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It was 8am in the morning, I got up, took a shower, ate some cereals and prepared to set off for school. My day wouldn’t be complete without anything checkered on my wardrobe or anything black-framed like my rectangle glasses. I always had a thing with checkered stuff and framed glasses. So whenever I went to an optometrist for an eyeglass replacement every two years, I always asked for framed ones and the specialist would agree. Whenever Timmy, my rockstar little brother, and I would go shopping, I always picked off checkered fashion. Nobody knows why. “Enough of the checkered stuff please. You look pretty dang weird,” Tim would criticize. But I, as a 17-year-old junior highschooler, nobody could get in my way. No, not for my dream boy celebrity, Evan Foster whom I heard as being a checkered-freak too, like me.
So I wore my black-framed eyeglasses, red black checkered loose long-sleeved polo, dark blue jeans and white and black checkered doll shoes. My walnut-colored long hair was pulled up with a pony. 15-year-old Timmy Woods and I rode on the school bus together.
Before I could step inside the bus, the bus driver had to exchange perplexed stares with me, probably wondering what’s up with my outfit. Timmy went in first but I remained frozen on the stepping staircase. Milliseconds passed and I finally went in. All the high-schoolers inside did the same thing. I sat beside an empty seat with Timmy being on the window side. He was listening to his iPod and looking out the window but I didn’t mind.
Already firmly seated, a group of boys at the opposite row called Timmy’s name. “Tim, hey,” a gothic eyeliner lad called. Tim didn’t hear it so I tapped him. He looked up to the guy. “Come on here.”
“Oh, hey Alex,” Tim greeted and he transferred to sit with them. I was now alone. “I didn’t see you this morning. How’s it going—“
I tried to listen to their talk for a while. They’d been making rowdy noises so it wasn’t so clear. “Is that your sister?” I heard somebody ask.
“Yeah.” And they all laughed. “She looks hot…and weird.” I never intended to listen anymore.
When we got to the school grounds, Tim fled together with his mates and I set off alone. “Oh, wait, are you coming with me home later?” I asked before he left.
“No. We’re going in a movie house after school. Just tell Mom I’ll be alright.” Tim said. One of his mates started eyeing me from head to toe as we talked. I started to feel uncomfortable so I rushed it.
“Fine. Ok, bye.” I left hurriedly.

On my way to chemistry class, I noticed a lot of people doing their everyday routine again—giving annoying looks telling how weird and nerd I probably was. I was getting used to it but everyday gets worse. Even some teachers like Mr. Blake would also do that. Some boys would give me dirty ones but I escaped them easily. Everyday, I felt like my whole body was gonna melt from it. I still kept my head on the game and acted as if nothing’s happening.

When I got in the room, people still acted the same except one girl named Ciara. I wasn’t friends with her but we were strongly acquainted. I couldn’t find the time to hang out with her due to my Chemistry passion habit(doing an intensive research about each element in the periodic table of elements in the the library during free time) and so yeah, no time for social life actually. But still the driving power within her was so strong.

I passed my homework, did 3 pop quizzes for the ones I missed when I got sick and started doing my electronegativity research for my Science term paper on that day. Fortunately, I got an A+ for my homework and pop quizzes.
“Wow, you missed 5 days of school and yet, you managed to get an A+ for the 3 tests? That’s great, Rachelle. I’m so proud of you!” My teacher, Mrs. Woods smilingly praised. Teachers often said these things to me. There was no room to wonder why but I often struggled on relinquishing not-so-humble thoughts.

After another three set of classes, I went in the library again. While sitting and reading a thick chemistry textbook, I saw Ciara walking towards me together with her books. She was smiling at me and the blonde-headed young woman seemed to be so happy. I still kept on reading the book I held. Then she sat on an empty seat beside me. “Hey there Rachelle! How’s it going?” Her pitchy little voice chanted. “Are you busy?”
I wiped first the blurry surface on my glasses then pulled my mouth corners up. I need not to be harsh with this young lady. “Well, yeah, sort of. I need to research for the electronegativity topic. We need it for the term paper.” My voice sounded dull.
“Oh, are you really born a science genius? I wonder if you ever had a headache shoving those things inside your head.” Smiling again, sounding so friendly to me.
I still glued my eyes on the book and smiled back. “I don’t know. I don’t even think I’m a genius. I just love science especially chemistry. Chemistry rocks my world. Why are you here anyway?”
“Actually, I’ll be doing my homework too. I wanna ask some help from you but you seemed so busy.”
I didn’t respond. At least she knew I was busy.
She then started flipping her notebook and getting her pen. She wrote a few phrases and started swirling her curly locks probably thinking. “Have you finished this one? The general chemistry homework?” She asked.
“Yeah. Just recently.”
“Do you know the answer in no. 1? What’s the chemical name for water anyway? Do you know it?”
I pondered if I should tell her the answer or what. Anyways, a little help wouldn’t hurt. “I believe it’s Dihydrogen monoxide.”
Ciara exclaimed. “Oh! There it is. Thank you!”
“You know what, “ she muttered. I opened one ear for her as I still read the material. “You look and sound like my brother Andrew. He’s a big Science freak too. But he won’t help me with my studies. He gets everything all by himself.”
I paused for a moment. “Really? He likes Chemistry too?”
“Yeah. Like you. You guys look like twins, wearing the same glasses and fashion statement.”
“Where is he studying?”
“He’s in W.Spencer Christian School. He’ll be transferring here for the next few weeks. He hates the crowd there.”
“How old is he?”
“19.”
My curiosity grew closer. I dropped the book for a while leaving the Boron element unfinished reading. “Isn’t he too old for juniors?”
Ciara beamed again. “Yeah. He is. Been diagnosed for rheumatic heart disease for 2 years so he missed two school years.”
“Oh.”
“I’m sure you guys will make a good ‘science’ couple when you meet each other!” Ciara giggled. Everybody glanced quickly at us.
I grimaced then half-smiled. A good ‘science’ couple? Was she trying to pair me off with Andrew? Nevertheless, I was amused of her. I was hoping for a deep friendship to bloom with us. Not a very deep one but a steady companionship from her.
“Well, Rachelle, I really gotta go,” she already began packing her supplies. “My class is about to start. See ya later.”
“Have you finished your homework already?”
“Actually, not yet. I’ll go do it at home.”
“Oh, maybe I could help you again. At the treehouse after dismissal? Is that fine with you?”
She grinned one more time again. “Oh, I’d love to. Ok, see ya at the tree house!” And she ran at the exit door.


3 weeks later…

It was Monday morning. Ciara and I went inside our locker room together. Ciara and I had been really good friends since that library moment. We ate, did homework together and hand out during weekends. Every weekend is a fun escapade. Every weekday is a cool adventure.

Before I could enter my first class, I bumped along this quirky young man along my way. The books pressed on my chest fell and scattered on the floor. When he saw it, he frowned at me then ran away. I thought he was going to help me. Extremely pissed off that time, I just picked them off myself and went in the room. I wouldn’t forget that rudeness. One thing so weird at him, he was wearing a worn-out corduroy and striped t-shirt. His glasses were round like of Harry Potter’s. He looked like a big stupid man. Weirder than I was.

“Oh, Ciara, if you only knew,” I blurted out to Ciara during our library moment. “I really really hate that insane person. He didn’t even help me?! Not a gentleman, must I say.”
Ciara laughed. “How does he look?”
“He looks like a moron, seriously. Arrggghh!!! I’ll never forget him. If only I could punch that stupid—“
“Ssshhh! We’re in the library,” She reminded. I tried to calm down myself. “You just saw him today?”
“Yeah. Hey, you told me your brother’s transferring here within 3 weeks right? Did he already?”
“Well, actually yeah. Just today. He’s starting his first day today!”
I jumped from my seat slightly. “You never told me! Where is he? Which class?”
“Haha. Sorry ‘bout that,” She grinned. “He’s under control of Mr. Lynch right now. Still exploring the school actually. He’ll be starting his lessons tomorrow.”
“Oh. I didn’t see him this morning. How come?”
“He went to school on his own.”
I nodded. “Hey,” she said. “Are you excited to see my brother?”
“No!” I exclaimed. “Who told you that? Nothing, just curious.”
“Don’t worry ‘bout that. You’ll see him just a little bit later after dismissal. We’ll be going home together.”
“Oh. Great.”

Like Ciara promised, she would introduce her brother to me by dismissal. I waited at the treehouse which was our usual meeting place after school and ate cupcakes for awhile. Holding a pack of strawberry cupcakes I bought from the cafeteria, I set aside at least three for my friend. And three for me. Seconds later, I spotted Ciara walking towards me together with a tall man. The tall man surely looked so familiar. As they went closer, I recognized the man. My eyes widened in a big round one when I find out he was the guy who bumped me recently.
“Hey ‘Chelle! How’re you doing?” Ciara asked. A big Oh! Made me shut my mouth for a while.
My fist crumpled the plastic bag of cupcakes. It was really him, that weird guy who ruined my day. “Oh, cupcakes! I love them. Can I have them?” Then Ciara grabbed the pack in such sudden force but in a teasing manner.
“Oh by the way Rachelle,” she said, munching one cupcake. “This is my brother Andrew. He’s the one that I’m talking about actually. Andrew, this is my friend Rachelle. She loves Science like you do too.”
Andrew seemed to be so shocked for seeing me. Perhaps, he knew he had something to pay me?
Nevertheless, I was still pissed off at that time.
“Nice meeting you Rachelle,” Andrew laid his hand for a shake. I still shook it anyway. “Hey, I think I know you. Were you that girl I bumped into first thing in the morning?”
I laughed scornfully. He still remembered it. “Haha! Were you that guy who bumped me along the corridor and just ran away? He didn’t speak. Ciara watched us. “Hey,” she asked. “What’s going on? Is there something wrong?”
“Well, sorry young lady,” He finally spoke. Frustration traced his face. “I was rushing towards my first class. My apologies.”
I crossed my arms and acted like I never cared. “I need to go Ciara,” I excused. “Someone’s waiting for me at home.Bye.”
Before I could leave, I grabbed back the cupcakes from Ciara and threw an annoying glance to Andrew. He frowned at me then I headed away.
“What’s wrong with her—“ I heard him ask but the voice faded as I went farther.

Even after I got home, I still couldn’t shake off what happened recently. That night on my bedroom, I checked out my Facebook account. Ciara posted on my wall: Hey, iz der sumthin wrong?
Coincidently, she was online. I chatted her:
Me: Hey there.
She quickly responded.
Ciara Hamilton: Hey! Ur online!
Me: Uh-huh. So, what r u doin
Ciara Hamilton: Nothin. Just hangin around. Hey, wat’s with my bro?
Me: Oh. Sorry bout that. He’s the guy that I wanna punch in the face.
Ciara Hamilton: LOL :D
Me:?!
Ciara Hamilton: Geez!
Me: What?!
Ciara Hamilton: My bro’s really like that. Hey, he said sorry rite?
Me: Yeah. But it didn’t sound so sincere.
Ciara Hamilton: Huh?!
Ciara Hamilton: Hey, gotta go. Somebody’s gonna use the PC.
Me: Fine. BYE. See ya.

(Ciara Woods is offline.)

The next day, after Tim and I separated our ways together, Ciara and I met at the treehouse before the classes started. Of course, Andrew was with her. He had been gone for a while.
“Are you still pissed off at Andrew?” Ciara asked. I didn’t speak. “I’m sorry about that. He’s really like that. He’s actually procrastinating yesterday. He thought he was late. But his classes never started yet. And he’s still working out for peers right now.”
I sighed. “Is that so?”
She nodded.
“I’m so sorry too for being rude. My shoulder ached that night so—“
“Oh! Rachelle!” She exclaimed. “You never told me! Are you OK?”
“Yeah. My shoulder’s already fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Ciara snarled, arms crossed and annoyed. “What you did? That’s worth a shot.”
I frowned in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“Never mind. Let’s go. The bell just rang.”
“Where’s…Andrew?”
“Don’t worry about him. He’s already in his class I bet.”

When I entered inside my first class, the students already filled up the room. Only three or five students were missing. I searched for my table. But shock zinged my whole body when Andrew Hamilton was sitting on my very own table! Andrew stared back at me in surprise. His eyebrows puckered into a grimace. I immediately inquired Mrs. Woods regarding this.
“Mrs. Woods, I wonder where’s my seat. Shouldn’t I be sitting over there?” I pointed at my table. Andrew still ogled at me.
“Oh!” The teacher grinned. “Yes. You should be sitting over there. By the way, you have a new seatmate, Mr. Andrew Hamilton.”
“Mrs. Woods, can I please transfer to another table?”
Mrs. Woods glanced at me longer. “I’m sorry Rachelle. There are no other tables left. And also, I need you to help Mr. Hamilton in our class. He’s a transferee.”
“What?! But—“
“Please take your seat now, Ms. Woods. We’re starting.”

I had nothing to do but sit beside him.
Andrew couldn’t take his eyes off of me. Probably surprised too. I had no choice but to sit beside him. I scooted farther from him.
He leaned a little bit closer to me. “Why are you sitting on my seat?” He whispered.
I glared at him annoyingly. “Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that question?”
He smiled as if teasing me. “What made your day so bad, young lady?”
“Why don’t you ask yourself?”
“You haven’t even answered any of my questions.”
This guy really was annoying. I ceased speaking.
“You’re my sister’s bestfriend right? “
For the last time, “Mrs. Woods is already discussing the lesson. Maybe you should listen. Or else—“
“Or else what?” He challenged. The ridiculous expression never stopped.
“You know what will happen if you don’t listen. Do I have to tell you?”

Mrs. Woods question caught my attention for awhile. “What is the only element that does not solidify?”
I raised my hand in excitement. I noticed Andrew raising his hand as well. Then he challenged me with a quick glance. Nobody in the class dared to answer except both of us. Now I could see Mrs. Woods probably thinking which one of us. “Yes, Mr. Hamilton?” She called.
He answered, “It’s Helium.”
“Correct.”
Andrew smiled at me as if cheering for my ‘small defeat’. “Do you think I’m not listening?” He teased. I breathed heavily in extreme exasperation.
Second time, she asked again. “What is the fifth state of matter?”
Andrew raised his hand again. I raised mine too.
“Rachelle?”
“It’s Bose-Einstein condensates. “
“Explain briefly about it.”
Andrew jumped from his seat. “Mrs. Woods, I could explain it.”
“You may take your seat now, Rachelle. Yes?”
“it is a state of matter of a dilute gas of weakly interacting bosons confined in an external potential and cooled to temperatures very near absolute zero.”
Mrs. Wood smiled, perhaps amazed. “Correct.”
The more I interact with this crazy guy, the more I feel worse. Why did I have to come across such a person like this?
“I am supposed to answer that one,” I muttered, still aggravated. “And you stole my spot. What’s wrong with you, Andrew?”
He grinned so smugly again. Every time I saw him smile, I felt more and more irritated. “Don’t blame me for stealing the answer. You were way too slow.”
“Oh, yeah? You’ll see.”
“What?”
“Nothing,” I denied. “You hear too much things.”
He shrugged and chuckled. How I wished I could really punch this man. Nobody ever taunted me like this.

“The departmental examinations will start by next week. Monday up to Friday. Please coordinate with Mr. Johnson Blake for the schedule,” Mrs. Woods announced. “Should you have any inquires or questions regarding with my subject, please feel free to inquire me. And also, the term paper shall be submitted by Monday. And Ms. Rachelle Woods?”
I responded. “Yes, Ma’am?”
“Please inform Mr. Hamilton about the term paper. And also, please assist him in our lessons. Is that fine with you?”
“Yes, Mrs. Woods.”I regretted saying yes.
“Thank you. Goodbye class.”

Now what should I do about Andrew?
“I can’t believe Mrs. Woods had to give me this work. Why does it have to be you?” I frankly said at him.
“I can’t believe you would treat a new student like that.”
“Stop messing up with me, please?” My voice sounded like pleading. “Where’s your next class by the way?”
“History. You?”
History? I’ll be with him again? “History?! Why in the world—that’s my next class too!”I got more and more pissed off.
“What are we doing now? Aren’t we going to our next class?” He asked, still the haughtiness not yet gone.
“Let’s go we’re gonna be late.”
Andrew followed me after. He must be feeling good for teasing me all the way in.

After History and Language classes, I brought Andrew in the library. I explained to him about the term papers and assisted him in the lessons he missed. He was serious that time, fortunately. What I noticed about him, when it comes to work, he gets so serious and focused. I could see myself in some part of him.
“What’s the coverage of the departmental exams next week?”Andrew asked, pen ready to take down notes.
“In chemistry, you should the states of matter, solutions, chemical bonding and molecular structure, the chemical equilibrium, and acid base equilibria. Also, review the periodic table of elements. Especially the most important elements. In other subjects, I can’t remember. I’ll give you the copy after dismissal. Anymore questions?”
He stopped writing and smiled again. “You only memorized the pointers in Chemistry?How about the other subjects?”
“Well….ummm…yeah. What again?”I frowned.
He shrugged and continued writing.
“We’ll have a pop quiz in Chemistry tomorrow. Do you…already know the lesson?”
“Yeah.”
“It’s a very complicated one and—“
“Don’t worry about me. Hey, why are you so worried about me?”
I laid my head down, feeling shy. “No-thing. I’m not concern so don’t expect Mr. Hamilton. I don’t really care if you pass or fail.”
“And you won’t really care if I ace you tomorrow in our pop quiz?”He teased.
I stared infuriated right in his eyes. Nobody ever dared me to ace in a test. Nobody. “Whatever,” was all I could say. Though honestly, I feared that challenge. “We’ll be late in our next class. We should better get going. Hey, what’s your next class BTW?”
“Mathematics with Mr. Harvard.”
My eyes widened. Not again. “With you again?! Let’s go.”

12:30 noon came and I headed off to the cafeteria for lunch time. I only had an apple juice and Caesar salad on my tray. Ciara and Andrew lined up for their food trays behind me. “Won’t you eat something heavy for lunch, Rachelle?” Ciara asked.
I answered, “Nope. I’m stuffed up.” Then I threw a heavy glance at Andrew who was grinning mockingly like an insane person at me. Ciara suddenly laughed.

After dismissal, Andrew and I had to plan up a tutorial session for him to cope up with the missing work. I was the only one assigned to tutor him and every teacher assigned me to help him. Mrs. Woods, Mr. Harvard, Mr. Blake, Sir Marco etc. Everybody. Everybody must have been trusting me too much. And honestly, I wished I had never accepted this responsibility. Andrew’s grades are now relied on how or what I teach. And this guy? I didn’t even know how I could communicate effectively with him. I felt so unlucky for meeting him.
“Just read the notes that I asked you to take. Tomorrow, we’ll meet up again in the library. Any more questions?” I asked, before I left school.
“Nothing,” he said, sounding serious this time. “And also, Rachelle…”
“Yeah?”
“Thanks.”
I kept my head down. “I gotta go. Tell Ciara I’m leaving.” I started to pace away.

The way he thanked me, I felt some part of my heart that softened. Maybe because somebody thanked me and it was my own…rival. Was he really a rival?A rivalry that developed in just two days?


The next day, it was Wednesday. Ciara told me she transferred to another Chemistry class with a different teacher. I asked her why and she told me she didn’t like to be with her brother in the same class. Of course I wondered why (‘cause that’s her brother) but later I realized. Andrew was speaking to Mrs. Woods when I entered the room. He didn’t saw me so I slipped in silently to my own table. A vast number of students in this room were missing but I hardly doubted all of them were absent. I thought of this, if someone’s absent today, I could shoo Andrew and have him sit to another table. If that’s do, I would never turn red—at least for this day. But only after awhile, I knew my simple wish was never going to be true. Hordes of students suddenly arrived in groups.

When Andrew returned in our table, he then took his notepad out of his backpack and carefully studied it. Even when I try to look straightly at the blackboard, I could still look through him in the corner of my left eye. He didn’t talk or even notice me as if I never existed. He was acting weird and very quiet. (Honestly, I was expecting him to do the same like yesterday.)
I ogled at my watch. 5 minutes left before class starts. I suddenly recalled what Andrew challenged yesterday. Should I study or rely on my knowledge? I studied lightly the night before this class. Was Andrew taking things seriously?

After the bell rang, Mrs. Woods pushed the button of her electric bell. “Pop quiz. Mr. Hansen, please distribute these test copies.”
Andrew got his pen and extra paper. I found myself thinking why I’d been watching what he’s doing.

(To Be Continued)




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