And now, part three of Lovelace 1/2. So far folks seem to like the story, and that’s awesome. This part is a hair shorter — it’s hard, sometimes, to end on a dramatic beat, as a serial requires, and still make it a heavy length. That said, I’m sure there are plenty of people that are glad to see one of these clock in at less than 2,500 words.
Andi walked down the long hallway to where B Team of Year 9 congregated. Each grade level at Brooks-Carillon was divided into one to four teams, each with their own core teachers. Mister Charlton and Mister Stone both taught in B Team, for example. Each team, in turn, had their own team area, where students could gather and wait for their next class.
Right now, the Year 9B Team Area was deserted. All the students were at their afternoon sports commitments — on Saturday, the school day only went to noon, and private schools throughout the region played each other in sports all afternoon. It’s why the lacrosse team was on its way to Hodgson.
Without Andi. Because she did too well on a math test.
Andi dropped her gear on the floor next to the couch, and sat on it with a fwump. She rubbed her eyes. She didn’t understand what was happening — she’d never been good at math in her life, but here she was rattling off answers as quickly as they were being asked. She’d known some math brains before — her friend Chrissy was one of them — but even they had to sit down and work out problems. The answers didn’t just appear in their head.
Half smiling, she noticed Luke Miller had left his guitar case behind again. Andi guessed he figured no one would steal it. Of course, he never used to leave it behind. Not before Andi had started stealing it when she sat down–
Andi considered. She remembered each moment that she’d shared with Luke over the past several months. Noticed how he looked at her when she took his guitar — his guitar, which was clearly important to him, not that he was a prodigy or anything. Noticed how his arguments had become forceful, but he never actually did anything about them. Noticed how he noticed her when she had misbuttoned her shirt after an all nighter…
“He looooooves you,” Bell had teased her, but looking back… love? No, not really. They were all too young for love. But Luke was certainly infatuated. That was new — Andi hadn’t ever really attracted attention from boys….
Well, now that she thought about it, that wasn’t strictly true. Andi had always been athletic, rather than social or brainy, and from an early age you were grouped into those categories and they stuck. They’d clung to Andi even when she changed schools. But from about eleven on the boys in her class had started teasing her more — nothing really mean, but always kind of a challenge. She had a pretty face and hair, and she knew it, but she wasn’t growing as fast or developing as much as Bell, say. Still, clearly boys were being drawn, only she’d never really thought–
Enough. Weird things were going on. Andi took a deep breath, and began randomly strumming the strings of the guitar. It really was calming, her ineptitude still somehow feeling nice. She began to play with the strings, paying attention to how they sounded, how pressing on the strings up on the neck changed things… nothing serious, really. Just something for her hands to do while she tried to figure out what was going on….
Andi tried to think back, tried to remember if she’d ever had that easy a time with math before. Certainly not within the last three or four years. She remembered each test, each grade, each problem. Okay, sure — her marks went up the further back she thought. She had an average of 74 for Algebra, an average of 79 in Year 8, 84 in Year 7, 88 in Year 6. From there, she leveled off in the midrange B territory depending on the year and teacher. She could remember going through each test…
Andi cocked her head. She could remember going through each test. Every sheet of paper on every desk, from early number identification through to today’s experience. Every problem. Every answer. She could see the wrong answers as she wrote them, see where her faulty logic or process had tripped her up, even as the right answer was apparent to her. Objectively, she could see where her problem was — she jumped ahead a step, trying to figure out the answer before she figured out the steps that got there. That worked fine on simpler problems or problems where she could have practiced answers — like easy stuff like multiplying by five — but screwed her up when there was no way to anticipate the answer, like square roots or a lot of fractions or problems with variables. And god help her with word problems.
But now it was clear. If she stopped and considered, she could see the logic of every math problem she’d ever been given. She could feel her way through multiplication, division, factoring… multiple terms. It was like….
Well, it wasn’t like anything, really. It was just happening. It wasn’t like a switch had been thrown in her brain or if she’d suddenly been enlightened. She felt exactly the same, only math had suddenly stopped being a challenge of any kind.
And now that she thought about it, it was a little strange that she could remember those math tests and quizzes so completely.
And for that matter, remembering her interactions with boys going back years. All boys. Luke, of course, and Tom and Jim and Pete and Aidan in her class, and Richard and Michael and Zeke in her last school — well, and all the other boys like Bob and Sam and….
Andi shook her head. She was getting sidetracked. She had to figure out this math thing.
Or did she? After all, what was there to figure out, really? She was just getting worked up — getting upset with herself. That was no good.
She paid attention to what she was doing with the guitar. It was beginning to sound really nice. She’d figured out how to press down each of the strings just right, over several of the guitar frets, so when she strummed the notes combined nicely. Harmoniously, she thought. She remembered what it was like when Luke played — the way his fingers worked over the strings and neck, and as she thought about it she adapted her technique. Yeah, that was nice. She strummed one of the things he liked to play — she could almost hear his slightly reedy voice. “Mama, take this badge off of me… I can’t use it anymore. It’s getting dark… too dark to see… I feel I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door….”
Playing around with the different notes reminded her of the piano lessons she’d been forced into during Years 4 and 5. Another distant commandment from her parents. She’d never really liked piano or cottoned to it, though it made more sense to her in retrospect. She remembered how the notes came together into chords, and heard the stumbling notes she’d played with nine year old hands. In the back of her head, she could hear the proper notes, as if she’d played them perfectly, and her fingers played over the strings of the guitar, figuring out how to replicate those notes, replicate those chords. She thought about her favorite piano music — the Moonlight Sonata, which always calmed her and at the same time felt tense… she couldn’t explain it. She never tried to play it on piano but in retrospect the chords were obvious.
Andi closed her eyes, letting her fingers work on the neck and strings of Luke’s guitar. Feeling along it… hearing some imperfections in tone, and almost unconsciously tightening the strings until they were more or less right. She began to strum and pick, creating sounds… matching the piano playing in her head with the chords of the guitar, feeling that lulling, insistent rhythm running through her fingers. One two three four, two two three four, three two three four, four two three four, five two three four and then the two notes quickly into the longer note above the continuing lulling rhythm….
“What the Hell?!”
Andi jumped, opening her eyes and stopping playing. “What–”
Luke was staring at her. And he didn’t look happy.
“Luke? All right, so I was fooling with your guitar again–”
“What, have you just been making fun of me? Huh?” He reached down and grabbed the guitar.
“Making fun– I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You told me you couldn’t play! Look, maybe I’m not as good as I think I am, but I don’t–”
Andi stood up, eyes wide. “Luke, I can’t play the guitar. I was just larking, trying to make it sound like–”
“You were playing classical music! You think I can play the Midnight Sonata?”
“Oh, I’m sure,” Luke said. “I’m just sure!” His voice sounded ragged, like he was going to cry. “It’s funny, right? Funny stupid kid? Don’t ever touch my stuff again, you hear me? Don’t you ever–”
“Luke, I swear — I don’t know how to play the guitar! I swear, I was just fooling around! I wasn’t — I wouldn’t make fun of you like–”
“Liar! You’ve made fun of me all year! I just thought you were being cute! Just — just stay away from me, all–”
Luke jerked towards the noise. Mister Stone was storming over. “What’s going on here,” he demanded.
“Nothing,” Luke snapped. “Nothing at all.”
“Oh, it’s nothing, huh? So nothing I could hear you halfway across the building, Mister Miller. What’s going on?” He looked at Andi. “Miss Gannett?”
Andi’s head was swimming. She’d been upset before, but this was too much for her. “Gannett-Moore,” she said automatically. “He says I’m lying when I say I can’t play the guitar. I can’t, Mister Stone! I swear I can’t!”
“You swear? You’ve done a lot of swearing this afternoon.” Mister Stone took a deep breath. “She’s right, Luke. She can’t play guitar.”
“Yes she can. I heard–”
“I heard her too. She was fooling around, that’s all. You just misheard it.”
“Don’t you give me–”
“Let me see your hand.” Mister Stone’s expression was stern.
“Give me your damn hand.” Mister Stone grabbed Luke’s hand, pulling it up. “You see that ridge on your figures? That’s a callus–”
“I know that,” Luke snapped.
“Right. And you know it comes from playing guitar. Look at Andi’s hand. Andi, hold up your hand.”
Andi lifted her hand, numbly. It was like the day was spiraling out of her control. She looked at it. Her fingers were an almost angry shade of pink. Looking at them, she realized they were stinging.
“See that? She doesn’t have those calluses. Not even on her index finger and thumb, from using a pick. Does it look like she plays guitar, Luke?”
Luke stared. “I…” Andi could see emotions playing over his face. That lingering sense of adolescent betrayal, coupled with embarrassment, paired with anger and a sense of foolishness.
“She can’t play guitar, Luke. You made a mistake. Now say you’re sorry.”
Luke muttered something, looking down.
“…I’m sorry, Andi. I… I shouldn’t have yelled.”
“It’s… it’s all right, Luke. I won’t mess with your guitar again. I promise.”
Luke closed his eyes. “‘Kay.”
Mister Stone looked at them both. “Don’t you have somewhere to be, Mister Miller?”
“Game was cancelled. We got a free block.”
“Have it somewhere else. Andi, step into my classroom.”
Andi took a breath, following Mister Stone. “Thank you,” she said. “I… I don’t know why he thought that. It was insane!”
“No it wasn’t,” Mister Stone said, quietly. “You were playing the guitar. Expertly.”