Emma walked through the college, staying to the edges of the building, trying to avoid the crowds. It was peaceful in the early morning, with only the occasional passerby, but their thoughts often passed quickly, and they rarely noticed her. The office doors were shut, and it was the only time in the college where she felt truly content. She took a moment to catch her breath and enjoy the moment. It was a relief to not have a torrent of thoughts rushing through her head. It was as if she were standing on her own private island, and somewhere out there she knew the world was turning at usual, but on her own little slice of land she was alone, and it was calming. However, she saw Matthew walk towards her and as she read his thoughts she couldn’t help but stare, her eyes wide with fear at what she heard. He looked at her oddly, and for a moment they were locked together. She saw the tragedy in his eyes, the feeling of utter helplessness as he was travelling down a path that he didn’t particularly want, but he didn’t see any other option. ‘Wow, she’s really pretty’.
There was no nastiness or vile pervasion in his thoughts, there was no sense that he saw her as anything else but herself and in that moment she felt like she had met a kindred spirit. He smiled at her and her cheeks flushed crimson. Coyly, she looked away, but for some reason she was possessed by courage, perhaps it was the fact that nobody else was around, so she started to speak but he was gone and the moment was lost. The courage dissipated and she admonished herself for not chasing after him or not seizing the moment, and she walked on with her usual hunched shoulders and bowed head, wishing the sudden rush of emotion hadn’t occurred.
‘Don’t even go there Emma,’ she thought to herself, ‘no-one is ever going to understand. No-one is ever going to love you. Peter was the only one who could have…the only one who was similar but he found someone else. Someone normal. You’ll always be the one that’s left behind…’
Peter walked into class with a triumphant smile.
“I did it!” he said, sitting down next to Stephanie. She cocked an eyebrow.
“I talked to my parents last night.”
“Congratulations,” she said dryly.
“It was good, I didn’t, you know, I didn’t tell them about everything but yeah, it was, it was nice. We talked a little about uni too. I’m not sure if I’m going to go but I figure I may as well apply.”
“Any idea about what you want to study?2
“Maybe Philosophy, maybe Classics, I’m not sure really. I want to do something I’m interested in though.”
Her recent icy demeanour seemed to crack a little, and she visibly softened.
“I’m glad you talked to them. I’m sorry if I’ve seemed a little frustrated recently…it’s just that…I mean I get why your new thing (she didn’t mention Felicio by name in case anyone overheard) is so important to you, but sometimes it feels like I’m losing you and I’m worried that one day the Peter I know will be completely gone.”
“Would that be such a bad thing?” he said in a hollow, distant voice. She placed a hand on his arm.
“Of course it would, you’re my best friend. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
He didn’t seem entirely convinced by her words and began playing with his sleeves. It always amazed how there could be such a difference between Peter and Felicio.
“Look I know it’s not really your thing, but I have tickets for a gig next week, it’s pretty big I think a lot of people are going, it’s like a battle of the bands thing.”
“Oh, things are back on with the guitarist then?”
“Bassist, and no, I’ve moved on to a drummer now. Anyway, do you want to come? Bring Stacy too.”
“Yeah, yeah okay it sounds like fun.”
The lesson was about to get underway when suddenly the door snapped open and Emma was standing at the threshold. She winced as all the thoughts came to her, and looked at Peter with pleading eyes.
‘Stupid child, what is she doing interrupting my class’
‘What does she want?’
‘I’ve seen her around, probably got the wrong classroom. Retard.’
‘I wish I could kill myself.’
‘Why didn’t she text me back last night?’
‘Why didn’t he text me back last night?’
‘I wish I was Felicio, I’d love to have those claws and slice everyone in here up and tear this place to the ground.’
‘What am I going to do with my life?’
‘Why can’t he believe in himself?’
‘How can I break his heart?’
‘When is this class going to be over I need some Edukation.’
‘I can’t handle this anymore.’
‘In the end they’ll all pray but it won’t matter because there’s nobody there to hear them.’
For a few moments Emma stood there, then she ran and the door swung shut. Peter glanced at his teacher and then ran out of the room in pursuit of Emma. It wasn’t long before he caught her up. She was huddled on a windowsill, one hand pressed against the glass and her eyes looking longingly out to the misty sky.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Peter asked. She turned to him and he saw that her eyes were wet with tears. He sat down beside her.
“I…I passed someone and he…he had these thoughts these…these horrible thoughts. They were about us…the college. Someone is going to turn them all into monsters.” Her voice was shaking as she said this. Peter furrowed his brow and clenched his jaw. It was something to do with Edukation, he thought, it had to be.
“Thanks Emma, I think I know what this is about. I’ll investigate. I meant though, I mean, are you okay?”
She looked at him, almost puzzled. She wanted to lie, she wanted so badly to lie and bury the pain so she could pretend it didn’t exist but it had been growing and tearing through the fabric of her soul for so long that she didn’t have the strength to suppress it any longer. She collapsed against Peter as a flood of tears streamed from her eyes. He was taken by surprise, but he quickly wrapped his arms around her and tried to comfort her. Her body jerked and shook while he held her, and for a while he didn’t know how long it would last, and given that he had never been in this situation before he didn’t know whether he was doing the right thing, but eventually the heavy breathing seemed to become gentler and the tears subsided. She lifted her head and looked at him, eyes red raw, the remains of the rivers of tears still glistening on her face. Yet somehow she looked so pure, so beautiful.
“I…I don’t know how much more I can take, how long I can go on for,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.
“Hey, don’t say that. You can’t…you’re my friend. You have something to offer,” he stayed silent while he tried to find the right words. They were a jumble in his head, but somehow when he said them they made sense, “You can’t just…give up. You’re different, and I know it’s hard, damn hard, but you’re not alone. You have Katrina, and me. And maybe it is really hard right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be this way. You just…you can’t give up, and I can’t let you.£
She felt soft in his arms, and so fragile. It was as if he was holding her together. Her long hair was plastered to her cheeks, and she didn’t even try to push it away. But her eyes seemed to sparkle, it was like they were alive with the spirit of the universe, and yet there was so much sadness in them. It almost made Peter want to weep.
“It’s not that I want to die,” she said in a small voice, “sometimes I just wish I had a different life.” Peter could say nothing in response to that, so he wrapped her up tightly again and tried to make her feel safe, all the while reflecting on the fact that while his abilities had given him a new vigour and a new love of life, Emma’s seemed to make living a tortuous experience, as if she had an exclusive, front row seat to the agonies of existence. Peter vowed that no matter what happened he would never let her forget that she mattered, and he would never let her become submerged in everything she was witness to.