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Her Lab Etiquette is Perfect

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                Silence descends on the circle. Even the music seems muffled, but that’s probably because I’m totally freaking out internally. This is what happens when I go to parties with Sarah, Felix, and Tony? Fuck. I mean, I appreciated the invite and, you know, having a social life for once, but no no no. So not worth it.

                Okay, backing up a minute. My friends, Sarah and the guys, always manage to get invites to the best parties. Instead of spending my Friday night playing RuneWars with Scott and his friends, I’m at Paul Deirden’s house. Yeah, me, Cosima Nerdhaus at a cool kids’ party.

                It’s totally insane, but Paul invited Beth, and Beth invited Alison, and Alison invited Felix, and Felix invited Sarah and Tony, and Sarah and Tony invited me. So here we all are, sitting on Paul’s living room floor playing some convoluted version of spin the bottle, and it’s my turn. And the bottle lands on Rachel Duncan. Rachel Duncan: the most hated, most feared, hottest, scariest, richest, second-smartest girl in our school. (I’m the smartest.) I’m going to die. I just know it. I know it, because the rule tonight is that the person whose turn it was before you picks what you and the person your land on have to do. And the person who went before me was Sarah.

                And Sarah is the only person in the universe who knows, like actually knows because I told her, instead of just figuring it out like the rest of our group, that I have the worst crush on Rachel Duncan. I’m still terrified of her, obviously, I mean have you met the girl? She’s legitimately terrifying. Seriously. She’s also really, really good at science (and every other class, but that’s irrelevant). We were lab partners for a month last year and I just – shit. She’s really smart and really pretty and probably a sociopath, but science. I’m screwed.

                Everybody’s looking at Sarah, because she hasn’t announced my form of execution yet, except for Rachel. Rachel’s looking at me all calm and cool and collected, and I think it might be unhealthy how much blood has rushed to my face and I’m going to die. And probably come back and haunt Sarah.

                “Seven minutes in heaven.”

                Definitely coming back to haunt Sarah.

                Of course, a bunch of the guys break out in ‘ooo’s and all of that, but all I can hear is my personal funeral march. Since it was my turn, I’m not allowed to object, but Rachel can. Rachel can and I completely expect her to, but she’s not. She huffs dramatically and rolls her eyes, like we’re all so beneath her and she can’t believe she bothered to show up tonight, and while I’d totally dig getting beneath her (you don’t understand, her lab etiquette is perfect), I can barely breathe right now.

                I stumble to my feet, not even wasting the energy to glare at Sarah, and dumbly follow Rachel’s shoes to the nearest closet. I follow her shoes because that’s safe. Way safer than looking at her ass, or her legs, or her shoulders, or – look, she’s really hot, okay? I have a type when it comes to girls: poised, knowledgeable about science, sharp humor, and brown eyes. Rachel? Rachel’s the definition of poised, she’s hella knowledgeable about science, her jokes make people bleed, and yeah, brown eyes. Like milk chocolate, aged firewood, leather couch, espresso bean, cinnamon latte brown eyes.

                Rachel seems to know her way around Paul’s house, which makes sense because I’m pretty sure they dated last year, and now we’re standing in front of what I presume is a closet. She opens the door and looks at me and damn girl her eyebrow game is perfection.

                “Oh, uh, right, here we go,” I laugh, looking away and fussing with my hair. My stupid, sometimes kind of curly, sometimes kind of wavy, always kind of frizzy hair. I’m going to get dreads next year, in college, I swear. I walk past her and shove my hands in my pockets, turning aimlessly in a circle while she walks in behind me and closes the door.

                Rachel leans back against the door and looks at her nails, crossing one arm over her stomach. She’s not even looking at me.

                “So,” I start to say something (I have no idea what), tilting my head and biting my lip.

                Rachel’s eyes snap up, meeting mine.

                I swallow the rest of my unplanned sentence and look away, focusing instead on not hyperventilating. I can feel her watching me and, while it is kind of creepy how still she can stand, it’s also kind of really hot by default because it’s her.

                “Cosima,” Rachel says my name clearly, crisply, but that’s all she says.

                After, like, thirty seconds I force myself to look up and she’s still looking at me. She looks off to the side when we make eye contact. Immediately. And, you know, her shoulders look sort of tense. Both of her arms are folded now and one of her hands is drumming against her other arm, like she’s nervous or something, but that’s – that’s – that’s crazy. Why would Rachel Duncan be nervous… standing here… with… me? Holy watershed.

                “Um, Rachel?” What am I doing? Stop, dude, you’re insane. Stop before you embarrass yourself. Or get punched in the face. She punched Tony in the face once in the cafeteria and almost broke his nose. She didn’t even get in trouble!

                Her eyes flicker, like she’s trying to look at me or trying not to look at me. I can’t tell which. Rachel tilts her head a bit, I guess to show me she’s listening, but she doesn’t say anything. Or move, otherwise. Her fingers are still drumming on her arm.

                I take a step forward and then another, until I’m standing just in front of her and I watch as she forces a breath out through her nose. “So,” I start again, “we’re, ah, we’re supposed to….” I can’t say it.

                Now she’s looking at me, fuck, she’s looking at me and she looks pissed. “I know what we’re supposed to be doing, Cosima, but we aren’t, are we?” She sounds pissed, too, and… almost hurt. No, not hurt, that’s too strong of word, but unhappy about it. Maybe? Maybe.

                This is either the best or worst decision of my entire seventeen years of existence, but I take the chance: I put one hand on Rachel’s hip and bring my other hand up to cover hers. The one with the drumming fingers. Yeah.

                Rachel freezes, looking right back at me and man this girl has pretty eyes.

                “We’re not, no,” I say, because apparently now is when I choose to be brave and smooth (maybe) and take risks (I didn’t even drink I just smoked a joint, but that was like an hour ago), “but we could be. If you want,” I offer her a small smile. I offer my smile to Rachel on a platter and wait to see if she’s going to shove it back in my face.

                She doesn’t. Not at all. Rachel doesn’t say anything, but her gorgeous brown eyes drift down to my lips. Rachel’s looking at my lips. She’s – whoa dude – Rachel’s kissing me.

                I don’t have time to react, really, it’s just for a few seconds, but dude Rachel’s kissing me!

                “Whoa,” I whisper, well, more like croak, but whatever. I say it, unintentionally, and I feel Rachel’s fingers move against mine so I open my eyes.

                She’s smiling. Normally, when Rachel Duncan smiles, it’s something to be scared of, like run for the hills, but this is different. She’s smiling at me softly (if that makes sense), and her eyes are darker than before, and my hand is still on her waist but she doesn’t seem to mind. “That wasn’t awful,” She says, and it sounds mean, but her smile makes me think she’s not being mean right now. She’s not messing with me. She means it.

                “I really like you.” What the hell, mouth? Where is brain? Do your job brain!

                Rachel laughs a bit and bites her lip (kill me already), and she’s still smiling. She nods her head, leaning forward just a tiny bit so our foreheads are touching. “I know,” she breathes against my lips. And then she’s kissing me again. Rachel Duncan is kissing me. Voluntarily. This is some double rainbow shit right here.

                “I don’t completely hate you,” she tells me, when we’re not kissing anymore. Rachel stays close, like she’s enjoying this or something.

                “Thanks,” I laugh, but coming from her, that’s like a declaration of love. Rachel doesn’t really do feelings. Everybody knows that.

                “Oi! Having fun in there?

                We both jump as Sarah bangs on the door, shouting at us through the thin wood like it’s twenty feet thick or something.

                I adjust my glasses and realize that my left hand, the one I covered Rachel’s nervous fingers with, well, it’s occupied. By Rachel’s hand. We’re holding hands.

                Rachel has her eyes closed and she looks like she’s ready to murder someone. Probably Sarah. She sighs and then she’s stepping away from the door, squeezing my fingers in her hand, and kissing me again. Just for a second. “I do hate your friends, though. That might be an issue.” Rachel smiles again, smirks like the evil world dominator she’s totally going to be someday, and turns to the door. She lets go of my hand at what seems like the last possible second before she jerks the door open and starts screaming back at Sarah. Have I mentioned they totally hate each other and Sarah flipped her shit when I told her I liked Rachel?

                This is the moment when my brain decides to function again, and wait, what did Rachel say? Why would her not getting along with Sarah be an issue?