Meeting, Stained In Cedar
Streaks of sunlight were painted sparingly over a sky thick with clouds, dappling the snow-laden sidewalks with the smallest hint of inviting warmth. Even through the gentle glow, the unwelcome hug of winter wind never shied away from making its presence known. Stinging eyes, chattering teeth, running noses. The calling cards of lingering among the snowflakes for a touch too long might’ve been shrugged off by those familiar with falling temperatures. But there sat Dante, gazing vacantly out the library window. Still shivering, he blindly fumbled around the table, pawing at his thermos. Dante knew not to stare, but he was helpless against it. In a hazy cross between jealousy and confusion, he pondered how people were enjoying being out in the snow.
A plume of steam exited the thermos’s spout, bringing Dante out of his trance as the thermos neared his lips. The heat of the Darjeeling tea traveled down his throat, reminding him that he preferred being on this side of the glass. He set his tea down a few inches closer to his notebook than it used to be, then turned his attention towards the bookshelves all around him. More books than someone could ever read loomed over Dante’s slouched figure. Dante peered over at the gap in an otherwise full shelf of books. He had been the one to remove those books in a desperate attempt to draw inspiration from them. He’d like to say that he had gathered enough material to create a satisfying beginning to a book he hadn’t planned, yet the notebook cried otherwise. Line after line had been scratched out, looking more like the scrawls of a conspiracy theorist than the work of an up-and-coming writer.
The ever-present space on the shelf lured Dante into a trance. The familiar emptiness caused him to reminisce on his last day in what used to be his home. It’s for the best! You’ll make new friends! It’s already happening, so at least try to have a good attitude! Those words echoed in Dante’s head, but they failed to make him feel better. Yet, in his absent-minded staring, an odd sense of warmth began to envelop Dante’s body. No, this was way more than warmth. This definitely qualified as hot at the very least, and it jolted Dante back to reality. His thermos had been knocked on its side, tea rushing onto his jacket sleeve, the table, and most distressingly, his notebook. Dante quickly turned around and met eyes with someone who was somehow even more distressed than him.
“Oh my god! Uh... I’m......I-I’m...” The shaken boy’s voice wobbled recklessly as he tried to force out an apology. Dante could see the cogs in the boy’s brain hectically turning as he continually switched his gaze between Dante, Dante’s notebook, and the scattered mess of books at his feet. “I’m so sorry, I can’t believe I did that! I should’ve been looking where I was going. Oh jeez, I’ve made a huge mess! What do I do? How do I fix this? You’re mad, aren’t you? I really didn’t mean to knock your drink over! I’m really sorry, I’m just super clumsy and-” Words were spilling out of his mouth faster than Dante could even comprehend. Dante was worried steam would begin spewing out of his ears.
“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” Dante barked, with only a hint of cynicism attached to his response. “You need to calm down, dude. You might explode if you don’t.” He teased, hoping it would ease the other’s worries. The boy calmed himself down a tad before speaking.
“Sorry for knocking your drink over, and sorry about your notebook.” He glanced down at the watch on his wrist, and his eyes widened. “I have to go. Sorry again.” His voice, now understandable, was rather sweet and silvery. The boy knelt down and gathered the books he dropped when he realized he caused Dante’s thermos to topple. A small piece of paper quietly slipped out of his coat pocket. In a hurry, he stood up and left, shoulders heaving as he paced away.
“Hey, you...“Dante called after him, but to no avail. He was already out of earshot, and had just as hastily disappeared beyond the frosted glass doors of the library. “...dropped something.” He allowed his voice to trail off. Dante got out of the chair to pick up the folded piece of paper that was forgotten. I shouldn’t read it, he thought to himself. Eh, it’s not like he’ll know, or like I’ll see him any time soon. He carefully unfolded the sheet of paper and absorbed the words penned on the page.
Theodore, I have to work late tonight. I won’t be home for dinner, so just order a pizza. Make sure your sister goes to bed on time. Love, Mama. Dante folded the note back up and placed it into his own pocket. He looked back onto the messy table and surveyed the situation. His notebook was definitely ruined and stained a dingy brown. The table was now sticky and smelled of Darjeeling. Letting out a sigh of frustration, he sat back down and put his head in his hands. For his own sake, Dante hoped that people at his new school weren’t going to be as much of a mess as Theodore was.