An empty classroom was the best thing ever. An empty room for the school nurse, even more so. Because this room had beds in it, and around every bed, even some curtains. Morrow smiled. Out of sight, out of heart, or, in her case, out of thought.
'Naptime it is.' She sighed and let herself fall on the bed closest to the window.
Today was a particularly tiring day. Her father kept bugging her about the "nice" brunch. Telling her that she shouldn't act like that towards her father. Bugging her to make amends. Luckily for her, her dad had to leave this morning for another work meeting. So, if she could get through this day, without picking up his phone calls, she should be good.
Her dad worked a lot. Different countries, different kinds of things he needed to do, fix, handle. Morrow was 94 percent sure he was cheating on her mom. The other 6 percent was that he didn't want to go home and face his marriage problems.
But, she couldn't complain. There were worse things. At least, he didn't hit her or her mother. He just vanished sometimes and then showed up again whenever it fitted him.
Family. The best thing in the world.
Morrow slowly drifted off to dreamland. The cool wind that slipped through the cracks near the window soothed her thoughts, and she could finally relax. The headache she felt all day long finally resided, and at long last, she was asleep.
That was until the door to the nurse's office opened, and she heard someone stumble in. It couldn't be the nurse. She knew the footsteps of the lady. Light and sure.
These were hasty, unsteady, and fell over each other until the body hit the floor. Morrow sat upright; something was wrong. She could almost feel the anxious energy coming from this person. The vibe in the whole room shifted to something dark, depressing. Something she knew all too well.
Morrow looked slowly around the curtain, and there she saw him. The guy she had been seeing this whole time. Not the kind of seeing in a romantic setting. More like seeing someone, looking at a person. The time when she first saw him. It wasn't at the schoolyard. It wasn't in the Uber (that wasn't an Uber).
It had been three years. Three years ago. This guy saved her. He saved her life, and she wanted to thank him for it, but he just disappeared. That ungrateful person just left. Morrow couldn't even thank him, and she had always felt guilty for not getting to thank him properly.
And here he was. In front of Morrow, gripping his chest, gasping for air, legs pulled up to his chest. He didn't even know she was in here.
For a second, Morrow didn't know what to do. For some weird reason, she felt like she should leave him alone. But then again, a little help could go a long way. She would hate herself if she didn't even try to help him.
Morrow flipped her legs over the edge of the bed, fully awake and a bit nervous. As she thought, he didn't even know she was in here, and to make matters worse (or better), he didn't notice her until she was right in front of him.
He looked up, shocked, embarrassed. His face was stained with tears which he didn't try to hide. A red blush painted his cheeks, and Morrow thought he was cute. Which was a weird thought considering the situation. Then: 'I'm sorry...' He said, barely audible for her to hear. He scrambled everything (his backpack and whatever it contained) together and wanted to get up when Morrow stopped him.
'You don't have to leave. It is clear something is bothering you, and it needs to get out. This is the best place to do so.' She tried to get her voice as soft and non-threatening as possible.
He looked dumbfounded for a minute and didn't respond. He just froze.
'If you want, I can leave. I came here to sleep, but I have a class in a few minutes so, nap time is over.' Again a soft voice. Kind eyes. Non-threatening. Morrow tried to copy her therapist and her mother when Morrow was little and still scared of thunderstorms.
'Do you want me to leave?' A genuine question. Maybe he wanted and needed to be alone. Just because a person needs help doesn't mean they want it. Another thing she learned from her therapist.
She waited for his answer and got down to his level but still kept a reasonable distance. Morrow now got to see his eyes.
They were filled with tears and still rolled freely onto his cheeks. His breathing was still too fast but slower than when he stumbled in.
'Do you want me to stay or leave?'
Finally. A response. The boy was getting his stuff and putting everything in his backpack while sniffling and trying to dry his eyes.
'I-I'm sorry, I'll l-leave and then you can s-stay.' His voice was trembling, but Morrow decided to ignore that for now.
'That wasn't my question.' She said. 'Do you want me to stay, or do you want me to leave? You can stay, either way, the question is if you want me to be here with you.'
A pause in his movements, and he looked up and really looked at her.
Morrow blinked. Was he deaf or something or was he so out of it that he didn't understand what she was saying? 'Are you not used to kindness or something?' She muttered under her breath. 'I'll stay for now. I think that's the best way.'
'Why are you being so... kind?' His eyes were still watery and big like he was a dear caught in headlights. He looked totally lost and Morrow's heart clenched for a second.
I'm just showing human decency. If you call this kind, then what kind of horrors have you been through? That's what she thought, but she didn't say any of it.
'Because sometimes we all can use a bit more kindness.' Apparently, that's what did it. He started to tremble even more, and his cries completely overtook his body. He hid his face in his hands and almost curled up in a ball if it weren't for the fact that he was sitting. Morrow didn't hug him but put her hand on his trembling back.
Just showing him she was here, and she wouldn't leave until he asked. Luckily he accepted her presence, and for a solid five minutes, they just sat in silence.
He was crying, and Morrow was soothing him. Or at least trying to. Morrow had never comforted a person, and she prayed to every god or deity she knew that her actions would comfort him. There was an awkwardness lingering just at the edges of her attempts to comfort him, but he seemed to not tremble as much as he used to in the beginning.
She really wanted to ask the reason why he was sitting here, all trembling, but she could guess what this was. Knowing panic attacks all too well herself, she knew what it normally takes for a person to have a panic attack.
The three people she saw outside; she also saw in school multiple times. Her friends told her their names: Ben, T, and Oliver. Apparently, Felix's mom worked for Ben's dad and that was leverage enough for Ben to threaten Felix.
First, Felix needed to calm down. After that, she was going to talk to the three guys. Although she really wanted to punch them, Morrow figured that talking might be better in a delicate situation like this.
After those five minutes, he got up. His crying had slowed down, but his breathing was still too fast.
'So, what's your name?' She asked. Morrow was curious to the name of her once-savior. So far, it seemed that only Morrow remembered him, or his face that is. Maybe it was the pink hair, she thought. She did change quite a bit and on the evening they met, it was dark and raining.
His voice was still trembling, and so was his body. But to finally know the name of the person who meant so much to her, was an amazing feeling.
'I like your name. My name is Morrow. Nice to meet you.' And she held out her hand. Like it was a normal conversation, and she wasn't trying to distract him from the pain he must be feeling.
'Nice... nice to meet you.'
They shook hands, and Morrow grabbed his with both of her hands. 'So, I don't know what happened to you, but I think it's smart to slow your breathing down a little.'
He avoided her gaze and looked to the ground. 'I don't want your help. You don't even know me.'
Being a little on edge and probably embarrassed made him react like that. Morrow didn't really mind and thought back on the times she responded the same way. It was a defensive mechanism. She wasn't supposed to take anything personal Felix was saying.
Also, he clearly didn't recognize her but she knew him. Morrow decided to keep that fact to herself for a little longer. This wasn't the best moment to tell him about the fact that the girl he once saved was now in front of him.
'True, but I think helping another person is something everyone should do. Also, if you don't slow your breathing, you're gonna pass out sooner or later.'
'I-I don't know how...' Felix finally admitted.
'That's okay. We can breathe together if you want.'
Felix hesitated for a second but finally caved. He turned his body more towards Morrow, and although a little nervous, Felix was looking better.
'Okay, so let's breathe in for four seconds, hold for three, and release for four.'
Morrow started breathing and counting.
'So in, two, three, four. Hold for one, two, three. And out through your nose.' She tried to do it like her therapist once told and showed her the technique. Her therapist told her this would work for most people, but it wouldn't always work fast. So be patient and keep on trying. Adjust where needed.
Morrow didn't know how long they have been breathing, but somewhere along the process, Felix started to calm down. Still holding his hand, she could feel his heartbeat in his pulse. It finally slowed down, back to a regular pace.
He took one more shuddering breath and then hung his head, still panting a little.
'Are you feeling better?' Her voice was still soft.
Felix nodded. "Yeah, thank you." He then looked at their joined hands.
'Ah, sorry.' Morrow let go of his hand and clasped them together in her lap.
For a moment, there was an awkward silence. Felix was still not meeting her gaze, and it didn't look like that was going to change any time soon.
'Will you be okay?'
Felix nodded. 'Of course. Thank you for helping me.'
'No problem.' Again some silence. Morrow didn't expect to have formed a special connection, and he would spill the reason why he came in here, panting and all, but this was going overboard. 'I gotta go to class. I'll see you around?'
It was posed as a question, but Felix didn't say anything.
'Whatever...' Morrow sighed and walked out of the room. She knew he was a good person, but acting all inside his shell was too much. But still, Morrow knew. She knew with a lot of patience, he would want to come out of his shell, Felix could see that having friends meant something different than delivering sandwiches and giving them money.
Morrow swung her backpack around and walked towards her class. Too bad they weren't in the same class, or she would've beaten the bullies to a pulp already.
Felix was still slightly trembling when Morrow left. What a weird name. But he didn't say anything. Not that he could anyway. He was mortified to look her in the eyes.
He grabbed his hair. Why, why did he get a panic attack? Why right now? He thought he was fine. Yesterday was fine, and nothing happened anyway. Sure, Saturday was a very bad day, to say the least, but he thought he had it under control.
His anxiety wasn't something new to him. When he got older, he always had a sense of nerves or just being anxious in general. The attacks only started when he met Ben. Of course, Ben came with two others, and that definitely sped things up.
He breathed out slowly as Morrow had just had done. How did she even know how to do that? She looked like she knew what she was talking about. Morrow didn't look the kind of type who would have a panic attack, so he figured it should be someone in her family or friends.
He knew it happened after Ben and his following came into the classroom. The whole room fell silent, and the people who were there (which were only three people) left in a hurry.
The tension became real and somehow suffocating. Felix was frozen in place. They were talking about some shit, and he didn't really know how to respond. He just stood there. Thinking back, he definitely should've hit him, or something. Not that he was strong or let alone brave enough.
He sighed and packed his stuff and stood up. He really should be going. The bell has rung a few minutes ago and he was still sitting here, in the empty room. Felix didn't remember which and if he had class, but considering it was only twelve he figured he must have a different class.
That rest of the day he was quiet and tried his utmost best to avoid everyone but in particular Ben, T and Oliver, and Morrow. Luckily for him, he succeeded and the rest of the day was uneventful, apart from the fact that he dreaded the moment he was out of the school gates. Not knowing what was going to happen.
What he didn't know was that Morrow didn't just walk to class that day. She made a little time for three boys and made sure to have a little chat with them.