Patient 364

Laef Matthews wants to prove that he isn't the same as everyone else, but one little hobby leads to the most painful experience of his life, where he meets someone who changes his perspective of everything he thought he knew.

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1. Prologue

Laef Matthews was ten years old today, and he was proud of it. Nobody had been prouder about hitting double digits. His parents had taken him on a business visit, but afterwards they had promised to buy him ice cream and they would go to the cinema and he could choose what they watched and they could have popcorn too. That was important. He tugged on his mother’s sleeve. She crouched down. “Darling, just twenty more minutes, that’s it. I know, why don’t you go back to the lobby and ask Richmond to let you use the screen?” Laef groaned, but stomped off sticking his tongue out at his mother, who laughed and turned her back on him.

There was a problem. He couldn’t remember whether the lobby was left or right. He had never been good at directions. He turned left. Left always felt more like straight on to Laef. Maybe because it sounded like his name. The thing was that all the corridors looked the same, they were all white and squeaky clean with the occasional glass door put in. Laef continued to walk, he turned left every time because then he would be able to find his way back if the lobby wasn’t this way. He sighed, a very old sigh. He was fed up of the endless corridors, he was fed up of having to visit boring buildings and stand there when people talked to his Mummy and Daddy and ignored him and he was fed up of doing this on his birthday. He was ten. He should be having a party. He slumped against the wall and pulled his legs up to his chest with his arms wrapped around them.

Laef cried. He cried because he was angry and because nobody listened to him. He cried because it was his birthday and he was ten and people should be singing ‘Happy Birthday’ while presenting him a cake, not saying it quietly and a waitress handing him flan. He sniffed and looked up. He had sat opposite a door and now his reflection glared back at him accusingly, telling him how he shouldn’t cry. Big boys don’t cry. Then he noticed his refection move. He hadn’t moved, but his reflection had. He grasped his knees tighter to his chest, scared. It was a girl, he realised, with short curly brown hair like him. That’s where the similarities stopped. His nose was straight, hers turned slightly upwards, his eyes were blue, hers were green, his cheeks were rosy, hers were gaunt and hollow, his nails were manicured, hers were bitten and raw, his lips were pink, hers were white. They looked at each other. Now that he realised she was a person, a different person, Laef felt ashamed. He had let this little girl see him cry, besides, she had no business sitting in his building. He stood up, pouted and marched off to find the lobby and play a game on the screen.

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