Happy New Year's! This is the first in a series of oneshots that I've dubbed Slowly We Ever Grow. It was an idea that I've had for a while now and was originally supposed to be a single oneshot. However, I liked the title too much and decided that I would do a series of oneshots that fit under the title. Enjoy!

Slowly We Ever Grow


Shane didn't like to judge people, especially if he didn't know them that well, but Lyra had always seemed cold and haughty to him. It was, he reasoned, a safe assumption to make when you went to school with someone for three years. Their high school wasn't particularly large, nor was it so small that you would always bump into the same person. Yet, he somehow always managed to run into her. She was a solemn girl who rarely ever smiled. If you gave her a polite smile, which he often did when he ran into her, she would return an equally polite, but also very cool, smile. He eventually stopped trying to smile at her.

She didn't have very many friends and the few she had seemed to decrease in number every year. The few that stuck around always seemed like they were trying to please her, only for her to offer a faint smile at most. Shane didn't deliberately take note of these details; it was only because he saw her so often that her actions became embedded into his impression of her.

Lyra didn't come to school the first half of senior year, a fact which Shane would later wonder if anyone noticed. It was a fact that he himself had not noticed until she did show up. The second thing that he noticed was how thin, tired, and stressed she seemed. He couldn't remember if she had always been that way, but didn't think anything more of it until he found her, on the drive home from school, crouched under a tree crying. He wouldn't have found her had it not been for the red light and the nice weather which had earlier prompted him to roll down his car windows. It was her sniffling that had led him to look out the window and spot her frail figure huddled under the tree. Shane hadn't known what to do and it wasn't until the light turned green that he decided to pull over and offer her a ride. She seemed wary and surprised but too defeated to argue. Still, he practically had to convince her to get in before she actually did. She seemed grateful and for the first time, it occurred to Shane that perhaps she wasn't as cold and haughty as he had originally thought.

Although it was a little out of his way, it became a daily occurrence for Shane to drive Lyra home and he eventually just waited for her at school instead of driving off without her only for him to stop when he did see her. She never waited for him and just took off when the bell rang so he had to hurry if he wanted to make it out before she did. He wasn't sure what it was that made him continually offer her a ride; perhaps it was the memory of her fragile figure crying under a tree or perhaps it was the realization that Lyra's seemingly cold and haughty disposition was actually a cover for her weak and insecure character. Because, as much as he hated describing someone as such, Lyra seemed rather pathetic and weak.

Besides exchanging the polite pleasantries, Shane and Lyra did not speak much. Any conversation they did make was limited to small talk because Lyra didn't like talking about herself, even less so about her personal life. Shane wouldn't consider her a friend but he began to notice details about her that otherwise would have gone undetected. He noticed for example, that she stopped going to lunch, unless a friend dragged her there, and that when she wasn't at lunch, she would be in the library working, always working. He also realized that her friends were not trying to please her, but rather trying to cheer her up, because a perpetual air of sadness seemed to hang around her, no matter how hard she tried to cover it. It was only when she offered them that faint smile that they seemed placated. Shane wondered if he was the only one who noticed that her smile never quite reached her broken eyes.

When she stopped accepting rides from him because she had found a part-time job after school, it seemed that that was the end of their budding friendship until Shane's mother asked why he came home so early these days and he told her about Lyra. It was then that he learned about how Lyra was raised for thirteen years by her single mother, until she got sick, leaving Lyra to care for both her ailing mother and her three younger siblings. Their family was a poor one and Lyra's part-time job was the only, albeit unsteady, source of income for the family.

When he started picking her up from work, she seemed surprised and reluctant to accept his help and Shane wondered why she was so afraid of letting people in.

He was surprised when he dropped Lyra off at her house one day to find three frail kids (though nowhere as frail as their older sister) come flying out bawling about how their mother had fallen down the stairs and was badly hurt. And although Lyra entrusted her siblings to the care of her matronly neighbor while she went in the ambulance with her mother, Shane stayed with them until she came back. Shane and kindly Mrs. Wilson tried to ease the kids' worries and when Lyra finally returned, it seemed that they would have to comfort her too. However, while it seemed all she could do not to cry, Lyra managed to keep calm for her wailing siblings.

It was only at kind Mrs. Wilson's insistence that Lyra allow her to help with caring for the kids that Lyra was able to maintain her job. All of Lyra's time outside of school was now spent at the hospital, working, or caring for her younger siblings. Shane began saving his school lunches for her to bring home. She wouldn't accept it otherwise. He noticed that she only ate what her younger siblings were unable to finish, which usually wasn't much, and though exhausted, did her best to maintain a sense of normalcy for them.

One fateful Saturday when Shane came over with some groceries he intended to sneak into her house, he was surprised to find Lyra home. Mrs. Wilson had taken her siblings to an amusement park so she was at home, a rare moment to herself. Unsurprisingly she had not eaten, so Shane made her a quick lunch. She politely thanked him and complimented his cooking, although she nibbled listlessly at her food. He made sure she finished before he took her dishes to wash. Afterwards, he was alarmed to find her sitting where he had left her. She had not moved and even her expression remained the same. She looked shell-shocked and frozen and he could only stand by helplessly, feeling useless and weak. He wondered if this was how she often felt.

"It's okay to cry you know," he finally offered and she had started in surprise. And when he offered her a gentle smile, she did cry. He wrapped his arms protectively around her and as she sobbed years and years' worth of tears, Shane realized just how strong she was.

I actually started knowing the ending, which actually happens in a lot of my writing. It's a bit longer than I wanted-I think this is my longest oneshot yet!-but I hope you enjoyed reading! As always, feedback and comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!