You weren’t aware of the fact that you had fallen asleep until you opened your suddenly exhausted eyes and shifted your gaze to the side so that you were able to get a glimpse of the digital clock on your nightstand, surprised to find that it was already 6 p.m. Looking down, you were able to spot the picture frame lying face-down on the floor, and with a slightly trembling hand, you picked it up.
Getting into a sitting position, you stared down at the picture of you and your childhood friend and recalled the dream you had. Why, out of all times, right when you were grieving over the parting of that boy, did you have a dream about one of the moments the both of you had together? Thinking back to what he said, you realized that throughout your elementary, middle, and high school years, you had not made a single friend. When you left your old elementary school and entered your new one, you were very shy and known by the students in your grade simply as “the new kid.” You were unable to have proper conversations with anybody there and had not made a single friend, let alone talked to any of the kids there for more than 30 seconds. Nobody there helped you become social, and interacting with others was a skill that you severely lacked, which influenced how you spent your high school years. You spent most of your childhood after you parted from your friend trusting nobody but your parents, and even then, when you began to get bullied three years ago, you lost your trust in them.
As you continued to sit there, you realized that you didn’t keep your promise to your best friend about meeting new people and making new friends. How would he have reacted if you were to meet him all of a sudden and he realized that ever since you left him, you weren’t able to make a single friend? It shamed you to think of that. It was his wish for you to make new friends, and you hadn’t fulfilled it. That was a thought that made you feel guilty and even more grief-stricken than you already were.
But a sudden thought entered your mind that made your heart nearly skip a beat. Gilbert wanted to be friends with you. There was still a chance that you could've lived up to that boy’s hopes and accepted forgiveness from your former enemy. You knew it would've made your best friend very happy. But still, despite that assumption, you still weren’t exactly sure. He was the one who bullied you so severely for the past three years. But that was before, wasn't it? People can change, right?
This is so frustrating! You fell face-down onto your bed, burying your face in your pillow. You were debating whether or not to accept forgiveness from Gilbert and become his friend, and you were still unsure whether or not it was a good idea. The dream that you had last night still didn’t fully convince you that you had to forgive him.
At that moment, you were able to hear the faint sound of a door opening downstairs and footsteps following as well as quiet murmurs, signaling that your parents had arrived home from work. You sat up in your bed and looked towards the door of your room, a new idea entering your head. Maybe if you asked your parents for advice, they would've been able to allow you to decide for sure whether or not forgiving Gilbert was right.
Standing up and putting the picture frame back in its original place on your nightstand, you headed out of the room and made your way downstairs, where you spotted your parents taking their coats off in the living room.
Upon detecting your presence, your mother lifted her head to look up at you. “_____!” she cried, dashing over to you and throwing her arms around you a bit too hysterically. “What is this I hear of you getting knocked out by a basketball in gym class?”
“Oh, it’s nothing big,” you said casually, trying to lightly push her away from you. “I’m fine now, I promise.”
“Yes, but you could've gotten a concussion, or worse!” she blubbered. “You could have fallen into a coma or have a permanent bump on your head!”
“Mom, I was hit in the face,” you corrected.
“Well, you could've broken your nose!” she continued. “Your nose might be permanently bent, or your vision might've gotten worse because your eyes were affected in the impact too!”
“Mom, my eyesight hasn’t changed, and my nose is perfectly fine.” you pulled away from your mother and looked up at her. “See?”
She studied your face carefully for a few more moments before she finally let out a sigh. “Alright, I suppose you look fine. How are you feeling now?”
“I feel completely normal.”
“That’s good,” she said with a smile.
Right when it seemed like she was going to turn around and resume doing whatever she was before, you reached out and grasped her arm. “Mom, can I ask you something?”
“Yes?” she replied expectantly.
You were silent for a few moments while you slowly drifted your gaze down to your feet and subconsciously began to fiddle with your fingers. You were a bit unsure about asking her something like this, but it was the only way you would've been able to decide for sure whether or not forgiving and becoming friends with Gilbert was a good idea. “If someone asks you for your forgiveness and wants to be friends with you...is it...is it a good idea if you accept their apologies and become their friend, no matter what troubles they had caused you in your life?”
When you looked up to meet your mother’s gaze, you saw that it was filled with seriousness and thought. Finally, she let out a sigh and put her hand on your shoulder. “I believe that you should forgive them. It shows that they’re genuinely sorry for whatever they did to you and deeply regret it. A gesture like this shows that they care about you, and by turning them down, you would be hurting their feelings and making them only feel more miserable and guilty than they already do.”
“Really?” Your eyes slightly widened.
She nodded and gave you a tiny smile. “Of course. Why do you ask?”
“Oh...no reason,” you said softly, drifting your gaze off to the side. “Thanks, mom.”
With that, you began to head up the stairs, her words still spinning around in your head. Did Gilbert want to be friends with you because he was genuinely sorry for what he had done and that he actually cared about you? That seemed hard for you believe, considering the fact that he told you before he couldn't have cared less if you killed yourself.
But that was before you listened to him and actually tried doing what he said. To be honest, you never exactly thought about all the emotions that were going on in his mind during this time. Maybe he was just as upset and depressed over your rejection of him as you were when he bullied you. Maybe he really was feeling miserable and guilty. It was because he now seemed to care about you, right?
A sudden feeling entered you that made your entire body go stiff as you reached the top of the stairs. It was the feeling of being securely carried in someone's protective arms. It was the memory of weakly opening your eyes and looking at someone's face filled with concern and determination. It was the faint sound of a familiar voice telling you—
“Don’t worry, _____. I’ll promise I’ll take you to the infirmary and you’ll be okay.”
That voice...was it Gilbert’s? Were you having a faint recollection of the moments after you were knocked out by the basketball and were carried to the infirmary in his arms? You thought you were knocked completely unconscious....Well, it seemed like this memory told you otherwise.
Entering your room once again, you let your gaze instantly focus to the picture that stood on top of the nightstand. Approaching it, you grasped it in both hands once again and lifted it a bit closer to your face. It seems at this moment that the only logical thing to do was to forgive Gilbert and have him as simply a friend rather than just an acquaintance.
Besides, this is for my childhood friend, you thought, focusing your gaze on the small boy in the picture. This will make him happy as well as Gilbert, even if he’s not around to see it.
That same night, Gilbert was sitting at his desk in his room, staring blankly out the window and watching the rain fall. The expression on his face carried one of stillness and boredom, though the emotions he was feeling inside were the exact opposite.
He thought back to earlier in the day when he was sitting with you in the infirmary. You had once again rejected his offer of becoming friends, though you seemed to come to a compromise and agreed just to be his acquaintance in a simple, ordinary relationship. Nothing too big, but a few, small interactions here and there. Also, he had learned exactly why you didn’t want to get close to him, that you didn’t trust him, and for some reason, that thought made his heart ache even more than it already did. Knowing that you didn’t look at him as someone who you could've counted on to protect you and keep you safe made his misery and guilt grow.
To be honest, Gilbert had absolutely no idea why he was feeling this way. Sure, your attempted suicide made him feel horribly ashamed and guilty for what he had done, but why was he so determined to convince you he was a good person, even if it was so obvious that you wanted nothing to do with him anymore? Why couldn't he have just left you alone without bothering you at all? That probably would've made things a thousand times easier for you than if he was following you around and trying to get your attention all the time.
Gilbert suddenly thought back to that moment right after your suicide, when a group of boys had cornered you and one of them would've punched you in the face if he hadn’t saved you. If he left you alone, some other people probably would've found the opportunity to pick on you without him around to see or even know of it. He didn’t want that to happen at all. He didn’t want you to get hurt anymore, and even though you still didn’t trust him, that wasn't going to stop him from making sure nobody caused you any physical pain. He wanted to make things better for you as much as possible.
That still didn’t seem to serve as a purpose as to why he seemed to be so desperate to be friends with you. Now that he stopped seeing you as someone vulnerable and weak and started seeing you as an actual person, he was able to detect something about you that he found faintly strange. Somehow, that thing made an unusual emotion trigger inside him, something that made an unfamiliar longing fill his heart, though he wasn't able to point a finger on what was it that was causing him to feel this way. But whatever it was, for some reason it made him stop at nothing to try and get you to accept his forgiveness and offer of friendship, no matter how many times you turned him down.
Drifting his gaze away from the window, Gilbert fixed it on a picture frame that sat on the farthest corner of the desk, behind several stacks of papers and folders. He continued to look at it for a few more moments before he reached out, grasped it, and brought it back in front of him, instantly feeling a new sadness take over him.
The picture showed him pushing his childhood friend, a girl with (h/c) hair and (e/c) eyes on a swing. The both of them looked so happy, so free of worries, content with the belief that they were going to be together for a long, long time...
Gilbert sighed and closed his eyes, resting his elbow on the desk and putting his forehead in his hand. He wondered how she was now, whether or not she was doing okay and if she made new friends, maybe perhaps a boyfriend. He wondered whether or not she thought about him as well, if she ever thought about events from her past, back when she was still friends with him. He wondered if she even remembered his name, even though he didn’t remember hers.
If only you knew how much I miss you...he thought, opening his eyes and staring down at the picture once again. He rarely looked at photos of the both of them together, but whenever he did, they always brought painful emotions to him. Sometimes, the pain was so great that it felt like she had parted from him only yesterday. He wondered about how she looked like, how much she had changed since they last met. Judging by how pretty she looked in the picture, he figured she had grown up to be even more beautiful. He wondered if she missed him as much as he missed her.
Your rejection at Gilbert’s offer of friendship had caused him to feel terribly alone, and more than anything, he wished his old best friend were with him right now. If she was, he wouldn’t have bullied you, wouldn’t have made you want to commit suicide, and he wouldn’t have been feeling all the misery and guilt that he was now.
He thought about where she moved to, how awful it was that he couldn't remember her name and had no clue of her current location or phone number. At this point, finding some way to try and contact her was completely hopeless. But a lot of time had passed since the both of them last saw each other. She probably made new friends, shared new memories with other people, thought about different things. Maybe her childhood with him only seemed like a thing of the past, not worth remembering. Maybe she didn’t remember him at all.
That was a thought that made Gilbert’s heart clench. If only she knew how much she had meant to him...maybe their time together would not have seemed as something distant and never to be brought up again.
If only he got to meet her at least one more time...then he would tell her how important she was to him, how much he missed her, how he wished he could have seen her every day at school like they used to.
But all of those were just hopeless wishes. Nothing like that was probably ever going to happen, and that was a thought that made Gilbert even more miserable.