Focus (Page 20)

“You girls can always stay here…” It sounded like Levi was just going through the motions. He didn’t actually expect us to stay.

“I think you know the answer.”

“Fine, I’ll take you guys back.”

Twenty minutes later, I was slipping between the soft sheets of my bed. I couldn’t help but look out the window before I lay down. I wondered who was out there watching me, and if it was only Levi’s people. For all I knew, there was a Blackwell sitting out there in the dark too. I pulled my blankets tightly around me. I’d spent so much time focused on whether I wanted to get back together with Levi, that I hadn’t been seriously thinking about the danger I was in.

“Are you okay?” Hailey paused with her hand on the light switch.

“I’m fine.” I wasn’t sure who I was lying to more, Hailey or myself.

Chapter Nine

Knowing exactly how much danger I was in didn’t change the fact that I still had to go to class. My second week of college wasn’t that different from the first. The only real change was that I started my organic chemistry lab.

Jared waited for me outside of my dorm. He smiled when he saw me.

“I’m guessing you have lab too?” I started walking, knowing he’d follow.

“Nope. I couldn’t get into it. I’m just keeping you company on the way over.”

A few days earlier, I would have told him to get lost, but now I found his presence comforting.

“Are you saying that you guys couldn’t override a schedule? You’re losing your touch.”

“Well, we figured it wasn’t that big of a deal. How much trouble can you get into for a few hours of lab, right?”

“Don’t remind me. I can’t believe lab’s starting already.”

“I thought you liked this stuff.”

“I do. I mean I like learning about it, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend three hours in a lab.”

Jared laughed. “Good luck with it. I have mine tomorrow.” I couldn’t imagine Jared in a lab.

We reached the modern glass building that housed the Organic Chemistry lab. It looked out of place amongst the mostly stone buildings of the quad. “Thanks. See ya.”

I walked into lab, which was really a series of rooms. I took a lab manual from the pile and found an empty stool. Of all of my classes, this lab made me the most nervous. I was good at listening to lectures and spitting it all back out on exams and in papers. It was something different to actually have to perform experiments. Results never seemed to turn out like they were supposed to. I was sure this would be a lot harder than my science labs in high school.

“Allie, hey.”

I glanced up from flipping through the manual. Nick, the guy from the house party, took the stool next to me. “Hi, Nick.”

“I didn’t know you were in Orgo.”

“Yeah, I guess I can say the same thing to you.”

“I’m glad you’re here. I hate having to find lab partners.”

I guess that meant we were working together. I didn’t mind, though. Searching for a partner wasn’t high on my to-do list. “Me too.”

Our TA came in and introduced himself. I expected he wouldn’t be like a regular professor, but I was surprised to see he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

“Hi guys. Welcome to Organic Chemistry Lab. I’d tell you this was going to be fun, but then I’d be lying.” He paused, probably hoping for laughs. He didn’t get any.

“Basically, we’ll be doing an experiment each week. Just follow your lab manual, and if you have any questions or problems, let me know. Oh, and don’t forget to turn in your prelab questions at the start of each class. If there aren’t any questions, you can go ahead and check out your first experiment.”

I tried not to let the lab intimidate me. It’s not like I’d never seen the equipment before, but I’d heard so many horror stories about organic chem.

“Are you premed?” Nick sorted through the equipment on the table.

“Definitely not.”

He put down the beaker he was holding. “Really? You’re taking this because you want to?”

I laughed. “I guess that makes me a nerd?”

“You couldn’t be a nerd if you tried.” His eyes raked over me in a way that made me a little bit uncomfortable.

“Nerds have to look a certain way?” I picked up my manual, trying to read over the instructions.

“Yes. I mean anyone can be nerdy, but it takes a lot to be a nerd.”

I laughed again. “If you say so.”

I tried to focus on the experiment. After measuring several compounds and heating the chemicals in the sand bath, I hoped to have the desired result.

Three grueling hours later, we were done.

“That wasn’t so bad.” Nick started to clean up.

“I think these things usually start out easy and then get harder.” I walked up the front to check out with the T.A.

Nick followed, and we headed outside. Jared was waiting for me by the entry. He glared at Nick. “Hey, Allie, you ready?”

“Sure, see you next week.” I waved to Nick.

“See you around.” Nick was definitely disappointed as we walked away.

“Who’s the kid?” Jared pulled the straps of his backpack away from him.

“My lab partner.”

“I’m glad Levi didn’t pick you up.”

“Pick me up? Do you really have to call it that?”

“What would you prefer?”

“Meet me.”

“Okay, I’m glad Levi didn’t meet you.”

“You always make Levi sound like this crazy, jealous person, but he’s never acted that way.”

“It’s been a new experience for him. He’s never had a reason to be jealous before. He was going to have Natalie fire Alex because he didn’t like the way he looked at you.” Without saying anything, Jared stopped and held open the door to a coffee shop.

“How’d you know I wanted something?”

“I didn’t. Levi suggested it. He said you’d probably want a caffeine fix.”

“Sometimes he can even pass as charming.” I got in line.

Jared smiled. “So what’s going on with you guys?”

“Like you don’t know.” I turned to look at him. “You want anything?”

“I’ll take a coffee.”

I ordered Jared his coffee, and I got an iced mocha.