Rules of attraction, p.4
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       Rules of Attraction, p.4

         Part #2 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
Page 4


  “You almost done?”

  I roll my eyes. When I walk out of the bathroom a minute later and head toward the stairs, I notice my escort isn’t following. She’s standing in the empty hallway, that sour look still plastered on her face. “You didn’t even have to go,” she says, sounding annoyed. “You were stalling. ”

  “You’re a genius,” I say flatly, then take the stairs up two at a time.

  Score one for Carlos Fuentes.

  I hear her footsteps tapping on the floor behind me, trying to catch up. I walk down the second-floor hall, thinking of ways I can ditch her.

  “Thanks for making me super late to class for no reason,” she says, hurrying up behind me.

  “Don’t blame me. Wasn’t my idea to have a babysitter. And, for the record, I can find my way around just fine on my own. ”

  “Really?” she asks. “Because you just passed Mr. Hennesey’s room. ”


  One point for the exemplary student.

  Score is 1–1. Thing is, I don’t like ties. I like to win . . . by big margins.

  I can’t help but be annoyed at the flash of amusement in my peer guide’s eyes.

  I step closer to her, really close. “Have you ever cut class?” I ask her, mischief and flirting laced in my voice. I’m trying to throw her off so I have the upper hand again.

  “No,” she says slowly, looking nervous.

  Good. I lean in even closer. “We should try it together sometime,” I say softly, then open the classroom door.

  I hear her suck in a breath. Listen, I didn’t ask for a face and body girls find attractive. But thanks to the mixture of my parents’ DNA, I’ve got them, and I’m not ashamed to use ’em. Having a face Adonis would admire is one of the few advantages I’ve been given in life, and I use it to its fullest potential whether it’s for good or evil.

  Kiara quickly introduces me to Mr. Hennesey, then just as quickly she’s out the door. I hope my flirting has scared her off for good. If not, I might have to try harder next time. I sit in math class and scan the room. All of the kids here look like they come from upper-class homes. This school is nothing like Fairfield, the Chicago suburb I lived in before we moved to Mexico. At Fairfield High, we had rich kids and poor kids. Flatiron High is more like one of those expensive private high schools back in Chicago, where every kid wears designer labels and drives fancy cars.

  We used to make fun of those kids. Now I’m surrounded by them.

  As soon as math is over, Kiara is waiting outside the classroom. I can’t believe it.

  “So how was it?” she asks over the noise of everyone else rushing to their next class.

  “You don’t want me to answer honestly, do you?”

  “Probably not. Come on, we only have five minutes. ” She weaves her way through the students. I follow behind, watching her ponytail sway like a horse’s tail with every step she takes. “Alex warned me you were a rebel. ”

  She ain’t seen nothin’ yet. “How do you know my brother?”

  “He was one of my dad’s students. And he helps me with the car I’m restoring. ”

  This chica is unreal. Restoring a car? “What do you know about cars?”

  “More than you,” she says over her shoulder.

  I laugh. “Wanna bet?”

  “Maybe. ” She stops in front of a classroom. “Here’s your bio class. ”

  A hot chick passes us and goes in the room. She’s wearing tight jeans and an even tighter shirt. “Whoa, who was that?”

  “Madison Stone,” Kiara mutters.

  “Introduce me to her. ”


  Because I know it’ll annoy the shit out of you. “Why not?”

  She clutches her books to her chest, almost as if they’re a shield of armor. “I can think of five reasons off the top of my head. ”

  I shrug. “Okay. List ’em. ”

  “There’s no time, the bell is about to ring. Do you think you can introduce yourself to Mrs. Shevelenko? I just remembered I forgot my French homework in my locker. ”

  “You better hurry. ” I look at my wrist, which doesn’t have a watch wrapped around it, but I don’t think she notices. “The bell is about to ring. ”

  “I’ll just meet you here after class. ” She runs down the hall.

  In class, I wait for Shevelenko to look up from her desk and acknowledge me. She’s on her laptop, sending what looks like personal e-mail.

  I clear my throat to get her attention. She glances at me, then changes programs. “Choose any seat. I’ll call attendance in a minute. ”

  “I’m new,” I tell her. She should have figured that one out on her own because I haven’t been in her class the past two weeks, but whatever.

  “Are you that exchange student from Mexico?”

  Not really. It’s called transfer student, but I don’t think this woman cares about the details. “Yeah. ”

  I can’t help but notice the beads of sweat on her peach-fuzz mustache. I’m pretty certain there are, you know, people who can take care of that. My aunt Consuelo had the same problem until my mom got ahold of her and some hot wax and put them in the same room together.

  “You speak Spanish or English at home?” Shevelenko asks.

  I’m not even sure that’s a legal question, but whatever. “Both. ”

  She cranes her neck and scans the rest of the class. “Ramiro, come here. ”

  This Latino kid walks up to her desk. The guy is a taller version of Alex’s best friend, Paco. When they were seniors in high school, Alex and Paco got shot, and our entire lives turned upside down. Paco died. I don’t know if any of us will ever fully get over what happened. Right after my brother got out of the hospital, we moved to Mexico to stay with family. Since the shooting, nothing’s been the same.

  “Ramiro, this is . . . ” Shevelenko looks up at me. “What’s your name?”

  “Carlos. ”

  She eyes the Ramiro kid. “He’s Mexican, you’re Mexican. Make sure you two Spanish speakers pair up. ”

  I follow Ramiro back to one of the lab tables. “Is she for real?” I ask.

  “Pretty much. Last year I heard Heavy Shevy called this guy Ivan ‘The Russian’ for six months before she learned his name. ”

  “Heavy Shevy?” I question.

  “Don’t look at me,” Ramiro says. “I didn’t make it up. She’s had that nickname for at least twenty years. ”

  The class bell rings, but everybody is still talking. Heavy Shevy is back on her computer, still busy with her e-mail.

  “Me llamo Ramiro, but it’s too beaner so everyone calls me Ram. ”

  My name’s beaner, too, but I don’t feel the need to dis my heritage and change my name to Carl to fit in. One look at me and you know I’m Latino, so why pretend to be somethin’ else? I’ve always accused Alex of wanting to be white because he refuses to be called by his given name, Alejandro.

  “Me llamo Carlos. You can call me Carlos. ”

  Now that I’m paying more attention to him, I notice that Ram’s wearing some golf shirt with a designer logo. He might have family in Mexico, but I bet su familia doesn’t live anywhere near mine.

  “So what’s there to do for fun here?” I ask him.

  “The question is what’s there not to do,” Ram says. “Hang out at Pearl Street Mall, go to the movies, hike, snowboard, raft, mountain climb, party with chicks from Niwot and Longmont. ”

  None of those things are my idea of fun, except for the partying part.

  Across the table from us is that hot girl Madison. Along with her tight clothes, she’s got long, streaked blond hair, a big smile, and even bigger chichis that actually rival Brittany’s. Not that I’m lookin’ at my brother’s girlfriend, but they’re kinda hard to miss.

  Madison leans across the table. “I hear you’re the new guy,” she says. “I’m Madison. And you are . . . ”

  “Carlos,” Ram blurts out before I
can say anythin’.

  “I’m sure he can introduce himself, Ram,” she hisses, then tucks her hair behind her ear, showing off diamond earrings that might actually blind someone if the sun hit ’em at the right angle. She leans toward me and bites her bottom lip. “You’re the new guy from Meh-hee-co?”

  It’s always irritating when the white kids try to sound like they’re Mexican. I wonder what else she’s heard about me. “Sí,” I say.

  She flashes me a sexy smile and leans closer. “Estás muy caliente. ” I think she just called me hot. That’s not the way we say it in Meh-hee-co, but I get the idea. “I could use a good Spanish tutor. My last one turned out to be a total loser. ”

  Ram clears his throat. “¡Qué tipa! If you haven’t guessed, I was her last tutor. ”

  I’m still watching Madison. She’s definitely got it goin’ on, and obviously has no problem flaunting her assets. While honey-skinned, exotic Mexican chicas are my usual type, I suspect no guy can resist Madison. And she knows it.

  When a girl calls her over to the next table, I turn to Ram. “Did’ja tutor her, or date her?” I ask him.

  “Both. Sometimes simultaneously. We broke up a month ago. Take my advice and stay away. She bites. ”

  “Literally?” I ask, grinning.

  “Honestly, you don’t want to get close enough to her to find out the answer to that question. Just know that toward the end of our relationship, I became the student and she became the tutor. And I’m not talkin’ ’bout Spanish. ”

  “Está sabrosa. I’ll take my chances. ”

  “Then go for it, man,” Ram says with a shrug, just as Heavy Shevy gets up and starts to teach. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you. ”

  I don’t plan on bein’ anyone’s boyfriend, but I wouldn’t mind bringin’ a couple of girls from Flatiron High back to Alex’s place just to prove I’m the complete opposite of him. I glance back at Madison and she smiles like there’s a promise of something more. Yeah, she’d definitely be perfect to bring home to Alex. She’s like Brittany, but without the halo over her head.

  After suffering through my morning classes, I’m definitely ready for lunch. When the bell rings, I’m glad Kiara’s not outside waiting for me like she said she would. I head to my locker to get the lunch I packed from Alex’s fridge.

  Maybe my peer guide quit. That’s cool with me, except it takes me ten minutes to find the cafeteria. When I walk into the lunchroom, I’m ready to sit by myself at one of the round tables until I see Ram waving me over.

  “Thanks for ditching me,” a voice says from behind me.

  I glance back at my peer guide. “I thought you quit. ”

  She shakes her head as if that’s the most ridiculous thing she’s ever heard. “Of course I didn’t quit. I just couldn’t get out of class early. ”

  “That’s too bad,” I say, pretending to be sympathetic. “I would have waited if I knew . . . ”

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