She started worrying when he slipped out of class unannounced after his phone buzzed and didn’t come back. She worries more when he didn’t answer her text during lunch. He didn’t respond to her text until that evening and by then she was scared.
JA: Sorry missed your text Mom messgtd me. Thye arent coming to vist
“He must be really upset,” she thought aloud. “He never leaves typos in his text.”
ES: Where are you?
JA: Big tree.
ES: Be there in 5.
“My parents didn’t even tell me they weren’t coming in a phone call. They just emailed me. Using the darkness, the fact it was just typed words to make it easier for themselves…” Josh says, staring off into the distance as if it has some answer he needs. But then he just sighs and gazes firmly at his feet. It’s a tired sigh and she isn’t sure what she should say to him.
She looks at him as carefully as she can with the midnight darkness only being pushed back by the flickering lamps of their campus. He has the same look in his eyes that he did on the day they met, haunted and searching for something. He faces her though and it looks like some of the heaviness leaves his shoulders even if his eyes look only a little less searching and no less haunted. “Josh…” Ela calls again, trying to think of something, anything, to say to the young man before her. “Are- are you okay?”
He makes a sound far too strained to be a laugh. “I dunno El. I’m adrift, you know. I’ve got no place to claim as mine and no people to claim me as theirs. Mom and dad shipped me here because they were tired of seeing me fail at being what they thought I was. I want to belong but I just… I’m drifting. Not bound to anything, no one binding me to them.”
The brown haired girl’s heart aches terribly at his words. She can’t defend his parents because she doesn’t know them enough to honestly. But he’s not alone, he’s bound to someone. Doesn’t he know that? She does the only thing that she can think and grabs his hand in hers. “El, what-” Josh says, surprised at the sudden contact and grip.
“You do belong to someone,” the young woman says, squeezing his hand. “You’re mine.” Josh turns scarlet and she does too after realizing what she’d just said, pulling her hand from his as if it had burned her.
“I-I…” Josh stammers, the hand she’d grabbed still floating loosely in the air, the other gripping the leg of his jeans. “Um…”
The student council president takes a deep breath. This was so not how she’d wanted to confess. Not while he was upset. Not spur of the moment. But she’d all but done it now. She might as well be honest with him. “Josh,” Ela said firmly even if her cheeks were still red, snapping him out of his daze. “I meant what I said, if you’ll have me.”
“I’m not the strongest,” the black clad boy starts. “Or the smartest. Or the best looking. I don’t always think right or even straight. I’m not exactly a perfect gentleman. But I like you a lot. So if you can accept all that, if you’re still okay with the me you know… Then I’d be flattered to be claimed by someone like you El.”
She sees light spark somewhere in his eyes as he grabs her hand in his again. Things won’t be any easier from here out, something in her whispers, as soft and cold as snow.
I know, she acknowledges silently. We’ve both got a long way to go. But neither of us have to do it alone anymore.