Chapter 2- Study Ed, Play Ed
Over the month, Edd’s enthusiasm for coming to school didn’t diminish in the slightest. If anything, it only increased. Yes, there was the mental challenge and friends to look forward to, but the one thing that topped his list and set his feet racing through the halls to another day of learning was the Advanced Chemistry class. Each day, Marie displayed more of a side he never knew that stimulated a connection between their minds, almost as if he had found a fellow peer that shared his love for the subject.
Yes, there were still the barrage of flirtatious remarks from Marie. She continued to do her best to whisper suggestive things that made him hot under the collar or approach him in ways that ripped him out of his element and placed him far outside his normal comfort zone.
One particular instance, in showing him how she measured out the exact sample for a corrosive compound, she had stood behind him, with her arms wrapped around his waist. Then she held onto his hands, guiding him through the entire mixing procedure as they picked up test tubes and poured in very minute amounts into a central test tube. The entire time his hands shook and nearly spilled the concoction.
“Careful,” she said. “Don’t want to burn yourself. Just relax and follow me.”
Her hands were deft and careful with the measurements and once they had finished, he commented on it. “It’s nice to know you have a delicate touch.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” she had said, standing on her toes so her lips were next to his ear and he swallowed hard. He was thankful the teacher had stepped out for several minutes and that everyone else was absorbed in their work. “It’s delicate, but firm.” She licked her teeth and directed his hand to slide the central test tube ever so slowly into a clamp to hold it in place, running his hand over the clamp and down to the round base.
Oh, my. He disentangled himself from her as politely as possible, awkwardly stumbling to gather up his books. “Yes, well, I’d best be going,” he said.
“Class doesn’t end for five more minutes,” she said, pointing at the clock.
She was right. “Er, well, I have something I need to do,” he said.
“Mind if I join? I need to hit the can anyway.” Before he could protest, she swung her backpack over her shoulder and led the way out, with him waddling out on stiff, trembling legs. They parted in the hall and she said farewell with a hip check. “See you tomorrow.”
Aside from instances such as those, most of Marie’s suggestive comments he took in stride, and even chuckled at from time to time. He cracked a joke here and there and he enjoyed her company. Advanced Chemistry became the highlight of each day.
Since he didn’t see much of Marie outside of the one class, he wasn’t sure what to think of her overall. He still reeled over her subdued nature compared to a few years ago, but perhaps time had mellowed her out? After all, it may be like Eddy. He’s not as rambunctious as he used to be. His friend was quite the schemer and always would be. However, he had learned to be more selective with scams and planned them out better these days, even brainstorming contingencies if things went sour, as they tended to go.
However, he was soon to see for himself how much Marie had changed. At the end of the class one Friday, she threw down her pencil and slumped over the review sheet the teacher had assigned them. “Forget this,” she said, shoving her paper into the sink and turning the faucet on.
Edd immediately reached over and turned the water off, saving the review sheet. He fetched the paper out of the sink and was thankful only a corner had gotten wet. It was filled with equations for balancing chemical compounds. All week, Marie had been expressing nonstop frustration with the formulas, going so far as to dig holes slowly, maliciously into one of her papers all through class. According to her, she had never had much luck with the problems. “I always hated them,” she had said.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Edd said, shaking the paper dry and laying it next to her. “You’ll want to keep these papers. Remember, he could choose any of these to be on the first test.”
“I know,” she said, snarling at him. “If I want math work, I have a math class I can skip. I didn’t come here to balance crap.”
“Balancing chemical compounds are very important, as we can learn the products that result from a given reaction. So without even needing to test it yourself, you can—” She cut him off with a dangerous glare that told him she didn’t want to hear his reasoning and that she would rather test the reactions for herself than theorize on the reactions.
He looked over her paper, noting that some of the compounds on this review sheet were pretty tricky. He hated to see her down in the dumps like this, especially when she seemed to be trying so hard. Huh, what do you know? He felt sorry for Marie Kanker. Time does change all, he supposed, but there had to be more to it. He reasoned that part of it was because he hated seeing someone trying to learn and failing despite their best efforts.
“Here, I can help you,” he said, scooting closer to her and leaning over her paper, his head next to hers. If younger Edd could see him now, he would no doubt have a panic attack from being this close.
“I’m not in the mood,” she said from behind her arms. “Maybe later.”
He scratched his head. “Well, perhaps we could meet in the library during lunch?” he suggested.
“I’m busy then.” She turned toward him. “How about you come by this weekend and show me? I’ll be studying for the test anyway. We can study together.”
“Come-Come by?” he asked, the old, all-too-familiar nerves firing up and making his limbs feel heavy and weak. “You mean, by your house?”
“Why not?” she said. “Gotta be better than coming to yours. I’m betting your parents wouldn’t like that.”
True, he thought. The Kankers’ reputation did precede them. On the first day, people knew them at this high school and steered clear of them. After a few moments of thought, he hesitantly nodded. “Okay, I’ll be there.”
The bell rang and she sat up. “Great. Not before 10. I like to sleep in on the weekend.”
* * *
At five ‘til 11, Edd was already regretting meeting her at her trailer that weekend. The dark woods on the way to the infamous trailer park seemed to close in on him, suffocating Edd even in his loose shirt and shorts. This area conjured up many unpleasant memories, most involving him and his friends running full-pelt in the opposite direction from the Kankers’ home turf. Now he was willingly headed there, into the belly of the beast and toward all three Kankers. Not a safe area like school where he only associated with one Kanker. His legs hurried through the woods, seeking daylight, although his mind warned him of what was to come up ahead.
Soon, the sun broke through the trees and he entered the trailer park. It was exactly as he remembered. A white trash wonderland with low-rent, low-quality homes as far as the eye could see and enough abandoned engines and car parts that, if assembled, could furnish an auto dealership. He knew the direction to the Kankers’ home all too well, having spent much time avoiding the place. Holding his books to his chest as if for protection, he scurried through the rows of homes and to the correct trailer in the middle of the park.
The stained, metal trailer loomed in the distance and he had the distinct impression of eyes watching him. All too quickly, he found himself at the doorsteps of their home. Shades of the Kanker sisters in the past leaning in the doorway, giving him a chance to run before beginning pursuit, tortured his mind. Calm down. Take it nice and easy, he told himself. This isn’t the same. You were invited here under a flag of peace.
Raising a rattling hand, he rapped on the door and waited. Right on cue, a shrill voice that sounded like Marie’s yelled, “May! Get the door!”
“You get it!” a deeper voice said. Something hit the wall with a crash! and was followed by heavy stomping.
Nevermind shades of the past. Maybe nothing had changed at all. Maybe the weeks at school had been an act. Edd gulped and considered bolting. But he would never make it around the corner on his spindly legs before he was caught. Curse my athletic negligence!
The door swung open and a buck-toothed blonde peered out, wearing plain shorts and a shirt. “Double Dee?” she asked, genuinely confused to see him there.
“Good day, May,” he said, acting more confident than he felt. “Is Marie at home?”
She recovered and, with a devious smirk, yanked him into the house and slammed the door shut behind him with all the thunderous boom of a prison cell closing forever. “Marie!” she said in a sing-song voice. “Your man’s here!” May leaned into Edd, batting her eyes. “So, did you bring Big Ed with you?”
“Um, no, it’s just me,” he said, wishing he had brought Ed and Eddy along to stave off the rest of the sisters. Then again, they would both think he had lost his mind if he had told them where he was going today or why. Or that he had even been enjoying time with Marie.
“That’s okay,” May said, walking her fingers along his books and up his arm. “When you’re done, maybe we can have our own special study session.”
Before he could stammer out an awkward, but polite refusal, a rough hand grabbed May and flung her backwards into the sole sofa in the living room. “Lay off it, May. You’re supposed to be getting dressed. Now get going.”
“Okay, okay, geez!” she said and flung a pillow that smacked the other person in the back of the head. She skipped out of the room fast as her target turned around, raising a curled fist, the greeting and family sigil of all Kankers.
“Good day, Lee,” Edd said and she returned to him, staring out from beneath a mass of red curly hair and sizing him up. A knowing grin crept up her cheek, exposing her prominent crown, and she nodded.
“Marie’ll be right out,” she said, her husky voice sending shivers down his spine. And not in a good way. “Don’t let me catch you pulling any funny business while we’re gone.” Her tone seemed to imply that she expected “funny business” and didn’t mind as long as she didn’t catch them in the act. A quick glance from her eyes under the tangle of hair confirmed it.
What exactly does she think is going to happen?! he wondered.
“Marie, get out here!” Lee bellowed, making Edd jump. “Gotta greet your guest. Ma didn’t raise ya in no barn!”
“Shut your yap!” Marie yelled back. Edd’s suspicions were right. Exactly how he remembered when he was younger. “I’m coming! Keep your shirt on!”
She entered the living room, tugging on her clothes and made a beeline for Edd. “Glad you could make it, Oven Mitt. Let’s get going.”
By that time, May had returned in fresh clothes and Lee opened the front door. “Let’s get going, May. Move it.”
“My offer’s still open,” May said, kissing the air at Edd and leaning in close enough that he almost gagged on the overpowering scent of her perfume. An animalistic growl sounded behind him and the next thing he knew, Marie had grabbed May’s lips.
“You got your own man,” she said. “So beat it!” She swirled May around and flung her out the door like a discus. May sailed far and crashed into something large and heavy outside.
“Make sure you clean up this pigsty while we’re gone,” Lee said.
“Cram it up your—” but the door shutting had already cut her off. Marie made an obscene gesture at Lee’s back. All the same, she gathered up a bundle of her clothes and belongings from the living room and threw them in the hall in a vague direction of her room. “Come on,” she said. Edd followed her as she kicked the pile of clothes and other items to her room, flinging them to random corners with her toes once they passed the threshold.
Posters of various horror movies adorned her walls, such as Night Slasher Takes Staten Island, Greg’s Dead: A New Night Terror, and Alien Menace in the Antarctic, and many more. Ed would have a field day in here, he thought. Maybe Marie chose the wrong boy of the trio to latch onto? Filling the spaces between were some posters of action and sci-fi movies and hard rock bands. The floor was as messy as the rest of the house, covered in clothes, textbooks, empty soda cans, and who knew what else. The bed, he liked to think, had seen better days and was more broken coils and torn fluff than actual mattress. In the corner, a handheld video camera was hooked up to a television and paused on a view of the neighborhood junkyard.
“Home movies?” he asked.
“No. Here, I’ll show you,” she said, grabbing the camera. She fast-forwarded to a scene where she had finished setting up a dummy in front of the camera, dressed in some torn shirt and slacks, then hit the play button. A kitchen knife came flying from off the side of the screen and smacked the dummy’s chest with its dull end. “Hang on,” she said, fast-forwarding through scenes of her throwing and retrieving the knife, upset and punching the dummy as if to blame it for her bad throws.
Finally she stopped on a particular scene and the knife struck true this time. The dummy’s chest exploded in a fountain of red gore that resembled raspberry jelly and ketchup. The Marie on-screen plucked the knife out of it, smiling wide like a little kid, happy with her test and pumping her fist.
It wasn’t Edd’s cup of tea, but he did admire the craftmanship and effort put into it. “Nice job,” he nodded.
“Thanks,” she said. “Hardest part was getting it to stick to the chest.”
“I take it you do this often?”
She shrugged and fiddled with the camera. “Yeah. You can find a lot of stuff in the junkyard to use. Like this.” She fast-forwarded the video to another day and the camera was set up at the bottom of a ditch, pointed up at the starry sky. Suddenly, white lights burst into a shower of sparks and colorless embers, like the stars themselves were going supernova. Then beside the camera, chunks of heavy rock fell, some barely missing the lens, and hitting the ground with enough impact to kick up dirt everywhere.
“Amazing,” Edd said, kneeling beside the television. “It looks just like a meteor shower.”
“Firecrackers and dirt clods,” she said proudly, sitting beside him.
“No, I’m up there on that pile of cars,” she said, pointing at the edge of the screen. “I’m throwing the dirt clods. The firecrackers are hanging from some fishing poles high over the pit. It took me a lot of tries to get it right. Almost caught my camera on fire.” She turned the handheld device over, showing him some light scorch marks on the side.
“The ingenuity is astounding,” he said to himself, noting too late that he said it aloud.
“Thanks.” She skipped a few scenes to another scene of her standing in front of the camera, wrapping a thick blanket around her arm and coating it in some liquid. Then her on-screen self struck a match and set the blanket ablaze, without burning herself in the slightest.
“You’re, uh,” he searched for a word besides reckless, “very dedicated to your special effects.”
“I wish I could actually do it for some movies. I’d love to do the effects for some monster movie.” That certainly explained all the posters and how most relied on some sort of make-up artist designing the gore or effects.
“I’m sure you can. You’re quite good.” He breathed a sigh of relief as the on-screen Marie thrust her arm and the burning blanket into a bucket of water. “They look very real.”
“I do all my own stunts too,” she said, grinning at him. “I prefer to be very hands-on with my work.
He chuckled nervously. “Yes, well,” he cleared his throat and held up his books, “should we begin?”
“Yeah, sure,” she said and flopped on the bed, laying on her stomach. Edd sat down beside her, handing her the review sheet for the test. She flipped it over to the section on chemical equations and scrounged for a pen on the floor, discovering one under a candy bar wrapper. She shook it until it could write and set to scribbling on the review sheet.
Edd flipped through his textbook to the section on chemical compounds and soon located it. “Now, the first thing to look at is the number of each element or compound on both sides of the equation,” he said. “You want to ensure it matches. For example, for number one, you have 3NaCl + CO on the left and 6NaCl + 2C3O on the right.” He leaned over her shoulder, watching her write on the paper and was shocked as she finished the last of the ten problems on the page.
“Done,” she said, handing him the sheet.
He took the sheet and checked her answers. Every single one was right. Even her scratch work and notes in the margins were on point. “But I thought you had a lot of trouble with these?”
“Guess you’re a good teacher,” she said, smiling. He saw right through her thin façade and realized he had been tricked. She knew these equations as easily as she knew how to make chemicals explode. “Can’t pay you, but I can reward you.” She crawled on her hands and knees until she was face to face with him.
“Why did you want me to come over then?” He should’ve listened to his instincts. This was a trap and Lee and May would burst out of the woodworks at any moment to tie him down. With her position over him though, he couldn’t very well leave either.
She blew a puff of hair out of her exposed eye. “Thought we could hang out, do something, watch a movie, or whatever. Something outside of chemistry for a change.”
“You could’ve asked,” he said.
Marie gave him a deadpan look. “And would you have come?”
She had him there. If given the choice, Edd wasn’t sure. “Still, I don’t appreciate being tricked.”
“Can dish the scams, but can’t take them?” she asked teasingly.
Curse her quick jabs. However, unlike Eddy and Ed, she did have him on the verbal ropes. It was then that he noticed a strange, curious expression in her eye. “What?”
“Just wondering if you’re going to nut up and meet me halfway.”
He took stock of their position and understood what she meant. At some point, he had fallen back further until he was almost flat on the bed. She had strategically placed herself so that her hips pressed against his own, grinding into him with any movement he made. Her body hung over him in such a way that he was forced to admire her shapely body and assets. Marie was leaning in close, her pouty lips ready and anxious to meet his.
And he despite his inexperience with this situation, he actually raised his head, his own eyes closing of their own accord. It was as if a force took control deep inside him and guided him to align his mouth to hers. What on Earth am I doing? He puffed out his own lips, waiting to connect to hers, and shut his eyes tight.
She chuckled and his eyes snapped open, fearing some new prank. But Marie was simply shaking her head and laughing good-naturedly at the fact his head had barely moved a few inches. “I guess that’s good enough for now,” she said, cupping his cheek and closing the gap between them.
He expected the horrors of his youth. Short, forceful kissing that smothered his face in lipsticks for hours, even days. And his nerves tingling with fear and a fight-or-flight response, leaning sharply toward the latter.
His nerves did tingle. But in all the right ways. The sensation was electric as she kissed him. Not too hard, not too soft. Firm enough for him to understand he wasn’t getting out of it. To be honest, he didn’t really want to end the kiss. It was enjoyable as their lips closed on one another, opened again, constantly finding and losing that right mold.
By the time her tongue glided along his lips, he was running out of air. He flailed his arms and she broke the kiss, giving him a chance to breathe. “Guess you’re not used to that yet, huh?”
“No,” he said, panting. “I mean, yes, you’re right. But I also needed some air.”
“Sorry,” she said, touching her nose to his. “I’m overzealous. It’s a weakness.”
That’s an understatement, he thought. He licked his lips, tasting the sensation still on them, and sat up. “I need a minute,” he said, attempting to gather his thoughts. His brain was too active, too wired to think straight about everything that just occurred. The experience was fresh and with Marie sitting beside him, he knew he wouldn’t be able to sort things out.
“I got an idea,” Marie said, flopping down in his lap and handing him one of the review sheets. “Let’s take a load off and go over this stuff some more. We do have a test after all. Then maybe we can watch some movies afterwards or some more effects.”
He scanned the chemistry test sheet. Yes, that should help. Some good old-fashioned school work would clear his mind and give him a chance to work through everything step by step. “Very good. Yes, let’s do that,” he said, straightening his paper.
“And a kiss for every one we get right,” she added. His eyes shot down to her. “Call it incentive.”
“W-Well I’m not sure,” he said, but she cut him off.
“First one, answer is a solvent,” she said and cleared her throat, looking up expectantly at him.
He batted the idea back and forth. His body shook once more, still unsure about all of this. However, as she leaned up to meet him most of the way, he couldn’t deny a certain interest in dipping his toes into these uncharted waters again and exploring their depths. Throwing caution to the wind, he closed the short little distance between them, enjoying a brief kiss.
When they broke apart, he felt a little more sure and ready for the next one. “Your turn,” she said.
As he prepared to read the next question, his mind wandered briefly into thoughts that definitely did not seem like his own. Perhaps we should study together more often? He looked down at Marie and found himself matching her grin.Perhaps we should, he agreed with the foreign suggestion.
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