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Disclaimer: In case it is not clearly stated in the narrative, everyone in this chapter engaging in anything approaching or including sexual activity is at least 18 years of age. (Although this particular chapter hasn’t gotten around to any actual sex yet. Be patient.)
Note: This is written in British/South African English, although almost all similar media I consume is American, so that will have its influence too. For the sake of keeping the note short, I’ll post a comment to explain my use of language and obscure terms, if anyone asks or I think of something in particular.
* * * * *
“Jay… JAY.” Angela was looking right at me. She and Sue had paused in whatever conversation they’d been having, and I got the sense I was supposed to be responding.
“Oh. Sorry. What were you saying?”
Sue sighed, although it was more of a breathless screech of exasperation, which was possibly fair. I’d been drifting all day. It was Tuesday, and I’d had two very long conversations with Eric, via text, since he’d first messaged me that Sunday night. It had resulted in me being unable to get him out of my mind. I’d somehow managed to avoid talking to Ellie about it yet, so I’d just quietly and happily been mulling over some of the things he’d said. I’d be giving her a ride home after AP Maths, so this brief window while we were sitting here and waiting for the lesson to start would probably be my last chance to think about him. Before Ellie started trying to pry, and ruining it somehow.
Angela and Sue, however, were in planning mode — and could not be deterred. “Sue and I were just saying we liked your catapult idea for the physics project. How would you like to break up the work?”
We’d naturally banded together when we’d gotten the assignment, and were told we could pick our own groups. None of us tended to trust other people in group projects, and we’d all usually end up micromanaging the whole thing. But when we worked together, we tended to be more relaxed about letting each other do our own parts. We’d rigorously check up on each other’s work afterwards, but I think that also made us make more of an effort to ensure our work was ready for the scrutiny. Angela probably always did the most work in the wrapping-up stages of our projects, but it was probably less than she’d have to do with other group members, so she never really seemed to mind, and we tried to adjust the workload with that in mind.
“Ummm… I was thinking I could build the catapults, Sue could focus on the calculations and the content, and then maybe you could work on the poster and the report.”
She began jotting things down, but talked through it at the same time. “Isn’t building them going to be a lot of work? You said you didn’t know what we were going to build them out of, and that it might take some iterations to get them right.”
“I really don’t mind. I think it might be fun.” I shrugged. “I can always ask you for help if it looks like it’s going slower than I think it will.”
“Okay. Sue, do you want to focus on the equations? I’ll write out the background and then when we’re done, we can share. Then maybe I can make the poster, and you can put together the report?”
“Yes.” Sue wrote down a few notes of her own. “Jay, what exactly am I supposed to be doing the equations for?”
“Shot distance, mostly. We’ll compare things like arm length and the arc trajectory, and then other factors like the weight of material and how difficult it was to get some real life components — the onager will have an elastic, but I think in real life they used sinew, which would eventually rot.”
“Ew,” Sue said.
“Angela, that’s probably in your part — materials that they used and the history of the different designs, and how hard it was to lug everything around. I’ll send you some links about medieval army logistics. I don’t know if they’ll be useful, but they might be.”
“Got it.” Angela continued to take notes.
I never wrote as many things down as they did. I usually only put due dates on my calendar the day I got assignments, and I tried to just remember other details. Writing everything down seemed excessive. Occasionally I forgot things, but I was anxious enough about other people being upset with me that it was usually my own work I didn’t take seriously, not group work.
It drove Sue crazy, and she was always yelling at me to write things down. Angela’s only response was to just send me periodic reminders via text — she didn’t seem to mind, as it seemed to fit into her efficient everyday routine. I don’t know if it was threats of a violent response from Sue or the fear of disappointing Angela, but I had yet to let either of them down. But Sue was in most of my other classes, and she’d seen all the instances where my lack of organisation had screwed me over, so I suppose she had good reasons to be anxious.
There was a half-hour gap between school ending and AP maths starting, so we were just waiting in the classroom. It was still about fifteen minutes until the lesson started, so we were the only ones there. People kırklareli escort usually went to the nearby cafe to get coffee or something. Jamie and Ellie had asked me if I wanted to go, but I still hadn’t quite decided how I felt about being around Jamie. The arrival of Eric had pretty much chased away my crush on him, but I still felt like I should avoid him. I suppose it felt a bit disloyal, although that seemed kind of ridiculous.
I also just didn’t want to invite any bro-to-bro confidences about the girl he may or may not have hooked up with at the party. Whether I would feel jealous didn’t matter so much, really. I generally just never liked talking to guys about girls, especially if they were forward with details — and I could imagine Jamie would be. Although Ellie would have been there, so maybe I was overreacting for a simple trip to the cafe, but you can’t be too careful with these things.
The door opened, and we all looked up at once as Louis stepped through. He paused on his way in, looking a bit uncertain. I grinned as I suddenly realised that perhaps it was a bit intimidating to walk into a mostly empty room with three people who immediately turned to stare at you as you entered.
“Oh, sorry,” he stammered. “Should I not be in here yet?”
“Hey Louis,” I said quickly. “It’s fine, we’re just talking about a project.”
“Shhhh,” hissed Sue.
I rolled my eyes.
“Louis, this is Sue.” Angela smiled with vague amusement.
“Hi.” Louis waved, and came to sit at a desk close to us.
“Is your school doing the science fair too?” Sue asked. Abrupt, but that was Sue.
“No, but I have to for my end-of-year assessments, so I will be.”
“On your own?” Sue sounded sceptical.
“What’s your project?”
This was really turning into a bit of an interrogation. Louis looked slightly uncomfortable. I didn’t intervene — I’d heard he would be joining us towards the end of the year for exams and other assessments. He had to learn about Sue’s particular brand of personality at some point.
“Uhhh… I haven’t really decided yet. We only got it yesterday.” So had we, actually. Not that it had mattered much to Angela or Sue. Louis cleared his throat. “I was thinking maybe something to do with car safety improvements over the last few decades.”
“Oh. Well that doesn’t sound very interesting. Good.” Sue stood up. “I’m going to the bathroom now.”
“Jesus.” I sighed. Angela just laughed at the bewildered look on Louis’ face.
“Sorry,” she said, subsiding into soft giggles. “We don’t know why she’s like that. Her sister is pretty normal.”
“Okay,” Louis said, shrugging and smiling. “Are you guys a group? What’s your project?”
“Comparison of the Range, Mechanics and Construction of Medieval Period Catapults.” I said, coming up with a sufficiently technical name for the project idea that I’d suggested during yesterday’s brainstorming, and that we were now apparently doing.
“That’s a great title.” Angela made another note in her organiser.
“That’s really cool,” Louis said. “I saw a really cool video somewhere about a guy who built a trebuchet in his garden from hardware store stuff.”
“Interesting.” I said, “We’re going to be building small ones, but one of them will definitely be a trebuchet.”
“I’ll see if I can find the video, and send it to you.”
“Thanks, that’d be great.” I said.
“Would you like to join our project?” Angela asked. “If your physics teacher is okay with that. Assessments are going to happen at the fair, so it should be fine.”
“Uh,” Louis looked over at me. “That would actually be great. I haven’t really pinned down my concept yet.”
“Jay?” Angela asked.
“Yeah, of course.” I said. “He’s already offered some help.”
Louis smiled gratefully at me. He readjusted his glasses. “Will… uh… Sue be okay with it?”
“Just wait.” Angela said.
“Um… okay?” Louis looked nervous as Sue came back from the bathroom, and sat down with us again.
“Sue.” Angela said. “If our physics teachers are both okay with it, Louis is going to join our project group for the science fair.”
“OH.” Sue’s eyes widened, and a faint smile lit up her face. She turned to Louis. “You’re smart, right?”
“Um… I think so.”
“You ARE smart.” Sue said, waving her hand. She got up and started pacing about the room, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
“There’s going to be a trophy for the best project.” Angela said.
“Sue likes trophies,” I explained. “And now you’re with us, instead of against us.”
He laughed. “Oh.”
The rest of the class slowly trickled in, while our conversation moved on to other topics. Nothing too personal, since that wasn’t generally the sort of thing we ever talked about. But it still felt like I was getting to know Louis better, and all of us — even Sue — seemed slightly more comfortable around him by the time Mr. Farrier barged in and launched right into teaching the class. It really started to drag on, as Mr. kırklareli escort bayan Farrier led us through a lengthy set of equation manipulations in order to prove the mathematical statement he’d started out with. We’d almost reached the full two hours when he stopped.
“Alright, and with that, we’ve covered Mathematical Induction as far as I’m going to. Do questions three to ten at the end of the chapter. You can leave out question six, but you should at least look at it. On Thursday we will do that question together, look at the answers for the others, and I’ll answer any other questions you might have. On Saturday, there will be a test.” He turned to face the class. “There will be no make-up tests without a doctor’s note, so if you miss it, you should ensure that you are close to death.”
There was grumbling as we filed out of the class. Louis chatted with me and Angela on our way out, and said a hurried goodbye to us as he dashed off to his mom’s car. The rest of us went our own ways. Ellie and I gravitated towards each other and got in my car.
“Looks like Louis has come out of his shell a bit,” she said.
“Yeah. He might join our project group for the Science fair. Angela asked him.”
“That’s so unfair. You three were already going to do an excellent job making the rest of us look like idiots. You didn’t need a fourth.”
I just shrugged.
“Still, it’s good you’re hanging out. I feel like my diabolical plan to infiltrate their group is going really, really well.” she said. “You should ask him about John.”
“What about John?”
“Background info to see if he’s good for Sara. What he’s like. Whether he’s had girlfriends before, and if he treated them nicely.”
“Yeah, I’m not doing that.”
“Because it’s prying and it’s weird. Sara’s your friend — you ask him.”
“Well, maybe I will.”
I got us both home, and flopped down on my bed, wondering if it was too early in the day to start texting Eric. My heart fluttered slightly when I saw that he’d already sent me a message while I was driving.
[Louis says he might be doing a project with you]
______________[Yeah. We were chatting about it, and my friend Angela asked him if he wanted to join our group.]
[That’s nice. I think he was worried]
______________[Well, we’re pretty happy to have him.]
______________[Especially Sue — the other group member.]
______________[She wants to win, and I think she saw him as a threat.]
[She sounds fun]
______________[She is. Unhinged, but fun.]
[Louis says you have a test on Saturday]
[I’ll try not to message you so much]
[I don’t want to distract you]
______________[To be honest, I wasn’t planning on taking it super-seriously.]
[Well, I’m going to set a timer when we start chatting, and if we’re talking for more than 20 minutes I’m just going to disappear.]
______________[Well that’s rude!]
[I don’t want to be the reason you fail!]
______________[How DARE you? I haven’t failed anything since we did hand-eye coordination tests for P.E. 5 years ago.]
[Do you want to go on a date with me on Saturday?]
[Yeah, like we go to a restaurant, and eat, and chat. You’re familiar with the concept, right?]
______________[Hah hah. -_-]
______________[Yeah, in theory.]
______________[I’d love to.]
[Now go study.]
We talked a bit more over the week, but true to his word, if we started chatting for too long, he’d tell me to go study and then stop responding. To keep myself from going crazy, I did actually end up doing all of my homework, and I even started preemptively studying for the test — something I’d never done before in my life.
Louis told us on Thursday that his physics teacher had agreed to let him join our group, and Angela had confirmed that Mr. Morison — our physics teacher — had agreed as well. They made plans to get the two in touch, so that we could officially be a group. We decided that because my part still seemed like a lot of work, and he’d shown an interest, Louis would just be helping me with that. I hoped that he could match my relaxed approach — I didn’t need someone as industrious as Angela or as obsessive as Sue looking over my shoulder. But he didn’t immediately start pestering me about it once we’d assigned all the tasks, and he’d gotten my contact details, so that was a good sign.
The following Saturday morning saw me sitting in class, more prepared for a maths test than I’d been in years. I was grumpy at being up so early — on a Saturday, to rehash that old complaint — but I was probably a lot happier with life in general, and I had no reason to panic about the test I was about to take. I probably would have been obsessing about my very first date, which I’d be having later that evening. escort kırklareli But the material was difficult, and I’d studied so hard that week. There wasn’t really much space in my head to think about anything else.
Angela and I sat running through the different sort of equations we might have to prove by induction, and what trig identities or expansions would be needed to provide the inductive steps to get to the final proof. Sue had frantically read and reread Angela’s notes, and then began to pace back and forth, reciting things to herself in a breathless half-screech that only she could understand. Sue was pretty much guaranteed to get at least ninety percent of the questions right — but she always fretted over that final ten percent.
Louis and Ellie, who had been chatting, came up and started asking me and Angela questions. I think calmed both of us down a lot, and hopefully helped Louis and Ellie a bit. This sort of thing normally happened before tests, but only to Angela. It was nice that I was one of the people answering questions for once, instead of asking them. I’d really dived in for this one, and I was looking forward to telling Eric that he’d been paranoid about nothing. But I wasn’t planning to admit that he’d been a good influence.
Then our time to brush up on the material ran out, and Mr. Farrier arrived with the tests. It was not a pleasant experience. Mathematical induction is a LOT of writing, and my handwriting is terrible, so I’d lose marks if I didn’t make a conscious effort to be neat. By the end, my hand was sore and smeared all over with ink, and my eyes were strained after staring at sheets of white paper for so long. I’d still finished a little early, and I’d had time to go over my answers, so I was reasonably satisfied. But it had been an ordeal.
We all filed out afterwards, and I ended up chatting in a group with Louis, Ellie, Angela and Sue. Ellie and I could leave at any point, but it was basically the first time Louis had stuck around after a class, so I think we were both kind of curious. Angela got picked up, and then a few minutes later Sue did, and at that point it felt like we’d be abandoning Louis if we left, so we stayed.
He was generally just a very nice guy, and we had a lot of similar interests. He’d been quite awkward when I’d first met him, but he’d eased up in the past week. It was kind of cool, hanging out with him again — it made me remember how great last Saturday had been, and it got me excited that I’d be seeing Eric later. His mom arrived to pick him up before we’d been there for too long.
“He’s so nice.” Ellie said as we climbed into my car. “Are we ready to go?”
“We had a chat before class,” she said.
“I saw. What about?”
“The test, mostly.” She smiled. “Also, about last week. The group and all that.”
“How goes the infiltration?” I asked, starting up the car and pulling out of the parking lot.
“Pretty well, actually,” she said. “I managed to ask about John.”
“That’s nice,” I said, only partially paying attention. “And?”
“Oh my god, he sounds adorable.”
“Sorry, I can’t tell you. I’m sworn to secrecy.”
“I feel like you’re trying to make a point, and it’s annoying, but OKAY.” She threw herself back in her seat. “They were best friends when they were younger. I think I told you that. But there’s possibly some awkwardness there. I’m not quite sure. I just got a… sense.”
“Yeah, but is that actually a thing?” I thought about Louis, and how he might react to being grilled about his best friend. “He’s pretty awkward in general, isn’t he?”
“Louis?” She tilted her head. “Not particularly, no.”
I didn’t mention it, but maybe Ellie just hadn’t noticed. She’d given me the benefit of the doubt, after all. I suppose if she didn’t think I was awkward, she’d probably not think that about him.
“He said some stuff about Eric, actually.”
I just groaned.
“I swear, his name just came up.” She shrugged, then grinned at me slyly. “I didn’t ask about anything specific. Just if he was a good guy.”
A few moments passed in silence before I caved.
“Okay, fine. Verdict, please?”
“It seems like he is, indeed, a good guy. He works with, and I quote, ‘charities and stuff’.”
“I know, how annoyingly goody-goody.” She laughed. “Still though, good sign, right? I suppose it might depend on what Louis meant by ‘stuff’.”
“Sure. Charities and the mafia. Charities and drug dealers.” I laughed. “They actually go together more often than you might think.”
“He also said he was quite fun.” Ellie seemed determined to not be dragged off-topic. “And gets them to do interesting things.”
“Oh no. Not FUN!” I sighed, mostly joking. She laughed. It was her main criticism of me — that I never tried to have fun. I just think we fundamentally disagreed about what constituted fun.
It wasn’t bad to hear those things about Eric, though. It definitely sounded like a good start. I’d already started forming my own opinion of him, of course, but it’s not as if he’d told me he did charity work. Although we’d only had about two long chats and four twenty-minute sprints, so if he’d used up that precious time to brag about what a good person he was, I probably would have been annoyed. That was actually a nice thing to learn from Louis, by way of Ellie’s prying, instead.
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