Chapter 20

As we were walking to class, I halted. “ I forgot my pen back at the bench,” I said.

“ Leave it, you can use some of mine.”

“I can’t I said. It was the pen I used back home, I had it on me when I was taken away and I couldn’t get myself to stop carrying it.”

“You need to let go of your old life Em. You know you can never get it back, right ?” he looked at me condescending as if he knew what was best for me.

“The more you hold on, the more it is going to hurt.”

I knew he was right. But I resisted the notion. I didn’t want to let it all behind. I allowed my past to define me and I wasn’t ready to let it go. I tried, I tried, oh how much I tried. But the past was poisoning my veins and I knew that to remove the poison also meant draining myself of the blood that kept me alive.

So I walked all the way back. Determined to hold onto the scraps leftover from my old life. I quickened my step, worried someone might have taken it. But luckily there it was, lying still, but yet it moved me in ways I couldn’t control. I remember me getting it out of my front uniform pocket as we took our clothes. I remember sticking it into my bra. I recall checking if it was still there as I ran. It was nothing but an old pen with bitten edges, but to me it meant something. I was never the sentimental type. But losing everything changes you change you in ways you did not predict.

As I was about to leave. I remembered the poem. So I went towards the trash can, peaked from above and there it was, the paper reduced to a ball. I grabbed it, grateful that the trash was empty and shoved it into my backpack. With that, I rushed towards the class.

When I was almost near the restrooms, I saw him exiting.“ Hey Thomas, wait up” I shouted. He turned, smiled and waited for me to reach him. As he waited he leaned across the wall. To everybody else, he looked at ease but I knew he needed the support of the walls had to offer and I could tell by the slight agitation of his hands that he was a ticking bomb ready to explode.

The walk all the way to our little classroom that day was much more silent than usual. There was a cloak of uneasiness in my throat. A cloak I couldn’t shake off. I wanted to ask him about Julia. I wanted to know more about her. Maybe it was my curiosity that urged me to understand her. Maybe it was all a selfish thirst for knowledge or maybe just maybe, I cared. I saw a side of her that day with her sister that I didn’t expect and it made me realise that maybe, just maybe she wasn’t all that bad. It was like that with me. I was always eager to find the good in people and even though life and circumstances had taught me better, I knew that Julia’s life was also a Fragile goblet, that was prone to shattering.

First I asked him how long he knew her.

“It has been a long time now, we went to this school together since we were little.”

As the answer came from his mouth, Mary, a tall girl from my class approached us and we were informed that Mr Mercieca wouldn’t be coming. I felt relieved. I wasn’t in the mood for another long day of learning. I wasn’t always like this; there was a time where I liked to know more, and more, to learn about new people, new lands. But now learning seemed secondary. It felt unnecessary.

“let's go back home,” Thomas suggested

I didn’t answer, he understood that I agreed.

“Then we will be back for Elizabeth and Joseph,” he added naturally.

They were more than old enough to make their way back home on their own, but Thomas cared so much to leave them to come on their own. I always noticed the way he protects Joseph. I admired that about him and it reminded me of David and how he was left behind for us. Even though now I knew David was with my parents, I was still scared to death about his well being and the guilt I felt the very first night I left him behind was still fresh. A wound that wasn’t ready to bridge and heal.

When we were out of the school compound, “Race you back home! “he said in his playful voice. I nodded, grateful to give myself something to do. And so there we were running all the way, just like little kids. When I was running, I let all my thoughts and worries float away. I let them be blown with the wind that was blowing against my face. It was an amazing feeling, it felt like flying. I went faster and faster until I was completely out of breath. I felt myself running away from all the things that were holding me down and I felt light, a lightness I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

But my body wasn’t used to this freedom, so II had to stop and gasp for air.

“ I am tired, let's take a break” I yelled at him while I was still trying to catch my breath.

Luckily I wasn’t the only one out of breath and Thomas agreed. So we decided to enter a small shop. We bought two water bottles and some biscuits. A few steps away from the shop there was this log. It was far from comfortable, but I was too tired. I would have set on anything. Thomas handed me a bottle of water and we both drank eagerly. After I quenched my thirst I looked at the biscuits which now hang out of Thomas’s backpack. He laughed and handed them over. After we cleared the packet we took another sip of water and we were finished.

As I saw Thomas getting up to leave, I let the question roll off my tongue “Was Julia always that way?”

After a rather long pause he answered; “No she wasn’t”, he paused and continued; “We used to be great friends “It was such a short answer but the tone he said it, said a lot more.

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