COLDWATER, MAINE PRESENT DAY
I walked into biology and my jaw fell open. Mysteriously adhered to the chalkboard was a Barbie doll, with Ken at her side.
They’d been forced to link arms and were naked except for artificial leaves placed in a few choice locations. Scribbled above their heads in a thick pink chalk was the invitation:
WELCOME TO HUMAN
At my side Lisa Manoban said, “This is exactly why the school outlaws cameras phones.
Pictures of this in the eZine would be all the evidence I’d need to her the board of education to ax biology.
And then we’d have this hour to do something productive like receive one-on-one tutoring from cute upper-class guys.”
“Why, Lisa,” I said, “I could’ve sworn you’ve been looking forward to this unit all semester.”
Lisa lowered her lashes and smiled wickedly. “This class isn’t going to teach me anything I don’t already know.”
“Lisa? As is virgin?”
“Not so loud.” She winked just as the bell rang, sending us both to our seats, which were side by side at our shared table.
Yang Hyunsuk grabbed the whistle hanging from a chain around his neck and blew it.
“Seats, team!” Yang considered a teaching tenth-grade biology a side assignment to his job as varsity basketball coach, and we all knew it.
“It may not have occurred to you kids that sex is more than a fifteen-minute trip to the backseat of a car. It’s science. And what is science?”
“Boring,” some kid in the back of the room called out.
“The only class I’m failing,” said another.
Yang’s eyes tracked down the front row, stopping at me. “Mina?”
“The study of something,” I said.
He walked over and jabbed his index finger on the table in front of me. “What else?”
“Knowledge gained through experimentation and observation.” Lovely. I sounded like I was auditioning for the audiobook for our text.
“In your own words.”
I touched the tip of my tongue to my upper lip and tried for a synonym.
“Science is an investigation,” Yang said, sanding his hands together.”Science requires us to transform into spies.”
Put that way, science almost sounded fun. But I’d been in Yang’s class long enough not to get my hopes up.
“Good sleuthing takes practice,” he continued.
“So does sex,” came another back-of-the-room comment. We all bit back laughter while Yang pointed a warning finger at the offender.
“That won’t be part of tonight’s homework.” Yang turned his attention back to me. “Mina, you’ve been sitting beside Lisa since the beginning of the year.
” I nodded but had a bad feeling about where this was going.
“Both of you are on the school eZine together.” Again I nodded. “I bet you know quite a bit about each other.”
Lisa kicked my leg under out table. I knew what she was thinking. That he had no idea how much we knew about each other. And I don’t just mean the secrets we entomb on our diaries.
Lisa is my un-twin. She’s green-eyed, minky blond, and a few punds over curvy. I’m a smoky-eyed brunette with volumes of curly hair that hold its own against even the best flatiron.
And I’m all legs, like a bar stool. But there is an invisible thread that ties us together; both of us swear that tie began long before birth.
Both of us swear it will continue to hold for the rest of our lives.
Yang looked out at the class. “In fact, I’ll bet each of you knows the person sitting beside you well enough. You picked the seats you did for a reason, right? Familiarity.
Too bad the best sleuths avoid familiarity. It dulls the investigative instinct. Which is why, today, we’re creating a new seating chart.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but Lisa beat me to it. “What the crap? It’s April. As in, it’s almost the end of the year. You can’t pull this kind of stuff now.”
Yang hinted a smile. “I can pull this stuff clear up to the last day of the semester.
And if you fail my class, you’ll be right back here next year, where I’ll be pulling this kind of stuff all over again.”
Lisa scowled at him. She is famous for that scowl. It’s a look that does everything but audibly hiss. Apparently immune to it, Yang brought his whistle to his lips, and we got the idea.
“Every partner sitting on the left-hand side of the table-that’s your left-move up one seat. Those in the front row-eyes, including you, Lisa-move to the back.”
Lisa shoved her notebook inside her backpack and ripped the zipper shut. I bit my lip and waved a small farewell. The I turned slightly, checking out the room behind me.
I knew the names of all my classmates… except one. The transfer.
Yang never called on him, and he seemed to prefer it that way. He sat slouched one table back, cold black eyes holding a steady gaze forward. Just like always.
I didn’t for one moment believe he just sat there, day after day, staring into space. He was thinking something, but instinct told me I probably didn’t want to know what.
He set his bio text down on the table and slid into Lisa’s old chair.
I smiled. “Hi. I’m Mina.”
His black eyes sliced into me, and the corners of his mouth tilted up. My heart fumbled a beat and in that pause, a feeling of gloomy darkness seemed to slide like a shadow over me.
It vanished in an instant, but I was still staring at him. His smile wasn’t friendly. It was a smile that spelled trouble. With a promise.
I focused on the chalkboard. Barbie and Ken stared back with strangely cheerful smiles.