Hmm, an example of radioactive decay that does not lead to transmutation...
I bit the end of my pencil, weighing the homework sheet between my half attended to dinner plate and myself. I could always do the assignment later but I liked to stay away from places laced with intellectual corruptions like the internet and textbooks. I always tried to attempt my assignments from pure memory alone before crosschecking. It was the only way to test what I actually knew and not pretend that I know everything I'm copying down into my notes from a textbook. Short term memory is very deceiving.
"Wyatt, stop doing your assignments at the table," I heard my mum's voice say as I scribbled my short answer underneath the question with a pencil so I could correct it later. I blinked behind my white rimmed glasses before looking across the table at her. Her jaw was set painfully in obvious irritation, and my father was sitting next to her with a worried look on his face.
I looked from one end of the table to the other wondering why I was the one person she decided to pick on this night. My older sister Ava was eating on the left, while my younger sister Candace was picking at the leftover peas on her plate with a fork on the right. I then turned to my side to find my twin brother Caleb sketching away on his drawing pad.
"You're letting Caleb draw," I said defensively, making my mother sigh in frustration. Caleb looked up, probably wondering why his name was being called.
"At least he puts his work aside to eat occasionally. Plus, he has an exhibition coming up and he needs to finish up two paintings by then," my mother said as Caleb returned back to scribbling in his pad, he'd probably realized the conversation wasn't inclusive of him.
"I have this homework due soon as well," I said, clutching on to my assignment sheet. It was actually due in two weeks, but she didn't have to know that.
"Put it away Wyatt," my father suddenly said with a firm tone, butting into the conversation. I frowned at him, but I put my assignment away anyway. My father rarely spoke and when he did it was out of raw emotion. I didn't need him to be angry with me.
My mum's frown eased when I picked up my fork and started eating from my plate. She finally took her attention away from me, making light conversation with the rest of the table as I ate with an irritated frown on my face.
They always treat me differently.
I thought to myself as I looked around the wooden table at my family. We all shared the same dark hair and brown eyes, we all looked very similar. It was very obvious we were blood relatives from a mere glance, and yet with all these similarities I still felt left out.
They don't appreciate me.
Everyone in the Wilson family was an artist. Well, everyone but me. My father was a freelance illustrator and cartoonist, and my mother was a more traditional artist being a painter. Ava was in her first year of Art school and Candace and Caleb were already winning art contests within and beyond the country, and I was well, me; my small talent-less sixteen-year-old self who couldn't even construct a stick man with a ruler.
I tried to make up for it. I've been the top of my class since I remember. My family members just don't seem to care about that. They praised each other's achievements, and Caleb was usually in the limelight. I never understood it. Caleb was just an average student managing to scrap C's and B's. He didn't bring in the straight A's that I did. A lot of people tell me that my parents must be very happy with my grades, if only they knew the reality... I can't even remember the last time I saw any of my parents within the crowd during a debate.
The fact that my family's idea of bonding was heading to art exhibitions together, or heading to a public place to draw and paint really didn't help matters. I was usually stuck at home or standing at the far corner as strangers complimented them as they worked. Their compliments were usually on the lines of 'It's wonderful you can all do this!', 'What a talented family!' and I'd just be sitting at the corner watching them ignore my existence.
My family was known as the weird prodigy filled one down the street. I was sadly not one of them. Although a math or physics Olympic champion would probably be considered as a prodigy I wasn't exactly sure I met the cut to be considered one.
"You stopped eating," my mother said, pulling me out of my thoughts. I looked at her in the dim dining room light as I wondered what she was thinking.
"I'm not hungry anymore," I muttered, dropping the fork I was holding loosely before pulling my chair out and picking up my assignment sheets from the center of the table.
"Thank you for the meal," I said to my parents, earning a dismissive nod from both of them, permitting me to leave.
I left the table, walking up the stairs as I looked at the framed certificates and artworks hanging from the walls. None of mine were up there — My certificates, that is (We don't need a joke about me creating art now, do we?) All my certificates were all academic and according to my parents had a better place hanging up in my room or neatly tucked into a folder.
No one simply cares.
The thought crossed my mind as I opened the door to my bedroom. I wonder why I keep trying to impress them. I can't do what they want, and what I have to offer isn't a good substitute according to their standards. Grades, school work, and academic achievements just don't matter to them.
No one cares.
I thought again as I tossed my assignment sheets on my desk.
No one bloody cares if I'm a genius.
"Thank you, thank you so much!" Rose, a ginger-haired girl in our year screeched as her phone came on in Ben's hands. Ben shrugged, handing the android phone back to the excited girl.
I rolled my eyes as I tried to concentrate on my physics textbook. Aiyana who was reading a book on her tablet wasn't paying much attention to the scene at the table. Rose finally left after Ben gave her some pointers, bringing back the air of silence on our table.
"You should start charging them," Aiyana muttered under her breath, not taking her eyes of her tablet as she scrolled upwards with a teal painted fingernail.
"I can't do that, and it's not like most of the problems they bring to me are that much of a big deal anyway," Ben muttered, running a hand through his short curly hair as his brown eyes eyed Aiyana's untouched piece of cake.
"Are you going to eat that?" he asked, making Aiyana sigh with an eye roll. She gestured with her free hand that he could have it, earning a toothy grin from Ben.
"I agree with Aiyana, you should start charging them," I said, highlighting a block of text with my green highlighter.
Ben was a tech genius. He could literally fix anything. I think he's the only person I know that can open up and mess with an iPhone. He was like a god in school, bringing crashed laptops back to life, giving gadgets a whole new look by tinkering with their parts, recovering lost data, and helping kids hack into the school's blocked wifi every once in a while.
Ben wasn't a book brainiac like Aiyana and me. He excelled in math in all forms of algebra, calculus, and statistics. He also did very well in Physics and Information Technology, but he usually needed my help to make a decent score in Chemistry, and sometimes Aiyana had to coach him throughout the term to make a pass in English and Economics.
"I don't know," Ben started, digging into Aiyana's cake, "that doesn't seem very nice."
I smiled at his reply. Ben had this odd sense of morality that was extremely peachy and detached from reality.
Aiyana let out a loud sigh, making me turn to face her. She was still concentrated on her phone, biting her lips every once in a while as her finger continued to scroll.
"What book?" I asked making Aiyana look up for the first time. Her brown eyes complimented her equally brown skin, her wavy hair was put up in a bun and the sides were gelled stylishly.
"Native son," she muttered, returning her attention to her phone.
"I will never comprehend how someone can read such a fat ass novel," Ben said, obviously remembering the purple hard copy Aiyana had carried about two days ago.
Aiyana ignored him, rolling her eyes. "I have history next period, what about you guys?"
"We have chemistry," I answered, running a hand through my brown hair before adjusting my white rimmed glasses. Chemistry was definitely one of my favorite subjects. Miss Jones was the best teacher I've ever had for a subject.
The bell went soon after, making all three of us get up from the table without hesitation. That was a basic trait we all shared- we didn't like being late.
"See you guys later," Aiyana managed to say as she stuffed her tablet into her sling bag before walking off. Ben and I had to drop our trays before heading up to the third floor for chemistry.
I chuckled when Ben paused every once in a while as we walked up the stairs to complain about how he was 'dying' on our journey to class. For some reason, our school had thought it was a good idea to put all the science labs on the top floor.
We soon got to the top floor and Ben let out a loud 'Hallelujah!' before rushing into the chemistry lab. I walked in soon after finding Miss Jones alone with a student at her table. I raised a brow at the scene realizing that I'd never noticed the guy that was chatting away to Miss Jones with a smile before.
"Who's that?" Ben asked, reading my mind.
"I don't know," I muttered as I dropped my bag on the table up front. Ben took the seat next to me, earning a threatening glare from me.
"What?" Ben asked in mock surprise as he took out his lab coat from his bag. Ben knew I hated sitting with him in biology and Chemistry. I might be his friend but I'd rather not have him as a lab partner, all he ever did was look on until I carried out the experiment alone out of frustration.
The other students had started coming into the class and the lab was soon buzzing with murmuring. People were still messing around with their phones since Miss Jones wasn't looking.
I impatiently scribbled on the corner of my notepad as I waited for Miss Jones to start class.
"Okay, since I told you about our practical beforehand I assume that you're all ready for it. Quantitative analysis might look simple but there are so many rooms for a mistake that you just have to be careful," Miss Jones finally said, gaining the attention of the class. People put away their phones quickly. If anything, Miss Jones was known for confiscating items and refusing to give them back for weeks. No one wanted their phone to be one of those items.
"Also, this is Ji-Hun. He's a new student so please be patient with him," Miss Jones said turning her attention to the dark haired boy that was sitting on a stool by her desk.
People started muttering under their breaths after that. We weren't used to new students at my school. I can't even remember the last time I saw someone new irrespective of their grade during the start of a new school year.
"You can work with Wyatt today," Miss Jones muttered, looking from Ji-Hun to me. Ben let out a low groan before packing up his books in preparation to find another partner.
"I actually have to work today," Ben whined as he slung his bag over his shoulder. I rolled my eyes as I watched him leave, Ji-Hun came to take his place soon after. He dropped his bag next to the seat beside me, getting on it before throwing a smile my way.
"Hey," he muttered as we collected the question and answer sheets that were being passed around. I smiled, feeling a little odd at his friendliness. I wasn't used to talking to anyone but Ben and Aiyana. Ji-Hun nodded when he realized I wasn't going to answer, before turning to scribble onto his sheet with his left hand. My eyes widened in interest when I realized he was writing from an odd side.
"You're left-handed?" I asked, tilting my head a little to watch him write. His handwriting was neat, print like. He also held his pen oddly, his fingers more than a reasonable length away from the tip. He was holding his pen as if it was a brush.
He dropped his black pen after scribbling down the necessary information on the record table. "What, is using my left hand weird?" he asked with a small laugh.
I shrugged, proceeding to fill out my own table. "Only ten to fifteen percent of people in the world are left handed so it's pretty unique."
"Thank you?" he muttered, making me chuckle. I watched as his face reddened a little as he pushed back his straight bangs away from his forehead. I smiled at that, although he was trying his best not to show it, it was obvious that he was nervous.
"I think we should set things up, titrating takes a while," I said, changing the topic.
"Yeah." he nodded in agreement as he watched me set the stand. I gave a mental sigh of relief as he prepared the solution. It looked like he knew what he was doing and that was a relief considering it meant I won't be the only one doing actual work.
We worked in fair silence until Ji-Hun groaned as he mistakenly swallowed base for the fourth time in a row. I laughed, watching as he wiped at his mouth with the back of his clothed hand furiously. We were about an hour into the experiment but I wasn't worried we were ahead of the class by two readings.
"I hate this, why do they only have the manual ones?" Ji-Hun complained as I watched him empty the pipette into the sink beside us.
"We're never going to finish this test," I laughed as I watched Ji-Hun wipe his mouth with the sleeve of his teal jumper again. "I think you should also put on your lab coat."
"I'm a rebel," Ji-Hun whispered before sticking out his tongue.
"You're just giving yourself more laundry," I pointed out, earning an amused chuckle from him.
The rest of the practical class went on with us engaging in small talk as we worked. Apparently, he and his family had been living in the US for the past year and a half and had only just moved states. He also had a sister who was a senior here.
"Thank you, for the first time I didn't end up doing everything by myself," I said as we cleaned up our work area. The next class was a few minutes from now. Ji-Hun nodded, as he rinsed the beakers under the tap water.
"What do you have next?" he asked as I arranged my sheets for submission.
"Biology," I said as the bell for the next class went.
"Ah, I have psychology I guess we have to part now," Ji-Hun said with a grin. "It was nice meeting you."
"I could say the same," I said earning an eye roll from him. I smiled to myself. I wasn't sure why I was being so friendly, it wasn't like me but I was enjoying myself.
We parted with the rest of the class and Ben was soon by my side asking me what Ji-Hun and I had been talking about. I just smiled, ignoring him as I parted ways with him at his Building Tech class and headed to Biology.
During the next day of school, the vice principal called me into her office to ask me to show Ji-Hun around. I'd given her a small smile, not sure if I should be happy or annoyed at being assigned to do something like that. It meant I would miss some classes, and I wasn't sure how I felt about that.
"I guess I'm showing you around," I muttered, spotting Ji-Hun in the reception of the vice principal's office as I stepped out. He looked up, giving me a toothy grin before getting up from the red sofa with his backpack. He was wearing blue faded jeans with a white and gray check shirt that had the first few buttons undone to expose a gray tank top.
"Did she give you a hall pass?" he asked as I opened the door that led into the hallway. I walked out, humming a small yes in reply as he closed the door behind him.
I followed him to his locker, waiting for him to put away his books so I could go ahead with showing him around. I sighed, thinking about the notes I wouldn't be able to take. I bit my lip, deciding that I would text Ben and ask him to help me take notes, or I could miraculously bump into him in the crowd of students and ask him then. Yeah, that would do just fine.
I gave a sigh of relief when Ji-Hun shut his locker. I had started to get a slight headache from the noise students were making in the hallway and I was more than desperate to leave.
"Let's go then, I don't like being in crowds," I complained as Ji-Hun tucked away his key. For a straight minute, I thought his eyes held some sort of worry but I narrowed my eyes at him to make sure I wasn't imagining things and it was gone just as fast — odd.
I lead him out of the school building for a short trek to the school's basketball/volleyball court. The bell for the start of classes went soon after, the sound faint to us because of the distance of the school building from us and its brick walls.
"I can't believe I'm missing class," I sighed, using a hand to block out the sun from the screen of my phone as I composed a text to Ben asking him to help me take notes. Ji-Hun shrugged beside me, stopping at my side as he waited for me to complete my text. He kicked stationary rocks about with his jean sneakers as he waited for me. I soon put my phone away and made it clear that we could keep going.
"Here we are," I said as we got to the gates of the basketball court.
"It's locked," I sighed, spotting the lock on the blot.
Ji-Hun hummed, before laughing lightly at the situation. "We can see everything from here, I don't see how that's a problem."
I chuckled, understanding his point. I looked through the wire gate and into the court. The basket was leaning forward from its pole. Its condition was probably subject to the number of students that tried to show off by grabbing onto the ring to make a stylish basket. The blue and white paint on the clay floor of the court was both fading and chipping, but the important lines were still very much visible.
"If we're done looking at chipped paint can we go somewhere else?" Ji-Hun asked, earning a smile from me. He came off as sort of corky and friendly all round — I liked it.
I showed him the soccer field next. We hung out by one of the goal posts as we chattered away about nothing in particular. It was weird being comfortable around anyone but Aiyana and Ben. Ji-Hun had a habit of jumping from topic to topic and he also picked the right time to make jokes.
We headed back to the school building soon after, making the long journey to the third floor to check out the labs. We couldn't enter the chemistry lab because seniors were having a lab class at the moment but we got to enter the biology lab.
Ji-Hun messed around with the skeleton, making it stay in silly poses. When he got bored he headed over to disarrange the organs of the school's human model. A small part of me wanted to tell him to stop touching things but the part of me that was amused by the puns and jokes he made while inspecting one of the model's organs was much stronger.
We headed for the physics lab next. The lab technician was around so we had to sit through a talk about the lab equipment. The way the balding man's eyes shone as he discussed with Ji-Hun made it obvious that he'd taken an immediate liking to him. Ji-Hun was curious and actually asked questions. He didn't look bored and seemed to actually enjoy the talk. It was the same in the home economics and food and nutrition labs. I couldn't help rolling my eyes when the teacher handed him a muffin for no reason what so ever.
When we were about done wandering from lab to lab I decided to lead Ji-Hun back to the hallway. I sighed when he stopped suddenly before turning to give him a glare.
"Look, we're done looking at the labs, okay?" I said as I watched him wander down the hall.
"We didn't go to the art room," he said, stopping at the door of one of the three art studios in our school. I paused, tightening my Jaw at the thought of going in there. I didn't need to be reminded that I was a lot less talented than my twin brother.
"Can we not?" I asked, partially pleading. Ji-Hun raised a questioning brow at me. He was clearly confused.
"Is there any particular reason why we shouldn't?" he asked as he placed his hand on the knob of the studio door.
"I..." I started, thinking of something to say, but all my possible answers would have me making mention of my brother, and I didn't want that.
"Never mind," I sighed, walking up to him. His confused frown was soon replaced by a smile before he hurried ahead of me by turned the knob and heading into the art room.
I made a mental sigh of relief when I peeped into the art room and my brother was nowhere in sight. For once his schedule favored me.
"Good morning sir," Ji-Hun said, directing his greetings to the man who was sitting on a donkey at the far end of the studio. He was working on a cardboard with ink but it was hard to tell what exactly he was doing from where I was standing.
"Good morning," the man replied, not taking his eyes of what he was doing. He didn't even bother asking why we were there in the first place. The art teacher was just as detached from reality as my brother. To be more specific, that's how my whole family acted. They barely acknowledged the existence of anyone but themselves. Maybe it was an artist trait, I wasn't sure.
"Wow," Ji-Hun said, pulling me out of my thoughts. I turned to look at what he was observing and my throat went dry at the sight of the painting. I vividly remembered Caleb working on that painting. It was a complex painting done in contrasting colors with a vast central theme.
"It's in the surrealist style," Caleb had plainly told me as he'd wiped the blue and yellow splatters of paint on his cheek with the back of his long-sleeved shirt. It had been funny to watch, considering he'd only smeared it all over his cheek instead of effectively wiping it off.
"Hey, you're not saying anything. Don't you think this is well done?" Ji-Hun asked, turning back to me with a smile. I shrugged, heading over to sit on a nearby donkey bench. My mood was ruined and I wasn't the one to forge happiness.
"Hey, you didn't answer me," Ji-Hun complained, his voice sounding partially irritated. My disinterest in the painting must have ruined his mood- well, look at that.
"He's seen it before," the art teacher suddenly said, trying to explain my attitude.
'Oh," Ji-Hun muttered before walking to observe something else.
"Who makes these?" Ji-Hun said out loud as he ran a finger over a piece done in charcoal, asking no one in particular.
"The art students of course, but most of them are by Caleb," the art teacher answered from the corner. His voice was a lot clearer than before... like he was expressing his pride. The side of my lip twitched in annoyance. Great, someone else to remind me of my brother.
"He's really good," Ji-Hun said. I knew I wasn't supposed to be offended. Heck, he didn't even know Caleb was my brother but I still felt as if he was silently comparing him to me.
After a few more minutes Ji-Hun and I left the art studio. We decided to stay in the library till the bell went for lunch. I got a text from Ben telling me he'd helped me take down notes as I'd asked.
"Do you have anywhere to sit?" I asked Ji-Hun as he got to the cafeteria's entrance, the place was already crowded with students, meaning there had probably been a free period for most students just before lunch break.
"No," Ji-Hun admitted, running a hand through his hair. I looked from him to the lunch table I shared with Ben and Aiyana, wondering if inviting him to sit with us was a good idea.
"Would you like to sit with me and my friends?" I asked, deciding it was no harm. A big smile made its way on Ji-Hun's face before he muttered a quick yes. He followed me to our table, waving awkwardly as Ben looked towards us with a puzzled look.
"I helped with your notes," Ben said, repeating what he'd sent me in form of texts over and over again.
"I know. You've told me already, remember?" I said, rolling my eyes as I settled down on my seat. I watched Ben's eyes move to Ji-Hun as he took the seat beside me. He was obviously curious as to why he was sitting with us. I kicked him from beneath the table to stop him from staring.
Aiyana coughed after Ben let out a cuss word beneath his breath after I kicked him. Aiyana didn't like people cussing and she coughed whenever Ben mistakenly lost himself and cussed in front of her.
"Why the long face?" I asked, placing my head in my palm. I hadn't carried any of my books with me, so I was stuck doing nothing.
"Nothing, I'm just stressed." She shrugged, drumming the newly painted nails of one hand on the cafeteria table as she scrolled through her phone with the other. I smiled, realizing she'd changed her phone case yet again. It was obvious it was from some sort of merch site.
"Is that a superfruit phone case?" I asked calmly as Aiyana lowered her phone. Her frown had been replaced with an excited smile.
"Yes!" She replied in excitement, taking the jacket of her iPhone to show it off at the center of the table. "It's Mitch at the back. They had Scott too and I couldn't decide which one to get so I got them both so I'll be changing it frequently."
I smiled as she chattered away, happy that my single comment could brighten her day. Aiyana was in love with a number of YouTubers and would gladly jump at any opportunity to discuss them.
"If you guys are done talking can someone please help me with this problem?" Ben asked, pushing his math note to the center of the table to take the place of Aiyana's phone case. She shot him a dirty look but took her phone case away anyway.
I leaned in to get a look at the question before signing with a shake of my head. "To be honest, I haven't figured out how to solve that question either. I was thinking of showing a different math teacher later today."
"Can I see it?" Ji-Hun asked, reaching out for Ben's notebook.
"The question is practically impossible," Ben whined as Ji-Hun took his pen and notebook from him.
"I'll try," Ji-Hun said with a smile as he started scribbling on the last page of Ben's note. I raised a brow as I watched him solve. He periodically stopped to cancel a line then continued from there. He eventually stopped altogether; drawing a double line under what I suppose was his answer.
"I think I've done it," he muttered with a smile as he handed Ben's note back to him. Ben gave him a look of disbelief before flipping to the back of his textbook to confirm Ji-Hun's answer.
"Shit," Ben started, looking up at Ji-Hun with a fat grin, "he's correct."
"Dude you're a genius," Ben said with a small laugh as he gave Ji-Hun's shoulder a friendly nudge.
"Hey Wyatt, what do you think?" Ben asked, noticing how quiet I'd gone.
"That's great," I muttered under my breath as Ben went back to chatting with Ji-Hun. No, it wasn't okay. I was the genius, and Ji-Hun knowingly or unknowingly had taken that away from me even if it was for a few minutes.