Shattered Glass

Submitted into Contest #137 in response to: Write a story about a scientist.... view prompt


Drama Friendship Fiction

Rose had met Ava in the latter’s first week at university, when she had been assigned to the lab class Rose assisted with. She had been immediately impressed by Ava’s enthusiasm and eagerness to please (if only the other students could have a fraction of her commitment!) but she had never seen someone so totally incompetent when it came to practical lab work.

Thankfully, Rose was an excellent mentor.

Feeling sorry for Ava, she had offered to help out. The two young women had formed a firm bond, despite the fact that Rose was starting on her PhD research and Ava was just a lowly undergraduate. Rose had found Ava to be funny and intelligent in equal measure, with a surprising amount of maturity (she thought) for someone just out of school. Ava, for her part, seemed delighted that an experienced PhD student wanted to hang out with her.

Aside from her initial struggles over lab work, Ava took to university with an ease that had never come to Rose. Ava had a confidence, a boldness Rose had always longed for but had never quite been able to cultivate. Everybody loved Ava; she was a favourite of most of her fellow students and even the lecturers seemed to favour her. It had taken years for Rose to win that kind of respect. It had taken many of her classmates that long just to learn her name.

But three years on from when she first met Ava, Rose finally felt that she belonged. As proof, she had a tentative job offer; ace her PhD, put in a good interview and she could stay with the department. It was her dream job. Meanwhile, Ava was busy with her undergraduate project.

Everything was perfect.

And Rose and Ava were still best friends.

Every year, the department ran a science fair, and every year, they chose one of the final year undergraduates to make a presentation for visiting scientists from universities all over the country. Rose would have killed for the opportunity when she was an undergrad. But no, Charlie Evans (whose work had been half as good as Rose’s but who’d made twice the noise about it) had been given the chance instead. This year, the honour (naturally) belonged to Ava. Rose was excited for her, and for herself. At least she’d finally get to be involved; part of the presentation included an experiment, and she was sure Ava would need her help with it. Ava was more of a theoretical scientist; her lab work (although much improved) was still her biggest weakness in her studies. She got through what she needed for her degree, but the fair required something special. For that, Ava needed Rose.

Except, when she offered, Ava said no.

“Aww, thank you! But it’s okay, I won’t need you.” She smiled easily, not even seeming to not the flicker of hurt Rose was sure must show on her face. “It’s only that – well, I want to prove I can do this – to myself as much as anything!” She laughed, “After all, I’m not some clueless eighteen-year-old any longer!”

Well, she had a point. Rose tried to convince herself that Ava had the perfect right to reject her help. But there was a problem. Sometimes, just sometimes, Rose wondered if after all this time, the only person whose respect she still lacked was Ava’s. Whenever the thought drifted across her mind she told herself she was being ridiculous; Ava was her best (only?) friend. But she had a way of going through life at a hundred miles an hour - a complete whirlwind, who often didn’t stop to consider others (Rose) who had done so much for her.

As was to be expected, Ava threw herself into preparation. Rose didn’t see much of her the following weeks. Ava was constantly in the lab, maybe the most time she’d ever spent there, busy… well, Rose didn’t even know what Ava was doing. She was busy trying to pretend it wasn’t happening.

Then, the night before the fair, she received a text from Ava:

Meet me @ lab?

For a brief second, Rose considered ignoring the message. It was a selfish desire, she knew that (but didn’t Ava want to do this on her own?) In the end, simple curiosity drove her to agree.

The lab was empty but for Ava’s equipment strewn all along one bench. Dozens of glass test tubes stood smartly in racks. The girl herself was standing nearby, carefully measuring a solution. She looked exhausted; blonde hair frazzled, with a pinched tightness around her eyes that suggested that she had gone far too long without sleep. Nevertheless, she beamed when she saw Rose.

“I’ve just finished for the night. What do you think?”

She placed the final test tube in the final empty slot in the rack. Rose peered closer; all of the other tubes were also filled with a few centilitres of solution. Next to this set up was a plastic bottle marked ethanol. She considered it for a moment.

“DNA extraction?”

“Yes! You are good” Ava grinned again.

“I know you well enough.” Rose hesitated. “It’s not very… complex though, is it?” She felt guilty even as the words left her mouth. Ava was her friend, and tomorrow was so important for her. But as a friend didn’t she owe Ava the truth?

“Oh, Rose! Lighten up a little.” Ava nudged her gently. “It doesn’t need to be complex, it’s just an example of the sort of work we do here. Honestly, it’s more of an excuse to show off the lab than anything else!”

“I could have helped you do something better you know.” Even to Rose’s own ears, she sounded sullen. How could Ava make it sound like she knew more than Rose – who was the one on the brink of a job in this very department?

Ava frowned. “But I told you, I wanted to do it myself. I worked hard on this!”

“Then why did you ask me here?”

“They’re doing some sort of welcome thing for the guests tomorrow.” Ava shrugged. “I’m supposed to be there to meet them, so I need someone in here to set things up for me…”

“So you thought of me?”

“Well, I know you’ve always been interested in the fair, and you did say you wanted to help. I thought you might want to be part of it!” The lightness came back to her voice. “It will be fun!”

It was all starting to come together. Rose stood for a moment, letting the knowledge fill her up. Once, she had been the mentor, the one Ava looked up to. Now, the scales had began to tip. She could suddenly see that this was only the beginning – Ava would soon eclipse her in everything, and then she really wouldn’t need Rose at all.

And Rose realised she didn’t know how to look up to someone she had always secretly envied.

“I want to be part of this,” she acknowledged, “but not as your assistant.’ She met Ava’s eyes with her own, silently pleading for her to understand.

“I don’t get it.”

I don’t want to be your assistant. That’s not how this works. That’s never been how we work.” Rose sounded pathetic to her own ears; she hated it, but couldn’t stop. “Do you have any idea how patronising that is? All I’ve done for you, and you want me to be your assistant?”

“I… Rose…” Ava shook her head, “I don’t know understand why that’s so bad?”

Rose beathed out sharply, shaking. She ran a hand through her hair. “When you text me, I thought you might still want my help. I thought you might want me to be part of this with you. But it turns out you just need someone to set up your equipment while you go off and make friends over a couple of nice drinks. You could have got a first year to do that!”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.” Steel flashed in Ava’s eyes; she never had been one to fail to stand up for herself.

“When have you ever even thanked me for all I’ve done for you?”

“I thank you all the time!”

“You thank me like I’ve passed you the milk for your coffee! That doesn’t count Ava!

“Rose! This is… this is ridiculous!” Ava took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “Please. I don’t want to fight with you, not tonight. I’m sorry.” She stretched out a hand. “I never meant to make you feel like that. I am asking you because I want you to be with me. I’m asking as a friend - will you help, please?”

Rose pressed a trembling hand to her mouth. The fight was fast draining out of her as Ava looked at her with pleading eyes. She wasn’t like her friend – Rose had never been able to say no to anyone.

“Come on!” Ava grinned, sensing Rose weakening. “You know you want to say yes.”

It felt like giving in, but in the end, she did. Ava was right - she wanted this too badly.

The next morning, and Rose knows she’s made a mistake. All the anger (the hurt, the jealousy) of the previous night resurges to the power of ten. She shouldn’t be here, in the lab, while Ava gets to have tea and biscuits with all the best scientists in the country. As she carries the equipment to the display, the test tubes rattle together.

 It takes her a moment to realise it’s actually her hands that are shaking.

She’s more than angry. She’s mad.

She barely knows what she’s doing as she takes one of the tubes and hurls it at the floor. It shatters with a resounding – and satisfying – smash. As it does, she feels a little better. Another follows. Then all the rest.

She stares down at what she’s just done. She can’t quite believe it. There’s no mistaking this for an accident. The lab floor is covered in broken glass, sticky solution mixed in. The sound of glass rings in her ears. Any minute, everyone will see what she’s done.

There’ll be no job offer now. All the hard work to gain respect in this department for nothing. She’s about to embarrass herself in front of not just the scientists here, but those from across the country.

She has just ruined her friend’s presentation.

“Oh God! Ava!”

The full impact of her actions hit her just as she hears a voice coming along the corridor. Ava’s.

“Anyway, I’ve already told you about my friend Rose. I really want you to meet her. She’s a amazing teacher – I don’t think I would have even made it to fourth year without her help! She’s taught me so many of the skills I needed for what I’m about to show you all. Without her, I couldn’t have done any….”

Ava’s hands fly to her mouth as she takes in the destruction. Rose looks up to meet her horrified eyes, the shattered pieces of everything she has just irreparably broken lying scattered at her feet.

March 19, 2022 03:33

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Sharon Hancock
02:48 Mar 27, 2022

I enjoyed this a lot thanks for sharing it. I like that it’s a friendship story. Very refreshing. And friendships can be complicated, which you illustrated well in the story. Rose might want to take some anger management classes, cause that’s going to be an expensive temper tantrum! 🤭😻


Katie Logan
15:23 Mar 27, 2022

Thank you - that's a really sweet comment! And yes, I completely agree about Rose - she needs help otherwise she just going to keep making things worse for herself! :D


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Kelly Porter
00:04 Mar 25, 2022

Such a classic case of how jealousy can ruin a friendship and sabotage both people. I could feel Rose's resentment and how hurt she was. You clearly showed how human nature often prevents us from being happy for someone else and how devastating that can be. Great story!


Katie Logan
13:44 Mar 25, 2022

Thank you for a lovely comment! I'm glad you felt Rose's hurt as well, because I did struggle with how to balance the story so she didn't just come across as jealous and complelety spiteful. I wanted to make her at least somewhat sympathetic


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