Carswells guide to being.., p.2
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       Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky, p.2

         Part #3.10 of The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
 
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  aphrodisiac, in aroma therapy form.”

  A crease formed in between Jules’s brow and Carswel recognized confusion. He was just about to

  explain what an aphrodisiac was when a third form sidled up beside them.

  “Hey, Carswell,” Said Elia, the pep squad captain, slipping her hand into the crook of his elbow. She

  was easily one of the prettiest girls in school, with thick black hair and a persistent dimple in one cheek.

  She as also a year older and about four inches taller than Carswell, which wasn’t particularly uncommon

  these days. Unlike Jules, Carswell hadn’t seen even a glimmer of a growth spurt yet, and he was really

  starting to get fed up with waiting, even though none of the girls had seemed bothered by the fact that

  they’d been outpacing him in the height department since their sixth year.

  “Morning Elia,” Carswell said, slipping the canister of facial cream into his pocket. “Perfect timing!

  Could you do me a favor?”

  Her eyes widened with blatant enthusiasm. “Of course!”

  “Could you tell me, what does my good friend Jules here smell like to you?”

  Instant redness flushed over Jules’s face, and with a snarl, he pushed Carswell into the lockers again.

  “What are you-!”

  But then he froze. Carswell’s teeth were still vibrating when Elia leaned forward so that her nose

  was almost, almost touching Jules’s neck, and sniffed.

  Jules had become a statue.

  Carswell lifted an expectant eyebrow.

  Elia rocked back on her heels, considering for a moment as her gazed raked over the ceiling. Then –

  “Almonds, I think.”

  “And. . .do you like it?” Carswel ventured.

  She laughed, the sound like an inviting wind chime. Jules’s blush deepened.

  “Definitely,” she said, although it was Carswell she was smiling at. “It reminds me of one of my

  favorite desserts.”

  Jules released him and, once again, Carswell smoothed his jacket. “Thank you, Elia. That’s very

  helpful.”

  “My pleasure.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I was wondering if you’re going to the

  Peace Dance next week?”

  His smile was both practiced and instinctual. “Undecided. I may be cooking dinner for my sick

  grandmother that night.” He waited expectantly as Elia’s gaze filled with swooning. “But if I do end up

  going to the dance, you’l be the first I ask to go with me.”

  She beamed and bounced on her toes. “Wel , I’d say yes.” She said , loking suddenly, briefly bashful,

  “Just in case you weren’t sure.” Then she turned and practical y skipped down the hal .

  “Well,” said Carswell, pulling the canister back out of his pocket. “I guess our business is all

  concluded, then. Like I said, I’l return your payment in full by this afternoon. Of course, the retail price on this stuff just went up twenty percent, so if you change your mind later, I’m afraid I’m going to have to charge-“

  Jules snatched the canister out of his hand. His face was still bright red, his brow stil drawn, but the anger had dissolved from his eyes. “If nothing’s changed in another three weeks,” he said low and

  threatening, “I’ll be shoving the rest of this cream down your throat.”

  Well, most of the anger had dissolved from his eyes.

  But Carswell merely smiled and gave Jules a friendly pat on the shoulder just as the anthem of the

  American Republic began to blare through the school speakers. “So glad I could clear things up for you.”

  ~~~~~~

  He walked into literature class four minutes late, his book bag over one shoulder as he deftly

  buttoned his blazer. He slid into the only remaining seat – front row, dead center.

  “So nice of you to join us, Mr. Thorne,” said Professor Gosnel.

  Crossing his heels, Carswell tipped back in his chair and flashed a bright smile at the teacher. “The

  pleasure is all mine, Professor.

  He could see her refraining from an eye rol but she punched something into her portscreen. The

  screens built into the classroom desks lit up with the day’s assignment. Great Dramatists of the First Century, Third Era, was emblazoned across the top, fol owed by a list of names and which of the six Earthen countries each dramatist had hailed from.

  “For today, I want everyone to select one artist from this list,” said the teacher, pacing in front of

  the classroom, “and choose a drama from their body of work that appeals to you. At half past, we’ll split into pairs and you can take turns reading the dramas you’ve found with your partner and discussing how

  the themes in them relate to our world today.”

  A finger tapped Carswell gently at the base of his neck, the universal symbol for “I chose you.”

  Carswel struggled to remember who had been sitting behind him when he took this seat, and if it was

  someone he wouldn’t mind being partnered with. Had it been Destiny? Athena? Blakely? Spades, he

  hoped it wasn’t Blakely. Once she started talking it was difficult to remember what peace and quiet

  sounded like.

  He slid his gaze to the side, hoping he could catch his mystery partner’s reflection in the windows

  before committing to the partnership, when his gaze caught on the girl beside him.

  Kate Fallow.

  His eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

  Despite having been in the same grade since toddler primaries, he doubted that he and Kate had

  spoken more than fifty words to each other their whole lives. He didn’t think it was anything personal.

  Their paths just didn’t cross much. As evidenced at that moment, she preferred to sit in the front of the class, whereas he did his best to end up somewhere near the back. Instead of coming out to sporting

  events or school festivals, Kate always seemed to rush straight home when classes where over. She was

  at the top of their class and wel liked, but by no means popular, and she spent more lunch hours with

  her nose buried in her portscreen. Reading.

  This was only the second time Carswell Thorne had stopped to ponder one Kate Fallow. The first

  time, he had wondered why she liked books so much, and if it was similar to why he liked spaceships.

  Because they could take you somewhere far, far away from here.

  This time he was wondering what her math score was.

  There was a thud as Carswell settled his chair legs back on the floor and leaned across the aisle.

  “You probably know who all these artists are, don’t you?”

  Kate’s head whipped up. She blinked at him for a moment, before her startled eyes glanced at the

  person behind her, then back to Carswel .

  He grinned.

  She blinked. “Ex-excuse me?”

  He inched closer, so that he was barely seated on the edge of his chair, and dragged the tip of his

  stylus down her screen. “Al these dramatists. You read so much, I bet you’ve already read them al .”

  “Um.” She fol owed the tip of his stylus before. . . there it was, that sudden rush of color to her

  cheeks. “No, not al of them. Maybe. . .maybe half, though?”

  “Yeah?” Settling an elbow on his knee, Carswel cupped his chin. “Who’s your favorite? I could use a

  recommendation.”

  “Oh. Well, um. Bourdain wrote some really great historical pieces. . .” she trailed off, then

  swallowed. Hard. She lifted her eyes to him and seemed surprised when he was still paying attention to

  her. For his part, Carswell was feeling a little surprised, too. It had been a long time since he’d really looked at Kate Fal ow, but she seemed prettier now tha
n he’d remembered, even if it was the kind of

  pretty that was overshadowed by the likes of Shan or Elia. Kate was softer and plumper than most of the

  girls in his class, but she had the largest, warmest brown eyes he thought he’d ever seen.

  Plus there was also something endearing about a girl who seemed entirely floored by no more than

  a moment’s worth of attention from him. But maybe that was just his ego speaking.

  “Is there a certain type of drama you like?” Kate whispered.

  Carswell tapped his stylus against the side of his mouth. “Adventure stories, I guess. With lots of

  exotic places and daring escapades . . . and swashbuckling space pirates, naturally.” He followed this up with a wink and watched, preening inside, as Kate’s mouth turned to a smal , surprised O.

  The Professor Gosnel cleared her throat. “This is supposed to be individual study, Mr. Thorne and

  Miss Fallow. Twenty more minutes, and then you can partner up.”

  “Yes, Professor Gosnel,” said Carswell without missing a beat, even as the redness stretched to

  Kate’s hairline and a few students snickered near the back. He wondered if Kate had ever been

  reprimanded by a teacher in her life.

  He slid his gaze back to Kate and waited – five seconds, six – until her gaze darted uncertainly

  upward again. Though she caught him staring, she was the one who instantly turned back to her desk, flustered.

  Feeling rather accomplished, Carswell took to scanning through the names. A few sounded familiar,

  but not enough that he could have named any of their works. HE racked his brain, trying to remember

  what, exactly, he was supposed to be doing for this assignment anyway.

  Then Kate leaned over and tapped her stylus against a name on the list. Joel Kimbrough, United

  Kingdom, born 27 T.E. His list of works spil ed down the screen, with titles like Space Ranger on the Ninth Moon and The Mariner and the Martians.

  Carswell beamed at Kate, but she had already returned her attention to her own screen, without

  any sign of her blush receding.

  The next twenty minutes were spent scanning through Joel Kimbrough’s extensive body of work,

  while his mind churned through different scenarios in which he could get Kate Fal ow to help him with

  his math homework – preferably, just to let him copy of her so he wouldn’t need to put any more time

  into that wasteful venture.

  When Professor Gosnel finally told them to choose a partner, Carswell scooted his desk closer to

  Kate’s without hesitation. “Would you like to work together?”

  She gaped at him again, no less surprised than the first time. “Me?”

  “Sure. You like histories, I like adventures. Match made in heaven, right?”

  “Um. . .”

  “Carswell?” hissed a voice behind him. He glanced around. It was Blakely behind him after all,

  leaning so far over her desk that her nose was practically on his shoulder. “I thought you and I could be partners.”

  “Er-one second.” He lifted a finger to her, then turned back to Kate and plowed on. “Actual y,

  there’s something I’ve kind of been meaning to ask you for a while now.”

  Kate’s jaw hung as Carswell feigned a sudden onslaught of uncertainty and scooted his chair a bit

  closer. “You know how we’re in the same math class?”

  She blinked, twice. Nodded.

  “Wel , I was thinking, if you’re not busy, and if you wanted to, maybe we could study together one

  of these days. Maybe after school?”

  Kate could not have looked any more stunned if he’d just proposed that they move to Columbia

  State together and become coffee bean farmers. “You want to . . .study? With me?”

  “Yeah. Math, specifically.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m not doing that great in it. I could

  real y use your help.” He added a drop of pleading to his expression and watched as Kate’s eyes widened

  and softened simultaneously. Those pretty, enormous brown eyes.

  Carswell was surprised to feel a jolt behind his sternum, and suddenly, he was almost looking

  forward to his studying time with Kate Fallow, which was a rather unexpected twist.

  Because, of course, she would say yes.

  Although it was Blakely who spoke next. “Carswell. We should get started on this assignment, don’t you think?” There was an edge to her tone that Kate must have noticed. Something that hinted at

  jealousy.

  With a glance back at Blakely, Kate looked more flustered than ever. But then she nodded and gave

  an awkward shrug. “Sure. Alright.”

  Carswell beamed. “Great. And also – I hate to ask this – but would you mind if I took a look at

  today’s assignment? I tried to do it last night, but was completely lost. All those equations. . .”

  “Mr. Thorne,” said Professor Gosnel, suddenly hovering between him and Kate, “this is literature

  class. Perhaps you could use your time to discuss literature.”

  He tilted his head back to meet her gaze. “Oh, we are discussing literature, Professor.” Clearing his

  throat, he tapped the screen pul ing up Kimbrough’s 39th published work, Marooned in the Asteroid

  Labyrinth. The explanation bubbled up as smoothly as they always did, a skil he’d been cultivating since childhood. “As you can see, dramatist Joel Kimbrough often played on themes of loneliness and

  abandonment, in which the protagonist is forced to overcome not only external obstacles like space

  monsters and malfunctioning spaceship engines, but also the internal devastation that comes with

  complete solitude. His works often employ the vast emptiness of space as a metaphor for social

  isolation. In the end, his protagonists overcome their feelings of insecurity only after they accept the help of an unlikely assistant, such as an android or an alien or . . .” His mouth quirked to one side. “. . .a pretty girl who happens to be a skil ed marksman when she’s handed a high-powered ray gun.”

  A wave of tittering rolled through the class, confirming Carswell’s suspicions that he now had an

  audience.

  “You, you see,” he said, gesturing again at the screen, “I was just telling Miss Fal ow that the themes

  in Kimbrough’s work are symbolic of my own personal struggles with math homework. I so often feel

  lost, insecure, confused, completely abandoned . . .but by joining forces with a pretty girl who

  understands the problems I currently have to work through, I may yet overcome the obstacles laid out

  before me, and achieve my ultimate goal: high marks in math class.” He gave a one-shouldered shrug

  and added, for good measure, “And also literature class, naturally.”

  Professor Gosnel stared down at him with her lips pressed and he could tell that she was still

  annoyed, although simultaneously trying to hide a twinge of amusement. “I somehow doubt you’ve ever

  felt insecure about anything in your whole life, Mr. Thorne.”

  He grinned. “I’m a teenager, Professor. I feel insecure all the time.”

  The class chuckled around him, but Professor Gosnel sighed. “Just try to stay on task, Mr. Thorne,”

  she said, before turning her back to her own screen and listing some of the literary terms students

  should be using to discuss their assignments – words like themes, metaphors, and symbolism. Carswell smirked.

  Then a voice broke out of the mild chatter, loud enough to reach Carswel , but quite enough to

  make it seem like it wasn’t intentional. “If it’s a pretty girl that he needs to help with his ‘problems,’ it’s a shame Kate Fallow is the best he can find.”

  Someone else gu
ffawed. A few girls giggled, before putting their hands over their mouths.

  Carswell glanced back to see Ryan Doughty smirking at him – a friend of Jules. He shot him a glare,

  before turning back to Kate. Her smile had vanished, her eyes filling with mortification.

  Carswel curled his hand into a tight fist, having the sudden, unexpected urge to punch Ryan

  Doughty in the mouth. But instead as the class quieted down, he ignored the feeling and once again

  scooted his chair closer to Kate’s.

  “So, like I was saying before,” he said, teetering on the line between casual and nervous, “maybe we

  could eat lunch together today, out in the courtyard.” He would have to cancel the afternoon’s card

  game, which would put him behind schedule, but if he could submit today’s homework during math –

  completed and on time – it would be the fastest way to start turning around his marks. And he only had

  a week to show his dad that things were improving before mid-July break started. “What do you say?”

  Kate’s jaw had dropped again, her blush having returned ful force.

  “Carswell?”

  Sighing, he didn’t hide his glare as he turned back to Blakely. “Yes, Blakely?”

  Her glower put his to shame. “I thought you and I were going to be partners today.”

  “Uh – I’m not sure, Blakely. I’m afraid I already asked Kate, but . . .” He grinned in Kate’s direction. “I guess she hasn’t given me an answer yet.”

  Blakely harrumphed. “Wel then, maybe we should cal off our date to the dance, too. Then you two

  can go fight obstacles and achieve goals together.”

  He sat up straighter. “Huh?”

  “Last week,” Blakely said, curling her fingers around the edge of her desk, “I asked if you were going

  to the Peace Dance and you said I’d be the girl you asked if you did. I’ve been planning on it ever since.”

  “Oh, right,” Carswell was losing track of how many girls he’d said some version of this line too, which was probably bad planning on his part, but at the time Blakely had asked, he’d been hoping to get

  her to invest in his Send Carswel to Space Camp fund.

  “Unfortunately,” he said, “it’s looking like I may have to be babysitting my neighbors’ toddlers that

 
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