Chemistry was the bane of my existence.
No, I'm not being overly dramatic because it is absolutely true. I, Hannah James, was a straight A student and determined to get into a fabulous college one day, and my dreams seemed to be on the fast track to coming true—until chemistry showed up. Sophomore year would have been perfect—hell, high school would have been perfect—if it wasn't for chemistry.
I'm good at math, I'm good at science, but put the two together and I am a mess. By the time midterms rolled around, I still had no idea what a mole was or what its numerical value was. Six point what to the tenth what? Huh? It was seriously a foreign language to me—except that I usually aced foreign languages. Just ask my French and Japanese teachers. They loved me.
Chemistry didn't love me. I'd barely scraped by with a low, low, low C on the midterm, and I was shocked that I'd even gotten a grade that high. My chemistry teacher was often exasperated by the time he was done trying to give me extra help after school.
"I've never been one to give up, Hannah, but you just might be one of those impossible students who will never grasp the concepts," he told me sadly one afternoon.
I tried not to cry, but it was so hard to be told that, for the first time in my life, I was bad at something in school. I excelled at everything academic, and, now, chemistry was trying to ruin my record. "I understand," I replied in a tiny voice and tried not to let my chin quiver. "I guess I'll just have to keep at it for the rest of the year. Thanks for the help, Mr. Grady."
"I know it's hard, but I think tomorrow's lab might cheer you up." He smiled encouragingly, but my stomach continued to drop past my knees. "It's a fun one and should be pretty simple. I doubt you'll break another beaker," he added, making me blush.
Do you know how expensive Pyrex beakers are? Really, really expensive for just being a stupid glass measuring cup. Guess who'd broken one right before winter break? If you guessed yours truly, you win. It was still embarrassing, but I'm glad I didn't have to shell out the two hundred bucks that one of the five hundred milliliter ones cost. My parents, already unhappy with my chemistry grade, would've had multiple cows if they'd had to pay that much.
Did I mention I hate chemistry?
Needless to say, I was not happy as I dragged my feet towards the chemistry classroom the next day. I wanted to be anywhere but there, and I sincerely hoped that my lab partner that day would understand if I accidentally blew something up.
Hey, it's possible. Bunsen burners are not my friends.
"Oh, cheer up," Kelly, my best friend, scolded me as we walked together. "It's not that bad, Hannah. You act like you're going to your funeral or something."
"Yeah, the funeral of my grades," I muttered as I stepped around some poor freshman who'd dropped his books in the middle of the hallway. "How am I supposed to get into college now, Kelly?"
She rolled her bright blue eyes. "Oh, don't be so dramatic." Did I fail to mention that she aces chemistry? Well, now you know. Life is so not cool sometimes. "Maybe if you had a positive attitude about it, you'd do better. I bet the chemicals can sense your negativity, and they react badly when you handle them."
"Ugh, whatever. I suck and I know it." I yanked open the door to the classroom and dragged myself in reluctantly. "Yay, joy, chemistry."
Mr. Grady glanced over and smiled slightly. "Well, it's nice to see you, too, Hannah. I promise, you can't do anything wrong in this lab. It's fairly simple. No beakers involved."
My classmates, who were already seated, snickered at his comments, and I ignored it. They'd teased me all year so far about my accidents, so I didn't expect today to be much different. Instead, I just slumped into my desk and prayed that I wouldn't burn a hole in any clothing, get chemicals into anyone's eyes, or any other possible hazard that I could create.
When the bell had rung and everyone was seated, Mr. Grady passed out the lab instructions and explained what we were supposed to do. I glanced over the sheet and realized that it did seem pretty simple. I mean, yeah, there were still random chemicals that I still couldn't remember for the life of me, but there were no beakers involved. Score for Mr. Grady's cool points. The only dangerous part of the experiment was the fact that it involved a Bunsen burner and boiling a mixture for a few minutes.
Great. That part would obviously be my partner's duty to take care of today.
"The list of today's lab partners is up on the bulletin board under your period, so go check it out and get started," Mr. Grady announced before gesturing to the board in question. When none of us moved, he lifted a brow. "Well? Go. Get started. You'll need the entire period."
Fun. Yay. I could just feel myself exuding all that enthusiasm. Ha.
Before I even made it over to the board, there was a tap on my shoulder. When I turned to see who it was, I met the bright green eyes of one, Aiden Branson, and I was immediately tongue-tied. You know those really cute skater guys with the messy dark hair and tall, lean, drool-worthy bodies? The ones that are quiet but probably have really intense souls beneath the silence? You know the ones that are really great guitar players and will probably be really famous one day and get tons of Grammys?
Aiden's one of those, and I've had a, a thing for him for, well, forever. Not that he would ever clue in to that, but I was always flustered around him and wanted to smack myself for it. We were friends, but my awkwardness around him prevented us from being close.
Be cool, Hannah, I told myself.
"Yeah?" I barely managed not to squeak.
"Hi, partner," he replied in his perfect, smooth, not-too-high, not-too-low voice. Must. Stop. Gushing.
This time, I did squeak. "I'm your partner today?"
His lips quirked up at the sides a little. "Yeah, lucky me, huh?"
Oh, no. Lucky me. Now I would really have to try not to screw up. "Yeah, I guess. I'll try not to maim you in some way."
Aiden grinned, and I melted inside. "You're not that bad. I'm not worried, but," we gathered up our supplies and headed to a lab table, "maybe I'll be in charge of the Bunsen burner. I don't think Rob's over the incident you guys had."
I blushed, remembering how I'd burnt the poor boy's hair by accident. "Um, yeah. Okay. Good idea."
We worked rather companionably for the next several minutes. Set up was pretty easy, and I'm pretty good at measuring out liquids, if I do say so myself. Maybe I knocked over some test tubes and dropped a bottle on the floor, but nothing broke. Aiden had the good grace to not say anything about my mishaps, and my crush grew exponentially.
I glanced up from scrutinizing the amount of hydrochloric acid in my graduated cylinder. Man, my name sounded great rolling off his tongue. "Yeah?"
His eyes twinkled good-naturedly behind his safety goggles. "Do you want to get started on working on the calculations? I can set up the Bunsen burner while you do that."
"Yes! Thank you. You've probably just saved both of us from being blown up or something." I nudged him playfully as I pulled out my notes. "You should get a prize."
He grinned and shook his head. "You're funny. It's good that you can laugh at yourself over this. I'm surprised you're not complaining about how bad you are."
"Hey, I can still do that, but I thought I'd be nice to you and not complain." I shrugged when he looked over questioningly. "You know, good lab partner relations?" My eyes widened slightly after I said that as I thought of the dirty implications of my statement. Boy, oh boy did I want some unspeakably good relations with my lab partner.
Aiden clearly didn't notice anything because he nodded and went back to hooking the gas hose from the nozzle to the Bunsen burner. "It would be pretty bad relations if you ended up spilling boiling acid on me. Can't say I'd be happy about that."
"That would definitely be bad," I agreed as I puzzled over how the first set of calculations could possibly be done. I wasn't lying when I said I was bad. I look at balancing chemical equations and all I see is gibberish. It makes no sense to me, and don't ask me how many times I've had to look up how many atoms are in a water molecule.
I still don't know.
I tried as hard as I could to figure out the equations on my own, but, finally, I gave up. I needed help. "Um, Aiden?"
"Yeah?" He glanced over at me from where he was pouring the mixture into a test tube. "What's up?"
"Remember when I said I was bad at chemistry?" He nodded, and I sighed. "I don't have the first clue as to how the heck I'm supposed to solve this. Help? Please?" I know I sounded like a moron, but I really did need help. Chemistry and I are a bad mixture. We explode, you could say. Bad reaction.
Aiden nodded and, after positioning the test tube in its proper place over the burner, moved over to help me. He was standing so close to me that I could smell the peppermint scent emanating from him, and I got lost in its heady fragrance while he explained how to balance the equation. His arm would brush mine every so often as he took my pencil and scratched out the solution on my paper. I was on fire…and there were no chemicals involved.
Unless you counted the ones under my skin.
I blinked. Aiden was watching me with an amused look on his face. "Um, yeah?"
"You with me? You spaced for a minute there." He tapped his finger on my temple. "Stay with me, okay?"
Oh, yeah, I'll stay with you, Aiden. Whenever, wherever, for however long…
I blushed furiously this time. "Sorry, I'm sorry. I can't help it. It's just that you—I mean, uh…" If possible, I could feel my face burning brighter and brighter. "Sorry?" I squeaked.
His head tilted to the side, curious. "Wow. I never thought you were a space case. You're always so on top of stuff." He sat on a stool, putting us at almost eye level. "Where'd you go in that head?"
"N-nowhere. I, uh, I just don't like chemistry, so I take lots of side trips," I managed to say, hoping he'd buy the excuse.
"Right." He leaned closer, green eyes twinkling mischievously. "You sure that's all? Your side trips are what broke the beaker and burned Rob's hair?"
My face was past crimson and probably well on its way to purple now. "Y-yes. Yes."
"Uh-huh." Before I knew what he was doing, he reached out and pushed the goggles off my face and on top of my head. "There. Better. Now I can see those pretty eyes. Tell me again where you went on that trip you just took in your head."
I wasn't sure why he was being so persistent about this, but I wasn't going to put up a huge fuss. After all, I'd already embarrassed myself by daydreaming about him while he was trying to help me. I bit my lip nervously and looked away at the next lab group's proceedings. "The beach," I lied. "I was at the beach because it's probably warmer there than it is here. I mean, I hate the cold, and it's cold right now, and I'd really rather be at the beach, so that's where I went in my head. So…yeah," I finished my babbling rather lamely.
"Hannah." His voice was soft now, and I looked back at him. "I don't believe you."
"What? Why?" Did he know? My insides were screaming in mortification. Did he know how I felt about him?
Aiden leaned slightly closer, and I held my breath in anticipation. "Because I go there sometimes, too."
His eyes darkened behind those goggles. "With you." He blinked and looked away, a slight red tinge rose on his cheeks. "Hannah, I-"
I must admit, I have some perfect timing because I happened to catch sight of what our experiment was doing just as Aiden was about to say something way important to me. "Oh, crap! Aiden, it's on fire!"
"What?!" He jumped off the stool and leapt over to where the flame had caused our chemical mixture to burst into flame. There was a nice little fire going, and we tried to blow it out with no success.
The fire started to burst out of the glass and caught onto Aiden's notebook. "Fire extinguisher!" I cried, and, this time, Mr. Grady and the rest of the class were alerted.
"Hannah," I heard my poor, harassed chemistry teacher groan. "Aiden, go get the extinguisher from the prep room."
Aiden dashed off and returned moments later with the big red can. "How do I work this?" he muttered.
Finally, I thought, something I can do! "Here." I nudged him aside and pulled the pin as he held it. What I didn't notice was that I was squeezing the trigger as I pulled the pin, and Aiden was right in the line of fire.
In seconds, he was covered in white flakes, and, horrified, I babbled apologies at him. Meanwhile, he wrestled the extinguisher away from me and doused the fire on our lab table out. Mr. Grady settled the rest of the class back at their tables and came over to help us clean up.
"It wasn't me this time, I swear," I told him as we wiped off the table. "Well, everything but the fact that Aiden's covered in flaky stuff," I added, chancing a glance at the lab partner in question.
"Hardy-har," he muttered and held up the charred remains of his notebook. "I guess I'll have to copy someone else's notes, now."
Mr. Grady managed a grim smile. "Both of you should've been paying attention. You're lucky the fire alarms didn't start going off." He glanced over the mostly clean station. "I think the two of you can manage the rest without my help. Come in after school to make this experiment up, okay?"
We mumbled in agreement and silently continued to clean up. I was rinsing out the graduated cylinders when I risked a glance over at Aiden. His face was still covered in the stuff, and I felt awful. "Aiden?"
"I'm really, really sorry about that. I didn't mean to, I swear. It's just, I got all nervous and out of sorts with the fire, and I didn't notice that it was aimed at you or that I was squeezing it, and I-"
He shook his head. "Quiet, okay? It's not that big a deal. So I'll have to go jump in the gym locker room shower after this, but it's not like you poked out an eye or something. Relax."
He covered my mouth with his hand. "Stop. Seriously." Then, he grinned. "You're cute when you babble, you know."
My eyes widened. "Mumph?"
"Hmm?" He looked at his hand over my mouth and chuckled. "Sorry. What did you say?"
When he'd let go, I looked up at him in shock. "Did you just call me cute?"
Aiden shrugged. "Yeah, why?"
"It's weird, that's all. I mean, after I screw up an experiment, burn up your notes, and cover you in all that crap, you still think I'm cute. It's just so unexpected, and I-"
He cut me off again. "Hannah, I've always thought you were cute. A little crazy but that's the fun part, right?"
"Y-you, uh, you, um…Wow. Just wow. I thought I-"
I blinked several times to make sure Aiden Branson in all his foam-covered glory was actually standing before me, calling me cute. "Yeah?"
He kissed me. I don't know how long it lasted, but I do know that his perfect, soft, oh so wonderful lips were on mine, and I was floating away in bliss. Sure, his face was flaky and some of it was on me now, but it didn't matter because Aiden was kissing me. Me!
When he broke off, he grinned at my surprised expression. "I figured it was the best way to shut you up."
"Hey," I began, and he kissed me again.
"You were going to babble again," he told me with a devilish smile.
I smiled back, still breathless. "So if I babble all the time, will you kiss me all the time?"
His green eyes sparkled. "It would be my pleasure."
"So, I just want to-"
Aiden's lips found mine again, and, this time, I shut up. Not talking was so much better. In fact, if chemistry could be this way all the time, it would definitely become my favorite subject.
"Okay, you two! Stop that, right now," Mr. Grady ordered from the front of the room. "Chemical reactions are one thing, but that sort of behavior does not belong in my classroom."
I blushed, but Aiden slid an arm around my waist and smiled at Mr. Grady. "Sorry, we'll take care of that outside of class."
"See that you do." But Mr. Grady smiled slightly even as he shook his head.
When I left chemistry that day, Kelly was squealing about the chemical reactions between Aiden and me, but I barely heard her as Aiden shot me a smile over his shoulder and disappeared down the hallway.
Hate chemistry? Did I really say that? Well, no more.
I loved chemistry.
AN: Cheesy, cheesy. I know. But I got the inspiration in the middle of writing a paper for class, so off I went. I hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you thought please!