‘The bell rings signaling the end of the period. I leave the classroom swiftly and immediately begin to head to lunch, my favorite part of the day.
My class before lunch is one of the few that I don’t have Rose in. I hurry through the hallways to meet her at our lunch table. After this we have another class together as well. Although, you don’t get much time to talk with your friends in most classes.
Though I’m walking fast, there are plenty of people who run to the cafeteria like a pack of kids. By the time that I made it in, there was already a pretty long lunch line.
Surprisingly, Rose was already standing in the room when I got there. She usually walks slowly, so she’s either very hungry today or her class was released early.
Casually, I slow down and greet, “Hey!”
I didn’t notice until it was too late, but she was talking with two of her friends when I called out to her. Immediately I was able to recognize their faces: Natalie and Trisha. They’re relatively normal girls, though not that type that I’d enjoy talking to.
“I guess my reputation hasn’t rubbed off on her…”
One of the girls put a hand over her mouth and said something quietly. Rose only replied with “Yeah,” and a smile.
The two girls wave their arms above their heads while walking away, “See ya later!”
“Did I interrupt something?” I ask jokingly.
“Of course not!” Rose laughs.
We both pack lunch to avoid the line, so we simply walk over to our usual table and take a seat.
“Get this,” Rose looks proud. “I joined the art club!”
“Oh, nice. Do you know anyone in it?”
“Yeah, remember those two girls you saw just now? They’re the ones who invited me. It’s a pretty small club so there’s only one or two people other than them.”
It’s nice to see her getting more involved with the school and start fitting in, even though I’m certainly not one to talk, “That’s great to hear.”
While she talks my mind begins to wander.
“Now that I think of it… she never talks to anyone else in the classes that I’m with her in. Maybe it’s more like nobody talks to her… That’s probably my fault. I made my reputation like this, so it is my fault. Isn’t it?”
“-Are you even listening?”
“Course! You said that you were invited after they saw and complimented your art, right?”
She sits up straighter, “Oh! Sorry, I thought you weren’t paying attention! Anyway-”
“That was close.”
Lunch was fun as usual. I’m still very bad at conversations, but Rose is talkative enough to make up for it. We joked and talked about this year’s teachers and made fun of the book we were reading in class.
After lunch, there usually isn’t much time to talk to friends so the rest of school passed by swiftly. Though, I couldn’t get my mind off of the fact that I’m costing her a lot of friends she could’ve had.
The art club stays after school today so I walk to the bus alone. I slide my hand into my pocket to grab my phone, but it’s not there. I must’ve been so wrapped up in worrying that I didn’t realize it had slipped out of my pocket.
Breaking into a sprint, I swiftly make my way back into the building to get my phone before I miss the bus.
It doesn’t take long before I’m out of breath.
The halls of the school are odd when they’re so empty. The lights are still on, but there’s only the occasional person who is still at their locker. It feels almost abandoned.
I carefully open the door to my last class, peering slightly in before entering. Nobody was there so I helped myself to the room.
“There it is.”
The phone was laying on the edge of my chair.
Just before my phone slid right back into my pocket where it belongs, I checked the time. I smiled proudly, having plenty left to spare.
On my way out of the room, exiting carefully as though I was stealing something, I hear voices from the room beside me. Instantly, I’m able to recognize the voices of Natalie and Trisha. That must be the room they use for the art club.
Knowing wiser, I turn around and try my best to ignore them.
“Why do you hang out with him, anyway?”
“Yeah. He’s, like, so weird.”
The sweet and familiar voice of Rose spoke up, “N-not really. He’s a bit quiet, but he’s really nice when you get to know him. He says some pretty harsh things, but when it comes down to it, he always respects those around him and he treats others with kindness.”
“Eh~” Natalie sounded a little confused and disgusted. “Sounds like somebody has a-”
With that, I break into another sprint for the bus.
Tossing around in bed, I can’t seem to get any sleep. Their voices bounce around my head, keeping me awake.
“Am I really going to cost her all of her normal relationships? Can I justify that? Am I so important and selfish that I’d take these things away from her? At first I only talked to her out of pity, but now could it be the other way around?”
The thoughts and the memories merge together to form a suffocating fog.
Bzzzzt… Bzzzzt… Bzzzzt…
I slam my hand onto my alarm clock, tearing open my eyes in a cold sweat. My forehead throbs with a headache.
“Maybe I’ll skip school today.”
And so I did.
Bzzzzt… Bzzzzt… Bzzzzt…
“If I don’t go back, maybe she’ll make new friends. But, I can’t just never go back… Is this childish? To be thinking like this? Is it immature to blame myself? Even so…”
I already skipped yesterday, and that can’t be undone.
I slam my hand onto my alarm clock once more.
“None of this happened.”
Our homeroom teacher hasn’t shown up yet, so it seems that we’ll get a little extra talking time.
“Where were you yesterday? If you keep missing class, you’re going to fail the test!” Rose laughs jokingly, but it feels like she’s actually a little bothered by it.
“I was just sick is all.”
“Really~?” Her innocent gaze pierces my heart. It’s hard to lie to her.
“Yeah, I promise.”
“Well that’s good.”
“But,” I chime in. “You know I’m not going to fail.”
Unable to hold back my curiosity, I grab my chest firmly, “Did you meet anyone new yesterday?”
“Huh? Where did that come from?”
“Oh, uh… never mind.”
“Hm…” She stares at me thoughtfully.
“W-what is it?”
“I have something that I want to show you. We’re working on an independent piece right now in art. It’s not done quite yet, but I’d love to show you when it’s finished.”
Today we got a little extra time to talk because we were peer reviewing essays. They were on the book we were reading in class. Neither of us liked the book, but that’s just how it is. Rose’s writing was surprisingly good.
“Hey, why not write something more professional? Your art is pretty good too, but you write really well.”
Flattered, she responded, “Well, I guess I just don’t like it as much.”
“Huh, that’s fair I guess. But, you have some real potential.”
When she returned my essay to me, nearly the entire thing was highlighted. I could hardly critique hers at all, but I guess mine wasn’t really up to par.
We separated once again just before lunch. The entire time, I could only think about if she was having a better time without me. Not because of me specifically, I’m not that insecure, but because it’s a well known fact that I’m not taken too positively by the rest of our classmates.
Class seemed to drag on more and more the harder I thought. Time slowed to a syrupy crawl.
Finally, the bell rang and I was the first to stand and exit the room. It was probably jarring to my classmates, but they didn’t matter right now.
I hurry into the hallway but when the cafeteria is in sight, I stop. Casually, I walk around a corner and wait a minute for the room to fill. After around half of the people were inside, I walked in myself.
At our usual table sat Rose… Natalie, and Trisha.
Without time to think, my heart sank. I turned around and left immediately.
“They’ll just leave her again if I show up.”
Swiftly, I pick up my pace and head straight for the stairs. Unlike just after school, now the hallways are completely empty. Everyone’s at the cafeteria eating their lunch. I’m the only person still running through these halls.
After passing several empty classrooms, I turn and walk straight up the stairs. Up and up to the place that only I know about. I’ve seen the janitor come from here before and realized that he didn’t have his keys with him. He doesn’t usually lock the roof.
The door to the roof is awfully gloomy. It has a small clouded window on it, but the clouds block the sun out. An empty void awaits me on the other side of the door. There are no lights on my side either. The door is thick and cold suggesting even further that this isn’t a place that is meant to be entered by anyone.
As I predicted, the door was unlocked. I pushed my body against the door and it slowly squeaked open.
A chilly wind blows by, “Is it fall already?”
Time has, for the first time in my life, flown by. The days all passed swiftly, leaving nothing but good memories. But, I suppose all good things must come to an end. Maybe it’s childish, but I won’t be selfish.
Just as I begin to sit down, the door opens behind me, “Are you out here?”
While sighing deeply, I slowly turn around. The door opens in small spurts. It’s quite heavy compared to the regular doors around the school. Eventually, Rose pokes her head out and looks at me with surprise and relief.
Her relief instantly washes away, but she walks out and shuts the door behind her, “W-wha-”
“It’s fine. Just go.”
“I don’t understand…” Her voice is as soft as always, containing genuine concern. She avoids eye contact and looks at the ground just as another gust of wind blows by. It blows her hair elegantly and she begins to look more beautiful than ever. “I saw you walking away from me at lunch. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” I addressed her more sternly this time. “Just go.”
A pain begins to flood my chest.
“But, something’s clearly wrong. You’ve been acting strange all day. Did something happen? Was it the reason you missed school yesterday? Or did it happen even before that? Is it my fault? Did I do something?”
For the first time, Rose shouts at me, “Stop it! Don’t avoid the questions! I only want to help…”
‘Why didn’t I just stop there…?’
I take a step forward and tighten my hands into a fist. My voice echoed through the sky, “You aren’t! You’re not helping! So let me help you out! Leave. Me. Alone!”
“Don’t you get it?” I should stop here… this is unnecessary. “I’ve always hated you! I was only nice to you because I pitied you! It was simply too sad of a sight to see you drawing all alone in a room full of strangers! Go play with your other friends. It’s more convenient for both of us.”
Rose stares at me, innocent and confused. She looked shocked, but she didn’t react how I imagined she would have. She wasn’t crying, or angry, and her voice sounded almost concerned, “I just don’t get it… Why? After saying all of that to me… why are you the one crying?”
I tried my best to keep it in, but I didn’t even realize that I had been crying this whole time. I’m so useless…
I slowly sit down and bury my head in my hands, ashamed to have recklessly exposed myself like this. I feel weak. How can I even put myself on eye level with her?
“It’s alright,” Rose whispered. She quietly and softly wrapped her arms around my shoulders from behind. “I think I understand now. I’m pretty dumb, but I’ll try my best to help you. So, let’s do this together. What is it that you need me to help with?”
My mouth opened, but no words came out. An invisible wall built itself in my throat. Unable to stop them, the tears continued to fall silently.
“How can she still look at me right now? Why doesn’t she just leave? Am I that pitiful?”
Several minutes passed with us together like this, until I was finally able to answer her question. The cold wind froze us, desperately telling us to go back inside. The warmth of her arms wrapping around me made it almost unnoticeable, but she must’ve been cold, herself.
“Am I really not causing you any trouble? Is it okay for someone like me to have friends?”
“Sure it is,” Rose was behind me, so I couldn’t see it, but I could somehow feel her signature smile and gentle warmth.
“Even though being friends means that you have to hold me like this?”
The pain in my chest passed over and I began to feel calm once again, “… Sorry.”
“There’s no need.”
With a light raise of my shoulder, I indicated that everything was okay now. She unwrapped her arms and sat down next to me.
“I wanted you to meet them,” Rose looks up into the clouded sky.
“My new friends. But, I guess more accurately, I wanted them to meet you. We made a deal on my first night of art club. I’d have them eat lunch with us and then they’d see that you weren’t so bad after all.”
I sigh aloud.
“Did you know?” She asks.
“Sighing too much will only make you more sad,” She puts her index fingers on the corners of her mouth and smiles. “Even if you have to force one, the world will be a much happier place if you smile.”
The corners of my eyes were still hot from the tears and my eyes still stung, but I turned to face her, “How’s this?”
She nodded in approval, “You’re looking happier already!”
“So… What do you suppose we do now? Your friends are still waiting for you to come back, I’m sure.”
Standing up she laughed, “Well, you can’t meet them while looking like that. First impressions are everything!”
A sudden wave of embarrassment passes over me, noticing what had just happened.
“Don’t worry though. I don’t mind,” She smiles. “I’ll tell them that you were helping a teacher out. They’ll probably be fine with meeting you tomorrow.”
Rose struggled a bit as she opened up the door once again and she left without saying another word.
Right as the door starts shutting shut I mutter, “Thanks.”
I rolled over in bed that night, unable to sleep. Memories of earlier today stain my cheeks red and I begin to regret my entire life up until this point. Everything plays out again in my head, having not forgotten a single word, I’m forced to relive the embarrassment. But then I saw that part again.
Even if you have to force one, the world will be a much happier place if you smile.
“Huh…” I thought and suddenly the memory became a sweet dream.
Rose pats me on the back and laughs, “It’ll be fine! Today I’ll walk in with you. They’re already waiting at our table, are you ready?”
Swallowing a gulp of air, “Yeah.”
We both step inside slowly and confidently. My nerves must have shown on my face, but I try my best to cover them with a smile.
The four of us talked for a while and afterwards, I figured that those two might be pretty fun people after all.’