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Jack could never forget the day Kelsey came into his life.
She walked into his sophomore Chemistry class one Tuesday in October wearing a flannel shirt and a pair of ripped jeans. Everyone could tell she wasn’t from around there from the way she carried a backpack, girls from around there carried designer purses, not backpacks, to the clothes she wore, to the way her skin was still perfectly tanned in late October.
She was different and everyone knew it from the moment she walked into the door.
“Class,” the teacher said when the new girl walked up to her, handing her a slip of paper, “This is Kelsey Carter. She just moved here from Texas.” Texas, Jack smiled. The great state of Texas. Jack liked Texas. He could get along with someone from Texas. “We’re about to do a lab,” the teacher continued, “Is anyone willing to be Kelsey’s partner?”
Jack’s hand went up into the air immediately. He probably would have done it even if he hadn’t been so immediately captivated by the girl; he was always sucking up to his teachers, that was the best way to get himself some great recommendations when he applied to the Naval Academy the next year, after all, but something about her intrigued him, more than anything he learned in any of his gifted classes.
“Thank you, Jack,” the teacher said, unsurprised by his offer; it was no secret amongst the teachers that Jack Parson was a suck-up. He was always cracking jokes with his teachers, poking a bit of fun at them. He threw sly comments into class discussions and was always forcing his opinions down everyone’s throats. Although teachers were supposed to be open to their students’ opinions, they had to admit, it did become a bit much at times.
Kelsey headed over to the lab table where Jack was waiting for her, already having set up the Bunsen burner, he was now pulling beakers and test tubes out of the lab drawer. Figuring that it would be easier for Jack to set up the lab, since he already knew where everything was, Kelsey sat down on a stool and began creating a data table in her notebook.
“So, Texas, huh?” Jack asked when he returned to the table with some calcium carbonate. He placed it haphazardly into some acid.
“Yeah,” Kelsey said skeptically, distracted by the way he was handling the chemicals, “you sure you’re doing that right? That looks like way too much calcium carbonate.”
He scoffed, “Of course. I’m in all honors and AP classes. I know what I’m doing,” Kelsey bit her tongue and let him continue with what he was doing, “Republican?” he asked, looking at her curiously.
“Born and raised,” she replied, “You can just shut your mouth if you’re gonna stand there and tell me you’re a Democrat.”
“Do I look like I’m a Democrat?” she took in his appearance: short crew cut, clean-shaven face, Marines t-shirt. No, he certainly did not.
She shook her head, “I’d say not,” He was quiet for a minute, something that didn't happen often, and continued on with the lab. Kelsey watched him; she could tell he was messing everything up before she even read the lab thoroughly; he wasn’t measuring anything. Science was her forte, and it pained her to watch him screwing it up so royally, “You’re not even measuring anything!”
“Measuring is just a technicality; I never measure and my labs always come out perfect.”
“Measuring is not just a technicality! If the creators of the lab wanted you to throw everything into a beaker half-assed-ly, they would have said that!” her southern accent came out full force, and Jack was a little taken aback. He wasn’t used to having people question him.
Well, he was, but they were always wrong. Always.
“Listen, this is Honors Chemistry. I’m not stupid--”
“You’re right this is Honors Chemistry, and I’m not stupid either!”
If Jack had had any real brains at all, he would have known not to mess with her. He would have known to just shut up. But he was a hard-headed, die-hard Republican, and he had yet to find anyone that was able to humble him.
“ I’m ranked seventeenth out of six hundred and seventy-eight students the sophomore class and--”
“And that means that there’s sixteen people who are ranked higher than your big head, and I’ll bet that if you combined all of their egos into one, it wouldn’t amount to half the size of yours!”
The pair weren’t exactly quiet in their argument, and everyone in the class had dropped what they were doing to watch the girl, who had barley been in the class for twenty minutes, say to Jack what many people had been wanting to say to him since kindergarten. Even the teacher had to turn away from the scene to keep from laughing at the shocked expression on the boy’s face. No one took on Jack Parson in an argument because everyone knew they’d lose.
“Now,” Kelsey continued, “I can stand here all day and argue with you. Don’t think for a second that I’m intimidated by your class rank or your fancy talk. I’m every bit as important of a person as you are, so don’t you dare treat me otherwise. You go get me,” she shoved two clean beakers at him, “some more calcium carbonate and acid, and then you sit your stubborn ass on that stool and watch me do the lab the right way.”
Jack Parson swallowed his pride for the first time in his life as he made his way to the store room for some more chemicals.
Looking back, Jack should have known better than to mess with a southern woman. Had he known what he was getting himself into that day, he would have made sure his hand remained glued to his side. He would have never spoken a word to the girl.
Kelsey came into his life unexpectedly.
She was different than anyone else he had ever known. She wasn’t intimidated by anything he did. She didn’t bow down to him for all of his accomplishments. She didn’t envy him. She stood up to him.
She taught him that there was more ways to view life than his “right” way. She showed him that he couldn’t demand respect from people if he didn't respect them himself. She made him question the one person that he always knew was right: himself.
She showed him there was more to life than what he originally knew; there was more to care about in life than academics and volunteer work and the word of The Bible and what people thought of him and being the perfect textbook Republican. Life was much, much more than that.
She completely changed his life.
And if he lived to be a hundred years old, he would never forget her.