane?"





"Yeah she's staying, let Mom know," Rafe spoke up before I could reply. "We still have graphing to go over, don't we Janie?" He gave me a pointed look that I could tell had more to do with making out rather then studying parabolas. He was such a corrupt little Irish chap.





"Asymptotes ahoy," I agreed, mostly because I found Rafe's brothers fascinating. Both Suril and I had no siblings and this might be my only chance to observe three fully-developed males pursue a meal in their natural habitat. Plus I wanted to hang around Lucan for forever.





Lucan smirked at me. "How about you tutor me too Jane?"





"Ease off dipshit, she's underage," Guido said, punching Lucan on his way out of the room.





"How old are you?"





"Too young for you, asshole," Rafe retorted, kicking Lucan.





"I'm seventeen and that's old enough to tutor," I declared, feeling indignant. "I have a ninety-nine point nine average. I can show Guido my midterm if he doesn't think I'm qualified."





Rafe and Lucan exchanged glances. My astronomical average must've rendered them dazed. It was known to happen.





"So let's hear that joke now."





I coughed for a while to achieve perfect pitch and resonance and then solemnly intoned, "Once there was a small piece of Sodium who lived in a test tube and fell in love with a Bunsen burner. 'Oh Bunsen Burner, my flame, I melt whenever I see you,' the Sodium said. The Bunsen burner replied, 'It's just a phase you're going through.'"





"Yeah fucking hilarious," Rafe muttered while Lucan and I laughed our protons off.





"Just a phase," I chortled and slapped my thigh with the rhombus rock. It hurt a bit because the rock was sedimentary like that but I was guffawing too hard to care. I sucked in air, trying to breathe but it wasn't easy with jokes like that around.





"That's a good one Jane." Lucan shoved Rafe over and patted the spot next to him. "Come over here, I'll show you something cool."





"Keq," I said, eagerly flopping down beside him.





Chuckling, Lucan borrowed some of my paper and my Techniclick mechanical pencil and wrote down ( (12 plus 144 plus 20 plus (3 x 4(1/2) ) ) / 7) (5 x 11) equals 9 squared plus 0. "Would you believe that there's a limerick in this equation?"





I bounced in my seat, doing the sitting version of the 'I-have-to-pee' dance. I was so excited that I felt like I had a scatter plot inside my undies. "Yeah I would chief, I really, really would to the 22.414 L/mol!"





"Quit spazzing or you'll strain something," Rafe ordered, rolling his eyes. I understood that he must not've been too chuffed with the way he couldn't get any of the jokes but I was planning on explaining them to him so that he could hoot too. I just hoped his bowels weren't too itchy.





Ignoring him, Lucan lightly tweaked my nose, making me cross-eyed, before delivering the limerick.





"A dozen, a gross and a score,





Add 3 times the square root of 4





Divided by 7





Plus 5 times 11





Equals 9 squared and not a bit more."





I hooted uproariously and clapped and thought my aortas were going to burst off. Lucan was even more awesome than the Quadratic Formula and any warthog knew how handy the Q formula was. "That was astronomically cooltastically stupenderrific!" I marvelled at the equation. It couldn't have been more perfect if Pythagorean had written it. "Did you devise that?"





"Nah, some professor somewhere did. I just kept it around 'cause I thought it was awesomeness."





"I'm gonna frame this!" I hugged the paper to my 'Don't drink and derive' chest. "You're the coolest dude I ever met and not just because you got a Googolplex of tattoos!"





"Fuck you're some cute," Lucan said, nudging my knee with his.





I gaped at him, speechless.





"She's here to tutor me not put up with your perverted bullshit." Rafe punched Lucan in the arm. "Now fuck off, we have more studying to do."





Lucan knocked Rafe upside the head. "You jealous chimney sweep? Does Katrina know about all this?"





My lack of speech went the way of the Alchemist. "Don't mention her name, she'll hear us and kick me in the boob." I shuddered and clutched onto my rhombus rock protectively. "I'm a big sufferer of Katrinaphobia. Currently, there is no cure but to graduate and move away."





"I always thought Katrina was an idiot," Lucan told me. "Her rack is fine but you still blow her out the water Jane."





I decided that once I got home, I was going to mark today down on my Einstein calendar as being the most surreal, irrational, mystical, non-Jane day that ever had occurred. Grandma and Suril weren't even going to believe all the new things that had happed to me today. I'd eaten lunch with a boy who wasn't Suril. Said boy had kissed me and wanted to kiss me some more. I'd shown my bra to a girl...twice. I was going to have supper at boy's house. I saw three brothers hit each other a lot. Two boys thought I was better than Katrina, in spite of her being hot and having great tits. I met a cool badass and he also liked Math and Chemistry. He called me cute.





I jammed my Techniclick into my arm but I didn't wake up. There was a small hole in my arm now. I prodded at it but it didn't go away, only the pencil parts rubbed off. I bit it some and then the hole got disguised by teeth marks. I could tell Grandma that it was an Algebraic bite and see if she believed me, seeing as how I knew two boys who liked me now.





Rafe had let Lucan know that he was planning on breaking up with Katrina, amidst much swearing and wallopings.





"About damn time you ditch her – you knew she was gonna be more trouble then she's worth."





"Thanks for the fucking tip Dr. Phil."





Cue more scuffling. I'd definitely made the right choice in hiring Rafe, he was well experienced in the art of violent thumpings.





"And don't forget Ma never liked Katrina."





"Would you get lost already, I have math shit to learn!"





Lucan smirked and put Rafe in a headlock. "What happened to Chem. Irish boy?"





Sniggering, I leaned over Lucan and got a pinch in while Rafe was out of commission. I couldn't help myself anymore than acids could help reacting with most metals to form Hydrogen gas. "Shine yer shoe for a shilling Guvn'r," I trilled in my best 'Please Sir I want some more' Oliver Twist voice.





Rafe glared liquid Nitrogen at me as Lucan doubled over laughing.





"You give me all these strange urges that I've never felt before," I explained, hastily scooting out of Rafe's line of smacking. "I want to feed you cookies and milk and tuck you in at night and kiss your freckly little forehead."





"You say one more word Jane and I'll sic Katrina on you," Rafe snarled murderously.





I snapped my mouth shut and nudged Lucan to stop laughing but he was practically crying. "Katrinaphobia," I finally hissed out of the corner of my mouth, hoping Rafe wouldn't hear.





Lucan caught his breath after a few moments and told me, "You're a riot, you know that Jane?"





"A Keq less than 1.0 favours the reactants," I replied sagely.





"Yeah, but a Keq equivalent to 1.0 favours neither the products nor the reactants." He chucked me under the chin and told me to make a Rafe stop drooling all over his textbooks. He gave Rafe a parting thump along with a touch more verbal abuse and left us alone.





There was a freezing silence, much like what you'd find on Saturn. Rafe was still furious with me, if the expression on his adorable face was any indicator. I'd always hated when people were mad at me and I really hated Rafe being mad at me, especially as he thought I was ten times better than Katrina. Probably I shouldn't've said that he was a chimney-sweeping, shoe-shining, fruit-stealing, newspaper-selling Irish bloke. Probably I shouldn't've pinched his cheeks again. Probably I had no sense of self-control.





Before he had bought the nuts, my Dad used to lecture me for not thinking before I did anything. I'd never really mastered that concept, mostly because Grandma hadn't carried on with that line of lecturing. She did whatever she felt like and to hell with what everyone else, including herself, thought. She said life was too short to fart around thinking all day. I figured that was as good a way of going about as any.





I cautiously did a phase change over to Rafe's side. "Don't be mad at me Rafe." I pressed my rhombus rock to his leg and made unit circles out of my eyes. "I'm sorry that I pinched your cheek again and said all those things about you being Irish. I shouldn't've done it but I did it anyway because I haven't got too much common sense. But I promise I'll never do it again and you can tell everyone at school that my breath smells like a plasma transplant and that I'm so dumb that I didn't know that a cube has nine mirror planes, thirteen axes of rotational symmetry and seventeen planes of rotational symmetry."





Rafe shifted, his dark blue eyes melding with my shitty dung ones. "Uh, what're doing to my leg?"





"I'm bestowing upon you my rhombus rock. It's a symbol of the Treaty of our Camaraderie." I stuffed the rhombus rock into his palm so that he would understand the enormity of my destitution. "I remember when I first found my rhombus rock. It feels like only last week."





Rafe's lips quirked and I knew that he wasn't mad anymore. I was essential to his Katrina-dumping plot afterall. "You found it today."





"Well Reimann sums are an excellent way to find the area under a curve, Rafe." I snuffled and chewed some hair. "I can explain that joke I told Lucan if you'd like. I didn't want to explain it then because I didn't want you to feel stupid in front of your brother."





Smiling, Rafe poked my side and made me squirm. "You like Lucan a lot don't you?"





"I do, he thinks my t-shirt is funny and he knows who Max Planck is and he showed me a super cool to the dekillion math limerick." I smiled down at the equation, giddy bubbles of peptic acid effervescing inside my stomach. "At first I just thought he was some ruffian with a lot of tattoos but now I know he's neato-mosquito too. How come you didn't get him to tutor you?"





"Lucan's works at that tattoo parlour on the waterfront and he's also a Calculus TA at UFH this semester," Rafe told me. "So he doesn't really have a lot of time to tutor me."





"Wow cow, I never met a real live Calculus TA before," I breathed, awed. I couldn't wait to tell Grandma that Lucan was a tattoo artist, she'd hoof it downtown straight away. "Maybe he can give me some university assignments to do, I find the high school stuff tedious."





"Just remember Lucan's seven years older then you." Rafe took the math limerick from me and set it on the coffee table. "But for now, I think we should get back to work don't you think?"





"Yes I do think!" I squirmed eagerly against the sofa, scanning over Rafe's textbooks and binders. "Do you wanna hit up Math or Physics? I say we do Physics because we haven't even touched that yet."





"Let's do Chemistry."





I beamed, pleasantly surprised. "You're up for more Chem? That's diprotic with me pal!"





Rafe caught hold of my chin in this spiffy-quick move and kissed me. His other hand came up to cup my cheek. His mouth was really soft and it was slanting all over mine a la y mx b. This kiss lasted much longer than the first one had and it made my heart race in a way that only advanced textbooks ever did.





"This is how I do Chem. Janie," Rafe whispered, skimming his cool fingers over cheek. I would've thought that line was pure Havarti but I felt too dizzy to think much about cheese. "You didn't forget my terms did you?"





"Katrina's going to make goulash out of my innards," I whispered back, gripping the sofa with one hand and his knee with the other. "I should ditch you and hire Guido."





"I don't think so." He kissed me again, deeper this time, until there was no air left inside my lungs. His tongue traced my lip like it had last time. "I think you're sorta cute too."





It got abyss dark. A rushing, swishing heartbeat passed before I realized that I'd closed my eyes again. "You do?"





"Mmm. Open your mouth Janie."





His tongue touched mine and it was slick and hot and stroking. Blood flooded my brain like a burette and my last coherent thought was that the Kinetic Theory was true on many, many levels; particles in all forms of matter really were in a constant state of motion.


******


The Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics


"Grandma, I'm having supper at the Italian hooligan's house so I won't be around for a good bit. There's those meatballs that Myrna Addison made still in the fridge. If you scrape off that green stuff and boil them, I'm sure they'll be Iodine fine." After a lifetime of noshing on rashers of bacon and fried eggs and homemade caramel doughnuts, Grandma was fortified with a stomach, and subsequent arteries, of pure titanium. She could eat the mangled carcass of a Serengeti antelope, hoofs, fur, horns and all, and only suffer through the occasional trumpeting burps. "And don't forget to return Boobs and Butt back to Mr. Sealy. If he finds out we borrowed this month's issue, he'll use weed-killer to write 'Dog Poop Welcome Here' on our lawn again.' Love you."





Rafe, who'd just strolled back into the TV room with more cans of Sprite, caught the latter part of message I was leaving on the machine. "Boobs and Butt?" he demanded incredulously as I hung up the phone. "You read that with your Grandmother?"





"Yeah, it was her idea," I answered, idly continuing to write out integrals on the panty liner I'd found in my pencil case. "Mr. Sealy gets Boobs and Butt every month and we like our borrowed porn to be jizz-free, as they say."





Laughing, Rafe slouched down beside me. "If my Grandmother ever caught me checking out porn, she'd skin me alive."





"I shake my head in sympathy," I said, shaking my head in sympathy.





"So anything good in this month's issue?" Rafe waggled his eyebrows. He looked like a young chap who'd just gotten into his pap's naughty wood block carvings.





"It couldn't have been more boring if it was written with a quill on vellum and called Hamlet." I made barfing motions down my t-shirt. "Where's the originality? The creativity? The absence of brainless Static Equilibrium? I may as well have just said that the vector sum of all external forces that act on a body must be zero."





Rafe tilted his head, frowning. "Are you saying there were no naughty nurses? Or none of those chicks that just wear stockings and sexy shoes?"





"Well yeah, there were all those old Trig. Identities," I replied dismissively. "But what good is that to anyone? I see boobs every time I take a bath. Suril's porn is much more exciting; you should see some of the graduated cylinders those fine fellows have to measure with!" I laughed so hard I bit my cheek and then had to stick a piece of panty liner in my mouth to stop the bleeding.





Rafe looked as though someone had just asked him to analysis the properties of curdled milk with his tongue. "You ever mention Suril's porn again and I'll tell Katrina you tried to find my molar mass."





I wanted to be scared of such a heartless threat but I was chortling too hard; Rafe had made his first Chemistry joke! I jovially whacked his thigh and smudged my running, sloppy face on my pants.





"Holy Mother of God, I spent one day with you and already I'm making retarded jokes." Rafe sighed loudly, apparently depressed.





"You should tell Lucan that, he'd laugh his tattoos off," I wheezed, still giggling. "Like, your mass would be molar if you know what I mean!"





"No, I don't know and I'm the one who made the stupid joke." Rafe popped open the tab of his Sprite and chugged down half the can. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he changed the subject. He obviously hadn't grown into the knowledge of Chemistry I had bestowed upon him. "I told Mom you're a vegetarian and she's fine with it, after she got the 'girls need protein' speech out of her system. She said you're in luck because she made her famous pesto-pinenut pasta tonight. Too bad it's not P day huh?"





I had decided to forgo the S day supper so as not to annoy Mrs. Moretti with stupid cooking demands; it was bad enough that I was a herbivore in an omnivorous home. Rafe suggested that I make up my S day supper by doing another S day lunch tomorrow and he said that he'd join me too. I thought that was as prismatic as an ionic crystal. It was lonely doing S day without Suril. "It won't be P day for a long time yet. I work on a rotational cycle, much like Kepler's first Law."





"You wanna hear something crazy Janie? The only laws I know are ones like you gotta be nineteen to buy liquor and don't murder people."





"All planets move in elliptical orbits with the sun at one focus. That's what Kepler proposed." I patted Rafe's knee consolingly. The boy couldn't help being a little Irish primate. "You can learn these things easily, I'll teach you. We probably should get back to studying anyway, we wasted too much time with all that kissing-smoochy hoopla."





"Whatever, you loved it," Rafe said arrogantly. "You were so kissing me back."





"I didn't know I was," I replied, blinking wide-eyed. This was surprising news as most of our kissing had passed by with me light-headed and dizzy. "You made my stomach feel very funny."





Rafe smirked. "Yeah? How's that?"





"I felt like I had when I'd first read Applications of Numerical Methods in Molecular Spectroscopy."





Rafe burst out laughing. "Fuck, I didn't know I was that good!"





"It was as though I had a stomach full of Unnilennium." I chewed on my wrist in confusion. "It's weird because I only get that feeling when I'm studying. Do you think there's something off with me?"





"All chicks go ape-shit over my hot bod, even nerdyass ones like you," Rafe bragged, leaning back with his hands behind his head. "Trust me babe, it's normal."





There were no good parts left to chew on my right wrist so I switched wrists. "When a body floats in a fluid, the magnitude of the buoyant force on the body is equal to the magnitude of the gravitational force on the body."





Rafe looked at me like Fb didn't equal Fg. "I'll keep that in mind."





I muffled a smirk into my hand. "You needed a puncturing in your ego, it was snoodling my nerdyass nosehairs."





"Hey, you're the one who couldn't even remember to push me away." Rafe nudged my knee with his. "Katrina's supposed to think you don't wanna make-out, remember? We need to work on your flailing."





"Lucan said I was an enterprising young lady." I loved Lucan so much, he was as ideal to me as a salt bridge containing a conducting solution. "I'm sure I'll be able to think of some alternative plot before the weekend mass-waves by. Kissing your face still seems a bit too much like Tri-nitrotoluene, highly unstable if you know what I mean."





Rafe's eyes darkened. They reminded me of Super Grover. "Maybe I want to kiss you."





"That's because all guys go ape-shit over my hot bod, even Irishass ones like you," I bragged, polishing my fingernails on my nose.





"Right." Rafe stalked over to the phone. "I'm calling Katrina."





"Sin theta divided by Cos theta Tan theta," I screeched, flinging myself onto Rafe in a high panic. We thumped into the bookshelf and a hardcover copy of The Da Vinci Code fell on my head. It knocked me out of my hysteria. "So will your wedding bowtie match the bouquet of flora Katrina will be carrying up the aisle?"





Rafe scowled and shoved me off him. "I hate you."





"It's understandable." I picked up The Da Vinci Code and stuffed it back into the bookshelf. "I hate The Edible Woman but read it I must. It's necessary for the continued superiority of my average."





Mrs. Moretti screamed that dinner was ready then.





Wincing, I stuck my knuckles into my ears. She sure knew the meaning of the Mach Number, that was for sure.





Rafe pulled my hands free. "Do I have to tell you not to let my Mom in on any of this McGregor Katrina shit?"





"Not really. I've been told that some Mothers can be of an overbearing nature with it comes to the violent, hormonal tendencies of their offspring."





Rafe led me to the kitchen. "You're such a frigging nerdy scientist, you know that?"





I beamed and walloped Rafe on the back in a friendly manner. "Thanks dude, that's truly an inspired compliment."





Mrs. Moretti was pouring vinaigrette over an enormous bowl of salad. She was a tall and stately woman, with angular features and sharp eyes. She looked every bit as tidy as her house. Not a single strand of her dark hair had escaped her complicated, coiling up-do and her clothes were stylish and wrinkle-free. She had the appearance of a fashionable hostess ready to entertain a slew of important guests, not a mother about to feed her three rowdy boys and a 'frigging nerdy scientist'.





"Mom, this is my tutor Jane," Rafe said. "Jane, my Mom."





"Hallo Ma'am," I said, shuffling over to the island. "Is there anything I can help you with?"





"Not as long as I have this good-for-nothing idiot loafing around." She shoved the salad bow into Rafe's hands. "You drop this Rafaello and I'll kick you back to Florence."





"Not to be confused with Fluorine, which is known to boil at –188.2 degrees Celsius," I added, nodding importantly.





Rafe rolled his eyes and headed into the dining room, muttering under his breath about how cracked I was.





"Lucan has been singing your praises Jane. He says that you are a genius not worthy of a high school setting." Mrs. Moretti sprinkled fresh parsley over a dish of manicotti. "I hope my beef manicotti won't offend you?"





"Nah, my Grandma eats meat all the time. It doesn't bother me." I did some bouncy deep-knee bends, feeling ecstatic. It was like I was on the moon and gravity was just 1.6 m/s2. Lucan, a TA at a university recognized my innate geniosity. He was 'singing my praises' some might say...and had said! "Lucan's the coolest guy I ever met," I proclaimed fervently. "Cool like the speed of light in a vacuum...3.00 x 10 to the eight m/s...is cool."





"Lucan has always been very popular with girls," Mrs. Moretti told me, sounding slightly exasperated. "I believe it has to do with all his many tattoos. And that ridiculous...goatee he insists on growing."





"I don't care about any of that hoopla," I scoffed, chewing on piece of my hair. "He's awesome because he understands my t-shirt! And he showed me a cool math limerick and he's a Calculus TA!"





"Advanced Calculus," Mrs. Moretti corrected, beaming like she was a sixty watt light bulb. She thrust the beef manicotti dish in my hands and said, "May the Virgin Mary bless you with many robust sons."





I headed into the dining room, beaming also. No one had ever asked the Virgin Mary to bless me with many robust sons before; I didn't even know you could ask the Virgin Mary for stuff. My heart was racing an erratic string wave reminiscent of the well-known Law...Phasors can be used to combine waves even if their amplitudes are different. Advanced Calculus. How entirely 'kick-ass' as they say, was Lucan?





I loved Lucan to the Pi.





The dining room was a sunny room dominated by an extravagant, Mahogany eight-person dining table and a matching China cabinet filled with gleaming dishware and figurines. The wallpaper was gold and cream and dusky rose, the chandelier crystal. A set of glass doors behind the head of the table opened up to a balcony and I could see Guido standing there, smoking. In the midst of all this finery, Lucan had Rafe in a headlock.





I flirted with the idea that brawling with each other was a sign of affection.





"Your shirt cracks me up every time I see it," Lucan said, dragging Rafe backwards so that I had enough room to carefully set down the manicotti.





"Quit ogling her tits you stupidass pervert," Rafe snapped as he elbowed Lucan repeatedly but to no avail.





"There's not that much to ogle," I told Rafe, taking the pre-folded linen napkins from the sideboard and placing them at each of the set five places. "My boobs fall into the realm of imaginary numbers."





Lucan laughed and shoved Rafe aside. "I've always thought that girls who know how to derive are way hotter than airheads with big racks."





"You never thought that," Rafe retorted, rubbing at his neck.





"Your Mom said that you're an Advanced Calculus TA," I said breathlessly. Lucan was glowing to me like he'd been lit up by a Voltaic cell.





"Yeah, I am." Lucan slung an arm around my shoulder. "I also TA Partial Differential Equations II. I can show you my course syllabus if you'd like."





"I would like!" I looked up at Lucan with wide, Carbon atom eyes. He was taller than Rafe and much taller than I was. "You smell as nice as the pages of Basic Matrix Algebra with Algorithms and Applications."





Lucan ruffled my scraggly hair. He didn't even seem to care that it resembled a bunch of tangled, dusty cords that you'd find behind your computer. "Sweetheart, that's the nicest compliment I've gotten in a long time."





"Oh for fuck sakes." Rafe glared at us, looking disgusted. "Leave her the fuck alone dickwad."





"OI!" Mrs. Moretti came into the room with a bottle of red wine and a basket of focaccia, her heels clicking sharply on the hardwood floor. "You keep up with that filthy mouth under my roof and your Uncle Renzo will hear all about it."





Apparently this was quite the threat because Rafe paled beneath his freckles. Lucan smirked and squeezed my shoulder.





Mrs. Moretti took her position at the head of the table. Guido strode in and angled himself at her right, Lucan at her left. I plopped down next to Lucan and Rafe sat across from me, sulking.





"Would you like to do Grace Jane?" Mrs. Moretti asked, smiling at me.





I squirmed in my high-backed, cushy chair like a forward reaction was occurring in my guts. "I'm not a lesbian Ma'am."





Rafe and Guido burst out laughing. Frowning, Mrs. Moretti smacked Guido upside the head, who in turn smacked Rafe. I was fascinated; it was like the Food Chain, only it was the Smacking Chain.





Lucan patted my knee, snickering. "She means would you like to say a prayer before we eat."





"Oh 4 Pi r squared." I was highly relieved, not wanting to be rude in someone else's home, especially since they were so liberal with the thumpings. "Yes, I've seen people do that on TV before."





"Usually we ask our guests to say Grace," Mrs. Moretti explained, her wine-coloured lips quirking. "But if you don't feel comfortable, then you needn't do so."





"No, I won't mind any more than I mind hyperbolic functions."





Everyone folded their hands and bowed their heads. I could see Lucan's shoulders shaking as he silently chuckled beside me.





Happy, I thought for a few moments. "God, though you live at the edge of the observable universe, which we all know to be estimated at 10 to the twenty-six metres away and therefore it is doubtful that you'll be able hear me, I would still like to take this time to thank you for giving us a stomach which is able to contract in order to mix the food we've just eaten with gastric juices that contain the HCL and the pepsin needed to begin the digestion of proteins. Subsequently, I would also like to give thanks for pancreatic juices, intestinal juices and bile which break down the partly digested proteins, change starch into simple sugars and fats into fatty acids and glycerol. Without these necessary liquids, we would all need to be fed intravenously, much like Duncan from The Edible Woman wanted. So good job God. Amen."





No one said anything.





I looked up, worried and took comfort in licking my hair.





"Amen," Lucan said, giving me a thumbs up.





Everyone else said Amen too.





"Did I do okay?" I asked Mrs. Moretti. She was staring at me with a somewhat stunned expression. She mustn't've read Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman. I couldn't blame her, it was a shit book and I loathed the School Board for forcing it into my Honours English education.





"You were awesome," Guido told me, smirking as he uncorked the bottle of wine. "That was the best Grace I've ever heard. Don't you think Ma?"





"Er yes, it was rather...edifying," Mrs. Moretti agreed, holding out her wine glass to Guido.





"You're a girl after my own heart," Lucan murmured softly, his breath tickling my ear.





I beamed, feeling elated. It wasn't often that a strange group of people took a liking to me. It was as though they were Fe and I was S and we were reacting to form Iron (II) Sulfide.





Rafe tried to kick Lucan under the table but kicked me instead. I jumped and banged my knee against the top of the table. Every single bit of china and glassware rattled. I tried to look like I hadn't done it and hastily began reciting the atomic mass of each element starting with Hydrogen under my breath.





"Sorry," Rafe said before I could get to Lithium.





"Bumbling oaf," Mrs. Moretti snapped and launched into a binomial lecture of how expensive her crockery was and how stupido Rafe was.





Meanwhile, Guido was pouring everyone wine, including me and Rafe, despite our being underage. Apparently the wine was from some fancy family winery in Italy and Mrs. Moretti said that a glass of well-crafted red never hurt anyone. I took her word for it. I'd never had alcohol in my life before but on a day when I'd gotten my first kiss, it seemed appropriate.





"To digestive juices," Guido said, tipping his glass in my direction and smirking.





"To the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics," I proclaimed, bouncing excitedly in my chair.





Lucan arched an eyebrow at me. "To the First Law of Thermodynamics."





"Oh hell," Rafe muttered, raising his glass. "To the Second Law of Thermal...uh..."





"Thermodynamics," I corrected, beaming at Rafe.





He smiled back, his eyes softening and he looked very adorable indeed.





"To peace, prosperity and everyone's good health," Mrs. Moretti toasted, sounding confused.





We all drank to that. The red wine was warm and sweet and not as offensive as I thought it would be. I wouldn't be buying a bottle anytime soon but at least I could choke it down without making faces worthy of Calvin and Hobbes.





Everyone started taking up dishes of food and passing them along.





Lucan stuck a couple of pieces of focaccia on my plate and quoted the Zeroth Law in the silkiest, most scandalous manner I'd ever heard. "If two bodies are in thermal equilibrium with a third body, then they're also in thermal equilibrium with each other."





My stomach tingled in a way that usually occurred around exam time. All sorts of electrochemical images of me and Lucan in various states of thermal equilibrium filtered into my brain. I blushed Methyl Red and put too much salad on my plate.





Rafe took the salad bowl from me, not seeming to notice my slightly shaking fingers and winded manner. "What I don't get is how ten to the twenty-six is the edge of the universe. How does that makes any sense?"





Guido rolled his eyes and smacked Rafe on the forehead with his spoon. "That's ten with twenty-six zeros after it dumbass. Even I know that."





"It's fortunate Jane has agreed to tutor you, Rafaello. Why didn't you ask her help last year?" Mrs. Moretti shook the pepper mill at Rafe. "Then I would've been spared the travesty of your grade eleven marks."





"Ten to the six is a million metres," I told Rafe as I smiled at Mrs. Moretti. I liked her because she liked me and didn't think I was a goofus. Most people thought I was a goofus and it was always nice when someone went against the general consensus and thought otherwise.





"And ten to the nine is a billion metres," Lucan added, serving me a large helping of the pinenut pesto pasta.





"So you tell how far ten to the twenty-six metres might be," I concluded, sneaking a peek at Mrs Moretti to see which fork she was using. She was too busy urging Guido to take more manicotti to worry about cutlery. "It's the edge of the known galaxy."





"That's some enlightening shit," Rafe remarked, rolling his eyes.





Mrs. Moretti nodded to Guido and he smacked Rafe for her. "Maybe if you took an interest in the world around you, you wouldn't get into so much trouble, bozo," she snapped, jabbing her fork in his direction.





"She said bozo," I whispered to Lucan and giggled. I knew which fork to use now.





Lucan tweaked my nose. "Ma doesn't lie. She's had to deal with Rafe's bozo ways for the past eighteen years."





I giggled some more. Rafe glared Vanadium II Phosphate at me so I had to hide my face by fake-coughing into my whole hand.





Mrs. Moretti was an amazing, electromagnetical cook worthy of a five star eating establishment. Her focaccia bread was soft and chewy and had pieces of olive and sun-dried tomato in it. Where I came from, sliced whole wheat was considered darn exotic so this focaccia stuff was like a miracle. I wanted to marry it. Then I tried some of the pasta, which was rich and buttery and flavourful and concluded that Lipton was the shit of a thousand grampuses. I wondered if I could somehow adopt Mrs. Moretti; she was like a food Alchemist, making magic on your plate.





"So Jane tell me, what does your Father do?" Mrs. Moretti asked, setting down her wine glass.





"Not a whole lot," I answered, attempting to spear a cherry tomato; it had left the safety of its saladular home and was now involved in the olive oil slickness of pasta from the wrong side of the plate.





Mrs. Moretti pursed her lips. "I see." Her voice was stiffer than a Nickel-Cadmium battery.





Guido and Rafe both took on wary expressions while beside me, Lucan cursed very softly.





Obviously I was missing a common derivative. I hastily added, "Mostly because he's deader than Aristotle's Theory that matter is made up of the four elements."





Everyone made the sign of the cross. I blinked, bemused. I'd never really thought of my Dad as an evil kind of guy.





"I'm sorry Jane," Rafe told me quietly.





"Oh don't be, it's common knowledge now that matter is made up of atoms."





There was a silence. I pondered the evolution of science and the make-up of the atom, like I was certain everyone else was doing.





"How your poor mother must've suffered," Mrs. Moretti finally said, shaking her head.





"She didn't suffer all that much on account of her dying before Dad did."





More crosses were signed.





"Who do you live with now?" Lucan asked, watching me push peppers and onions onto my fork with my finger. They were slidey and need extra boosting.





"Her Grandmother," Rafe answered for me. "Right Jane?"





"Yeah, she's more 'hip' than Laplace's Equation." I was too afraid too use my fancy, spotless napkin so I just wiped my fingers on my cords under the guise of brushing crumbs away. You had to be slick like a frictionless surface when you were in polite company. "And we all know that the Laplacian operator is by far the most important differential operator in Mathematical Physics."





"Though we shouldn't forget how integral Green's Theorem, Stokes' Theorem and Gauss' Theorem are to Vector Analysis applications," Lucan remarked, winking at me.





"Oh indubitably," I agreed, smiling so hard that my left eye watered.





"B equals T x N," Lucan drawled out, idly stroking the stem of his wine glass. He lowered his voice. "I think you and I should study the T and N planes in depth."





I flushed the brilliant hue of Iron III Chloride mixing with Potassium Thiocynate. T and N were referred to as the osculating plane, which literally meant the 'kissing' plane.





"Christ above," Guido groaned, downing his wine and reaching for more. "Can we please save the goddamn scientific foreplay for later? I'm getting nauseated."





"Yeah I'll say," Rafe snapped. "Let her eat in peace muttonhead!"





Lucan muttered something in Italian and Rafe answered back, looking furious, and it went on.





Mrs. Moretti rapped Guido's knuckles sharply with the end of her knife. "Heathen, don't you take the Lord's name in vain!"





"Christ Ma!" Guido rubbed at his knuckles, which I saw were all bruised. "That friggin' hurt!"





Mrs. Moretti whacked him again for saying the f-word (version mild). She turned to me and scoffed, "Men, they're all the same! Act so macho all the time and when it comes time for a little pain, the cry like babies."





"I frown deeply in agreement," I said, frowning deeply in agreement. I nodded a bit to add extra seriousness to the situation.





Mrs. Moretti then told Lucan and Rafe off for fighting like wild savages.





Over the remainder of dinner, I learned a lot of things about the Moretti family. Guido was twenty-seven and he was a Corrections Officer, not an elephant trainer as I'd previously guessed. The grey uniform and the black eye, which bore distinct signs of trunk brutality, had thrown me off. Guido worked at Foster Hill, a juvenile detention centre and he'd gotten injured breaking up two rowdy fifteen year olds. Mrs. Moretti was a high-powered executive of something or other (I didn't quite catch all the details as I was distracted by Lucan writing the Poynting vector in my pesto sauce with his fork) and hated her secretary because she always smelled like the Body Shop and Mrs. Moretti only liked the timeless elegance of Chanel No. 5. She also rivalled Mrs. Shah with her 'Eat eat eat' mentality. Lucan said it was an ethnic thing.





I also learned why Mrs. Moretti hated Katrina (she said Mrs. Moretti used too much butter and oil in her pasta and that her desserts were too fattening) and that Rafe's Aunts used to paint his nails until he was five. He had liked it a lot and cried when they said he was too old to wear girl's nail polish. Mrs. Moretti told this story with a great deal of fondness and reached over Guido to pinch Rafe's cheek. I sniggered for a good six point five minutes and couldn't talk. Rafe said he hated me and Guido smacked him with the focaccia basket.





For dessert we had cannoli, which I'd never had before but was now my favourite dessert ever. I told Mrs. Moretti that Katrina was so stupid that she didn't even know how to use Wallis' Formula (I hastily crossed myself after that) and that she was the best cook I'd ever had the fortune of meeting. Mrs. Moretti said I was sweeter than chocolate-raspberry tartufo and Rafe nudged me under the table with his foot and smirked at me.





After we'd eaten to the point of near-combustion Mrs. Moretti ordered Guido and Lucan to help her clean up and shooed me and Rafe off to study.





"I love your Mom like I love Variable-Mass Systems," I enthused as we headed back to the TV room. "She's so nice to me and you know, hardly anyone ever is. I love her!"





"Yeah, she's awesome." Rafe began gathering up all his binders and textbooks. "Let's go study in my room. I'm sick of Lucan trying to...science you up. You're not one of his stupidass skanks for fuck sakes."





"He hasn't done anything like that." I stuck the panty-liner with the integrals on it into my pocket and collected all of our pencils and erasers and calculators. "We were covalently bonding over our mutual love of the sciences. He knows what I'm talking about Rafe. Hardly anyone ever does. And he said I was cute too. Who thinks that?"





"I think that," Rafe exclaimed as we headed up the stairs. "Why do you think I'm dragging you up to my room?"





I rolled my eyes. Rafe could be so slow. "Obviously to study. We haven't even touched Physics yet."





"Sometimes you're not too smart at all Janie," he gloated, smirking. "Obviously, we need to make-out some more." He poked me in the side and made me squirm.





I was surprised because Rafe's room was neat. The bed was made, his desk and dresser were organized, his bookshelf spotless. I supposed Mrs. Moretti had beaten cleanliness into him. Rafe shut the door and then locked it behind us. We sat down on his bed with our backs to the wall.





"How come your Dad wasn't at dinner?" I asked curiously, opening Rafe's Chemistry textbook to the familiar page on Hybrid Orbitals. "Did he have to work late?"





"Mom and Dad are divorced actually."





I was astonished. "What kinda guy would divorce your Mom? She's a real 'babe' and a half, as they say!"





Rafe laughed softly and slid his arm around my shoulder. "Dad was this big-time drunk and used to smack Mom around and shit. He split after I was born. I think that's the best thing he ever did for her. That's why Mom got a little...edgy when you said that your Dad didn't do much. My old man was unemployed most of the time and he was lazy and so Mom's got this big thing against husbands who do jack shit."





"Do you ever see him?"





"No. Last I heard he was living in California or Miami or some shit like that." Rafe snorted disgustedly. "Apparently he's boning this chick who's like twenty years younger than him."





I shook my head. "That's more crap than getting a 90 on a test."





"Yeah," Rafe said quietly, resting his cheek against the top of my head. I guessed he didn't mind my scrappy hair either. "But I wouldn't mind getting crap like that."





"You can do way better than that Rafe." I patted his knee. "You're smart when you apply yourself. I'll help you, don't worry."





"Thanks Janie."





We sat there in silence for a while. His arm was warm around me and it felt nice. I relaxed against him and slid my arm around his waist. He didn't smell as good as Lucan but he didn't smell half bad either. I liked Rafe a lot, he never made me feel like I didn't belong.





"How'd your parents die?" he asked me after a while. I could feel his lips moving against my hair. "Or would you rather not talk about it?"





"I don't mind. My Mom died of Multiple Sclerosis when I was four and then when I was nine, my Dad got into a car crash." I gnawed at my wrist a bit. "I think it was probably better that way; Grandma says Dad was dying without Mom. He used to get upset when I'd ask him questions about her. He missed her so much that he couldn't even talk about her."





"That sucks more than getting a 90 on a test."





"Yeah, it sucks like getting an 85 on a test."





"Oh those dumb fucks who get 85," Rafe scoffed, sniggering. "How stupid can you get?"





I think he was being sarcastic, if his Math test marks were any indication. "I'm really glad that I listened to pseudo-punk boy and Lord of the Rings girl from my English class," I remarked around my wrist. "They recommended you to me. And with all the 'knuckle-sandwiches' that go on around here, I can see that you've got molecules of experience."





Rafe chuckled. "None of that's serious Janie, we're just messing around."





"I know but I'm still glad I picked you."





"I'm glad you picked me too," Rafe murmured. "Even if I don't understand half of the stuff that comes out of your mouth or your science jokes."





"I know." I fiddled with the bottom of my 'Don't drink and Derive' t-shirt. "Rafe, I really, really, ten to the twenty-six really don't want to have to kiss you in front of Katrina. She's going to beat me so hard that bile from my liver will blow out of my ears at a force of 2.36 m/s."





"She'll only get pissed if you look like you're kissing me back," Rafe explained, stifling his laughter. "You know, like how you were before. You kept forgetting to push me away."





"I don't know why kept forgetting," I muttered, puzzled. "Normally I never forget much of anything."





"It's because I make your stomach feel all fluttery," Rafe boasted arrogantly. "I make you hot."





I twisted so I was looking at him. Our faces were very close to each other. "Didn't your stomach oscillate when we kissed too?"





Rafe tilted his head, his eyes on my mouth. "Uh...yeah?"





It didn't take a Quantum Physicist to figure out what he wanted to do. "When your eyes were closed, did you see Cramer's Rule?"





"Doesn't everyone?" he whispered, angling my chin. "Don't forget to struggle Janie."





Rafe kissed me. This time it was very hot and insistent, not gentle and exploratory like before. His tongue immediately found mine and I forgot to struggle. Again. And then, somehow, I ended up recumbent on the bed with Rafe on top of me, my arms around his neck. He was kissing me so deeply that my every atom felt on the verge of combustion.





Rafe was giving off heat, heaps of heat that could be measure in joules/mole and my temperature was changing, rising, absorbing his heat and this was a Specific Heat Capacity problem in practice and there was an equation for it, I knew it...I'd used it tons of times...Q equals C...something...it was basic Kinetics...but Rafe's hands were stroking down my sides, making it difficult to think, to breath and then they were slipping under my T-shirt and his hands were skimming my stomach and...





I heard soft moaning. I realized that I must have been doing it because Rafe wasn't kissing me anymore. He was millimetres away from me, his nose brushing mine. We stared at each other, sharing laboured breaths, our hearts racing against each other. His eyes were impossibly dark and the way he was looking at me made me feel effervescent.





"Hi Janie," he murmured against the corner of my mouth.





I gasped, clinging to the comforter beneath me. "You're making me forget things. Things I always know."





"Mmmm." His mouth was shifting, whispering over my jaw and down my neck. And it felt so odd, the way he was kissing at me and sucking at me, that I had to take to muttering specific heats of elemental solids so that I wouldn't scream or pass out or die.





"26.5j is the molar specific heat of Lead," I wheezed dizzily, squeezing my eyes shut. How was I supposed to think like this? "Quantum theories above, what are you doing to me?"





"Tutoring you." I felt his lips curve into a smile. His fingers tangled with mine and then he'd pinned them above my head. "Insert witty joke here about me finding your y-intercept."





"24.4j is...Alu...minum..." How could a person's neck be made to feel like this? Every stroke and lick seemed to be sending flames straight to my intestinal juices. I squirmed against him. He was filtering his heat into me and I was slowly heating, boiling, molecule by molecule, drip by drip, like we were performing a titration...





"Oh shitsicles!" I yanked my hands out of Rafe's grip and wiggled out from under him. "My titration lab!"





Rafe looked dazed. His cheeks were Methyl red. "Um...what?"





I sat up too quickly and a travelling wave of light-headedness swept over me. I sucked in air, pressing my hand to my pounding heart. "I haven't even started my titration lab yet!"





Rafe propped himself up on his elbow. "The lab that you only did today?"





"Yes!"





"The lab that's probably due in a week?"





I tore open my school bag and shoved my calculator and pencil case into it. "I hand in my homework as soon as possible, I always, always do that!"





Rafe's lips quirked.





"I have to go home now." I tried to be calm. It didn't work. "And I have French homework to do and those stupid Edible Woman questions! I hate English so much!"





"Janie breathe." Rafe stood up and pulled me to him. He rubbed my back like I was a little baby that needed a burp. "How about I pick you up tomorrow morning?"





I frowned suspiciously. "I don't have to wear anything fancy do I? I've never been picked up before."





"You can wear whatever you want to." He grinned and waggled his eyebrows. "Feel free to take inspiration from Boobs and Butt."





"The direction of the instantaneous velocity of a particle is always tangent to the particle's path at the particle's position." I sighed in relief; I still knew everything I knew.





"...That's a no right?"





"Average Velocity Rafe, does in fact Displacement/Time Interval."





He rested his forehead against mine. "You done freaking out?"





"Mostly."





I wrote down my address in Rafe's Physics binder and he wrote down his phone number in my French scribbler. Then he kissed me again and said that he liked kissing me better than Katrina because I liked his Mom and I didn't taste like MAC lipstick. I thought that was a nice thing to say and floated downstairs like I was displacing my own weight of fluid.





Mrs. Moretti stuck her head out of the kitchen. "Coffee Jane? I've got almond biscotti too."





"Actually I need to get home Ma'am." I rubbed my nose to hide my mouth in case it looked too 'just-kissed'. "I've got a lot of homework to do."





Lucan came out of the kitchen, drying his hands on a tea towel. "I'm about to head off, I can drive you home."





Rafe came to stand beside me. "I'm driving her."





"Don't be dense Rafaello, gas is pricey," Mrs. Moretti snapped. "Lucan will take her."





"Where do you live?" Lucan asked me.





"Skylark Drive. It's near the grocery store on Market. But I don't mind walking though, it's only-"





"Walking?!" Mrs. Moretti screeched, outraged. "At night? You want to walk? A pretty girl like you? Have you gone stupid?"





"No, we can't let you leave unescorted,. Lucan gave me a warm look. "Just lemme get my shit in together and we'll be off." He ducked back into the kitchen. Rafe stalked after him, looking disgruntled.





I loved Mrs. Moretti. "Your ex-husband was a stupid jerkfece to divorce you. I mean I'd marry you like a pineapple and I'm not even a lesbian."





Mrs. Moretti burst into surprised laughter and pulled me into a rough hug. "You must come over for dinner again, Jane? And next time bring along your Grandmother. I will make my special vegetable pie, you will love it." She kissed both of my cheeks and told me to call her Bianca.





I thought Bianca was a name as beautiful as Serret-Frenet equations.





Lucan came out of the kitchen wearing a black hoodie with the sleeves rolled up so that his colourful, tattooed arms were visible, Rafe at his side. Rafe got my zip-up hoodie from the closet while Mrs. Moretti dragged Lucan back to the kitchen to take home leftovers.





"Where's Guido?" I asked, stuffing myself into my hoodie. "I'd like to say chowder to him."





"He already left. Him and Lucan don't live here anymore, they only come around for supper."





I put on my schoolbag. "Your mother cooks like Erwin Schrodinger studied atomic models."





"I'll be sure to tell her." Rafe shook his head, smiling. "So how about I pick you up tomorrow at eight?"





I goggled at him. "But class starts at eight-thirty!"





Rafe rolled his eyes. "Ten to eight then, that's my best offer. I refuse to be at school any earlier."





Mrs. Moretti and Lucan came back, the latter carrying a grocery bag stuffed with plastic containers of food. We all did the good-bye hoopla and there was a lot of waving as I followed Lucan to his pickup truck.





"Thank you for this drive," I intoned as Lucan beeped his doors open. "I appreciate it as much as I appreciate my intestinal juices."





"It's my pleasure," Lucan replied, laughing. "You need to come over for supper every night. I haven't had this much fun in a while. Plus Mom thinks you're awesome."





I got into the car and buckled up. "I think your Mom is awesome too. She said I could call her Bianca. I never got to call an adult by their real name ever."





Lucan revved up the engine and tore away from the curb to the screechings of a Finnish metal band called Children of Bodom.





The ride home was the fastest ride ever. I told Lucan about how Grandma wanted a tattoo and he said he's hook her up no problem. Then he told me all about his tattoos. He had tons of them; a portrait of his deceased Grandfather's face, a protection prayer in Italian, this big, intricate thing made of galaxies and chains and shooting stars that surrounded Bianca's full maiden name, a phoenix that curved all around his left bicep, flames and rays down the side of his neck because Lucan meant light and a complex, interlocking tribute to Biomechanics.





My favourite tattoo was the one Lucan showed me when we stopped at a five-way. He pulled off his hoodie and his wifebeater and all down the right side of his chest, he had rows of integrals and derivatives tattooed. He told me that last summer he'd been in New York and had gotten stuck in an elevator between the twenty-third and twenty-fourth floor of some fancy apartment building. He'd been alone and was afraid of heights and had done Calculus to keep from hyperventilating.





I got to touch those tattoos on his chest with shaky fingers and he watched my awestruck expression with eyes so dark that they seemed black.





We chatted about Advanced Calculus and Partial Differential Equations and Lucan talked about how awesome being a TA was and how tattooing and math were his favourite things and he was lucky because he got paid to do both. I told him that he was the coolest guy I'd ever met and he gave me a one-armed hug while driving. We told each other more science jokes and discussed Taylor's Theorem and the Physical Interpretation of Divergence and Poisson's Equation. Lucan knew everything about everything. It was more brilliant talking to him than it was actually using Taylor's Theorem.





I wished I could talk to Lucan for forever.





When we got to my house, Lucan parked in the driveway and stuck his truck into part. He took a skinny black marker out of the glove compartment and wrote his phone number on my arm. "I want you to call me if things don't work out with Rafe, okay? I'm into you, fuck the age difference."





"I will," I happily agreed. Rafe must've filled Lucan in on the Conner McGregor situation and I thought it was brilliant that Lucan was willing to fight for justice as well as for the knowledge of math and fantastic body art. "No one hardly ever knows what I'm talking about but you do and we can have conversations together!" I beamed and didn't even need to chew my wrist. "Hey, maybe some day when I have an inservice at school, I can come to one of your tutorials? I won't even talk, I promise, I'll just differentiate."





Lucan burst out laughing. "Sweetheart, you're like no one I've ever met. I mean Christ, even the students who have to take my tutorials don't wanna be there."





"Well their heat loss is my rise in temperature," I said smugly, without thinking. Immediately the way Rafe had kissed me on his bed filtered into my cranial lobe and I flushed like a toilet.





"I couldn't have put it better myself."





I unbuckled my seatbelt and gathered up my schoolbag. "Thank you for propelling me to my place of residence Lucan. I appreciate it like I appreciate the Law of Refraction."





Grinning, he asked, "Do I get a hug?"





I put my arms around him and he squeezed me tight. I wished I had an Erlenmeyer flask to bottle how marvellous he smelled. "You're really nice," I whispered into his shoulder. "I like you."





"Make sure you come back for supper sometimes, okay?" He brushed some hair out of my eyes. "We all love you."





I almost felt as warm as when Rafe had kissed my neck. "F equals -kx," I agreed, my heart thumping out a Mach cone. "I'm hooked like Hooke's Law."





Lucan waited until I got inside before driving off.





I kicked off my shoes and reflected that today was the most wildebeest day ever. I mean I hadn't done any of my homework and it was night time! I followed the sounds of the TV into the living room, ditching my hoodie and schoolbag as I went along.





Grandma and Suril were both in their pajamas, stuffing their faces with ice cream. Suril was laying on the sofa, his sprained ankle propped up on a bunch of pillows while Grandma had taken up residence in her favourite armchair. They were watching the Blue Jays play baseball.





"Ugh, check the massive gut on tubby over there," Suril was saying with great disgust. "Have you ever seen a greasier moustache? I swear, soccer's the only sport that's filled with hot guys. And WWE wrestling but that's not exactly what I'd call a sport."





"Well the fellow up at bat seems to have an interesting bulge in his pants," Grandma observed, leaning in for a closer look. "But that's probably just his cup talking."





"The amount of strange and baffling things I did today was ten to the nine kg/m3," I announced, shuffling in. "It was like a Phosphoric Acid spill in the Lab of life."





"Yeah?" Grandma thumped down her container of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and looked interested. "You do any drugs today?"





I carefully perched on the edge of the sofa near Suril's knees. "No."





"Skip any classes?" Suril demanded around a mouthful of Bear Claw ice cream.





"No."





Grandma was rolling her eyes. "Kiss any boys?"





"Yes."





There was a split second of silence.





"Get the fuck!" Suril yelled in my ear, bolting upright and then groaning in pain when his ankle was jostled.





"Get the fuck!" Grandma echoed, her long, chandelier earrings banging around her scrawny neck. "Mother Nature, it's about damn time! I thought you were gonna turn up all asexual like those amoebas you see on David Suzuki."





"Don't tell me it was Rafe," Suril slowly enunciated, grabbing my hand. "Don't tell me you kissed Rafe Moretti."





"Well mostly he kissed me." I had to grin. "He said I was a better kisser than Katrina."





"Holy motherfucking Hassium!"





"What we need some is some champagne and a few of those man strippers," Grandma proclaimed, beaming at me fondly. "You know, the policeman kinds. We'd all enjoy that."





"I know I would," Suril said, not taking his eyes off me. "Fuck Jane, I'm absent from school three days..."





"I showed a girl my bra too. Twice." I chewed on a strip of my hair. "Only I'm positive as Hydrogen that I'm not a lesbian. She didn't make me feel like Rafe did. Or Lucan, when he quote the Zeroth Law to me in that sexy way."





"Lucan?" Suril's dark eyes were bugging out of his head. "Who the hell's Lucan?"





"Rafe's brother," I answered, feeling dreamy. "I think he's my brain soul mate...after you obviously."





Grandma squinted at me. "Shits ahoy, is that a hickey on your neck?"





I tried to look at my neck but couldn't see much.





Suril narrowed his eyes. "Details. Now."





"My eyes are seeing it but my brain don't believe it," Grandma said, shaking her head. "I mean fuck."





So I gave them the details.


******


Line Integrals Independent of Path


Seven o'clock the next morning found me lounging around on Suril's bed. I was eating Apple Cinnamon Cheerios with strawberry Soy Good milk because Mr. Shah had finished all the regular milk in his ginger chai last night. I'd decided after one spoonful of cereal that I didn't really like strawberry soy milk because it tasted a lot like rice and was on the pulpy side of the barometer. Suril was sitting beside me, drinking coffee and making revolted faces.





"I never liked that pasty vegan jizz," he scoffed, turning up his nose. "Dad's always trying to get me to force it down. Barf Pi. I say, if mankind was meant to drink soy then it would come outta your Mama's tits."





"Then we'd all need nipples the size of 200mL beakers to pump out this mush." I dramatically raised a spoonful of pink gloop and then slopped it back into the bowl. It made a very satisfying sound, reminiscent of Mr. Khan telling me I'd gotten another hundred and ten on my latest Pre. Calculus test. "Plops ahoy!"





"Gross Jane!" Suril gagged as he wiped at his comforter. "I feel like Elmo took a leak all over my bed."





"How can Elmo pee pink? He's a Muppet and Muppets don't have urinary tracts." I raised another spoonful and let loose. Some soy soup splashed on my nose. "This is some pungent plopping. But eat it I will because I don't waste of the foods."





"There's another reason why you're my brother from a different mother." Suril blew at his coffee. "Mom thinks white people waste too much food."





"They do, you've seen our esteemed peers in the cafeteria." I ate some more cereal. There were a lot of vulgar textures drizzling inside my mouth. "Now I know two Moms that like me, Ma and Bianca. That's a pretty good haul for thirteen years I'd say."





"You know, I've had all night to get used to the idea that you made out with Rafe Moretti and I still can't even believe it." Suril shook his head, looking reverent. "It's like someone came up to me and said 'A uniform shell of matter exerts plenty of net gravitational force on a particle located inside it.' It's just so...weird and whacked."





Suril had been going on in this vein since last night. He was astonished like the escape speed of Earth was 11.2 km/s. "It's only practice for the party," I reminded him for the dekillionth time. "I'm Ionic and Rafe is Non-Polar and never shall my solute dissolve in his solvent."





"So what the fuck? He still thinks you kiss better than Katrina and we all know how much skankyass experience that hobag's got." Suril flashed his incisors at me and patted my cheek with coffee cup warm fingers. "You're totally doing me proud, you know that? I mean first you hire Rafe to pound Conner McGregor and now you've got two hot guys interested in you. Two! As in a Diprotic Acid! This is so the kinda love triangle worthy of two Hydrogen atoms bonding with an Oxygen atom to form a water molecule. I say you better milk this for all it's worth, my friend. It's not gonna get any better in this lifetime."





"I wish I had some milk," I said mournfully, stirring my cereal sludge in a counter-clockwise direction. "Say, this triangle you keep talking about, is it equilateral?"





"No, it's isosceles dumbo." Suril sipped at his coffee. "You and Lucan are obviously equal lengths, Rafe not so much. God I wanna check this Lucan guy out. If he's related to Rafe then you know he's gotta be fine."





"He looks a lot more Italian than Rafe does." I downed another mouthful of Cheerios. "And his tattoos are molecular. I want some now; I never knew you could get math kinds. Wouldn't it be thrilling to get something that really takes you back, like the Quadratic Formula? We already know how useful it is, imagine if we made it fashionable too?"





"Fuck that is so hot." Suril had a glazed expression plastered across his face. "Equations tattooed all over this ripped, buff, six-pack...glistening with sweat...mmmm..."





"Well naturally teaching Advanced Calculus and Partial Differential Equations tutorials all day will leave a person sweaty." I made more plops with my cereal. Some drops landed on Suril's arm.





He wiped his arm on my hair. "That shit stinks to Io."





I figured soy strawberry sludge was good for the hair, afterall hadn't The Body Shop made a fortune bottling crud like this? I scrubbed my droplet-infested cheek into my hair. "Well Io no." I burst into giggles and accidentally sprayed out a bunch of half-chewed cereal. I held out my spoon to Suril. "Now do you wanna try some?"





He smirked at me. "Remember the time you messed up a Hess's Law question?"





I scowled and pouted and sulked. "That was lower than the melting point of Neon."





"Then no, I wouldn't like any weirdo hippy pink Jane spit-up."





I stuck my face in Suril's and made a grand production of eating with my mouth wide open. "Mmm mmm, look at me, I'm not dying of clogged meaty arteries and kilometre high cholesterol."





"And people wonder how I turned gay." Suril shoved my face away, disgusted. He was just passing a lot of polyatomic gas because no one had ever wondered that and only me and Rafe knew he was gay anyhow. "You better not've kissed Rafe like that."





"How should I know how I kissed him?" I stuck my lips to the edge of my bowl, tilted it and drank down the remainder of the thick goo. Next time I'd use water for my cereal if there wasn't any milk left. At least I knew I liked H2O. "The whole time I was so dizzy I didn't know what was going on. He kept making me feel all funny and I couldn't even remember that Q equals C delta T equals C(Tf - Ti). I mean what kind of moron forgets something so obvious? It's like forgetting the Collision Theory."





"If someone's a really awesome kisser then he'll make you forget all kinds of stuff. Trust me, I know."





I pondered that over a good wrist chew. "Are you hypothesizing that Rafe is a really good kisser?"





Suril peered at me over his coffee cup. "You tell me, I've never kissed him. Though God, what I wouldn't give to be able to."





"How can I know? I have no additional data with which to make further comparisons."





"Do you like it when he kisses you?"





"I might like it better if I didn't forget a lot of important things."





"Jane, when you're being kissed you're not supposed to be thinking about equations," Suril told me patiently. "You're supposed to be concentrating on how your partner is making you feel...and how you'd like to make him feel in return."





"Well I'm kinda sure that I kissed Rafe back," I replied dubiously, frowning. "He said I did anyway and I kept forgetting to struggle. I never got to kiss his neck though, do you think I should be polite and return that favour?"





"It'd be a damn crime if you didn't!" Suril set his coffee cup down on his desk. "But here's the real question...once Katrina dumps Rafe, would you still want him to kiss you?"





I thought about the way Rafe's mouth tasted and the way his body had felt pressed against mine. I realized that I liked kissing Rafe as much as I liked the Factor Label Method. "I guess. I like Rafe a lot, he said I was kind of awesome and that I was sort of cute too."





"Aww, my baby girl's all grown up," Suril cooed, tousling my scraggly hair. "Wanting to kiss cute boys and their older brothers."





I couldn't have been more shocked had I discovered that the density of Air was no longer 1.21 kg/m3. "But I don't want to kiss Lucan."





Suril blinked at me, looking bemused. "What, seriously?"





"Yes, why would I?" I remembered how Lucan had quoted the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics to me and felt a bit warm.





"You didn't even wanna kiss him when you were groping the equations on his chest?"





"No. I mean, I don't think Lucan has a girlfriend that he wants to dump."





"Good Ganesh." Suril rolled his eyes. "There doesn't have to be a girlfriend involved you stupid hoser!"





I made teeth marks in my thumb. "Well why else would he want to kiss me?"





"Oh I dunno...maybe because you're smart and sweet and funny and cute?"





"I suppose, if you're into that." People were a lot harder to figure out than equations were, I thought. "Anyway, all this kissing kerfuffle isn't exactly living up to the hype-otenuse." I sniggered at my own joke. "I say, what's the good of it if Katrina has to watch? One fraudulent move and she'll make fricassee out of my innards."





Suril frowned. "Yeah, there is that little speed bump. Rafe's plan is kinda shaky; he doesn't know Katrina like we know her."





"I'm a long time sufferer of the Katrinaphobia for very valid reasons." I shuddered and gave Suril a pleading look. "Maybe while you recuperate you could think of some better plans? I'm not having too much luck with that."





"I'll bet you're not, what with Rafe's tongue constantly jammed down your throat," Suril said, smirking.





"His tongue wasn't jammed down my throat, I would've suffocated if it had been." I wound some wet hair around my finger. It looked like a Mummy's finger wrapped in hair. "It was mostly just touching my tongue and sometimes licking my lip."





"Katrina is so gonna kill you, whether you're struggling or not," Suril declared, voicing what I pretty much knew to be true. "Let's just hope pervy bra girl keeps her yap shut."





"How many times do you think a person can see a bra before the fun wears off and they tell Katrina Rafe kissed me?"





"Since when have I ever been interested in a bra?"





I left Suril's house and sat on my driveway directing ants until Angelina rattled and sputtered up to the curb. I vaulted down the pavement, putting on my sandals as I scurried to avoid my ant brethren. I'd always been a firm believer in the freedom of the foot and ant alike.





"Top o' the mornin' to yeh lad," I proclaimed in my best Irish accent, shutting the car door behind me. "'Ave yeh seen Colleen O'Donovan, aye she's a bonny lass indeed. Jacket potaters?"





Rafe was looking very nice today. His black hair was wet and spiky. He smelled fresh, like he'd just stepped out of his bath. His freckled cheeks had been scrubbed clean and were slightly red from the coolness of the morning. I wanted to kiss them and maybe even kiss his mouth too.





Rafe turned his blueberry, oxidant-enriched eyes on me. "Didn't I tell you to cool it with the Irish bullshit?"





"Sometimes my mouth talks lgippy tummy when my brain doesn't even say so." I buckled my seatbelt and then craned my neck to the side. "You gave me a hooky, did you know?"





"Oh shits," Rafe muttered, his cheeks reddening further. He gently skimmed my neck with his fingertips and I felt very fluttery from it. "Janie, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get that carried away last night."





"I don't mind." I touched my neck with my finger like Rafe had. It didn't feel tingly at all, which I thought was odd. Maybe only Irish lads could make it do that. "Suril said it would be a crime if I didn't give you one back."





"Well fuck, I won't say no to that." He grinned wolfishly, his eyes falling onto my mouth. He was such a sweet, young chap. "You know what they say...practice makes perfect."





"They also say that the bite of the Mexican beaded lizard is highly hemotoxic."





"They do say that don't they?" Rafe did some fancy lane changing. "So how'd your lab write-up go?"





"I didn't get to start it until eleven o'clock," I cried indignantly. "I've never, ever started any piece of homework that late, ever. It was a travesty of justice. It was a mockery of the educational system. But don't tell anyone though, I don't wanna jeopardize any of the scholarships I might get."





A strange, closed expression crossed Rafe's face. It didn't take a Biochemist to figure out what was wrong. I patted his hand consolingly. "Don't worry Rafe, you'll end up with at least one scholarship once I'm through tutoring you, I promise. We'll both make Bianca proud, how's that?"





"You stayed out that late with Lucan?"





I stuck my head near his ear. "Did you have a bologna on mayonnaise toast for breakfast? Your voice sounds like it's coming out of Angelina's exhaust pipe."





Rafe cleared his throat, scowling as we passed a Petro-Canada. Skyrocketing gas prices must've been getting to him too. "So what did that asshole do, seduce you with some stupid math bullshit? Nevermind that he's seven fucking years older than you and you're still a minor!"





I pulled at my lower lip to see how far it would go. 2.93 centimetres would be my rough estimate. "What would Lucan wanna seduce me for?"





Frowning, Rafe gave me a sidelong glance. He stopped at a red light and then studied me like I was a factorial. "Because he's a punkass pervert. I already told him to leave you alone, you're too good for him! He's got enough skanky chicks hounding after him anyways."





I blinked a few times at Rafe. He was acting like the anions of a weak acid undergoing Hydrolysis. "That doesn't make too much sense. Lucan's a TA of Advanced Calculus and Partial Differential Equations and he has integrals and derivatives tattooed all down his chest. I'm just a grade twelve student and all I have is a birthmark on my chest."





"So is that what you did all night?" Rafe's voice was tighter than a Nun's arsehole, as Grandma would say. "Stare at his stupid tattoos and remember the good old days when you used those stupid equations in grade four?"





"I didn't know how to do Calculus in grade four," I told Rafe, waving in a friendly manner to a garbage man struggling with a green bin. He gave me the finger. I thought that wasn't very nice. "I only looked at Lucan's tattoos for a few minutes and then he drove me home. Grandma and Suril were making fun of the old guys on baseball and they were so excited that you kissed me and invited me to your house for dinner and said that I was better than Katrina that they asked me a billion questions and I had Smarties ice cream with some peas that Grandma's friend Muriel Wallace brought over, she grows them in her garden and they're sweet so they're good in ice cream – you crunch a pea, you crunch a Smartie – and then we watched Queer as Folk which is Suril's favourite show and they kept asking me more questions and there was a really long sex scene in Queer as Folk but they didn't show any man parts, which was fine with me 'cause I see a lot of that in Suril's porn magazines anyways and then I showed them my rhombus rock too." I took my rhombus rock out of my pocket. "Remember him? Suril said he was too cute to boot and Grandma said his rump was too plump but I disagree, he's only sedimentary afterall."





Rafe parked the car in the school lot and turned off Angelina. He didn't seem upset anymore, probably because Angelina wasn't guzzling up gas. "You and Lucan didn't go anywhere?"





"No, didn't you hear? I only looked at Lucan's tattoos for a few minutes and then he drove me home. Grandma and Suril were making fun of the old guys on baseball and they were so excited that you kissed me and invited me-"





"I get it Janie." Rafe rested his arm across the back of my seat, his knuckles lightly stroking the side of my neck. I shivered. Rafe's voice got husky. "Did you know I had a naughty dream with you in it last night?"





"That's understandable," I replied, cuddling my rhombus rock to my elbow. Rocks were most partial to hard, bony places. You could never snuggle them to your boobs like you could a zucchini bread. "I did hire you to thump Conner McGregor afterall. Maybe you were having performance anxiety?"





Rafe narrowed his eyes. He looked a bit hacked off as he took a deep breath and slowly let it out. I was surprised when he tucked some hair behind my ear and said softly, "We were alone in a classroom together and you were all sexy and shit. You were my teacher and I was being a really bad boy."





I squirmed in my seat excitedly. Rafe's touching me was making shivers puddle in the pit of my stomach. It felt like hundreds of particles were colliding inside of me, making and breaking bonds. "Was I teaching Chemical Bonding within the framework of Quantum Mechanics? Or did I go the math route with Numerical Linear Algebra?"





Rafe's finger stuttered against my neck. "Um...the first one. I know Chemistry is your favourite subject."





I beamed at him. "Was I angry with you because you didn't pass in your term paper on A Semi-Empirical Huckel Molecular Orbital Analysis of Internucleotide Phosphorothioate Diesters?"





Rafe's lips parted and he blinked at me. I thought his eyes were as deep and wonderful as Particle Rectilinear Motion. His breath tickled my ear. "No, you were angry because I wasn't paying attention. I was excited...you were making me very excited Janie."





"Who wouldn't be excited learning about the rotation and vibration of molecules?" I frowned, puzzled. "But why would I be angry if you were excited? That doesn't seem much like me."





Rafe sighed and scrubbed his hand through his hair. "You know what? Forget I said anything. We should probably be getting inside anyway."





"Just don't tell Katrina about any of this," I warned, unbuckling my seatbelt. "She might think you had one of those soggy sex dreams that boys get."





Rafe smacked his own forehead. I supposed that since Lucan and Guido weren't around to thump him, he had to do it himself.





We left the car and walked up to the nearest entrance. A couple of boys and girls were lounging around on the steps, being bad and smoking on school property. It seemed to me that a lot of students at school smoked and they didn't really care where they did it.





A tall, lanky boy wearing a necklace of big orange wooden beads asked Rafe, "Hey man, you hittin' up McGregor's bash this weekend?"





"Yeah, I'll be there," Rafe answered, stopping at the foot of the stairs. "You guys?"





"Totally man, the boys from Phi Kap are bringing over a few kegs," big beads replied. "It's gonna be off the hook."





"I heard a bunch of them richass St. Anne bitches are coming too," another fellow wearing a backwards Calgary Flames hat said, referring to the all-girls private school. "And we all know how hardup for action them sluts are!"





One of the girls, a very pretty Chinese girl, giggled as big beads and Calgary Flames whooped and gave each other high fives. "Rafe honey, you better be saving me a dance. You still owe me from Devon's party last month."





"Just make sure Katrina doesn't see it," the other girl, a blond with a tiny stud in her nose, put in. She blew a bunch of smoke in my face. "That girls surfs the Jell-us Sea."





"Yeah, so I'll gotta jet. I'll catch up with you guys later," Rafe said rather abruptly, jostling his way through the double doors.





Behind me, Calgary Flames asked loudly, "Who's the dork following Moretti?"





"Yeah and what's up with her rubbing that rock on her elbow?"





"They didn't even say anything to you," Rafe muttered flatly as we headed up the stairs. "They barely looked at you."





"They saw me nuzzling my rhombus rock." Rafe was now striding down the hallway and I had to run to catch up. "He only likes elbows and knees. I named rhombus rock you know, wanna hear?"





Rafe rounded a corner and bumped into Mrs. Schatz, the German teacher. "No running in the corridors," she shrieked, her curly brown and grey hair bouncing around her jowls.





Scowling and snapping something rude in Italian under his breath, Rafe headed off while Mrs. Schatz was still yelling.





"His name is Radon," I declared happily, catching up. "That's the very last Noble Gas on the Periodic Table you know."





Rafe halted so suddenly that I kept going and only stopped when Rafe seized my wrist and yanked me back to him. "Doesn't that bullshit bother you?"





My eyes widened. "Not really, I think Radon should be where it is. It's density at 0 degrees is 9.96 x 10 to the –3 g/cm3 anyhow."





Rafe said a very strange thing to me then. "Don't ever let anyone tell you that you're not good enough to be with them, okay?"





I stared up at him. His expression was fierce. "Who would do that?"





"Those dumbfucks back there for one." Rafe glowered and raked a hand through his hair with a lot of violence. "You aren't some fucking dork...like you aren't good enough to be with me...you're fucking brilliant Janie."





"Thank you Rafe, I can never get tired of that compliment," I announced, beaming. "It's like learning about the instantaneous center of zero velocity...how could a person ever get tired of that?"





"I thought you were such a freakshow when you first came up to me," Rafe said quietly, looking away. "I didn't even wanna talk to you. I thought you had some kinda weirdo crush on me and that's why I mention I had a girlfriend. And now, I've only known you for like two days and I can't stand that those losers were ignoring you and judging you and how fucking hypocritical is that?"





"I just thought you were some druggie ruffian until I saw your freckles up close." I patted Rafe's arm. He was being as nice to me as working out relative acceleration equations were nice. "We're all just humans whose brains are encased in the same cerebrospinal fluid."





"What I'm trying to say Janie is that you've become my friend."





"I've never had two friends before," I whispered breathlessly, awed.





Rafe took a step closer to me. "And I know it sounds crazy because we haven't known each other for very long but I think I'm starting to think of you as something more."





"Well I am your tutor too." I was surprised that Rafe had only just started thinking of me as a tutor, unless in his mind I was more of an employer sort of figure? "Say, do you wanna work on Physics now? We never even started that yet."





Rafe opened his mouth to say something and then shut it.





I rolled my eyes. "Okay, okay, we can go back to Math or Chemistry. But this time we have to do proper Chemistry, like the kind where delta Hr equals Q/moles and not the kind where we kiss a lot."





"You're the boss," Rafe agreed, sighing.





I grinned so hard that the parabola of my mouth really did stretch from negative infinity to positive infinity. We both made quick stops at our lockers, I dropped off my titration lab to Mr. Barker and then we went to the library where I tutored Rafe in Physics until the bell rang.





"Meet me at my locker at lunch," Rafe ordered, shoving his papers into his textbook. "We can finish up the rest of this sheet then."





"I might be a bit late," I warned him, zipping up my schoolbag. "I have Pre. Calculus before lunch and I like to talk to Mr. Khan after class. He said I'm the brightest student he's ever taught but I'm not allowed to tell anyone in my class because they might get mad."





Rafe couldn't reply because a bunch of loud grade ten boys swarmed him, looking for a 'hook-up.'





French class dragged by slower than you could say 'Je ne comprend pas.' I spent most of the time planning my course syllabus for when I was really a Professor of Chemical Theory within the framework of Quantum Mechanics and mumbling Vrai ou Faux in different accents every time Madame DuBois shrieked "En francais s'il vous plait!"





In Global History, I pondered what a good way for Katrina to dump Rafe was. Rafe wouldn't pretend to be gay and he wouldn't hit me in front of Katrina so what other options were there? What else did people dump other each for?





A sluggish-looking boy with sleepy eyes and shaggy brown hair was slouched in the desk next to mine. He was drawing a naked woman on his desk while Mr. Bough discussed the conflict in the Gaza Strip.





I nudged his gargantuan sneaker with my sandal. "Say you wanted your girlfriend to dump you so you didn't have to, what would you do?"





Sleepy boy turned his half-lidded, sleepy blue eyes on me. "Kiss her best friend dude," he drawled out in a slow, lazy voice. "Chicks think, you know, kissing's cheating."





I frowned down at my copy of 'Molecular Modeling in Heavy Hydrocarbon Conversions' which I'd hidden under a bunch of boring Global History notes. Sleepy boy and Rafe seemed to be working from the same angular frequency. "I can certainly see that you're into w equalling 2Pi/T equalling 2Pif."





"Dude, what kinda pie?" Sleepy boy was now drawing his naked woman's pubic hair in the shape of a butterfly. "I love pie, like ardently."





"Pi as in the ratio of the circumference of the diameter of a circle."





"That's a lotta 'ofs' and 'thes' dude. Mostly I'm all about that cherry pie shit but I won't say no to, you know, pumpkin." Sleepy boy brushed some of his shaggy hair from his eyes. "Do you think her tits are, you know, chimmi chunga enough?"





I leaned a bit closer to Sleepy boy's desk and pondered the graffiti. Apparently snoozing wasn't his only talent. "She needs a tattoo like 1 Pa equals 1 N/m2."





Sleepy boy pointed at me in a floppy way. "Dude. Excellento." He chewed on the top of his pen. "Maybe I can, like, compose a theme here. A butterfly theme, you know? It can be like...you know...an expression of fragile innocence."





"Baaaaaaarium. These day who hasn't got a butterfly tattooed on their ankle or on their tit?" I chewed on my pencil, not wanting to be left out of the action. "I say give her something you can really sink your teeth into...like a list of Physical Constants. You know, the Gravitational Constant, Boltzmann's Constant, the Permittivity Constant,





Rydberg's Constant and so on and so on to infinity positive."





Sleepy boy tossed his pen on his desk, his eyes suddenly wild. He looked like he was having a nightmare. "Dude, like don't impose the structured tyranny of like...the establishment...onto, you know, the pure manifestation of...my mutiny against society's rigid oppression of the...you know, Thinker of Free Thought."





"But in not embracing the permanency of Physics' constants, you automatically negate the title of 'Thinker of Free Thought' thereby condemning the purity of your art form to subsist as nothing more than meaningless smut by which you merely appease the sheep-like, perverted tendencies of the masses," I said, chewing some of my hair.





Sleepy boy's eyes opened all the way. "Dude," he whispered hoarsely as his head lolled back. "Dude that's, you know, concentrated." He fell asleep. A trickle of drool oozed down his unshaven chin.





Once I got back to reading 'Molecular Modeling in Heavy Hydrocarbon Conversions', Global History passed like Grandma's gas after eating Phyllis Melhorn's onion gorgonzola soufflé. My last class of the morning, Pre. Calculus, was easier than balancing a Mechanism and since I'd already completed every question and every equation in our textbook, I continued with my outside reading.





When class was over, I showed Mr. Khan 'Molecular Modeling in Heavy Hydrocarbon Conversions' but we couldn't discuss it in depth like I wanted to because he had a staff meeting to attend. I got excited because I thought that maybe the Pre. Calculus syllabus was going to be reworked to include a more extensive, complex course load but Mr. Khan just laughed and said that the meeting was about the growing number of students smoking on school property. Even I could admit that that was clearly a problem.





"If you're not part of the solution then chances are you not using the Quotient Rule," I told Mr. Khan.





He burst into hoots and jovially thumped a stack of grade eleven assignment. "How right you are Jane, how right you are!"





Mr. Khan was my favourite teacher. I wanted to marry him but he already a wife.





I went downstairs to my locker and was on my knees, unloading my morning textbooks, when my ears picked up a very bad word.





"...fucking faggots."





I glanced over as my heartbeat quickened.





Conner McGregor was a few feet away, casually leaning his massive bulk against the wall while his friend, a fellow Cro-Magnon called Matt Cormier, was chucking his books into his locker.





"That Paki fag was asking for it," Conner growled, his pale eyes narrowing. "Kissing another dude right outside Alicia's building. I don't care how many fags are allowed to get hitched, I think it's fucking sick."





"That little ass-raider's lucky I wasn't around," Matt bragged, slamming his locker door shut so hard that I jumped. "I would've put his queer ass in a fucking coma. He wouldn't be panting to suck dick then."





"You should've heard the little shit screaming," Conner jeered, smirking. "I should've taken a leak all over his ugly face. He prolly would've been begging for it."





"No he wouldn't have," I contradicted, petrified. I stood up on gelatinous legs and tried to tell myself that this was the right thing to do. It wasn't easy, what with the murderous way that both Conner and Matt were glaring at me. I wanted to flee like decreasing pressure on a system in equilibrium wanted to shift to the side with more molecules. I had no experience with bad boys. Katrina was the worst person I'd ever faced and she just said cruel things and played pranks. Conner actually looked like he wanted to physically hurt me...like he had Suril. "He didn't do anything to you."





"You hear what she just said?" Matt demanded incredulously.





"Yeah, I heard," Conner said quietly, striding towards me.





I clutched 'Molecular Modeling in Heavy Hydrocarbon Conversions' to my chest, trying to keep my screaming heartbeat from pounding outside of me. "Wh-what you did was wrong," I stammered, clumsily stepping backwards. "Suril wasn't hurting anyone; he didn't deserve what you did to him."





A terrible expression marred Conner's face. He grabbed my arm and yanked me close before I could even move. 'Molecular Modeling in Heavy Hydrocarbon Conversions' fell to the floor with a loud clatter. "You listen here you little fag-hag," he hissed, his fingers grinding against my bone. "You keep your fucking hippy bullshit to yourself or I'll do you like I did your butt-fucking queerboy, understand?" He shook my arm so roughly that my teeth rattled.





"a equals v2/R," I gasped, nodding my head frantically.





"Fucking cunt," Conner spat, shoving me hard into my locker. He purposely stepped on my book, his face livid. "Telling me what to do."





"Dumbass bitch," Matt snarled, glaring at me over his shoulder. "She and the nerd fag were always tight, I remember those losers from junior high."





"Wait until that fucker gets back to school," Conner threatened in a low voice as he and Matt disappeared down the stairwell.





"Girl you should not've been talking smack to them boys," a tall black girl with long, orange-blond hair said. She was standing outside of the girls' washroom and watching me. "Don't you know who they are?"





I nodded as I picked up 'Molecular Modeling in Heavy Hydrocarbon Conversions' with shaking hands. The cover was bent and muddy from Conner's sneaker. For the some reason the sight of it made a row of tears leak down my cheeks. I rubbed the cover on my jeans and finished packing up my schoolbag for my afternoon classes.





"You okay?" Orange hair came over to me and handed me a crumpled tissue. It had mascara and violet eyeshadow smears on it. "You can use the other side hon."





I shoved the tissue into the corners of my eyes and then handed it back to orange hair. "I'm a smelly tofu hot dog," I mumbled, closing my locker door. "I was scared. I've never been threatened before."





Orange hair smiled at me kindly. "You just keep out their way and you'll be fine."





I left my locker and went upstairs to Rafe's. My arm throbbed with every step, like a reminder that I wasn't strong enough to stand up to bullying boys. I felt even worse than when I'd messed up that Hess's Law question. I'd never liked fighting and arguing with people and I'd always thought that that was one of my better qualities but right now it felt more like a character flaw and a big, fat weakness.





Rafe wasn't at his locker but was sitting a few metres away, on the wide windowsill at the end of the hallway. His books and lunch were spread out beside him and when he caught sight of me, he smiled. "I hope you didn't forget that today's our S day lunch Janie."





I took off my schoolbag and hoisted myself up beside Rafe. "I didn't forget. I have spinach salad and a starfruit and Skittles."





"You want some Snickers?" Rafe broke his chocolate bar in half and held it out to me. "I've also got spaghetti with salami in it and some...Janie?" Rafe caught my wrist. "What happened here?"





There was four finger-shaped bruises darkening the skin of my arm. They stood out like a Ksp problem on a page full of second partial derivatives. "Conner did it," I mumbled, feeling ashamed of myself. Would Rafe think I was a big wimpy noodle too?





Rafe stared at my arm with narrowed eyes. His face was draining of colour.





"Don't be mad at me," I whispered, squirming in his grip. "I don't like when people yell at me, it makes me sad. I already don't feel very good because of what happened."





"I could never be angry with you Janie," Rafe said in a very soft, gentle voice. "Tell me what happened."





I looked down at Rafe's hand holding mine and felt better inside my stomach. I told him what happened.





There was a silence when I was done.





"That motherfucking bastard," Rafe suddenly snarled, his voice colder than the melting point of Oxygen.





My gaze flew to his face. His cheeks were now scarlet, his eyes angry slits of Bromothymol Blue. "I'm not a very strong girl," I admitted, petting my piece of Snickers bar. "I just wanted to stick up for Suril but I don't think I did a very good job of it."





"You are a strong girl Janie," Rafe told me fiercely. "Don't let some jerkoff prick like McGregor make you think otherwise."





"But I was really scared," I murmured, chewing on my bottom lip. "And I wanted to run away like Bases want to ionize to form OH ions."





"But you didn't run, did you? You stuck it out even though you were scared and don't like people shouting at you." He tilted my chin so that I had to look at him. "That's what makes you so brave."





My heart skipped a beat. I hadn't thought of it like that. I'd always just figured that being brave meant that you were able to makes witty, snide remarks about the bad guy's mother before you trashed him into intestinal juices. "I despise violence but I had to speak up didn't I? What Conner did wasn't right. Suril didn't do anything wrong."





"This weekend I'm gonna kill McGregor," Rafe hissed, tightening his hold around my fingers. "And I'll do it because you're my friend and I want to. I'll break every bone in that asshole's body for daring to lay a finger on you. He'll never walk again let alone play fucking football."





I tugged out of Rafe's grip and hugged him as hard as I could. I wanted to touch his heart because he didn't care that Suril was gay and he didn't care that I was a loser nerd. He was nice to me anyway and made me feel happy about myself and liked kissing my mouth and thought I was brave. "I'm your tutor too," I added, my voice muffled by his shoulder.





He kissed the top of my head and hugged me back.





"I cried a little bit," I confessed, taking my lunch out of my schoolbag. I felt a lot more like eating now. "Conner stepped on my copy of 'Molecular Modeling in Heavy Hydrocarbon Conversions' on purpose and he bent the cover and got mud all over it and that hurt my heart a little bit. I don't know why tears came out of my eyes but they did. Skittles?"





Rafe took a handful of Skittles. His gaze was soft when he looked at me and I couldn't see any sign that he was secretly laughing. "You don't have to come with me to McGregor's party on Saturday."





I swallowed a mouthful of Skittles juice and said around chewing, "Scalar products?"





Rafe's mouth twitched. "If I'm not doing this because you hired me then you don't need to pay me do you? I'll just figure something else out."





I stuffed a big piece of spinach into my mouth and thought for a while. Rafe may have beaten up a lot of guys and sold drugs during school hours and was Katrina's boyfriend and wasn't 'with it' scientifically but his heart was made of pure Au. I didn't think any other boy at school would have sat with me like this and told me that I was brave and hugged me like he was trying to diffuse into my bloodstream. If I was Rafe's friend then that meant that he was my friend and friends helped each other.





"I think you're as cool as Gauss' Law for magnetic fields," I mumbled around a slice of starfruit. "And since you're my friend too, I guesstimate that I don't mind doing a favour for you. But if Katrina comes after me then I'm running away at a speed of 10 to fourteen m/s."





"You don't have to do this," Rafe said, swigging down a bunch of Sprite. "I'm being serious."





"I know, I want to. Sorta." I shyly scraped my teeth against my piece of Snickers bar. "No one ever thought I was brave before."





"Christ you're cute." Rafe gave me a little cheek pinch. "I really wanna kiss you but I just ate a bunch of salami."





"I think you're cute too Rafe," I enthused, refraining from giving Rafe a cheek pinch back. I had promised him that I wouldn't do that anymore. "I'd like to tuck you into your blankies and give you some warm milk to help you sleep. But not Soy Good milk, that taste like rice and a little like the bunions you get on your feet."





Rafe gave me a dirty look and wouldn't share his sugar cookies with me until I started waxing poetic about some of the worst period episodes of my life, paying special homage to bloating and monthly irregularities and surprise messy undies and by then Rafe couldn't stuff cookies into my face fast enough. While eating, I tutored him in Physics until lunch was over and then he walked me to class so that he was there in case I ran into Conner. Rafe said that we could go to Conner's party late and that way he'd be too drunk to recognize me. I told Rafe that I gave that plan 2.34 x 10 to the sixteen opposable appendages up.





When my last class of the day finished, I found Rafe waiting for me. He was leaning against the wall and nodding coolly to all the people that said, "Hey man, what's up?" to him. A lot of people that said that, including two teachers and a bunch of guys from the Arabic gang. I wondered what would've happened if I'd hired the Arabic guys to beat up Conner. Probably I wouldn't've gotten kissed because I was a white infidel. But probably they would've declared a good Jihad on Conner (especially if I'd told them that he and his family were big supporters of the American invasion into Iraq) and then they would've busted up his vital organs and he wouldn't've been around to bruise my arm.





"How was Bio?" Rafe asked me, nodding to a group of 'punks', including pseudo-punk boy from my English class who saw me with Rafe and gave me a thumbs up.





"It was to me what Kirchoff's Voltage Law is to me," I declared, taking Radon of my pocket because he was being frisky by digging into my thigh. "I.e. something that has been known to me for a bit of time."





"I don't know why you're still in high school," Rafe said, shaking his head as we walked up the stairs to his locker. "You should be in university someplace, doing your PhD."





"That seems to be a bit of a common grievance," I admitted, cuddling Radon to my bony knuckles. "Though you know what they say...a cyclotron is just a linac coiled into a spiral. Say, did you know that the world's largest cyclotron can be found at TRIUMF in Vancouver? A beam of negative Hydrogen ions make 1500 spiral turns in this great big acceleration chamber that is 17 metres in dia-"





"Honeycakes!"





Every hair in my nose stood on end.





Katrina, wearing a very low slung, tiny jean skirt and a thin scoop-necked yellow t-shirt, flung herself into Rafe's arms. "I haven't see my gorgeous man in ages," she pouted and attacked Rafe's mouth with her own. She made a lot of moaning noises and wiggled her butt around while she did this.





"Don't look Radon, it's X-rated!" I closed my palm around my rhombus rock and told him about Hund's Rule while I tried not to think about Katrina finding my leftover odours on Rafe's mouth. "When electrons occupy orbitals of equal energy, one electron enters each orbital until all orbitals contain one electron with their spins parallel."





Rafe wrenched away, his cheeks red. "Baby," he sputtered and didn't seem to know where to go after that.





"Did you miss me huggy honey bear?" Katrina cooed, stroking his chest as she curved herself to his side.





I flossed my front teeth with a few strands of my hair in high relief. I had never understood why people wasted money on dental floss when there were hundreds of flossing implements growing right out your own head. People just liked to waste money, I thought.





"Course I did, sweetie." Rafe slipped his arm her waist and smiled at me. I didn't smile back, mostly because my hands were in my mouth but also because it was suspect of me to be smiling at the boyfriend of Katrina. "Janie's been a fantastic help. She's patient and smart and I'm not even worried about my Chem. test anymore."





Katrina's eyebrows shot up to her hairline. "Janie? You call her Janie?"





My heart skipped a beat at the incredulous annoyance on Katrina's face. "The Tyndall effect is the visible path produced by a beam of light passing through a colloidal dispersion or suspension," I cried, doing the on-the-spot 'I-have-to-pee' dance so that I wouldn't run away...yet.





Katrina looked at me. She looked at Radon cuddling my knee. She looked at the hair hanging out of my mouth. "Janie," she said, and by some miraculous intervention of the Virgin Mary, as Bianca called her, Katrina burst into a pile of giggles.





"My pasteurization date is in 1.542 x 10 to the negative four nanoseconds if you know what I mean." I added a bit of giggling to keep things friendly. "Afterall a Siberian onager is only as bewildered as the taxidermist who eats japonica seeds on Yom Kippur. Okay, chowder!" I tried to slink off while Katrina was giggling and pointing at me with her lip gloss wand but Rafe pulled away from her and stepped in front of me.





"Where the hell are you going?" He was looking angry for some reason. Maybe it was because his lips were now pinkish and shiny and he looked like an orphan who'd gotten into the Constable's wife's berry patch. "We hardly even touched Physics today and I've got that assignment due next-"





"You need a study break honey-baby," Katrina interrupted, sliding back to Rafe's side with a lot of boob action. She traced his lower lip with the tip of her finger. "My parents won't be home until tomorrow night and I'll need someone to keep me busy all night."





"Fats are triglycerides," I whooped, clicking my heels together. Then me and Radon made tracks down the stairwell.


******


Coefficient of Restitution


By reciting basic integrals and integrals that involved logs and exponents and now, integrals that involved trigonometric functions, the horrendously familiar feeling of Katrinaphobia had mostly dissipated. My legs were still in the X Quadrant of 'slightly gelatinous' but I surmised that that had more to do with the lingering, Bromine-like odours of Connerphobia, which was now as tangible to me as a Equipotential Surfaces.





I had done quite a bit of daydreaming on the bus ride home. In my imagination, I was this X-Men-esque superhero who told off Conner and Matt in wry, witty, cool way before kicking ten shades of shite into them. Then I went on to win the Nobel Prize for my extensive research in the field of Chemistry. Then a crotchety old man who smelled like prune juice and wet dogs sat next to me and complained bitterly about having to pay a twoonie to ride the bus. I told him that he should've just dumped in a handful of change because bus drivers never really check your change count unless you looked like a hoodlum. He then informed me that I ought to pull a seaweed pie out my arse. So I replied by saying, "Physics can be divided into four realms, classified as Classical Physics, Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Relativistic Quantum Mechanics. The latter three make up Modern Physics."





The old man burped at me.





Across the street from my house, Mr. Shah, impeccably dressed in a charcoal grey wool suit and silky maroon tie, was crouched in the middle of his immaculate lawn, a metal ruler in one hand, Mrs. Shah's good sewing scissors in the other.





I ditched my schoolbag and my sandals on my front steps and shuffled over. It was always a bit of a risk trying to talk to Mr. Shah while he was manually grooming his lawn...he felt that his lawn deserved the utmost of attention and didn't take well to mindless interruptions...but I hadn't spoken to him since the weekend so I was willing to chance it. "How's it going Pops?" I cried, calling him what Suril always called him.





"There are some blades of grass that have done growing upwards of ten centimetres," Mr. Shah indignantly informed me in his thick, Gujarati accent. He pushed up his thin glasses with the orange handles of Mrs. Shah's scissors. "Disarray in our surroundings reflect disarray in our souls Jane dikra. This is why I do not like any kinds of the mess."





"I can get my old Crayola safety scissors and a ruler and I can help too," I offered, stopping short of the Bromocresol Green grass. You needed both Mr. Shah's respect and permission before you were allowed to step onto his lush, luxurious lawn.





"There are no worries Jane," he said, meticulously measuring those overgrown offenders against his ruler. "We mustn't rush this process into an inauspicious time with too many snippers, no matter how well the intentions."





That made sense to me...you couldn't rush a Redox Titration now could you? "So how's Suril feeling today? I saw him this morning and I think his black eye isn't that black."





Mr. Shah began snipping as his narrow chest swelled with pride. "Suril is a strong bamboo in the face of the winds of adversity. This he gets from my side of the family. We always did suffer greatly. I did not have any pair of shoes until I was nine years of age. There was a goat infestation in our village you see. Then my sister Dwipavati was forced to endure a most unfortunate parrot-like nose. My Mother, she always thought that my Father was too fond of watching the pretty college girls but really it was only his lazy eye."





"Amblyopia you mean," I clarified, flopping down onto the driveway next to Mr. Shah's black Toyota Camry.





"Oh bless you. And then of course my own Bhagirathi Auntie was cursed by the Black witch from Navsari. First Auntie would only eat tamarind and sing the Laxshmi Aarthi at all hours of the night. Then she took to running amuck in the village with her hairs unbound and no jewellery while wearing the butcher's champaals. Finally she tried to elope with a blind water buffalo named Kaniya. They still talk of it back home, much to the eternal shame of my family."





I made teeth prints in the back of my hand and then erased them with my finger as good as I could. "How did you know the Black witch was really a witch and not just someone whose family had to endure a daughter that looked like a Black witch?"





"We know the witch was a witch because she killed her own husband and ate his liver," Mr. Shah replied, crouch-walking to another spot of lawn that had more uneven glass blades...or so I guessed because I couldn't see any Significant Figures lurking about. "She cooked the liver korma style with coconut paste and mango chutney and cassia bark. This is how one becomes a witch you see. My own Mother wanted to become a witch at one time but when the Black witch from Chikli told Mother that she needed to eat the liver of a loved one, Mother thought she was being bamboozled by her debtors and beat the witch. She developed severe arthritis in her hands shortly afterwards."





"How come you have to use a liver?" I asked, rubbing my running nose against my knee. "Why can't you use the small intestines or the pituitary gland?"





"Who can know with these witches? Perhaps the liver is the best tasting organ when sautéed in ghee and cardamom." Mr. Shah looked over at me as he pushed up his glasses. "So Mummy has told me that you have told her that you have hired an Italian chap to make chat masala out of this Conner Bonner rascal. This is the excellent work of a true friend, you know this? Mummy and me thank you very truly and deeply."





I sat up straight and beamed with pride. Even Mr. Shah knew Rafe was a chap, hee hee hoh. "Well I couldn't do it myself, Conner's too big for me and I've got arms like baklava." The bruises starkly standing out on my arm attested to that. "But I knew I had to do something because Suril's my best friend ever and so I asked around at school and Rafe came recommended to me."





Mr. Shah beamed back at me as he took out his wallet. "How much is this Race fellow asking exactly? Does he take Visa? Post-dated cheques? Have you see any of his prior beatings? What is his signature style?"





"Well Rafe's older brother is a Corrections Officer and he's the size of a three bedroom bungalow," I told Mr. Shah. "And Rafe says he doesn't want any money, he just wants me to tutor him so that he can graduate with honours for his Mom."





"A hired hoodlum with a heart of gold biscuit," Mr. Shah declared, putting away his wallet. He returned to snipping. "It is like an Amithab Bachaan Hindi filmi no?"





"The Analytical Method of vector addition and subtraction uses vector components," I reminded Mr. Shah. "Ax equals A cos theta and Ay equals A sin theta, if you recollect."





Oh how we did chortle.





When I went back home, I found Grandma in the living room with Dripper Ferguson, playing WWE Smackdown on PS2. Dripper was twelve years old and his real name was Fernando but as he had a lot of bad allergies that mostly disturbed his proboscis region...well even his Mom and Dad called him Dripper.





Grandma and Dripper were battling it out in a Cage Match and Grandma was kicking tush, as per usual.





"Mexican surfboard!" she hollered as her man Triple H, put Dripper's man Batista, into said devastating move. "Ooooh yeah and now a camel clutch! You're going down to China town loser!"





There was a steely look of intense concentration on Dripper's flushed face as his thumbs worked furiously. Both of his nostrils were dripping profusely but he had no time to wipe as Grandma was now using her Super move.





I headed into the kitchen amidst the sounds and stamps of Grandma doing her victory dance and Dripper saying words that his parents wouldn't've been too chuffed to hear. There was nothing for me to see that I hadn't seen a thousand times before. Word had gotten around among the neighbourhood boys that Grandma was a video game genius and now kids from all over came by to challenge her. So far, Grandma's remained the undisputed champion of everything from Tekken to Mortal Kombat to all versions of X-Men and Spiderman games. Even I couldn't beat her and I'd tried once when she'd been messed up after winning a Pumpkin Pie Eating contest. She had eaten eleven pie and then barfed brown slime for about twenty minutes. I had gotten most of the action on film and the pictures now proudly hung in the downstairs bathroom for some good eye candy while dumping.





I poured a bunch of mini, double chocolate chip cookies into a saucepan, since all the good bowls appeared to be lazing about the sink, and then doused the whole pan with un-pulpy, un-ricey, un-pinky, pure Homogenized milk. I got a spatula (there also seemed to be a spoon mutiny) and dug in as best as I could. I opened up my Physics text book and got through my homework sheet in exactly seven minutes flat. Then I picked a chapter at random, Electromagnetic Induction and Power Generation, and did a bunch of problems for fun. It was a good way to pass time though obviously not very edifying as I'd gone through this textbook when I'd been thirteen or so.





Mostly I was just doing what I liked so that I didn't have to do what I didn't like, namely my stupid English assignment on stupid The Edible Woman. I hated The Edible Woman as much as I loved Atomic Physics. I wanted to give the stupid book to Guido to eat for dinner, as it was such an environmental waste. Who cared if some brainless woman couldn't eat food because she didn't like her fiancé or had low self-esteem or whatever the point of the book was? Why would anyone think that was worth analysing?





Grandma bounced in a while later. She was wearing her yellow Sketchers and a velour J Lo-style tracksuit that matched her purple hair. "Dripper left with his nose running at sixty kph again," she announced, taking out a chocolate silk pie from the fridge. She rummaged around the cutlery drawer and came up with a ladle. "I beat him at a Hardcore match, a Cage match, a Ladder match and three Handicap matches. Since I got no qualms about saying bad things about kids, I'm thinking that Dripper's a real dumbarse shithead."





I tipped my chair backwards so that I could dump my pan onto the pile of dishes festering in the sink. "Grandma, it's getting to the End Point of the Titration again."





Grandma huffed an enormous sigh as she sat down next to me and stuck the pie between us. "I was hoping to put it off for as long as I could," she admitted, polishing her ladle on her sleeve.





I wiped cookie milk off of my spatula and onto my jeans. "If we wanna get rid of those funny smells coming out the sink then we gotta. It's the only way."





"I'll phone our favourite old crow Edith then," Grandma relented. "Who knows, maybe this time she'll have shaved off that flourishing moustache."





We looked at each other and started giggling helplessly as we dug into the chocolate pie. Grandma might not've have been too great with this cleaning business but when it came to making desserts, she really knew how to predict relative solubilities.





"So you do any drugs today?"





I dragged my spatula along the tip of my tongue. "Noh."





"Skip any classes?"





"No."





Grandma waggled her eyebrows at me. "Kiss any boys?"





"No."





"No?" Grandma accidentally dropped her ladle and got brown, gushy pie innards all over the table. "What's the point of going all the way to school then, if you weren't gonna kiss that Rafe character?"





"I've never kissed him, he always kisses me," I corrected, taking a swig of milk out of the milk bag.





"Player, man-slut, it's all the same lumpy shite no matter how you boil the turnip," Grandma scoffed, getting chocolate on her nose as she ate out of her ladle.





"It's a lot harder to kiss around when you're in school and Katrinas lurk about the lockers." I shuddered, my insides shrivelling. "She wasn't too thrilled when Rafe called me 'Janie' either. I blurted out some facts about the Tyndall effect, which luckily she found hilarious and then I booked it a la the Book Mobile."





Grandma levelled a knowing gaze on me. "So he calls you 'Janie' eh? No one calls you that except me."





I pushed my spatula through the pie some more. "Does that mean something?"





Grandma shrugged. "I dunno but it seems worth mentioning. So is Rafe still making you go to that party to smooch him?"





"Yes," I lied, squirming guilty in my chair. While I still wanted to go to Conner's party about as much as I wanted to reread The Edible Woman, I could no longer say that Rafe was making me go because he'd given me the option to back out. I didn't want to let Grandma know what had changed between us because that meant telling her what Conner had done to me and I knew she'd go ballistic...not to mention that Dorothy Urone's husband owned a hunting rifle and I didn't want to see Grandma in jail for first degree murder. I didn't dare attempt to socialize with Edith Duggin on my alone.





Grandma didn't notice anything amiss, probably because I'd never lied to her before. "I don't think this is such a bad thing, you going to a party. You may as well go to one high school party...you can take lots of pictures of people doing stupid things because they're plastered and then blackmail 'em. Plus, I think Rafe should swing round here and pick you up Saturday night. Meera agrees with me too; she wants to personally thank him for agreeing to rough up Suril's attacker. And then you know, we can scope him out and see if he's worthy enough for you."





"Rafe's already coming to pick me up." I took another guzzle of milk that spilled down my chin. "He thinks we should go a bit late so that Conner will be inebriated by the time we get there. Hopefully Katrina will be too."





"I just wanna see the guy who gave my granddaughter her first smacker. I'd like to toast him...at the rate you were going I didn't think anything other than grub was gonna get past that blabbing science mouth of yours."





"It's not five eighths bad, this kissing stuff," I mused, sucking milk out of my hoodie. "I mean I liked it as much as I like finding the centres, vertices, foci, and asymptotes of various hyperbolic graphs. I guess I can see why so much people like to do it."





Grandma patted my cheek with her ladle. "Well welcome to the planet Earth, Janie."





I bounced in my seat as I tried to lick chocolate off my cheek. "The Earth has a known mass of 5.98 x 10 to the 24 kg. The Earth has mean radius of 6.37-"





"How much homework you got today?" Grandma interrupted, rolling her eyes. She'd always maintained that excessive talks of science made her bowels itch.





"A fair bit, since I barely got anything done last night." Here I paused to give Grandma a dirty look. She shoved a chocolate curl into my mouth. It was hard to be irritated with her when chocolate was melting inside my mouth. "I was gonna start reviewing for my-"





"Tough shitsticks, you can catch up on all that boring crud later." Grandma took a gulp of milk from the milk bag. "I was thinking we oughta go downtown and visit that Lucan friend of yours."





My heart skittered in such a way that I was forcibly reminded of Galileo's observations on the four moons that orbited Jupiter which eventually led to the conclusion that simple harmonic motion is the projection of uniform circular motion on a diameter of the circle in which the latter motion occurs. "You want Lucan to do your tattoo?"





"It wouldn't hurt to see his work and hear what he's got to say." Grandma waggled her sparse eyebrows. "Plus I wanna check out this studly brain soulmate of yours."





"He's a TA Grandma," I gushed, sighing. "Of Advanced Calculus and Partial Differential Equations!"





"Yeah yeah I know, you've only told me that a billion to the ten times," Grandma complained, snorting loudly.





I rolled my eyes back. Grandma may have been the most electromagnetic Grandma this side of the Ozone Layer but she sure didn't know too much about Scientific Notation. "Base 10 with an exponent...that's Scientific Notation. What you've said isn't correct."





Grandma stuck her finger in the pie and then in my ear.





Grandma got out her good cigars and invited Edith Duggin over while I strategically retreated to my chambers. Or 'hid' as Grandma liked to call it. I farted around on my computer for a bit, looking up things other people had written about The Edible Woman to get some ideas for my assignment. It was all way too boring to read so I didn't bother. Instead, I found a story about a boy masturbating into a banana peel and I sent it to Suril to cheer him up. I labelled the e-mail 'Trig. Assignment A-4' which was our codename for 'Smuts Inside, Do Not Open In Presence Of Parental Units'. That was a good system, I thought.





Then I took off my little, black hoodie and green t-shirt and hunted around for a good science something to wear that would make Lucan laugh. I settled on a small, brown t-shirt Grandma had gotten off E-bay for me. In sparkly purple letters it read 'KNiFe'. Beneath that, in smaller purple letters, it said, 'The only weapon that can be made from Potassium, Nickel and Iron'. I chortled so hard that my nose ran a tributary wild enough to rival Dripper. I put KNiFe on over a ratty, orange long-sleeve top to hide my bruises from Grandma and sat down to get some boring Global History reading out of the way.





Grandma came up to my room a long while later. I had ditched Global History ages ago and was happily immersed in the world of 'Applied Vector Analysis'. "Edith finally decided to bugger off," Grandma announced. She smelled like her peaches and cream cigars. "She spent a hundred years blabbing on about her son's prostate check-up and the big fight Doris and Lester Cavendish has last night and then she got in a fucking funk with me because apparently she seen you wearing no shoes while you were out talking to Naran today "





"I believe in the freedom of the foots," I announced, sticking my foots out of my blankies to examine at them. Surely enough, they seemed quite liberated. "Anyhow Pops didn't care that I had no shoes on, he was too busy doing touch-ups to the lawn with scissors again."





"That Edith just likes to stick her moustache into other people's business," Grandma said, scowling. "So what if you weren't wearing shoes? It's not like you took a leak on her clematis trellis like I did that time I was drunk on Heineken."





"Least she cleaned our kitchen up. I heard her doing dishes for a Woolly Mammoth's age."





"Yeah, you know how I get when I'm baking." Grandma sat down on the edge of the bed. "How about we go out to eat after this tattooing business? That way we don't gotta wash any dishes." She nudged my foot, all sly. "Maybe we can even invite this Lucan fellow along, eh?"





"He never did get to show me his course syllabuses," I said dreamily. I didn't think I could ever look at the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics the same way again.





Grandma reapplied her frosted violet lipstick and matching opaque eyeshadow and we were off. It took us about a half an hour to get downtown to the waterfront because of all the six o'clock traffic. Grandma was listening to one of her favourite metal band CDs and yelling at all the 'slowass yuppie shit' drivers. So far she'd given the middle finger to about fourteen different drivers. I just read 'Molecular Modeling in Heavy Hydrocarbon Conversions' and tuned out the screechings of System of a Down and the screechings of Grandma.





Grandma found a great handicapped parking spot and parallel-parked in about two seconds. She wasn't what anyone would call handicapped but that hadn't stopped her from coercing Dr. Polanski into giving her a handicapped parking hanger for the car. Thusly, we had access to all the best spots. I always felt a bit guilty at using up prime parking spots but Grandma maintained that paying taxes all her life and not spitting (that much) on Cop cars enabled her a few perks now that she was in the prime of her later years.





We watched the ferry and a cargo ship and a couple of recreational yachts pass by as we walked through the evening crowds that littered the waterfront.





"This is fucking exciting," Grandma told me as we skirted around a group of chatting Mommies and their strollers. "I've wanted a tattoo for years. I could do a tribute to you, the best thing in my life, and get the Quotient Formula tattooed on an arse cheek."





I burst into giggles at that image. "Quadratic Formula Grandma!"





Kismet, the tattoo parlour Lucan worked at, was located in between Pro-Skate, a shop for skateboarders and a Thai restaurant called House of Spice. A distinguished looking old guy wearing pleated, tweed trousers and a button-down shirt the colour of Grandma's hair was going into Kismet the same time as we were.





"After you two beautiful ladies," he proclaimed gallantly, holding the door open for us. He was eyeing Grandma in a way that made me think that he thought she was as cooltastic as the Multiplication of Vectors in Coordinate Form with Scalars.





"Thanks a crapload man," Grandma replied, eyeing him back. I could tell that she liked his full head of white hair and wino-rosy cheeks.





I guessed Grandma couldn't wait around for Mr. Yakama forever...not as long as he was unwilling to exorcise the ghost of his dead wife from his vegetable crisper.





Kismet was an electromagnetic kind of place. The glossy floor tiles were huge black and forest green squares. The black painted stone walls were covered with hundreds of tattoo designs that were all framed and mounted behind panes of glass. Most of the main room was taken up by a cosy seating area situated on a raised platform that was made up of a tattered sofa, a bunch of comfy looking arm chairs and an enormous chrome coffee table that was covered with tattoo magazines and books. Nearby was a bulky looking computer, on which two biker fellows were currently surfing.





To our right was a large, glass front counter. An Asian girl was sitting behind it, reading and slurping at a blue slushie. Her bottom lip had three silver rings poking out of it and her nose, one glittering stud. Her long, black hair was dyed fuchsia at the tips and was streaked with blond. Her arms were covered in tattoos. She was wearing dark green lipstick and frosted silver and coral eyeshadow.





"Hey guys," she said, setting down her book. She'd been reading a cheesy Harlequin romance that featured a blond, shirtless Viking man and a half-clothed redhead who seemed to be revealing quite a lot of leg on the cover. The book was called 'Heated Hearts in Heat'. "Kickin' eyeshadow Grandma."





"Yeah same," Grandma responded, avidly glancing around. "That a good read?"





The girl shrugged. "I'm reading it for the funny sex scenes. This Viking buddy just pierced Scottish chick's 'dew-lined secret' with his 'velvet-sheathed lance of pleasure'."





We all had a good snigger at that.





"Motions along perpendicular axes are independent," I guffawed, smacking my thigh.





"Holy Noah's Ark," the distinguished old guy suddenly blurted out. He was looking torn between being amused and being appalled. "Er...maybe I should come back."





"I didn't see you back there Myron," the Asian girl said, leaning forward to shake his hand. "Pierce is just in the back getting ready for your second sitting. You can take a seat if you'd like, he'll be out in a couple." She winked at him. "You can borrow my book – I'll point out all the juicy parts."





"Reiko...err...that's unnecessary." Myron flushed a fetching shade of dusky rose.





"So what're you getting done?" Grandma asked Myron, sniggering.





"A portrait of my daughter," Myron replied proudly, his face still resembling an iced cupcake. He unbuttoned his shirt and showed us the outline of a woman's determined face over his heart. "She beat breast cancer this summer."





"That's some coolass shit," Grandma approved, leaning in for a closer look.





Myron blushed again.





Reiko glanced between Grandma and me. "So which one of you guys is looking to get done up today?"





"It's me," Grandma declared, straightening importantly. "I want something that involves a tarantula in memory of the one that bit me on my honeymoon in Rio. And a lot a blood if you can manage it. Preferably in puddles."





"You got it Grandma," Reiko said, giving her a thumbs up.





"There's a tarantula design over there," Myron told Grandma, pointing to the wall.





Grandma hastened over excitedly, Myron hot on her heels.





"If I was going to get anything, I'd get derivatives like Lucan did," I told Reiko, twisting some of my hair around my finger and chewing it. "Is Lucan here today? I'd like to see him because he's my brain soulmate after Suril, who's my best friend."





"He's in the back, cleaning up his station before he takes off for the night." Reiko leaned across the desk to peer at me. "Say, you aren't Jane are you?"





My hair fell out of my mouth in surprise. "I am in as much as overlapping waves algebraically add to produce a resultant wave."





"Lucan told me all about you!" Reiko took a big slurp of her slushie. "He said he met the cutest, smartest girl last night who was all into his nerdy tats."





I beamed at that description of me. A cool TA with tattoos thought I was the cutest, smartest girl! That was like the French Physicist Charles Coulomb telling me that F equals k (q1q2/r squared). "I never heard about anyone getting mathematical tattoos before but I sure like the idea of it!"





"Lemme tell you, Lucan's probably the only guy in Canada who's got Math tattoos," Reiko replied, laughing.





"And that's as much of a tragedy as messing up a Hess's Law question, I say." I watched Grandma get excited over one design and Myron flash his dentures at her. I leaned across the counter and said confidentially to Reiko, "I think that Myron likes my Grandma."





"I was kinda getting that vibe too." The phone rang so Reiko gestured to a bunch of big binders sitting on the far side of the counter. "The last binder's all Lucan's work if you wanna check it out."





I flipped through it while Reiko took the call and Grandma and Myron got into a conversation with the two biker dudes. I didn't know a whole lot about art but even I could see that Lucan was extremely talented. He'd done everything from black and white portraits to graffiti-style images to religious and tribal artwork. I was studying an intricate tattoo of the Last Supper, feeling as in awe as whenever I used the Conservation of Momentum Principal, when I heard Lucan say my name.





He was coming out of the back rooms wearing a very tight, black sleeveless t-shirt that showed off his muscular arms and tattoos and low-slung, lanky jeans. His messy hair was falling into his eyes and he had a day's worth of scruff around his thin sideburn-to-sideburn goatee.





I set down his binder, beaming. "Hi Lucan!"





I got a good surprise because he strode over to me and enveloped me a very huge kind of hug. He was warm and strong and smelled like a freshly photocopied sheet of Transcendental Functions I once had. "Hey cutie."





"All the tattoos you've done are as integral as that Math Limerick you showed me," I declared fervently, gazing up at him with wide eyes. "You're really, really 10 to the nineteen really good!"





"Thanks Jane." Lucan leaned against the counter next to me, grinning. "You really loved that Math limerick didn't you?"





"It was as beautiful as your Calculus tattoos," I answered breathlessly. "Next time we have to do one of those dumb 'bring in a poem to analyse' assignments in English, I'm bringing in the Math limerick!"





"I could tattoo it across your stomach," Lucan drawled out, winking at me. "It'd give your English teacher a shock and me an excuse to see you topless."





I laughed so hard that my whole face dripped like Reiko's slushie.





Grandma saw me hooting and left Myron and the two bikers to inspect Lucan.





"This is my Grandma." I hiccupped a bit as I wiped my nose on a hair tie I found in my pocket.





"So you're the infamous teacher of Calculus with the cool tattoos that Janie hasn't shut up about," Grandma announced, looking Lucan up and down like he was an Inertial Coordinate System that needed analysing.





"Advanced Calculus Grandma," I corrected, digging my fingers into my eye corners to scoop out water.





"So you're the infamous Grandma who's more hip than Laplace's Equation." Lucan shook her hand, smiling. "I'm actually going off shift now but if you'd like to come back tomorrow after four, I'll be here all night and I can start a design for you." He gestured to the binder filled with his work. "You check out my work and see what you think. If you're not into it, you can look through the other binders; we've got five other artists working here. Reiko and Pierce are here now and Carter should be here soon if you're into their work at all."





"Lucan's artwork is as brilliant as Torricelli's Theorem," I told Grandma, doing a bit of the 'I-have-to-pee' dance in excitement.





"I can't say I've ever had my artwork compared to a Physics equation," Lucan remarked, chuckling.





"Hell, that sounds like a good way of thinking," Grandma informed Lucan, as though I hadn't said anything. "I'll look through your portfolio to make sure it's not complete shit but if Janie says that it ain't half bad then I'll believe that. Plus that Myron back there said I could stick around to watch him get done up so that I'd have a good idea of how all this tattooing hoopla works."





"Myron's probably got about four or five hours of work left on his portrait," Lucan said. "Most likely he'll only get through an hour tops today – the chest is one of the most painful places to get tattooed. It's all nerves and shit. But if he doesn't mind you watching, than I'd recommend it. Pierce is an excellent artist and he'd be happy to answer any questions you might have."





"Well fuck, no wonder Janie likes you so much," Grandma exclaimed, blinking purple eyeshadow at Lucan. "You're chock full of fortified information and you're as cute as a ladybug to boot."





"Coleoptera Coccinellidae," I mumbled around a mouthful of my knuckles, blushing a little. Originally I hadn't given a thought to whether Lucan was cute or not cute or otherwise but somehow, between him being a TA of Advanced Calculus and Partial Differential Equations and liking my t-shirt and knowing who Max Planck was and his Calculus tattoos and the way he'd quoted the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics to me, I realized that I thought Lucan was a bit cute indeed.





Though obviously not in a cheek-pinching, forehead-kissing manner like Rafe was.





Laughing, Lucan said, "I'm actually heading off to get some coffee before I have to meet with a couple of my students. You wanna come with me Jane?" He put his arm around me in a friendly manner and looked at Grandma. "If that's okay with you Ma'am."





"Call me Grandma, everyone else does." Grandma was staring as Lucan's arm draped around my shoulder like it was the Ptolemaic model of the Universe. "You sure you don't wanna watch Myron with me Janie?"





I spit my wrist out of my mouth. "I'd much rather like to have a civilized conversation about Mathematics, thanks."





Lucan squeezed my shoulder. "I'll have her back here safe and sound and enriched with knowledge."





Grandma snorted and made stern eyes at Lucan. "I'm gonna tell you one thing pal so you better listen up good."





Reiko popped over, her phone call finished. "Give it to the cradle robber Grandma!" she whooped as she flicked her slushie straw at Lucan.





Lucan, without turning around, smacked his free hand backwards into Reiko's forehead and shoved her away. "Shut it."





"If you wanna get fancy with my granddaughter than you damn well better use a fucking condom."





I reddened in abject embarrassment at Grandma's obvious ignorance. "Grandma," I whined, squirming uncomfortably in Lucan's grip. "Don't you know by now that a condom is only one hundred percent effective when coupled with birth control pills, a female condom, a sock and abstinence?"





Grandma ignored me. "And don't forget that a girl's body ain't no fucking bicycle neither."





Lucan and Reiko burst into laughter. I didn't know what they were laughing at but I loved to laugh so I joined in for shits (literal) and giggles (figurative).





"The half-life of Promethium is 17.7 years," I guffawed, sagging against the counter.





"Laugh all you want but I don't know where you've been and with what skanks," Grandma told Lucan. "You might have one of them weird Jungle diseases like Lassa fever or the Clap."





"I promise you that I have no strange diseases and that I won't dishonour your granddaughter on the way to Grabba Jabba," Lucan gasped, struggling to stop laughing. "All I'd like is the Mathematical pleasure of Jane's company."





"The sum of two functions with limit zero has limit zero," I announced, happily beaming up at Lucan.





"The product of a bonded function and a function with limit zero has limit zero," Lucan answered back, hugging me with his arm.





"Well that's more like it," Grandma commented. She punched Lucan in the shoulder. "I like you just fine kiddo so you better make sure I stay that way otherwise you'll be pissing blood for days."





"You're the fucking shits Grandma," Reiko proclaimed and gave Grandma a high five.





Before Lucan and I left, I got to meet Pierce, the other tattoo artist who was working with Reiko that night. Pierce was a tall, beefy redhead with long, braided hair and a braided beard to match. He was covered in tattoos and even had some kind of a Celtic design tattooed on the left side of his face, though most of it was obstructed by bushy, orange facial hair. Myron was eager to show Grandma his tolerance against pain so they headed off to the back rooms with Pierce discussing safety procedures with Grandma. Reiko, who was now sketching a sexy Greek maiden for one of the biker guys, waved as we left and told Lucan to be gentle with me.





"Like you can be gentle when it comes to Math," I scoffed as we started walking through the crowds. It was now dark out. "Are Triple Integrals in Cylindrical Coordinates for those faint of aorta I ask you?"





Lucan gave me a sidelong glance. He was looking amused for some reason. "Did I mention that your shirt owns? It's as good as the one you were wearing yesterday."





"It's measuring the acceleration of gravity with a pendulum level genius isn't it?" I peered down at my KNiFe-embossed chest, twisting my head so that I could reread the message. I burst into uproarious laughter. "It's so funny because you can't make a commonplace weapon out of Potassium! Potassium oxidizes at a rapid rate in air to give off flammable gas and it catches fire spontaneously when exposed to water!"





"Maybe that's why it should be made into a weapon," Lucan suggested, arching an eyebrow.





"Well it's also an extremely soft metal that you could easily cut through with a knife. Lithium is the only metal lighter than Potassium."





"Don't you mean a KNiFe?" Lucan asked, lightly tugging on the shoulder seam of my t-shirt.





I chortled so hard that I stumbled into a Pomeranian and would've fallen over the yipping little footstool if Lucan hadn't grabbed my hand. He had to apologize to the irate owners because I was hooting too hard to.





"You have a hickey on your neck," Lucan suddenly said, watching me as I mopped my drooling eyes with my sleeve. He was still holding my hand with long, warm fingers.





"It was a Nitric Acid spill type of accident," I admitted, rubbing off liquid from around my nose. "Rafe got carried away when we were practising. Maybe he forgot I was me and thought I was familiar old Katrina instead. It could easily happen you know, I was forgetting Specific Heat Capacity formulas when he was kissing me. It was bedlam I say, bedlam."





Lucan stopped. We were standing on a pier which docked an enormous luxury yacht. "What do you mean 'practising'? Is that some kinda shit line Rafe fed you?"





"No, we were practicing for the party." Since Lucan appeared blanker than Conner's last Academic Math test (he was obviously too stupid to take Pre. Calculus, the idiot lunkhead) I had to enlarge my Magnetic Field Strength at the Center of a Circular Loop. "You know, that dumb party we have to go to on Saturday where Rafe is gonna get Katrina to dump him."





Lucan let go of my hand and sat down on a thick, wooden stump that chained the yacht to the dock. "By hooking up with you."





"No no, not hardly, what with my Katrinaphobia being denser than Molybdenum and all." My teeth chattered at the thought of Katrina seeing me willingly kiss her boyfriend. "Rafe is gonna pretend to be in a highly inebriated state and then he'll force some kissing drama on me but I'll struggle like Katrina used to in Math class and then she won't try to hit me because she'll feel badly that her boyfriend kissed me against my will. Or at least I hope she will anyway."





"Christ Jane, that's the stupidest scheme I've ever heard of." Lucan shook his head in disgust, his dark bangs dipping into his eyes. "Rafe is such a little shithead. Why the hell would someone as brilliant as you agree to be his guinea pig?"





"Cavia Porcellus you mean." It didn't seem that Lucan had a very good memory, though I could understand that. Why would you want to waste time remembering trivial crap when you could immerse yourself in Calculus and Differential Equations of the Advanced and Partial persuasions? "I hired Rafe on Tuesday, remember? Getting Katrina to dump him was his price. And tutoring, which I like a lot more that having to kiss him in front of Katrina. But I'm just crossing my nose hairs that she won't make yakisoba out of my facial bone structure."





Lucan was frowning. "What do you mean you hired Rafe?"





I chewed my wrist thoughtfully. Perhaps Rafe hadn't spilled the 100mL Volumetric flasks to Lucan. "If you didn't know about Suril then how come you told me last night to phone you if things didn't work out with Rafe?"





He ignored my question. "Who's Suril?"





I straightened up, wiped my moist wrist on my jeans and met Lucan's gaze dead on. His eyes seemed very black against the dim nightlights that lined the boardwalk. "I don't think there's anything wrong with being gay, do you?"





"I'm not a homophobe if that's what you're asking," he replied after a slight pause.





"Suril's my best friend in the whole observable universe-"





"Which we know to be 10 to the twenty-six metres away," Lucan interrupted, his lips quirking. "Or so I've been told on excellent authority."





"And he's gay." I was rattling eagerly where I stood. Lucan thought I was an 'excellent authority'! "But over this weekend Conner McGregor, a very nasty boy from school saw Suril kissing Paulo and he bashed Suril really, really badly. I wanted to do something because I love Suril so much but I'm not very strong and I don't like violence and I'm non-confrontational too so I decided to hire someone to bash up Conner for me. Pseudo punk and Lord of the Rings girl from my English class said I should hire Rafe so I did. The party this weekend is at Conner's house and we're gonna go late so that he'll be good and inebriated and then Rafe is gonna break both his legs so he can't play football for the rest of the season."





Lucan looked at me for a while. "Now that's a scheme."





"It is isn't it!" I smiled shyly and munched on the side of my lip. "I thought of it all by myself. I had to take karma into my own hands if you know what I mean."





"Well Rafe's still a little shit in my opinion but even he can beat the piss out of some drunk punkass." Lucan's eyes narrowed as he looked up at me. "And if he can't then you call me and I'll trash this Conner asshole and I'll tattoo 'cock-sucker' on his forehead. He won't be bashing anyone after that."





I thought of the way Conner had made me feel, both yesterday when he'd threatened me and every time I looked at Suril's bruised face. "You're a very nice person," I uttered, feeling a bit of a lump inside my throat. "And not just because you remembered how far the edge of the observable universe is."





Lucan tugged me closer to him. "Jane, I told you yesterday to call me if things didn't work out with Rafe because I'm interested in you."





My eyes enlarged as my heart started to Race, as Mr. Shah called Rafe. "Like interested in me helping you with your classes? I can help you mark tests and assignments and things, for real! I may be only in grade twelve but I have an excellent grasp of Calculus fundamentals. I'm not lying, really, it's non-fiction."





Lucan tweaked my nose. "Interested as in I might like to date you."





I scrunched my face up, perplexed. That didn't make much sense even if Lucan was interested in Archaeology. "What like Carbon-14 dating? Or do you mean Half-Life and Rates of Decay problems?"





He burst out laughing. "Sweetheart, what I mean is dating, as in what two people do when they like each other. As in I think you're cute because you have such a passion for Math and you have the brilliance of any Professor I've ever met and I'd like to hang out with you a lot more. If we ever did hook up then I can honestly say that you'd be like none of my other girlfriends...and that's pretty fucking wicked."





"a plus bi plus cj plus dk is Hamilton's Quaternions," I blurted out, blushing the dark red of my 'Engineering Mechanics - Dynamics' textbook cover. "You really think I have the brilliance of a University Professor?"





"You know a helluva lot more than most of the students I teach."





More blood flooded my features. I recalled Suril telling me this morning that Lucan might want to kiss me because I was smart and sweet and funny and cute. That was quite the insightful prophecy on his behalf. "No one ever wanted to date me before," I confessed, clutching handfuls of hair for something to do.





"Well I got the impression last night that Rafe might want to, once he's finished with Katrina."





I made earmuffs out of my hair. "Rafe says nice things to me and he makes me feel nice and he's my friend now but I don't think he'd like to 'hang out with me a lot more' as you call it. That doesn't exactly seem very cotangent, if you know what I mean."





Lucan chuckled as he stood up. "How about once this party drama is over and if Rafe doesn't wanna date you, you call me?" He took my hand and tangled his fingers with mine. "That way Rafe won't get his panties in a big jealous bunch."





I burst into giggles.





Lucan held my hand the whole walk to Grabba Jabba, which was situated at the other end of the boardwalk, near the Ferry Terminal, and didn't seem to care that he was a super cool dude with tattoos and I was a nerd with stupid hair who'd never walked anywhere holding a boy's hand before. Then Lucan told me what he had done in his Advanced Calculus tutorial today and the homework that had been assigned and I forgot all about everything else until he mentioned the equation B equals T x N.





"The T and the N are called the osculating plane," Lucan remarked, his voice deepening. "And that literally means the 'kissing' plane."





"I know that," I murmured, heating up as my molecules shifted in the endothermic direction. "I read it in 'Applied Vector Analysis'."





Lucan held the door to Grabba Jabba open for me. "At least now I have an excuse to study the osculating plane with you. We wouldn't want Katrina to catch on because you don't have enough practice kissing now would we?"





My face boiled in hot blood. I felt much more shy than I had with Rafe because Rafe and I had just been practicing kissing while Lucan was talking about kissing me because he liked the Mathematical pleasure of my company. Plus Lucan was much older than I was and knew loads of wonderful things and he wanted to 'date' me.





Over my protests, Lucan bought me a Blackberry Italian Soda and a haystack brownie. I supposed it was good that he'd paid because I only had a loonie and a dime in my pocket. He sat next to me in the booth and drank his black coffee while I talked about the density of a Lamina and the Maclaurin Series and the Area of a Surface of a Revolution and Simpson's Rule. He knew exactly what I was talking about and we had proper Calculus discussions and every now and then he'd touched my hair with coffee-cup warm fingers.





"You're my brain soulmate after Suril," I uttered breathlessly. "I mean you're no Dummy Variable, that's a birefringent crystal clear."





"Yeah, I've never been what you'd call a 'variable of integration' kinda guy," Lucan replied and laughed a kiss onto my cheek.





It felt like he had tattooed me with his mouth because I could feel his heat through about four layers of skin.


******


The Mean Value Theorem


The next morning was very disaccharide in nature as it was both Friday and T day. Hence I was laying on the carpet of the living room, drinking Tetley Tea and eating tartar sauce toast. Mostly I liked tartar sauce on my spaghetti but there were times in a person's life when the particles of a rigid body moved along paths which were equidistant from a fixed plane.





"That body is said to have undergone planar motion," I intoned, cautiously sticking the tip of my tongue into my tea mug. "Ho equals r x mv that's a scorcher!"





Grandma, who was sitting in her favourite armchair and eating great, greasy strips of bacon and a lemon-filled doughnut, prodded her frog slipper into my side. "Can you keep that fucking math jazz on the down low? I'm trying to relate a story here."





"Sorry, it just slipped out," I admitted and went back to creating the Single-Replacement Reaction...Fe plus CuSO4(aq) ---- FeSO4(aq) plus Cu...out of the four pieces of toast I had on my plate.





It was six-thirty in the morning and Suril had crutched over once again. He was currently sprawled out on the sofa, his bad ankle propped up on bunch of pillows, eating a strawberry sprinkled doughnut. It just didn't seem right for him to participate in any of the Letter Days when he was banged up and on the mend, especially since Mrs. Shah kept making him all his favourite things to eat. So I was solving for T all alone.





I hadn't had the chance to talk to Suril last night since Grandma and I had gone out for Japanese food after she'd picked me up from Grabba Jabba and we'd returned home late. I'd spent the rest of my night getting a head start on studying for exams and forcing myself to take notes on The Edible Woman. Then I'd finally finished off 'Applied Vector Analysis' and the ending was so satisfactory and so cooltastic that, overcome with the more delicate of emotions, I'd ended up sobbing into my pillow for seven minutes and thirty-eight seconds.





The very last equation of the book had read: 21) Using Maxwell's equations in a vacuum, obtain an equation in the form of a conservation law for the rate of change of the energy w equals B squared /2 plus E squared /2c squared of an electromagnetic wave.





Could a more tear-inducing, heart-heating, perfect ending have been written...ever? I could just reread it (over)444 again. I couldn't wait for Suril to plough through it so that we could discuss it in depth and work on the equations together. My favourite chapter had been 'Line, Surface and Volume Integrals' but if I knew Suril like I thought I did, then I'd venture that his favourite chapter would be 'The Del Operator'. I was just jumping out of my epidermis to find out whether I was right or not.





"So that Myron character was real hot to trot and but Fuck-Bots '99 could he ever yodel," Grandma went on, licking bacon grease off her fingers. "Apparently getting a tattoo on your chest is real painful and he could only sit through it for forty minutes. Good thing for him I found his yellings kinda kinky."





"Well I always thought that you were just wasting your time with that Mr. Yakama anyway," Suril remarked, dunking a piece of doughnut into his milk. "A vegetable crisper I ask? Come on now. Who'd haunt a frigging vegetable crisper unless you were one of those granola-fucking New Age vegan hippies? Maybe if Mr. Yakama's wife was haunting his bedside condoms...but I mean please. How fucking dipshit do we look?"





"Well say Mrs. Yakama's worried about the lack of vegetables in Mr. Yakama's diet," I proposed. "Maybe she thinks he should stop eating so much strawberry Pocky and fried Mars bars."





"Oh batshit," Suril scoffed, lick strawberry goo off his upper lip. "Grandma, you can do way better, trust me."





Grandma's scrawny chest puffed out. "Fuck yeah I can. Did you know Myron said I had 'artfully florid' hair? I'm thinking that means he wants to bone me."





Suril whooped and him and Grandma thunked their half-life doughnuts together in an expression of high camaraderie.





"I'm not the only one around here who got a little action of the penis variety last night," Grandma announced slyly.





"Lucan said that he's interested in me and that I'm cute because I have a passion for Math and I'm as brilliant as any Professor he's ever met and he wants to date me," I told Suril, popping the Cu toast into my mouth.





Suril dropped his doughnut onto his lap. "Holy fucking shitcakes!"





"Yeah and here's the real pelvis-punter," Grandma piped up, chortling. "Janie thought he was talking about Carbon-14 dating!"





Suril burst into laughter and Grandma joined in, slapping her thigh with half a strip of bacon.





"Well I didn't think he was going to use Carbon-14 dating on me, I don't need dating." I lapped at my tea. It was bitter and boring because it didn't have any M&Ms in it. "I thought he wanted to do Half-Life or Rates of Decay problems with me."





Suril and Grandma exchanged glances and hooted uproariously.





Since I didn't want to be left out of this comedic tableau, I got into the action by telling a joke. "A Geometer went to the beach and came back a tan-gent," I cried and laughed so hard that I sneezed on my toast. It looked like there was tartar sauce on the outside of the CuSO4 molecule now.





"Didn't I tell you this Lucan guy was interested in you?" Suril gasped, trying to catch his breath. "For fuck sakes, he said he digs girls who can derive over a big rack! How can you not get what he's talking about? I swear Jane, you're thicker than Mom's mulligatawny soup."





"You're just in a constant state of jealously because I finished 'Applied Vector Analysis' last night while you're still stuck reading 'Advanced Engineering Mathematics' like some a drooling chump," I bragged, wiping sneeze off my toast.





"Shit you're done already? How'd it end? No wait, don't me. Okay, yeah tell me. Oh Christ, what a dilemma. Was it totally awesome?"





"I cried for seven minutes and thirty-eight seconds," I admitted nostalgically. "My cardiovascular system was glowing the characteristic pale green light of Barium atoms absorbing energy."





"Satan's shit logs, would you two Nerdy McDorks give it a damn rest?" Grandma rolled her eyes as she selected a chocolate-glazed doughnut from the Tim Horton's box. "We're supposed to be talking about how hot guys wanna bone us, not about snooze-fest, boring-arse textbooks. What does it take to get some normal teenagers around here anyway?"





"I said to Reiko that I thought Myron liked you and she said that she was feeling that vibe too," I told Grandma, licking at the surface of my tea.





"He's going back for another sitting tonight at five and he wants me there with him," Grandma boasted. "Said he'd like something pretty to look at. Well I ain't nothing if not pretty. Plus I can get Lucan to design something up for me. His artwork was pure wicked, wasn't it Janie?"





"Yeah it really was." I blushed the bright red of Mr. Barker's pen marking all of my Chemistry tests and assignments one hundred percent correct. "He said he'd tattoo that Math Limerick on my stomach so that he'd have an excuse to see me with no top on."





"Fucksticks, our baby's growing up," Suril cried excitedly. "Look at her, attracting hot studs and shit! Jane, you're cooler than equations of Viscous Damped Forced Vibration!"





"I know, isn't this fabtastic to the extreme?" Grandma beamed fondly at me. "I'm finally getting a normal granddaughter...kinda. It's just too bad she never kissed that Rafe yesterday but-"





"Katrina was skulking around school," I exclaimed, cringing my blood-enriched head into my mug.





"Ughs ahoy! That'd turn anyone off kissing, believe me," Suril said, faux gagging over the side of the sofa.





"But when I went to that Grabba Jabba place after I said chowder to Myron," Grandma went on as she licked bacon grease and doughnut glop off her plate, "what did I find but my idiot genius of a granddaughter snuggled all cosy in a booth with Lucan, who kept touching her hair – why we'll never know since it's such a damn shrubbery – and then when we were leaving he kissed Janie's cheek and told her to call him after the party."





"Maybe it's just an Italian thing," I said dubiously, my heart accelerating at the memory of Lucan's mouth on my face. "You know, like when you're in Quebec and everyone kisses everyone else on the cheek all the time? Maybe it's like that."





Suril and Grandma rolled their eyes at each other.





"But you know what else Lucan said?" I jammed my Fe toast into my face, spraying crumbs as I talked. "I told him why I hired Rafe because he wanted to know who'd given me a hooky and when I told him, he said that if Rafe couldn't beat the piss out of Conner then he'd do it and he'd tattoo 'cock-sucker' on Conner's forehead. For real he said that!"





"Oh ye Gods above why can't this dude be gay?" Suril lamented, starting on an Apple Spice doughnut. "Why are the hottest non-homophobes so fucking hot? Why are the fat, ugly guys always the bi-curious ones?"





"Because when lots of chicks reject those fuckos, they only got guys to turn to," Grandma said sagely. "After that it's just dogs and dogs'll do it with anything so long as Kibble-Chow's involved. Anyhow, I thought you said that that Paulo's kisses were like a handjob?"





"And that he was hung like a water buffalo," I added.





"Shit yeah and shit yeah. Paulo mmm." Suril took on a dreamy look, his gripings forgotten. "I wish he had a bunch of tattoos, how sexerrific would that be? He called me last night you know. God his accent... now that's a fucking handjob."





"Well it wasn't seeing man strippers together but it seems like all of us got some kinda action, somehow," Grandma said, a touch regretfully.





"So what'd he say?" I began bouncing excitedly and spilled a dribble of tea all down my front. I rubbed my boobs against the dark carpet since Edith Duggin never looked there. "Does he wanna go out with you again?"





"Yeah he totally does, he said he couldn't stop thinking about me! I told him I was sick though 'cause I don't want him to see me all busted up and shit." Suril smirked and managed to look sheepish at the same time. "So we had phone sex instead 'cause Mom and Dad were over at Dilip Uncle's house."





"Get the fuck!" Grandma shouted, her eyebrows shooting up to her purple hairline.





"Hey Suril." I began tittering uncontrollably at my own hilarious wittery. "I hope you used a condom!"





"No I just used lotion!"





We all guffawed our breakfasts out our noses.





"Least this way you know you ain't gonna pick up no weirdo STD," Grandma choked out, which set us off again.





Really, I didn't know why people didn't like getting up early in the mornings.





Since I had a free period first thing, I decided to walk to school. I made a T day provisions stop-off at Lawton's drug store and bought a big bag of Twizzlers liquorice, three Twix chocolate bars, a pack of Trident gum and a bottle of juice called Tropical Twist. That was some good T day fodder, I thought. I wanted to buy a box of Turtles too but I didn't have the $9.99 to spare.





I decided to liven up the bleary-eyed cashier with some fascinating Biological trivia. "A Deinopidae has three rows of eyes and is commonly known as an ogre spider," I announced, jiggling my eyebrows as I smushed my nose into my face.





The cashier dropped my change on the counter and didn't pick it up.





When I got to my locker nine minutes and fifteen seconds later, I found a note sitting on top of my Chemistry binder, written on a brand of loose leaf that I wasn't familiar with. I unfolded the suspicious missive and saw, to my great and pleasant surprise, that it was written in Pig Pen Code! With my heart pounding out the Angular Wave Number in excitement, I plopped down on the floor and quickly decoded the rows of dots and unclosed boxes. The note read:





Janie,





Are you surprised?





I'll be at your locker at lunch.





Love Rafe





I could tell that Rafe was very serious about being my friend since he'd written to me in Pig Pen Code.





Ecstatic and happily surprised too, I loaded up my schoolbag and shuffle-ran down to the library and into the nearest cubby desk. I knew that neither Conner nor Katrina would ever find me here, as to them reading revolved around Cosmopolitician and Penthouse respectively. I worked on a stupid Global History question sheet that was due next week and read the graffiti on the desk. Apparently if you called Ashley Walker, you could have a good time. And Joe Connley, if misspelled, green ink was to be believed, liked to take it up the poop chute.





I glanced around in a furtive manner, saw no librarians in the near vicinity and daringly wrote on the desk with my black Uniball pen, 'Conner McGregor is so stupid that he didn't know that a flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which vapours above a volatile combustible substance ignite in air when exposed to flame.'





I sniggered rebelliously into my Global History notes for fifteen minutes straight.





During the five minutes between second period and third period, I spotted Rafe and Katrina coming down the stairs from the English wing, engulfed by a vast, chattering crowd. Katrina was giggling up at Rafe, her cheeks the colour of Phenolphthalein and they were holding hands. Rafe saw me first and he waved to me, jerking his hand from Katrina's but then she saw me too so, in fear, I gave them my no-neck, constipated smile, yelled out, "I equals Ig plus md squared," and sprinted through the crowds at the speed of a travelling wave.





"X decreases with time," I panted, shoving my hair into my mouth so it wouldn't keep tickling inside my nose.





I realized I was in the parking lot when I tripped over a crumpled Mug Root Beer can, baffed my cranium on someone's rusty fender and then had to travel my wave to Physics class. It was a cooltastic and thermonuclear class because Miss Lighthill, the substitute teacher, was so impressed that I'd done every question in the textbook (she'd gone round the classroom checking people's homework and saw my endless pages of neatly drawn diagrams and solved equations) that we got to chatting like old 'college chums'. She told me all about her favourite course when she'd attended Mount A, Machine Dynamics, and I told her that I'd recently read Hibbeler's 'Engineering Mechanics – Dynamics' Tenth Edition and we reminisced and consoled each other on the loss of such a strenuously brilliant read.





By the time I left my Physics classroom, it was quarter after twelve. I meandered about slowly, peering around corners and up stairwells so that I wouldn't be subjected to any unfortunate run-ins with a diseased dick by the name of Conner McGregor. I found another note in my locker from Rafe, but this one wasn't written in Pig Pen Code.





Janie,





Didn't you get my first note? I'll be outside in the playground if you're not busy. Come find me, I've got no one to tell me Chemistry jokes.





Love Rafe





"It may not be Pig Pen Code but it's still chock full of friendly frequencies," I told a nearby couple who were busy eating each other's faces like it was a nutritional meal replacement.





They didn't reply.





I approached them and leaned in a bit to catch a close-up of the action. Was that what I looked like when Rafe had stuffed his tongue inside my mouth? I didn't remember being so...moany. And we certainly hadn't wiggled and pressed against each other like that. Or at least I didn't remember if we had...I'd have to ask Rafe for further details.





The guy suddenly wrenched away from the girl, a revolted look plastered upon his face. Too bad for the girl, she must not've been a very good kisser. "What the fuck?"





"Friendly frequencies my friend," I said breezily, feeling pleased with myself. Rafe obviously thought I was a nice kisser as he hadn't looked at me with revulsion yet. "Friendly frequencies."





Across from school was a big public playground, filled with swing sets and slides and jungle gyms and merry-go-rounds. Adjacent to the playground was a skatepark, made up of a huge, concrete bowl and big concrete slabs for skateboarders and rollerbladers to practice on, loaf around in and at night, smoke a lot of weed and grope their girlfriends/boyfriends. It was a popular place for students to eat their lunches and 'hang out' or so I'd heard...from Suril.





I did some fancy moves darting through the traffic and found Rafe sitting on top of the jungle gym pirate ship, his legs dangling off the edge, a rope net ladder beneath him. A blond boy wearing enormous purple skater pants and a yellow t-shirt that had Optimus Prime on it was sitting at Rafe's side, smoking.





I clambered through a red plastic tunnel, ducked through a low hallway while peeking out the round, glassless windows and jumped up some steep wooden stairs. I emerged on top of the vessel, tittering in high gleeosity, to both Rafe and Optimus Prime looking at me. "Hi Rafe and buddy! I never got to come on a real wooden jungle gym pirate ship before. There's even a genuine pirate flag over there! I'll bet it's made out of one hundred percent polyester fabric designed to withstand the harsh elements of this province."





"Yeah it is, Devon tried to eat it when he was high once." Optimus Prime was studying me. "So you're the infamous tutoring Jane huh?"





I flopped down on Rafe's other side, a variable confused. I didn't know what Optimus Prime meant by 'infamous' exactly so I just said, "Assuming that infamous is present on both sides of the equation, you can cancel to derive a more equidistant scalar, if you'll excuse the senseless verbosity of my final product."





Rafe started to snicker as Optimus Prime's mouth unhinged, his cigarette dangling from his lower lip. "What?"





"Assuming that infamous is present on both sides of the equation, you can cancel to-"





"Fuck, whatever you're smoking I want some," Optimus Prime interrupted, leaning across Rafe and blowing smoke into my cheekbone.





"She doesn't smoke dumbass," Rafe said, shoving Optimus Prime aside. "You're too much of a crackhead to get what she's talking about."





"Well what the fuck's she talking about then, genius?"





"My lungs are what you'd call Virgin a la The Mary," I quickly put in as it seemed that Optimus Prime and Rafe were on the verge of getting huffy with each other. I didn't like when people got into arguments around me, it made my ventricles sad. "Or at least that's what Bianca would call them. She said that may The Virgin Mary bless me with 'many robust sons' as she put it. I thought that was a real surprising way of thinking of things, seeing as how I didn't know you could ask that girl for stuff. I just thought it was, you know, Jesus and Vishnu mostly."





Rafe was grinning at me, seemingly not irritated any longer. I'd forgotten how stupendously blue his eyes were in the noon daylight. "Hi Janie."





"Hallo-ed be thy name," I intoned piously, keeping to the religious theme.





"I always go the Loki route before exams myself." Optimus Prime held out his hand. "Austin O'Leary. Rafe's been blabbing about you all morning long."





I did the hand-shaking drama. "Jane Hazelton. Of the 1540 Skylark Drive Hazeltons, if you'd recollect your late 80's settlement history."





"I'm a Global Geography man." Austin stood up and stepped out his cigarette before kicking the butt off the edge of the ship. "Dude, I'm taking off now dude, I see Hilary and Jess down there. Call my cell later, 'kay?"





"Yeah cool," Rafe said.





"Nice meeting you Jane." Austin looked down at me. "Say, maybe sometimes I can sit in with Rafe when you do Pre. Calc.? I'm doing shit this term and it's dragging down my average."





"When a pipe is open at both ends, only odd harmonics are present," I agreed, taking my lunch out of my schoolbag.





Rafe scooted closer to me as Austin left with a confused expression on his face. I reflected to myself that that was what smoking did, made your face perplexed with wrinkles. "I told Austin that you're helping me break up with Katrina. He's been my best bud since primary so he'll make sure she finds us kissing tomorrow. But I didn't say anything about Suril or Conner; it's probably best if only you and me know about that."





"Well we all know that Newton's Third Law states that when two bodies interact, the forces on the bodies from each other are always equal in magnitude and opposite in direction." I stuck my face close to Rafe's adorable Irish chimney sweep's face and bestowed upon him my special 'I-got-another-one-hundred' beam. "You made my mouth form a happy parabola when you wrote me a note in Pig Pen Code. Only Suril's ever done that."





"What can I say, there's more to the internet than free porn." Rafe grinned back at me. "I didn't think you even got that note."





"It's because I got into a good chatting with Miss Lighthill, my substitute Physics teacher," I said, bouncing excitedly. "Time was a function of our chatting you see. Miss Lighthill's only twenty-seven and she did her undergrad at Mount A and her favourite course ever is Machine Dynamics and she recommended a great list of some outside readings to me, wanna hear them?"





Rafe leaned back on his elbows. His cheeks were all freckly and sweet and I, a little bit, wanted to touch them with my tongue to see if they tasted like cinnamon but it wasn't C day and I didn't think freckles could taste like thyme. "Sure."





"Okay check-out counter this electromagnetic line-up," I cried as I began peeling a tangerine. "First there's 'Mechanisms and the Dynamics of Machinery'. Then there's 'Fluid Dynamics and Dynamos in Astrophysics and Geophysics' followed by 'Kinematics, Dynamics and Design of Machinery', which I was planning on ordering anyway and then finally, 'Molecular Thermodynamics of Fluid-Phase Equilibria'. That should get me to Halloween at least and boy gravy I just can't wait!"





"Christ you're so much cooler than Katrina." Rafe watched me eat long strands of tangerine fibres as he opened his bottle of blue Power-Aid. It was the same colour as his eyes. "Lemme guess, today's O day."





I pulled out a hoity British accent while making a moustache out of tangerine peels for effect. "Oh Thomson's plum pudding atom. 'Tis a tangerine old chap, a tangerine by the Queen Mum's naff knickers. Toodle pip and cheerio, I say."





"Right. Um...okay." Rafe closed his mouth and then opened it up again. He drank some Power-Aid.





"The day is Friday, so yes, consequently, it is also T day." I gunched my incisors into a tangerine slice and juice came slurping down my face. "Wanna piece, they're Mother Nature's nipples...or at least that's what the heating man Kenneth Slaunwhite says. I dunno what the actual tit area would be...a mountain?"





"It's hard to say." Rafe wiped juice off my chin with his finger and then skimmed upwards to trace at my wet bottom lip. His eyes narrowed as they dropped to my mouth. "I like watching you eat instead."





"How do you do always that?" I asked him breathlessly, feeling exactly like I did whenever I read about the Ideal Vapour-Compression Refrigeration Cycle.





Rafe's long lashes fluttered as he met my dung-hued gaze. "Do what?"





"Make my stomach feel like its full of sinusoidal waves." I blinked at him, my face frowning. "When you touch me, even for just a picosecond, you make my heart beat erratically. A cardiograph would be able to record my heart movements accurately and then you'd have a concise visual aid."





Rafe smirked at me. "Janie, that's what we call an attraction."





"The only attraction I know about is what happens on a molecular level." I finished off my tangerine and dumped the peelings into my lunch bag. "How would I know if my Ja molecules are attracted to your Ra...not to be confused with Radium...molecules? How would I know if I want to bond with you?"





Grinning, Rafe asked me, "Do you like me?"





"Yes, you're my second friend."





"Do you like hanging out with me?"





"Yes, especially when I can tutor you in all my favourite subjects."





"Do you want me to kiss you?"





I stopped shaking my Tropical Twist juice bottle and gasped. "Benedict's Test no!"





"No?" Rafe looked insulted...as though someone had told him that foraging ants didn't leave behind a trail of formic acid. "Why the hell not?"





"Because Katrina would hibernate her cuticles into my retinas all winter long." I took a good gulp of juice and spilled it down my front. "Shitcakes, the juice urinated on my boobular region." I sucked juice out of my zip-up sweater. It was mostly hairy with a splash of citrus.





Snickering, Rafe softly tugged my hair so that I'd look at him. "Say we were back at my house and Katrina wasn't around. Would you want me to kiss you then?"





"If we were done all our homework," I shyly admitted. "We still have to practice for the party tomorrow, remember?"





"Forget about Katrina," Rafe bit out impatiently. "Say this is after we break up. What about then?"





"Well that seems kinda like solving an equation that has no real solution," I said, confused but not because I was a smoker of the cigarettes. "Sure we could do it but what's the point if Katrina's already dumped you?"





Rafe stared at me for a long time. I supposed he was trying to think of a situation where an equation had no real solution so I decided to help him out.





"When the discriminate is a negative then there's no real solution or an x-intercept," I advised, unwrapping my Twix chocolate bar. "You know the discriminate right? It's what's under the square root in the Quadratic Formula. Twix?"





Rafe took the chocolate from me. "I don't know how you can be so fucking brilliant and so fucking dense at the same time."





"Suril said I'm thicker than his Mom's mulligatawny soup." I stared down at my chocolate, feeling a little bit hurt. "I can't help it if I don't understand all this attraction, bonding, kissing hoopla. No one except Lucan has ever wanted to date me before so what can I do?"





"Wha-" Rafe choked on his chocolate as his face turned raw meat red.





I grabbed his Power-Aid, pulled the stopper and shoved it into his coughing face. "Be a strong bamboo in the face of the winds of adversity," I cried, putting my arm around his shoulder. It didn't make it all the way so I had to scoot really close. I hugged him tight, worried. "r: V equals (4/3)(Pi r cubed)!"





"What the fuck?" Rafe roughly jerked away from me. He wasn't coughing anymore but his cheeks were still sirloin scarlet.





"It's the Volume of a Sphere of a Radius," I answered with enlarged, homogeneous solid sphere eyes.





"When the hell did Lucan say he wanted to date you?"





"Last night, when we were going to Grabba Jabba after his work was done." I blushed into my juice bottle. "Apparently he wasn't talking about Carbon-14 dating or Half-Life and Rates of Decay problems either."





"Well isn't that fucking equidistant," Rafe sneered, his eyes dark and furious. "What'd he do, make you all fucking hot with Calculus equations?"





"I wasn't hot, it was a bit chilly by the waterfront actually." I gnawed on my upper lip apprehensively. It seemed to me that Rafe was angry about something and I was scared that he was going to start shouting at me. "Lucan did show me some equations similar to what students in his tutorials were doing but mostly we just had discussions."





"That asshole," Rafe snapped, making me flinch. "I can't believe...after I goddamn told him...did he kiss you?"





"On the cheek," I whispered, shrinking against the side of the jungle gym pirate ship.





Rafe looked away from me, his face tight. "Are you attracted to him?"





I couldn't tell why Rafe was so upset with me but it was making me feel sick inside my blood stream, like I was about to take an exam after lunch only this time I didn't feel any excitement mixed in with my sickness. I stared down at a Daddy pushing his little daughter on the swings and I couldn't remember my Dad ever doing anything like that with me. I felt very by myself then, even though Rafe was sitting beside me.





"Before I met you, no boy ever thought I was cute or wanted to kiss me or date me or do anything except copy my homework. I don't know how to answer all the questions you keep asking me because the only boy I know is Suril and he's gay and I don't know why you're so mad at me but I'm sorry for whatever I did." My lower lip began to tremble uncontrollably. "It makes my heart feel sad when people get mad at me."





There was a silence as I drew ellipses on my Twix chocolate bar, not feeling too hungry at all.





"Fucking Christ." Rafe muttered something in Italian under his breath and raked a hand through his hair. "Shit Janie, I'm being such an asshole. I'm so sorry...God your eyes...you shouldn't be the one apologizing to me." He carefully took my hand, like I was H. G. Grassmann's original copy of 'The Calculus of Extensions' and wove his warm fingers through my cold ones. "Look at me?"





Hesitantly, I looked up into his Power-Aid blue eyes. They were also the same colour as Mr. Yakama's Honda Civic.





"I'm the one who needs to apologize to you," he said so gently that it didn't seem like he'd been sneering at me seconds before. "I know we haven't known each other for very long and I don't normally act this way but it's like you're doing something to me and I can't help getting all-"





"Sweetie bunches of oats!"





I jerked my hand at such a high linear speed that my particles must've been metres away from the axis, hence the enormous circumference.





From behind us we could hear the click of heels scaling up the wooden steps.





Rafe muttered crossly in Italian again as I scooted as far away from him as possible.





Katrina appeared at the other end of the jungle gym pirate ship, her long, auburn hair shining in the sunlight. She was wearing very tight, black Capri pants, a too-small black tank top underneath a little red and black zip-up hoodie that revealed a lot of her flat, pierced stomach and metallic round-toe heels.





"Baby, you need to get a new cell," she cried, stalking over with a lot of wiggly hip action. "I've been looking all over for you huggy wuggy bear!"





"Yeah sorry," Rafe mumbled, watching me shove my lunch into my bag. "Jane are you leaving? We still have tons more Chemistry to work on. I've got that test on Monday, remember?"





Katrina manoeuvred her way onto Rafe's lap. "Boy, I'll teach you Chemistry," she cooed into his ear.





Rafe was looking up at me in a way that told me there were multiple roots to the problem but I couldn't read any of them. For some unfathomable The Edible Woman-like reason, I was feeling like I had when I'd goofed up that Hess's Law question. "At a given temperature the solubility of a gas in a liquid is directly proportional to the pressure of the gas above the liquid," I mumbled and hurried away to Katrina loudly telling Rafe was a dorkshow I was.





Even spouting off old Henry's Law didn't make me feel any better, which was something of a shock because Henry's Law had never failed to make me feel happy. Was something wrong me? Was it the lack of sustenance in my diet today? The painters certainly weren't in, as the British would say.





I had to giggle as I walked past a group of chattering girls sitting on top of the monkey bars. "It's just such a funny slang of saying that menstruation is occurring," I told them and giggled on.





It took me the rest of the lunch hour to figure out why Rafe had been angry with me. The conclusion I eventually arrived at was of such an obvious nature that I felt as dumb as though I'd forgotten the Critical Point Properties of Dichlorodifluoromethane.





Rafe just wanted someone better to date his brother. Lucan was a brilliant TA who was older and attractive and artistic afterall. I was just a high school student who was too young for him, too stupid-looking and could only draw a straight line with the aid of my graphing calculator. It was only natural that Rafe would want a cooltastic girl for someone he cared about; I would too if I'd had an older brother.





Feeling pleased that I was no longer fooligating around in the dark, I decided to write Rafe a note. I ate some Twizzlers as I took out a clean piece of paper and a black Uniball pen. Chewing in a bovinesque fashion, I wrote:





Ra (not to be confused with Radium)





I'm writing to you very proper on a clean piece of paper because you didn't like it when I wrote to you on paper I found in the garbage can with eyeliner I found on the ground. I'm not using Pig Pen Code either, because you're only new to the art of it and it might take too long to decode. I'm sorry that I made you so mad that your freckles swam in your cheeks of blood. I'm sorry that you didn't want to look at me, it happens, Edith Duggin says that no one wants to see a person chew their hair and eat their wrist.





You don't have to worry anymore because I won't "go out" Lucan, I promise. It's easy to see that he's too clever and too cool for me and that you've only got his best interests inside your cardiovascular system. You don't have to apologize to me, I understand like I understand Analytic Geometry. It's nice having family to care about I think. I only went to Kismet last night because my Grandma wants a tattoo and Lucan said he'd design something for her.





Love Ja





P.S. Here's a funny Chemistry joke to make you laugh...Q: What do you get if you chop up Avodagro into 6.023 x 10 to the 23 pieces?





A: Guaca-MOLE!





(Hee hee)33333333333





Tittering, I jammed the note into Rafe's locker and headed off to class, my heart buoyant enough to warrant the equation Fb equals Mfg where Mf is the mass of the fluid that is displaced by the body.





My last class of the day was Honours Biology. We had a test the cellular level of things and since I was the first one done, I got to leave early, which was no surprise to anyone. What was asurprise though, was Rafe, sitting next to my locker and studying Chemistry.





I trundled up to him. "How come you're not in class?"





Rafe looked up at me and smiled. His eyes were very soft. "I skipped Art. How come you're not?"





"We had a test in Biology and I was the first one done." I worked the combination to my locker and opened it. "I didn't know you take Art."





"There's lots you don't know about me." Rafe put away his Chemistry binder and stood up. "I have a present for you."





I beamed up at him. "Are you gonna let me do one of your assignments? It's true, you won't learn much that way but maybe we can both do it and then that'll be double the fun!"





"It's better than an assignment." His lips quirked as he tucked a scraggly, well-chewed bit of my hair behind my ear. "It's my I'm-sorry gift to you."





"But didn't you get my note?" I frowned as I dragged my teeth along my wrist. "I said that you don't need to-"





"I got it and you were wrong," Rafe interrupted, smoothing the scrunch out of my forehead with his fingertips. My stomach lurched at the feel of him on me. "Close your eyes."





"This is quite the variable," I murmured, reluctantly obeying. "I feel kinda funny 'cause you can't exactly interchange Joule's First Law with his Second Law."





"I'll keep that in mind next time I...uh study that." He took my hands and slid something weighty and crinkly into them. "I'm sorry for being such a bastard to you. Hopefully this will make up for it. You can look now."





I looked now. I was holding a hardcover book hidden in a Chapters bag. "You weren't a bastard Rafe," I told him, opening the bag. My eyes widened as I pulled out a brand new, gleaming, thermonuclear copy of 'Fluid Dynamics and Dynamos in Astrophysics and Geophysics'.





"I asked your Physics sub. about the list she gave you and since I had a free after lunch I went downtown to Chapters and this was the only one they had in stock..."





"It's so beautiful," I breathed, staring down at the glossy grey and orange cover. I pulled my sleeves over my hands and wiped my fingerprints off of the shining cover. "It's even more beautiful than my copy of 'Discrete Signals and Systems with MATLAB'. Why would you do something like this? You didn't have to-"





"I know I didn't," he muttered gruffly. "I just...wanted to."





I glanced up from 'Fluid Dynamics and Dynamos in Astrophysics and Geophysics'. Rafe was shuffling his feet and looking both embarrassed and pleased. I carefully put my new book back into the bag, meticulously set it on top of my schoolbag and flung myself onto Rafe. He smelled like the theory behind a thousand Physics problems. "I like you more than I like reading about Uniform Circular Motion and Gravitation," I announced, and, with a stealthy glance around to make sure no Katrinas were skulking about, I smacked a loud kiss onto his soft, freckly cheek. It was better than pinching it, I thought.





Rafe blushed as he hugged me back. "So you wanna help me study for my Chem. test Monday?"





I nodded eagerly, bouncing in anticipation. "It's only T day and not my birthday today but you're giving me all the best presents anyway!"





We decided to go to my house to study because Rafe liked to steer clear of his house Friday nights. Apparently Rafe's Aunts and Great-Aunts and his Grandmother and girl-cousins all congregated at his house every week for a Ladies' Night. There was a lot of wine and a lot of food and a lot of drunken bitching and gossiping and fighting, according to Rafe. He told me that a bunch of loud, drunk Italian ladies wasn't a pretty sight and shuddered a lot. I figured that he didn't like these get-togethers because he probably got his cheek pinched a lot. He brought out a lot of maternal urges in woman, afterall.





I was a little bit sad when I realized that I had nothing to give to Rafe in return for his stupendously electromagnetic gift to me but he said that if I helped him get Katrina 'off his ass' as he put it, then he'd be in my debt forever. He also said that if he had to put up with another night of Katrina's clingy, Cosmo/Celebrity/fashion gossip-obsessed ways then he'd strangle her with the strap of her new Prada bag. I crossed myself and recited Malus's Law to ward off lingering tinkles of Katrinaphobia





While we were stuck behind a bus picking up a load of seniors, I tried to tell Rafe that I wouldn't date Lucan but he wouldn't let me finish. Instead, he told me that it was stupid of me to think that he would think I wasn't good enough for Lucan; mostly Rafe thought I was just too young for Lucan. While Rafe was saying all that, I had another epiphany; namely that Rafe's ego might've taken a fracturing because, afterall, once he was done with Katrina he wouldn't have a girlfriend any longer while Lucan seemed to be quite popular, womanly speaking. And hadn't Rafe said that Lucan had 'enough skanky chicks hounding after him?' Well as a teenaged boy with many rampant hormonal urges, I thought that it was a given that Rafe would feel a bit inferior. Hence his anger at me was justifiable as it was ego and hormonally driven.





I congratulated myself on this polarized venture into the field of Psychology and wriggled my upper lip into my scrunching nose.





To take his mind of Lucan and all the pretty skanks that wanted him, I said to Rafe, "Don't tell anyone this but I did a very bad thing today."





Looking interested, Rafe glanced over at me as he stopped at a red light. "Yeah?"





"It happened in the library this morning." I lowered my voice and glanced about, which was a sillier thing to do than calling the disturbances on the Moon 'earthquakes' because they weren't exactly occurring on the Earth now were they? "I feel that moonquakes is a much more suitable classification for the event in question, don't you?"





"Uh...what?"





"Well earthquakes have been known to occur on the moon but really they ought to be called moonquakes, I think." I pulled a strand of my hair straight and licked down it. "Did you know that the moon has such extreme temperatures so as to range from 100 degrees Celsius at noon to –173 degrees Celsius at night?"





"That's...yeah. Wow. Very extreme." The light turned green and Angelina merrily farted forward. "So is that the bad thing to you did today? White-out earthquake in some textbook and write in moonquake instead?"





"Eta Theta Iota no!" I sheepishly shoved wet hair off my cheek. "I guess my circular path proved to be more elliptical in nature."





A smile tugged on Rafe's lips. "It does look that way."





I leaned in close to Rafe. "I made some graffiti on the desk I was working at for the first time in my life," I whispered, feeling more ashamed than defiant at the moment. "I wrote 'Conner McGregor is so stupid that he didn't know that a flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which vapours above a volatile combustible substance ignite in air when exposed to flame'. I'm just hoping no one will ever find out; I wouldn't like to get expelled from school and lose all my scholarships and the chance to study at a Post-Secondary Institution of my choice."





Rafe laughed uproariously the entire drive home.


*****


Moment of Inertia


I inspected the front door of my house. It was slightly ajar. "Seems to me that Ivan Shestov does in fact know that the degree of a polynome is defined by the highest x."





Behind me, Rafe said, "What now?"





"Ivan Shestov likes to come to our house, mostly during the New Moon week and flush our toilets." I stepped inside and 'I-have-to-pee' danced out of my sandals. "Let's assume, if you will, that his behaviour B is a function of homesickness H. That makes B the independent variable. It takes him back to Russia, let's say, hence the H."





"Oh. Well...good thinking."





"Grandma won't be around today because she's got Kendo until four-thirty," I said as I hung Rafe's jacket up on the doorknob of the shoe closet. "Then she's going back to Kismet so that Myron has something pretty to look at and to get a tattoo design from Lucan. You'll get to meet her tomorrow; she says she can't wait to meet the dude who took away my 'kissing virginity' as she called it."





Rafe's eyes darkened as he decided that pressing me up against the wall was a good idea. His expression was cocky. "Yeah I did do that, didn't I?"





"Should I be struggling now?" I squirmed a bit and said experimentally, "Stop in the name of the Stefan-Boltzmann Law of Radiation."





Rafe burst into laughter. "We're gonna need to work on your delivery Janie," he said and kissed me briefly in an open-mouthed, electromagnetic kind of way.





"But I'm not pregnant," I replied after few moments, my innards squirming like the speed of a longitudinal wave as I guffawed my own weight in stones to the living room.





"What're you giggling at?" Suril was sitting in Grandma's armchair and reading my copy of 'Applied Vector Analysis'. "You better have homework for me 'cause I'm fucking..." He abruptly trailed off when he caught sight of Rafe and flushed as much as his golden skin would allow.





Rafe showed no outward signs of noticing Suril's bruised face, split lip and wrapped ankle that peeked out from the bottom of his cargos. "Hey man, how's it going?"





Suril shrugged and from the way he was shifting and straightening up, I could tell that he was a bit embarrassed. No one knew he was gay except for me and Grandma. And Paulo too, I supposed, but he didn't exactly count. "I'm not gonna be getting an modelling offers any time soon but for the most part I'm doing okay."





"You'll always be able to find work in porn," I said soothingly, perching on the side of Suril's armchair. I patted his hand in a reassuring manner. "I hear some people like to see it get rough and you're already half way to Snell's Law."





Rafe's dark blue eyes expanded until I could've graphed them via the equation r equals sin theta. "Christ Jane, that's offensive!"





Suril chuckled into 'Applied Vector Analysis', looking uncomfortable because it was Rafe and amused because it was Rafe. "Well you know, us ethnics are always in."





"Just make sure everyone's wearing a condom," I advised, rubbing my bicuspids all over my index knuckle. I tasted like graphite mechanical pencil and house keys. "Because you wouldn't wanna get Chlamydia in your throat or boils up you bum."





Rafe's face was so 'appalled Irish shoe-shiner' that Suril and I had to hoot ourselves back to grade nine Academic Math.





"Oh Implicit Differentiation," I wheezed, bolting up. "I gotta take a dump guys."





"See, you can have heaps more racy fun with Jane than you can have with Katrina," Suril told Rafe, grinning sheepishly.





I hugged Suril hard because I loved him more than I loved Geometric Optics. "Especially once we factor my graphing calculator into the equation!"





I hopscotched out of the living room, fondly thinking about Gradient Field, my latest and most beloved TI-89 Titanium graphing calculator. In the background, I half heard Rafe say something about not being able to believe that I hadn't gotten his sexy teacher dream, which I thought was the very Vertex of stupid. What did he think, that I was going to get his dreams via osmosis? Was I satellite enough to be receiving the signals of his dream life? The only sexy teacher dream I'd ever like to get would involve my Pre. Calculus teacher Mr. Khan, Gradient Field, and a heap of integrals but of course that was (taboo)22222222 because Mr. Khan was a happily married man and I was happily studying student.





"I remember the first equation I ever graphed on you, Gradient Field," I remarked reminiscently, transferring my love for Mr. Khan to Gradient Field. "It's was 8x equals 16 – y2. The Vertex was (2,0) the Focus was (0,0) and the Directrix was x equals 4. I remember it like it was only twenty years ago."





I got down to business in the washroom while quickly perusing my old grade eleven Addison-Wesley Chemistry textbook, which I'd always thought made some fine reading fodder whilst foofing. After skimming a few familiar pages on Neutralizations and Salts, I took a good look at myself in the mirror while I washed my hands to see what all the hype was about. I thought that it was about as obvious as a higher frequency equalling a smaller wavelength that Lucan wanted to date me because of my abundantly fertile cerebrum. Katrina, I wasn't.





I had a bony, splotchy face reminiscent of a shoe, Uniball ink on the side of my crooked nose, two small pimples on my left cheek, buggy eyes that resembled what I'd just done in the can and junky hair that had been dirty blond when I'd been very small but was now cafeteria-style pallid gravy drizzled over the poutine of my face.





"It's a good thing no one cares how Chemical Engineers look like," I said and moonwalked to the kitchen to fix up some snacks for my two friends. It was nice having two friends, just like it was nice having two copies of 'Advances in Organometallic Chemistry', not that I would ever stop reading Suril if his bindings came loose and I spilled veggie hamburger on him.





I poured some Coke into two glasses and put the kettle on for round two of Tetley Tea. I could hear Suril and Rafe laughing in the living room. That made me happy because it meant that Rafe really was okay with Suril being gay and Suril was comfortable with Rafe knowing about it.





"Oh ja Ulsef, oh ja," I uttered in my best German accent. I poured some ginger molasses cookies that Grandma had won off of Agnes Wilbraham onto a plate and then garnished them with a few giant cupcakes I found sitting on the table.





I heard Rafe say indignantly from the living room, "She never told me that."





Suril replied, "That's because her scientifically super-saturated brain can't understand…"





I stopped listening when I saw that Grandma, in the true tradition of T day, had left me a bakery box full of toffee tarts, a container of tzatziki, two tomatoes and a pack of Trident gum on the counter. Pleased, I stuck some of the tarts on a plate and took it, along with the cookie cupcake plate to the living room.





"...kissing him never even occurred to her," Suril was saying as I made my grand entrance. "Hi Jane."





"I regally incline my head," I replied, regally inclining my head. I set my plate down on the coffee table. "I got the cookies Grandma won from Food Poker the other night and some cupcakes from I dunno where."





"I brought them over," Suril said. "They're a thank-you gift for the thoughtful, um...science magazines you and Grandma bought me."





I beamed as I offered cookies and cupcakes to Rafe. "It was highly Biological wasn't it? That faux-Paulo fellow had the most dicktastic region I ever saw."





Rafe sputtered and choked on a bit of his cupcake. Suril nudged me with his crutch and gave me a look that said the derivative of the bottom minus the derivative of the top all divided by the bottom squared.





I held out the plate to Suril. "You wanna use the Quotient Rule on that faux-Paulo?"





"That's my 'shut-up' look Community College head, not my 'I-wanna-Quotient-Rule-that-guy' look," Suril said exasperatedly.





I flopped down onto the sofa next to Rafe and sulked. "I'm not a Community College head, that's mean."





"Well you did mess up that Hess's Law question," Rafe suddenly spoke up, his lips twitching. "Even I know how to do that noise now."





Suril burst out laughing. "That's inspired I say!"





I gave Rafe a hurt look. "Ehtu chump from that boring old play?"





Rafe ran a hand through his hair. "How come you never bothered to tell me that Lucan said to call him if I didn't wanna date you?"





I gave that a spot o' thought while Suril continued to hoot Thioacetamide out his ears. "That is to me what mackerel-slapping in Uzbekistan is to me."





Rafe blinked at me and then looked at Suril.





"Something she's never thought about before," Suril gasped, attempting to gain control of his faculties.





I licked at the split-ends in my bangs. "Don't worry, Lucan only told me to call him after the party so that you wouldn't get your panties into a jealous bunch."





Rafe gaped at me, seemingly too outraged to even do long division, while Suril snorted up into laughter again.





"It's not like we have to fornicate or some such unknown variable, just because Lucan's got the wrong idea of things." I tsked around a mouthful of hairdo. "See, being a TA of Advanced Calculus and Partial Differential Equations doesn't automatically denote that one is also of an Omnipotent variety." The kettle whistled numbers in the Mach range so I vaulted off the sofa. "Oh yeah, I have Coke in glasses too."





Behind me, Rafe huffed, "Panties?!"





"Fornicate!" Suril hooted.





"Oh the fraaa-gility of the male ego," I lamented in my best South Indian accent.





I made my tea in a leisurely fashion with extended pinky for hoity-toity's sake, loaded up that nonsense, along with the Cokes, onto a tray that I'd gotten at a Garbage Sale for two pennies and the gum I'd been chewing and pranced back into the living room like I was from Meticulous Maids.





"...genius but fucking dense," Rafe was saying around a mouthful of blue icing.





"Density is a scalar property," I told Rafe as I thrust my drink tray at him. "p equals m/v where density is represented by the Greek letter Rho."





"Thanks Janie, my life is now complete," Rafe muttered, taking a glass of Coke.





I smiled in a polite manner, turned my wares to Suril and stage-whispered, "Seems the lad's got an aversion to density."





Suril tipped his glass in Rafe's direction. He appeared to be amused for some reason. "Seems more like frustration to me."





"I don't have any feelings towards density," Rafe said loudly, sounding an English trifle irritable. Suril's massive cupcake must not've agreed with him. "Why the hell would I? And I'm not a frigging lad either!"





I took my tea mug and foomphed down next to Rafe. "Don't worry your pretty freckles off Rafe, I'll transform you from Science Dud to Science Stud just in time for January exams."





"Now that's a movie concept." Beaming approvingly, Suril gave me a high five. "Real, what you do call it, alliterative or some crap. Who wants to see another dorky loser turns popular hottie story? I say we need more Science Dud to Stud love."





"Or how about Jock to Mach...number?" I tittered at my own sense of witty poetry and blew at my tea mug.





"And Mr. Holtz has the nerve to say that your poetry is stilted and underdeveloped," Suril scoffed, taking another cookie. "His undies are undeveloped if you asked me."





"Some of us actually like dorky losers," Rafe said, smiling at me. His eyes were ginger molasses cookies soft as they analysed my features. "It'd be sad if they changed."





"Not to mention that no one gives a precipitate how Chemical Engineers look," I added, setting down my tea mug on the coffee table. I beamed Alizarin Yellow at Rafe. "Guess what? I'm gonna show Suril the present you bought me today; I forgot all about it and I just don't know how, it was so fabtastic!"





Suril's eyebrows shot upwards. "You got Jane a present? What for?"





Rafe blushed the vivid colour of Cu ions reacting with a solution of K4Fe(CN)6. "I was an ass about Lucan wanting to date her," he mumbled into his Coke glass.





"You could've just said 'sorry but I can't balance this Redox Equation'." I pulled out the Chapters bag from my schoolbag. My heart rose in volume as I peeked into it. "Rafe it's so beautiful, (thank you)3."





"What is it?" Suril was wiping his fingers on his jeans and looking like he did whenever he was about to tackle a Free-Body Diagram Dynamics problem. "I won't get fingerprints all over it, I promise."





I handed it over with great care, half terrified I'd drop it. "We had a substitute in Physics and I got to talking with her and her favourite undergrad course ever was Machine Dynamics and she recommended a-"





"'Fluid Dynamics and Dynamos in Astrophysics and Geophysics'?" Suril gaped at the grey and orange cover and then gaped at Rafe. "You bought Jane 'Fluid Dynamics and Dynamos in Astrophysics and Geophysics'?"





Rafe was still blushing. If you squinted and imagined a bit you could make purple out of his eyes and face combined. "So what?" he demanded defiantly. "It's my way of apologizing to her. Or do you have a problem with that?"





"A density problem?" I asked into Rafe's ear and snorted up (among other things) a mouthful of giggles.





Suril was silent for a moment, ignoring my blatant hilarity I was a bit hurt to note, before blurting out, "If you hurt her then I'll be forced to do something...gay to you."





I got a surprise as I was migrating my dripping nose into my house keys because Rafe decided to slide his arm around my shoulder and pull me close to him. He may have been blanching under his freckles but with his clotted cream complexion it was harder than a diamond to tell. "Fair enough."





With narrowed eyes, Suril scrutinized Rafe's arm around me while I went on to draw an Acetone molecule. Finally, he said, sounding a bit embarrassed, "I really appreciate what you're planning on doing tomorrow."





Rafe's fingers slid down my sweater sleeve and the bruises hidden beneath. "Now I've got my own reasons for doing it. McGregor's an asshole and he deserves whatever I do to him."





I showed my teeth up into Rafe's face. "You're the second friend I ever had."





"On that note I think I'll crutch outta here." Suril sniggered as he downed the rest of his Coke. "You guys probably still have a lot of things to practice."





"You don't have to leave yet," I said, stuffing my sodden keys back into my pocket. "We could tag-team up a la a linear, polar-"





"Okay man, catch you later," Rafe interrupted. "Don't you have homework to give him Janie?"





"You really don't want to stay?" I asked as I rounded up his homework from my schoolbag. "The last time we decided to prove Trig. Identities for fun was in the Mesolithic Era."





Suril snorted. "Do you really think I wanna sit here watching you two make out?"





"It's just practicing," I clarified, pulling at my lower lip. "Much in the same way one practices using Riemann Sums. Without practice, one won't end up dumped or won't understand that a definite integral is a limit of Riemann Sums."





"You got your work cut out for you," Suril said to Rafe, which was indeed a fact; I'd noted that the average student, typically, needed to work quite hard to maintain an average in the high 90's.





"Like I haven't noticed," Rafe muttered, sighing.





I gave him another cupcake and said, "The Angle of Reflection equals the Angle of Incidence," to make him feel better.





"Thanks again man," Suril said as I helped him stand up and get his crutches sorted out. "Good luck with tomorrow."





"Like I need luck to take down that fucker," Rafe said disdainfully. "I'm Italian…and don't even say it Janie."





"I wasn't going to say that you're more Irish chappie than Italian stallion," I said, following Suril out of the living room as Rafe muttered under his breath in Italian behind me.





"He likes you, you know," Suril said softly as I knelt down to help his get his one sneaker on. "The way he looks at you is all mushy. Kinda like Mom's oven-cooked ringra."





I looked up at Suril and we both sniggered. Ringa meant eggplant in Gujarati and there was always hilarity to be had when someone mentioned a ringra. It reminded me of a hula hoop and, on occasion, the structure of a Constitutional Isomer of Cyclohexane.





"Maybe Agnes Wilbraham's cookies are disrupting his bowels," I suggested, tittering into my sleeve. Which turned out to be a wise decision because I got mucus all over it from snorting. I wiped my sleeve on the bottom of my sandal, which was a tribute to the Earth dirt anyhow and then took my sweater off, careful to keep Suril from seeing my bruised arm.





He prodded his left crutch into my leg. "Was I or was I not right about Lucan liking you?"





"All you said was that he might want to kiss me because I'm smart, sweet, funny and cute. You never said anything about him wanting to date me."





"Well why would you wanna date someone if you didn't like them?"





I thought that made some sense.





Suril smirked as we left the house and walked/crutched down the front steps. "QED, dumbo. Just listen to what Rafe has to say with an open mind okay? It's not everyday that nerds like us can catch a ripped stud like Rafe Moretti."





I did a head shake and hopped over a linear marchathon of ants. "Sometimes I just don't know from where your outlandish theories procreate."





I walked Suril across the street and handed over his homework to Mr. Shah, who was on his hands and knees, examining his lawn at eye level with Suril's fossil of a magnifying glass.





"If it wasn't so much sunny than I could use the torch," Mr. Shah said, squinting.





There was a bit of a rumpus when he realized that he'd been frying an ant with the magnifying glass.





"Aray bapray what am I doing? Suril bring out the hosiery!"





Suril and I sniggered.





Rafe was looking at the picture frames that sat on the mantel when I came back.





"So what's going on here exactly?"





I peered at the picture in question. "That's Halloween when I was in grade seven. Grandma's some transvestite from 'Rocky Horror' as she calls it and I'm a Dinitrogen Tetroxide molecule."





Rafe burst out laughing. "That explains a lot! You make one helluva cute molecule, you know that?"





I preened and beamed like Mr. Shah's 'torch'. "Well I did try to fart as much as I could because everyone knows that Oxides of Nitrogen are major air pollutants."





"That pretty...insightful of you." Rafe studied another picture, still laughing. This one was of my Mom and Dad, holding hands and beaming as they posed in front of their first car. "You look a lot like your Mom you know. You have her smile."





I lapped at my wrist. "I also have my Dad's poopy eyes."





"They're not that poopy." Rafe led me back to the sofa. "Come on, I wanna to talk to you."





"Rafe, I promise you that you'll get a one hundred on your Chemistry test." I took up my tea mug and had a sip. It was existing at a steady –23 degrees Celsius. "Or else int. sin x dx doesn't equal –cos x plus C."





"Uh huh." Rafe finished off his Coke and shifted so that he was facing me. His expression was serious. "I probably should've told you all this at school or in the car but I really just wanted to sit down with you in private and properly explain myself so that you'd understand. Plus I didn't wanna have to worry about Katrina popping up and interrupting me."





"Katrinaphobia is a rampant quandary plaguing the school environment," I agreed, helping myself to a toffee tart. "You want one?"





Rafe shook his head and shifted around some more. He was looking like he didn't know how to use the Spectrophotometric Method to determine the Equilibrium Constant of a coloured species in Equilibrium. "When you came up to me on Tuesday, I thought you were weird and gross and messed up and kinda cool for what you decided to do for Shah. You're honestly like no one I've ever met before. You're always saying all this random science stuff that I never understand and you're on a totally different plane of thought than the rest of us and you don't give a shit what anyone thinks about you and you're just so different from all the girls I hang out with and date. I know people who act all tough and say that they don't give a shit what everyone else thinks of them but on some level they really do. You really don't."





I swallowed a mouthful of toffee tart. "Well why would I? Grandma says that life is too short to fret about what every piddler and diddler farting around the plaza thinks."





"What I'm trying to say is like you," Rafe said softly, his spiky lashes fluttering as he scanned my face. "A lot. And not just because you're my tutor."





I licked at my hair and got flaky toffee all over it. "You said that I've become your friend remember? You said it in the hallway yesterday. I wouldn't be your friend if you didn't like me. I mean, you can't join the Alpha-Carboxyl group of one Amino Acid with the Alpha-Amino group of another without a Peptide Bond."





Rafe caught hold of my chin and tilted my face towards him. "Janie."





I blinked in his face. "Only Grandma calls me that."





He leaned closer to me, curving his fingers around the side of my face. "Do you want me to stop?"





"Negative cosecant squared x," I murmured, feeling as light-headed and tingle-infested as I had when I'd received a perfect score on the Canadian Mathematics Competition's Grade Eleven Hypatia Contest. "(d/dx) cot x equals."





"I was jealous," he whispered. He was so close to me that I could've graphed all his freckles into a scatter plot. "That's why I got pissed at you at lunch."





"I know. From a psychological standpoint, it's perfectly understandable."





Rafe let go of me, leaving behind the warm press of his fingers against my skin. He looked wary. "What is?"





"Your jealousy." I drank some more cold tea and goosebumps erupted all over my bare arms. I rubbed them against the back of the sofa to generate friction... "...where uk is the coefficient of kinetic friction."





"Janie focus."





I patted his arm with my tea mug. "It's really not as bad as you think. Sure Lucan might have a googolplex of 'skanky chicks hounding him' as you put it and all you have is Katrina with no girlfriend options after her but in time I'm sure that you'll have an equal, if not an exceeding, amount of skanky chicks hounding you too. You're a good enough looking fellow...certainly you're much more adorable and freckly than Lucan but he's got you beat in the tattoo and goatee division so I say it all ends in a Keq, if you catch my meaning."





Rafe stared at me, his In ion eyes wide and searching mine. "You actually think...Holy Christ, how's a genius like you come up with all these shitass theories?"





"My theories aren't shitass." Hurt, I drank my entire mug of tea and said around a mouthful of chattering molars, "I understand the Psychology of teenage boys better than you think. I'm not trying to hurt your feelings or be mean but since you-"





Rafe's warm hand covered my mouth and stuffed all my words back down into my larynx. His hand smelled like ginger molasses cookies. "How's this for a theory Ms. Einstein...I'm pissed, not because I think you're not good enough for Lucan but because I like you. I'm jealous, not because Lucan's got tons of skanks and I don't, but because I like you. My 'Ra molecules are attracted to your Ja molecules' as you put it and I like you. Not as a tutor or a friend or some chick who's gonna help me break up with Katrina but like a guy likes a girl...physically and sexually and mentally and...uh mathematically. Get it now Janie?" His palm was caressing my lips, his fingers gently stroking my cheek. "I want you and I'm jealous that Lucan does too."





I sneezed.





We stared at each other for a nanosecond.





"Oh Decarboxylation," I said, simultaneously moping Rafe's damp hand on my jeans and my nose on my tea mug. "Sorry so slushy."





"I'll live." Fortunately Rafe didn't seem angry, just an atom stunned. He took his hand from my wrist but still kept up with scrubbing it all over my jeans. "So? What do you think?"





Rafe was now wiping his hand on the inside of my leg. It didn't seem like he knew how to do it because he was wiping really softly and he was making me wiggly and tickly and how would he ever get proboscis paste off his hand in such a flimsy, caressing manner? "I think that's the weirdest thing I ever heard of."





Rafe's hand froze on my inner thigh.





"The weirdest thing," he repeated slowly.





"C equals 3R."





Phenol Red was creeping up onto his freckly face. "Some guy from Russia comes in to flush your toilet regularly, you got a Grandma who steals other people's porn, gives your gay best friend porn...which you look at, takes fucking Kendo lessons, is getting a tattoo from my brother, dresses up like a tranny on Halloween and what I said to you is weird? This coming from the girl who's always got bits of her body in her mouth, has Letter food days, rubs that stupid rock all over her joints, quotes the dumbest, most senseless proverbs I've ever heard, wrote to me with make-up on garbage in code...and you're saying that me liking you is the weirdest thing you've ever heard?"





"Yes."





Rafe gawked at me and then started to laugh so hysterically it was like someone had told him that it was possible for Cu(II) ions to dissolve in water.





I shrugged, said, "What the Folic Acid," and had a hysterical laugh too.





And then, I didn't catch how exactly, Rafe wasn't laughing anymore because his mouth had ended up mashed on top of mine. He kissed me in a way he hadn't before - roughly and urgently and so deeply that it felt as though he was lapping all down my esophagus. He pushed me into the sofa, his body engulfing mine. I clung to him. My heart throbbed with such an intensity that I was certain it was going to leave an imprint against his chest. His tongue slid over mine and around my teeth, marking me and then slipped out to curl over my gasping mouth. He nibbled at my lower lip and murmured incoherent things that left me squirming against him even though I couldn't make any sense of his words.





I supposed I didn't need to ask Rafe if we looked like that couple kissing at my locker had looked...we seemed to be just as wriggly and jammed up against each other as they had been.





It was a bit impressive, kinda.





Rafe's hands were at my waist, shoving my t-shirt up over my stomach as he licked over my jaw line and behind my ear. His breath splashed over my searing, itching skin and made my stomach react and smoulder like steel wool dipped in Cl gas.





"Aldehydes are...oxidized by molecular Oxygen and Hydrogen Peroxide," I choked out. I gasped as he scraped his incisors down my neck.





"Cut the science crap Janie," Rafe mumbled against my skin. His fingers were skimming all over my stomach, making me shake and shiver and I didn't know whether I was hot or cold or even how to find how much money you'd save in a RRSP account vs. a regular savings account. My system had been in Equilibrium and now Rafe was injecting heat and chills and force and pressure into me and I didn't know whether my molecules ought to be shifting to the right or the left or increasing or decreasing...and I'd always known these things! How could he do such strange psychological things to me? "We're studying Anatomy now and I'm gonna quiz you after this."





"I never studied...Anatomy like before," I managed to say, arching up against his body so that his fingers would end up compressed between us and stop moving. My heart couldn't take much more of this static otherwise it'd surely implode and Grandma would never be able to get the stains off the sofa; she'd always hated the Dry Cleaners. Something about a Korean guy, those gelatinous potato noodles and Grandpa's old seersucker suit.





Rafe raised his head and kissed me hard, his tongue thrusting against mine. "See this is how I like you," he growled, sliding his hands around me to grab my arse and pull me up hard against him.





"This is too psychological for me," I moaned, turning my scarlet face into the sofa cushion. I was trying not to squirm because Rafe was really against me and he was shifting and pressing and there was a volatile explosion happening inside my intestines much like K reacting with water. "I feel funny to the power of 8."





"God you smell good." He nuzzled the side of my neck, his spiky hair tickling my jaw. My eyes fell shut. "Sorta sexy."





"I take the bath every night." I wriggled in his groping hands, feeling hot and shivery and breathless. Centrifugal force was making my brain go elliptical. No one had ever touched me like this and made my body feel like it was too large for my epidermis. "Whether I need it or not."





"Mmmm." Rafe was nibbling his way across my collarbone. My fingers dug into his shoulders as he ground his body into mine. I gasped into the sofa cushions, feeling so much so thoroughly that I was supersaturated with it. "Tell me you aren't attracted to me now."





"I'm not attracted to you now," I forced out, my chest heaving hard against his.





"What?" My eyes snapped open at the sudden change in Rafe's voice. His eyes were the exact, dark colour of KmnO4 and they were all that I could see.





"You said to say it," I whispered hazily, unable to help myself from reaching up to touch his cheek. It was softer than his Mom's focaccia bread. "I think you're squashing my bronchial tubings because I'm not breathing too stellar."





Smirking, Rafe leaned down to kiss me again. He caught my lower lip between his teeth, tugging at it and making me make funny, breathy noises. He gave my tongue a good licking before pulling me up with him so that I was half sitting on his lap. "Better?"





"If you do that at the party then I'll die the death of seven veils." I touched my lips, still feeling Rafe's wet warmth. "I really forgot to struggle this time. I can't help it, you make my insides all squirmy and my brain cells shifty."





Rafe brushed tangles of hair from my overheated face. "Well? Once the party's over do you wanna go out with me? Be my girlfriend?"





Astonished, I jerked away from him with too much momentum – which I'd easily be able to further develop a la p equals mv – and fell off the sofa. "Girlfriend?" I squawked, horrified. "How do you mean girlfriend?"





Rafe frowned down at me with blood-infused lips. It seemed very equidistant that his mouth had just been evaluating all over mine instants ago. "Janie, I just told you how much I like you and then I made out with you and believe me, I wasn't thinking about the stupid party at all. How can you be surprised that I want you to be my girlfriend?"





"How could I give your blabbings the appropriate amount of thought when your tongue was busy graphing hyperbolic functions inside my mouth?" More heat was flooding onto my face at the thought of me being Rafe's girlfriend. The very idea of it seemed more outlandish than Dalton's assumption that gas particles are close together.





"Blabbings?" Rafe looked beyond offended. "I tell you how much I like you and you think I'm blabbing? Fuck, if you're not interested in me then say so."





"Well Suril told me that you ought to like a person before you date them but he never said anything about girlfriends and boyfriends." I crawled back onto the sofa. "However, if we crudely let A equals B and B equals C than A must, therefore equal C, understand? I should like you before I be your girlfriend and Katrina won't believe that because why would I be your girlfriend if I didn't want you to kiss me?"





Rafe narrowed his eyes. "Christ Janie, can't you gimme a straight answer? Why does every fucking thing have to come back to Katrina?"





I raked my incisors down my wrist "Because she wants to marry you and call your children Severn and Astra and she can be mean to me. She put ham in my sandwich once knowing that I don't eat meat."





"Who cares about Katrina? Yeah she's got a cruel streak, we know." Rafe's fingers curved around the back of my neck. He yanked me close to him so that only centimetres separated our faces. "Answers now, alright? Do you like me back? Would you wanna date me and be my girlfriend or this just a tutoring-practicing thing?"





I blushed the colour of a Br solution. I thought about how nice Rafe always made me feel about myself and how it would be if I got to see him every day and frequent his house and have him frequent mine and tutor him whenever I wanted to and have him kiss my mouth. I remembered how he'd bought me 'Fluid Dynamics and Dynamos in Astrophysics and Geophysics' and said I was brave and didn't mind too much that I'd accidentally sprayed strawberry strudel on him and sneezed in his hand. "Maybe."





He didn't let go of me. "Just maybe?"





"Maybe more than maybe," I shyly admitted, looking at the freckles on his nose. They were sweet. I thought Rafe was sweet. "But I'm very terrified of Katrina and I can't help that. I know you don't like hearing it but she puts my entire system in a state of paralysis. I have a highly resilient case of Katrinaphobia you know."





"Believe me, I know." He skimmed his knuckles down my cheek. "I'll make sure she stays away from you, okay? I'll figure something out before the party, I promise."





I sighed in relief. "Isoprene is emitted by plants in response to heat stress."





Rafe smirked and said, practically against my mouth, "So what do you emit in response to heat stress?"





"Sneezes," I said and tried not to giggle in his face. Things always got a bit soggy when I had a laugh.





"Lucky for me," he murmured and nipped at my bottom lip.





It was so nice when Rafe kissed me and did funny things to my tongue with his tongue that I nearly forgot, again, to struggle. But I was determined, as Katrina on my mind and the party was tomorrow. I jerked my head away after one quick lick of Rafe's tongue, cried, "By Einstein's Postulates of Special Relativity you mustn't!" and shoved at his chest while squirming, which was the normal kind of squirming and not the funny squirming against Rafe that made my stomach turn into fluttery piles of AlBr3.





Rafe had the utterly shocked expression of someone who'd just realized that yes, Acid Anhydrides do indeed react with Alcohols to give one mol of Ester and one mol of Carboxylic Acid. He hastily let go of me. "Did I hurt you?"





I curved my mouth at him. He was such an adorable, thoughtful chimney sweep. "I was practicing. I think I emoted pretty good, don't you? Next time maybe I can thump your shoulder some. Don't be scared, I never thumped anyone before."





Understanding smeared onto Rafe's clotted cream complexion. "Oh. Shit yeah, I forgot about that. I thought I bit your tongue without knowing it or something."





"I like kissing you but I can't show it," I said sagely, making parabolas on the inside of my hair with my tongue. "Such is the craft of a true thespian."





Rafe looked interested. "You like kissing me?"





"As much as I like evaluating integrals, yes."





"Well I've been told I'm a really hot kisser," Rafe bragged, pulling me close to him. "The ladies love me."





"Well I've been told that I'm a really hot tutor...in my imagination." I crossed my eyes up at Rafe for something different. "The equations love me. Hey, when are we going to study for your Chemistry test? There's some tinglings happening inside my fingers that tell me I need to be doing homework."





Rafe kissed my neck and made me feel squashy inside. "You sure that's what they're telling you?"





"What else could itchy-scratchy fingers mean?" I tried to catch my breath; Rafe kept stealing it away and converting it into CO2. "My flame for Chemistry burns the characteristic blue-green of Barium atoms absorbing energy."





Rafe did a licky thing behind my ear that made me shudder. "It's really hard to say no to you, you know that?"





"Chemistry ahoy!" Beaming and wheezing, I grabbed Rafe's schoolbag from the floor and thrust it into his chest. "Did you get to work on that Calorimetry worksheet yet?"





Rafe sighed as he dug out his binder. "I had trouble with that last Freon Refrigerator question."





I was highly impressed. "You did the rest of that sheet and got all the right answers?"





"Well I read over the notes you gave me and the book and I did what I could. How do you think I got rid of Katrina last night?"





"I knew you had it in you!" I patted the spiky top of his head because, in spite of having him all down my mouth, he still was a little fresh-faced Irish laddie. "By the molar mass of Ytterbium, this is the best news I've heard all day."





Rafe arched an eyebrow in surprise. "Really? I didn't think you were bothered."





"I hide my emotions well," I said as I pulled out my pencil case from my schoolbag. "If you hadn't done the assignment I certainly would've been a vector disappointed but it's not like the pain would've stretched into positive infinity. I would've found a way to carry on for example."





"...you're talking about homework?"





"Quark Flavour Strange," I agreed, frowning. "What Flavour are you? Charmed maybe?"





"Yeah, why not?" Rafe sighed some more and rubbed at his temple like he couldn't solve his Mechanism. "And here I was thinking that you might be jealous because Katrina was over last night."





"Why would I be jealous?" Didn't Rafe understand that an ideal fluid is incompressible and lacks viscosity, and its flow is steady and irrotational? "She's still your girlfriend. It's true, I don't got good boobs like hers but I manage okay, mostly because I'm not a La Senza bra model."





"Forget I said anything." Rafe flipped through his binder, his face carefully blank. "How about you show me how to do that stupid Freon question now? The answer I got wasn't anyway near the answer Mrs. Iverson gave us."





"Gladly my child, gladly!" I bounced eagerly as I skimmed the question and examined what Rafe had done. My hands were shaking in excitement; how I loved imparting the wisdom of Chemistry upon the common masses. I smiled at Rafe and held my mechanical pencil tightly so that I wouldn't pinch his adorable, chalky cheek. "You've set up your equation correctly; it says that Freon is going from 20 degrees to freezing, meaning that a phase change is occurring so you have to add the Heat of Fusion equation to your Q equals-"





"What about Lucan?" Rafe interrupted abruptly.





I picked at my gums with my mechanical pencil. "Well I'm sure that he'd agree with how you've set up-"





"He wants to date you, probably make you his girlfriend too." Rafe wasn't looking at me but rather was studying his Chemistry textbook intently. "What if he wants to kiss you like how I kiss you? Would you want him more than me?"





I blushed so hard that it felt as though a phase change was occurring on my face...20 degrees to boiling in a pekosecond. This all was very Science Fiction-esque, two nice looking fellows liking me within the span of a few days. And Rafe, if he was to be believe, was actually jealous because he wanted me. Oh sin theta equals v/vs. It was like being jealous because your older brother had a case of Gippy Tummy. Not that I was as exotic as Gippy Tummy but I was on par with jock itch at least.





Of course stranger things than a guy like Rafe deciding that he wanted a girl like me for a girlfriend had happened before, a Black Hole for example...which really was a kind of a strange and beautiful event; a star collapsing onto itself. "The Gravitational Force near a Black Hole is so strong that light can't even escape it."





"For fuck sakes Janie," Rafe ground out, exasperated.





"Oh Na sorry." With a face that was surely in early stages of vaporization...mHv Rafe would've been able to tell me since he now seemed to know what he was doing...I shifted a bit closer to Rafe. I did a very daring and bold thing, namely I took his hand in mine, which was still a bit shaky but that could've easily been calculated to being excited by Freon freezing. "You were nice to Suril today and didn't make him feel ashamed of himself. You're always nice to me too and I never feel like a nerdy loser when I'm with you. I like Lucan a lot because he understands all the things I say and because he's a TA and he's very wonderful and makes my brain go funny but I could never imagine kissing him...mostly because we never did that but I just like when you do it and I don't want to do it with anyone except you. You make my stomach go all funny and you're going to mash up Conner for me and Suril tomorrow because my arms are like Shredded Wheat and for that I'll like you for as long as the distance to the Andromeda Galaxy is...2.2 x 10 to the 22 metres away, in case you were wondering."





Rafe kissed me hard and made the inside of my mouth taste like his tongue.





"Now teach me some Chemistry woman," he growled against my lips and made me feel all wriggly again.





At the forward rate of all this wiggling action, I had to wonder if I'd been a Lubricus Terrestris at some point in one of my past lives.


*****


Translational Kinetic Energy





Sucking water from the ends of my shampoo-fresh, dripping hair, I looked into the foggy bathroom mirror and shouted, "Unhand me now you devilish fiend!" I grappled dramatically with my fluffy Rafe-towel, which was the same dark blue as his eyes, grunting and shoving, until one end of Rafe fell in the toilet.





"When you cheat on Katrina, you'll end up in water most murky," I said sagely, wringing toilet off of Rafe. I rubbed at my nostrils for further inspiration and adopted more of a high-pitched vocal range. "Disengage yourself from me now, fiendish devil! Disengage yourself from me now, devilish fiend. Hmmm..devilish fiend or fiendish devil? Aluminum or Aluminium? Comfortable or Comforchair?"





During our practicing yesterday afternoon, Rafe had told me that I should lose all the Science jibber jabber. He said that there'd be a good chance that Katrina wouldn't understand what I was yodelling about and might think that I was encouraging him. I thought that that was quite the reasonable concern since Katrina, as beautiful as she was, wasn't what anyone would deem the 'gifted' freebie one received upon purchasing fifty dollars worth of cosmetics at the Clinique counter.





The second last thing I wanted in my lifetime (the first being an eighty-nine average...and oh how that very notion made the noxious gases rumble inside my rectum) was for Katrina to think I was trying to steal her boyfriend...again. I hadn't forgotten how she'd written 'MR. DRISCOLL IS A FATSO DIARRHOEA BRAIN' on my Prime Minister election coverage project in black permanent marker so thick that it had leaked through about twelve of my thirty-one pages.





That had been in grade eight. Now I was in grade twelve and scholarships and university applications and Math Competitions and Chemistry Fairs were dependent upon my equidistant average and fertile mind. I couldn't risk Katrina's anger for all the kidney beans inside the Excretory system. She'd been mean to me for no reason in elementary and junior high and I got menstrual cramps just thinking about what she'd do if I actually gave her a reason to be mean.





I sat on the edge of the bath tub and put on my lucky red, padded La Senza cleavage-inducer. True I wasn't planning on inducing anyone with my boobular region, artificially-ample or otherwise, but I figured I couldn't go wrong (and hopefully Katrina couldn't go right) with a little extra dose of the old Lu2.





"They put a brassiere on a camel,





She wasn't dressed proper, you know.





They' put a brassiere on a camel,





So that her humps wouldn't show," I shrieked as I cha-chaed into my cords and felt a lot better inside my kidneys, speaking of.





Grandma had recited that poem to me on our first bra shopping trip together. The poem, along with Grandma's assertions that bras could be fun as long as you never bought 'wimpy white' or 'barfy beige', had been enough to make me forget about shrink-wrapping my zeroes and get back to graphing a few linear functions in the dressing room of The Bay. Unfortunately no amount of poetry had been able to make me appreciate monthly bloody undies, especially since Grandma was known to brag about the joys of menopause and burn boxes of tampons and maxi pads in our fireplace just to spite me.





I yanked on my t-shirt and went back to sucking shower out of my hair.





Before Rafe had left, he'd outlined his Conner-bashing itinerary to me. He was planning on waiting until very late, two or three in the morning when most of the people would be passed out in their own vomit, and then he was going to 'tear McGregor a new fucking shithole' as he so kinetically put it. He'd wanted to know if I wanted to hide and watch the entire thing go downtown.





"NO3 way," I muttered, shuddering as I gave my hair a rough rubbing with Rafe. It had gotten to the point where I could taste more water than shampoo and what was the good of that, if I could just drink a glass from the shower anytime I wanted?





I had always had a great dislike of violence. I hated seeing it on TV, I hated hearing about it school, I hated reading about it in the papers. Violence made me feel both sad and ill on a cellular level. My brain would understand that Conner deserved what was coming to him...and for a nasty, spoiled bully like him, violence was the only thing he'd understand...but my innards wouldn't. Still, I had the image of Suril's injured face graphed into my cranial tissue and I thought that I at least owned it to my very best friend in the world to duck in and poke one of Conner's broken legs.





My stomach lurched.





I burped to get that queasy feeling out of me and headed back to my room. I found it to be quite the Thermo plaza of central activity; Suril was laying on my bed rereading a favourite old okra called 'Hybrid and Incompatible Finite Element Methods', while Mrs. Shah and Grandma were taking turns using the binoculars to spy on Mrs. Buschi, the obnoxiously chirpy, two-faced Charge Nurse who lived across the street. Her son Quentin was in grade twelve also and he was the kind of insufferable pervert who'd set up cameras in the bathroom to catch his stepsisters in the shower and then sell the tapes to his equally perverted friends. Quentin worked at the Gap in the mall and had to wear some kind of a headset to sell jeans. Suril and I had a bet going on when he'd get fired for peeking at girls in the changing rooms. We'd both lost since we'd both bet a week and he was still going strong at three months.





"You know, when your jugs get to looking like that, they ain't jugs no more, they're udders," Grandma announced, handing over the binoculars to Mrs. Shah. "Ughs cubed, as the nerds say."





"Yes, it is very much chee! And why is she not investing in some proper girdle? A gut that rotund needs to be bound, packaged and registered in case of any heart attacking emergency!"





They both chortled and did some thigh slapping.





Suril grinned at me over 'Hybrid and Incompatible Finite Element Methods'. "They've been at it ever since you jumped into the shower."





"What sounds more better, 'devilish fiend' or fiendish devil?" I asked as I opened up my printer and took out a pair of socks.





"I've always been partial to 'villainous fiend' myself," he replied. "But then again you can't really go wrong with a good, solid 'vile beast' now can you?"





"So! Let me see now..." Mrs. Shah trailed off as she turned around to examine me. "You are wearing this things to the party?"





"Not exactly what you'd call a real glam look." Grandma scrutinized me through her binoculars. "Maybe you should try on some of my eyeshadow...I got a lotta colours and they're all real sparkly."





"Grandma, that would only serve to add an extra CH3COOH to my already balanced equation." I was wearing a poopular pair of brown cords, matching poopular un-zipped sweater and a pissy yellow t-shirt that said in graffiti writing, 'For a good prime call 555-793-7319'. "This is my Ode de Toilet look."





Suril waggled his eyebrows at me, grinning. "I think Rafe's definitely gonna wanna call you for a good prime."





"Jane dhikra,you can't wear these...duds," Mrs. Shah protested, appalled. "You are attending a social event with an Italian who has become interested in you! Have you no nice party frocks?"





I gasped as my eyes grew to the equation r2 equals theta. "I don't wear amphibians Ma!"





Mrs. Shah blinked at me. "Well at least you must have a skirt, no?"





Grandma and Suril both groaned.





I did have a skirt, which I thought was very lucky since it had blown into our backyard after a big wind storm four years ago. I wore it to Math Competitions and Fairs, University Lectures, Christmas Eve mass and a wedding once too. It was black and soft and was longer than floor length on me but I had no problems with rolling it up at the tummy and then flattening out the bunches with a few belts and long sweaters.





I dug it out of my closet and handed it to Mrs. Shah. "I can wear this because it'll go good with my lucky bra. This can represent the dark shade of the holes you gotta dump in, in India."





"That's not a dark shade, that's a parachute," Suril wisecracked, watching his Mom hold the skirt up to her neck so that it finally fit her.





"No, that's what you call birth control," Grandma corrected.





"Who cares what the French designers call it," I said, rubbing the bottom of the skirt against my nose. It was almost as soft as Rafe's clotted cream cheek. "It's long enough that I can still wear jeans under it and that's the important thing because then I don't have to fart around shaving my leg hairs off."





Mrs. Shah shoved the skirt back at me. "Okay so yeah maybe trousers is our best bet."





Eventually she and Grandma left to do some Language Arts marking and play Dennis Greeley at NHL 2005 respectively.





"I'm still kinda shocked that Rafe wants to date you," Suril said, setting aside 'Hybrid and Incompatible Finite Element Methods'. "I mean it's obvious from yesterday that he likes you but I never figured he'd be smart enough to appreciate you seriously."





I crawled onto my bed and got comfy next to him. "I never heard of two boys liking me before...I never even heard of one boy liking me before. I mean, everyone I talk to thinks I'm a nerdy loser or a gross loser or an obnoxious loser. Katrina must've sautéed Rafe's brain up in a Teflon pan of clarified butter, if he's not conforming a la the general consensus."





"Except for me, all you talk about to people at school is homework and class," Suril said, idly rubbing at his split bottom lip. "With Rafe, you're interacting on a social as well as on an academic level, so he's able to see how awesome you really are. If you were just tutoring him a couple times a week, he wouldn't be interested in you because you'd just be another dorky nerd to him. He thought you were weird and gross too right? But he also liked how loyal you are and he never would've seen that side of you if you were just his tutor."





"Yeah, that's not just nonsense," I said, awed. I certainly hadn't thought of things like that...mostly I hadn't thought of things at all. Suril just had a way of making people's otherwise seemingly strange actions seem as obvious as Pappus' Theorem.





Suril snorted. "Jane, I know you. If it's not related to Math or Science, or me or Grandma, than you just take what's happening at face value. You're so busy analysing equations and textbooks that you don't bother with yourself. You never examine your feelings or think about yourself in a non-academic, non-career oriented way."





I was a millimetre surprised at this glance into my inner elemental make-up though I really shouldn't have been. Suril had always had a good grasp on people and their feelings and other such Psychological parallelograms. Not to mention that he'd known me since grade seven and it wasn't exactly news that I was similar to a Cyclical Process...after certain interchanges of work and heat, I always returned to my initial state.





Which I didn't think was a bad thing at all. Perhaps I wasn't what anyone would call 'normal' or 'social' or 'exciting' but I knew exactly what I wanted to do in my life and I knew how to work for it. I didn't see why I should waste time brooding and moaning and angsting...what would that accomplish other than making me miserable and annoying those around me? Why not have fun with equations and fabtastic textbooks that taught me things and helped take me to a high plane of learning? Why not stick with what I knew, which to me was as fun as a person could get?





"But do you really feel that fretting over the existence of some kind of a...of a dating boyfriend an efficient management of time?" I rested my chin onto my knobbly, bony knees. "It seems counterproductive to me...much in the way that being provided a Periodic Table on tests and exams is counterproductive. You'd think that at an Honours grade twelve Chemistry level, we'd have memorized all the Molar Masses by now."





"Not everyone can be as fucking brilliant as we are." Suril frowned at me, his expression turning serious. "I don't want to see you fretting Jane, I just want you to think about yourself sometimes. You're a smart, caring person...why shouldn't someone appreciate you and find you attractive? Why shouldn't you expect something more from life than Chemistry and Math?"





"But I have Grandma and you and your parents," I reminded him. "How much more people does a person need?"





"What about Rafe?"





"What about him?" I smushed my lip into my knee. "He's Katrina's boyfriend."





"Yeah and by this time tomorrow he won't be," Suril pointed out. "And he doesn't want Katrina remember? He wants you."





"I don't exactly know what to do about that," I admitted, licking at the ridges in my pants. "It's kind of...bizarre actually. Like those Bollywood movies your parents watch. One minute the guy and girl are bickering in India and the next they're dancing all over the Swiss countryside wearing about seven different outfits for a six minute love song. Then they're back in India with no mention of their little theatrical sojourn. I say that pretty much sums up all this hoopla...right now I'm cavorting around a mountain in Europe and I don't know when I'm going back home."





Suril burst out laughing. "Don't tell me that you're afraid of Switzerland! Seriously, they have working toilets and streets that aren't filled with water buffalo shit."





"I'm a tofu wiener who's afraid of stairs and dogs and heights...and that includes Swiss mountains. Naturally I'm afraid. Plus I don't much care to think about what will happen to my average once Katrina hears that I've been making merry with her boyfriend."





"Look, don't waste your time worrying about her," Suril advised. "Everyone knows how hot she is and she'll definitely be drinking loads tonight. Plenty of guys'll be interested in consoling her on her loss and she'll forget about Rafe in no time."





Suril may have known a lot about people and their feelings but I doubted that it was going to be so easy. I still had memories of Katrina in grade five, throwing a temper tantrum every week she didn't win the Friday Draw. "She wants to name the kids she has with Rafe Severn and Astra. I feel that's indicative of a serious type of cling-a-thon '99, don't you?"





"Not really; she's probably one of those weirdoes who's been planning her wedding day ever since she was a little shit." He shrugged. "I doubt all that clingy crap's specific to Rafe; she's just a dramatic attention whore. It's not like that's news to us." He tugged on some of my frizz. "Mostly I just want to see you happy with someone who thinks you're hot. Ditto Rafe."





"Mostly I'd just be happy if you did some Dynamics with me."





I loved Suril because he never pressed me. That was the difference between him and Grandma...he could tell when I was feeling lost and would ease off for a while. Grandma had never quite mastered that subtle art. Suril grabbed 'Engineering Mechanics - Dynamics' from off my desk and randomly selected a page. "Okay, Chapter 21 : Three-Dimensional Kinetics of a Rigid Body. First one to finish these eight problems wins. Loser has to spend Sunday reading Mill on the Floss and poetry and The Edible Woman and doing English homework all day long."





"Awww (d/dx) csch x equals -csch x coth x!!!"





I finished 17.4 seconds after Suril due to a graphite breaking incident.





"Cheap arse mechanical Bic pencil stupid shitsicles Hamlet!"





Suril said, "Forsoothe wench, thou hath losteth thy Arithmeticeth libertyes."





I sulked until dinner while Suril gloated.





After a dinner of take-out Thai and a dessert of Mrs. Shah's ginger chai and Agnes Wilbraham's ginger molasses cookies, we all drooled around the living room to watch Trailer Park Boys. At nine o'clock sharp the doorbell rang.





"The hired hooligan has arrived!" Mrs. Shah shrieked, her gold bangles jangling excitedly.





"The hired hooligan who wants to date my granddaughter," Grandma said as though she was swishing a fine Riesling around all her own teeth. "Can't say I ever thought I'd be saying that. Mostly I always figured Janie'd end up with one of them nerdy Chinese guys."





Maybe I would've, if I hadn't tripped and then farted in surprise right on Tin Tang's Sandman anthology in grade nine. Not to mention that he'd actually enjoyed when we'd been forced to read 'The Guns of Navarrone' in English class, which any bumblejunk could see was stupider than getting wrong a Hess's Law question.





Cringing at the thought of that 'literary' Stilton, I tangoed to the front door, jostled it opened and proclaimed in my best Newfie accent, "Hazelton's Summer Home...some are home and some are not."





Rafe grinned at me in a lupinesque fashion. The October air was cold but he didn't have a jacket on. He was only wearing a black t-shirt, black cargos and a load of that silver wire around his neck. His arms were lean and freckled, his scorpion tattoo vivid in the porch light. I recognized his tattoo as Lucan's work. "Hey Hazelton," he drawled out, pulling me out of the house by my unzipped sweater. "So everyone that's home, where they at?"





"Living room," I gasped as my heart began its familiar rapid pumping action. He was strong and hard against me, for such a pale-faced, freckly-armed shiner of the shoes.





Rafe bent his head and decided to scribble the first sixteen digits of Pi into my mouth with his tongue. "Ready for tonight?" he murmured wetly against my bottom lip as he ran his hands over the arse of my shitty cords. His hands were big and were a tingle-inducer...much in the same fashion that my lucky bra was a cleavage-inducer.





I made it a point not to wiggle in a silly way, even though he was making my blood pressure pulsate, reaching Systolic proportions without the aid of an Hg Manometer. "Nurses and Doctors could use you in hospitals," I told him breathlessly, pulling out of his arms. I sucked in air and whatever aftershave-cologne hoopla Rafe had decided to wear. He smelled like the last Math Competition I'd entered. "You'd really put the Man in Manometer, if you catch my lemniscate."





"Yeah, I can see that you're ready," Rafe said, smiling as he stepped into the front hall.





I shut the door behind me and whispered, "Rafe you didn't forget that Suril's Mom's-"





"In the dark about him being in the closet? Nope."





Pleased, I scrunched up my face up at him and led him into the living room.





Suril waved at Rafe with his cookie. "Hey man."





"So at last we are meeting this notorious Italian ruffian Jane has hired," Mrs. Shah dramatically declared, seizing Rafe up. "Hmmm okay, no tight clothing, good for the fighting, well done. All black, also okay, good, good. What is that, wire for garrotting? Yes, it seems as though you are an experienced one, excellent very much so."





Grandma was examining Rafe through her binoculars. "So you're thug who took away my granddaughter's kissing virginity and now wants to go for the whole damn schmoo."





Menthol Red smeared onto Rafe's face as his eyes became supersaturated. He hastily stepped away from me. "Uh...I don't-"





"Rafe this is Jane's Grandma and this my Mom," Suril interjected, his eyes crinkled with laughter. "Mom, Grandma, this is Rafe Moretti. He goes to school with us."





"So tell me, in your career about how many racist baddies have you beaten, hehn?" Mrs. Shah asked. "And with what weaponry? I usually only use my champaal...that is sandal in Gujarati you see...but then I am only an amateur who will take no buffoonery from the local rascal authorities."





"I told your brother this and I'll tell you the same thing," Grandma jumped in before Rafe could answer, though it was debatable if he could since he was looking Bombay smoggy. "If you're gonna be having sex with my granddaughter than you damn well better use a condom and that goes tentuple for oral sex too pal. I don't know where you and your ho-bag ex-skanks have been."





Suril choked on his chai.





"Rafe told me that he gloves his love," I remarked, sniggering into my fingernails. "Remember when you said that? Boy did I have a good laugh and a half at that!"





"By Ravana's ten heads! Muriel!" Mrs. Shah had finally found her voice. She glowered at Grandma. "Nobody will be wanting to make a devotional garland from the gulghota that has already been plucked!"





The scandalize outrage in Mrs. Shah's voice seemed to drag Rafe from his stupor. "With due respect, I'd never do anything that Janie wasn't ready for. Especially since we've only just met."





"Gulghota means marigold," I told Rafe, pushing my gums further off my molars. "But I've always been more of a dan-dlee-uh Botanist myself."





"See how red-red the Italian's face has become," Mrs. Shah observed. "Just like the tandoori chicken they would serve in that little Kebab shop on Melton Rd. in Leicester. Remember Suril?"





Suril, who was chortling into the back of the sofa, wasn't able to reply.





"Her pleasure first," Grandma said, pointing at me. She was giving Rafe a good view of her shimmering jade eyeshadow as she narrowed her eyes at him. "Like what they say about them ribbed condoms you know? If she goes running off to Lucan then it'll be your fault you didn't please her right, got it freckles?"





Rafe scowled, clearly not to chuffed with being called freckles.





"You know, I was not knowing that Italian lads had the freckles," Mrs. Shah said, blinking her sloe-eyes at Rafe. "And such gardenia-like skins. I only know what I see on this 'The Sopranos'. And you know, I like the Giorgio Armani."





"Yeah, you're kinda like a child-proof version of Lucan," Grandma added, peering at him through her binoculars again.





Rafe muttered something in Italian under his breath and raked a hand through his spiky hair. "I might not look...quite like Lucan but I'm definitely Italian and I'm more than capable of beating the hell outta that racist jerk McGregor. I've taken on guys twice his size before and in groups and they're just lucky that they've lived to lie about it."





"Just like an Amithab Bachaan film," Mrs. Shah cried.





"Rafe had a broken leg once and he beat up four guys with a plank of wood," I said, pulling hair from in between my teeth. "And Guido, his older brother, is a Corrections Officer and he's about the size of that Petro-Canada on Cedar."





"And didn't you run over some Lebanese foolio who insulted your Mom?" Suril asked.





"I don't take BS from anyone, I don't care who they are." Rafe met Grandma's gaze head on, his CuSO4 eyes cool. "I know Janie's never been to a party before so I'll look after her. I promise you that I won't let anything bad happen to her."





I thought that was a nice thing to say. I took my fingernails from my mouth and said to him, "I equals Icom plus Mh2 where h is the perpendicular distance between the two axes."





"Damn straight pal," Grandma said, ignoring me. She'd never been too interested in the Parallel-Axis Theorem, as it were. "'Cause I may not be Italian but I still got no qualms about planting a bag a cocaine in your locker and tipping off the Pigs."





"Maybe you can do this thing to that Conner bastard-guy after he is beaten into idiot vindaloo," Mrs. Shah told Grandma. "He will no longer be thinking that us ethnics are ignorant sheeps to be kicked around, isn't it!"





"Yeah that's right," Rafe agreed, his mouth twitching. "McGregor'll have a lot of time to think about his actions while his Doctors are busy removing his ribs from out his lungs."





"Especially since I have procured for you this thing." Mrs. Shah rummaged around in her black handbag and pulled out a pair of brass knuckles. "Much better than using your trainers, no?"





"Mom!" Suril seemed torn between disbelief and awe. "Where the hell'd you get that at?"





"We got our sources," Grandma said smugly. "And we ain't allowed to speak about them neither so don't be nagging."





"A very good bargain was reached," Mrs. Shah assured us. "And they are real brass, not any type of cheapo steel knockoff, straight from the gutters of Shanghai. Come, take."





Rafe took them, clearly impressed. "Mrs. Shah, these are wicked."





I jiggling on my tip-toes so that I could peer over Rafe's shoulder. "Ideally, you'll want to wrap your fingers to make sure that no skin is touching the tops or insides of the knuckles to prevent your fingers from breaking or the knuckles from falling off."





Rafe glanced back at me and arched an eyebrow. "Do I wanna know how you know that?"





"She knows loads, it's 'cause her head's always farting around in them boring arse Science books," Grandma said. "If you can get her out of all school bullshit then she'd be a real firecracker I bet."





"I happen to like Janie just how she is," Rafe told Grandma quietly.





Grandma was dumbfounded. "Well Father Christmas, I never thought it'd come to this."





"We must take photos," Mrs. Shah said, taking out her sleek silver digital camera from her handbag. "Our Janie is going to her first grown-up party with the hired Italian who will beat karma into the blackened soul of this Conner bastard-guy! Come, by the fireplace. I will permit you to place your arm about my Jane's shoulder, okay?"





"Yeah, this here is one for the books." Grandma whipped out her own camera and snapped a few thousand pictures.





There was a lot of picture-taking, followed by a few years of hugging and hand-shaking and thanking and good-lucking and be-carefulling. Suril hugged me the longest and said he loved me. Grandma slipped Rafe a pack of condoms (male and female) and some vanilla-flavoured lube when Mrs. Shah was busy smoothing down my hair and tucking my bangs behind my ears. They all told Rafe to make sure that I had some fun in a way that didn't related to Science.





"Holy hell, that was some scaryass shit," Rafe muttered as we walked down the driveway.





"I'll say, who'd eat tandoori chicken from a Kebab shop?"





"Not that, your Grandma." Rafe opened Angelina's passenger door for me, which I thought was friendly hybrid. "She gave me fucking condoms Janie!"





I buckled up my seatbelt and said, once Rafe was inside the car, "As we're no longer in a Chemistry lab, it'll be necessary, as well as extremely prudent, to use rubber stoppers to prevent organic solvents from leaking."





Rafe gawked at me. "Did you just...is that a...a metaphor...for sex?"





"What we learn and how we develop inside the Chemistry lab is applicable to the Chemistry lab of life," I told Rafe solemnly. "For are we all not just Buffering Solutions, containing both a weak Acid and its Conjugate Base? Comedy and Tragedy, if you'd prefer a more thespian-related attitude."





Frowning, Rafe said, "Are you saying that no one's really good or bad? That essentially everyone has a bit of both in them?"





I settled back against the car seat, my wrist rubbing at my mouth ready for a good chew. "Essentially."





Rafe looked pleased with himself. Then he said, "Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number thirteen."





"Kathisophobia is the fear of sitting down."





"...I'm not gonna ask how or why you know that."





"Haemorrhoids," I said with a straight face that lasted for about a picosecond before I guffawed into Angelina's dirt-streaked window.





Rafe shook his head as he made a right turn at a solid ninety degree angle and nearly took out the headlights of an oncoming Jeep Cherokee. "Okay, so here's our game plan...I told Katrina that was studying with you tonight and once we were done, I was gonna bring you to the party with me. She's fine it that so you don't have to worry about her freaking out. She'll probably be sloshed by the time we get there anyway. She's one of those big lovey-dovey, emotional drunks so don't worry if she plasters herself on you and starts going on and on about how much she loves you. While I'm doing my thing with her, Austin's gonna hang out with you. I told him all about our little scheme, remember? He'll look after you."





"Optimus Prime knows," I intoned dramatically as I licked down my thumb. I went on to showcase my vocal talents for Rafe's aural pleasure. "Transformers...more than meets the eye."





Rafe's mouth twitched. "Right. So, uh McGregor's got a pretty big house and anyone who's his friend or you know, popular, is allowed to head upstairs to screw around and shit. Austin'll get Katrina to come up and we'll do our thing. She'll flip out, make a scene and feel sorry for you. I'll disappear and leave you guys together...she won't be pissed at you, I promise. I'm planning on acting like a big jerk. Then I'll show up later and take care of McGregor when he's too drunk to recognize me. How does that sound?"





I chewed on that old seed for a while. The way Rafe detailed it out seemed sound but who knew what things could spiral where when drunk, hormonal teenagers were thrown into the Capacitance worksheet? "I suppose that in this particular experiment we'll be dealing with mostly unknown variables."





Rafe leaned over and kissed my cheek as we waited at a red light. "Trust me Janie," he said softly and kissed me again, this time on my mouth and with some licking too.





Conner resided in an affluent neighbourhood called Kensington Crescent, which sounded exactly as pretentious as it was. The lawns were sculpted and immaculate, the houses stately, the cars overpriced and expensive. It was the sort of place where you'd expect children to have illogical, florid names like Jayden and Clavyxta and their nannies would get the boot if they ever dared to feed the spoiled little darlings something as bourgeois as Lucky Charms or frozen chicken nuggets.





Rafe had to park Angelina a couple of blocks away from Conner's house because his street was lined with cars. From the lights glowing through the massive windows of the surrounding houses that Rafe and I passed, it didn't seem like Conner was the only one throwing a party. Though somehow, I didn't think Conner's would involve classical music and swanky yuppies socializing about the windows, sipping Chardonnay and nibbling on shrimp canapés. We could hear the music faintly from where we'd parked but by the time Conner's brightly-lit, jam-packed house came into view, my ears were tingling. There were groups of people milling about on the front lawn, smoking and drinking, while more, like us, were just arriving. The smell of pot was so thick in the air, that Suril across the city was probably feeling the effects.





As we walked up the circular driveway, we passed a blond girl barfing into a large rhododendron, while a seemingly 'baked' winner was groping up her skirt and humming 'Farewell to Nova Scotia' under his breath.





"Creamy Karen's off to an early start," Rafe commented, seizing hold of my arm and dragging me away when I would've stood around and watched.





"Rafe, I wanted to see that," I protested, glancing back over my shoulder. Creamy Karen had just gotten a splash of upchuck on winner's cool 'kicks'. He didn't seem to notice as he was too busy mining for potash. "I promised Grandma and Suril that I'd observe everything and try new things and have fun and not think about Science and Math too much. Personally, I feel that this party's like a foray into the world of Ethnography, don't you agree?"





"Hey Moretti, Katrina know you got a new ho?" a bespeckled, underfed 'emo' guy called out. He and his fellow thrift-shop delicacies were all drinking Moosehead Dry and discussing how anti-establishment they were while they smoked the cigarettes they'd stolen from their parents.





"Fuck off, she's my tutor," Rafe snapped, scowling.





"The Weiss Constant is used to calculate the susceptibility of Paramagnetic materials," I called back to emo guy, pulling out of Rafe's grip. "See, I'm advertising my wares as I observe. Afterall, is not the study of social groups a Science in and of itself? You can't truly distance yourself from the Sciences, no matter what Grandma thinks."





Rafe gave me an amused look. "You do realize, don't you, that most people you talk to aren't gonna remember what the hell happened tonight, let alone your 'wares'."





I shrugged as I did a series of leapings over some alcoholic litter in time to the shrieking Pop music. "Such is the nature of Chirality my friend."





The inside of Conner's house was loud, unbearably hot and crammed like my brain come exam time. People were dancing and laughing and drinking and groping each other and there was barely room to move. Rafe grabbed my hand and steered me through the crowds. A few hundred people greeted him and whacked him on the back and tried to chat with him, which just resulted in a lot of screaming and gesturing. Alan Lee, a sarcastic loudmouth who was in my Chemistry, Biology and French class, waved to me from where he was dancing on top of a jade French Provincial sofa with two brunette girls who seemed more interested in each other than in Alan.





That was a side of Alan I'd never seen before.





Rafe led me through a bunch of gigantic, packed rooms, through the kitchen where he snagged a beer for himself and a Coke for me and out to the backyard. It was an enormous expanse of space, complete with swimming pools, a gazebo, winding stone walkways and waterfall ponds. Since it was early October, the pool was drained and a bunch of pseudo-punks and skaters were skateboarding in the bottom of it. A separate stereo system had been set up here, this one blaring Alexisonfire (whom I recognized from one of Grandma's car CDs) instead of the Hip Hop Pop of inside. There was a kind of a mosh pit occurring in the much smaller, much shallower kidney-shaped swimming pool to our right. Everyone who wasn't skateboarding or moshing was socializing or else doing dirty things in the privacy (sometimes) of the many bushes and trees.





Rafe flipped the bottle cap of his beer off with his keys and winked at me. He may have been underaged but it was still an impressive trick, or at least it was to the bunch of guys near us who were 'chilling' to the music. A couple of them tipped their bottles in his direction and then continued nodding and watching their drunk, rowdy friends make impressive spills on their skateboards.





Katrina popped out of the crowds and tottered towards us so suddenly that I shrieked and slopped Coke all down my chin. She was wearing very baggy, very low-slung black cargos with metallic brown pointy-toed heels, what appeared to be a baby blue thong that was showing at her hips, and the tightest, thinnest camouflaged tank top that alerted the world to the fact that she wasn't wearing a bra.





"Sexy baby!" she shrieked and all but tripped and fell into Rafe's arms. She kissed his neck a few hundred times while rubbing up against him. Then, she roughly shoved Rafe aside and flung herself into me.





I screeched out something about the Dulong-Petit Law and stumbled against Katrina's clumsy weight and flailing, clinging arms. For someone who possessed the tall, slim bearing of a runway model, Katrina certainly had quite a bit of mass to her.





"Jane Jane Jane, the girl who's gone insane," she chanted at the top of her lungs, breathing beer all over my face. She patted my head with quite a bit of force and accidentally scratched my forehead with one of her long, baby blue nails. "We go way back a DOG'S AGE, me and insane Jane, don't we Papa don't we! You used to pick your nose all the time and line up your boogers on the windowsill! Remember that? And that weirdo kid from Egypt would to pay you a nickel to see them! Hah hah, bitch you were GRODY!" She kissed the scratch on my forehead with a loud, wet smack and then hurled herself onto Rafe's twitching lips. I saw her tongue jump into his mouth as she grabbed his arse and did more rubbing drama.





"Keto-Enol Tautomerism is acid catalyzed," I sputtered, dumbfounded...which was a new one for me since I'd been a lot of foundeds before but never of the dumb variety really. Rafe had warned me of Katrina's friendly nature when drunk but this had all the difference between reading about a star exploding and actually seeing it. Not that I had born witness to such an astronomical event...other than in my imagination. "The Crab Nebula resulted from a star whose explosion was seen in 1056," I told myself as I collected Katrina's lip goo off my forehead with the edge of my Coke can.





Rafe was attempting to extract himself from Katrina but where he moved, she followed. Finally she hooked one of her long legs up by his hip and really went to town with the deriving. I figured that was as good a way as any to keep him anchored. Certainly I had seen similar poses inside Boob and Butt magazine. Maybe Katrina had seen them too...for 'research purposes' she probably would say.





A lanky, scarecrow of a guy with a long, scraggly brown ponytail decided to stumble up to me then. He was wearing a tattered Cannibal Corpse T-shirt and ripped jeans. "I might not be the best looking dude here but I'm the only one talkin' to you."





I licked at the pulse in my wrist. "Did you know that the equality in the Clausius Inequality holds for totally or just internally reversible cycles and the inequality for the irreversible ones?"





He smoothed down his moustache and beard before leaning in close. "You got a mirror in them pants? 'Cause, heh heh, I can see myself in 'em."





I glanced down at my pants and then back up at the cold sore that was peeking out of the corner of his hairy mouth. "f equals R/2 where R is the radius of curvature of a spherical mirror."





"Guy I don't know!" Katrina suddenly squealed, straight into Rafe's ear judging by his wincing. She lurched out of Rafe's arms and poured herself onto Cannibal Corpse. "Hey remember when we didn't know each other?"





"Oh fuck yeah!" Cannibal Corpse cried, wasting no time in feeling Katrina up. The ecstatic expression on his elongated face suggested that this was the farthest he'd ever gotten with a girl who wasn't made of plastic.





Rafe grabbed Katrina's elbow and yanked her roughly back to his side. "That's my girlfriend asshole," he snarled.





"Oh fuck no!"





"Seems we can all see what's happening inside your pants now," I pointed out, leaning down for a closer look. It was too bad I didn't bring along Grandma's camera, she and Suril would've had a good hoot out of this little who-ha.





"You wearin' Guess jeans baby?" Cannibal Corpse demanded, puffing out his chest like an aroused pigeon. "'Cause guess who wants to get in 'em?"





"Listen you cheesy dickwad, you touch her with your greasy little paws and I'll bust your face open Cannibal Corpse style," Rafe snapped icily.





"I love it when you wear Addidas Moves," Katrina moaned, snuffling her face into Rafe's neck. "It totally gets me all hot."





"Heat Lost equals heat gained," I agreed since Rafe's freckly face had paled into the realm of MgS as he tried not to look at the mirror inside Cannibal Corpse's Guess jeans.





"Okay dudes rock on," Cannibal Corpse said good-naturedly and slunk off towards a couple of punky-looking girls. He was flexing his fingers and muttering to himself.





"You made his Piza lean," I said to Katrina, giggling. I felt a lot more relaxed since the Katrina of my phobias would never have willingly touched a grease monkey like Cannibal Corpse. "I bet the closest he ever got to a pretty girl like you was when he took a free tour on one of those XXX web cam sites."





"Awww Janie, you're such a sweetie cherry pie!" Katrina screeched into my ear. Alexisonfire was like a tinkle in a specimen jar compared to her mighty roarings. "How come I never invited you over to play Barbies and robbers when we were little? We coulda been the bestest buds for forever and a week!"





I blinked, surprised. This was the closest I'd ever gotten to an invitation to play Barbies. I was highly impressed. "'Cause I had a pet sardine named Long Division and you said I made him smell bad, implying that I was smellier than a sardine."





"Oh yeah. Man alive, you guys were some stank!" Katrina raised her head off of Rafe's shoulder and said to him, "Ol' Jane here was such a ginormous nerd that she ate, like McNerd burgers with her protractor!" She laughed uproariously before grabbing Rafe's face – he'd been scanning the crowds for that Optimus Prime friend of his – and began another oral check-up Quebec style.





I drank some more Coke and looked around. There was nothing new to see on the kissing front of things, unless Katrina put her hand down Rafe's pants. I wouldn't've minded seeing what colours of the spectrum Rafe's face turn when she did that. I observed the people moshing in the shallow, empty pool, intrigued and a bit stupefied because I'd never seen one in real life. The mosh pit was a great rumpus of mostly guys screaming and jumping and shoving and hurling themselves against each other. They were surrounded by a ring of people whose main job, as far as I could see, seemed to be pushing enthusiastic stragglers back into the middle of the skirmish.





I couldn't discern for a chance to win a copy of 'Molecular Thermodynamics of Fluid-Phase Equilibria' what the point of all this...The Edible Woman-esque hoopla was.





From an Ethnographical perspective, it was clinically fascinating. From a scientific perspective, it was shamefully appalling. We, Earthlings, had spent centauries upon centauries studying our surroundings. We had studied every species of life, every piece of flora and fauna, every meteorological and geological phenomena known to the planet Earth. We had studied inside of the Earth and beyond the Earth and even within ourselves...and the future of this great and mighty planet and its race was a bunch of intoxicated, head-banging winners grappling and jostling each other.





I wondered if my IQ could lower via osmosis.





"Baby boy, let's fucking get our rhythm on!" Katrina shrieked, tossing her long, shiny auburn locks. "I'm sick of this metal shit, I wanna hear some 50 Cent and Gwen Stefani!"





"I'm waiting for Austin, remember?" Rafe was frowning, seemingly irritated as he downed his bear. I could understand his sentiments; Suril and I had caught sight of that 50 Cent blockhead being interviewed on MuchMusic once and a more illiterate, incomprehensible stupidarse 'fucktard' as Grandma like to say, I'd never had the fortune of seeing on my TV. I wouldn't have wanted to frequent any location where his 'music' was playing either.





"You have cooltastic hair," I said to Katrina, rubbing a piece of it in between my fingers. It was smooth and silky. I had tried to touch one of Katrina's pigtails when we'd been in grade one – it was so bright and glossy and pretty – but she'd squirted her juice pack onto my new Velcro Spider-Man sneakers before I could. "I want to chew on it, it has lots of potential."





"You're a fucking scream girl! Hah hah, you can't chew hair, that's damaging dumbass!" Katrina whacked me on the back so hard that I stumbled into two people making out. They didn't notice the interruption. "I wanna dance sugar cookie, let's go! Come on, we'll find Austin later!"





"Here, I'll go find that guy," I said to Rafe, moping Coke off my chin with my bangs. I was anxious to explore and observe more of this madness that they called party. I leaned into Rafe's ear, since Katrina was still whingeing and stumbling around, and shouted, "Go dance and have fun pal! I have to observe and take party in these here going-ons and I think it'll be a real Finite Difference!"





Rafe glanced at Katrina and then back at me. "I promised your Grandma I'd look after you," he shouted back. His free hand found mine for a brief moment and goosebumps, in spite of the heat, sprouted up all over my body.





"F(x) equals - dU(x)/dx," I declared, wiping at my ear. I could nearly feel his lips on my skin even though he hadn't touched me. "I'll be turpentine-fine!" Waving in a friendly manner, I started off because Rafe looked ready to argue.





"Okay bye-bye boob!" Katrina laughed uproariously and hauled Rafe off. He was glaring at me over his shoulder and making a production of being reluctantly dragged away.





I told him telepathically, to save the anger for Conner...because you just never knew when anger could run out.





I drifted through the crowds. It was strange to think that I was relatively the same age as all these people and yet they couldn't have been more different than I had they been hatched on Zlygonar 7. For example, why was everyone so excited by the four enormous metal barrels that a bunch of guys wearing Greek letters on their t-shirts had dragged in? A huge mass of people had gathered round them and were cheering and shouting.





I tapped a blue and black haired Japanese girl on the shoulder. "Are there fireworks in there?" I shouted into her ear.





She smirked at me with her shiny lavender lips and punched me in the arm hard enough to send me reeling. I had never been punched before and it hurt a googolplex more than when Rafe had yelled at me. "It's a beer keg geek-a-tron!"





I left the patio/pool area and their moshings and 'beer kegs' to trump for the greener pastures of the extensive garden. The crowds were thinner here and mostly consisted of groups of people chatting and amorous couples. I stopped near a few couples heavily making out and examined my arm. There were no signs of bruises or redness, but I was sure it that was coming. That rough pseudo-girl punk had done a number on me.





I wondered if this meant that I'd been beaten up.





I looked down my arm at the bruises Conner had given me. They stood out on my skin like the complexity of a Cocaine molecule in a sea of standard H2O. I pressed down on one and a little bit of hurt came out. I pressed another one and more hurt came out. It was like playing the piano only without any sound. Or a piano.





"I play the bruise piano," I said and tittered into the shrubbery. A twig poked up my nose and made a scratch inside. I had to blow my nose on a Maple leaf to see if any blood came out. Something came out but I didn't think it was blood. It was hard to tell since it was dark and the leaf was crunchy.





Conner wasn't going to be giving anyone else bruise pianos for a long, long time, ever since I'd decided to be proactive and assertive and take some initiative. That would've been a good t-shirt to have printed up I thought...I took the initiative and all I got was a jock with broken legs.





I drifted back towards the house after watching a Tamil girl named Arpana suck down some guy's noodle. She didn't even gag. I couldn't wait to tell Suril, partly because he knew Arpana from temple and thought she was a ho-bag but mostly because the guy was on the side of attractive and was of a very sufficient length too. Certainly Arpana must have thought so, being as she had quite the impressive oral grasp of the situation. Sniggering at my own wit, I went inside, returning pseudo-punk from my English class' wave from where he was skateboarding in the empty pool with his idiot pals.





The music inside the house was now that electronic dance mix drama and it made me want to dance so I did, smooshed against the fridge and in between a bunch of people who were all watching and catcalling as a Muslim guy named Imran and a Cuban guy named Mariano had a breakdance-off in the middle of the kitchen floor.





I realized after a short while of hot, sporadic, crazy dancing (I wasn't very good but that hadn't stopped me yet) and cheering at all the wild breakdancing moves why people liked parties so much...they were fun. And I didn't even have a textbook or a sheet of equations with me.





I had my sleeves rolled up to my shoulders and was fanning my face while doing what I liked to call the 'Transverse Wave' (it was my tribute to Physics) when Rafe's friend Optimus Prime shoved through the crowds and danced up to my side. He was wearing enormous of chocolate brown skater pants that dragged all over the floor, a grey t-shirt that featured He-Man and Teela and a red visor that said 'Fugitive' on it in white letters.





"You dance like a crazy mother!" he bellowed into my ear and gave me a thumbs up.





I took that as a compliment and kept on 'groovin'' as they called it. Laughing, Optimus Prime joined in and we had our own version of a dance-off, which was some of the best fun I'd ever had outside of studying Organic Chemistry with Suril. A bunch more people started to dance with us and then it was just a free-for-all Table of Values. Eventually, when we had no more groove left in us and I'd taught everyone around me my latest move, the Orthogonal Family (what was dancing without a tribute to Calculus?), Optimus Prime and I headed back outside to cool off. We sat panting and sweating on the front lawn and shared a smashed chocolate doughnut that we'd found discarded near an ornate iron wrought lattice.





"Shoulda grabbed us a couple of beers," Optimus Prime said, licking a glop of chocolate off his pants. "Or you more into coolers? I can get a hook up with some of those new Smirnoff Black Cherry Twists."





"Seventeen is my years on Earth," I told him, even though the idea of something featuring Black Cherry sounded as wonderful as reading 'Vibrational Spectroscopy of Biological and Polymeric Materials' in bed during a thunderstorm. I rubbed my hot face into the cool grass and licked it a bit. I was thirsty but there wasn't a lot of dew around.





He shrugged. "Yeah, same but I'm not about to let that stop me."





He was a pretty nice guy, the Optimus Prime called Austin O'Leary, I soon discovered. As we cooled off, I told him about how this was my first ever party and how Grandma and Suril didn't want me to spend all my time thinking about Science and Math; instead I was supposed to observe my peers in a social setting and partake of all legal activities. Optimus Prime thought that that was 'frigging cool' and introduced me to nearly everyone loitering about Conner's front lawn.





We went back inside after a while and got to more dancing, flitting about from cramped hallways to cramped rooms. A lot of people were heavily inebriated and danced even worse and much more outlandish than I did. One girl even took off her sparkly camisole and gave everyone a free bra show when she could have charged for it. I decided that I'd have to tell her later that there was a business to be made in bra showing. At least I had my high average to fall back upon during rough times but a girl who wore a white bra edged in pink lace, what did she have to fall back on, highlighting her hairdo?





I lost sight of Austin when some drippy, gooey slow song started to play. I guessed he went to find some girl to dance with but I didn't see what the point of that was...one didn't always need to use a TI-89 Titanium graphing calculator like Gradient Field to graph a limacon now did they? I certainly didn't have any qualms about dancing alone because afterall, did we not enter and do we not leave this mortal, material world alone?





That was my far-removed-from-the-Sciences philosophical thought for the evening and I was rather proud of it as I wasn't typically known to have a lot of, if any, philosophical thoughts. Grandma would be proud of me, I reflected as I flailed my arms about in that artsy, vegan, Neo-Goddess Wiccan hoopla. I was participating in a social event and hardly thinking of Math or Chemistry at all, it was a to say the least. I minced around, dipping and waving my tugged-down sweater sleeves about and eventually pranced right into Rafe.





He guffawed alcoholic breath right in my face. "Come on Fairy Princess," he shouted, grabbing my flapping arm and tugging me through the couples and into a dim corner. "Have you been drinking?" he demanded as he arranged my arms around his neck. I had to stand on my tiptoes to reach.





"No but I can tell you have," I shouted back, blowing my sweaty bangs out of my eyes. Rafe slid his hands over my back and pulled me close to him. I was boiling from all my loopy dancing and even though Rafe and I were hardly dancing...it was more hugging and swaying really...my Equilibrium was suddenly about twenty-seven degrees hotter. That Rafe, I just didn't know how he got up to these old 'heat' tricks all the time. He may as well have been a walking mass of flame, considering what he could do to me just by touching. "What happened to Katrina?"





"Austin's got her down in the basement," he said in my ear. His hands slid under my sweater and rubbed all over my sweaty back like I was some baby that needed the burping. "That's where all the jocks and their girls are. They're playing pool and poker down there."





I relaxed an improper fraction. "Me and Austin found a Tim's Horton doughnut on the lawn and we split it. It was chocolate. Pseudo-punk from my English class gave me a Mountain Dew. I never danced like this with anyone that wasn't a broom or Grandma."





Rafe laughed. I could feel it on my neck like a Deinopidae was crawling there. "You're here dancing all by yourself like some kinda gimpy hippy on crack. I can't have that now can I?"





"Just don't have the goulash because then you might have the heartburn," I quipped and roared with laughter into Rafe's throat. Goosebumps erupted over his skin and he shuddered against me. It was as though he also had a Deinopidae creeping over him.





And then I was struck with the sudden insight that maybe, somehow, if Rafe could effect me so chemically than perhaps I was able to effect him too. Hadn't he told he yesterday afternoon that his Ra molecules were attracted to my Ja molecules? The girl nearest to me had her head on her partner's shoulder and she was running her hands through his shaggy hair. Sensing an experiment in the air, I cashed in on my newfound sheep tendencies. I tightened my hold around Rafe's neck and mashed up my face into the side of his neck. A chill ran through his body. He stumbled a bit and I ended up banging my hip on the wall. I didn't mind because Rafe was like a chemically-smelling, Atlantic Ocean-eyed, befreckled pillow. He was all soft and slightly spicy, like the dough Mrs. Shah used to make pooris.





I licked Rafe's throat experimentally to see what he tasted like but he didn't taste like much, except for hot. I wondered how a person went about giving their friend a hooky. Suril had said that it would be a crime if I didn't give Rafe a hooky in return, hadn't he? I licked again and Rafe stepped on my foot.





"Come on," Rafe growled into my ear, his hot breath tickling me. His breathing was laboured from all the dancing. "It's gonna be time soon."





"I just wanted to see what flavour you were," I shouted and a few people close to us looked over.





Rafe tugged me through the living room and into the swarming hallway. It seemed like a lot of people were watching us and trying to talk to Rafe. I showed everyone my incisors and slurped sweat out of my bangs. My Prime t-shirt had moulded itself to my skin. Rafe led me up the jammed, circular staircase and down the left corridor. As we went further along, the groups of people began disappearing. The doors that lined the hallway were all closed and some of the doorknobs were adorned with t-shirts or socks or, in one instant, a striped tie. I could make out the occasional drunken moan over the thumping vibrations of the music below us.





Rafe randomly yanked open a door near the end of the hall and dragged me inside. A tanned blond guy who had no shirt or pants on was busy on the bed with a leggy black girl wearing a little plaid skirt and her bra. They were kissing each other in a noisy, sloppy manner that was reminiscent of Japanese noodles-slurping. They also seemed to be doing quite a bit of 'dry humping' as Boobs and Butt called it.





"Get out," Rafe snapped, slamming the door shut behind us. "I want this room."





"Who in the fuck-" No Shirt's face paled when he caught sight of Rafe. "Shit, it's Moretti! Man, don't punch me, we're leaving!"





The girl, whose face I could now see, was named Basia Michaels. She'd been in my class from grade three to grade nine. "Hi Basia," I said, poking my gums at her in a friendly manner. The bra she was wearing was turquoise and covered in delicate green lace. "Where'd you get that bra at?"





She stared at me with fuzzy eyes while No Shirt scrambled around gathering up their clothes. "Wuzzat?"





"Where'd you get that bra at?"





"Whodat?"





"She's out of it," Rafe told me, hiding a smile.





They beat the scene, Basia glancing over her shoulder at me with apparent confusion. No Shirt's boner was evident in his Canada undies and it waggled as he practically ran from the room. I giggled into my wrists. "His graduated cylinder didn't look like it was even 30 mls did it? Certainly it was nothing like the young fellows in Suril's magazines."





Rafe stepped towards me, his eyes darkening in the light of the ornate bedside lamp. "Are you gonna make me feel self-conscious when we do it?"





"D equals 1/2CpAv2?!" I goggled at him and hastily shut my gaping mouth in case he got any fancy ideas. Unfortunately I had to open it again to talk so I just stuffed some hair in there to make things look unappealing. "Rafe, that was just Grandma talking Hamlet. No one actually expects you to copulate with me."





Rafe decided to take his t-shirt off in a way that made my face flush like Grandma playing poker. "What if I want to?"





My mouth went FeCl3 dry.





Smirking, Rafe ducked his head out the door to hang his t-shirt on the doorknob. "Take your sweater off," he ordered, stalking towards me. The lamplight made his pale skin shine pure Au. His shoulders and chest were covered in cinnamon coloured freckles and there was a cluster around his bellybutton that made my stomach oscillate like a simple pendulum for some reason.





Maybe this was what being attracted to a boy was all about...you liked their abdominal freckles.





"The scent of skunks is due to Thiols primarily," I blurted out, bumping into the bureau as I tugged at my sleeves. My fingers were vibrating slightly and I knew it wasn't from the music. I supposed I must've been more nervous than I realized, even if inebriated Katrina wasn't five ninths bad. I started to fold my sweater but Rafe yanked it from me and tossed it over his shoulder. I stared at him with enlarging eyes. His bare chest and freckles were very close to me now. My heart rate began to do some breakdancing moves.





Rafe's hands found my hips and he sat me on top of the bureau so that we were eye to eye. "I got ten bucks in my pocket," he drawled out in a throaty kind of voice that made chills and thrills wash over every millimetre of my epidermis. "I wanna see your bra."





I began to tremble all over and in my poopular cords too. I was scared. Did Rafe actually intend to follow Grandma's advice and use those condoms and vanilla lube with me? Universities frowned upon sexual relations amongst their students, potential or otherwise I was sure, didn't they? Could this go down upon my transcript, should it get out? Was Rafe in some kind of a state of inebriation leading to extreme...randyness right now? I hadn't noticed him walking funny or slurring his words but maybe he was one of those sly drunks. I didn't want to have drunken sexual intercourse with him when Katrina was about to walk in, lovely freckles or not! "Well everyone's doing it, yes...but as it were...hormones and beer...the theoretical limit at which the photon-"





"Janie." Rafe's fingers were skimming over the bruises Conner had given me. He was the only one who knew about them; I hadn't even told Grandma or Suril and they knew everything there was to know about me. Rafe had said I was brave, even though I was scared of stairs and had to walk really slow down them so that I wouldn't fall on my head again. "This is between you and me. It's got nothing to do with Katrina." Rafe took my hand and pressed it to something hard at his waist...but it wasn't his pipette, though I didn't think I wouldn't have minded if it had been. Just for the sake of Anatomical analysis, naturally. "That's my Mom's pager. I borrowed it for the night. Austin's gonna call it on his cell when he and Katrina are on their way up so we'll have a head's up, okay?"





Well ten dollars was ten dollars.





"The further away a galaxy is from us, the faster it is receding away from us," I said and took of my t-shirt. It felt electromagnetical to the twelve because I was sweltering inside this boiling home but it also felt strangely peculiar because I'd never sat around in a bra while a boy with no shirt on stared at me.





And staring Rafe was. His pretty eyes were like two great spherical planets goggling out of his head...and they certainly weren't in the process of receding.





"I'm only a B so there's not a whole wheat to see," I said, fanning my overheated chest with my t-shirt. "But at least the bra's got quite the drama to it. It was only $7.50 after Valentine's Day."





My lucky bra was red and had white hearts on the straps and two sparkly pink hearts intertwined at the top corner of the cup. It opened in the front and the clasp was a red heart. It may have been fruity with a generous helping of tacky but for $7.50 I could forget that Valentine's Day was nothing more than a cheap, stupid marketing ploy designed to suck money from the witless masses. I had an exciting bra that wasn't barfy beige and that was good enough for me.





"That's fucking sexy," Rafe breathed, his eyes stitched to my front. His tone was fervent.





"It's more Havarti than sexy," I said, looking down at myself to see what all the hullabaloo was about. I couldn't see much. "But I want to collect every colour in the light spectrum so I had to buy it. Somehow though, it turned into a lucky bra. That's how come I wore it tonight, it's a luck generator."





"If any other girl was wearing that, it'd look retarded," Rafe muttered, reaching out to run his finger along one of my straps. "But on you it's sweet. Like you wear all these dorky Science t-shirts and sweaters and under them you're all sexy and shit. That's fucking hot."





That was some hard-hitting journalism to me. "I was going more for shit than the sexy," I admitted, tracing the freckles on Rafe's shoulders with my pupils. "Hence my brown pants and sweater, accented with a urination t-shirt get it?"





Rafe's fingers were skimming and sliding along the bottom of my bra and he was making me squirm. "You know what you haven't done yet?" he asked my chest. "You haven't kissed me. I always make the first move."





I thought back to all the times we kissed. There was something in what he said. "Bode's Law isn't Boyle's Law," I agreed, bracing myself on his smooth arms. I tilted my head, leaned in and fit my mouth over Rafe's. It was a molecule exciting, like getting another one hundred on a Pre. Calculus test. You knew that was coming but it was a little different and a lot thrilling every time.





I was kissing a boy at a party! And I did the slow dancing with him and made his body shudder when I'd licked him a little bit. Once I relayed these events to Grandma, she was going to take out a half-paged ad in the Gazette and I could see the headlines now: Local Girl cured of nerdy dork ways! Talks of Rectilinear Kinematics fade into obscurity as kissing Italian thug takes priority over University applications! Grandmother rejoices and calls in the Man Strippers! Token Gay friend ecstatic at dating possibilities!





By Buddha's breath, I hoped I never became arse enough to give up Rectilinear Kinematics for any boy, ever.





Rafe parted his lips and licked at mine until I opened my mouth. I squirmed and had to make funny noises because Rafe was also groping my bra in addition to sucking on my tongue. I wanted to tell him not to get too excited because my bra was of the padded decimals but then he decided to slip his fingers inside. My stomach quite literally exploded. I yelped and accidentally bit Rafe's tongue.





He jerked away from me, swearing in Italian.





I was throbbing under my bra and I couldn't tell if I was aching in a good way or in a bad way. It felt like a bit of both and hundreds of compounds more. I shoved myself back into my t-shirt and slid off the bureau. "Rafe?" He had his hand over his mouth and was breathing heavily. My stomach dipped again but this time it was out of fear. "Are you bleeding?"





"Nah, it was just a little bite. I barely felt anything." He raked a hand through his spiky hair and sighed. "I shouldn't have touched you like that. I guess I got a little carried away."





"I just got the surprise, I'm sorry," I said guiltily, gnawing on my bottom lip. I could still taste Rafe on me. It made me want things in a purely Anatomical way. "Maybe I can try the kissing hoopla again? I'll make it proper this time, I promise."





Rafe looked surprised for an instant before smirking. "You like kissing me."





I shrugged. "It's better than having a yeast infection while reading The Bishop of St. Praxed's Church, true."





It was funny kissing someone whose face was so revolted.





Rafe didn't waste any time sliding his hands under my t-shirt and up my back for a good Prime. My hands found his shoulders and he was smooth and warm beneath my fingertips. I was pressed up against his bare chest and it was both terrifying and breath-taking at once. I pulled my mouth away and gasped for air. It wasn't any kind of a sexy sound so I figured that Rafe couldn't be too excited. My hand had somehow moved down his shoulder and was touching the tattoo that adored his muscled bicep.





"It's not as cool as Lucan's Calculus tattoos but it's no turnip sandwich either."





Rafe scowled, his mouth thinning. He would've snapped something at me but I licked his tattoo before he could. I couldn't help myself, it looked like lines and curves of black liquorice marking his skin. It didn't taste like liquorice though, it tasted warm and like Rafe and I liked that. I raked my teeth gently down the Hadogens Troglodytes' measoma and licked at a few surrounding freckles too. "It looked like liquorice," I explained, chewing on a strand of my bangs. "I just wanted to taste."





Rafe's eyes were narrow as he searched my face. "You've got some kind of an oral fixations don't you?"





"I never did that to a boy before," I gasped, pulling away. "My virtue isn't floppy. You're the only boy I never fooligated around with. I even told you that before remember?"





Rafe laughed. "I just meant that you're always sticking things into your mouth. Your hair, your fingers, your wrist, your pencils...me."





We stared at each other. I thought Rafe was beautiful in a This Riemannn Sum is called the nth Trapezoidal Approximation of the definite integral ba f(x) dx kind of way. Or in the kind of way that previously I'd only found Biosynthetic Pathways beautiful.





Bianca's pager beeped.





I jumped and banged my hip into the corner of the bureau. I began babbling something about Stereochemistry until Rafe hauled me to him and kissed me hard. I gurgled in nervousness. Somehow, after all the bra displaying and freckle viewing and kissing, I'd managed to forget about Katrina.





"Janie relax, it'll be okay," Rafe murmured, sliding his hands around my waist like we'd practiced yesterday. "I promise. You're my brilliant Math genius, aren't you? You can totally do this. Trust me."





With my heart beating inside the back of my throat and some sick churning in the bottom of my stomach, I let Rafe kiss me. I did trust him, it was Katrina, drunk or otherwise, that I was scared shitless of. I started to struggle, shoving at Rafe's chest. He really was strong and I couldn't budge him even when I tried my hardest. It was like he was Iron and he'd corroded in an Oxidation-Reduction reaction that cause me to bond to him in the form of Rust.





"This is wronger than C10H16NO being the molecular formula of Ephedrine," I moaned as he roughly attacked the hooky he'd given me that evening inside his room. His teeth were scraping at my skin and it felt awfully funny. "Rafe you have a girlfriend."





"Shut up," he snarled so angrily that for an instant I really was scared.





I was listening as hard as No Shirt had been for Basia so I did hear the soft rasp of the door against the carpet. "I'm not your girlfriend, Katrina is, you devilish fiend," I shrieked loudly, squirming my weight in the moons of Jupiter. "This isn't the kind of Chemistry I was talking about, fiendish devil!"





"Shit man, that's your fucking tutor!"





Rafe let go of me abruptly and shoved me aside like I was a Spectator Ion.





Austin was standing in the doorway, Katrina at his side. Her face was AlBr3 white, her green eyes gigantic and filled with hurt. My heart wavered like a Potential Energy Curve. I didn't think Katrina had ever looked so beautiful.





"Girl, where the fuck's you been at?" Rafe demanded brashly with just a hint of a slur in his voice. He stalked towards her, his strides suddenly a bit too fast and too long to be considered sober. "You went off and I's stuck with nerdy-ass here and she didn't even open that fucking math mouth...stupid bint. Baby, no one kisses like you." He grabbed Katrina's arms roughly and tried to kiss her.





"Don't touch me," she whispered, jerking away so forcefully that she stumbled into the bed. Her entire body was trembling, from the top of her shining auburn hair to the soles of her pointy-toed shoes.





"Christ Rafe, you need to sober up," Austin snapped, grabbing him by the shoulder and yanking him away from Katrina. "You can't treat her like that after you were just sucking face with that geek girl!"





"She's my girlfriend asshole, I'll treat her like how I want!"





"Listen, I'll get him sobered up," Austin said kindly to Katrina. "You guys stay here until I get back okay?"





Rafe shoved Austin hard. "I ain't fucking drunk, bitch!"





Austin yanked Rafe by the scruff of the neck and literally threw him out of the room. The door slammed shut behind them.





Katrina didn't move. Her huge eyes filled with tears and they splashed down her tight top. Her shaking hands were bloodless.





I murmured her name.





"I-I'm okay," she murmured back. She sat down hard on the bed and covered her face. Her chest began to heave.





After a few moments of hesitation, I cautiously sat down next to her. I had expected screaming and name-calling and hitting and the throwing of things from her...then tears. I opened my mouth but had no idea of what I was supposed to say; had Grandma been in my position she'd have smacked Katrina upside the head for being such a nasty bitch to me all those years, to hell with her broken heart. Before I could say anything though, Katrina buried her covered face into my shoulder and wept.





The fear and uncertainty and nausea that saturated my innards slowly uncoiled, leaving behind a huge wash of pity. I slid my hand down Katrina's hair and thought that it looked like fire.





I still wanted to chew it though.

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