"Come on, let me explain this to you," I said. "It's not that complicated."
"Just finish it yourself, all right?" Jesse's eyes remained glued to his phone, his thumb scrolling.
"But then you won’t learn to solve it yourself. What will you do next time?"
"I'll think about it the next time." He briefly looked up from the phone. "Are you done? Elliot will be back soon."
"Almost done." I returned my attention to the page, quickly scribbling the formulas and the solutions. Trigonometry was fun, like solving puzzles, and knowing that I was helping Jesse made it particularly pleasant. It didn’t take me long to finish, and when I raised my eyes, Jesse was looking at me, his phone lying by his side.
"Done," I said.
"Really? So fast?" He leaned over, pulled the notepad to himself and started looking through what I have written.
I took the opportunity to examine him closely. His features looked soft in the shadow cast by the upper bed, and his lips moved soundlessly as he was reading. I searched for some mark, some indication of an emotional impact of what has happened on Monday between him and Owen, but there were no sign of pain or trauma. He looked as careless as he always did, as if the pain and the tears have simply washed over him and left him unmarked. Could he just have shaken something like that off? Or maybe there were marks, only too deep to be seen?
His phone rang and he patted the bed, searching for it, his eyes still focused on the page.
"Yes," he snapped, and then glanced at the caller ID. "Oh, yeah, hi, Mom." His voice changed, notes of exaggerated cheerfulness slipping into his usual nonchalant tone. "Cool, cool, all is fine! Totally awesome. Had a game yesterday, yes. Had a great time." He paused, listening, his eyes directed at the notepad, unseeing. "No, it's cool, no problem at all. Go with Gary and the boys. Have fun." He laughed.
This sudden cheerfulness puzzled me. Was a call from his mother enough to put him in such a good mood?
"All right, it's light out soon, so I got to go. Totally nice to hear from you. Love you. Kisses."
He disconnected and dropped his phone onto the bed.
"Mom feels bad about going to a vacation in France without me." He shrugged. "No big deal. School can't be missed, right?"
"Who's Gary and the boys?"
"My step-dad and my two half-brothers." He nodded, chewing on his lower lip. All cheerfulness has left his face with the end of the call. "They're okay. They'll have good time."
"You could perhaps ask for a short leave," I said cautiously. "For how long are they going?"
"What? No, I'll stay here. No need to go with them and spoil all the fun."
I frowned. "Why would you spoil anything?"
He rolled his eyes and lowered his feet to the floor. "All right, Gordon, thanks for the homework. Where do you stand on chemistry?"
"Uhm…I like it," I said, eager to prolong the conversation. "It's even better than math. You know, it's sometimes called the 'central science' because it connects many other sciences, such as biology, physics --"
"Way too much information." He raised a hand, stopping me. "Wanna come back tomorrow at eight and help me with my chemistry homework?"
"When you say 'help me', you mean --"
"I mean 'do if for me', right." He got up, stretched, then grinned down at me. "Would that be fine with you?"
"Sure," I said, getting up. There was probably nothing in the world that he could ask me with that smile that I would say 'no' to. "I'll be going, then?"
"Yeah." He nodded, gathering his notebooks from the blanket. "Elliot will be back in a minute, so, well, thank you and good night." He straightened up and looked at me as I stood hesitant by his bed, not sure what I was waiting for but reluctant to just leave.
"What?" He frowned. "What are you waiting for? You don't expect me to fuck with you for a homework, right?"
"No, of course not," I said, appalled by the suggestion.
"Then what do you want?"
I just shrugged, not sure how to put into words my desire for his attention, affection, contact, anything I could get. He looked at me for a few seconds, then shook his head and placed the books on the table. He walked to me, ruffled my hair, then leaned over an planted a brief kiss on my lips.
"Will that do?" He leaned away and chuckled, seeing the uncontrolled smile spreading on my face. "Gosh, Gordon, you're so weird I sometimes think you're just screwing with me." He turned and moved to his table, waving one hand in the air in a gesture of dismissal. "Tomorrow at eight, and stop shoving yourself in my face during the breaks, deal?"
"Deal," I said, grinning like an idiot.