It was so strange to see Summer sitting alone during breakfast. In the old days she would be in the middle of the full long table with a huge smile on her face, making jokes and being her positive self, inspiring everyone around her. Seeing her all alone, knowing that she wasn’t being herself, made me want to go sit with her. It was hard to just stand there and see her true self vanish before my eyes.
Amanda nudged my arm with her elbow and gave me a disapproving look once she noticed me watching Summer. They weren’t going to let it go, I could tell. The night before was the first time Summer slept in the dorm with the girls and me since the big scandal. Not only was the tension almost unbearable, but every single one of us was making calculated moves, everyone was afraid of saying something that would break the thin ice we were standing on. Summer did not talk once, and it was painful to watch.
My friends had noticed my lack of discomfort around her that night, so that morning once Summer left the dorm they told me that I was acting “as if nothing had happened”. This was enough proof for me that they weren’t willing to forget what happened, that they would never put it behind their backs.
With these thoughts in mind I turned away from Summer and went to sit at our usual table with the rest of our classmates. Our breakfast table was too dull, everyone was too sleepy, there weren’t any joyful smiles being exchanged. After noticing all this my conscience added “You helped. You made this happen as well. It’s also your fault that Summer is alone.”
“Does anyone want to come with me read The Book?” asked Amanda once she finished eating her strawberries “I heard that this time there are interesting things, if you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I heard so too,” added Lucy “I’m dying to hear something interesting, doesn’t matter who!”
They all giggled, only having me interrupt them “I’ll pass.”
“Oh Anna, always so sarcastic in the morning,” said Amanda as she chuckled. Did she really not understand I was being serious?
“I’m serious. You guys can go; I’m heading back to our dorm,” I stated as I got up. They all gave me sceptical looks which I could not ignore “What?”
“Why don’t you want to go? Everybody goes,” Lottie asked as if what I was saying was a crime.
“You sound as if I have to go,” I objected “Must I remind you that the only reason why that book exists is to punish people by humiliation? I am not in favour of that.”
“A week ago you were,” Amanda added dryly. What was she even trying to prove? What was she insinuating?
Without no further due, I tucked my chair under the table and left them without uttering a single word. I was conscious that what Anna said was correct, that I was part of the sick game of making students feel humiliated by reading to book as well, but only then did I realise that what I had been doing was completely wrong.
I waited for Harry for over an hour. He had many flaws, but lateness was not one of them. He did not oversleep like the rest of the human race, which was a trait I could not understand. Besides, he was the one who insisted on meeting that early, so only naturally I was worried.
I took a walk around the gardens as I looked for him. I searched in every corner, entered every building that he might have been, I even threw tiny rocks at his window to which I had no response. He was nowhere to be found.
“Harry, where are you?” I whispered to myself as I drew out a breath of exhaustion.
There was only one more place he could be which was highly unlikely: outside the walls of Hudson. It didn’t make much sense to me because he wouldn’t have gone downtown before telling me. Besides, why would he go at that time in the morning? It didn’t feel right, but it was the most reasonable explanation, so I convinced myself it was true.
During the rest of the afternoon I occupied myself with activities to distract myself from Harry’s unexplainable disappearance, but I had no success despite my efforts. I went to the library to search for a new book to read, but nothing interested me. I cycled all around the gardens, followed the wall to see the full circumference of the school, covered all the paths and tracks. I found myself involuntarily searching for Harry as I did my exploration, trying to recognise his mess of curly hair amongst the students that passed by. Where was he? I asked myself, where could he be? Why did he disappear?
After a couple of hours, I decided to catch up with some assignments that I had yet to deliver. Some had passed the due date, some I had done wrong and had to correct, but the most part were unfinished. I had a pile of papers that wasn’t going to do done by itself. Surprisingly I wasn’t too worried about it, which I should be. For my entire life my parents have told me that I should always strive for my education, being that the only way for me to escape poverty, or as they liked to call it, “a life with more struggles”.
I should also feel pressure from what Mr Hansen told me: if I did not keep a good academic life my name would go on the book. But I wasn’t worried, or better, I was indifferent to the consequences of not doing what he asked me to do. I was going to do my assignments anyway, for the sake of having to deal with more drama. I preferred to just get it done with than to deal with more people putting pressure on me.
I parked my bicycle outside Hall A and, as I approached the door, Nurse Marion walked out and stopped to greet me.
“Hello Summer, how have you been?” she asked, a smile on her face.
“I’ve seen better days, but I’m good,” I answered. It was quite refreshing to talk to someone other than Harry or someone who wasn’t judging me. It was a breath of fresh air to talk to someone completely out of the circle I was trapped in. “Have you seen Harry? I have been looking for him all over but I can’t find him. He is not in the infirmary, is he?”
“No, I’m afraid he’s not...” she thought as she placed a finger on her chin and looked at the sky “Most likely he is in his room.”
“He’s not,” I answered plainly.
She gave me an intriguing look as she crossed her arms “How do you know?”
I blushed a little but smiled at her indirect accusation. I took from my pocket a few small rocks that I hadn’t used earlier to call Harry.
“Oh, I see! So that is why sometimes we had broken windows!” Nurse Marion chuckled. I couldn’t hide my laughter, a real, genuine laugh.
“I swear I never broke any windows!” I lifted my arms above my head to show my innocence.
“I believe you, you don’t seem like the kind of girl to vandalise,” she said once our laughter faded. “Now I have to get going, it was lovely to see you, Summer”
“Before you go- “I said and she turned immediately around “Last time we saw each other was when Harry and I talked in the infirmary. I know you are aware that he is not very good with, uh, what’s the word...? Showing his true feeling towards people who he doesn’t trust very much or doesn’t know that well, and I know that the night before I went to talk to him you must have helped him in some way because the things he told me... He was so understanding, so... He was talking as if he was putting his feelings aside, which I am sure were many...”
“I know what you mean, I did talk to him,” Nurse Marion answered as she looked down.
“I don’t want you to tell me what he told you, I trust him and, well… I just want to thank you, on behalf of both of us. He would never admit it, but deep down he is incredibly thankful.”
She gave me a tender smile “You don’t need to thank me, sweetheart. I’m just doing the best I can.”
“Which is the best he ever had,” I added without thinking, but I was glad I did. Nurse Marion deserved to know that she was possibly the only adult that had ever helped Harry. The rest of them all looked at him as if he was the cause of every trouble, like he was the devil himself, and for once, he was treated like an ordinary student at Hudson, a student who had feelings and fears and worries, with the same rights as everybody else.
The nurse waved me goodbye as she walked back to the main building.
“Oh and Summer!” Nurse Marion turned around abruptly. She was about ten meters away from me, so she had to shout for me to hear “If he ever gets out of line again, just tell me and I will put him back in his place!”
“I will!” I shouted back, entering Hall A, laughter escaping my lips.