Mile was starting on his second pastry from his dish when he felt eyes on him. He took a quick glance around, confirming that no one in the vicinity was looking at him. He returned his dish to his lap and turned in his seat to find his mother. He often found her watchful eyes on him when they were out in public, always worried something would happen to him.
But when he found her in the crowd, she was locked in a loud conversation, smiling, laughing, and definitely not looking at him. Mile furrowed his brow. He still felt like he was being watched, and he took another glance at everyone around him. He tried not to let the overpowering paranoia get to him, but it was really starting to freak him out.
He was wondering if he’d gone crazy when he finally spotted the source of his discomfort. Seated on the other side of the festivities was a boy around his own age, staring at him with wide blue eyes. Mile quickly averted his gaze, not wanting to embarrass the boy by catching him staring.
Mile waited a few moments and looked up again, his eyes instantly locking on the stranger’s. He felt his heart beating in his throat, panic flooding his veins. He couldn’t figure out why this boy was staring at him, but he found it hard to remove his own gaze.
After what seemed like ages, the boy flicked his gaze away, towards the clock tower. Mile breathed out a sigh and looked at the ground, somewhat glad to be free of the tension-filled staring contest. Something on the ground caught his attention though, and he was stuck staring at the spot, trying to figure out what it was.
Then it hit him. The boy’s shoes. The concave inner sole was on the same side on both shoes. Mile gasped and sat up straight. This was the mystery donor. This was his fateful meeting. He sat frozen, unsure what to do. Sure, he’d thought about it all day, but actually being in the moment threw all his preparation out the window.
Mile closed his eyes, thinking hard about what to do. He could go up and talk to the boy, maybe ask him what his deal was, but no, that’d probably scare him off. Maybe he could go sit next to the boy and make a joke about shoes? He had plenty of those; it was almost his specialty.
A sudden presence next to Mile made him open his eyes. He jumped sideways in his chair, barely stopping a shriek in his throat. The boy stood beside him, looking almost like a ghost. His fair skin and light hair made him look like he was on fire in the dying sunlight.
“Hi..” Mile said hesitantly. The way the stranger had been staring, and now his sudden appearance was odd, and Mile wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“My name is Pierre.” The boy said. A lock of his blond hair had fallen into his eyes and he brushed it behind his ear. “This might be a little forward of me,” he paused and Mile raised an eyebrow, “but would you mind joining me for a walk?”
The boy’s accent was foreign to Mile’s ears, proving he wasn’t originally from their village. Mile looked around at the other guests, wondering if anyone else was witnessing this. He was sure he was hallucinating; Pierre definitely seemed ethereal enough.
“I’m Mile. And it’s not forward. It’s just really creepy.” He looked back up at the boy in front of him, who had yet to look sheepish and say ‘never mind’ as Mile would’ve done. His confidence was weirdly charming to Mile, and, before he knew it, he was setting his plate aside and standing up. Pierre gave a soft smile. Oddly, that was what caused Mile’s heart to race.
Pierre weaved through the crowd, avoiding dancers and tables. He was quick on his feet and never hesitated. Mile felt creeping jealousy as he followed Pierre away from the festivities and into town. He assumed they had the same abnormality, but within just a few minutes of meeting each other, Mile could tell he was the one worse for wear.
Pierre didn’t speak as they walked, and Mile was too busy overthinking to find anything to say. Their only communication was Pierre’s subtle nods indicating which direction they needed to go.
It took a few minutes for Mile to figure out that Pierre had a destination in mind: the clock tower. He walked a little faster to catch up to Pierre and be heard over the still blaring festival music.
“I thought we were just going on a walk.” He inquired, gesturing to the tall building ahead of them. Pierre only shook his head and kept walking. He reached a wooden door on the side of the tower, one Mile would’ve missed completely had he not been paying attention. Pierre opened the door and ducked inside, not bothering to see if Mile would follow.
So, of course, Mile followed. It was stupid, reckless, and would probably get him seriously injured, if not killed, but there was just something about Pierre. He wanted to find out what that something was. Mile caught the door just before it closed completely, and stepped inside.
The inside of the building was pitch black, and Mile hesitated a minute to let his eyes adjust. He was in a small room, with nothing much in it except a spiral staircase against the wall. Mile heard Pierre’s shoes pounding on the wood a few feet up, and rushed up the first few steps. He didn’t want to be left alone in this place.