Raiza sniffed at the poisonous blueberries on the table.
“Are these, like, expired, or something?” she said, turning to her partner in the science project.
“Pfft, I don’t know, can blueberries really expire?” Leo said, crossing his arms and leaning against his kitchen wall in front of the garbage can. Raiza cautiously picked a small squishy blueberry up from the container and popped it in her mouth. She chewed and after about 2 seconds, took a napkin and spit it neatly back out, balling up the napkin.
“Definitely expired. Move, lemme throw em out,” she said, dropping the napkin into the plate and walking toward Leo. He didn’t move an inch.
“I’m not just going to let you throw away perfectly good blueberries like that,” he said, closing his eyes and raising his eyebrows. Raiza rolled her eyes.
“For real Leo, just move,” she said, now almost directly in front of him.
“Didn’t I tell you only my friends call me Leo? You wanna throw those blueberries away, you gotta get through me,” he said, smirking.
“Oh my god, Leonardo, you’re so annoying,” Raiza said, rolling her eyes once more. She leaned on tippy-toes over Leo’s shoulder and dropped the plate of blueberries into the small can, her chin brushing across his shoulder. She blushed and moved away. “Can we just get started with the project?” Leo uncrossed his arms.
“Oh, wow, Raiz, look at you, being bossy even at someone else’s house.”
“You call me ‘Raiz’ and I call you Leo, got that?”
“And what if I want you to call me Leo?”
“Ugh!” Raiza groaned, throwing her arms up in the air. “I knew we should’ve gone to my house. We already would’ve been started by now.”
“Will you just chill Raiz? Like, for real, I’m just tryna be a good host here by giving you a snack before we start.” Leo said, bumping shoulders with Raiza as he walked past her to the fridge.
“Oh, wow, great hosting, I love me some expired blueberries.” Raiza rolled her eyes just as Leo turned around, a box of chips ahoys in his hands. He smirked. “What? Why are you giving me that look?”
“Nothing. Has anyone ever told you how funny you look while rolling your eyes? I mean, considering how often you do it, I’d be surprised if I’m the first.” Raiza blushed.
“Oh really? I could say the same about your smirking. It’s like you’re Cheshire cat or something.”
“Since when were smirks and toothy smiles the same thing? Come on, we should really get started.” Leo said, walking out of the kitchen and toward the staircase.
“I thought we were working on it in the living room….” Raiza said, her head hurting thinking about walking up all those stairs.
“Look, my room is probably neater than any boy’s room you’ve ever seen. I promise it’s the best place we could work. And besides, that way, when my mom comes home she won’t...bother us.”
“No it’s not that, it’s just- Whatever… Lead the way?” Raiza said, avoiding Leo’s eyes. He furrowed his brows.
“Ooookay...Come on,” he said, tucking the package of cookies under his arm and running up the stairs two steps at a time. Raiza’s eyes widened as she gripped the railing and walked up slowly, not daring to look down. Her skin paled as she climbed each step, imagining herself falling to her death in some boy’s house. She heard the creak of a door opening.
“Alright, so this is-Raiz?” Raiza took a deep breath.
“Raiz-a. I’m coming…” she said and walked carefully up the remaining three stairs where Leo was waiting at the doorway of his bedroom. He dramatically motioned for her to enter. She did, arms hugging herself self consciously, her cheeks a deep shade of red.
“Well, um, this is it, I guess…” Leo said nervously. Besides his family, no one really went into his room. He grabbed the chips ahoy from his desk and sat in his rolly chair, ripping open the package. Raiza awkwardly stood to the side, not wanting to touch something without permission. “Cookie?” Raiza was blasted back to reality as she shut the door behind her and took a cookie from the package. She then looked around the room. As much as she hated to admit it, it was pretty neat. There was a set of drums in one corner, a made bed in another, a small bookshelf, the desk, and a shag rug on the floor. The walls were painted a light green and half-covered in posters.
“If you’re done surveying my room, you can sit wherever,” Leo said, eating his third cookie. Raiza blushed even more as she sat on his bed.
“You play drums?” she said, wanting to fill the silence.
“Oh...yeah….Why don’t we just, um, start on the project?” Raiza nodded, finally finishing her cookie and brushing the crumbs off her jeans. Leo turned his computer on and bent down under his desk to unzip his backpack. Raiza awkwardly walked up to the desk.
“Shoot…” Leo said, rising from under the desk to see Raiza standing there. “I forgot, hold up a sec, I’ll get you a chair,” he said, running downstairs. Raiza walked over to the drumset, brushing her fingers along the smooth metal. Leo was soon back, hauling a large chair from the dining room table. He cleared his throat as he set it down in his chair.
“Oh! Sorry, you probably don’t like anyone touching that. Thanks for the chair. So, we should get started. Oh and by the way, hate to say it, but you were right. You’ve got the neates- I’m-rambling….sorry...” she said, walking over to where Leo sat, smirking. “Oh my god, will you stop?”
“Stop what?” but just as Raiza was about to say he knew very well to stop his annoyingly attractive smirking, they were interrupted by the doorbell. Leo was glad. He enjoyed seeing the flushed and flustered face of Raiza.
“Wait just a sec, my mom’s home. Why don’t you just start a google doc.” he said, as he opened the door and ran downstairs. Raiza plopped down in the large chair and pulled the keyboard of the computer over to her. She hit enter as the computer rose to life. Surprisingly, he didn’t have a password. She hit google chrome and waited for the web page to load. Leo’s footsteps were soon heard on the stairs, followed by someone else Raiza assumed was his mom. She heard a hushed conversation just outside the door.
“Mom, no, I’m fine.”
“What’s her name again?”
“Raiz. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a project to work on.”
“Okay, but I’ll be checking up on you soon. Have fun!”
“Yeah, mom, it’s science, I’ll have a blast,” Leo said, finally escaping from his mom and going back into his room. His mom shook her head and walked back downstairs.
“Alright, I’m back, sorry ‘bout that. Did you open a google doc?”
“Oh, not yet, the page didn’t load. Hey, I should probably go say hi to your mom, thank her ‘nd all.”
“Oh, Nah, don’t worry about it, she’ll come to ‘check on us’ soon, anyway.”
“Are you sure? I think she might want to know about some certain expired blueberries.
“Ha-ha,” Leo said, pulling the keyboard back to his side of the desk as he sat down in his chair. He quickly opened a blank google doc.
“Hey, how come you don’t have a password?”
“Well, it’s not like I have anything to hide. It’s just a computer. Besides, like I said, no one comes in here.” Raiza scoffed.
“Really? None of your siblings mess with your stuff?”
“I’m an only child.” Leo said coldly, titling the doc “Science Project”.
“Huh… I don’t know if I should feel bad or jealous.”
“Yeah, I have two siblings, one older and one younger. Trust me, they’re a nightmare. But I guess it would be pretty lonely without anyone around.”
“Yeah, it is… Anyway, we should really get started or my mom’ll be suspicious.”
“K,” Raiza said, pulling the keyboard to her lap. She was no longer shy and felt more comfortable in the presence of Leo. “Soooo, you got any ideas?” Leo scrunched up his nose and shook his head. Raiza laughed.
“Why don’t we just search up science fair ideas for high schoolers and see what we like? Open a new tab, I’ll type it up.” Leo obliged, opening up a new tab. Raiza typed up “science fair projects for high schoolers” and her hair fell in her face. She hit enter and blew the strand of hair back. Leo was caught by surprise. Her hazel eyes reflected the light in a way that gave them so much depth and sincerity. Raiza looked up from the keyboard.
“Helloooo, are you going to click a link?” Leo blinked twice, his hands flying back to the mouse. He mindlessly clicked the first website he saw. “Scroll dowwwwn. Click that small button. No, not that one. No, lemme show you.” Raiza leaned slightly, scooching over and accidentally making contact with Leo, as their chairs were practically connected. She took the mouse from his hand.
At that moment, the door was opened, startling both kids.
“Hey Leo, how’s it going...Raiz…” Raiza turned around and shyly waved to Leo’s mom, who smiled back. “Need anything sweetheart?” Leo clenched his teeth.
“No, mom, we’re fine.”
“Okay...Let me know if you want anything. I’ll just be in the office.” Leo nodded as his mom shut the door. He felt heat rise to his cheeks. Raiza kept scrolling through project ideas, immune to Leo’s discomfort in still being in contact. She clicked a project to learn more.
“There, why don’t you read this,” she said, letting go of the mouse but not moving from her position.
“Why do I have to read it? You read it,” he said, staring straight at the computer screen. Raiza suppressed the urge to roll her eyes for the fourth time that afternoon.
“Alright, whatever. Blah, blah, blah...time needed…..one week….this actually seems pretty doable. Whadya think. Leo?” Leo rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. He had just been caught staring into Raiza’s eyes again.
“Did you even read that? All I heard was ‘blah blah blah’,”
“I did. In my head. I don’t read aloud. Here, you read it if you want to know more.” she said, pushing the mouse towards him and leaning back in her chair. She crossed her legs and looked around the room once more, observing the posters. Leo breathed a sigh of relief, glad to have his personal space back. That was all it was, he thought, he wanted his personal space, it wasn’t the fact Raiza for some reason quickened the pace of his heart every time they accidentally came in contact.
He scanned through the webpage, reading about the project.
“Hey, how much time ‘till the science fair?” he asked, reading through the necessary materials they would probably have to order online.
“I think like a month or something like that. We got time.” Raiza replied, looking at a taped-up picture of a drawn dragon that looked pretty cool.
“K then I think this is good.”
“Mmhm,” she said, taking the mouse straight from Leo’s hands and going back to the google doc. She set the keyboard on the desk and started typing up some of the project materials.
“So, you don’t read aloud, prefer to be called Raiza, and dislike blueberries,” Leo said, counting off the things he knew about Raiza on his hand. “Oh, and you have some sort of weird problem with stairs.”
“It’s not that I don’t like being called Raiz, it’s just that I don’t like people I barely know calling me it. And I don’t ‘dislike’ blueberries, I’m just not very fond of expired ones. My stomach is already starting to hurt, and I barely ate one. I don’t have a weird problem with stairs, I’m afraid of heights. Oh, and it’s fine if you call me Raiz now if you want.” Raiza said, looking to Leo.
“Ooookay. How come? It’s not like I know you much better than before.” Leo said, surprised by how worried he felt when she spoke of her stomach hurting. He couldn’t point that out though, it was too weird.
“Well, yeah, but I didn’t know you at all before. Now we’re like kinda-sorta-friends-ish.” Leo grinned.
“ I’ve been in the same honors biology class with you for three years, I think we even sat together once, and you only just met me?”
“So we were classmates. I dunno, it’s like I’m in your house now, ya know? Oh, whatever, let’s keep working, the teacher shoulda never paired us together.”
“Ooh, that stings. But then I wouldn’t have the lovely privilege of calling you Raiz,”
“Don’t push it, Leonardo. I’m doing all the work here. C’mon, you type something.” Raiza said, pushing the keyboard toward Leo who mockingly placed a hand on his heart.
“Excuse me! I provided snacks!” he said, picking up a cookie from the long-forgotten chips ahoy package. Raiza laughed and Leo smiled, satisfied at his result.
“Seriously, type something, my stomach hurts and I just wanna lay down. So we better get something done for today.” Leo leaned his head back into his chair. He was a little sad to see their time together coming to an end, but even more worried that Raiza was still complaining about her stomach.
“You know, you can- Never mind. I can ask my mom if she has Tylenol or something if you want” he said, anxiously thinking of a solution. After all, it was partly his fault.
“No, don’t be a drama king, I’m fine, why do you care anyway?” Raiza said, looking curiously at Leo, who shyly looked at the computer screen and began typing. As he finished typing up some of the procedures of the project, he noticed Raiza’s breathing growing shallow. He turned to her and saw that her face had grown quite pale and that she was gripping the arms of the chair tightly.
“Raiz? Raiza? Are you-” Raiza fainted onto the chair, nearly falling off. Leo jumped up and pushed her gently into a half-sitting half-laying position. He pushed his hair out of his face, keeping his hand on his head. He began to pace around his room.
“Oh god… Oh god. A girl just fainted in my room. Shoot. What do I do...Oh god, does she have a pulse?!” he said, running over to where Raiza was still unconscious and picking up her wrist, pressing his forefinger in the right position. Thankfully, he felt a steady beat. Now what?! He thought, pacing once more.
“I gotta call 911!” he said, running over to his phone and fumbling over all the buttons to get to the ‘phone’. The only thing on his mind was getting Raiza someplace safe. He forgot telling his mom would probably be a good idea.
“Hello? Yeah…. Um, I’m doing a science project with this girl and-...Um….No….She fainted. Yeah….Send an ambulance, I dunno!... Oh! Right: 491 Vine Drive Ashburn...20147...Yeah...I’ll check...Thank you...what?...Oh! Shoot! Okay. Thanks” Leo ended the call, frantic to follow the responder’s directions. He had to tell his mom! He also needed to check if Raiza was shivering or had a high temperature and if she was cold to prepare her to leave by dressing her in a jacket or putting a blanket on top of her. They were sending an ambulance, so Leo had to be ready to leave as well.
“Mom!!!? Mom!” he checked the time on his phone. 4:56. She’d probably went back to work or something. Whatever there was no time to call, the ambulance would be there any second. He ran to Raiza’s side and gently lifted her towards the bed. He was surprised at how light she was. He gently placed a hand on her forehead; she was stone cold. Forgetting his previous nervousness at contact, he threw open his closet and took out one of his winter coats, tenderly lifting her and pulling it around her.
“Shoot, I gotta take her down the stairs!” he said, sweating nervously. What if he dropped her?! “I got this. I got this.” he motivated himself, bending over to pick up Raiza. He kicked open the door with his foot and walked extra slowly down the stairs. Just as he neared the last step, he heard sirens nearing his house. He took a deep breath, wiping sweat from his brows. He speed-walked to the door and supported Raiza with one hand as he opened the door, shoving shoes on his feet, and taking the key from the hook by the door, and slamming it as he went out with his foot. The ambulance stopped in front of his house.
Leo felt Raiza slightly shivering in his arms. He pulled the coat tighter around her as he walked toward the ambulance back door that was being opened by a medic.
“Where’s your mom kid? Is this the girl?”
“You don’t know? Do I need to call the police?”
“No, no, I’m pretty sure she’s at work, and I didn’t call her cause I couldn’t waste time and…”
“Kid, calm down. Everything’s gon be alright. Come on in.” the medic said, pulling a stretcher from the ambulance. Leo gently placed Raiza down and walked up with her.
“Tom! I need you to drive!”
“Shoot, Dave, who’s gonna stay with the kid?”
“I’ll be...I’ll be fine, just, please...We have to hurry up!” Leo said, keeping his eyes glued to Raiza’s unconscious body. Tom, the medic who had opened the back went to the front of the vehicle. They were soon speeding towards the hospital.