Is this Love?...Or are the Chemical Impulses Driving my Every Whim?
As a child, Diedrich loved cooking and eating. He spent much of his time in the kitchen following the recipes that his mother knew. The smell of cooking food always caused him to race to the kitchen, hoping to understand where that scent derived from.
For that reason, his body became somewhat overweight from being spoiled. But his family accepted him as is, seeing that he was happy and healthy.
However, the rest of society wasn't so kind.
"Died Rich! Died Rich! Even your name suggests that you're going to spend the rest of your life as a fat slob!" The kids often found ways to tease him about it.
Given that his family were immigrants from Eastern Europe, the name Diedrich wasn't anything unusual. However, the children here thought otherwise. Ostracized due to being a foreigner, they continued to find more and more reasons to exclude him from the rest of the class. Being fat was just another point that they could poke fun at.
However, that was fine with him. He could tolerate it. As long as he had his loving family to support him.
Yet, it seemed like fate wished to deprive him of that also.
One day, he had been waiting particularly long for his mother to pick him up from school. It was strange for her to be so late, but he kept himself amused by staring up at the clouds. He loved how the birds in the air could move as they pleased across the sky, unhindered by anything up there.
"Diedrich! There you are!" His father's voice called at him from afar.
How strange. His father was never the one that picked him up from school. However, he would soon learn the reason for it.
His mother had gotten into an accident on route to school and had passed away. The pain he felt at that moment was indescribable. For the next few days, he was hardly able to stomach anything. The mere scent of food reminded him of the mother that he had just lost, and how she would never cook for him again. Subsisting on plain bread and water, he dragged himself to school.
Kids being tactless and immature, they did not show any sympathy for his situation, continuing to tease him. At this point, nothing they said even registered as he sat alone on the school grounds, his eyes looking far off into the distance.
"Could you boys be any more sickening?" A girl's voice cut through the crowd of kids around him. Her sharp, icy glare gave them all a chill. A large textbook in her hand was being held above her head, threatening to bring it down on anyone who opposed her.
"Yikes! It's the nutso! Let's get out of here!"
Though it was a single girl who appeared to be a little older than them, the seriousness of her demeanor was frightening as any adult. Given her reputation for being a gifted person, they knew that messing with her would only lead to trouble as she had the support of the teachers.
Diedrich had heard of this girl, named Kaylen Donnelly, but it had been the first time that he had made contact with her. Smart beyond her years, the teachers all favored her, knowing that she was the school's genius child. However, everyone also knew about the accident that had taken her father's life, and thus, the children were hesitant to get close to her. Not that she made any effort normally to be friendly with those around her either.
All of this made it even more surprising that she had come to his aid.
After the boys had ran away, she simply lowered her book and walked away, finding a quiet spot to read.
However, Diedrich had immediately taken an interest in her. How could someone who had lost their parent be so strong and be so focused? He wished to know how he could cope with his loss like she had.
Therefore, he spent the next days following her at a distance, examining her actions. But everywhere she went, her head remained in the book in her hands, never letting it go like it was a part of her.
Over time, he started wondering if all of his answers came from that book she held, so he inched closer in an effort to take a peek at its contents.
"What is it do you want? Don't think I haven't noticed you sneaking around. Out with it!" Her sharp, commanding voice made him draw back, but mustering up his courage, he let the words flow from his mouth.
"What are you reading?"
"A collection of my father's works and how he came to achieve them."
"Is it interesting?"
"It's what I have left of him, and I plan to continue his work."
"I see. May I stay here and watch you read it?"
"Go ahead. As long as you don't bother me with pointless questions."
Though her tone was harsh, he had allowed for him to stay. As he sat down beside her to look through the pages and pages of difficult text, it made his eyes spin with how many words that he didn't understand.
However, a quick glance at Kaylen's face spoke of a different story. As she scanned the words, line by line, her expression softened. Her fingers traced along the images of different designs sparsely decorating the pages. He could tell, she had dearly loved her father's work.
How could she bear to continue looking at something that constantly reminded her of him? Had it not been painful to be constantly reminded that he wasn't here anymore? Where did the strength to move forward come from?
Day after day, he'd come by and sit next to her during school recess, watching as she immersed herself in that book. The bullies had stopped bothering him when they had learned how he spent time with Kaylen. They were simply too spooked to have anything to do with her. The days grew more pleasant as the world seemingly revolved around only the two of them.
However, the urge to know more about her continued to grow. If he didn't say anything, he would never know how to move on with his own problems. One day, his curiosity couldn't be held back any longer.
"How are you able to live like this?"
"What do you mean?" Unexpectedly, she had promptly replied to him.
"Looking at something so painful all the time. I can barely stomach any reminder about my mother. How can I be strong and move on with my life?"
Kaylen sighed and closed her book.
"It's not about being strong. I have a goal. I decided to do what my father couldn't, and this book is my guide to achieving it. I have no time to worry about other things."
"I don't understand. How can something like this hold your interest for so long? How can I get past what I'm feeling right now so that I can be like you?"
Kaylen stared at me in the eyes. "I don't have an answer for you. I'm not you. I only have what my father left me. Facing that was the first step."
Kaylen stood up and extended the book to him.
"I have nothing else to say to you. If you want to talk to me again, then you'll have to first understand this…whatever your name is."
"It's Richie…but wasn't that left to you by your father?"
"I have spares. It's just a book."
Hesitantly, Diedrich took the book from her hands, knowing that it would take him quite some time to catch up to her. Maybe, she did it simply to get rid of him, but from then on, he stopped seeing her outside.
Not long after, his father told him that they were moving away. He had heard of the bullying and wanted Diedrich to start over in another town. Since he had no choice but to accept, all he could do was clutch the book in his hands as he said farewell.
However, her parting words had spurred him on somehow. Digging out his mother's recipes, he tried to learn as much as he could from them, like Kaylen had done with her father's work. After many attempts, he had finally managed to mimic the flavor from his memories.
Being able to taste her cooking again had eased his pain. Though it still reminded him of how much he missed his mother, it was as if a part of her had been passed onto him. He felt like he could understand why Kaylen had been so obsessed.
This time, he turned to the book that she had left him.
No longer able to see her again, would it lead him back to her if he could understand it? Without a moment to waste, he set upon his new goal – to satisfy her condition and stand before her once again, able to return the favor.
In the following years, he spent all of his energy pursuing this one goal. In the process, his mind sharpened faster than anyone around him. His body thinned out from working excessively into the night. By the time he graduated high school, he was a completely different person – one who had a very promising future.
However, that was not the main thing on his mind. He simply wished to pursue all of the studies needed to fully understand what it took to embark on the inventions that Kaylen had focused on. Convinced that she would never stray from that, he believed that this path would eventually lead him back to her.
With the help of his father's connections, he dove into a wide array of disciplines and thrust himself at the forefront of technology, just so that he could find her again.
One day, a journal article about metallic doping of titanium caught his eye. He had found her name as one of the writers. Apparently, she had just started studying for her PhD.
That was perfect. He would finish up his bachelor's degree shortly and apply there.
However, the girl he had ran into was different than the girl from his memories. She was awkward, clumsy, and peculiar. Had he chased after the wrong person?
However, the more time he spent with her, the less it mattered. He didn't want to bring it up, just in case he was wrong. He was just happy to connect with her once again, even if it turned out to be a lie.
Then, he found out during their trip to the museum that she was indeed the girl from his memories. Yet, he could tell that something still bothered her. Her demeanor quickly shifted to that of intense focus, as if it had been rekindled by the bitter memory of her father's rival. That had been the true reason behind her motivation.
Hoping to alleviate her heavy burden, Diedrich re-doubled his efforts to find a breakthrough, in which he did so months later.
Strangely, that did little else but fuel her obsession. He kept thinking that it had simply been her ambition to see the project through to its end, but he had never imagined that his efforts had caused an opposite effect of invoking jealousy and inferiority.
How had he screwed this up so badly? If all he did was cause her pain, then he had no reason to be there any longer.
That was what he thought as he returned the book that had been his guide for so many years.
Just as he was about to open the door to his apartment, a voice shouted to him.
There was Kaylen, looking out of breath and clutching the book he had returned.