Considering Chemistry

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Note: This is a sequel of sorts to a number of my earlier stories — An Apology in the Morning, The Education of Mrs Jones, Demagnetisation, and In Confidence — in that it shares a couple of characters with them. However, it should stand alone.


It was a fine summer day, and Fiona was sitting in the garden, revising, when the woman came out into the garden next door. Fiona caught the motion out of the corner of her eye, and glanced round, surprised; Mrs Lewis was supposed to be away for a few days, she thought. But the woman who’d appeared from her house certainly wasn’t Mrs Lewis; she was much younger — just in her twenties, by the look of her. She was carrying a folding garden couch, which she began to unfold on the lawn.

Well, she certainly isn’t acting like a burglar or anything, Fiona thought. Is this any of my business? But she carried on looking. The stranger was dark-skinned, with short dark hair in loose curls, and wearing a light, silky, patterned sundress. Well, it was a warm day. Fiona suddenly felt overdressed in her T-shirt and jeans. Fiona’s hair suddenly felt wrong, too, although she was never quite sure about it; she liked to think she was strawberry blonde, and she wore it mid-length, currently in a plain, neat bunch at the back — but she had a nasty feeling that was ageing or uncool or something.

Irritated at herself, Fiona tried to shrug off her doubts. She was about to go back to her textbook when the woman finished setting up the couch, and stood up straight beside it, kicking off her sandals.

Then the woman pulled her sundress up over her head, revealing that she was wearing just a skimpy pair of knickers underneath.

Fiona stifled a gasp and did turn back to her book as the woman extracted a pair of sunglasses from her small handbag, and then got a paperback out from somewhere and lay down on the couch.

Fiona forced her attention back onto chemistry.

A supersaturated solution is one which contains more of the dissolved substance than the quantity of solvent could normally contain at its current temperature and pressure…

After a couple of minutes, she’d regained her concentration. But then, the strange woman spoke.

“Hi,” she called out. “You must be Fiona.”

“Uh — oh, yes.” Fiona looked up from her book again. “Hello,” she added uncertainly.

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Louise. Gran’s told me about you.” The woman strolled up to the fence and leaned on it to talk to Fiona, who turned on her seat to reply.

“Oh — Mrs Lewis is your grandma?”

“Yeah.” The woman named Louise smiled pleasantly. “I said that I’d keep an eye on her house for her while she’s visiting her sister. Water the plants, stuff like that, y’know?”

“Oh, right. Sorry, but you didn’t look like…” Fiona trailed off, aware that she was sounding foolish.

“Not much like Gran? No, I guess not. Seeing as she’s a little old white-haired lady, and I’m…” Louise shrugged and gestured, implicitly indicating her young body and coffee-coloured skin. Fiona blushed, partly at the woman’s near-nakedness and partly at what she herself had said. She remembered glimpsing a photo in a frame on Mrs Lewis’s mantelpiece, which showed a woman who Mrs Lewis said was her daughter, with a man who was apparently her son-in-law — and who was black. So Louise’s appearance really wasn’t surprising, was it?

“Anyway,” said Louise, apparently unconcerned by anything Fiona had said, “it is nice to meet you. Gran says that you’re really helpful to her — you and your boyfriend.”

“What, Alan? Oh, no, he isn’t my boyfriend.”

“He isn’t? He’s a boy and a friend, isn’t he? And Gran says he comes round sometimes.”

“Well, yes… I suppose… But…” Fiona realised that she was blushing again. She was furious with herself, and a little annoyed at Mrs Lewis for apparently saying or implying that about Alan.

“Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about words, if I were you,” said Louise, with another friendly smile. “Anyway, Alan sounds nice.”

“Actually, he’ll be coming around here a bit later,” Fiona said.

“He will? Great. I’d like to meet him. Say thanks for keeping Gran company and all.”

“Oh, right. Yeah, I’m sure…” Fiona found that she couldn’t avoid looking up and down at Louise, and especially at her shapely and naked breasts.

Louise caught the glance, and laughed. “Don’t worry, I’ll cover up when he comes,” she said.

“Oh, no… I mean, that’s fine… I mean, you’re fine…”

“Stop worrying!” said Louise, but not unkindly. “I gather that Alan’s an eighteen-year-old boy who’s supposed to be studying for his exams. Don’t want to distract him with naked boobs, do we?”

Fiona didn’t know what to say, but Louise didn’t seem worried. She turned away from the fence. “I’m going to get a jug of iced water,” she said. “Would you like a glass?”

“Yes, please,” said Fiona, realising that this did indeed seem like a good idea. Louise disappeared Eskort for a moment, still in just her knickers, then returned with a tray, which she put down on the lawn next to her couch. She poured two glasses, and strolled up to the fence. Fiona got up, met her at the boundary, and accepted a glass.

“How’s the revision going?” Louise asked.

“Fine, thanks,” Fiona replied.

“Alan’s coming round to help?”

“Yes. Well, we help each other…”

“Sounds good… Oops, excuse me.”

Fiona realised that Louise had heard a distant doorbell. She gathered up her dress from where it lay on the couch, threw it on quickly and loosely and jumped into her sandals, then scurried back into the house. A few minutes later, she returned, accompanied by a nice-looking man of about her own age.

“Fiona?” she called, as Fiona had sat down again. “This is Nick, my boyfriend. Nick, this is Fiona, who’s so good to Gran.”

“Hi,” said Nick, at the same moment as Fiona said “Hello.” They both laughed awkwardly, and then Louise took off her sandals and dress again and returned to the couch. Nick sat down on the edge, and they conversed in low voices as Fiona returned to her book.

Then she saw movement out of the corner of her eye, and glanced around — and gasped quietly again. Nick had put a hand on Louise’s breast, and was fondling it as Louise smiled. Then Nick leaned over and kissed Louise rather passionately.

After a moment, though, Louise apparently noticed that Fiona was watching, even though Fiona was trying not to make it obvious. She didn’t break the kiss, but she did raise her own hand and firmly move Nick’s away from her. After a moment, it was Nick who broke the kiss. He nodded, and Fiona heard him say “See you, gorgeous,” before he got up and walked back into the house.

“Sorry about that,” Louise called to Fiona once he’d gone. “Men, huh? What can you do with them?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Fiona replied, and hated herself for sounding priggish.

“Wouldn’t you? You’re at school with a bunch of teenage boys, aren’t you?”

“I keep them off,” said Fiona, and hated her own tone of voice a little bit again.

“You do? Must take a bit of work.”


“Oh, I remember teenage boys. And ‘scuse me saying so, but you look like you’ve got something they’d want to grab.”

Fiona glanced down reflexively, and realised that the plain dark red T-shirt she was wearing had shrunk very slightly in the last wash, and hence wasn’t as baggy as she’d thought. She’d sometimes worried that she was getting a bit plump these days, but her mother had told her not to be silly, she just had a rather nice bust — and maybe that was true.

She did her best to smile like a sophisticated woman who’d simply solved the problem of boys. “The lads in my year aren’t too bad,” she said.

“That’s good.” Louise didn’t sound or look like she was being sarcastic. “So that’s why Alan isn’t a boyfriend, then?”

“I guess.” Fiona realised that she’d sighed a little there. “We’ve got the exams coming up,” she went on, “and like you said, we can’t go getting distracted.”

“Oh yeah, Gran said that you were bright. Alan too?”

“Yeah. But there’s a lot riding on these exams, you know? It’s kind of a climax … after thirteen years at school, university places riding on this stuff … We’ve got to concentrate.”

“Oops, sorry. I’ll stop distracting you.”

“No! I mean, no — sorry, I didn’t mean to imply… I need a break sometimes, after all.”

“I bet you do. Actually, if you’ll take my advice, you’ll go careful about the concentrating.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look, it’s a few years since I did any exams, but I remember enough about them. And the best advice I got about taking them was to relax a bit in the run-up, you know? You want to hit them fresh and rested, not all tired and tense.”

“I guess.” Fiona allowed herself a real sigh. “But it’s difficult sometimes.”

“I know, love. Best of luck. But I really shouldn’t keep you any longer.” Louise picked up her paperback again. Fiona nodded, finished her water, and picked up her textbook.

The dissolved material may be…

There was a distant but audible sound from the house — the sound of that one’s doorbell. With a feeling of relief, Fiona put her book down again and got up. As she turned to the house, she saw Louise glance at her and smile.

“That’ll be Alan,” Fiona said.

“Oh yeah,” Louise replied. Then she glanced down at her naked breasts. “Oops, yes,” she added, and reached for her dress. Fiona hurried into the house.

When she returned, though, with Alan trailing after her, she saw that Louise hadn’t actually put the dress on, but had simply pulled it over her to cover her breasts. She was technically decent, but her lack of clothes wasn’t exactly hidden, and it didn’t look like it would take much to expose her again. Still, she looked unworried, and smiled and waved when Fiona introduced Alan to her. Alan did a small but definite double-take, but tore his eyes away once Louise had finished saying again that she appreciated what he’d done for her grandmother. Then he sat on the garden bench seat with Fiona.

“Chemistry?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Fiona replied. “Supersaturation, remember?”

“Oh yes,” Alan said, then closed his eyes and recited from memory; “The dissolved material may be precipitated from the solution by the introduction of small particles (seeds) into the solution, or even if the solution suffers a physical shock.”

“Oh. Oh yes.” Fiona looked up from the book. “We don’t have to know this stuff by heart like that, do we?” she asked.

“No, of course not,” Alan said, with an uncomfortable-sounding laugh. “But I’ve been staring at this thing for days now…”

“Know what you mean,” said Fiona with a sigh. “Look, shall we have a cup of tea first? I could do with one.”

“Sure,” Alan agreed, and they got up and went into the house. In the kitchen, Fiona put the kettle on and picked up two cups. Then she paused.

“I ought to ask Louise if she wants one,” she said, and Alan shrugged. Fiona scurried back into the garden.

“Hi again,” said Louise, as Fiona approached the fence.

“Hi,” said Fiona nervously. “Look, um, I’ve got a bit of a favour to beg.”

“What’s up, love?” Louise said, turning on her side to face Fiona (and accidentally flashing a nipple in the process) and lowering her sunglasses to look at the younger woman better.

“Look, sorry — but could you put the dress back on before Alan comes out again? It’s just that, well, he isn’t my boyfriend, but I guess I wouldn’t mind if he… And we are supposed to be concentrating…”

Louise laughed. “Sorry, sorry. I know. Teenage boys, right.” She took off her sunglasses, pivoted to sit on the edge of the couch, and pulled the dress back on over her head. “There,” she added. “But you know, he looked to me like he was paying attention to you already.”


“Uh-huh. You must have noticed.”

“I don’t know.” Fiona blushed. “I must seem terribly naïve, I suppose. Young and silly…”

“Hey, don’t make me sound old. And you’re eighteen, aren’t you? Not that young.”

“Yes, but — well, everybody has always told me to that there’d be time later. And it’s not like the boys have been interested.”

“Oh, right. You’re bright, so that’s what you’ve concentrated on. Probably very sensible of you, actually. If it puts off the idiot boys, well, it’s not a problem with a lad like Alan, who’s bright himself.”

“I hope!” Fiona admitted. “Do you really think he’d be interested in me?”

“Yes, honestly — he was mostly looking at you. Even with me lying around like a brazen floozy. I reckon that if you’re interested in him, you should just tell him so.”

“But what if he’s not interested?”

“Well, everyone seems to think that he’s nice, so I’m sure that he’d be polite about it. But look, would a bit of a let-down there really be worse than wondering?”

Fiona didn’t say anything, but bit her lip. Louise stood up, reached into her handbag for something, then strolled up to the fence so that she could address Fiona close to.

“Look, love,” she said quietly, “all this is up to you. But I reckon that just saying something has got to be easier than not saying anything, and then worrying about what he’s thinking, or whether he finds my tits more interesting than reading a book with you.”

“I … suppose,” Fiona agreed.

“Right. Anyway, I’ve got a little present for you, just in case.” She reached over the fence, grabbed Fiona’s right hand with her left, then pushed something into Fiona’s grasp.

Fiona looked down at the small gifts, gasped, and hastily pushed them into her jeans pocket. “Thanks,” she said automatically, then looked into Louise’s cheerful smile.

“There’s … something else I want to ask,” she said.

“Shoot,” said Louise.

“What’s it like?”

Fiona expected Louise to laugh at that, but the older woman just smiled, and it seemed like a kind smile — and she didn’t do anything embarrassing, like ask what Fiona meant. “Well,” she said, “I enjoy it. Actually, everyone I know seems to enjoy it. There’s a woman I know — older than your mother, probably — who says it’s what keeps her sane. But you can only decide for yourself, honestly. I guess …”

Fiona noticed that Louise suddenly seemed unsure of her words. “What?” she asked.

“Well,” said Louise, “I guess you think it’s a big deal. And I guess it is, kind of. You’re right if you’re being careful about it. But on the other hand — well, you’re the same person after you’ve done it the first time as before, honest. Except, if you’ve been careful, you’ve got one less thing to worry about. And you’ll know what to think for yourself.”

“Thanks,” said Fiona.

“Just one thing, though,” Louise added. “Nobody gets anything right the first time. People just don’t. Not just this. But there’s always a second time. Or a tenth. The hundredth is great, if I counted right.”

“Thanks,” said Fiona again, and turned away from the fence. Then, when she was half way back to the house, she paused and glanced back. “I was supposed to ask you if you wanted a cup of tea,” she said.

Louise did laugh then. “I’ll pass on that for now, thanks,” she said.

Fiona returned to the kitchen. “Kettle’s boiled,” Alan said.

“Mmm,” said Fiona absently. Then she walked up to Alan, put her arms round him, and kissed him.

“Oh,” said Alan after a moment. “Uh, thanks. What was that for?”

“I just thought that I’d try it,” Fiona said. “Did you like it?”

“Uh, yes,” said Alan, still sounding startled. “It was nice.”

“Would you like to try it again?”

“Uh, yes. I mean, great.” Alan gave a nervous smile, and took a half-step forward.

They kissed again, and Alan contributed this time. They both tried doing things with their tongues, inexpertly, and the kiss continued for a while.

When they broke apart, Fiona smiled. “Yeah, nice,” she said.

They tried it again.

“Should we … tea?” Alan asked as they looked at each other from closer up than usual.

“Leave it for now,” Fiona said. “Come on — I’ve got something you might like to see.”


“You’ll see.”

Fiona decided that, when he realised that she was leading him upstairs, Alan looked more pleased than startled — and she liked that. He was doing a really lousy job of hiding his nervousness when she led him into her bedroom, but he did okay when she kissed him again. Then she took a step back from him, smiled — okay, she was probably looking pretty nervous herself then — and unfastened her bunch, letting her hair fall loose. Then she sat down on the bed, and he sat beside him. As they kissed again, she managed to steer him into a horizontal position, and they lay together for a while.

“Is this okay?” she asked him after one kiss.

“Yeah — it’s great,” he replied. “I mean, though, why…” he trailed off.

“Because I wanted to,” she said, deciding that was the simplest true answer. She ran a hand over his chest, through his shirt, and decided that felt nice.

But he was obviously being careful not to misjudge her, so she had to take the lead. She sat up quickly, leaving him lying horizontal. He raised himself onto his elbows, but before her could look too worried, or assume that she wanted to stop, she took her T-shirt off. He just stared, so she just leaned towards him and kissed him on the forehead. “Your turn,” she told him.

He sat up and pulled his shirt off over his head. She ran a hand over his chest, and decide that she definitely liked it. “Stand up a moment,” she said, and he obeyed. “Look,” she said, “I haven’t done this before, so… Could you take a few more things off first?”

Cautiously, without taking his eyes off her, Alan removed shoes, socks, and then trousers, leaving him in just a pair of blue briefs. Fiona saw that those were bulging at the front, but looked away from that, stepped up to him, and kissed him again.

“I haven’t done this before either,” he said when they finished that kiss.

“I know,” she replied, “that’s fine.” She stepped back and took off her own shoes, socks, and jeans, then stepped up to him, put her arms run him, and rested her head against his shoulder . “Just hold me a moment,” she said.

Alan obeyed, but Fiona felt the bulge in his briefs pressing against her, and she wasn’t sure how long she should delay things. So she broke the embrace and stepped away from him again and smiled nervously. “I hope that you do want this,” she said, “because, well, I really do.”

“I do,” he said quickly. Then he drew breath. “But, umm, actually, should we … now…” Alan asked nervously. “I mean, shouldn’t we have … something?”

Fiona reached into her jeans pocket and plucked out a handful of condom packets. “S’okay,” she muttered. Alan gasped quietly.

Fiona put the packets down on the bedside table, and looked back at Alan. She was still wearing a bra, so she slid the straps off her shoulders, then, half-embarrassed, half wanting to look a bit more elegantly sexy, she turned her back on him.

“You can undo it if you like,” she said over her shoulder. He obeyed, only a little clumsily.

She dropped the bra onto a nearby chair, then, determined not to look too nervous, she turned around quickly with her arms by her sides.

“God,” Alan murmured.

“Not exactly,” Fiona said, “but thanks for the thought.”

Alan extended a nervous hand to touch one of her breasts, tracing a fingertip down its curve to the nipple. She used both her hands to hold him there, then smiled, released her hold, and sat down on the bed. He joined her, and they lay down and lay together for a moment, kissing. But Fiona was becoming increasingly aware of that bulge, and she wasn’t sure how she — or Alan might — start feeling if they delayed too long.

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