I was leaning against the railing, the wind messing up my hair as I waited for him. I had my book in my hand, but I wasn’t really reading it. I was thinking back to how we had gotten this far together.
I think it was fate that brought us together, even though I don’t believe in it. Everything happens for a reason and there’s a scientific explanation for everything. But it was purely by chance we were pushed together as lab partners for biology class.
Oh, biology. I love this subject. It’s so easy, so natural, it makes so much sense. It’s what makes the world turn and, quite literally, life goes on.
But him. My goodness, he was a flop. With no understanding, no finesse, he always found a way to mess up even the simplest of experiments. For our team project, I wanted to do a mini documentary on the life cycle and regenerative properties of salamanders, complete with diagrams and dissections. I wondered how we were even going to start, how I was going to even explain my idea to this buffoon. I even briefly considered doing a simple butterfly preservation display.
But I’m nothing if not determined. Biology class itself was boring because our teacher was a 70-year-old lady who barely knew the textbook. Urgh. I resolved not to let him pull down my grade and spent most of my time tutoring him and explaining to him what he did wrong and how everything works.
Yes, even the part on human reproduction. He was really awkward then, while I ruthlessly and unabashedly explained the nuances of each area. It was kinda cute, the way he squirmed.
In a way, it was nice to be teaching him. I’m quite independent; I had to be. My mum died when I was seven years old, to breast cancer. That was when I decided to be a biologist and find a cure for cancer. My dad had to work almost every day. We weren’t exactly poor, but we weren’t rich either. I spent most of my time reading everything related to biology, although I did have a soft spot for sci-fi and adventure novels.
We ended up spending a lot of time together after school, to work on our project. Sometimes we just sat together doing our homework, other times we worked on other projects together. I didn’t have any close friends, not since primary school; they had all headed off to different schools or migrated overseas. But somehow he and I got very close. We were study buddies.
I still can’t understand how that happened. I mean, he was one of the most popular guys in school. He was on the student council and always organizing some school activity or other. Perhaps that was why he was so bad at biology. He seemed to know everyone in school and they all seemed to know him as well. During the school holidays, he didn’t stop organizing events. I went for every single one because my schedule was pretty open anyway.
One day he organized a class outing to the Science Center. That was one of my favourite places and I always loved to see the new exhibits. I was in my element and I guess he must have noticed, because after that day, we hung out a lot more often at the Science Center.
I glanced at my watch and wondered where he was. He’d told me to be here so we could have a small celebration for finishing our exams. Beside the watch was the friendship bracelet he made for me for my birthday a while back. It was a really sweet gesture and he even made a DNA theme using four different coloured strings.
I was so thrilled and touched. I hadn’t had a birthday celebration in years that wasn’t just Daddy and I, let alone a present. I don’t advertise my birthday or organize my own parties. It just doesn’t seem practical. Besides, all the people I had wanted to invite were overseas or busy. I’d rather just read in peace and quiet.
As I admired his handiwork, I felt a stirring in my chest. I’ve had that feeling for a while now, ever since we actually did complete and submit the salamander project for that year. He wasn’t exactly helpful, but really enthusiastic. We’d both gotten an A for that. For the project, not his enthusiasm, I mean.
I was aware of what I felt about him. Very aware. Which girl in their right mind wouldn’t be attracted to him? Popular, a natural leader, passionate in what he does, charming and not at all lacking in the looks department. Apart from biology, he was passing every subject, which, I’ll admit, was pretty amazing seeing how active he was in other activities.
The corners of my mouth lifted a little as his face appeared in my mind and as I looked up, I saw his face for real as he walked towards me, which made my smile grow wider. My heart sped up a little and my stomach did a flip. Impulsively, I shut my book and leaned forward to hug him. I closed my eyes as I congratulated him on completing his exams and was acutely aware of how his body fit against mine so naturally. And oh wow did he smell good; a fresh, mildly woody smell that reminded me of new books when I just bought them from a bookstore. We were hugging a little too long, so I pulled away, slightly embarrassed but also noting that he hadn’t said anything. He just held me there. Perhaps he was enjoying it as much as I was.
We walked to the Helix Bridge. It’s called the Helix Bridge because the whole bridge is shaped in a double helix structure and has pairs of lights either side of the bridge, completing the whole DNA theme. The bridge was crowded with people, so he suggested that we hold hands to keep together. Of course, I was more than happy to oblige and he took my hand in his.
He tugged me across the bridge. Not in jerky movements, just slow and gentle, constantly keeping me close to him while he cut a path through the throng of people. I was able to relax my mind and enjoy his strong hand around mine, guiding and protecting me at the same time. The slowness enhanced the dreamlike sensation I felt and I willed the crowd to push us closer together.
As we reached the other side of the bridge, he turned to me and smiled. I watched as he swallowed, obviously intending to say something, but deciding not to. I felt his hand fall away from mine and I didn’t like that one bit. Nope, I know what I want and I’m getting it. I caught his hand again and this time entwined my fingers around his, so that it would be harder for him to let go.
I think he was just as surprised as I was at my bold move. But I couldn’t back out now, even if I wanted to. So instead I decided to see where this road would lead me. I’d shown him my hand, so to speak, so I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.
I pulled him towards the railing and we put our elbows on it, waiting for the light show to start. I linked my arm though his and settled my head on his shoulder, just enjoying the night air, the river, the light show and his presence.
Ever since then, our bond has grown as strong as the ones that join DNA together.