This continues an excerpt from Mad Science Institute, a novel of calamities, creatures, and college matriculation. The novel will be available 12/16/2011, but you can read the beginning here first!
Chapter 2 Continued…
She was standing on the far corner, just past the ring of plastic cones that marked the civilian safety zone, with the other spectators. It was her hair that made her so easy to spot: orange-red, the color of a daffodil’s heart, and vivid even at a distance as it flowed over her shoulders. Her arms were folded across her chest, and she wore an earth-toned pants suit that allowed his eyes to follow the long journey of her legs all the way up from her black pumps.
Dean felt a surge of happiness at seeing her, followed almost immediately by a cold splash of regret. He had known her since their first day as college freshman, and since then he might have measured his life by the cycle of intense love and bitter heartbreak they traded with one another. The last time he had seen her had been two years ago, when she rejected his marriage proposal for the second time. All that seemed like so long ago, and his mind raced to come up with an explanation for why she might be here, now, standing on this very street corner.
She saw him and waved, then pushed past the other spectators to follow the safety line closer to him.
“McKenzie,” he called out as he ran to her. He had always called her by her last name, ever since they had first met as freshman in college. Originally it had been a sort of joke, a jock’s nickname for someone who couldn’t have been less jock-like in attitude or upbringing, but the name had stuck with her. Even years later, her new acquaintances mistakenly believed that it was her given name because that’s what everyone else called her. He raced her to the edge of the safety line, but when he reached her he suddenly felt awkward and unsure of what to do. When they had last seen each other, they had been enemies after another ferocious break-up. By their usual pattern, they would now be lovers again, but Dean didn’t want to make any assumptions. McKenzie, however, had no reservations as she flung her arms around him. He laughed, scooped her off her feet with a bear-hug and inhaled deeply, finding that even the clinging stench of the smoke was powerless to cover her scent of jasmine and honeysuckle–scents he couldn’t name, but which he had learned to love. It meant they were about to re-discover all the ways they were so perfect for each other. Maybe, if they were lucky, this would be the time they would forget to explore all the reasons it could never work out.
“Sorry,” he said, releasing the hug. “I’m all sweaty. But I’m so glad to see you. What are you doing here? And—how did you find me out on call?”
“I just followed the smoke,” she said. “Wherever there’s disaster, there’s Dean.”
This chapter concludes tomorrow!