Chain reaction, p.41
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       Chain Reaction, p.41
 

         Part #3 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
Page 41

 

  My eyes go wide as Luis sucks in a breath, then curses in Spanish as he rushes to the emergency shower in the back of the classroom. I run after him in a panic.

  “Are you okay?” I ask.

  He’s under the shower, rinsing the acid off. “Chica, you distracted me. ”

  “Sorry. I didn’t mean to. ”

  He smiles weakly. “Yeah, you did. I’ll be fine. ”

  I breathe a sigh of relief. “I could never forgive myself if you were permanently scarred. ”

  Mrs. Peterson appears beside me. “Do I need to call an ambulance?” she asks, examining his arm and the red puffiness forming where the acid touched his skin.

  “No,” Luis says. “I’m okay now. It was just a drop. ”

  “I’m banning you from this experiment and instead assigning you a twenty-five-page paper on acid. ” She points to me. “You too, young lady. And I’m changing your seats so you two are not facing each other. When are you two going to stop getting in trouble? Soon, I hope. It’s a good thing I already had my baby or you would have just scared me enough to send me into labor. ”

  She storms out of the room.

  “Come here,” Luis says, motioning for me to join him under the spray of the shower.

  I step under the showerhead and in seconds I’m as soaked as he is. “What if Mrs. P. comes back here and catches us?” I ask as he bends his head down to kiss me. “You know about her zero tolerance policy. It’s in the school policy manual, you know. ”

  He kisses me while the water sprays us. “I’ve got insider knowledge about that zero tolerance policy,” he says against my lips.

  “What is it?” I whisper as I hear the final bell ring.

  “She’s bluffin’,” he says. “She wants all of us to graduate. ”

  I’m about to ask him where he got this insider knowledge when Mrs. Peterson appears in the doorway. “Are you two still in here?” she asks, rolling her eyes at the sight of us. She cocks an eyebrow. “You are seriously testing my patience. Luis, dry off with that towel on the rack and go to the nurse’s office to have your arm checked out. Nikki …” She sighs. “What are you doing in here with him?”

  “That’s a really good question,” I say.

  “She was helping me,” Luis says.

  “With what?” Mrs. Peterson asks impatiently, then puts up a hand. “On second thought, don’t answer that. ” She shakes a finger at Luis.

  “You Fuentes boys are nothing but a pain in my rear. If you and your brothers ever have more children, make sure they go to another school. ”

  “Fairfield is home,” Luis tells her with a cocky grin. “And the best place to raise a family. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of our kids went to Fairfield High. Admit it, Mrs. P. You know you’d love that. ”

  “Yes, but …” Mrs. Peterson looks up at the ceiling and puts her palms together as if she’s praying.

  “No need to stress over it now,” Luis tells her. “You’ve got about sixteen years before you’ll have my nephew, Paco, in your class. ”

  “What are the chances he’ll be more interested in my chemistry class than girls?” she responds.

  “Slim to none,” Luis answers as he puts his arm around me. “He is a Fuentes, after all. ”

  Epilogue

  TWENTY-SIX YEARS LATER

  Luis and Nikki hadn’t been prepared when the fertility doctor broke the news that Nikki was pregnant with triplets. They were even more shocked when they found out they were having three boys. Life has been eventful for them over the last eighteen years, with triplets who are distinctly different from one another.

  Their son Enrique is so wrapped up in playing the violin and wanting to be the youngest member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that he doesn’t have time to get in trouble. Then there’s Juan, who is just like his uncle Ben. Juan is a gamer and an avid reader, preferring to live out his adventures in fantasy worlds created by game designers.

  Luis and Nikki’s biggest challenge right now is Luis, Jr. —or Junior, as everyone calls him. He is competitive and hot-tempered, which reminds Luis of Carlos. Junior is a charismatic and good-looking kid. When he walks into a room, heads turn—reminding Luis of Alex. Unfortunately, Junior is also too smart and cocky for his own good, which reminds Luis of himself at eighteen.

  Junior is also an incredible athlete. At the age of five he begged his parents for hockey skates after watching the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. At the age of ten, he was playing goalie for the AAA travel hockey team. Now, in his senior year of high school, Junior’s team has made it all the way to the state championships.

  On the day of the championship game, Junior is nervous, more nervous than he’d been when his dad spent four months on the international space station two years ago. Junior wants to win this game badly. He knows college scouts will be attending, and he desperately hopes to play college hockey and eventually get drafted into the NHL.

  Junior came to the rink early today so he can run drills before the other players take the ice. He sits on the locker room bench after stripping off his street clothes. This is going to be the biggest game of his hockey career. He knows it, and his family knows it. All of his uncles and cousins are coming to the game … even Uncle Carlos and Aunt Kiara have flown in with his cousins from Colorado to attend the game. It will be one hell of a night, ending with him either celebrating his ass off with a win or depressed as hell with a loss.

  Junior reaches into his hockey bag to pull out his equipment just as a girl barges into the locker room—without knocking. If Junior were self-conscious or insecure, he’d probably have pulled out his jersey and held it over his briefs.

  But he isn’t.

  The hot mamacita standing in the doorway has long, straight hair that falls in her face and thick, pouty lips that belong on a movie star. He bets she’s a groupie of the Giants’ first-string goalie, Dale Jacoby, who bragged about the number of girls he dated and screwed in the locker rooms of various rinks around the country. Junior had played on the same team with Jacoby when they were kids. Now they were opponents from rival high schools who were about to play against each other in the state championships.

  Jacoby was in the news recently because he was handpicked by the Olympic hockey coach to try out for the US Olympic team. Junior wasn’t jealous. At least that’s what he told himself when he’d heard the news.

  Obviously the bimbo standing in the doorway is thinking this is either the girls’ bathroom or a place to meet Jacoby for a quickie before the game.

  “Locker rooms are for players only,” Junior tells the bimbo, annoyed.

  “Duh,” she says with attitude, walking farther into the room. Junior glances up and notices that she’s carrying a hockey bag and has goalie pads slung across her shoulder.

  “Can’t Jacoby carry his own equipment?” Junior asks her.

  The girl sets down the bag and pads in the middle of the room, right in front of his. “I’m sure he could, if he hadn’t broken his leg at a party last night. ”

  What? Jacoby broke his leg? Junior hadn’t heard a word about it. He knew less than nothing about the Giants’ new second-string goalie, who he’d never played against. “So who’s playin’ in his place?”

  The girl unzips the bag and pulls out a neck guard and chest protector. “You’re looking at her. ”

  Junior can’t help the laugh that escapes from his mouth. “You’re a girl. ”

  She quickly glances at the bulge in his briefs. “And you’re a boy. Now that we’ve got that straight, I’ll just let you know that I would use a girls’ locker room, but they don’t have one at this rink. And the other locker room is being cleaned for the next half hour … I guess there was a peeing contest in there when the Pee Wee league played this morning. They told me to dress in here. Just keep your eyes to yourself. ”

  Junior looks at her, stunned. “Don’t the Giants have a second-string goalie named Frankie Yates?”
r />   “Ever hear of female hockey players?” she asks him, clearly annoyed. “Or have you lived in a cave your entire life? My name is Franchesca Yates … Frankie for short. ”

  “I haven’t lived in a cave, chica,” Junior tells her. “I’m all for girl hockey players, especially ones as hot as you. ”

  Her face scrunches up, like she’s smelling something really bad. “Are you … hitting on me?”

  She walks up to him then, standing toe to toe. She isn’t as tall or muscular as he is, but she definitely stands straight and confident. He likes confidence in a girl, but this one needs to be brought down a peg. Part of playing hockey is psyching out your opponents before the game and talking trash during the game. It’s tradition. Just because Frankie Yates is a girl doesn’t mean she’s exempt from the same treatment he’d give to Jacoby.

  He’d just psych her out in a different way, because she’s a girl.

  “What do you say we get together after the game?” Junior tells her as he reaches out and fingers a strand of her hair. He knows he’s affecting her just like he affects a lot of girls … he can tell by the way her breath hitches as his fingers accidentally brush against her cheek. “I can, you know, console you when you lose. ”

  Before he has time to blink, the girl clocks him. Her fist lands solidly on his lip. She obviously has brothers who taught her how to fight.

  “What the hell …,” he says, swiping his now busted lip with the back of his hand and seeing blood.

  She backs away and shrugs. “Don’t mess with me, Fuentes. And if you think you’ve got an easy win ahead of you, think again. I’ve seen you play before, and I wasn’t that impressed. ”

  “Well, I’ve never seen you play, so you’re obviously not used to playin’ with the big boys. ”

  She laughs in a mocking tone. “I’m a transfer student from Minnesota, Fuentes. Minnesota. You know, that little state that breeds NHL players. Hockey is in our blood. I’ve played with girls who can skate circles around you, so it’s you who’ll need consoling tonight. I’m just guessing that getting beaten by a girl will crush that overblown ego of yours. ”

  “Bring it,” Junior says, then puts on his gear and walks out. Who the hell was she, anyway? He’d never even seen her play, so how good could she be?

  Junior’s dad and his uncles are standing outside the locker room, waiting for him.

  “What happened to your lip?” his uncle Alex asks him. “It’s bleedin’. ”

  Uncle Carlos laughs. “I thought hockey players fought on the ice, not off of it. ”

  Before Junior can answer, Yates walks out of the locker room in full gear. “Good luck, Junior. You’ll need it,” she says, then taps him on his equipment-padded butt with her goalie stick as she passes him.

  Junior points to her. “Can you believe I have to play against that bitch?”

  “What did you do to her?” his father asks him, eyeing his bloody lip.

 
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