1. 1

I grabbed his arm and tugged on it, desperate.

“Don’t go,” I pleaded him. “I’ll be your safety. I know what they did to you. I understand you more than you know.”

He just looked at me, his face devoid of all emotion. I couldn’t lose him. He was my best friend. He didn’t have to speak; I understood everything that simple look meant.

He’d been hurt beyond repair. He was cold and alone. He felt unloved.

“I promise,” I told him, locking my gaze in his. “I promise you. You won’t need other friends anymore. Just hold on. Don’t leave. Please.”

He closed his eyes, and his head dropped. “I want to stay… but I don’t know… if I can,” he whispered, anguished.

“This is your home, Alfred. Don’t leave home. Don’t leave me. Don’t…”

He looked at our entwined hands and sighed. “Elena, I don’t know what to do with myself. You can’t understand me. It’s impossible…”

It was my turn to sigh. I let go of his hand and turned my back to him, shaking my head. “We all live, Al. It’s natural. Suffering is part of living. It’s inescapable. It’s a part of growing up, I suppose… and we’re always growing up, no matter how old we are,” I turned back to him, a sad smile on my lips.

He stared at me for some time. “But for you to know how I feel…”

“I would’ve had to have gone through what you’re going through now, yes.” I rolled my eyes and sat down, making myself comfortable. He followed suit. “I was 11, you see… I was young, and I had a bunch of friends. We were friends since forever, basically. We used to ride our bikes together, and fall together… we were neighbors, you know, so we were always together. But ever since I was six, I’d created a taste for reading.”

Here, both of us smiled. We both knew that was my one problem without a cure.

“And my friends… well, they couldn’t understand that. They started saying nasty things about me behind my back. I didn’t even dream of any of it. To me, they were simply my best friends. I never imagined that they were in reality, a huge pack of snakes. I fell for their game like the stupid idiot, innocent and trusting as I was back then. One day, I discovered  that one of them had spread a secret of mine as far as was possible at that age. It was quite a blow. I’d considered her my best friend out of them all. We argued. It wasn’t pretty. The rest sided with her. That was when I learned what had really been going on. They now admitted to my face all that before they had just whispered behind my back. I had all my defaults screamed at me in my face, thrown at me. They made me feel insignificant. But thankfully, by then, I was already so engrossed with my virtual friends, I didn’t care two shits about what they had done to me. I just moved ahead, but to this day, I carry a scar, deep in my heart. From that time, I’ve never been able to completely open myself to any friend of mine. I always have a foot behind, ready to turn around and leave if necessary. I don’t expect anything from my friends, but at the same time, I do all in my power to be the best, most comprehending and present friend possible. I try to be all that which I don’t allow myself to have. All that I have always longed for, but will never have. That’s probably why all my boyfriends never last, too… I never let things get too emotional, or too intense.”

Alfred stared at me.

“I had no idea,” he whispered.

I laughed. “Good. That means I hide it well. You’re the only person, besides my parents who knows about this.”

“I’m honored. I won’t break your trust, I promise.”

I just smiled at him sadly, giving a humorless chuckle, and said nothing. He didn’t notice it, or if he did, he paid me no notice.

“How did you get over it so fast, though?”

“I had other things on my mind,” I said, absently. “If these guys treated you badly, they don’t deserve to be your friends, Al.”

“And yet, even as you say this, and I know you mean it, if I turned out to be psychotic, you’d leave without a second thought.”

I smiled at him ruefully. “For most, that may be a true statement after hearing my story, but… If you truly believe that, then you don’t know me as much as you think you do.”

He furrowed his brow, confused.

“For me to leave someone I once counted as a friend, Al, they must have done something truly horrendous to me personally. Other than that, it hurts me deeply to lose a friend. It hurts me like mad. But sometimes it can’t be stopped. Life goes on.”

He nodded, thoughtful.

“I’m glad to know about this. It means that if you ever leave me, I’ll know I’ll have done something totally over the top.”

I laughed, as I settled down on the floor, getting ready to sleep. “Yes. I hope that never happens.”

“So do I, Elena, so do I,” he said softly.

“So... are you staying or what?”

His hesitation was short. “I’m staying. You convinced me.”

“Thank Goodness. Or I’d have to go plunging after you, and I assure you I wouldn’t be in a good mood if that happened.”

He smiled at me, and scooted over to me, so that I rested my head on his legs.

“Don’t worry, honey. Sleep well. Relax. We’ll talk more tomorrow”

“Mmmm… I… not… you.”

He laughed again, as I mumbled to myself. I was sure I’d spoken perfectly clear English. Only, of course, I hadn’t.


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