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Chemistry

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Narrowing her eyes, she clicked her fingers in front of the boy's face. He blinked and began rapidly free falling out of orbit, back into reality.

"Are you even listening to me, Finn?"

The boy closed his eyes and opened them slowly. She was still there, her eyes flashing with annoyance, eyebrows knitted together in a frown. He nodded and made the mistake of leaning heavily against his locker, which only amplified his tedium, his body sagging, his eyes starting to glaze over. Is she still speaking? I wonder how long is left before the lunch bell. I hope it's mac 'n' cheese again.

All his senses had become dulled, as if he was underwater and time had slowed down. He was so bored, and Quinn's endless dialogues about this celebrity wedding or that pair of earrings she wanted soooo badly never failed to put him to sleep.

"Finn!" she snapped. "You're drooling!"

He pushed off the locker abruptly and wiped his chin on his sleeve, faintly embarrassed.

"You were talking about the.. thing.. and uh.." he was stabbing in the dark now. "Earrings?"

Quinn scowled. Behind him she could see some members of her cheerleading team piling out of Coach Sylvester's office and she masked all traces of irritability to plant a kiss on his cheek. A wide grin spread across his face and he made as if to kiss her on the mouth but she danced away, linking arms with one of the girls and leaving him standing there, slightly confused, but mostly just relieved that she wasn't boring him anymore.

He heard the metallic screech of a door and spun round to see his best friend half-buried in his locker, stifling laughter.

"Dude," he said, slamming the door and crossing his arms. "You have to at least pretend to be listening, that's the first rule."

Finn smiled. "And what's the second?"

"If she doesn't stop, just do this." He made kissing noises and clapped his hand on the boy's shoulder, grinning. "Trust me. Shuts them up every time."

The two friends began to make their way down the hall against the sea of students hurrying into their classrooms for the second period. Halfway through, Puckerman stuck out his leg and tripped a freshman clutching a stack of books to his chest; he slammed face first into the floor with an audible thud and did not get up.

Puck swaggered in his limelight as the other students parted like the red sea in front of them, doing their best to blend into the walls. Finn let out an approving laugh but he looked over his shoulder with a pang of guilt; the student still lay on the floor, loose pages scattered around him like clues in a crime scene. He could not afford to pay him any more attention, however, and the cruelty was soon forgotten as they pushed open the heavy front doors and stepped out into the sunlight.

"I don't know about you," Puck said, reaching into the pocket of his jacket and taking out a cigarette and lighter. "But I can't be bothered with Chemistry. Wanna bail and go watch the Cheerios practice?"

Finn shrugged.

"Sounds fun and all, but aren't we supposed to have that pop quiz today?"

Puck took a long drag of his cigarette and stared disparagingly at his friend.

"Dude, are you kidding me right now? You wanna go take some dumb test that doesn't even matter so you can look smart for like what – five minutes – and feel good about yourself? Or do you wanna sit on the bleachers with your best friend Puck and watch the hottest chicks in school shake their cute little butts off in their tiny skirts and give us a year's worth of dirty fantasies?"

Finn shook his head and smiled.

"Well," he said. "When you put it like that..."

Puck grinned. "That's my boy. Let the girls give you an important lesson in Chemistry no quiz will ever prepare you for."


In the bathroom, a girl was dabbing at her face with tissue and biting her lip, smothering her anger. Every day – sometimes twice – the hooligans at the school would throw slushies in her direction and completely ruin her whole look; she wondered why she ever bothered doing her hair or putting on her mascara but she would be damned if she let them see her resolve weakening.

No. They are just jealous that she is better than them. They will be stuck in Lima forever, unemployed and living with rats, probably, and she will be famous, her face adorning every magazine, her name up in lights. In an apartment free from rats.

"Every star went through troubled times," she muttered to herself, brushing clumps of blue ice out of her hair with her fingers. "Even Barbra."

After cleaning herself up she headed into the now deserted corridor. She had a free period and she knew exactly how she was going to spend it; rehearsing her rendition of I Am What I Am for the three hundred and fifty fifth time. It was a beautiful day and with everybody sweltering away in their classrooms – and thus no distractions, of the iced variety or otherwise – she decided to venture outside and find a shady spot at the edge of the playing field. She had set up here a handful of times when the weather was glorious and she liked the way her voice resonated out here in the open.

She was only half way through when she heard the long, keening wail of a speaker being switched on and flinched. Lifting her gaze, she could just make out the stern silhouette of the cheerleading coach, one hand on her hip and the other brandishing an amplifier.

"If I wanted to hear horrible, anguished screams of torture, I'd film myself being forced to watch anything with Tom Cruise in it! Now get the hell off of my playing field!" She screeched, the ringing of the speakers causing the girl to cringe.

Gathering up her sheet music and backpack, she hurried around the perimeter of the field, chin tucked to her chest and cheeks flaming as she tried her best to ignore the sniggers and whispering of the entire cheerleading squad. She rounded the corner and approached the auditorium, a relic of a building, one that smelled of the past and echoed with dreams. Whenever she walked down the aisle she liked to close her eyes and imagine what these walls have heard in their lifetime.

Secretly, and rather child-like, she wondered who they would think was best, and she wanted it to be her. Stepping into the auditorium was like a warm embrace, and one she could never get enough of.