Chapter XIII : Integration in the Complex Plane

It was late Sunday morning and because of the bet I'd lost with Suril, I wasn't allowed to do math-of-the-matics of any variety for the whole day and if that wasn't a real dud-a-thon of things to come then protractors ahoy, the Absorption Law didn't state that a ^ (a v b) = a v (a ^b) = a for the binary operators v and ^.

"Oh by the absorption identities," I lamented, dejectedly sulking into the boney prominences known as my knees.

I had a simply terrible, uuughs-worthy text by the name of 'Middlemarch' by some George Elliot buffoon soiling the orange X's and O's of my pajama pants-lap. Grandma had said that the little X's and O's on my jammies (sans the dodger, obviously) were evocative of the kind of loving you could get before some 'off the hook' oral sex. I maintained, as I had since the February 18th of grade seven, that X's and O's were evocative of the Constant Rule whereby dX (k) = O because afterall who couldn't get a bit hot to trot over general derivatives? It was why the common masses often finalized pieces of personal communications with their own name and then XOXO; a clear indication of the encompassing love of the Constant Rule if ever there was an indication of encompassing love.

After this scholarly debate at the table, Grandma and I did cheers with our breakfast of vegetarian moussaka; only some of the eggplant fell into my pajamas tank top. The pattern of the fallen Greek was of a dodecahedron and I had to remind Grandma that a dodecahedron was made up of twelve pyramids with a pentagon as the base. I then offered to calculate the height of the pyramid using my favourite old shoe Pythagoras Theorem for some real marvy times at breakfast but Grandma poked at my boob with a holey tea strainer and the moussaka got all mashed up inside my shirt and it tickled me.

Grandma said, "To heck with all that math hoopla this early in the morning."

But I didn't get mad because then some of the moussaka fell on her and it looked like when you got your period on a maxi-pad, only mushier.

I'd made a most valiant attempt...or at least some of a valiant attempt to get a head start on future English class readings but my well-grooved cerebrum & co. had been easily defeated by the most snooze-worthy, crudite readings that had entered my elliptical orbit since skimming the instructions on the side of Grandma's tube of haemorrhoids ointment.

'Middlemarch' started off like this: 'Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors?'

That was as far as I got because my irises had clouded over into puddles of glaucoma and drips of drool resembling a damped harmonic oscillator had curved off my chin like great fat-o tears of ennui. I thought this 'Middlemarch' rumpus could be summed up nicely with the opening words of the book, namely the 'who cares' part. That's pretty much how I felt about it and this Saint Theresa character could go fry up an equilateral triangle for her dinner for all I gave a hoot about.

"So I got a date tonight with that stud Myron," Grandma announced, blazing a trail into the living room. Her purple-infused hair was pinned up in neon blue rollers and her face was covered in an olive green mud mask that smelled vaguely like cantaloupe inspired irritable bowel syndrome. "I decided to wear my red track suit for the event. You know, the real flirty one like how J-Lo used to wear back when she was Jenny from the Block? Only I don't know what I should wear under the zip-up hoodie part. I got this here chestnut or this here other chestnut. Which one do you think'll get me the luckiest?" She was holding up two little t-shirts. One was cloudy urine-coloured and said in sparkly bubble letters 'You be 6 and I'll be 9'. The second one was hot pink and proclaimed in slanted emerald, 'Sex is a Misdemeanour, the more I miss it, the meaner I get.'

I didn't have to give this polynomial much contemplation. It was like citing the difference between drooling excitedly over meromorphic functions that only had finite-order, isolated poles and zeroes and no essential singularities in their domains and drooling stupidly over the fruitatious fra-la-la idiocy of the Elliot known as George. "Does Kulikowski's Theorem state that for every positive integer n, there exists a sphere which has exactly n lattice points on its surface?"

"That don't really tell me much," Grandma admitted, her face mask cracking a bit in the buccal region. "69 or misdemeanour? That's all I gotta know."

I huffed and the force of it rattled the march straight out of the middle, as it were. I supposed this meant that Grandma didn't care to see me plot a Schinzel Circle…her loss of edification obviously. "Why choose wordy lines when you can choose 69s?"

Grandma was impressed. You couldn't tell it from her gunked-up green face but I knew she was because she said, "I'm impressed. Love's gotta be in the air if you're lounging around reading the classics and waxing poet."

'Middlemarch' was considered a classic? In what uninspired world, Medicine Hat, Alberta? Ughs-town, how shitacular. "It's not love in the air Grandma. It's 78% oxygen, 21% nitrogen, 1% water vapours, 0.9% argon and 0.038% carbon dioxide, along with a few other trace components comprised mostly of neon, helium, krypton and xenon."

Suril slowly limped into the living room. His mouth was full of apricot brioche and smoked gouda. "Talking about the make of up air, eh?"

"Tell me what you think," Grandma demanded, holding the two t-shirts up by her ears. "Which one do you think'll knock the dentures right outta Myron?"

Suril more fell onto the sofa then sat on it. "I'm with Jane; you just can't say no to a good 69," he mumbled, swallowing thickly. He gave his mouth a good scrub on his sleeve of his hoodie. "Plus that misdemeanour pink with your red track suit would totally clash."

Grandma considered this. "Well you can't argue with the gays when it comes to fashion," she agreed. She studied the two shirts thoughtfully. "Course I gotta say, I like this misdemeanour one an awful lot. Sends out a real gangster message. As in after Myron sees it, he'll know that he can't shoot the shit with an OG like me. That's original gangster, in case you didn't know. See, the way I look at it, you have to establish these kinds of boundaries early on in a relationship. Look at what happened with me and Mr. Yakama. If our relationship moved any slower, we'd going in rewind. You can't shoot the shit, if you know what I mean."

Suril and I both agreed that when it came to relationships, there should be no shooting of the shit.

"In fact, I think I'm gonna go call up Yakama right now and gloat some. He had his chance to snatch me up but it's too late now." Grandma shook her head as she headed for the kitchen phone. "I'll tell him I'm wearing my lacy brown bra from Sears. That'll really rile him up; he always loved that bra. Said it reminded him of anko, that red bean paste shit."

Suril caught my sclera and we had some giggles. Mr. Yakama was known to take baths with handfuls of anko; he maintained it was good for his psoriasis. Grandma maintained that it helped him cut the cheese a lot more.

I had spent forty-eight minutes and nineteen seconds this morning regaling Grandma and Suril with all the outlandish rigmarole that had happened at Connor's party last night. They'd been wildly impressed with me and my peer-socializing, two-boy-slow-dancing, sexy-shower-spying, lost-doughnut-eating ways. Grandma had blubbered all over Suril when I'd told her that I'd kissed Rafe first and his tattoo and that he'd liked my lucky bra and had put his hand in it. Suril had fallen off the sofa in his excitement, with Grandma in tow and she'd jostled up his sprained leg. Then we both had to haul Suril back up onto the sofa and he took some Tylenol #2s for the pain. He said he didn't mind, though, 'cause he was so impressed that I'd had a real gas law of a time at a party of my peers, with my peers, doing peer-like things. Then he'd proclaimed me to be 'Hotter than the 15.7 million degrees K of the sun.'

I'd blushed so hard that I'd felt like the sun, though just the outer atmosphere obviously. Only the freckled mouth of Rafe Moretti could induce me to feel like the sun's core.

Grandma and Suril had high-fived each other and crowed for a trilobite's age when I told them about Katrina klooning Conner's face in with a metal statue and Rafe snapping his leg like a twig and then making use of the brass knuckles Suril's mum had given him. Suril smacked a kiss on my cheek and hugged me hard enough to make my muddy ol' eyes have a good bulge-a-thon.

I found myself keeping a couple of things a secret from Grandma and Suril though; the second secret since Conner had bruised my arm. What I never told them was that Katrina had drunkenly hit me in the face for being alone with Rafe. Or that I'd cried for nine minutes and twenty-three seconds straight after Rafe had left me alone with an unconscious Conner and his bashed up leg and bruised face. Or how Rafe's friend Austin had to call me up a taxi man to take me home because Rafe was too busy attempting to soothe a hysterical, drunken Katrina.

I didn't tell them that some parts of me felt that I'd deserved to have Katrina smash my nose in.

I hated violence. It made me the saddest on a cellular level. I could scarcely watch the evening news without feeling like I was going through diverticulitis. Of course I'd known that when I'd hired Rafe but even knowing what Conner had done to Suril and how he hated him for being gay hadn't prepared me for the overwhelmingly negative oxidation number of witnessing Rafe break Conner's leg. It was the difference between seeing the equation r = 2+2 Cos [3t] and then actually graphing it and seeing how lovely the three petal-ed flower could be. Only there was nothing lovely about Conner.

Still, the sound of his tibia cracking had filtered in and out of my mind all night long. I hadn't been able to sleep last night, for the first time since my Dad had died six years ago. Did two wrongs really make a right? Did the ends really justify the means? And then there was the way I'd treated Katrina, kissing her boyfriend and liking it...and how she'd believed I'd never be able to attract Rafe on my own.

I had expected to feel elated and vindicated after Rafe broke Conner's stupid, homophobic leg, not guilty and upset. I had never thought of Katrina as a real person with real thoughts and feelings before and that made me feel even more guilty. But I hadn't been able to really articulate all this to Grandma and Suril, not when I could scarcely make much of it myself.

"Last night Katrina was sadder then I was when I got that Hess's Law question wrong," I told Suril, gnawing on the point of my index knuckle. The skin there was a good mix of wrinkly and chewable. "She cried all over my sweater and I only washed eleven days ago."

Suril scoffed. Neither he nor Grandma had given 'two Jesus-sweet shits' as Grandma had put it, about Katrina and her snivellings. "Jane, she deserves to get her skanky ass dumped for the way she treated you all those years. She's a bint of the first water. So what if she's insecure? Big bloody whoop, who the eff isn't? That's not an excuse to be cruel. She doesn't deserve Rafe; you do. And he doesn't even want her anyway, he wants you. So she can go suck an infested goat's dick I say!"

I blinked. There was a lot of vehemence in the air. I batted it away so it wouldn't get into my ponytail and make anymore frizz there. "Infested with what, do you suppose?"

"Leprosy," Suril said promptly. Apparently a lot of thought had been given to this subject. "And tennis elbow. Or you know, tennis hoof I guess it would be."

All the logical centres synapse-ing in my brain knew what Suril was postulating was the absolute truth but in my blood-churning heart of hearts, I couldn't help myself from feeling the most guilty I'd ever felt...as in 10 to the power of 100 at least. I had kissed Rafe last night and his tattoo too and he'd a girlfriend then. He'd spent all week doing the 'making-out' me even though he was still with Katrina and I had liked all those kisses. And that all was the wrong banjo to play; you didn't have to watch Hee Haw to know that. Suril and Grandma didn't know what it was like to have Katrina cry all over you and tell you about the dudcake boys who'd broken the aortic arch straight off her heart. They didn't have to hear her weep on about how much Rafe meant to her and how without him she'd be less than the relative atomic mass of H.

And as much as Rafe had come to be as close to me as Suril and Grandma and Mr. and Mrs. Shah were, I knew that Rafe meant more to Katrina than he did to me. I knew I could easily live without him as long as I had Grandma and Suril and my dog-eared copy of 'Producing Biomolecular Materials Using Fermenters, Bioreactors, and Biomolecular Synthesizers'. It didn't really seem like Katrina had any of those things to fall back on; Katrina didn't like to read anything heavier than Glamour magazine and celebrity gossip blogs.

"She's going to wrench the spleen out of my side and make a V-8 cocktail with it," I mourned, pressing at my nose. I could still feel the hurt of it. I was scared that Katrina might find something else to mash on me and then I'd be too busted up to attend a decent university and probably I'd only be able to drool my way through night school. I shuddered, hugging my knees to my chest and hiding my face in there. I didn't want to ever­ go to night school! Surely I'd be able to survive a second Katrina-style mashing, couldn't I?

Suril patted the top of my head. "I don't think Rafe will let Katrina touch you. And if he's not around, I'll gum up her hair once I get back to school. Shiva knows she's had it coming for years now. She'd shit bricks if anything ever happened to her hair."

I peered over at Suril through my bangs. "But she's a real quintic form with real feelings. Her a is complex just like how the a is complex in the equation x to the power of 5 – x – a = 0, if you used a Tschirnhausen Transformation that is. Last night, at that social event of socializing-"

"Oh hell, are you still going on about that stupid arsehole?" Grandma stomped back into the living room in her sparkly pink platform sneakers circa Spice Girls '97. She planted her hands on her bony hips and loomed over me, a steely gaze peering out of her olive-green face. "Now you listen here Jane Beatrix Hazelton and you listen good. Maybe I don't know much about all that science-math stuff you're always yapping on about but I'm still your Grandma and I still know lots more than you do. I got worldly smarts, you know?"

Of course I knew. What other sixty-three year old woman made a killing selling cigarettes for a loony apiece to drunken nuggets outside the clubs every weekend?

"That Katrina has given you nothing but grief all these years. You think I never heard you crying into that bottle of Vim in the bathroom all those times? You think I don't know why you're more wrapped up in heaps of textbooks instead of socializing with gangs of teens? You think I don't know how much she's hurt you?" Grandma framed her fingers around my face. Her touch was warm and she smelled like vanilla cupcake lip gloss. "Sometimes you gotta take karma into your own hands, like how you did with Rafe and that Conner idiot. And sometimes karma just happens on its own. Yeah so Katrina got dumped. Cry me a fuckin' river! Maybe next time, she should stop being such a prissy little shit! Like Suril said, she deserves everything she got and never you mind about her. Who cares if she cried all over you for like ten minutes in a drunken stupor? Serves her right, after all the crying she made you do. In fact, I hope she's still crying, that flaky-ass bimbo! You just keep your mind on school and don't go wasting your time on her, you hear me?"

Suril laid his head on my shoulder. "You preach it Grandma."

Grandma lifted my chin and made me look her in the eye. She had some of the green mud mask stuck on her eyelashes. "Janie?"

"I just feel sad for her Grandma," I mumbled, shamefaced. I hadn't known that Grandma had known what a soggy ol' tofu-wiener Katrina had made me be, for all those years. "Like when Mr. Holtz got mad at me in English class for working on my inverse functions assignment instead of discussing the use of allegory in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with the rest of the class. I can't help it."

"You got a bleeding heart, just like your Mum did." Grandma kissed my forehead, something she hadn't done for five years and seventy-three days. "I love you honey, you know that? You're what makes my life worthwhile."

"I love you too," I whispered, trying to sniffle snot back up my nose. "Even more than Gauss' Law for magnetic fields."

"Oh Christ, I love you guys too!" Suril hugged both me and Grandma at the same time. Our heads knocked together and one of Grandma's yellow chandelier earrings got stuck in my ponytail. Suril had to pull it out and then Grandma proclaimed that was enough 'faggy crappola for the day'. She rubbed her knuckles smugly against the top of Suril's head when she said that and he got mock-mad and called her a 'decrepit old baboon'. Then they got into a round of fisticuffs, only with more slapping then fists and 'Middlemarch' somehow got dented up in the brouhaha.

Grandma and Suril always knew how to make me feel better about myself.

Rafe telephoned me while Suril and Grandma and I were watching a bunch of lithe Hawaiian guys in coloured spandex doing aerobics on a beach in Waikiki. We decided that Grandma would marry the one in yellow on account of his 'interesting package', Suril would marry the one in red 'because you could bounce twoonies off his butt' and I would marry the one in purple since he was the only one who looked like he might have a vague notion about what relative permeability entailed. Also he had a sprinkling of freckles across the tip of his sunburnt nose and as I'd learned over the past few days, I was quiet partial to freckles.

Rafe apologized for not being able to drive me home last night, said he wanted to talk to me and invited me to his house after lunchtime.

"Smells like the scales of a tilapia to me," I mused, pulling at my lower lip to give it some 11:54 AM exercises. "He could've just talked to me on the phone. Probably he wants to draw Rutherford's model of the atom with his tongue onto my tongue again."

"See now you're thinking like a normal teenaged girl," Grandma declared. "I'm real proud. I always hoped this day would hurry up and come along and now here it is. I really wanna smile but this mask'll crack right off and the hour isn't up yet. When you get to be my age, you need all the help you can get."

"Oh Gods, what're you gonna wear?" Suril demanded, tearing his eyes from all those stretching and squatting bulges. "If Rafe's gonna ask you to go steady with him then you gotta wear something sexy."

"Well I never thought about that side of Hund's Rule." I started to work on my upper lip, since I didn't want one lip to be stronger then the other. I'd need both if I wanted to eat lots of good dinners at alarming speeds. "I guess I could wear my 'Graphing rational functions is a pain in the asymptote' hoodie. If that isn't a sexy-town of clothes then well, all acids don't contain hydrogen."

"My girl's hopeless," Grandma said fondly, shaking her head.

"Woeth be her," Suril agreed. He reached over, grabbed Grandma's discarded 69 t-shirt and biffed it at me. "Here, wear this and give Rafe a real reason to jump your bones."

I examined the t-shirt and thought I may as well. Afterall, Loki knew I sure did like numbers.

We all went back to watching those spandexed lumps lunge.

I took the bus to Rafe's abode after lunch. Though probably I would've watched laundry dry in a snowstorm if it meant I didn't have to abuse my eyesight with the incomprehensive ramblings that were known as 'Middlemarch'. Suril eventually hobbled back to his house; Paulo was supposed to call and he was hoping to have more of the phone sex while his parents were still at temple. One of Grandma's poker buddies, Dorilda-May Hopkins, came over for lunch and Grandma needed to brag about what a studly character Myron was. Dorilda-May wasn't too jealous; she'd only just recently buried Lester, her husband of fifty-three years and was enjoying the freedom to leave piles of laundry around the house. I wasn't too sad at Lester's demise since I'd hardly liked him myself; his head had always been ballooned in a noxious cloud of cigar smoke and once, when I was twelve, he'd tried to show me a boil he had on his left bum cheek. There had been so much hair on his rump that trying to locate a boil would've been like trying to find a meatball in the forest.

It was a pretty good bus ride to Rafe's only the man across from me put his hand down his pants and was graphing something down there. Then he started swearing and panting and by the time the bus driver came around to kick him off the bus, his khakis were stained all down the front.

I shook my head sadly at the tall black guy sitting next to me. "If you wank the wank than you hafta walk the walk. Guess he never knew that."

The guy laughed. "True enough my friend, true enough."

I smiled at him since I wasn't exactly known as an equation which featured many known variables.

When I got to Rafe's house, Lucan was coming down the driveway as I was coming up it. He was wearing faded jeans and a faded Iron Maiden t-shirt and the piles of coloured tattoos on his arms seemed to gleam in the afternoon sunlight. I thought he looked as wonderful as the Argand Diagram.

"Hi buddy!"

"Hey kiddo." He slouched against Rafe's dented pop can of a car and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Here to see my useless little bro?"

"He did invite me to his dwelling today, this much is an irrefutable truth."

I blinked up at him. I liked Lucan. He would always remind me of derivatives and integrals and whenever I thought of those, I would now always think of his inked chest. You couldn't have one without the other, I reflected, like ketchup chips and prune yogurt. "Did you know that I'm v. melancholy today? I lost a bet with my friend Suril and now I can't do any math or science equations for the whole day. Instead I had to read some of this 'Middlemarch' crud for school and I hate it with as much of a specific heat capacity as can be converted into a heat equation via q = mc\delta T. I tell you, that book is the stupidest thing in the world. Well only after people who don't know how to calculate sale percentages in the shop-malls."

Lucan laughed. He had shaved off his skinny ear-to-ear line beard and now was sporting some scruffy stubble at his chin area. It looked like a mashed up scrap of steel wool. I wanted to touch it and see how scratchy it felt. "Well 'Middlemarch' isn't my favourite book by far but it could've been a lot worse."

I was something like astonished. "I am something like astonished! You truly consumed that boring old sock? In the real time of real life?"

"Yeah, in the real time that was grade twelve. Honours English you know? And it's a lot better read than say, 'Emma', for example. Now that was a gas...a very un-noble rancid gas if you get my drift." He gave a dramatic shudder and wrinkled his nose. "Too girlie and shit for me. I'm not really into the match-making scene."

I gaped at him in awe. "You're the most well-rounded person I know."

Lucan hitched up one shoulder, his expression mild. He was the coolest like that. "What can I say? I'm a completely balanced equation."

I pondered that while I chewed on my bottom lip some. It tasted like the tabouli I'd had for lunch. "QED I'd say. Rafe isn't so much, is he? He's not too hot to trot in the chemistry department, I'm super sorry to say. Once he got just a 3 out of 10 on a Solutions test but after I tutored him some, he got an 8. I was so thrilled that my right tear duct shed worth it of one splash. If he lets me keep on with the tutoring then it'll be all 10 out of 10s and knock on sticks, he'll end up with a scholarship yet."

Lucan studied me like I was some spherical harmonics, though obviously not as beautiful. "You're really into him, aren't you?"

I pushed some driveway gravel around with the toe of my sneaker. I wanted to make a dual polyhedron out of it but I wasn't Father Time and Rafe had invited me to his house for the time of 'after lunch'. The last person to ever invite me over to their house, not counting Suril natch, was Hrefna Svensdottir in grade six. She had been an exchange student from Iceland and didn't know I was, as the elementary masses liked to put it, 'a majorly whacky weirdo'. Hrefna's ponytail was the straightest, shiniest, most golden ponytail I'd ever seen and I'd just wanted to gnaw on it some; see if it tasted like imaginary numbers like how I thought it would. Turned out, Hrefna didn't like it when people chewed on her ponytail and I never got invited to her house again. I didn't mind too terribly though; her house had smelled like a bloated, boiled sheep head and I never much liked gassy animals a la eau anyway.

"He's the nicest to me. I hired him but he never took my money, even though I had $50 in my bank account. Well$60 if I showed some pal from my francais class my brassier, as they say." I gave my own ponytail a good twisting at the mere memory of Hrefna's. It had been so beautiful. "He even wants to be my boyfriend once he does the breaking-up business with Katrina. I never had a boyfriend before. It's all very aghast-worthy, much in the stylings of pooper scoopers."

"It's not that aghast-worthy," Lucan told me, smiling because pooper-scooper was such a funny word…or two. Too funny a word for what you actually did with it, I thought. "High school's like this messed up cesspool of shit. None of it's really reality. Half the kids that are popular and attractive in school turn out to be deadbeat losers on welfare. It's the ones that actually give a crap about marks and their future that end up living decent. All you ever needed Jane, was someone to appreciate you for you. Turns out Rafe must have half a brain stuffed up in that little Irish head of his, if he likes you as much as he says he does. He's breaking up with Katrina right now and he spent all lunch whining at me to stay away from you so it must be serious. Before you came along, he was begging me to take Katrina off his hands."

I ingested a gasp of shock somehow and choked on the whole mess of air. "Katrina?" I managed to croak out. I sounded very much in tune with the Rana TemporiaI species of life, only I couldn't catch insects with my tongue or lay some four thousand eggs in one sitting. "Not here! Now?"

"Yeah, she just kinda showed up. Ruined all our appetites. I had to leave 'cause the crying got to be too much for my nerves." He winked at me. "I'm only a delicate petal you know."

"Yeah but...but...Katrinaphobia...I got it..." I couldn't help but blurt out my shameful secret then. It was an involuntary reaction, like when you saw a butternut squash and had to pretend it was a giant dicksicle and made thrusting motions at Suril with it. Turns out, Suril loves his Mum's curried butternut squash. If I were Mrs. Shah, I'd be a wee bit suspicious at Suril's excessive love of phallic vegetables, especially since he also ate a lot of zucchini and cucumber. "She hit me straight in the proboscis last night! The force of it induced me to see Ampere's Law in triplicate, no joke bloke! If she catches a gale of me, well the punchings alone-"

"Rafe wants you here Jane," Lucan interrupted gently. "He doesn't want Katrina. He hasn't for a long time. And really, I can't say that I blame him. She's a clingy ditzy1."

My lower lip was wobbling like the crumpled compass that had been run over by Mr. Shah's lawnmower. RIP crumpled compass from Texas Instruments circa 1987, RIP. "I can't stand when various people get mad at me just like I can't stand on one foot for longer than one minute and two seconds," I whispered, shamefaced. I had never been too good at balancing, unless it was related to chemical equations. "I'm not a strong enough wench, as Suril sometimes calls me."

Lucan tucked a rogue piece of bang trying to make a living in my ocular region behind my ear. His fingertips skimmed by cheek and they were warm. "Yeah you are, sweetheart. Look at everything you did for your best friend. You're a tough cookie."

I anchored my lip with my incisors and considered that. "What kind, eh?"

"For you? I'm gonna have to go with Gingersnap."

I beamed as much as any 'Beam me up Scottie' fellow ever could. "Oh E = hv, that's my favourite kind!"

Lucan arched an eyebrow. "Feeling electromagnetic are you?"

We both had ourselves a mini-snigger at the wit of it all. It was like a mini-Snickers but only without the hydrogenated palm kernel oils. With some encouragement from Lucan and even more reluctance from me, I managed to flounce up to the Moretti front door and knocked on it in the pattern of a parabola.

Mrs. Moretti opened it and she smiled when she saw me. Her and Lucan had the same smile. "There you are, Jane." She was putting on a black trenchcoat as she spoke to me. "Come inside. How are you?"

I went inside and took a good whiff of things. It smelled like those cannolis I'd eaten for dessert the last time I'd been here and I wanted to lick the floors to get a good taste of it. Probably there wouldn't be an excess of much bacteria on those gleaming surfaces. "I am of a most stellar nature ma'am, complete with radical changes too."

"I see." She blinked her dark eyes at me for a few moments before pulling out her keys from a maroon leather handbag that was the size of Abu Dhabi. "Rafaello has been waiting for you. Unfortunately that Katrina just showed up and so he is with her upstairs. Thank the Pope that he has come to his senses about her. I never cared for her, to tell you the truth. All these years I've been making tartoni and she was the only one to ever complain about them. Too much fats she said. Too much carbohydrates she said. Too sweet she said. Bah. It was like a slap in the face."

Sighing, I licked at my left index cuticle. "If a harvest moon soaks through the leaf pond then even an ugly man could enjoy the ivy gourd of it."

Mrs. Moretti gave me a puzzled look before she took her leave. She must not have been that partial to ivy gourds, I thought.

I listened for a few moments before some voices filtered into my ear canal. Taking a deep breath, I crept up the stairs, holding onto the wooden banister with both my hands and with my life, while trying not to proclaim my sleuthing with any loud creaks. I could make out Katrina's shrill voice and Rafe's more quiet one. I pressed myself up against the hall-wall and slowly slithered towards Rafe's room.

"I'm a tough gingersnap cookie," I reminded myself as I ducked around a painting of a thatched house by a stream. "I'm no loser oatmeal raisin softie, stagnating in 2% all day, no way."

"You can't be fucking serious! What the hell does she have that I don't?" Katrina was shouting in a way that made me want to hide under my iron board for ten plus years and then some. It was the very same voice she'd used backstage at our grade five Christmas concert when she'd announced to one and all that I wanted to sniff Keith Solanski's Bert and Ernie underpants. Keith had been so outraged at being found out for wearing baby underwear that he'd hit me in the face with his curly-toed elf shoe and the little jingle bell had gotten up my nose. Then every time I sneezed that night, my head had chimed. "She's not even that pretty!"

"It's not about that." Rafe's voice was quiet and it made my stomach dip but without any chips, obviously. "You and Janie are two different people and it's pointless to compare you. I can't help what I feel for her, Katrina. It just happened. She isn't like anyone I ever met before. It's not right to be with you and then lust after her all day. My Dad used to do that to my Mum and I swore I'd never be like him. I'm not gonna do that to you or Janie."

"Lust?" Hard to believe that such a small, one syllable word could hold so much revulsion behind it. Katrina was a master at it, I supposed, much in the same manner that I was a master at reciting all the molar masses of every element in the periodic table. "After Jane Hazelton? You've gotta be shitting me! She's a walking freak show! She's fucking half-retarded!"

"No she isn't; she's smarter than you and I will ever be." Rafe's tone grew defensive. "And yeah lust, as in I got the hots for her."

In spite of my trembling knees and dried mouth and restless fingers, my mouth smiled of its own accord. Rafe Moretti had, what he termed, 'the hots' for me and he wasn't afraid to tell the likes of Katrina Edwards about it! He was breaking up with a beautiful, trendy girl for an oh-so-smart but not-that-beautiful girl. It was like a stupid teen movie that catered to the brainless masses by force-feeding them unrealistic, romantic expectations. It was like Kirchhoff's First Law didn't state that an incandescent solid or gas under high pressure would produce a continuous spectrum. It was like Suril wasn't gay and Grandma didn't love 50 Cent and I hadn't memorized every chapter of Urone's 'College Physics' back in grade ten.

It was like what he was telling her couldn't real.

Because all these years had been filled with people siding with Katrina because she was pretty and popular and didn't eat crocuses every Friday. And now, in my last year of high school I'd managed to find a boy who wouldn't side with her. Rafe liked me, just the way I was and he didn't want me to change even one iota. Even though he didn't understand everything that was me, he still thought I was 'the shits'.

And that meant more to me than Rafe would ever know.

"Oh Christ that's disgusting. She's disgusting! Haven't you seen the way she's always chewing on her hair? Or the way she practically makes out her fucking math book every morning? Or the gross mess of crap she eats for lunch? Shit Rafe, I'm gonna be sick!"

"I don't make out with my math book," I mouthed into Rafe's doorjamb, Katrina's words hurting into my skin. "It's only a little kiss so the poor guy doesn't get too jealous over how much time I spend with 'Analytic Chemistry Volume I'."

There was some silence. I took a big risk and peeked one quarter of my head past the door. Rafe was sitting on his bed, his hair sticking straight up, looking to be on the harassed side of styles. Katrina had her hands on her hips and a faceful of dried tears. She was wearing no make-up and her long, auburn hair was enough of a wild jungle bush to make mine look pretty. I had to gape; Katrina's hair was to her what Analytic Chemistry was to me. I had never seen Katrina like this. Even in grade primary, her hair had been perfect and she had been the coolest on account of her being allowed to wear shiny pink lip gloss.

"Bathroom's around the corner."

Tears welled up in Katrina's Swiss chard eyes, the fight leaving her at Rafe's icy words. "You're really gonna to do this to me?" she whispered, her face draining of colour. "You're really gonna give me up for her? After everything we've been through? Rafe, can't you understand? I love you! I don't have anything if I don't have you! I'm not anything without you and that weirdo can never love you like I do!"

Rafe stood up and took Katrina's hands in his own. He said something that never got around to banging into my eardrum and gently kissed her forehead. Her face crumpled and she stumbled into his arms, crying all over him in a most familiar scene. Rafe hugged her while murmuring soothing words into her hair.

Gee, been there, done that, got the snotty wet sweater for a souvenir of things.

I sighed into the wall. Things were looking pretty boring now that Katrina wasn't yelling and getting mad and causing fright inside me on a cellular level. Or maybe it was just the saddest thing I ever heard. I didn't want to view this channel anymore; Katrina fit against Rafe in a way that made my breath catch up against my epiglottis.

I snuck back down the hall, down the stairs and went outside into the sunshine. I sat on the ground by Rafe's pile of rust Angelina (or car as he liked to call it) found a piece of rock that reminded me of a tachometer and wrote a quaternion on the driveway. It wasn't really doing math; I was mostly just considering the theory of it all so Suril couldn't think I was cheating could he?

"Social interactions are of a most difficult nature," I told Angelina. She never said anything back. She was too rusted up, I supposed.

Katrina came banging out of Rafe's house eleven minutes and fifteen seconds later. I flattened myself against Angelina but it was to no avail; I had zero camouflaging abilities and Katrina spotted me straightaways like Suril could spot a sexy tight man-bum in a crowd of rotund rumps straightaways.

"Couldn't wait to come by and slobber all over Rafe's tattoo could you?" she sneered, her eyes flashing in a way that was highly reminiscent of the Aurora Borealis; i.e. the emission of light from atoms that were excited by electrons accelerated along the planet's magnetic field lines. It was petrifying, as in it certainly petrified me.

I shrank against Angelina and bit at my fingers to stop them from trembling. "I'm his Chemistry tutor," I whispered into my nail beds. "I just help him remember things like a positive oxidation number indicates that elections are either removed completely or shifted partially away from an atom with lower electronegativity."

"Yeah like that shit is all you're helping him remember," Katrina snapped, glaring down at me. She was standing on the equation a + bi + cj + dk that I'd written on the driveway and I'd bet Grandma's subscription to Playgirl that Katrina didn't give one hoot that that a, b, c, and d were scalars and that the i, j, and k were analogous to the quantity i in complex number theory. "Bitch, I know exactly what kind of chemistry you've been doing with my boyfriend!"

I flinched, not wanting to be the one to remind her that Rafe was more of an ex-boyfriend now. "Are you gonna hit me in the nasal region again? Because if you are, I don't want my eyes to see the violence of your fist." I clutched the tachometer rock to my jacket and wrenched my eyes shut. Between Conner and Rafe and Katrina, the photoreceptors in my retinas had collected enough light of the violent variety to last me for the next century or so. "I bet it'd be real horrific, like that time in grade eight when I got careless and didn't square the cosine in the equation I = I0 cos2 theta. What a mammoth buffoon I was, to goof around Malus' Law. Good thing it was only for me and Suril's Friday night sleepover and not an actual test. That's what happens when you eat Fugee-Os in mango pulp at the 'vitching uhver' as Mama Shah calls it."

There was some silence. When I didn't feel Katrina inflicted all manner of carnage upon my visage, I took a risk and peeked up at her. She wasn't doing much of anything, just staring down at me like my head had suddenly morphed into a slice of smoked prochuttio and was drooling out ropes of lemongrass.

"Christ, I'm not gonna hit you," she finally mumbled. "Especially since you look so goddamn stupid."

I gestured to the quaternion that she was standing on. "I would've written more than just Hamilton's Quaternion but I lost a bet and can't do any math today. That's probably why you think I'm stupid but really I'm not." I frowned up at her worriedly. "You're not going to relay your postulations to the Principal, are you? Because if the administration gets a whiff of that dungwich and then they pass on the gas of it to the universities I applied to, well it'd be-"

"Oh shut up Jane. If I have to listen to you ramble on about nerdy shit for one more second then I really am gonna smack the hell out of you!"

Stung, I shut up. Maybe Katrina wouldn't mind being rejected from all universities possible and then having to work at some crudite, doo-doo job for \$8.45/hr for the rest of her life but I was part of coordinates that were at least the size of the Spherical Coordinates and I wanted a good job as a Chemical Engineer where I was challenged intellectually everyday and made a decent enough salary to support me and Grandma in fine style.

To my horror, Katrina crouched down in front of me and ordered me to look at her. Terrified, I did.

"Hurt him and I will kill you."

Well that was something I didn't doubt for one femtosecond.

"I don't care about what he wants," she continued, her voice low and biting. "You're nothing but a fucking novelty. How the hell can he stay with you when he doesn't even understand half of what comes out of your mouth? He'll get tired of you soon enough and when he does, I'll be there to pick up the pieces. I love him, like you never can, and I always will."

"I'm sorry Katrina," my mouth decided to blurt out. Nervously, I pulled at my ponytail with bloodless fingers. Her extremely volatile expression, such as which could certainly classify as a Volatile Organic Compound in accordance with guidelines set up by Health Canada, was inviting all manner of dizziness and light-headedness into my brain flesh. "This has all been very quark flavoured strange. You know, strange being the third lightest quark after the up and down quarks and of course, having a mass of approximately 540 MeV."

She looked at me for a long time and the force of it ratcheted my blood pressure into the 150's systolic at least. I clutched at my chest in the international symbol of 'Gack Heart Attack!' and goggled at her with enlarged, brown irises. "I'm not a total cunt you know," she told me, much to my immense surprise. "I know you probably think I am, after all these years but like I said last night, none of what I did was personal. I've known you for way too long to think that you actually planned to steal Rafe from me. If he hadn't asked you to tutor him, I know you would've never even noticed him. But that doesn't mean that I'm gonna forget that you ended up with my man. And maybe I won't get violent right now but that doesn't mean jackshit in the future, you hear me? I don't care how pathetic you are, slobbering all over your tests and making moon eyes at your fucking math teacher, you still stole my man and I won't be forgetting that any time soon."

I wanted to tell her that I had never stolen anything from her and never would but I was too scared to. I hadn't stolen Rafe from her, he wanted me and there was nothing in her possession that I would ever want anyway. She was the thief, not me; from the silver locket Dad had given me on my seventh birthday that she'd stolen to my favourite lunch of fish sticks and rhubarb jam to my braid that she'd lopped off during naptime; she'd always delighted in bullying me whether it had been personal or not.

I managed to jerk my head in a shaky nod.

"Good." And she burst into noisy tears and flung herself down the driveway in a furious, weeping swirl of tangled auburn hair and Hawaiian Ginger perfume.

I sat on Rafe's driveway for a few endless moments, astonished and scared and relieved, before eventually managing to check my jeans. I hadn't peed them so maybe there was something in what Lucan had said – I was a tough gingersnap cookie who didn't leak milk every time another scary cookie came crumbling into the jar. I contemplated what kind of cookie Katrina might be and eventually settled on white chocolate macadamia. She was awfully pretty in an intimidating sort of way and you never knew if you were going to get a bite of sweet or a bite of nut when you tried her for dessert.

Ganesh knew that I'd been getting the nut part for the past thirteen years.

I biffed the tachometer rock onto the grass, wiped my hands on Angelina's rear tire and crept back up to Rafe's room. A transverse wave of some highly complex emotion, such as what could only be described by Huygen's Principle, swept over me at the sight of him sitting alone on his bed, staring at nothing much. He looked pale and exhausted.

"Hi friend."

He glanced up and his bleak expression softened. "Hi Janie."

I parked next to him, my shoulders brushing against his. "Katrina didn't even thump me once and I was as sure that she was going to as I'm sure that the average radius of the sun is 6.96 x 10 to the thirty kilograms. She said that I looked 'so goddamn stupid' that she couldn't hit me. Well I always thought being stupid was the worst thing you could be, after being a suppository obviously, because what is the entire purpose of a suppository? To be shoved up someone's bumhole to induce them into a shitting and then you're just shat out right along too. Sounds like a crappy existence if you were to inquire my thoughts on the matter. But I guess being mistaken for being stupid isn't that much of a rotten front porch if it means that you're not getting smashed up in the face, eh? And probably no one would believe Katrina if she said I was stupid anyway. She's in trucker math while I'm in Honours Pre-Calc. Even a monkey could tell the difference between graphing linear functions and graphing polar coordinates, am I right?"

Rafe looked slight stunned at my verbosity. I couldn't help myself; I was still radiating nervous energy from my unfortunate run-in with Katrina. He blinked at me for a few moments before he finally said, "My grandmother used to swallow her suppositories 'cause she thought they were pills. Then she'd wonder why she'd have stomach aches and still be constipated."

I burst into helpless giggles.

Rafe took my hand and threaded our fingers together. My hand was small in his but somehow there was still a fit there, like the simplest fit of two hydrogen molecules coming together via covalent bonding. "I told Katrina if she lay one finger on you or said anything to make you upset, I'd never speak to her again."

My eyes expanded into orbits around which I was certain my pupils goggled. "You said that?" I whispered, my heart suddenly drumming uncomfortably in my larynx. "To Katrina?"

"Yeah I did. She hit you last night and that was my fault, bringing you into all this shit." Rafe's voice was tight. "I had to make sure she didn't go after you. Not when I'm the one to blame."

"It was more of a duel effort, to be impartial," I told him, flushing a colour not unlike particles of CoCl2. "We both had the 'make-out' last night, did we not? Complete with some partial nudity?"

Rafe's eyes lingered on my mouth. "And not just last night either."

Well that was certainly an overwhelming truth. I had to lick at my lips, which had dried to Gobi desert standards beneath Rafe's speculative gaze. "By all the laws in all the books in the lands, that's something to say, threatening Katrina like that. Something sweet actually, like chocolate profiteroles. Probably I bet Katrina didn't like hearing that, much in the manner that I don't like hearing the bell signifying the end of chemistry class."

Smiling, Rafe began tracing the lines on my knuckles. It made me shiver in the duodenum part of my stomach. "Yeah, she sure didn't. She thought I was shitting her at first, when I told her I was breaking up with her 'cause I liked you. She though I was just into you 'cause you licked my tattoo last night."

That reminded me that I would've liked to try Rafe's tattoo again. It was beautiful. In the meantime, I settled on gnawing at the inside of my cheek. "It's not so surprising. Not much boys would dump her for me. She's a C-cup whereas I'm only a B and in a high school setting, I hear that's enough to make or break a relationship." I knew this information second-hand because Suril's cousin Raina had been dumped by her boyfriend for only being an A-34; however her ex-boyfriend willingly went by the nickname 'Nailz' so obviously his cathode ray was short a few million electrons, as it were.

Rafe lifted my chin and our eyes met. "Janie, anyone who's ever seen you without a shirt on would know that you're smokin'. Not only that but you're beyond smart, you're so funny, you're sweet, you're loyal and you're interesting as hell. You could take Katrina on any day."

Before I knew what I was doing, I'd swept my arms around Rafe and hugged him hard enough to squeeze the air molecules right out of his lungs. Rafe thought I was beyond smart! "I always knew the sum of that equation but it's just that no one besides Grandma and Suril knew it too." I kissed the freckles on his cheekbone with a wet, lingering smooch. "In the name of the four forces, I've never thought to like a boy like how I like you, Rafe. It's as though I could be compelled to postpone studying in order to fooligate around with you instead!"

Rafe was blushing. He rubbed at the back of his head, looking adorably sheepish. When I first met him, the sight of him sheepish had made me want to feed him a glass of warm milk and tuck him into bed with his blankie. Now I just wanted to scribble out Lebesgue's Dominated Convergence Theorem into his mouth with my tongue. I wondered it this made me a tart, not of the pastry variety. I would have to ask Grandma for further clarification; she was something of an expert in the ways of the tart, having worn a maroon and black lace dress to her own wedding at the budding age of seventeen because 'she wasn't no damn virgin and she wasn't going to lay down false advertisement either'. And in the early fifties, that was saying a lot.

"Well we can fooligate all we want to since Katrina not in the picture." He sighed, absently touching his cheek where I'd kissed him. "I should've just been up front with her right from the beginning instead of hauling you into this mess. I apologize for that Janie; I don't know what the fuck I was thinking. I'm such a dumbass, Christ."

"No you aren't, you're smart." I squeezed his hand. True he might not have known that the Pfund Series was a series of emission lines of atomic hydrogen or that the best value of a charge on an electron was -1.60217646 x 10 to the -19 C but he was oh-so sweet. He had threatened the shrewish likes of Katrina Edwards for the socially inept likes of me! "When I tutor you, you can learn just fine and you're as smart as...well not me but you're at least as smart as that Vythi Vengurlekar guy and he got a 97% on our last Fluid Statics test in Physics. If I can still be your tutor for the rest of the year then you'll be 97%-ing all over the premises, I promise!"

"Fuck Janie, you can be my tutor for forever, if you'd like." He hooked an arm around my neck, pulled me close and settled his freckled cheek against my flushed one. "I saw you leave, you know. I didn't know if you were gonna come back."

"I already had backstage passes to the stage show of Katrina having a messy snivel," I reminded him, tugging at my fingertip with my canines. "Complete with the spray on my sweater and down my neck too. I thought the better idea would be to write out the fundamental formula of quaternion algebra on your driveway much as William R. Hamilton did upon the stone of the Brougham bridge when he first discovered it. That way Katrina wouldn't've found me out in case she really did have to upchuck at the idea of you lusting after me, as you called it."

Rafe laughed softly. I was no laughter expert – I wasn't of the clown persuasion afterall – but it sounded like sad had been sprinkled into it. "Yeah she wasn't too thrilled when I told her that. I know I hurt her pretty bad but I can't stay with her just to spare her feelings. She wants too much of a commitment from me. We're only in high school for Christ sakes. She wants to go to beauty school here and I want to go to university away from here. We want too many different things."

"It's an understandable situation," I told him, cuddling up into him. He smelled wonderful, like cannoli and scrumptious. "Sometimes all you want to do is get into the bathtub and relax with a few worksheets of stoichiometry problems but Suril keeps chuntering on and on about evaluating given line integrals using Green's Theorem. It can be a very vexing time upon a relationship."

I felt Rafe smile against my cheekbone. His eyelashes tickled me. "You should keep me posted on the next time you wanna relax in the tub. I bet I could show you some stoichiometry."

I was sceptical at this brazen claim. "Rafe, are you referring to real stoichiometry, as in, for example, when 50.0 mL of an AgN03 solution is treated with an excess amount of HI gas to give 2.35 g of AgI, calculate the concentration of the AgN03 solution or are you referring to, for another example, sex of the oral variety?"

Rafe choked and chuckled at the same time. His face turned the colour of cobalt acetate and his eyes sparked H20. "Well fuck Princess, I'd be willing to do both if you are," he managed to gasp out as I rubbed at his back.

I crunched on those complex numbers for a while. Stochiometry and oral sex. Now, that was a combination of things you didn't see everyday, much like fusilli pasta avec Cheetos. "Probably I wouldn't mind it, after I had some practice. Suril loves stochiometry and he loves oral sex with Paulo too and certainly all the slutty masses in Grandma's porn videos look they're having a marvy time so maybe there's something in what they say...'if you don't believe in oral sex then keep your mouth shut.'"

"Well now maybe that's something I can tutor you in, Miss Smarty-pants."

"I never had a tutor before," I told him, liking the way he called me 'Miss Smarty-pants'. I bit at the inside of my wrist. "Normally that'd make me feel many varieties of stupid, as though I'd forgotten that electric current is the rate at which charge flows, as given by the equation I = delta Q/ delta t. But in this case, I could dig it."

Rafe sounded amused. "You could dig it?"

"Yes, I could. With any type of a shovelling system, I certainly could."

"A shovelling system. Groovy." Grinning, Rafe tugged on my ponytail. "I like your hair like this. It makes you look all sexy...like a professor."

Well that was a different beat to his groove, as it were. It made my core temperature jump a few degrees...I was rapidly reaching a febrile state, I could feel it. "Sexy like a Professor you say?" I declared in the best way I knew how to do an English accent. I hoped I was looking like a Professor of Organic Reaction Mechanisms at the very least. Anything else would be a Katrina-esque slap to the schnozz. "Why how so very forward of you Sir."

His eyes were like the water you saw in the lobster tank at the grocery store. The freckles dotting his nose were super adorable and he lusted after me. Katrina wasn't his girlfriend anymore and maybe it had been wrong to do things with Rafe while he'd been taken by Katrina but it was also wrong to push me off the jungle gym so that I got a nosebleed from the rocks below and then blame it on Elliot Rideout, the disabled kid with cerebral palsy.

So take that Katrina, a voice that sounded remarkably like Grandma spoke up.

I shifted in the exothermic direction as it were, curved my phalanges around Rafe's clotted cream cheeks and took the big chance of kissing him like how he'd taught me. Maybe this was prime a la 3172 hussy behaviour but surely Rafe couldn't expect me not to kiss him after referring to me as 'Miss Smartypants', could he? He made a surprised sound against my lips and so I soothed him with my tongue. Rafe was kind but also a badass and he didn't care that Suril was gay or that I was a big dork who sneezed on him and rambled on about things he hardly knew much about. He was everything I never knew I wanted and I liked him a lot.

I kissed him as deeply as I could, licking at the inside of his mouth and hoping that he hadn't had meat for lunch because, afterall, I was a vegetarian. I didn't taste any meat though, I just tasted cannoli and Rafe and it was delicious. He was delicious, I managed to think as my tongue curled around his.

And then it was as though we hadn't seen each other in a Homo Erectus' age because somehow I ended up on his lap and my jacket was flung off and Rafe's hands were beneath Grandma's 69 t-shirt, sketching trajectories of who-knew-what onto my boobular region. Moaning, I squirmed against him, devouring him like I would a cup of creamy corn-cheddar chowder on 'C' day. I thought about nuclear fission and how the end result was massive amounts of kinetic energy and electromagnetic radiation. I felt like I was a free neutron, radioactive and about to undergo beta decay, surrounded by nothing but all this heat and all this energy. I was devoid of charge and unstable and only Rafe, much like a nucleus, could draw me into him and stabilize me.

"Thank you," I gasped, burying my heated face into his neck, clinging to him as tightly as I possibly could. I bit at him because he tasted so good and because Suril thought it would be a shame if I never gave Rafe a hooky to remember me by and sucked at the bite I'd made. "Thank you for letting me tutor you. Thank you for liking me and for being my friend. Thank you for busting up Conner's tibia even though I hated seeing it. Thank you for not caring that Suril's gay. Thank you for defending me to Katrina."

Rafe groaned and twisted me so that I was lying on the bed with him on top. He kissed me all messy and dirty, sucking at my bottom lip and at my tongue like he was trying to get me inside him. His hands were at my waist, doing a quick climb north and I was going to combust, surely I was, because Rafe's hands were made of fire and he was leaving behind flames all along my skin and he was going to burn me. I pulled him closer to me, yanking at his t-shirt because it suddenly seemed like a good idea that we wore hardly any clothes, in lieu of all this burning business.

"Janie," he whispered, pausing to tear his shirt off. He bent his head and kissed at my bellybutton and then stuck his tongue inside it and even though I was well beyond normal temperatures for fall in Canada, I still felt goosebumps erupt all over my skin. "Be my girlfriend."

There was some breathless, squealing talks about how Green's function was an integral kernel that could be used to solve inhomogenous differential equations with boundary conditions. I supposed I was the one talking about it. Rafe yanked Grandma's 69 t-shirt off me and then I couldn't have told you one more thing about Green's function because by that point I didn't even know what it was. Rafe looked down at me, wearing just jeans that were slipping off my hips and my Everyday Uplift yellow and purple Le Senza bra and said "Oh fuck."

I was pretty sure he meant that in a good way and not in a 'is that cancerous' sort of way.

"I don't have to worry about my Katrinaphobia," I whispered, reaching up to touch the freckles that dotted his shoulders with my trembling fingers. I wanted to taste every one of those freckles, so badly. "She's not your girlfriend anymore and I don't have to feel guilty. True she said I was only a novelty and that she'd be there once I made a goof out of things with you but -"

"Princess, you should never have to feel guilty. You haven't done a single thing wrong." He kissed me and then he kissed me again and again, small little biting kisses that didn't do anything other than make me want to climb inside him. He nuzzled my neck and raked his incisors down my jugular vein. "God you're so fucking hot," he groaned, pressing soothing kisses to my flaming, shorn skin. He slid his hand under me to grab my bum and hauled me straight up against him.

"A neutron consists of three quarks," I blurted out stupidly. My legs twined around his hips, pulling him tighter to me. I was unable to help myself, even though I was half-terrified, like I was of steep staircases. I could feel him pressed hard into me and I never imagined that the heat of some boy could make me feel like a subatomic particle about to undergo nuclear transmutation.

"Yes," Rafe growled, sucking hard at my neck. It hurt but it was such a good hurt and nothing in all my experiences could compare to what I was feeling at that moment. I moaned and he kissed my mouth with lots of urgency, tugging at my bottom lip and lapping at me like I was custard cream inside a cannoli.

And then his hand was in my bra, cupping my breast and caressing my nipple, going where nobody of the male persuasion had ever dared venture before and just like that, my brain short-circuited. I had the extremely fleeting thought that electric power could cause undesired thermal effects whenever electric energy was converted to heat at a rate faster than it could safely dissipated and then there was nothing save for all that heat. And dissipating it was not. "Rafe," I whimpered, my mind frighteningly devoid of all and any equations and theorems and rules and numbers and everything other then him...my boyfriend. I could only say his name because I didn't know anything else. My fingers scrabbled against his tattoo. No wonder I didn't know anything...my head was slowly filling up with cerebrospinal fluid since my brain was melting!

Rafe raised his head and looked down at me. His pupils were dilated to 9mm surely. "Am I going to fast?" he asked me huskily. He slid my bra strap back into place and kissed me softly. "You're sounding spooked."

"It's not that." I panted, squirming against his lower body. His breath caught and now I couldn't see any of his irises; his eyes were completely black. "When you touch me, I don't know anything! I don't think I could even tell you what Joule's Second Law is and I've known it since I was eleven! My head's drowning in melted brains, it's the only explanation. I need to see the likes of a neurologist and stat!"

Rafe either laughed or groaned, it was too difficult to distinguish. His head dropped onto my shoulder and I could feel his breath splashing onto the swells of my breasts and down my cleavage. "You're turned on," he drawled out, his lips just barely skimming my clavicle. He slid his fingers in against mine and pinned my hands flat to his bed. "You're not supposed to be thinking of anything other than how I'm making you feel and how you're making me feel."

"If we ever do this oral sex business, I'll expire," I gasped, unable to stay still. His breath was tickling me and making me feel like I had to take my jeans off. I was hot everywhere, especially inside.

"Shit Janie," he gasped back and stuck his tongue into my mouth.

And then he was shifting against me, as though he was a glass stirring rod and I was a supersaturated solution and it was then that I understood why Suril spoke so highly of frottage and this 'dry humping' hoopla. I kissed him back, my body hungry and helpless. I simultaneously wanted this all to end and to never, ever end.

A piercing jingling of some kind interrupted our writhing display of crazed hormones. I could feel Rafe's lower parts throb against me as he slid over. Cursing, he snagged his cell phone from his nightstand and snarled "What?!" into it.

Whimpering, I buried my overheated face into Rafe's pillow. I tried to catch my breath but it seemed that Rafe had stolen most of it and hadn't left me with very much to work with. I racked my brain, panting with a heaving chest until after an embarrassingly long period of time, I was able to recall Joule's Second Law. "The internal energy of an ideal gas is independent of its volume and pressure, depending only on temperature," I mumbled, uncertain of whether to be relieved that the information was still there somewhere or to be worried at how slow my brain was synapsing.

"That was Austin," Rafe said, throwing his cell across the room. It hit his desk with a loud clatter and knocked over a jar of pencils and pens.

I twisted around to face him. His cheeks were flushed and his lips were red and swollen. Amazed, I traced them with my fingertip. Had I really done that to him? "Joule's Second Law states that the internal energy of an ideal gas is independent of its volume and pressure, depending only on temperature. I remembered it." I leaned forward and kissed that reddened mouth. "Maybe Austin helped me remember it via some kind of telepathy."

Rafe laughed against my lips. "I don't think so. Austin's always been sketchy on the finer points of laws...any of them. He called to tell me that Conner just got back from the hospital and he's some pissed. Apparently he's been raving like a shitheel, demanding blood. He can kiss my Italian ass for all I care."

"Good," I said before I remembered my misgivings. I blamed Rafe's mouth and hands on my lack of memory. "Rafe, I never told Grandma and Suril this but last night I couldn't sleep because I felt terrible about Conner. Which is even more stupid than not being able to remember Joule's Law because I hired you to hurt him, right? I wanted him to feel what Suril felt but when I saw it happen, I was sad about it all the same. I don't know why; he's a massive jerk and I don't mean the kind of jerk that can be defined as the time derivative of the vector acceleration j = da/dt."

"Yeah he is a massive jerk." Rafe gathered me to him and kissed my hair. "All that this means is that you're a good person who doesn't like violence, even when a dickwad like McGregor deserves it. I didn't wanna knock him around in front of you but Katrina kinda fucked shit up last night. Doesn't really matter though; McGregor won't be hurting anyone for a while now. He'll be lugging that cast around for six to eight weeks and after that who knows? He might have another incident."

That made sense, I thought, because Conner really did deserve what he'd gotten, even if I hadn't liked bearing witness to it. "So you don't think I'm a wiener of the German variety avec dripping pieces of albino seaweed?"

"I think you're a lot of things but a German wiener with seaweed on it isn't one of them." His hands skimmed my waist and wandered up and down my spine. "This is probably gonna sound cold but I'm glad Shah got bashed. I wouldn't have met you otherwise."

"Sometimes beautiful things can happen from bad things," I said breathlessly, pressing myself up against him. "My Dad died and I was the most sad and I cried lots and lots but if he's with my Mom and he's happy then that's a beautiful thing right?"

Rafe fingered my bra strap, his eyes roaming down my cleavage. "You're a beautiful thing."

I gave in and mouthed at the scorpion Lucan had inked onto his bicep.

~*x*x*x*~

I pranced out of my Honours Physics class late, ecstatic at the discussion Mr. Pavlounis and I had just had on Gravitational Contraction. I would have a lot to ponder during my free period, especially with regards to the Virial Theorem. "Average kinetic energy = -1/2 x average potential energy," I told Lou the janitor as I jeté-d over a swept up pile of dust, junk food wrappers and crumpled notebook paper.

Lou grunted and scratched his ear with the handle of his push broom. He had what appeared to be a respectable amount of mustard staining the front of his shirt and he didn't look like the kind of man who spent a lot of time contemplating the finer details of Astrophysics.

I stopped to watch him sweep up a diaphragm stuck to the school newspaper. "Sweep on my good man, sweep on!"

He grunted, mumbled something that sounded an awful lot like "Friggin' animals," and turned his back to me. He was looking heavy in the rump area, I noted.

I got to my locker, dialled it up and found a piece of looseleaf sitting on top of my stack of textbooks. It was folded in half and had 'To my girlfriend' written across the front in writing most familiar. Smiling and flushing a little – I still wasn't used to being referred to as anyone's girlfriend, let alone Rafe Moretti's – I plopped down in front of my locker and opened up the note.

Janie, guess what? I got a 96% on my Chemistry test! I was the first person done and Mrs. Easton corrected it right away. At first she thought I cheated since I was sitting next to Robyn Kocheva but once I told her you were my tutor, she was all thrilled and shit. We should celebrate after school. You could come over and I'll give you another anatomy lesson.

Love Rafe

PS: I just saw Conner coming out of Global Geography and somehow he tripped over my foot and then I accidentally stepped on his hand. I don't know how it happened. He's must be some fucking clumsy with those crutches.

PPS: I'll be at your locker for lunch.

While it wasn't written in Pig Pen code or any other type of tricky little code, Rafe's note thrilled me at the same level that my discussion with Mr. Pavlounis on star formation had thrilled me. I carefully tucked Rafe's note into Chapter 3 'Vector Functions of One Variable' of my much beloved copy of 'Applied Vector Analysis', fastened up my locker and marched down the hallway. I flung myself down the nearest stairwell and pegged a course straight towards the Art room. While it was my free period, Rafe had class and I knew he loved Art too much to skip it. Under more commonplace circumstances – like Rafe flunking his Chemistry test – I never would have dared interrupt him during the sanctity of third period, especially it being Art, since Rafe had confessed to me that he was hoping to do his undergrad in Architecture but this was more than commonplace circumstances.

I knew I was beaming as I marched up the corridor and I couldn't stop, even after hearing two dorky band girls reading a mangas comment on the stupidity of walking around grinning at nothing. I was nearly bursting with pride. It was a feeling remarkably similar to having eaten six and three quarters mint chocolate nanaimo bars, only without the accompanying feelings of nausea most lethal and greasy bloatings.

I wondered if this was what parents felt like the first time their child recited Pi to the eighth digit.

I heard the Art Room before I actually saw it. I rounded the corner and furtively peeked in, doing a scan for Mrs. Goyette the Art teacher. She was no where to be found, which would explain the noise level. Rafe was sitting at a large table in the back of the class, with a group of people who all seemed to be in various stages of 'dicking off'. Two girls and three boys were playing Magic: The Gathering at the front of the class. Two emo boys in tight black skinny jeans were making out in the corner. One hippy girl with hair like a hay bushel was industriously gluing pieces of orange peel to a football. Another girl had her head stuck out the window and was smoking.

Rafe was sitting backwards in his chair, bent over his sketchpad and working with charcoal. The girl sitting across from him was juggling a hacky sack, a Macintosh apple and a condom; Rafe was laughing at something she was saying. I flounced up to him while ignoring the curious looks that his gaggle of classmates were giving me. My heart was racing in the back of my throat at what was sure to be a flagrant violation of school policy. I grabbed Rafe's chin, jerking his attention away from his sketch and kissed him square of the mouth before I could lose my nerve the way atoms lose electrons via ionization energy.

There was quite a bit of laughter and catcalling at my most uncharacteristic, brazen of moves.

"I am so proud of you," I whispered against his lips, kissing him once more before hastily pulling back. I didn't want Mrs. Goyette to come back into the classroom and find me tarting myself to one of her students. If she were to send me to the Principal's office I just knew that I would end up in a comatose state of shame and horror. And probably I would lose control of my bowels too.

"Sheeee-at!" the guy next to Rafe shouted. He had long, fuzzy dreadlocks that looked like they were home to several families of small rodents. "Say babe, can I get some of that tongue action or what?"

"Fuck off douche bag, she's my girlfriend," Rafe snapped, flushing a little. He had a smudge of charcoal on the end of his nose and he looked adorable.

The girl smoking stuck her head back inside. "Say what now? What'd you do with Katrina?"

"We broke up on the weekend."

There was a lot of hullabaloo at this announcement. It was mildly fascinating from an Ethnographer's point of view but completely appalling from a Scientist's. These high school jackals would tear apart any worthless meat of gossip but try to educate them on, for example, Relativistic Mechanical Quantities with particular emphasis on the Einstein Velocity Addition Relationships and you'd see enough ennui-inspired drooling to think you were instead surmising the plot of 'Inherit the Wind'.

The girl juggling goofed and got a hacky sack to her frontal lobe. The two emo boys tore their mouths from each other and goggled at me. Magic: The Gathering came to a standstill.

"You crazy dude?" Dreadlock guy demanded. "Katrina is fine! She's got an ass that belongs in porn! And those titties...hot damn!"

All the guys agreed...Katrina's titties were 'hot damn'.

"You poor dumb bastard," a another guy said, shaking his head. He caught my eye. "No offence to you, of course."

I shrugged and pulled at my knuckle-skin with my canines. "When in times of monsoon drought, does not even the village idiot break rice with a diseased hyena?"

"It's always the fucking nerds," one of the emo guys mumbled, casting heavily lined, longing eyes at Rafe.

"How'd someone like you get someone like him?" Another girl asked me, gaping at me from behind purple-framed glasses. Her name was Tootsie and Suril thought she resembled a human meatball.

Rafe rolled his eyes at me. He grabbed my hand and hauled me out of the classroom, much to the dismay of many.

"I don't want to get you in trouble," I told him, glancing around anxiously. I didn't see anyone of the authority variety so I relaxed an improper fraction, though in actuality I wasn't really a 'top heavy' sort. "I knew after all the studying we did on Sunday that you'd get a most ferromagnetic mark, Rafe! I mean I may as well state that you have a maximum temperature whereby all your ferromagnetic properties disappear as a result of thermal agitation!"

"Princess, you can state whatever you want." He grinned at down at me. "I did alright, eh? For the last question I looked up the wrong molar mass and so I got docked a point. Still a 24/25 is the shits."

"Yes." And I had to kiss him again because the last time I was this proud was when Suril had gone out on his first gay date with Paulo. "It is the shits; it's at the very pinnacle of the shits peak actually!"

"My Mum is gonna start planning our wedding soon, if you keep on tutoring me." Rafe slid his hands around my waist and pulled me to him. "So we should celebrate after school."

I leaned into him. "We could read that copy of 'Fluid Dynamics and Dynamos in Astrophysics and Geophysics' that you gave me."

Rafe blinked. His expression wasn't what you'd call enthusiastic but he managed a crooked smile for me all the same. "Oh. Uh…I guess, if that's what you want."

I hugged him tight, pleased that even though Fluid Dynamics was beyond his comprehension of high school level Physics, he was still attempting to humour me by pretending to be willing. I was coming to find out that while Rafe had a willingness to learn, it was more in relation to marks and tests rather than for general knowledge purposes. I quickly let go of him and stepped back. It wouldn't do to be seen by a teacher luring a student out of his class via some trollop-like behaviour. "Fluid dynamics actually have a wide range of applications, including calculating the force and moments on aircraft, determining the mass flow rate of petroleum through pipelines, predicting weather patterns, understanding nebulas in interstellar space and supposedly modeling fission weapon detonation."

"Weapon detonation eh?"

I didn't like to think about violence, especially on a nuclear scale. I was still getting over seeing the violence done to Suril and then to Conner. "Or we can just do the that 'making-out' hoopla again."

"Deal."

And then Rafe kissed me with a lot of tongue and I couldn't have told you anything more about Fluid Dynamics.

~*~THE END~*~

Author's Note:

Holy shit guys, I can't believe I managed to finish this old fossil! Sure this chapter is only two years and seven months late but that's what New Year's resolutions are for, eh! I gotta say...I'm awfully impressed with myself! I am considering some epilogue action for Jane and Rafe and if I go through with that, I promise that it won't take me another two years to post.

I really had a blast writing this story, especially considering that I'm horrible at math and all branches of science. I still use my fingers to count for Jesus sakes! Janie is such a crazy character and I'm going to miss her many zany antics. I really want to thank you all for reading and taking the time to review and for voting for this story in the SWOK awards. All the positive feedback and constructive criticism has helped me so much. You guys are such gems and I'm so pleased that I managed to finish this story for you guys. Stop by to let me know what you thought or just enjoy the read.

Also for all you Lucan lovers out there, stop by to check out his story. It's all Lucan, all the time and I just know that it's going to be as much of a blast to write as 'Hiring A Hooligan' has been.

Peace out dudes!