“Does your friend know how watches work?” Rhoan asked, leaning on one of the white plastic chairs that were somehow far comfier than they looked. Law had happily taken and stayed in a seat, though Rhoan and Chase had wandered around to investigate the volunteer-run library.
“She’s usually late,” Law said with a shrug. “But she’ll be here.”
Chase looked askance at him. “How do you two know each other?”
“Oh, her mum tutored my dad for a while when I was… too young to remember, honestly. We’ve been friends forever.”
Rhoan pushed out his bottom lip. “I’ll never be good enough to compete with her.”
Rhoan shook his head solemnly. “My sweet summer child. The best friend position is coveted, mostly because I’ve been friends with Law for – what – four, five years now? And dude, this is the first time I’ve been to your town. And you still won’t let me in your house?”
Law reached over to pull one of the thick folders of their project notes towards him, uncomfortable under the curious – and piercing – look Chase was giving him. “You hate buses, Rhoan. Also, my house is tiny. I barely fit into my bedroom. And the library makes us more productive.”
Rhoan raised his eyes to the ceiling. “Always thinking about the work.”
“That is what we’re here for.”
“All work and no play makes Rhoan a bored boy,” Rhoan grinned. Chase laughed as Law huffed a sigh and ignored his friend.
“I gather this is why no one else wants to be your partner?” Chase asked, flicking up an eyebrow at Rhoan, who merely shrugged innocently. Chase didn’t seem bothered, though, and shifted his weight to his other foot, glancing over the top of fake ferns to see what Law was reading. Law looked up and their eyes locked for a moment, and Law realised it was the first time he’d noticed half the things about Chase that were staring at him in the face. For one, he had piercings in his ears that Law hadn’t noticed the other day, and a smattering of freckles mostly over his left cheek. It made sense that Rhoan had jokingly referred to him as ‘pretty boy’ rather than by name after Chase had returned to his football.
Rhoan whistled low. “Dude, that’s Eilidh? I mean I guess you never realised she was cute, but damn.”
Law blinked. It wasn’t that he didn’t think Eilidh was pretty, but mentioning it to his friends just seemed weird. Chase seemed to think so too, as he made a loud scoff and rolled his eyes in disdain.
Law offered his friend a wave as she slid open the glass doors and ducked inside, where the large west facing windows actually made the room much warmer than the outdoors now that it was past noon. He made a show of looking at his wrist, where a watch would be lying if he owned one, and Eilidh stuck out her tongue and blew a raspberry, giving no heed to the fact that they weren’t alone.
Her boots clicked on the hard wood floor. She didn’t look in the least bit bothered as two pairs of eyes swung to her, but then Eilidh didn’t make it a habit to care what people thought of her. Law loved her for it; she was effortlessly cool in the way that most teenagers wished they were.
“And you’re only forty minutes late!”
“Nuh-uh, I arrive exactly when I mean to. Like a wizard.”
Rhoan made a confused sound. “A wizard?”
“Yeah, like Gandalf, duh,” Eilidh said without missing a beat, barely looking in his direction. Chase snorted and she gave her usual winning grin. “What is it we’re actually doing? Oh, and does this count as cheating if I help you? ‘Cause if it does I am so proud of you Law.”
“So a loophole, huh?”
“Is it really a loophole if there were never any rules to begin with?” he mused, and then remembered that their back and forth was not private for a change. “Rhoan, Chase, meet Eilidh.”
“Hi!” she said cheerfully, waving enthusiastically and then taking a seat beside Law. “So you’re all from that smart school, right? I think Law talked a lot about you when he first moved there, Rhoan.”
Law made a show of sighing. “Don’t tell him he’s cool.”
“What? I’m cool! Did you think I was cool, Law?”
“Only when I first met you, Rhoan.”
Rhoan and Chase settled into their seats. Rhoan kept sending sneaky glances to Eilidh, and Law wasn’t sure if she noticed or just didn’t care. Chase, meanwhile, kept quiet, his eyes going between the three of them bantering like he was watching a tennis match. Law frowned and chanced a look towards him, but Chase didn’t seem put out to be unincluded. On the contrary, he actually looked like he was enjoying the chat, and amusement spread over his face.
“And you, Chase, how’d you know these tools?”
“Hey!” Rhoan protested. “You don’t know me. You don’t know I’m a tool.”
“Yet,” Eilidh said savagely, grinning like a shark, before turning back to Chase.
“Oh, just art. Though of course it’s hard not to know of Rhoan, being the giant tool that he is.” Chase grinned, his eyes crinkling at the corners, as Rhoan spluttered in protest.
“There, there,” Eilidh grinned, reaching out to pat his knee. Law hid his laugh as a cough behind his hand as Rhoan practically melted, gazing at Eilidh with a lovestruck expression, and exchanged a knowing smirk with Chase.
“Shall we get on with our project?” Law asked, waving his hand towards the pile of folders. “Basically, Eilidh, we have to make a piece that draws inspiration from three or four different artists.”
Eilidh scooched over to the edge of her seat to peer at the writing on the side. “Oh, right. I know of Goldsworthy. He’s a bloke that makes art out of nature. And Turner, of course, did landscapes of the natural world a lot, among other things. Erm, the others could use a bit of research though.”
“Luckily we have plenty of that,” Chase said, picking up one of the heavy folders.
“Yeeeah,” Eilidh said. “Why did you need me again?”
“Because we have to write something about why we made what we did.”
“And present it,” Chase added.
Eilidh sighed. “Honestly, that bit you can bullshit, but I totally want to spend my Saturday with a bunch of nerds.” She laughed as Law reached over to poke her side, and then obediently picked up a green folder. They got to work, the quiet sounds of the road outside and occasional conversation breaking the silence.
“I think Rhoan’s got it bad,” Chase said, leaning back on the bench and glancing over his shoulder at Law, who was perched on the top of the bench. He took his gaze away from the sun (he’d been looking for the green flash that sometimes happened at the exact point of the sun setting, but reckoned they didn’t have the right conditions for the interesting phenomena to present itself) and met Chase’s eyes.
“I think you’re right,” Law sighed, glancing over to where Rhoan and Eilidh were playing horseshoes.
“This is a really nice village,” Chase mused. “Do you like it here?”
“I’ve never known anything different,” Law shrugged. “But I would definitely miss it if I left. What about you, where do you stay?”
Chase missed a beat, but Law couldn’t blame him – the anguished cry of Rhoan briefly distracted them both. “I, uh, actually lived in Edinburgh for most of my life, but I moved to this side of Glasgow not long ago.”
Again, another beat was missed, but Law didn’t notice. Rather than watching Rhoan this time, Law was scanning the horizon for the bright planets which should have been showing at this time.
“Not exactly,” Chase said, in a strange tone. “I like Glasgow well enough. Even though it’s a bit rough in places.”
“Isn’t everywhere?” Law shrugged. Chase inclined his head to agree, leaning back to stretch and then remaining there for a moment, his neck craned back and eyes resting on Law.
“Why hasn’t Rhoan been here before?”
Law shrugged. “He asks a lot of questions.”
Law laughed a little, if only to dispel the sudden awkwardness. “No, just that I only live with my dad, and I hate to think Rhoan butting into my house and asking my dad about my mum and stuff. It’s the kind of thing he’d do. He doesn’t really get subtlety.” This time Law did laugh, for real, thinking of all the time Rhoan had unblinkingly blundered in social situations. Chase snorted.
“Aye, puts his foot in his mouth.”
“Yeah,” Law grinned. “And, you know, I don’t want to upset my dad. He doesn’t really talk about her.” Law tried to say it casually but he must have failed, since Chase looked over his shoulder at him again, the orange hued light from the sun deepening his blue eyes. He turned away and said nothing, somehow sensing that there was nothing more to say on the subject.
“Who do you think will win?” Chase asked quietly, nodding towards the game.
“Okay, shut up, you’ve totally fixed this.”
“How can I fix it?!” Eilidh squealed, pointing at his dejected horseshoe lying outside the box.
“I dunno, but you’ve definitely practiced.”
“Duh, this game is in my park, I come here all the time. I bet I could do it with my eyes closed better than you,” she grinned, tossing her fringe away from her eyes.
Rhoan turned to Eilidh, laughing as she snorted accidentally, and then they were both laughing at her rather than his poor attempt at playing horseshoes, their sides hurting. A cool breeze gently stirred Eilidh’s brown hair back into her eyes and she shoved it back impatiently.
“Go on then, blind.”
Eilidh snatched the horseshoe out of his hand, made a show of covering her eyes, and shot it almost perfectly into the box. Rhoan groaned in defeat, shaking his head at the girl who was jumping up and down in celebration, not at all self-conscious and completely unremorseful in her joy.
“Alright,” Rhoan said grudgingly. “You win. What’s your prize? A – a coffee, maybe, on me?”
“Ew,” Eilidh said. “Coffee’s gross. I’ll take the pride and honour, thank you.”
In the distance Rhoan could see Law shaking his head, both of them swapping something that was too quiet for Rhoan to hear, and Rhoan inwardly reminded himself to ask Law if it was Eilidh was oblivious or if it was him.
Law was watching a rerun of the latest Blue Planet season, entranced with the fascinating life forms under the sea and Attenborough’s hypnotic and powerful narration. He gave a distracted greeting to his dad when he came into the room, changed from work, and it took him a full minute to realise Kane was standing awkwardly in front of him with a semi-panicked look on his face.
Law would have loved to continue watching the TV, but now that he was aware of his father it was hard not to be distracted by the fidgeting man. Law gathered he wanted to broach a topic with him and hoped, desperately, it wasn’t something to do with sex ed (Eilidh had been pale faced one day as she’d told him about the talk she’d had with her mum, and Law had dreaded it ever since).
Law turned the TV to mute and gestured to the seat next to him.
“Is this the birds and the bees talk?” Law blurted out, colour rising to his cheeks. He definitely did not want this conversation with his father, especially as school had already covered it in enough detail. Besides, Law couldn’t see himself being distracted by girls any time soon. Rhoan took all the attention away anyway, which was fine by Law (as unlikely that he thought it was that he would be anyone’s crush).
“Uh, no. Though…”
“Nope, I’m fine, thanks.”
Kane snorted. “Fair enough. It’s actually about Jasmine. We’re, uh, officially dating.”
Law laughed. “You’re as slow as an iceberg, dad. Eilidh and I were trying to get you two together since the bowling alley birthday.”
“Oh.” Kane blinked. Law laughed again at how oblivious his dad was. But since he figured that this was a good conversation to talk about how things stood in their strange, small family, Law hesitantly broached the topic he’d been curious about for years.
“I’m happy for you both, dad. I love Jas. She’s been around for as long as I can remember.”
“Yeah. Since you were… two, or three.”
“Right.” Law cleared his throat and looked his dad square in the eyes. “So what about my actual mum? Jas said she didn’t know her, but what happened?”
Kane quickly looked away to the TV, hands pulling at the strings of his hoodie while he composed an answer. “I, uh, it’s… complicated.”
Law’s eyebrows shot up. “Complicated?” he repeated flatly. “Really?”
“Dad, come on, this is ridiculous! If you were totally crazy about her and she died, I get that you don’t want to talk about her, but I deserve to know don’t I?”
Kane winced. “It’s more complicated than that,” he insisted, though given Jas had told Law that much he knew it had to be.
“Again with that word,” Law muttered with a roll of his eyes. “Make it simple. Just tell me what happened in a sentence or two.”
Kane rubbed his eyes. “I… I just… Law…” Kane trailed off and stared at his son, and when nothing else was said, Law shot off the sofa and spun around to face his dad, true anger radiating through every line of his body.
“Enough with the attitude,” Kane said firmly.
Law stared at him. “Fuck. You.” He enunciated each word carefully so that his father would know exactly what he thought of this conversation. Law hadn’t sworn at his father before, and even though his heart was hammering in his chest while he said the words, he felt like it was only through them that he could show Kane the depth of his anger.
“Law!” Kane’s eyes went round, his face going red. Law shrugged at him and turned to stomp out the room, a black cloud following him.
Law brushed his teeth with far more force than was necessary, glaring at himself in the mirror, as he got ready for bed. He was surprised that steam wasn’t rising from his ears, he was so hot with anger. He spat out his toothpaste and fumed silently, hands gripping onto the side of the sink. The extent of his fury surprised him; he’d usually viewed the situation with curiosity or mild annoyance before. Law had never been so mad, and yet he knew his dad still wouldn’t tell him what he wanted to know.
And why not? Was he hung up on her? If so, why was he finally dating Jasmine? Was there a secret he was trying to hide, or what?
Law shook his head and watched his reflection do the same, spots of colour on his cheeks finally fading as he forced himself to breathe calmly. Maybe one day he’d figure out how to find out for himself.
One of Law’s chosen electives at his school was martial arts, which often meant a gruelling training regime with his instructor three times a week. After the sessions Law always felt sore and yet loose at the same time, warm and pleased with himself that his progress was continuing. Unlike most of his subjects, which came easily to him after some studying, martial arts was a completely different ballgame. Though the three hours a week training were hard, they were rewarding, because Law could see when his hard work paid off. It was for this reason that he often dedicated more hours to it than necessary, enjoying the use of the training dummies or sometimes a sparring partner in Tee. His body moved fluidly, dancing between each of the steps as if it were as natural as walking, and then he would refine the newer moves until they became just as easy, just as smooth.
On one of these times, the headmaster came into the gym and waited patiently with his hands clasped in front of him until Law acknowledged him. Mr Cooperman gestured for him to continue if he wanted to, and since Law was in the middle of a sequence of moves, he elected to remain where he was.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“Actually, I’ve come here with a bit of a proposal.”
Law glanced up briefly, raising an eyebrow, and was pleased when he still managed to duck out of the way of the arm swinging back around. He slowed so that he could hear the headmaster over his heavy breaths, sweat prickling his neck and back.
“You have an instinctive understanding of science that is far beyond others of your age, Law. In fact, your decision to take extra biology classes as one of your electives was a pleasant surprise, given your natural grasp of the subject, and I believe you’re soon to complete all that is traditionally taught at high school level.”
Law wiped sweat of his brow and nodded, now more intrigued in the conversation than he was in his training. He took a step back from the dummy and grounded himself for a moment, trying to distance himself from the typical adrenaline rushes of training so that he could think more clearly.
“I was talking to Miss Poad about that. She says she can continue into university level, though I can retake my elective if I’d like to.”
Mr Cooperman nodded, unlinking his hands to smooth down his smart waistcoat. Law wondered if he was offended by the muggy smell of sweat that accompanied the gym no matter what.
“Yes, and if you’re interested, I have a very interesting elective offer that has come to me from an old friend of mine.”
Law approached the headmaster curiously. “I am interested.”
“He specialises in viruses, and more broadly is a professor in cell biology at Glasgow University. He was one of the leading researchers in the recent paper detailing how to create a flu vaccine against the common variations of flu by targeting the parts of the virus cell that doesn’t mutate regularly. I believe you read the paper for a recent project?”
“Yes, I did; it was fascinating.”
“More than that, he has facilitated several projects in the past and has an extensive knowledge of biology, including reproductive biology and cancers. If you’d like, he can lecture you in cell biology, with emphasis on viruses and anything else you might wish to cover. He’s very flexible.”
“Wow,” Law said, his eyes growing wide. “Uh, yes, I’d love that! That sounds amazing, thank you, sir.”
Mr Cooperman beamed at Law, which struck him as a rather strong emotion from the usually mild man. “I am so pleased, Law. I think you’ll do well under his tutorship and he’s eager to meet you. We shall organise a trial month as usual with the electives, so if you decide it isn’t for you, you can of course choose another elective or put one forward. But I do hope you enjoy.”
“Oh, I’m sure I will,” Law grinned. “Cell biology is fascinating, so this is perfect. Thanks again, sir. This is such a good opportunity.”
The headmaster nodded in agreement. “I’ll let you know when Luke is available to meet with you, Law. Expect it in the next few weeks – I think he’s very eager as well, and I’m sure you’ll come to a scheduling agreement that works for you both. Until next time I see you, good luck.”
Law nodded and waved at Mr Cooperman, before turning back to his training dummy with a smile plastered across his face and excitement curling in his stomach.
I am so glad I managed to write this in time. I felt sooo ill the latter half of this week. I must have picked up a bug from somewhere. Luckily I survived 😀
Also I’m certain that I didn’t make that scientific breakthrough up. Basically flu viruses are super hard to vaccinate against (hence why they have a different vaccine each year) because they mutate so often that the proteins and such on the surface of their cells change too much to be recognised by our immune system, but I fuzzily recall hearing that they think they can use the parts of the cell that can’t mutate as often for longer lasting vaccines. Which is cool!