HUZZAH! Here it is, the third chapter from MOTION!
What’s the worst that could happen?
Mona is a smart girl and had everything figured out a long time ago. She had to. She didn’t have a choice. When your parents are uber-celebrities and you graduate from high school at thirteen, finish college at seventeen, and start your PhD program at eighteen, you don’t have time for distractions outside of your foci. Even fun is scheduled.
Which is why Abram, her brother’s best friend, is such an irritant.
Abram is a talented guy, a supremely gifted musician, and has absolutely nothing figured out, nor does he seem to care. He does what he feels, when he feels, and—in Mona’s opinion—he makes her feel entirely too much.
Laws of Physics parts 1 (MOTION) & 2 (SPACE) end with a cliffhanger.
Part 1 (MOTION) will be released February 11, 2019
Part 2 (SPACE) will be released March 11, 2019.
Part 3 (TIME) will be released April 15, 2019
Chapter 3: Displacement
Prunes would be my constant companion for the next week, the means by which I delayed answering or speaking to Abe. Good plan. The fiber consumed would be a bonus.
Tossing the pits in the garbage and rinsing my hand, I zipped closed the bag, tucked it under my arm, and glanced at the pantry. The backpack would stay put for now. Abe didn’t trust Lisa. Best to move the bag in the middle of the night, or at some point when I could be 97 percent certain we wouldn’t cross paths.
So, what did I do now? Read? Exercise? Going for a walk was out of the question. Watch a movie in the theater downstairs? I hadn’t seen a movie or TV in months, but Abe said he’d be in the basement, so that was a no-go . . . How about a shower?
Yes. Shower. A shower was the answer. I hadn’t showered since yesterday. Plane rides didn’t make me constipated, they made me feel grimy. A shower sounded divine. Hydra environments were deeply within my wheelhouse.
And yet, I was faced with a quandary: I wanted a shower, yet I couldn’t get any part of my head wet. Gabby had been adamant about not allowing Abe to see me without Lisa’s hair and makeup. Protecting my hair and face from the shower spray was necessary.
A waterproof implement was in order, one that allowed me to see and breathe, and ideally large enough to cover my entire head. A shower cap wouldn’t cut it, I had too much hair and by design it left the face exposed. The more I thought the issue over, the more I realized I would need something reusable. I didn’t want to have to reapply makeup all the time, or redo my hair.
Conclusion: What I needed was a shower helmet. I was fairly certain a shower helmet didn’t exist. I’d have to make one.
Biting the inside of my bottom lip, I searched the kitchen drawers closest to the gas range and found what I sought: aluminum foil, parchment paper, tape, scissors, and plastic wrap. Laying my materials on the kitchen island, I used the aluminum foil to make a mold of my entire head. I lined the inside with parchment paper, cut away spaces for my eyes and mouth, and finally covered the outside with several layers of plastic wrap.
I did have to make a few minor tweaks: air holes, increasing the size of the eye area for better range of vision, expanding the crown section so that I could wear my hair up and out of the way. Once I was satisfied, I carried my shower helmet and bag of new makeup to the bathroom, making a pit stop in my room first to grab underwear.
When the house was remodeled before we moved in, my parents had installed an elevator. Since my room was only one flight up, I typically took the stairs. Lisa and I shared the bathroom off the main hall on the second floor.
Leo’s room was on the third floor, he shared his bathroom with the two guest rooms on that level. My parents had their own bathroom and living space on the fourth floor, a giant master suite that took up the entire level.
Stripping out of the tank top and leather pants, I twisted my hair into a bun and fitted the waterproof helmet into place. Three minutes into my shower, I was generally pleased with the results of my efforts. The helmet succeeded in its purpose. My hair and face were dry. The only downside was the interior acoustics, which seemed to amplify the sound of the shower tenfold. Ah well. I would have to make notes for a second prototype, should the need arise.
Toweling off, I studied my image in the mirror as best I could given the limitations of the helmet, and debated how to best dry the contraption. Leaving it outside was the obvious choice, just not in direct sunlight. I didn’t want the plastic to melt. The small balcony off my room should work and had the added bonus of giving me an excuse to access “Mona’s room” whenever I wanted.
Decision made, I pulled on my underwear. I left the helmet on—enjoying the novelty of feeling like a Storm Trooper, or perhaps a member of Daft Punk—wrapped an oversized towel around myself, and opened the bathroom door just in time to almost collide with Abe. But we didn’t collide, thanks to my eyeholes and his veering to the left at the last minute.
“What the hell?” he said, staring at me aghast. “What are you doing?”
Bah! I forgot my prunes.
Lifting the towel closer to my neck, I met his stunned gaze through the plastic sheeting of my helmet, and debated how best to answer. In the end, I decided the truth would have to do. “I’m walking to my room. What are you doing?”
“No, I mean, what are you wearing?”
I glanced down at myself. “A towel and underwear.”
“No. On your head.” He touched his temple and I mimicked the movement, my fingers coming in contact with the plastic outer layer. “What’s that thing on your head? Is that aluminum foil?”
“Oh. It’s for the shower. To keep my hair dry and, you know, my face also.” An image of me, of what I looked like in the helmet, flashed into my brain. I guess I looked silly. Removing it, I gave him another of my tight smiles. “Is that better?”
I could see him more clearly now. His forehead was scrunched, like I, or my shower helmet, or both of us together were inconceivable.
“That’s actually . . .” His expression cleared and he blinked, shifting back a step as though to get a better look at me. “That’s actually really smart.”
Now I frowned at him. The way he’d said smart irritated me on my sister’s behalf, as though the mere idea of me—Lisa—doing anything smart was outside his understanding of reality.
So I lifted my chin and said, “Well, you would know.”
He must’ve detected the undercurrent of sarcasm in my tone because his head moved back an inch on his neck, his gaze flickering over me. “What?”
“Clearly, you’re a foremost expert on what qualifies as ‘smart.’” I tugged my towel higher.
“Are you”—his eyes narrowed—“are you giving me shit for complimenting your—your—”
Abe pressed his lips together in an obvious attempt to curb a smile, but the presence of faint indents on either side of his mouth, the beginning of dimples, betrayed him. “Shower helmet,” he said, eyes— which I’d just this second realized were the color of amber when he wasn’t irked—glinted with amusement.
“Yes, I’m giving you shit regarding your paltry compliment about my shower helmet, because it was wholly eclipsed by your incredulity that I am capable of doing something ‘smart.’”
He gave up the fight against his grin. “Oh? Really?”
Abe huffed a disbelieving laugh, looking at me like I was a puzzle. “Well then, you know what would’ve been actually smart?”
“Please enlighten me.”
“Taking a bath.”
I opened my mouth to volley a new sarcasm, but then promptly snapped it shut, blinking in astonishment. He was right. Taking a bath would have been the simplest and smartest course of action. But taking a bath hadn’t occurred to me. I hadn’t taken a bath since Lisa and I’d taken them together as children.
“Unless you don’t like baths.” Abe’s left eyebrow tilted upward a hint, as did his mouth.
Scowling, because I wasn’t going to admit that taking a bath hadn’t occurred to me, I deflected by asking, “Why are you here? I thought you were in the basement.”
“I’m staying in one of the guest rooms on the third floor, I’m on my way up.”
“Oh. That makes . . . sense.”
We traded stares for several seconds, neither of us moving. I debated what to do or say while I watched all the good humor slowly leach from his features, leaving a mantle of renewed hostility. My stomach fluttered, startling me, and I pressed a hand against it.
You’re having butterflies because he’s pretty, I told myself. But the hurried explanation felt woefully inadequate.
Let the record show, Abe really was extremely attractive in a cool, aloof, tall, dark, and handsome kind of way—if you go for that. For some strange reason, I couldn’t help but compare him to Dr. Poe Payton, who was also extremely attractive. But although Poe was tall, dark, and handsome—objectively, perhaps even more handsome than Abe—he wasn’t aloof. He was friendly and brilliant.
That’s the problem, a voice inside my head informed me, has anyone brilliant ever been nice to you without having an ulterior motive?
Releasing a silent sigh, I wallowed for a split second in the sudden cold nausea curdling my stomach, fighting a duel with the flutters. It might have been the hastily eaten prunes, but I didn’t think so. More likely, it was the realization that I was more inclined to trust someone who disliked me than someone who liked me.
Which was probably why despite Abe’s apparent dislike for all things Lisa (and therefore me) in that moment, while standing so close to his handsomeness, I felt a small kinship with Gabby and her hoo-hah. Abe openly disliked me/Lisa, and I found him and his dislike attractive as evidenced by the increasing fluttery activity in my abdomen. How messed up was that?
Needing to break the moment, I considered saying one of my anytime phrases.
My first instinct was to use Is this why fate brought us together? but immediately dismissed it as an option. I usually employed this one when I spotted something I wanted, like chocolate gelato or fingerless gloves. So, nah.
Perhaps, Be that as it may, still may it be as it may be? Eh. No. Too random and too much time had passed with us just staring at each other.
Eventually, I channeled Lisa and flicked my wrist, moving my hand in a dismissive out-of-the-way motion I’d seen her use the last time we were together.
“Move. You’re in my way.”
His lips curved, definitely more of a smirk than a smile. Hinted at dimples made an appearance, deeper on the left side than on the right. But that might’ve been because his mouth hitched higher on that side. Licking his lips, his eyes dropped to the ground, the radiant amber irises now hidden by his long black lashes. He stepped to the side, lifting his arm in a go-right-ahead gesture.
So I did. I walked to my room. I opened the door. And then I closed it.
Not three seconds later, he knocked.
Gritting my teeth, I opened it, once again coming face-to-face with his smirking smile, dimples, and amber eyes, which—for the record—held no amusement.
“What do you want?”
“Isn’t this your sister’s room?” Abe crossed his arms and lifted a dark, challenging, irked eyebrow.
Ah! I was in my room! But that was okay because of my shower helmet plan. Which meant I didn’t even need to lie.
“This is Mona’s room.” Truth. “This room also has a balcony, which I plan to use to dry my shower helmet.” Also truth. Turning from him, I walked to the single French door leading to the small balcony and unlocked it, opened it, and placed the helmet under the small table so it wouldn’t get direct sunlight.
Shutting the door to the balcony, I was surprised to see that Abe had followed me into my room. His gaze moved over the interior of the space, seemingly taking in or cataloguing the objects within. His unexpected inspection made me look around as well. I attempted to view my sanctuary from his perspective. What must it look like to a stranger?
The walls were white. I liked rooms painted white, especially if I spent any period of time within the room. Books. Lots of books on four giant shelves lining the wall closest to the door. Two floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the French door dominated the far side and flooded the space with light. The bed was twin-sized with a night-sky print comforter and one white pillow. I preferred the small footprint of a twin over surrendering valuable floor space to a larger bed. A drafting table that served as my desk sat against the fourth wall. Books and papers were stacked beneath.
“’Heisenberg may have slept here,’” Abe read the sign over my bed, his tone thoughtful. “What does that mean?”
Since I didn’t have my prunes, I didn’t pause to think before asking, “You’re uncertain who Heisenberg is?” and then immediately grimaced, because no physics jokes.
Abe’s gaze moved to mine. “The name sounds familiar.”
“Have you ever taken chemistry? Or physics?”
“Yeah. In high school.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to explain who Heisenberg was, and that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle related to the fact that everything in the universe behaves like both a particle and a wave at the same time, which meant no one can ever simultaneously know the exact position and the exact speed of an object at any given time. Furthermore, just the act of measuring anything—or attempting to measure—changes the object being measured.
But then I remembered I was Lisa. I was Lisa, not Mona. And Lisa had never understood or cared why the sign over my bed was funny.
Taking a breath, I swallowed and shrugged. “It probably has to do with something like that. Mona likes, uh, physics. A lot.”
“Leo said she went to some big deal, Ivy League school.”
I cleared my throat and nodded once. “Correct.”
“When she was fourteen?” Abe’s gaze moved back to the sign.
“Fifteen.” The fine hairs on the back of my neck prickled, probably because I was still standing around wearing nothing but a towel and undies. But maybe also because I was discussing myself like I wasn’t me.
He made a dismissive, scoffing sound and moved to leave. “That would suck.”
I scowled at the back of his head, following him into the hall and catching myself before saying Pardon?
Instead I said, “What?”
He glanced at me, his expression one of clear aversion to the direction of his thoughts. “Going to college at fifteen? Never getting to experience high school? That would have sucked.”
My throat felt oddly tight and a bizarre restlessness stirred in my chest. “Some people say that high school sucks.” I didn’t know why I was arguing with him about this. I should have been avoiding him. And getting dressed.
“High school does suck.” Abe nodded, tilting his head to the side, his eyes growing fuzzy as though he was recalling a specific memory. “But fifteen-year-olds are still kids. High school is your last chance to make mistakes without huge adult consequences. Missing out on that chance would suck. That’s like losing four years of your childhood.”
His gaze returned to mine and seemed to be guileless, as though we were just two random people having a random conversation about a random topic where neither of us had an emotional investment. It was the first time since I’d arrived an hour ago that he’d looked at me without being irritated, or confused, or—as he’d done just moments ago upon finding me with my shower helmet—freaked out with a hint of good humor.
Meanwhile, I was still scowling.
Abe blinked, apparently what he saw on my face confused him. But then his expression cleared, as though he’d just realized something significant.
“You dropped out of high school.” He said this with no malice, but rather as though this fact—Lisa dropping out of high school—explained my persistent scowl.
“Yes,” I said stiffly. And just for good measure, I added, “Whatever.” So . . . it has come to this.
His gaze moved over me, assessing and yet surprisingly free of judgment. These amber eyes of his were making me tremendously self-conscious as I sensed something new behind his inspection. Something like interest, but not quite. Whatever the something was, it also made me acutely cognizant that I was wearing just a towel and underwear.
I gathered a deep breath, about to walk around him to Lisa’s room, when he said quietly, “So did I.”
“I dropped out of high school.”
I flinched, astonished. “You- you did?”
He nodded, biting his lower lip, a faint smile in his eyes. “That surprises you?”
“Why would you do that?” I asked this as myself, as Mona, because dropping out of school made no sense to me. To have access to knowledge and to reject it made no logical sense.
Abe’s left dimple appeared, his pretty eyes—yes, they were pretty, but alluring might have been a more fitting word—seemed to glow.
Instead of answering, he countered, “Why did you drop out?”
“My parents couldn’t find a high school that would take- take me. I was kicked out of ten schools by my junior year.” I thought everyone knew this story. It had been in all the papers.
He made a low whistling sound. “Ten?”
I nodded, remembering the phone call I’d had with Lisa after number ten. She’d seemed proud, like it had been an accomplishment. I didn’t understand her.
“So, technically, I didn’t drop out,” I said, repeating what she’d said to me at the time.
“Right.” He looked less than impressed, which echoed how I’d felt about Lisa’s statement.
Before I could catch the impulse, I rolled my eyes, a small smile tugging at my lips, forgetting for a moment that we weren’t commiserating over Lisa’s recklessness because, you know, I was Lisa.
Abe looked at me like I’d again surprised him.
Oh. Oh no. He thinks I’m being self-deprecating. Yikes.
“Yeah. Well. I’m the funniest person I know, and then the wolves came.” I forced a light laugh, knowing I’d messed up. Lisa was many things, but I’d never known her to be self-deprecating. If there was one thing my sister took too seriously in this world, it was herself.
“Wolves?” His gaze traveled over my face, a smile lingering even though his eyebrows had pulled together. The dichotomy of his expression had me wondering whether he was enjoying our conversation, or if perhaps he was confused about the fact that he was enjoying our conversation.
“Anyway.” I took a step to the side, and then another. I needed to extract myself. I needed the prunes to chew on before I could be trusted to speak. “I’m cold. I need clothes. Goodbye.”
With that, I crossed to Lisa’s room, stepped inside, and shut the door behind me. I counted the seven seconds until I heard footsteps on the stairway leading up. Shaking my head at how incompetent I was at lying, I moved to Lisa’s dresser.
As I searched for something to wear, I admitted to myself that I failed at pretending to be someone else. Everything that had just happened—except for me saying whatever and flicking my wrist at him—had been completely out of character for my sister.
Avoiding Abe was the only way to salvage this week and allow Lisa to slip back into the house without raising suspicion.
Avoidance. I would avoid him.