The darkest timeline - part two

Mon Dec 4, 2017

The chemistry lecture was so boring I wanted to drop my head onto my desk and pass out. Even surreptitiously browsing through Twitter (as the rest of the class was doing apparently) held no appeal. I needed a Starbucks or something, anything to keep me awake.

The professor droned on about the spectroscopic properties of carbon compounds. Properties I could have rattled off when I was in kindergarten. This stuff was so easy.

It’s not easy being smart. As a young kid burdened with a ridiculously high IQ, I quickly learned to downplay my intelligence or face ostracism on the playground. In high school, I quietly drifted through the system, keeping my mouth shut in class rather than being labelled as the teacher’s pet.

I got in a lot of trouble for daydreaming. The teachers never caught on that while I was doodling in my notebook and drawing pictures of unicorns and spaceships, I was soaking in every word the teachers said.

Now I’m in college and I’m finally free to embrace my inner geek. Unfortunately, the middle-of-nowhere small town where I live, Mountain Valley, isn’t exactly a magnet for intellectual types.

The professor started talking about an experiment I was familiar with, and writing out some equations on the whiteboard. But he was getting it all wrong. Nails on a chalkboard would be less painful than watching the professor painstakingly write out the wrong equations. I couldn’t help myself - I raised my hand.

“Professor?” I called out.

He turned around and craned his balding head upward like an inquisitive tortoise. “Yes, Judith?” he said with a sigh.

“Shouldn’t the coordination polyhedron be regarded as a tetragonal pyramid with the vanadium atom in the centre? I should think the deformation of the octahedron would be much more pronounced compared to other known sulfato compounds.”

The professor eyes grew wide for a second and he stared at the whiteboard.

He cleared his throat. “Quite right, Judith. Excellent observation.” he said. He picked up the whiteboard eraser and started laboriously scrubbing off his equations. There was a stretch of awkward silence.

I looked around the lecture hall. There was that new guy again. He was one of the few students who weren’t engrossed in their smartphones or laptops. At that moment he glanced behind him and saw me looking his way. He caught my eye and smiled. He was extremely cute. Long black hair that fell in soft ringlets around his angular face. Green eyes so sharp they could cut glass. And that smile - damn. I sort of smiled back then hung my head, embarrassed but electrified.

The rest of the lecture became background noise as I pretended not to gaze at the back of his head. After the lecture ended, I lingered as the other students filed from the hall, slowly packing my backpack and timing my departure to match his.

We fell into step beside each other as we left the hall.

“The prof didn’t know what hit him back there,” he said.

What do you say to that? Nothing seemed appropriate.

“I didn’t know the Rasmussen spectroscopic paper was in our text book,” he continued.

“It isn’t,” I said. “I read it on my own.”

“You read inorganic chemistry papers for fun?” he said, grinning.

“Yeah…” I said, quickening my step to pull away from him. He was mocking me.

Here we go again - like I said, it isn’t easy being smart. I was getting tired of pretending otherwise, though. Tired and pissed off at the small-minded attitude in this town where anyone with half a brain is seen as a freak. Enough is enough - this is 2015 and I’m a 22-year old adult, not a timid little kid anymore.

I stopped abruptly and turned around.

“Actually, what I do for fun is none of your fucking business,” I said.

A blonde girl passing by overheard me. She gave me a conspiratorial grin and tried to give me a high-five. I ignored her. At the same time, the new guy’s eyebrows shot up so high they almost merged into his - admittedly gorgeous - locks.

My face flushed red. Hey, I said I had a high IQ, not a high EQ. I should really focus on keeping my mouth shut at all times.

I wish I could say that I threw a stone-cold bitch-face at the dude and stalked off with a hypnotic sway of the hips while he stared on slack-jawed. But in reality it was more like the swift onset of a neurological disorder as I started twitching and muttering to myself. To cover up my embarrassment, I scurried away, pulling out my phone and pretending to text my friends, even though I have no friends. I was randomly scrolling through my boring Facebook feed when I noticed he was still walking beside me. Why was he still here?

“Look, I think we got off on the wrong foot,” he said. “The truth is, I was really impressed by what you said in class today. Except for one thing.”

It was my turn to raise my eyebrows.

“Go on,” I said.

“Rasmussen’s conjecture that the vanadium atom lay in the centre of the tetragonal pyramid is flawed. The oxygen and sulfate double bridges would form a zigzag structure under temporal stress,” he explained.

I was dumbstruck. But only for a moment. This conversation just became way too fascinating.

Mostly because this dude was dead wrong. Smarter than I gave him credit for - but still wrong. His spreading smile almost distracted me from the academic conundrum at hand, but not enough for me to correct his mistake.

“You’re right that his conjecture is flawed, but not in the way you think. Rasmussen’s paper was based on a false understanding of the sulfato compound’s crystalline structure,” I said. “Temporal stress would induce an infinite loop in the underlying bridges of the tetragonal pyramid, not a separate zigzag structure.”

His smile faltered and softened into an expression of frank admiration.

“I stand corrected,” he said with a small bow. Respect. And he seemed to mean it too. I like to see that in a man.

“Uh, look,” I stammered. “I’m sorry I overreacted earlier - I have…issues.”

He smiled warmly, looking a little relieved. “Don’t we all,” he said.

“My name’s Luke, by the way,” he said, extending his hand. “Luke White.”

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