The Temperature of Me and You
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Release date: January 25, 2022
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Print pages: 399
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The Temperature of Me and You
I have four main takeaways from my Chemistry test today. First, the symbol on the periodic table for oxygen looks like the number of interesting things that happen in my life on a regular basis. The symbol for sodium, Na, represents my history of romance—not applicable. The symbol for radon, Rn, stands for my thoughts on when I want a boyfriend—right now. And the symbol for ununhexium, Uuh, is my response when people ask me if I am going to do something about it.
The most life-altering decision I’ve made in the past year is to proclaim that I prefer hard ice cream over soft serve as a Dairy Queen employee.
Speaking of which, another hour and tonight’s shift will be over. My friends and I have been talking about Chemistry class while I pretend to wait for customers I not-so-secretly hope won’t show up.
“The only answer I knew was hydrogen,” Perry says, shoveling a spoonful of her large Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard into her mouth.
“Well, duh. The symbol for that one is literally just an H,” I say.
“You got oxygen too, I hope, right?” Kirsten asks.
Perry rolls her eyes, digging deeper into her Blizzard. “Yeah, I think. I put Ox for that one.”
Kirsten smiles and shakes her head. “It’s an O. That’s literally the easiest one.”
“What? I thought O was for olerium.”
“Olerium?” I ask, twitching my head. “Is that even a thing?”
“Of course it’s a thing. But it wasn’t on the test,” Perry counters.
“Yeah, because it’s definitely not a thing.”
She laughs. “Are you serious?” Crushed Reese’s Cups line her bottom row of teeth.
Kirsten reaches across the table and puts her hand over Perry’s mouth. “Close this,” she says, laughing. “No one wants to see that.”
“I’m sorry,” Perry says, grabbing a napkin and wiping the corners of her lips. “At this point, who cares? When will I ever need those elements in my actual life?”
“Um, this very second as you breathe them in,” Kirsten answers.
Perry tries. She really does. And when I say tries, I mean tries everything she can to not do schoolwork and still pass. Like, when the three of us got together last night to complete the Chemistry worksheets for our test today, Kirsten and I actually did the work while Perry spent the night trying to find the answers on Google and replying to message boards that haven’t been active in five years.
Unlike Kirsten, who is banking on her good grades for college, Perry Lyle is piling all her hopes into a cheerleading scholarship. She’s on a regional all-star cheer team in addition to the school team. I’m sure she could do both cheer squads and do well in school at the same time. But Perry says she would rather be amazing at one thing than average at a bunch of things. So she chooses cheer over school.
“Dylan, can you make my Blizzard now?” Kirsten asks, spinning around in her seat.
“Here, you can finish mine,” Perry says, slamming her ice cream onto the table. Her chest rises as she holds in a burp.
Kirsten Lush is without a doubt the prettiest girl in the junior class. And, in my opinion, all of Falcon Crest High School. Me, a skinny gargoyle who is teetering on okay in the looks department, and Perry, a confused meerkat who is above average in the looks department but loses major points for her lack of any common sense and basic human functionality, are not who you’d expect Falcon Crest’s own Elle Woods to associate with.
I lift my arms off the service counter and stand up straight. I push my hands into my lower back to stretch myself into a normal, upright human position.
My elbows are red from not moving once during my shift. To no one’s surprise, I haven’t had a single customer all night. It’s January and twenty degrees in Falcon Crest. Even my manager knows how pointless staying open year-round is because he leaves as soon as I get here after school. Which, by the way, is probably illegal because I’m sixteen and operating a store by myself—but I don’t ask questions. Perry and Kirsten don’t count as customers because they come here whenever I am working to get free ice cream and keep me company.
“Perr, next time I’m making you a kid-size because you never finish what I give you,” I say.
“How dare you,” she says, squinting at me.
“What do you want, Kirsten?” I turn and walk toward the rattling ice-cream machines, staring at the colorful menu above me decorated with pictures of ice-cream cones and candy
“Hey, did Jimmy escape out the back door or something?” Perry asks. She stands and looks down the hall to the bathrooms.
“I’ll just finish Perry’s ice cream,” Kirsten replies, grabbing the cup from the table.
“He’s in the bathroom,” I say. Jimmy is an unfortunate soul from another school who’s been directed here as a possible boyfriend candidate for me. But my thoughts about that are represented by the symbol for the element nobelium, No.
“Yeah, he’s been in there for twenty minutes,” Kirsten says. “He must really not be interested in you.”
“Or dropping a big ole you-know-what,” Perry says, crossing her arms and laughing to herself.
“Ew! Stop!” Kirsten shrieks. “I’m eating.”
“I don’t know why you brought him here,” I whisper. “I told you I stalked his Instagram and I wasn’t interested.”
Perry shrugs. “Sometimes people are different in person. Savanna said he was single and looking, so I’m helping you out,” she whispers back. “Plus, Kirsten and I agreed you guys would look cute together.”
“First of all, I don’t know why we would take a recommendation from Savanna Blatt. She is mean to all three of us and is most likely using this to screw us over somehow. He probably has an STD of the throat or something!”
“As I am sure you’re well aware, nice boys are in short supply in this town. You take what you can get.”
“It’s too forced and awkward for me. I’m not in the mood for Perry Love Connections tonight.”
“Every day is a day for a Perry Love Connection, my friend.”
Perry has made it her personal mission to get me a boyfriend. But sometimes I would appreciate it if her mission had some standards attached to it.
“He’s been rude this entire time.”
“He really has,” Kirsten says, nodding. “He hasn’t even acknowledged me yet.”
“See,” I say, gesturing at Kirsten. “I can’t date someone who doesn’t acknowledge my overachieving best friend. If Kirsten can’t get acknowledgment, then I have no chance.”
“Ugh,” Perry grunts. “How does it always end up you two against me? Let’s just see how he is when he gets back.”
“And how he smells,” Kirsten says with a mouth full of ice cream. Perry and I roll our eyes in unison.
The bathroom door clicks, and Perry and Kirsten sit up as if they were misbehaving. Perry smirks at me while shimmying her shoulders.
“Watch…he won’t talk to me,” Kirsten blurts at the last second. Perry smacks her arm, shooting her a look.
Jimmy rounds th
e corner from the bathroom hallway and plants himself next to the service counter. I take a few steps away from him toward the other end. Perry smiles. It’s quiet for a few seconds.
He’s so out of place. Even if I did like him, he would never mesh well with the three of us. He looks like a church boy who just came from Sunday service or something. He’s wearing thin, slip-on brown leather shoes that I swear my dad also owns, khaki pants, and a button-up shirt that’s tucked in. Meanwhile, my shaggy, curly hair is reminiscent of a tumbleweed, and ice cream is splattered across the front of my shirt and arms. Kirsten’s long brown hair rolls down her back in knotty waves. Perry’s blond hair is tied on the top of her head into a baseball-size bun with a polka-dot scrunchy. They are both wearing leggings, sneakers, and their cheerleading hoodies.
“Did you want anything?” I ask, tapping my fingers on the counter. I want to fling a spoonful of hot fudge at Jimmy to mess up his clean-cut image.
“Nah, I’m good,” he says. “Did I hear you guys talking about chemistry?”
I don’t respond. Instead, I stare at Perry, raising my eyebrows, and wait for her to say something, since this is her guest, after all.
“We were,” she says. “We had a test on the periodic table and had to match all the elements with their symbols and stuff. Dylan over here aced it. Didn’t you, Dyl?” She smirks.
“We did that stuff, like, freshman year at my school,” Jimmy says.
I resist the urge to roll my eyes again. “I thought it was fine,” I say. “I don
’t know about acing it, but I didn’t bomb.”
“I aced it,” Kirsten says.
“Nice, man!” Jimmy exclaims. I jerk my head back at his enthusiasm. “Right on.” He extends his arm and puts his palm up. I scan it with my eyes, tracing the lines on his skin. He leaves it in the air for what I’m assuming is a high five.
I want to melt into a puddle like a vanilla ice-cream cone, be washed up with a mop, wrung out, and never be seen again. Kirsten’s and Perry’s lips curl in, ready to burst from laughter knowing I’m going to have to partake in this bro moment. I take a few steps toward him, because he’s too far from me to reach, and lightly tap his palm with mine, inwardly cringing. My teeth are clenched.
“Thanks,” I say, clearing my throat.
He inspects his palm, then wipes it on his pants. I must’ve left some sticky residue on his hand. At least the interaction wasn’t a total waste.
Perry lets out her laughter in the form of a burping grunt.
“Yikes,” Jimmy says to me. “Not hard to see why you did better on the test than those slobs.” He laughs to himself, then taps my arm with the back of his hand.
“I said I aced it,” Kirsten says, squinting at him. Jimmy ignores her comment.
I retreat into my phone, wondering how long this guy is going to stand here for.
“Oh!” Perry gasps. “Our newest paint-by-numbers kits just shipped.”
“Yay!” Kirsten squeals. “Right on schedule.”
We try to complete a new paint-by-numbers piece each season. We just completed our Christmas-themed canvases last week. But we finished past our deadline, or rather Kirsten’s deadline, and didn’t get to see the finished products before the holiday. As a result, Kirsten forced us to order our spring kits earlier than expected so we wouldn’t fall behind again.
“You can’t just paint on your own?” Jimmy asks. “You need little numbers to tell you were to put a color?” He laughs.
“No, actually, I don’t need the numbers,” Perry snaps. “It’s just more relaxing that way. I’d like to see you try.”
“Doesn’t mean you’re actually good at painting.”
“What the—” Perry stands.
I clear my throat. “I need to start cleaning up to close the store,” I lie. “Everyone should probably go.” I exhale.
“What?” Perry asks. “But we—”
I slice my neck with my hand and glance at Jimmy.
“Good idea. I can wait around after everyone leaves if you want?” Jimmy asks.
I blush. “Um, no, it’s okay. Closing the store takes a while,” I lie again. “You don’t have to stand here that whole time.”
He nods. “Here, take my number.”
“Uh…” I start. I stare at him, my mouth hanging slightly open.
“Your phone?” He shakes his phone in his hand.
I pull my phone from my pocket and punch in my code. He says his number for me to save, but I type 555-555-5555.
“Got it. I’ll text you mine,” I lie again.
“Sweet.” He gives me a nod and walks past Kirsten and Perry without saying anything.
“Bye!” Kirsten screams. She turns her attention back to me. “What a rude boy.”
“Well, I don’t like him,” Perry proclaims, throwing up her hands.
“I would hope not,” I say, and fling a straw at her. “That was your pick. Thanks for putting us through that.”
“You better have some self-respect and not text him,” Kirsten says. “I’ve taught you better.”
“I’m not going to. I didn’t even type in his number.”
“Oh, you’re a player,” Perry says, winking.
“Shut up. I can’t deal with you guys anymore.”
“His shoes were so weird,” Kirsten says, crossing her legs. “If he was going for classic vintage, he completely missed the mark.”
“Right? He looked like an old creeper,” Perry says. She straightens her back. “Oh my gosh.” Her eyes widen. “What if he is a creeper and gets mad when you don’t ever text him
and he stalks you and kills you? Remember that school assembly we had where the cop talked about that girl who was killed by the guy who found her through social media?”
“Are you kidding, Perry?” I ask. “Why would you say that?”
What if he is, though? It could totally happen. He knows where I work and go to school and could probably figure out where I live from my Instagram. Maybe I need to make my account private.
“Calm down. He’s not,” Kirsten says, dismissing the claim with a hand wave. “Savanna said she knows his family.”
“Next time you see Savanna, tell her I’ll handle my love life from now on,” I say.
“What love life?” Perry asks.
“My potential love life.”
“It has great potential,” Kirsten says.
“Thanks, Kirsten. I think so too.”
“I don’t. You’re ugly and smell bad!” Perry yells, smiling.
I laugh and scoop a pile of rainbow sprinkles into my hand, then chuck them at her. She screams and runs to the other side of the store. I keep throwing them as she tries to dodge. Kirsten remains seated. She wipes the sprinkles that landed on the table into her hand, escorting them carefully to the nearest trash can.
“Are you done?” Perry asks, brushing the sprinkles out of her hair.
“Yes, because I realize I have to clean this up now.” I thrust my hands on my hips.
I get the dustpan and broom from the closet and sweep up the sprinkles.
Kirsten stands. She clears her throat before speaking while her facial expression morphs into a look of concern. “Dylan,” she says in her announcer voice.
“Here we go,” Perry mumbles.
Kirsten is dead set on being a news anchor or TV host of some sort in her future life. I’ve done more mock interviews for her than I can count.
“Many people would be hurt after another lost chance at love,” she continues. Her tone drops two octaves. She enunciates each word slowly. “How are you coping right now?”
“By considering myself lucky I lost that chance,” I say. Kirsten inhales. But before she can get out another word, I keep talking. “Can you guys go now for real?” I ask. “I want to finish cleaning and get out of here.”
“Fine,” Kirsten says, returning to her normal voice. Her shoulders dip. “Please text us when you’re done.” She pulls her keys from her hoodie’s front pocket.
Kirsten is the only one out of the three of us who has her license, and I’m pretty sure she enjoys making everyone aware of it. Her car keys have enough key chains, rings, and bracelets to fill every accessories store in the Philadelphia area.
“See you tomorrow,” I say.
They leave, and I finish sweeping the floor. I wipe the counters, tables, and the ice-cream machines. I refill the napkins, straws, spoons, syrups, and candies. I empty the register and put the money in a pencil case in the safe in my manager’s office. The entire cleaning process
only takes about ten minutes because there were no customers today. We close at 8:00 p.m. and it’s 8:10 p.m. I’m ready to go, but as usual, my manager is nowhere to be found when it’s time for him to lock up the store.
While I’m waiting, I start picking at a piece of the plastic counter that’s chipping off. I think about how it’s made of atoms and how atoms are made of protons and electrons. How do people even come up with this stuff?
My favorite elements we had to memorize were californium and americium. Mainly because they were super easy to remember, but also because the people naming them were so over it they just picked some obvious name. Like, what if I discovered an element here at Dairy Queen? My teacher said elements are everywhere. I could name it oreoanium. Although that kind of sounds like some weird sex thing people would rap about.
The door clicks open. My daydreaming is broken at the perfect time before my mind wanders any further into picturing various sex positions involving Oreos.
I look up, expecting to see my manager, but it’s someone else.
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