She couldn’t pay an attentive attention to the lecture. Even particle physics used to be her favorite subject, not so long time ago. Layla could barely grasp what Miss Ha was saying. It seemed like she just murmured something to her sight. Two minutes passed. She counted, every second. The round clock with black and white frame that was pasted against the front wall of the class, adjacent to the wall of the door showed that it was around twenty five minutes before the class should end. She anticipated for the lecture to end earlier. Fifteen minutes earlier would be more than enough.
The sky outside was at its best plain turquoise. There was no cloud, at least not within Layla’s view. Once in a while she threw a few glances outside looking for things she was unsure. Once in a while too, the afternoon breeze blew gently, entered the class through the open window and caressed her face. She got occupied with that. Apparently, she learned particle physical in some peculiar ways.
Another two minutes passed. There was no sign that the lecture would end within her anticipation. Half of the chapter must be covered that day. That what was they had being told by Miss Ha earlier, before she started her lecture. The whole class showed quite convincing enthusiasm though. And that drove Miss Ha to continue her lecture, energetically.
She felt someone prodded her shoulder, bringing her back to reality. It was Giti, the girl with braces who sat next to her, on her right to be precise.
“Yes Miss!” She answered, guessing that it was Miss Ha who called for her just now. Layla gave an innocent smile to her physics lecturer.
“Are you here?”
“Apparently I am” The whole class burst into laugh. Not many dared to play around with Miss Ha except for some oblivious students. And Layla happened to be one of those not so many. She didn’t care. Or she didn’t scare.
“Later I’m going to ask you some questions”
“Bring it on” She whispered to the ears of those who were seated in front of her and for sure her soft and naughty voices didn’t peregrinated far, not until it came to the knowledge of Miss Ha. Miss Ha continued the lecture.
Giti looked at Layla. Hopelessly. And Layla smiled naughtily as a response to one of her best friends. She knew that smile was for her concern.
Soon, there were signs of the lecture would end in the near future. The students started to pack their things into their bags. There was sound of zips of the bags, sound of books being jobbed against the desks, sounds of pencil box and inevitably the students started to talk to each other which sounded like the bees, buzzing peacefully in the class. Their relish for lecture seemed to have shifted to excitement to go home. Layla were ready, she packed her things long before others did.
“So Layla, can you describe what is Hadron?”
“A composite particle made of quarks held together by the strong force in a similar way as molecules are held together by the electromagnetic force”
Awesome. Without any due, she impressed the class, with high esteem and convincing answer. The eyes of her classmates, some of them were focusing on her. Some of them remain in silence, not knowing whether Layla gave a right answer or not.
“Ok good. Thank you class, see you next week”
Layla smiled upon hearing that. She was not impressed with that though. She quickly left her class and made a fast pace heading to the bus stop.
The school bus that she would daily wait for was already there, waiting for the students to board. Uncle Lim was sitting on the driver seat, old driver seat with some parts of the cushion were torn apart, exposing the material inside of the cushion. There was yellow soft, light, porous, absorbent substance that people call sponge inside that. It didn’t pique Layla’s attention though.
Uncle Lim was reading a Mandarin newspaper. Layla glanced at the paper. She recognised some faces printed on the front page. It was the prime minister and few members of the cabinet. She didn’t give a thorough look, since that nothing had to do with her.
She made her way and chose to sit at the very back seat, again next to an Indian boy, the same boy who accompanied her the day before. Only that, this time she didn’t have with her the old novel. She finished it last night, after she was done with her homework. The Indian boy was eating some cookies, black cookies with spots of chocolate chips on top of them. There were nuts also inside the black cookies which looked like to be homemade ones.
The intense smell of the cookies intrigued Layla. She watched the boy, with cautious. And that gave an obnoxious feeling to the boy. He attempted not to look at Layla, enjoying his cookies at his best while looking through the window, at the students who were standing under the strong sun ray, waiting for their parents to fetch them. Sometimes he looked at the cookies, once he was done with a bite. It happened repeatedly. He was in his own world whilst Layla was in other dimension.
“Can I have some?”
Layla took all the gut she had to ask for that. She just couldn’t resist the temptation. Layla had an earnest passion towards cookies. It’s not the taste that matters most. She just love the cookies, like people love their cats, or like doctors love the operating apparatus, or like the chemist love the chemical, yes a weird thing to love.
“Yes if you don’t mind”
The boy offered one piece of the biscuits. He took it out from the light blue plastic container and gave it to her. Layla nastily took it from his fingers. What she did later was idiosyncratic enough at least to the Indian boy. She didn’t eat it. Instead, she brought it few inches to her eyes and scrutinized the cookie like she had never seen cookies before, just like aliens from Venus who just spotted a human being.
Later she broke the upper part of the cookie. The tiny pieces of the broken cookies fell down on both of her laps. That didn’t bother her. She inspected the internal parts the cookie, with high curiosity, to know what was inside the cookie apart from the nuts and the chocolate chips. She looked like an archaeologist who just found a new fossil underneath the abandoned soil. There were enthusiasm and passion on her face.
“Your mum made this, boy?”
“…Yes” The Indian boy was reluctant to talk to her. Enough with all the strange things Layla did just now to make him felt unpleasant in fact threatened.
He felt like sitting next to a school girl with severe mental problem. He tried to be unfriendly, so that there would be no question followed, or so that he would not need to engage to a conversation with a girl who looked suspicious and not to mention treacherous. Perhaps giving the cookie was one of the biggest mistakes he did for the whole week, he might thought so.
“She must be a very good cook !” She exclaimed, in excitement. “So, I’m Layla..” She offered her hand to shake..
“I thought you’re Muslim”