You were barely able to get any sleep last night, the realization that Gilbert was your cherished childhood best friend keeping you awake for the majority of the night. During that time, you were able to feel anger and an unusual surge of energy gather strength inside you, though you weren’t ready to let it out just yet. You thought before that there would've been nothing to make you reveal your true emotions, your true fury in front of Gilbert, but now you had a force that drove you to do just what you have wanted to do ever since he began to bully you.
And that was payback. Both physical and emotional.
It was a fairly cloudy and humid day the next morning as you made your way to school. You felt the rapid beating of your heart in your chest and you anticipation of seeing Gilbert grow with every step. You kept your gaze and head lowered, and some of your hair fell in front of your face enough so that it was able to cover your eyes. The expression on your face was completely void of emotion. It carried no excitement, no anger, no sadness, and it was so calm and quiet that it was somewhat frightfully terrifying.
Finally, after a few minutes of silent walking, you reached the front of the side of the school, which was at the moment completely empty of kids as they made their way inside the building. Looking up briefly, you were able to spot Gilbert sitting by himself at the top of the steps to the front doors, his chin in his hand as his gaze drifted in boredom.
You felt a tiny smile form on your lips at the sight of him by himself. Perfect. Walking towards and up the steps, you paused when you reached the top and turned around to look down at Gilbert, your entire body motionless and your gaze still free of emotions.
Upon detecting your presence, Gilbert turned his head around and looked up to spot you staring down at him quietly, and he felt himself instantly grow uncomfortable. “Oh..._-____...” he stammered, a bit unsure of what to say.
For a second there, you felt all the longing, sadness, and happiness you felt swim through you as you stared into his eyes. He was your childhood friend. He was the one who you spent so much time grieving over, who you had always dreamed of seeing again so badly. He was right in front of your eyes, and you finally knew that it was him. But all of those emotions quickly disappeared when you once again remembered the anger you experienced the previous night as well as what you came here for.
“Gilbert,” you said softly, your voice hard and cold. “I need to have a word with you.”
He became more uncomfortable at this, and you were able to see that even a bit of nervousness had made its way to his eyes. “Oh...o-okay...” He obediently stood up from his spot on the steps and you led the way down them and around the building to the back of the school, close to the building to ensure nobody looking out from one of the windows above would've seen you.
Throughout the time that you were leading Gilbert to the back, you felt the anger boiling up inside you grow so much that you had to tightly clench your fists and grit your teeth to keep from going into an outburst. You were able to feel a few faint droplets of rain start to fall, though you hardly paid any attention to that. A thick, gloomy aura had surrounded you by the time you and Gilbert had reached the back of the building, and you stood a few feet away from the wall with him a few feet in front of you. An awkward moment passed between the both of you as you still kept your head lowered and your entire body still, the continuous feeling of anger heating up inside you grow more and more with each passing second.
Finally, feeling a sense of discomfort from standing there in silence, Gilbert cleared his throat. “Um..._____?” When you didn’t respond, he continued. “I wondered if you brought me here to, um...talk about the photo.”
To talk about the photo. That was when you knew for sure that he knew. He knew you were his childhood friend. Upon hearing that, you felt all the fury you held from yesterday up until this point spill over, and you clenched your fist and gave Gilbert a swift, forceful punch to the stomach.
This action caused him to take a few steps back, holding his abdomen while looking at you in surprise. “Hey! What was that fo—”
He never got the chance to finish his sentence before you smacked him roughly across the face. “You asshole!” you screamed, lifting your gaze to look up at him with clenched fists pure rage in your eyes. “How can you even think to treat me the way you had after all we had been through together in the past!? We had been so close, we had promised we would've been friends for a long, long time, we were always helping each other and comforting each other, and then after I had to leave, we met each other again in high school, but you treated me in a way that was so wrong I almost ended my own life!”
You grabbed Gilbert by the collar and slammed him against the wall of the building, all the while he was looking up at you with eyes wide in shock. “How could you!?” You gave him another hard blow to the face, and began giving him various punches and hits to other parts of his body. “You bullied me! You bullied me so ruthlessly and caused me so much pain every single day of my goddamn life that I didn’t even know what to do with myself! You caused me so much trouble and so much pain that you made me want to take my own life! And I tried. I tried to live through the pain of losing my childhood friend and the pain of dealing with a reckless bully. You would never imagine how hard it was for me!”
You paused, taking in a deep breath before you continued, still releasing all of your physical anger on Gilbert. “You have no idea how much I wanted my best friend back! I kept looking at pictures I had of the both of us! I kept on thinking about him, wondering how he was doing and whether or not he thought of me! I missed him so much and wanted to see him so badly, while all this time he was right before my eyes every single day, and he was the cause of almost all of my problems and pain!
“And you promised!” you yelled, giving Gilbert another smack to the face. “You promised that you would never bully someone! You promised that after I told you about the girl who committed suicide while we were still kids, that you would never, ever bully someone in your lifetime! And you lied to me! You lied by bullying me in a way that was so terrible that it’s simply indescribable! And now I hate you! I hate how we were childhood friends in the past! I hate that I ever had to meet you when we were small and when we were in high school! I hate how I had to deal with all of your crap throughout my high school years! You are completely worthless, horrible, and you don’t even deserve to have my respect and trust, because never in my life will I be able to forgive you for the promise you broke and for all the hell you put me through!”
By the time you were finished tormenting Gilbert, you had hurt almost every part of his body, and you were able to tell that your punches and blows had left him significantly injured. Feeling tears prick your eyes, you turned on your heel and calmly walked away, as if nothing had happened at all.
He continued to stare at you in shock for a few moments before he finally found the strength to move, despite all the pain that soared through him, and grab your arm. “_____, wait!” he gasped. “Just let me explain myse—”
You turned around and smacked him on the shoulder. “How can you have an explanation for everything you’ve done to me!?” you screamed. “You can't even begin to explain why you bullied me so much yet while we still had been friends in the pa—”
“Because you don’t realize how hard this is for me, too!” Gilbert yelled suddenly, causing you to instantly fall silent. By this point, the light shower had turned into a significant rainstorm, and the both of you were soaked within only a few seconds. However, neither of you seemed to pay attention to it. “You think you're the only one who has all the problems, who’s going through so much anger and pain and depression right now because of all you’ve been through, but you're completely wrong!”
He paused to take a deep breath before he continued. “You don’t realize how much pain you’ve caused me because of all the memories and the bullying! You have no idea how much depression I felt throughout our time in high school! Every time I saw you, I kept thinking about my childhood and it brought me so much pain and so much sadness that I didn’t know what to do with myself! I didn’t even realize that you were my childhood friend up until yesterday! I knew that bullying was the wrong thing to do to you, but I felt that it was the only way to keep my emotions under control and to feel like the memories of my childhood wouldn’t bring me down! But after you tried to kill yourself, I realized how wrong I was, and how bullying you wasn't the answer to keeping my depressing emotions under control. I felt so dreadfully horrible, I couldn't even stand to think about what I would've done with myself if you had actually died!”
Gilbert took another pause and continued. “I remembered the promise I made to my best friend. I knew that I had broken that promise, and I wondered what she would've said if we were to meet again and she found out about all the bullying I had been doing to you. So I became determined to make things right! I became determined to turn your life around and to make you understand that I can be a nice and protective person. But you kept on rejecting me, and it made me feel even more pain and guilt that I already had!
“And you don’t realize how much I was thinking of our childhood memories and how much depression it put me through!” he yelled. “I was in a constant state of sadness ever since you left me, and no matter what I tried, I wasn't able to put it behind me no matter what! Throughout high school, I was always miserable, I was always depressed, I was never able to make myself completely happy no matter what I tried! I was in so much pain that I even wanted to kill myself just to get rid of it all! Bullying seemed like the only thing that was able to keep my emotions under control, to keep me from having breakdowns in between periods, to keep me from completely drowning myself in all the sadness and depression I was feeling ever since you had to move! I stopped after you tried to kill yourself, but it only made me feel even more depression than I was already feeling.
“I was constantly thinking about the past, constantly wondering about where my best friend was, and whether or not we ever would've gotten to meet each other again! I just felt so hopeless; I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life anymore! And then...” Gilbert paused to take in a shaky breath, clenching his hands and shutting his eyes tight. “Then I ran into you yesterday and saw the picture of a younger you playing in the sandbox with a kid. And I realized that that child was me! I realized that you were the childhood friend I wanted to see for so long, and I realized that the person I was bullying for so long was actually the best friend who I cherished and treasured throughout many of my childhood years! I was already feeling loads of depressing emotions at that time, but you have absolutely no idea how much agony was added because I realized that everything I did to you throughout high school was actually done to the person who was once my best friend! I felt so horrible and guilty; you will never, ever understand how miserable I was because I realized you were my childhood friend!”
Gilbert stopped, staring at you with pure anger and desolation in his eyes as he took deep breaths with clenched fists and you stared at him with a slightly open mouth, his words still processing in your head and a faint rumble of thunder cutting through the silence.
Finally, you felt your body stiffen as tears leaked from your eyes and you drew in a rough, shaky gasp. “I hate you,” you said softly. “I hate you so much...I hate—” you tried wiping your eyes to get rid of the tears though it proved to be useless. “I hate...everything.”
Gilbert sighed and dropped his gaze down to the ground. “You have no idea how much I hate myself, too. If only I had known from the very first moment we met that you used to be my best friend, I would never have bullied you. When you first came up to me and offered to be my friend in high school, you instantly reminded me of my best friend, with your looks and everything. But the chances of it actually being you were small so I figured you weren’t who I thought you were to be. I realized that if we were to become friends, all the pain and memories from my childhood would have brought me down and made me even more depressed and miserable than I already was, and I didn’t want that to happen. So I rejected you and started bullying you.”
You were able to see deep misery come across his face. “But now...I regret everything I did to you. I realize how wrong I was, and I just...I’ve been through so much pain throughout my whole life because I missed you. I missed you so greatly that I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. And in high school, it only got worse. Everything that happened between us for the past three years was all my fault. It’s my fault you’re in so much pain, and I just...I don’t know if you’re ever going to be able to forgive me for breaking our promise and for all that I’ve put you through....”
You were able to notice that Gilbert’s breathing had become more deep and ragged, and you were able to see that tears had formed in his eyes and were threatening to spill down his face. “Gilbert,” you murmured softly. “You’re crying...”
“I'm not crying,” he said, lifting his hand to quickly wipe the tears away. “I...It’s just...the rain is...” He never got the chance to finish his sentence as he felt his throat close off and his legs turn weak. He got down on the ground and rested his palms against the concrete as he felt more tears leak out of his eyes until he was no longer to hold back his emotions and began to sob, covering his face with both hands as his body shook.
You continued to stand there, staring down at him as you felt a new course of emotions swim through you at the sight of him. Gilbert was crying. The one person who had caused you to cry almost every single day throughout high school was now crying himself.
A series of conflicting emotions filled your mind as you debated on what you should've done. It was true that you never realized how much pain Gilbert was in because you were forced to separate from him when the both of you were younger. In fact, it never seemed to you that he was actually able to feel any pain. You thought that he was bullying you for absolutely no reason at all, but now you realized that it was because of all the misery he was feeling throughout all these years. He saw it as a way to try to escape the pain, sort of like how you had seen suicide as a way to escape the pain that you were feeling, too.
Now that you thought about it, you realized that Gilbert had actually gone through much, much more pain than you, even during your high school years. Sure, you had gone through a lot of pain because of the bullying, but he had gone through the pain of it, too. And the fact that you had to separate him hurt him more than it hurt you. In fact, he was in so much more pain than you that you had to wonder how he was able to put up with life every day. You felt your anger disappear and replace with pure sadness as you continued to stand there in the rain, watching him cry.
Maybe, just maybe, things between the both of you might be able to change, and this time it will truly be for the better.
Somehow, you were able to find the ability to move again and took a tiny step forward, followed by another. Slowly you approached Gilbert until you were standing directly in front of him, though he had not noticed with all the crying that he was doing. After standing there in silence for a few moments, you bent down and wrapped your arms tightly around him and comfortingly massaged his back, just like you had when the both of you were younger.
This action caused Gilbert to instantly remove his hands from his face and look at you with a gaze mixed with confusion and sadness. “_-____,” he said shakily. “What are you...”
He trailed off when he noticed that you buried your face in his shirt and began to cry. You had never cried in front of him for the past three years before, but now you didn’t care. “G-Gilbert, you idiot...” you gasped, your voice muffled through his shirt. “You have no idea...how much I missed you....”
“I missed you even more,” he murmured as he returned the hug and massaged your back. “I...I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for what I’ve done to you, and...I don’t know if you’ll ever be able to forgive me...”
You felt heat spread to your face once the full realization of the current situation came to you. You and Gilbert were actually hugging. Almost your entire body was pressed against his. A few days ago, you had gotten extremely nervous when he tried to hold your hand, and you always thought that his touch meant physical pain for you. But now, you were experiencing something different. Now you were feeling his touch and you didn’t seem to have a problem with it at all, and instead of feeling discomfort, you were only able to feel warmth and protection, just like when he hugged you in your childhood.
You pulled away from Gilbert and looked up to meet his tear-filled gaze. You felt a new wave of sadness sweep through you when you realized that you had never seen him so upset throughout your whole entire life. He seemed to be even more upset now than he was when you had to part from him, and that was when you knew that that the only thing he ever could've wanted out of you was your forgiveness. Sure, you had already forgiven him a few days before, but this time, it was different. He was going through emotional pain just like you were; only his was much worse. He was facing a depression that you had never experienced before. You began to think that his bullying possibly hurt himself more than it hurt you.
Finally you let out a sigh and took his cheek in your hand. “I...I suppose I can forgive you. I just...I never realized how much pain you were in, and I never thought that bullying me actually hurt you, too. I guess we just...misunderstood each other for the past three years. You shouldn’t blame this all on yourself, because it’s partly my fault, too. What matters now is that we both realize we’re each other’s childhood best friends, right?”
Gilbert sniffed and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “Y-Yeah...but...that won't change how much I hate myself for what I did to you for the past three years...”
“Maybe we can find a way to stop thinking about the sadness and start thinking about the happiness,” you said softly. “You were so depressed for such a long time because you missed me, but now I'm right here in front of you, so you don’t have to be depressed anymore.”
Gilbert continued to stare at you in silence for a few moments before he finally let out a sigh and once again wrapped his arms tightly around you. “_____, I'm so sorry...” he murmured. “I’m so sorry for everything I did to you.... I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to completely apologize for all the pain I caused you...” He felt tears once again start leaking out of his eyes, and it didn’t take him long before he began to cry softly.
You felt your heart clench in emotion as you listened to the muffled sounds of his sobs. Finally, you returned the hug softly, wrapping your arms around his neck. “You don’t have to. All I want from the both of us right now is to put what happened for the past three years behind and instead focus on what's going on now. What matters the most to me right now is the fact that I realize you're my childhood friend and that the both of us finally get to see each other like we used to again...”
Gilbert only wrapped his arms tighter around you in reply, and a few minutes passed until he was finally able to silence his cries and pull away. “_____,” he said shakily. “I...I can't believe this is really happening...”
You gave him a tiny smile. “Why not?”
“W-Well...it’s just that...” He dropped his gaze down to the ground before he continued. “It’s hard for me to believe that I'm finally seeing my childhood friend again and that you're not mad at me anymore....After being separated for such a long time and not realizing my best friend was always right in front of my eyes, it’s hard for me to realize that we both finally...found each other again.”
Your smile widened as you lifted your hand and gently ran it through his hair. You were able to feel all of the anger and depression that was glued to you since yesterday finally subside, and it was finally replaced with a happiness you had not felt since you were small. “You know, now that I think about it, I realize that I didn’t really keep my promise, either.” When Gilbert looked at you in confusion, you continued. “A few days before I left, you told me that when I go to a new town and attend a new school, I should make new friends, and I promised I would. But I never did. I didn’t want to interact with anybody but you, and I was very anti-social during my elementary, middle, and high school years. Then, when I thought about how you wanted to be my friend a few days back, I realize that it would've made my childhood friend happy, so when I forgave you, I thought I was doing it for both you and him.”
Gilbert let out a chuckle. “How ironic to do it for the same person.”
“Well, that was before I knew that you two were the same,” you said with a tiny laugh.
After a few moments of silence, he let out a sigh. “To be honest, I never had any real friends, either. When I was in elementary and middle school, nobody wanted to talk to me because I was different from everybody else. I finally started to hang around with the boys in high school, but they were never actually my real friends.” He looked up to meet your gaze with a saddened expression on his face. “They were never really like you. You actually respected me for who I was, and...I always saw you as someone who was unique in their own way. You meant so much to me and I really cherished you...I never wanted to have any other friends after you left. I always thought that I would be alone.”
“Oh...” you murmured softly. You removed your arms from him and tightly grasped both of his hands in yours. “Well, we’re best friends again, right?”
“I-I guess you could say that...” he said a bit uncertainly. “I mean...if you’re still uncomfortable around me after all the pain I caused you...”
You shrugged. “I’ll admit that I kind of am. But I’m sure I’ll get over it pretty quickly.”
He smiled at you. “Thanks, _____.”
You looked back up at him and returned the smile happily. “It’s nothing. First I was furious when I found out that you were my best friend, but now I'm just glad that we both knew who we really were in the past and can finally have a positive relationship.”
The two of you continued to sit there together with the only sounds being the rhythmic falling of rain around you both and the occasional rumbling of thunder. You were still tightly holding each other’s hands as your happy gazes were met with smiles. After a few minutes, a sudden realization came to you and you let out a gasp, your eyes instantly widening as you pulled away from Gilbert and stood up. “Oh my god!”
His eyes slightly widened in panic as he stood up as well. “What's wrong?”
You brought your hands to your face and your mouth fell slightly open. “We’re going to be late!”
Gilbert looked over at his wristwatch and sighed. “We’re already past five minutes.”
“Oh no!” you gasped, taking a few steps forward. “I'm gonna get another lecture on how important it is for me to make it on time, and I'm gonna be late for my next class, too!”
“It’s not a big deal,” he said reassuringly. “Nothing compared to the problems you had before, right?”
You looked over at him and smiled. “Yeah, I guess.” A few moments of silence passed between the both of you until an idea popped into your head. “Hey, I’ll race you to the front of the building!” Before you gave him the chance to reply, you took off giggling.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” Gilbert yelled, instantly running after you. “You got a head start!”
“You're more athletic and run faster than me anyway,” you called back to him, unable to suppress your laughter. “So don’t worry!”
“Hey, Gilbert!” _____ yelled to her best friend, who was sitting on the swings next to her. He looked up to meet her gaze, and she pointed to the sandbox, which was positioned all the way across the park they were currently playing at. “I’ll race you to the sandbox!”
Before she gave him the chance to reply, she hopped off of the swings and took off towards the sandbox, giggling.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” Gilbert yelled, his eyes widening in shock as he stumbled off of the swings and tried to catch up with her on slightly clumsy feet. “You got a head start!”
_____ could only let out a laugh. She knew that he ran faster than her anyway, so it wouldn’t have taken long for him to catch up to her. “Don’t worry!” she called after him, the expression on her face growing more amused as she saw how much effort he was putting in catching up to her. “You’ll be fine!”