Enthalpies of Reaction - Elements of Chemistry (Part 1) ATTRACTION (2015)

Elements of Chemistry (Part 1) ATTRACTION (2015)


Chapter 4. Enthalpies of Reaction

“WHAT ARE YOU going to do?”


I heard Sam shift in her seat causing the leather to creak. “What do you mean nothing? He’s expecting you to go away with him for spring break.”

I shrugged, staring out the window of Martin’s chauffeured car. That’s right. A chauffeured car, for a twenty-year-old college student. If I hadn’t felt so pensive I might’ve looked for the Grey Poupon Dijon mustard.

After my lapse in judgment against the pool table, Martin had navigated Sam and me to the back of the fraternity house while calling his driver on the phone. The man was at the back door by the time we arrived.

Martin pulled me in for a quick kiss—which was completely bizarre, provocative, and off-putting—then unceremoniously loaded us in, telling his driver to take us to our dorm.

Sam pumped me for information as soon as the door shut. I related the facts, which gave me an opportunity to recover a measure of sanity. In hindsight, I realized I’d been acting like a crazy person. Proximity to Martin made me lose my sense. I’d been senseless. Without sense. Not any sense. No sense.


I spoke to the window rather than be faced with Sam’s anxious expression. “I mean, I’m going to do nothing. I can’t be held responsible for my reactions—what I say or what I do—when faced with a real life Martin Sandeke. He’s the man equivalent of a gun to the head, except without the fear for my life aspect. I’ll write him an email, tell him that he adversely affects my ability to function as a rational being. As such, our discussion this evening and all resultant agreements are null and void. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

I felt like I had stumbled into an alternate reality and was just now finding my way out of the rabbit hole.

Sam snorted. “Um, no. He’s not going to understand. And, I doubt he’ll take no for an answer. He’s kind of a bully that way, or least he has that reputation.”

This statement captured my curiosity; I turned in my seat to face Sam. “Wait, what do you mean? Does he—has he forced himself on—”

“No! God, no. I would never have teased you about getting his number if he forced himself on girls. That’s not what I meant. He wouldn’t need to do that in any case, as he has them lined up around the fraternity house with skirts up to their elbows, willing to bend whichever direction he prefers. I bet that’s why he was hiding upstairs. It must get exhausting at some point…” Sam trailed off and I got the sense she was speaking mostly to herself.

I frowned at Sam. “Rape isn’t about need, it’s about power.”

“Exactly. Sorry if I implied otherwise. Regardless, Martin Sandeke has a reputation for getting it on with a cornucopia of willing females.”

“Then what are you talking about? How is he a bully? Other than making females he’s slept with cry and getting into fist fights.” I listened to the words as they left my mouth, realizing that those two facts made him enough of a bully to be labeled as such.

“I just mean he’s used to getting his way, right? He has his own yacht. His. Own. Yacht.” She stared at me, her eyebrows raised with meaning. “If he wants something, it’s his. He doesn’t even ask, he just mentions it.”

I twisted my lips to the side and considered this information, not really understanding why it was pertinent to our discussion. “So? What has that got to do with me?”

Sam’s eyelids drooped with disbelief, but her eyebrows stayed suspended. “Have you not been paying attention? I saw the way he looked at you, the way he held your hand all the way to the car, the way he kissed you before we left. He wants you. Martin Sandeke wants you.”

I considered her, her words, and sighed. “I’m not a yacht.”

“No. You’re a girl. He’s had hundreds of girls. But he has only one yacht.” Then under her breath she added, “Well, he has only one yacht that I know of.”

“Sam, weren’t you the one pushing me to get his number?”

“Yes, but that was before I was told to stand outside while you went into his lair. That was before I saw the dazed look on your face when you emerged from the aforementioned lair. That was before I found out he wants you to go away with him for a week! I want you to get your freak on, but I don’t want you to get your heart broken.”

“I think you’re overreacting. You said yourself, he has them lined up around the block. I’ll politely decline his offer, and he’ll move on to someone else. There is no need to become hysterical.”

“I’m not hysterical and you are being purposefully obtuse.”

“Fine. I’ll sleep with him. I’ll call him tomorrow and tell him I want to get it over with. Then, by your logic, he’ll go away. Problem solved.”

Sam growled. “That’s not a good idea either.”

“Well, what do you want me to do?”

“You should tell him face-to-face that you don’t want to go. You should explain your reasons why and establish boundaries for future interactions. And you should have me there as your representative to make sure he doesn’t try to zap you with his sexy ray.”

“Zap me with his sexy ray?”

“You know what I’m talking about. I barely saw him and I’m feeling the effects. He’s got like an…electromagnetic pulse of sexy or something. So does his friend, Eric. They’re a menace. They shouldn’t be allowed in public.”

“That’s not how electromagnets work.”

“Whatever. You get my point.”

“We’re here.” The driver’s voice over the speaker interrupted our conversation and drew our attention to the view of our dorm outside my window.

I heard the sound of him exiting the car, presumably walking around to open my door.

Sam covered my hand with hers bringing my attention back to her. “Just think about what I said. Carter did a number on you, but his intentions weren’t hurtful. This guy,” she paused, her eyes moving between mine, “if Carter was a stick of dynamite, this guy is a nuclear weapon.”


THE CAMPUS EMAIL directory was public information within the school’s Black Board system. I could find any person’s email address by conducting a simple first name, last name, year enrolled search. However, since it was so easy to find a person’s email address, very few people actually used their on-campus email account, preferring Gmail or another alternative where spam wasn’t such an issue.

I knew this. I knew the chances of Martin actually receiving my email were minute. Regardless, I reasoned I would have the moral high ground if I sent him an email as soon as I arrived home. Then, when he showed up the next day and I was missing, I could point out later that I did—in fact—send him an email.

It wasn’t my fault if he didn’t check his email.


I hope you are well.

I appreciate your offer to accompany you on your travels during spring break, but I’ve reconsidered my response. Upon gaining distance from the situation, I see that I made an error when I agreed to go with you. I simply have too much school work to do this week. As well, I volunteer at a women’s crisis center as their resident desktop support. I do not want to leave without giving them proper notice as they count on me to be here when issues arise. Therefore, please accept my apologies. I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding an alternative.

As well, I would appreciate it if our future topics of conversation were limited to chemistry (and only chemistry) from now on. See you in the lab.


“What are you doing?” Sam asked as she walked into our room.

When we arrived back to the dorm, I’d gone to the bathroom first to wash my face and brush my teeth while Sam changed. Then, she went to the bathroom while I changed. But instead of changing, I pulled out my laptop.


She tsked, putting away her toiletries. “You’re sending him an email. That’s a mistake.”

“It doesn’t matter if he gets it. I sent it. That’s what matters.”

“That’s not what I meant. You’re giving him a heads-up. Now he’ll be able to plan a counter attack.”

I glanced at her from the corner of my eye. “Counter attack? This is not some exercise from Sun Tsu’s The Art of War, this is me rejecting his free vacation offer. What can he do?”

“You’ll see.” She said this in a sing-song voice, switching off the light on her side of the room, and climbing into bed.

“Besides. I sent it to his school account. He probably won’t even get it.”

“Then he’ll show up tomorrow and you’ll have to deal with him in person.”

“No. I’ll be gone. He said he’d be here at eight. I’ll leave at seven and stay at the library all day.”


“Is a chameleon a coward because it can change its color? No. It’s evolved and awesome. I like to think of myself in a similar fashion. There is nothing wrong with having a strong sense of self-preservation.”

“Whatever. Do you want me to wake you up? I have tennis practice at six.”

“Nah, I’ll set the alarm on my phone.” I closed my laptop and tucked it next to our shared nightstand, then stood to dress for bed.

After changing, I grabbed my phone to set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. I wanted to be gone long before Martin or one of his people arrived. I usually woke up around 7:30 a.m., therefore the alarm was necessary.

Upon glancing at the screen of my cell, I noticed I had two missed calls from my mother plus a text message. It read,

Just got home. Call when you can. I’ll be up until 2.

My mother: senator, workaholic, efficient conversationalist, superhero.

Distracted by the message, I abandoned my alarm for the moment and dialed my mother’s number. It wouldn’t take long. Our discussions rarely lasted over three minutes. She answered after one point five rings.

“Kaitlyn. You have not communicated your plans for spring break. Is it your intention to join us in Monterey or are you remaining on campus?” my mother’s brisk, businesslike voice sounded from the other end.

She had an agenda and talking points for every conversation. Growing up, she would hand me a paper copy and ask me to follow along. When I was very young, she used pictures in place of words and we’d discuss things like: Three month review: Preschool. Scheduled: Haircut. Action plan required: Cleaning your room. Music: Interfering with scheduled playtime.

Before I left for college, if one or both of my parents were traveling, the family meeting would be conducted via conference call. Now we typically held the meeting via conference call due to my physical absence from home. Topics for discussion ran the gamut of Purchase Request: New Bike, to Family News: Your Grandmother has cancer, to Point of Concern: Time spent on music surpassing time spent on homework, to Scheduled Recreation: Yearly vacation options, to Kaitlyn News: Accepted to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Caltech.

“I am remaining on campus.”

“Will Sam be present?”


“Do you require any funds?”


“Are you amenable to a visit with your father and me next Sunday? Brunch or lunch, Kartwell’s Deli.”

“Yes. Sunday. Brunch.”

Even now, family meetings occurred on Sundays. My father and I would submit agenda items to George, my mother’s PA (Personal Assistant) no later than Friday night. A draft agenda would be circulated Saturday afternoon for comment and the final version distributed Saturday evening. Attached to the agenda would be a copy of our individual calendars for the next month, updated weekly.

I’d fallen out of the habit of updating my calendar since leaving home. Agendas, schedules, and lists ensured we made the most efficient use of our time. I knew this. But my schedule only changed once a semester. My life was predictable, therefore I saw no need to send weekly updates.

“How is school?”

“Very well. How is work?”

To my surprise, she didn’t provide her typical rapid-fire response of, “It is what it is.” Instead, she paused then sighed and said, “Terrible.”

My mouth opened and closed, I could feel my eyebrows jump on my forehead. “Uh…care to elaborate?”

“My Net Neutrality measure is not progressing to my satisfaction in The House, the Telecommunications lobbyists are growing rabid, and the FCC is being difficult. I am frustrated.”

I immediately responded, “Net Neutrality is an important issue and worth the effort and frustration. You are doing the right thing.” Every once in a while I served as my mother’s cheerleader. Every so often she served as mine. These occasions were rare as we both believed in self-sufficiency unless circumstances were dire.

However, we loved each other. Neither of us were so austere as to withhold support when it was requested, but I appreciated and subscribed to her no-drama mantra. Energy should be spent on solutions to real problems—like the abysmal status of the US foster care system, or our strained foreign policy with Pakistan, or Telecommunications giants using Net Neutrality as a weapon against the public good—therefore, when she said she was frustrated it usually meant she was at her wit’s end.

“Thank you. I appreciate your words of encouragement and I value your opinion.” Her tone was softer. It was the voice she’d used when I was a kid and she’d read me the first three Harry Potter books before bedtime.


She then surprised me further by saying, “You know I love you, right?”

Again, my mouth did its little opening and closing dance before I blurted, “Of course. Of course I know you love me. I love you too.”


She told me every Sunday that she loved me. It was the last thing my parents and I would exchange on our conference calls even though it wasn’t listed on the agenda. A mid-week I love you hadn’t occurred since my parents dropped me off at University my freshman year.

I was about to push her for more details on the source of her stress, because she was obviously out of sorts and had me concerned, but before I could, her efficient tone was back.

“Please send George your updated calendar with a weekly update for the period of spring break. You do not have classes next week, as such the calendar is incorrect.”

“I will.”

“Thank you. Goodnight, Kaitlyn.”

“Goodnight, Mom.”

She clicked off first. I held the phone to my ear for several seconds before lowering it to the nightstand, then distractedly readied myself for bed.

My mom was the daughter of a physicist (my grandmother) and an astronaut (my grandfather). My grandfather was also a physicist in the Navy. She’d been an overachiever her whole life and believed in goal-focused structure. She was a superhero. She was my hero. Therefore, moments when she allowed herself to display vulnerability were distressing. It was like watching Superman struggle through a bout of kryptonite exposure.

I returned to my pillow and comforter, both of which I loved; they smelled like lavender, and were so cozy, poems should be written about their epic cozy wonder. I snuggled against their softness and willed away the touch of anxiety I felt about my mom’s strange behavior.

Eventually I fell asleep.