"Determination in those eyes
Where has it gone, has it said goodbye?
A lot has happened
But I'll stay by your side"
I missed him so bad I didn't even notice it.
It's a good thing we've been friends for long, because if my instinct hadn't told me to go after him, I wouldn't have. I scrambled up to go after him as soon as he got up, but already my cause was doomed. His desk was closer to the desk than mine, and he already had a headstart and was walking faster than I'd seen him walk all year. I didn't think to run until he had a foot out the door. By the time I was in the doorway, it was too late. Artemis had disappeared into the crowd. I didn't see him taking his usual route to Po's office...our route. He was gone.
I didn't realise I was standing dazed in the doorway until people started swearing at me. When I did I at least had the sense to move out of the way of other people, even if I wasn't really going anywhere just yet. The experience didn't really help my feelings of idiocy. I knew I should've been more careful with Artemis. What kind of a friend am I, to piss him off so easily and not even notice it? I felt lousy. So I drifted to the one place kids are supposed to go but don't want to go when they feel lousy-the nurse's office. I needed a girl chat big time.
I gave a heavy, defeated sigh as I walked in, letting my backpack fall to the floor with a dull thud. Of course Sakura picked up immediately, looking up at me with furrowed brows and forgetting her computer work with fingers still poised to type.
"Something wrong?" she asked rhetorically. She knew something was wrong, I'd practically told her. She just didn't know what. I bit my lip, suddenly realizing that for supposedly being her best friend I'd never talked to Sakura about boys before. I would've felt incredibly awkward was I not too busy feeling like a piece of &$% .
"It's Artemis," I began, which made her take a deep breath as if preparing herself for a doozy. I took a seat by the door. "He got mad at me, and now I can't find him. You seen him?"
"I'm sorry, I haven't," she informed, giving me a sympathetic grimace. "I should be paying better attention, I've been plugging away at this form. You said he got mad at you? How?"
"We were just talking," I began, getting more than a little defensive as I went on. "and then he says that he's a 'little mad' because he thinks I lied to him ages ago. Right? As if! So I figured out that he'd lied to me, and all I did was ask him the truth, and then he gets all pissy and storms out like I'd said something that hurt his feelings. &%*$#ing ridiculous for two reasons. One, I don't think he has feelings to hurt in the first place, being the total %# he is. Two, how am I supposed to know if I hurt his feelings or not? He always acts like something's on his nerves, and I'm supposed to do something about it? I mean, what the #$?! Will you just talk to me, or let me know, or something? I know I'm your friend, but I can't read your &%*$y genius mind! What the #$ do you want from me, you &*^% #$head?!"
It wasn't until a passing student slowed down and poked his head into the office that I realized how strident my voice had become. Glaring at his innocently concerned face, I was about to chew him a new one when I remembered that Sakura was still here.
"What do you want?" I snapped. That got him out of here faster than if I'd pulled a knife on him. Which I wouldn't have, because I'm not a sneaky &*$ like some people are when they fight, but at the moment I wouldn't have put it past me. I get...volatile when I'm mad. Which I think is partially why I attached to Artemis, because he never gets me mad like everything else in my life does. Except for this.
"I don't think that's what he meant," said Sakura slowly, knowing better than to speak fast or aggressive for fear of riling me up again. "I've seen many boys like him who claim they are wise, but he is one of the precious few who can hold true to that claim. You of all people know that he wouldn't get mad at you so easily. I think there's a deeper reason for his irritation that you're not seeing. As always, all this is is a communication problem. Just try to talk to him."
"Like that'll happen," I growled darkly, leaning back and ignoring the thinning crowd outside. "There's no way he wants to talk to me after that nonsense. He'd just tell me to go away, and then I'd get even angrier. Then I'd probably end up punching him, and then he really wouldn't want to talk to me. Best to avoid him until further notice, since that's what he wants."
"Are you sure it's him who wants to avoid you?" she inquired with a knowing half-smile. I seethed, to which she rolled her eyes. "Even if he doesn't want to talk to you again just yet, I doubt it'll last for long. He's smarter than to let a grudge prolong, especially between himself and a friend as close as you."
"I don't care," I muttered, turning away from Sakura in my seat and hugging myself. "If he wants to just sulk and do his stupid Arty thing, that's fine. As long as he isn't a jerk to me again."
Sakura was silent for a long time, as if she'd heard me. I hadn't meant for that. From the corner of her eye I could see that she was noticeably still. That wasn't like her. She had been trained to be the most efficient worker she could be, which never meant holding still for more than a second at a time. I started counting. Thirty had passed before she moved again.
"You better go," she said, looking at the clock. Being the pack animal I was, I followed her gaze. I had roughly two minutes to get to class on time. I grumbled a reluctant agreement and shambled to my feet, throwing my backpack up on one shoulder.
"Don't do anything stupid." she farewelled as I had a foot out the doorway. I hadn't even noticed that I hadn't said goodbye. We were both acting weird, and the scary part was I had no idea why.
"Bye," I murmured.
No, I knew exactly why. I just didn't want to acknowledge it.
I didn't even move during Mr. Po's class. Without Arty there, I remembered how tempting it would be to shoot either myself or Po given the opportunity. Ironic as it is, it was the lack of Artemis's presence that wouldn't let me stop thinking about him. Every question that Po threw at me prompted an answer from the imaginary Artemis that had materialized from my imagination and was now lounging on my shoulder. His lack of body mass plus his newly diminished size made him feel like air on my shirt. I, of course, didn't say anything the whole period. I let Artemis do the talking.
"Ah, get off, you," squeaked Mini Arty after Po asked me what was wrong for the umpteenth time. "Can't you see she's moping? The only reason she tolerates this class is because she gets to muck about with the real me. But I'm too busy avoiding you, aren't I, love?"
I didn't reply.
Next period drifted past equally bleak, and then there was yet another one, in which I discovered that Devon shared a class with me and had secured a seat by me via some miraculous persuasion of fate or Ms. Galluck. Waving away Mini Arty's incessant Irish voice, I focused what energy I had on him. I suppose that I was desperate for a distraction from the Artemisian vacuum that was beginning to suck me in. Which made no sense because Artemis didn't share this class with me anyway, but my brain hadn't been working all day, so it would have been presumptuous of my mental abilities to assume it would kick itself back into shape. Especially when Devon kept distracting me with his perfect everything. In the back of my head Artemis was throwing a tantrum, demanding that I focus on something other than Devon because he was tainting my mind with normal stuff that didn't matter like my life and his life and a billion other vitals. I went so far as to wave him away at one point. Devon probably thought I was crazy for that. $%& #.
It wasn't until the bell rang for lunch that I experienced my usual beginning-of-lunch endorphin spike. For some reason it was unexpected, until I remembered the source of my ancient habit. Consistently seeing Arty this time of day always raised my spirits. Unfortunately, despite that remembrance, I failed to recall our earlier spat, which just goes to show how pointless it was in the first place. Put the two neurotic misfires together, and I had an idea that at its conception seemed to outshine the Wright brothers. The most goofy and unfitting grin I'd never even thought of split across my face.
"There's someone I want you to meet!" I told Devon emphatically, haphazardly shoving my science notebook into my backpack and making a beeline for the door. I left it to Devon to keep up with me through the other thirty boys that wanted to be the first out to lunch, but as always I pushed past them with half the effort. Being the only girl and the only one who can lick everyone else in the school has its perks. I made it to the cafeteria in record time, but when I got there I realized that something was wrong. Very wrong.
"Found ya!" greeted Devon with a mild punch on my shoulder. I didn't even feel it. I only gave him a perfunctory laugh for his trouble. I couldn't focus on him. I was too busy scanning the crowd, double-checking every scalp through the sea of boys for the one that nobody but I would miss. I must have stood there for a full minute before I felt Devon's hand on my shoulder.
"You okay?" he murmured softly. I let out a breath I didn't know I'd been detaining with a blue note.
"He's not here," I responded, half to myself. I knew Devon was giving me a polite frown of concern, but I still wasn't looking at him. Artemis had to be here, and I sure wasn't going to miss him.
"Well, what's he look like?" he inquired. Sweet of him for trying to be helpful, but what are the chances that he'll find my Arty when I can't?
"Tiny," was the first word that came out of my mouth. Arty wouldn't have liked that, but it was definitely true. "Pale. Longish dark hair, styled into a novicely structured attempt at a mullet. Kind of looks like a vampire. Blue eyes." Cute scowl. Wait, did I say that part out loud?
The next few seconds passed in silence, which only served to make me more nervous. I didn't like this. He'd never hidden from me before. Gone away and come back different, sure, but actively avoided me? Never. Being Artemis's friend was becoming more and more of a chore. Friendships weren't supposed to be that way, were they?
"I don't see him," he lamented sympathetically after. Putting an arm around my shoulders, he started leading me to the salad bar. "But tell me about him. This friend of yours sounds like an interesting guy."
I perked up a little at the prompting, eager to be distracted from the numbness in my heart that had taken root and steadily grown since second period.
"He's great! His name's Artemis," I began. I thought I caught a flare in his beautiful eyes, but it must have been the skylights because it was gone as soon as I 'saw' it. "He's kind of like my opposite, but somehow we're best friends. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one he has, which totally makes sense because he's rubbish with people. Proper genius, though. Every other sentence that he spits at me contains words that even my mum wouldn't know, and she knows every useless fact and adjective in the civilized world."
"Fascinating," purred Devon. I detected a note in his timbre that at first seemed almost predatory, but didn't think any more of it. I must be imagining things. "It's a shame he didn't turn up. I would have liked to meet him."
"Yeah, I don't know where he is," I apologized with a bit of a sigh. Not my grumpy teenager one this time, which is not a pleasant kind of new. "which is really weird because he's always at our table. I'm sorry you couldn't meet him, I don't know where else he would be. I checked the broom closet, and he wasn't in Po's office…"
"Maybe he's just moping," he brainstormed. Suspiciously accurate for a first guess. "Does he mope?"
"Ugh, yeah," I grumbled with an eyeroll. Artemis is great, but not nearly as perfect as he thinks he is. "But it's never been this long. And he hasn't moped at all in ages. I really hope he's okay. We sort of...fought, I guess, earlier today, and I haven't seen him since. I wish I knew what I said that set him off. I just…don't know what went wrong."
I tried to picture his face again, but it wouldn't come. Even in my mind he was hiding from me. Where was he now? Alone, almost definitely. He wouldn't stoop to befriend anyone else at this school, and I knew because we spent our entire educational lives together. How could he do that to himself? I could just imagine the hurt and resentment gnawing at him now, and had a sudden urge to find him and quell it for him. I hated not being able to help him, or do anything for him at all. Why wouldn't he let me help him? Didn't he know that I would forgive him of anything if he would only seek me out?
"Don't worry about him," Devon chided, putting another arm around me. It was a little lower this time. "He'll turn up eventually. You did the right thing."
I wanted more than anything to believe him. No, that's a lie. I would rather have Arty back. But I couldn't, and I didn't.
I allowed Devon to lead me away to his table of freshly-made friends. The whole lunch period passed. I saw neither pearly hide nor midnight hair of him. I didn't say anything because I knew that anything that came out of my mouth would trigger the tears. I missed him so &*^% y much.