Read an Excerpt
"What now?" I asked my best friend, Esmeralda Marks, EZ for short. Sheâ€™d been calling me nonstop all afternoon. Youâ€™d think Iâ€™d never got the flu before. Okay, not just the flu, but some kind of modified flu-bomb that was genetically engineered to bring me down and make me beg.
"Mitchell Blake, donâ€™t you dare hang up!" she screeched.
"Ouch! Donâ€™t yell!" I thrust the BlackBerry away from my face. At her volume, I decided I was safer putting it on speaker and placing it on the kitchen counter of my swanky dirty-dish-buried kitchen.
"Mitch, Iâ€™m serious."
Something in her tone caught my muzzy attention. I dumped a load of plates into the soapy water. Since I was stuck missing classes today because I was still sick, I figured I should catch up on the chores my experiments usually eclipsed.
"Youâ€™re serious..." I prompted, my gut twisting when I heard her audible swallow on the phone. "You arenâ€™t pregnant, are you?" She was my best friend, and despite her nickname, EZ, she wasnâ€™t. But her voice was all about bad news.
"No, Iâ€™m not pregnant. Why would you think that?" She sounded cross.
"I donâ€™t know. But if you were, we could raise the kid together. I could be the gay-best-friend daddy. Itâ€™d be cool. Theyâ€™d make a movieâ€”you know, showing us struggling with diapers and baby poop and going on dates with the wrong people but then, because itâ€™s Hollywood, Iâ€™d suddenly realise I was straight and weâ€™d wind up together."
She laughed. "Mitch, you are such a weird guy."
"Hey, itâ€™s my pitch for the day."
"You havenâ€™t been watching the news?"
I blinked, washing out a serving bowl. I had no memory of using it to serve anything to company. I probably had it for instant noodles when Iâ€™d run out of clean plates. "Nope. News free. I was busy with this new experiment, calculating the velocity of mould growing on rocks when speeding through a vacuum."
"Uh-huh." Her voice said she was already tuning me out. "Okay, this is more important than your nutty inventions. Mitch, Jaden is dead."
"Jaden is dead," I repeated.
Heavy silence fell like a cloak.
"Uh, who is Jaden?"
"Mitch! Goddess save me, how can you ask me that?"
I was chewing my fingernail. When I caught myself, I frowned and stopped. Social interaction often was the stimulus for this kind of reaction. Itâ€™s partly why I avoided it.
"Because I donâ€™t know who he is?"
"You had a super crush on him, remember?"
I sneezed and sneezed again. When Iâ€™d finished my fit, I tried to bring the sluggish gears in my brain around to Jaden. "I did?"
"Oh, Goddess help me," she muttered. "Keep me from being best friends with a geeky super genius who will probably invent hyperspace-capable starships but canâ€™t keep the important stuff in his head."
"Hyperspace-capable starships arenâ€™t important?"
"Jaden Ross, the gorgeous, tall, dark and dangerous guy with the motorcycle and the tats. He was killed swerving to avoid a litter of kittens on the freeway into campus."
"Oh." I decided it was better not to say it seemed like a very worthy way to go. "Are they going to name one of the kittens after him?"
EZ laughed and then she growled, as if she was pissed at me for making her laugh. I did that often, sometimes for reasons that escaped me. But I was lucky I was entertaining because she was one of my only friends. Being a freak genius inventor was on the isolating side.
"Thatâ€™s terrible, Mitch."
"I didnâ€™t know this guy, EZ."
"You did know him. You stared at him all the time in the cafeteria."
"I stare at a lot of people." Usually while Iâ€™m calculating elaborate math problems. It had got me in trouble sometimes. I donâ€™t know why, but people misunderstand.
"He was the one who was a ringer for Mr Darcy if heâ€™d lived in modern times."
EZ had a major crush on Mr Darcy.
"He looked a little like the guy in the most recent Pride and Prejudice movieâ€”Matthew Macfadyen."
"I liked Colin Firthâ€™s Darcy." I tried to picture Jaden. I seemed to remember a tattoo on silky golden skin hinted at through a white T-shirt. "He wore a lot of black?"
"Yes. He was a literature major. I think they have to wear black."
"Uh-huh..." I shrugged. "Iâ€™m really sorry heâ€™s dead."
She gusted out a sigh. "Me too. I thought youâ€™d finally met someone special enough to knock you out of your lonely tower."
"I use a spare room for my experiments, not a tower," I said. Itâ€™s why Iâ€™d rented this dumpy house. It was expensive, but I could manage it with the patents I had so far accumulated. And I needed the room.
"A spare bedroom with beeping electrodes and a weird light show."
I had to admit there was a certain Dr Frankenstein resemblance, but why fight with a classic? And all the equipment served a logical purpose.
"Well, Iâ€™m sorry the guy is dead, but I donâ€™t see why that means you have to call me nonstop," I grumbled.
EZ sighed. "Another chance at love bites the dust."
"I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m meant for love. And anyway, itâ€™s a myth. Itâ€™s a molecular reaction stimulated by the impulse to procreate. In my case, thatâ€™s a dead-end street."