Part XII: Heartfelt
The next day was a Sunday; nonetheless, the students all had to go to practice for all the fun activities that they had planned for the last day of the academic year, a ritual in the school for quite some time.
When Laura and Robert entered the school grounds, deathly silence greeted them.
The students were all over the campus as usual, but, as soon as they strolled past, they stopped what they were doing and stood staring at the pair.
Laura at first frowned at this, before dismissing it as trivial – an innocent little teenager that she was; Robert came to the same conclusion – having knowing nothing better than her. Therefore, they both ignored all the distraction and walked towards their homeroom, where they were expected to rehearse for a play.
An unexpected sight greeted them there near the lockers:
“Michael, hi!” cried Laura, surprised but happy.
Michael’s dull tone stung her and, peering at him closely, she realised that he had an expression to match his tone of voice.
“What’s the matter, Michael!?” she asked him, worried. “Anything you can share?!”
A sigh emitted the normally confident Bad Boy of the school. It was then that she was how pained his expression appeared.
“Well,” he replied, “first off, you can start by calling me Micky instead of troubling yourself with my full name.”
“Oh,” she breathed, a little relieved. When she turned around to Robert, she was taken aback to see his absence. “Where has Bobby gone now? And why is there nobody in the corridor besides us!?”
“What do you mean?!” Laura was now going crazy with anxiety.
At this, Michael sighed heavily and beckoned her to follow him. He turned around and walked down the staircase a few steps away. He led her to the school garden.
He motioned her to sit down at one of the benches and knelt in front of her. At this, Laura’s face slowly went scarlet, undesirable thoughts flashing past her mind. She had to convince herself that nothing like that was going to happen…
Michael took a deep breath and began, “Secondly, I took care of Jenna Samuel.”
“What?!” she gasped, images of Jenna’s slit throat finding dominance in her over-imaginative mind!
“Well, I mean, I talked to her rather sternly and she won’t be bothering you anymore again.”
An involuntarily sigh of relief escaped her mouth, just before she realised it and closed it with both her hands.
Michael suddenly smirked. “You thought I killed her somehow, didn’t you?”
Laura turned even redder and gulped. “Y-yes,” she whispered.
Michael guffawed and, slowly, she also joined in.
When they sobered up a little, Laura cleared her throat.
“So, what now?” she asked him.
Michael shrugged for the second time within the hour. “I don’t know. You tell me.”
“Well,” replied Laura with a smile, “first off, come, sit here beside me.” She patted the space beside her on the bench.
He looked at her doubtfully. “Are you sure? Do you trust me enough?”
“More than ever… I trust you with my life, Michael!”
“No, Micky, remember?”
“Oh yes, about that—why not ‘Mike’?”
Michael sat down beside Laura.
“Aren’t you too curious for your own good?” he told her, with a chuckle.
She did not say anything, but giggled.
His laughter fading away, he stared off into the distance. “My mother used to call me ‘Mike’.”
She gasped. “’Used to’?”
He nodded. “Laura, we never discussed our lives, did we?”
She shook her head. “Nope. But, I’d love to know about yours.” She was staring intently at his face.
“Oh well, I was born to a couple who really loved each other – Jill and Michael Hudson… yes, I was named after my father, since he had died about a month before I was born – according to my mother. My mother, Jill, was very kind and sweet…but, that was once upon a time.” He turned to Laura. “You know what I mean?”
She nodded. “I think so,” she replied.
“But, one day, when I like ten, something happened – I’m not sure what – and she came back home that night, very unstable on her toes. I had kept awake waiting for her and, when she came in, I tried my best to help her to her bed. But, things were never going to be same… I suppose I should have seen that coming…
“Ever since then, she came home either drunk or crying or both. She would sometimes hit me with her skinny arms; although it hurt terribly, I would bear with it. Believe me when I say this, Laura, that I had thoughts of running away several times. But, I didn’t have the heart to leave her alone to her fate. So, I continued living under her roof.
“Till, one day, she left me.”
Here, Michael looked at her with an uneasy expression, waiting for her response.
Tears of sorrow fell down her perfectly rounded cheeks. It touched his heart to see that she felt for him so whole-heartedly. At that moment, he cursed himself for pushing her away at all as well as thanked the Heavens above for letting such a sweet and beautiful person enter into his life.
Laura took his hands in both of hers and whispered, “She passed away, didn’t she?”
So moved was he that the tears he had been suppressing for more than five years now began streaming down his face. Even so, he managed to nod his head in affirmative. He felt her squeeze his hands and it felt so much like he had come back home…
’Maybe I did,’ he thought, gazing steadily into the eyes of the girl beside him.
For a moment, the two held each other like that – with their gazes and their hands – before Michael finally cleared his throat.
“You know, Laura,” he said.
“I know how you did it, but saved my life…you made me believe in promises again.”
She grew red in the face, but did not rivet back to her shyness, as she would have had a few months ago. “What makes you say that?”
“My mother…she promised me,” he told her, moisture filling his eyes again. “While they were taking her to the hospital, she held my hand and promised me she’d be back for me – that she’d be watching over me again!
“And now, where is she!? She’s not watching me, that’s for sure!”
Laura – almost unashamedly – reached out to touch his lips with two of her fingers.
“Hush now,” she said in a soothing tone of voice. “That’s very silly of you, Micky! She’s always been watching over you!”
His expression turned to puzzlement. “What do you mean, Laura?”
The fact that Laura’s face went redder than tomato made him smirk. He liked making her uncomfortable, although he did not like it very much if someone else did.
She swallowed before she replied, “W-well, I m-meant t-that your mother would always be in your heart. She’d probably been watching you grow older – not to mention, handsomer – and how you’ve changed for good!”
Michael’s smirk turned into a small smile as he nodded. “I suppose that’s one way to put it.” Then, he held both of her hands in his, forcing her to look into his ears. “Laura, thank you…for…for listening to me.”
With more tears filling her eyes, she managed to nod her head.