The smallest things broke the world

Fiction, not based on any real-life event. I am not used to writing fiction shorter than 10,000 words. I am also not used to writing plots that do not involve explosions.

~

He had, for the first time in his life, acted on impulse without mulling over his possibilities. And now that he stood, awkwardly alone in the empty school hallways, the day right before the winter break, he had to keep reminding himself not to back out now.

The school looked different now that there was nobody in it; he hadn’t ever stayed after school for anything, even. But here he was, in the same place he always remembered being, looking at it for the first time. It was strikingly lonely now that the people were gone.

He held in his hand a small, ornate box. It had been wrapped in gaudy snowflake gift wrap – the only kind that was on sale during this holiday season – and decorated very simply. He didn’t really know how to make it look nice…he hadn’t sent a gift before, after all. Briefly, he wondered if it was even acceptable for a loner like him to participate in the gift-giving furor that was the holiday season, but he had to set his thoughts aside. It was too late for those thoughts, at any rate.

He had bought this for her without even thinking. Well, maybe he did think, a little bit, but the extent of that thought was that she would like it.

In some ways, the girl named Alexandra Pyrkagias had shown him what life was. He only ever talked to her when they were forced to work together for a Health project, but she told him stories of friends, of shopping trips, of rumors circulating within the school that he had never seen or heard. He had hated her for some time – she had bugged him incessantly – but now that the project was over, and break was beginning to start, he was surprised to realize that he had missed her endless talking.

She had talked about everything, not just the project they were working on. She talked about how she had a falling out with her close friends after a nasty misunderstanding involving teenage love. She talked about homework, her home life, how her parents fought all the time and kept her awake at night. He had never said anything back to her, but she was fine with that; she just wanted to tell her own story, and he was surprised to realize that he was content with listening to her.

It was nice, he supposed, to be able to just listen to someone talk. He’d spent so long tuning out the world that he forgot that. He had gotten this gift for her simply to thank her, and to apologize for his rudeness. Perhaps Alexandra didn’t even deserve it, considering that he never asked for her input. He had never needed help, and he was never lonely before she intruded on his perfect world. But she had become a part of his world, as that voice from the outside who told him about sights he’d never seen. It was weird, thinking that he would miss someone. He had never really missed anyone before. He had always just been.

Enough thinking. If he kept this up, he’d be standing here forever. Tentatively, the boy walked up to a classroom door, rapped on it a few times. He knew she’d be in here, as this was where the charity club was – it had a real name, but he had forgotten it. As he waited outside of the door, he wondered how she would react to his impulse decision. Would she actually like it? What should he say?

He frowned. He’d been waiting for a few seconds now, and the door showed no signs of opening. He knocked on it a few more times, answered only with the same silence. He wondered if he should wait for her, if she was even still here – was the club on a trip? Did they move rooms? For a few minutes, he stood, paralyzed. This was not going according to plan. She should have been there, he should have been out of the building a few minutes ago.

Finally, he tried at the door, and was startled when it opened. Slowly, as if afraid of getting caught, he slipped into the empty classroom. He scanned the desks, looking for the bag that he knew would be hers.

Found it. It was a plain, black bag, with a small brown cat keychain on it. She’d told him the story of that keychain too, a few days ago. A gift from an old friend, apparently. It was impossible to miss. He moved silently, carefully, and placed the box on the table next to that tiny little cat. It seemed cute, almost, as if the cat was holding the gift for him.

As soon as he set the box down, he relaxed, immediately turned to leave. But his gentle care and caution from before was gone, and he just as quickly tripped on the leg of the chair, causing Alex’s bag to fall off from the edge of her desk. The sound caused him to jump, the crash echoing loudly through the empty room, but the silence returned just as quickly. Nobody had been close enough to hear.

Carefully, he set her bag back on the chair, just as it had been before his stumble. As he was carrying it up from the floor, however, something slipped out of one of the inner pockets, hit the floor lightly with a thud. He ignored that something for now, gently laying down the bag, moving the cat keychain back to its original position in hugging the gift box. Then, he crouched down to pick up whatever he had dropped so that he could put it back into the bag.

What lay on the ground before was now in his hand. A small, unlabeled bottle, with several (also unlabeled) white pills in it.

After getting over the initial shock, he stuffed the bottle back into the bag anyways, unsure of whether it was the same pocket that the pills had fallen from. None of this was at all part of his plans. He wasn’t supposed to learn anything about her, anything that disrupted his perfect world. Now that he knew something, now that he’d seen something, he wished he could pretend it didn’t exist.

It wasn’t even anything important. For all he knew, he’d only managed to find Alex’s cold medicine. Still, he had no way of knowing, and the uncertainty crawled at him.

For the first time in his life, he was curious about someone. It was an alien, almost frightening thought, to care about what another person did with her life. He’d have to wait until after the winter break to see her reaction to what he had given her, to ask her about what he had seen. It was such a small thing, acting without thinking, seeing something he had never known.

But then again, Alex’s words had been little, imperfect things, too, and so were all of the days and months that he had wandered the halls. It was the little things that had broken apart his perfect universe. The smallest things that he had missed.

Maybe he’d actually go talk to her for the first time, after the break was over.

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