Caspian and Caroline sat at the table in a short silence. Caroline had just finished telling Noah's death story, and now had a sad smile lined on her lips, and a few lonely tears in her eyes. Caspian had been listening understandingly since the beginning, nodding slowly every now and then. He comprehended everything Caroline said in a polite and empathetic manner, and let the table be silent for a moment before uttering a few words.
"I'm really sorry about that," he said genuinely. "Must have been horrible."
Caroline nodded. She looked away to her right, wiping a tear from her undereye area.
"It was," she said. "It still is."
"Did you all get through it alright?" Caspian asked.
Again, Caroline nodded.
"I mean... it changed us, quite a lot."
"I bet. Is that why those girls stopped hanging with you?"
"Yeah...," Caroline sighed, partly because of unpleasant memories, and partly to stop a flurry of tears to stream from her eyes. "When Noah died... a part of me was like... ripped away from me. Then Evie, Hope and Raegen stopped hanging out with me - they said I was too sad, and too boring. They didn't want to hang out with me anymore"
Caspian's eyebrows raised high up, and he looked at Caroline as though he didn't want to believe her.
"Are you serious?" he asked, to which Caroline nodded. "Too boring? How selfish can someone be?"
"Selfish enough to abandon their friend in her biggest time of need," Caroline quietly said, burying all the emotions filling her.
Caspian ran his hand through his hair, still looking shocked at the aspect of the girls' behavior.
"But don't come at them for it," Caroline insisted. "I don't want to bother them anymore."
"Aren't they bothering you?" Caspian asked, concern in his tone.
"I used to be upset about it... but now I just ignore them," Caroline confessed.
"And they're ignoring you..."
Silence followed. Caroline fought back tears, and wiped the ones that made it out with her hand, which was now getting wet. She looked down at her lap and witnessed a tear dropping down on her knee.
"Caroline," Caspian broke the silence after about thirty seconds.
"Yeah," Caroline looked back up.
"Thanks for sharing that" Caspian smiled.
A small smile found its way to Caroline's lips as well.
"No problem. Thanks for listening."
They laughed quietly for a few seconds.
"But you know... I totally forgot that I'm supposed to eat at the café in the center of town with my mom in ten minutes, soooo."
"You can go."
"Thank you very much."
Caspian stood up, and a second later Caroline did the same.
"See you tomorrow, Caroline Wethey," Caspian said.
Caroline's smile got even bigger.
"Yeah, Caspian Checkett."
The two of them walked off in different directions.
Twenty minutes later, Caroline closed the front door behind her. She kicked her shoes off and hung her jacket on a hook on the wall. Smiling to herself about the afternoon, while also feeling a bit down about Noah, she walked into the kitchen, and further into the house to go up the stairs. Halfway up, Jazz spotted her, and came running down.
"Hi Jazzy" Caroline said in a cutesy voice, bending down to scratch the cat's ear.
Jazz meowed at her as they walked up the last step onto the second floor. In quiet (except for Jazz's slow purring), they went into Caroline's room. Jazz ran over and swiflty jumped onto the bed, indicating she wanted to be scratched or pet. Caroline gave her a sad look to tell her that she couldn't. She had some dreaded homework lying on her desk. Just as she sat down to start working on it, Daviana pushed the door open.
"How was today?" she asked curiously.
"Fine" Caroline answered truthfully. While she did feel good talking to Caspian, she had also talked about memories she wasn't fond of.
"How was the park?" Daviana continued asking.
"Fine as well" Caroline repeated.
"Was Caspian not nice?"
"He was," Caroline quickly defended. "He's one of the kindest guys I've ever met, but it's just... we brought up some bad memories."
Daviana nodded, quickly understanding what Caroline was referring to.
"I'm fine now though," Caroline smiled.
"Great" Daviana smiled back. She turned around and closed the door.
The grin rested on Caroline's face for a while before she went to actually do her homework.
The next day, Caspian was already waiting for Caroline by her locker when she walked through the doors of the school. She couldn't help but grow a smile as she walked up to him to put her outside wear in the locker.
"Hi," she said, a bit shyly.
"Hello Caroline," Caspian politely answered. "Nice to see you again."
"Nice to see you too."
They stood in silence and smiled lightly as Caroline removed her thin jacket. Right as she had kicked off her shoe and put it in, Evie, Hope and Raegen came walking down the hall.
"Got yourself a new friend, I see," Hope commented; a rude tone to her voice. "Are we not good enough for you to come back to us?"
Evie and Raegen stood quietly behind Hope, not looking like they cared one bit for what she said and did.
"I...," Caroline went quiet. Her eyes wandered to stare right at her locker.
"The new guy too," Hope continued, looking Caspian up and down. "Really Carrie?"
"Don't... call me Carrie," Caroline quietly asked of them. She knew her request would have no impact on them.
"Actually," Caspian interrupted the situation. "I think the 'new guy' has gotten himself a new friend"
Hope closed her mouth, and gave Caspian an arrogant look.
"What makes you so special?"
"I'm not quite sure," Caspian had a clear ironic voice. "Maybe it's being the 'new guy' that makes me so easy to befriend. Now let's go Caroline."
He grabbed Caroline's sleeve and pulled it lightly. Then they walked off, leaving Evie, Hope and Raegen on their own. Caspian was still holding a small piece of Caroline's sleeve, and he led them quickly around a corner, into the junior's common area.
"Are they being serious?" he turned to face Caroline. Although it wasn't obivous as daylight, Caroline could feel the fury in his voice.
"I... I don't know," Caroline untruthfully answered.
"'Aren't we good enough for you to come back?', what the hell is wrong with them?" Caspian continued. "They're the ones who left you in the first place, I just...," he put his hands up to his face and turned his head away, seemingly to not scream out his anger. "I can't handle people like them. Where's that girl's respect?"
Caroline shrugged, looking down at the ground.
"Hope's never been that friendly," she admitted. "That... what she did there, it's kind of her sense of humor."
"Insults are her sense of humor?"
"These people are sick."
"I... I think my Math class is starting," Caroline said, finding the easiest way to get out of the situation. "Talk to you during lunch?"
Caspian quickly seemed to understand her point of view, and nodded. As Caroline walked away, he stayed put in the common area. Caroline hurried off to her math class.
During lunch, Caroline sat alone at a table in the far left of the room. No one even noticed she was in the room, because they had no reason to. The group of four sitting at the same table as Caroline were two seats away from her, talking away like she wasn't even there. Caroline blocked out their conversation - she didn't want to eavesdrop - and ate her spaghetti.
Her thoughts trailed away slowly, and it was as if the outside world was merely a fuzzy picture after a while. The indistinct outlines of Evie, Hope and Raegen eating at the next table blocked her view, so she lightly moved her chair to the left to stare right out the window behind them. The twigs in the trees rocked back and forth with the wind, with their soon-to-bloom leaf buds swaying them around even more.
Then suddenly, a blurry figure stepped in in front of her, and sat down in the chair opposite her at the table.
"Hey Caroline," Caspian said, snapping Caroline out of her trans.
"Oh," Caroline uttered while her vision returned to normal. "Hi."
"Really nice trees, huh?" Caspian asked, smirking.
"You know, my dad liked watching trees too," Caspian told. "He said it was mesmerizing."
"It is," Caroline said, a happy snort under her breath.
"I never really understood why," Caspian got a small puzzled wrinkle between his eyebrows. "I still don't."
"If I'm being honest, I don't either."
"Well, you can't understand everything."
"If everyone could," Caroline breathed. "the world wouldn't be so confusing."
"I don't know if it would be amazing though," Caspian added. "With everyone knowing everything."
"There's a difference between understanding and knowing," Caroline pointed out.
Caspian nodded slowly, a glint of something in his eye.
"You're right. One hundred percent," he said, placing his head on his joined hands. "Like I know that those idiots don't hang out with you anymore, but I don't understand why they don't."
"I told you before," Caroline said, impatient with having to say it again, while not arguing against it. "They said I turned 'sad and boring'"
"That is still completely insane," Caspian said, taking a break to eat some of his food.
"But I did turn sad," Caroline admitted. "Me and Noah... we were close... very close. Him dying was like a part of me being ripped away. Then they abandoned me, and it... it didn't help"
"I get that," Caspian gave her a sympathetic look. "You can't control what happens to you when you lose someone close to you. My mom changed too when my dad died. She's still affected by it"