Trigger warning: this chapter contains mentions of suicide/mentions of bullying which can be triggering to some readers.
The day after, Morrow still didn't see Felix at school. Her uneasiness grew by the minute and it almost grew too much at the end of the school day. The whole day at school had been useless anyway. The teachers all had a short temper, and they taught her the boring stuff she had already been taught at her previous time.
So much so for trying to distract herself with the subject matter.
Various scenarios went through her head, but none of them seemed right. Besides, her friends' gazes weren't helping either.
'Oh my god, guys. What is it?' Morrow said annoyed. It was lunch and they were all seated at their usual table. But the conversation hadn't been cheerful as usual.
Abi spoke up. 'We're a bit worried, Mors. You've been in your head all day already. What is going on?'
She raised her shoulders, but before she could say everything was fine, Inez interrupted her. 'Morrow, stop lying to us. We already know something is going on, just tell us what.' Her tone was demanding, urging Morrow to answer her.
Now, this surprised Morrow and with her, everyone else. Inez was a quiet person, she was always there for everyone but if you didn't want to talk about you didn't have to. So for her to speak up like that was... well very special so to say.
Morrow couldn't hide her surprise and looked dumbfounded for a second. 'Uh, well... I don't...'
'Morrow. Whatever it is, you can talk to us about it. We're your friends.' And it wasn't that she didn't see the girls as her friends, because she did. But hearing it from Inez and seeing the same expression on the faces of the others, touched her in some way and the stress of that day just washed away. She breathed it out and collapsed on her arms on the table. She didn't know how stressed she actually was.
'Is this about that guy?' Abi guesses.
Morrow looks up, but before she could bring something in, Stephanie goes: 'What guy? Is there a guy involved? Abi you should say something like, don't worry about a guy.'
'Shut up, Steph. I'm pretty sure it's not like that or is it?'
Morrow can't help but laugh and shakes her head. 'No, it's not like that. I just owe him a lot and he is in a bit of trouble because of me. So I kind of feel a bit guilty.'
'You didn't say anything to his bullies, did you?' Abi says again, and after seeing Morrow's face that she clearly did so, she sighs. 'You know, you always do this. You always interfere with bad people.'
'And what else do you want me to do?' Morrow snapped. Abi could be her friend, but Morrow had strong beliefs and boundaries. 'Just let him get bullied? People kill themselves because of bullying and you're telling me to just let them bully him?'
'I'm not saying that. I meant why do you always interfere? Why not get the teacher involved?'
'Yeah, like that helps. No teacher can actually do something. Sure, they can stop the pestering inside the classroom but outside they don't have any power. Everyone knows that, and so do the bullies.' Morrow suddenly noticed how the light atmosphere had turned into an uncomfortable one.
'But that's beside the point. I'm just worried about him. That's all.' Her friends were silent and Morrow didn't dare to look them in the eyes.
This was just awesome. She now ruined lunch while she didn't intend to. Lunch was the only thing of today she looked forward to.
Stephanie exhaled loudly. 'Well, what Morrow just said is true. Bullies are everywhere and it's difficult to stop them. But, that's not the point here, right?' She tried to catch Morrow's eyes and she nodded slightly. 'So, if you're so worried about him, why are you still here?'
When Morrow looked at her, at a loss for words, (because why was she still here), Stephanie sighed again. 'It's not like you never skipped class before. Go on and save your man.'
'He's not my-'
'Yeah, yeah. I'll cover for you in the next class.'
Morrow smiled thankfully, quickly packed her bags, and left school.
Once she was done talking about the three problems, she decided to go to Felix herself.
Yesterday he got home and luckily no one was home. There was a note on the dinner table from his mother that she was going to come home late, two pizzas were in the fridge, and Ethan was with his friend Aiden. He should be brought home at 5.
At 5, Ethan got dropped off and he was sure the mother of Aiden, Ethan's friend, was looking very worried and quickly left after. It was only a matter of time since his mom knew.
Ethan was adorable. So, so worried about him that almost made him cry. He reassured him that he was fine and tried to get Ethan to calm down and to stop touching Felix's face with his little hands. He didn't get to see his mother that day.
The next morning, he slept surprisingly well and came out of his room to go to the bathroom. He needed to bring Ethan to school today since his mom had to work as usual. He took a quick glance in the mirror, which was a bad idea because he looked even worse than yesterday. He hoped Ethan wasn't going to say anything since he wasn't sure he could bear another day of pity from a little kid.
Felix quickly washed his face, dried it, and exited the bathroom, coming face to face with his mother.
For a second he froze, didn't know what to do, or say. The first thought was "why is she home" and coming right after the first thought, the second was "shit, my face". He saw his mom's eyes grow wider the more they just stared at each other. Felix wanted to disappear into a hole. He didn't really think about how he wanted his mom to find out, but this certainly wasn't it.
His mother broke the silence first. 'Oh, my gosh Felix. What in the world happened to your face!?' His mom wanted to touch it, but he turned away immediately. 'When Aiden's mom called me yesterday I couldn't believe it, but look at you, my baby...'
Her concern kind of washed over him, not really realizing how much his mom was worried.
'I'm fine, mom. Don't worry about it, you should've seen the other guys.'
'What do you mean you're fine? Someone beat up my son, and I want to know who that was! Also, this is no laughing matter. I'll get the first aid kit, you sit on the couch.' His mom stormed off, talking about her "baby" and how she would beat up the bullies.
Ten minutes later and he was all patched up. Bandages and all. 'So, are you not going to tell me what happened? Who beat you up, huh?'
'No one beat me up. It was just a fight between boys. You know how that goes.'
'Between boys?' She stressed the "s". 'Do you mean plural? You were in a so-called "fight" with multiple guys?'
'Mom...' He sighed. 'Look, there are just some things going on, I can't really tell you.' Cause if he did, he was sure that his mom would go to her boss, which was the dad of the main bully. She either would get fired or she would resign on the spot. Whichever came first. And right now, money was tight and he knew things would only get worse from there on out.
'But I'm your mother Felix. I worry about you.' She stroked his cheek. 'I know when things aren't going well, and things haven't been going well for a while now. I get that you want to solve things on your own, but it's okay to ask for help sometimes.'
His eyes were watery now, and he turned his head away, not daring to look his mother in the eyes. 'I know, I know.' He blinked rapidly, trying to keep his tears at bay. 'Anyways, what are you doing home? Shouldn't you be working?'
His mother sighed, knowing that Felix was trying to change the topic. She played along, thankfully. 'No, I took a day off. I'm not going to work when my son looks like this.' She stroked his hair and Felix felt guilty for keeping her out of his mess. But for now, it really was for the best.
The entire day he helped his mother out where he could. He didn't bring Ethan to school, his mom ushered him back to bed "to heal faster". One hour of extra sleep wouldn't fix his beaten-up face, but he complied and listened to how his mom woke Ethan up, got him breakfast, and when they left the house.
He woke up when his mother told him lunch was ready. Apparently, he did need some extra sleep. Groaning, he stood up, and together with his mom, he had lunch. The rest of the day it was basically his mother telling him to sit down and do nothing and Felix telling his mom he was fine and didn't need to be pampered.
He was watching some TV because his mother was stubborn enough not to give in to his pleas to let him do anything when he got a message.
He grunted. 'Just leave me alone...' He didn't need any more pity. Felix couldn't handle another sad face.
Another message. Morrow again. Felix ignored it again. Then, a call.
With irritation, he picked up the phone. 'What do you want?' His mother who was right in the kitchen looked at him worried. He waved her worries away and mouthed "friend".
It was quiet for a second. "If you've read my messages, you would know what I want." Her voice sounded smug, and Felix wondered what she was thinking.
'I don't want to play games right now. Just tell me so I can hang up.'
A little laugh. His irritation subsided. "Fine. Come outside for a second."
Now he was the quiet one. 'What do you mean? Right now?' He looked outside the window and saw that the sun had already set. He looked at the clock in his room and saw it was just a bit past eight. 'It's already dark out.'
"So?" A little pause. "Are you scared of the dark?"
'No. Of course not.'
"It's alright if you are, though."
"Fine. Come out then."
Her voice sounded even smugger, and Felix knew that it had all been a setup. He hated how she knew how to push his buttons.
'Fine, whatever. Where are you?'
Ten minutes later, he met up with Morrow. When he had said he was going out for a bit, she hadn't said anything about it and had just let him go. Thankfully.
'You made it.' Morrow said.
They decided to meet up at a local café, and she sat at a table outdoors, takeaway coffee in hand. Two, to be more precise.
'Of course. I'm a man of my word.'
Again a little laugh. 'Here. My treat.'
She handed him the coffee, and he took it gratefully. It wasn't cold outside, but he was a little sleepy, so maybe the coffee helped him stay awake.
Morrow and Felix started walking. Not really having a destination, but it was the most relaxing walk Felix ever had.
'Felix, did you know?' Morrow started.
'What?' Felix took a sip from his coffee. It tasted good, not bland like some brands.
'There is coffee made out of cat's poop.'
Felix choked on his sip of coffee. 'Why would you say that?' He wiped his chin and thought by himself: talk about timing, geez.
Morrow sipped her coffee and then turned around. 'You seemed lost in thought, so I thought I would test you.' She said matter-of-factly. 'Also,' she continued. 'I wanted to cheer you up a bit.'
'Pff, I'm fine.'
'Uhuh. Did you say that to your mother?'
'Leave my mother out of this.'
'Then don't tell me the same thing.'
They both looked at each other. Morrow determined, Felix annoyed and a bit embarrassed.
'Well, what do you want me to say?' He shrugged. 'You obviously know I'm not fine.'
'True, I can even guess what happened judging by your face. I just want you to tell me what happened.'
'Because that's what friends are for.' Again she said it like it was nothing.
He scoffed. 'Is it always that easy for you? Just listening to other people's drama?'
'It's not.' She sipped her coffee. 'I'm very picky about who I want to care for. Or be friends with.'
'So, why me then? I'm not that special. I would even advise you to get away from me because there is a high chance of you getting into my drama.'
She smiled and looked down. 'You really don't remember, do you?'
They sat down at a bench. 'What do you mean?'
'Do you remember the night where we first met?'
He laughed. 'Ugh, how can I forget that? You puked all over the backseat. You still owe me money for the cleaning service, by the way.'
Morrow looked confused for a second. 'Ah, no, I didn't mean that night. Let's forget about that night.' She too laughed but got more serious. 'I meant a different one. About three years ago?'
Felix scratched the wound on his cheek. 'Three years ago? That's a long time. I don't think I remember...' He was silent for a while. 'Did we meet each other then?'
Morrow nodded. 'We did. On a rooftop. It was raining, and we were both soaked.'
Felix stopped scratching his cheek. Stopped all of his moving. 'What...?'
'I think I even heard some thunder. The wind was like ice. The ground far below.'
Now they were both silent and not looking at each other.
'That was you?' He asked.
For some reason, Felix felt something shift. It clicked in place. Maybe it was the memory of this broken girl on the rooftop and the guilt he felt when he almost ran away when the girl seemed alright. He never for a second would think Morrow would be the person who stood on that rooftop all those years ago.
Relief washed over him, and maybe it was a bit selfish to think he didn't have to feel guilty anymore. 'How... how are you?' Which seemed like a stupid question, but he felt he needed to ask.
'I'm alright. I'm very picky about who I choose as friends, but I know I can trust you.'
'I'm glad you're alright now.'
Morrow nodded. 'I'm glad we got to meet again.'
He laughed awkwardly. 'Yeah, I'm sorry for running away. I kinda freaked out, and when I saw you calmed down and could think again, I just left. I should've sent you off in a taxi or something.'
'Nah, it's alright. You helped me a big deal. I don't think I would sit here drinking coffee if you hadn't been there.'
Felix glanced at her. Morrow sat calmly, sure and content with herself. Like any person should. To think he played a role in that seemed almost unreal.
'So, are you gonna tell me who I need to beat up, or what?'
'The bruises on your face.'
'Ah.' He touched it lightly. 'Don't worry. I took care of that.'
'Really?' Morrow leaned towards his cheek and touched it as well. 'Somehow, this doesn't help by convincing me.'
Felix tried to ignore how close she was and grabbed her hand. 'I had someone tell me to stand up for myself more. That's what I did.' He laid Morrow's hand back in her lap. 'Don't touch it....'
Morrow giggled, and Felix was sure it was the most beautiful laugh he had ever heard. 'Well. That person must have been very smart.'
'She is, but not always. Sometimes she makes these rash decisions that you know will end up doing more harm than good.'
Morrow replied, but Felix didn't really hear it. Unbeknownst to her, he was falling. Way. Too hard.