The next day you left your house to go to the park at the same time as yesterday, making sure to bring a jacket with you this time. Although the weather was much nicer outside, it was sunny with only a few clouds, and it wasn't as windy, you didn’t want to annoy Arthur again when you might've asked to share his jacket just because you might've gotten cold.
When you had arrived at the front entrance to the park in the same place you had been in before, you had to wait for Arthur for a few minutes before the both of you had finally entered the park.
Now you were sitting on a significantly cold bench off to one side of the main path of the park, right under a large tree, with Arthur sitting next to you. He had brought along the same textbooks that he took with him here yesterday, even though you didn’t even use half of them the first time. Even though you were dressed much more warmly than you were the previous day, your butt was freezing from sitting on the cold, hard bench. You had previously wanted to sit in the same spot that the two of you were in yesterday on top of the small hill under the tree, but Arthur had been stubborn and refused, deciding to sit on a bench instead and leaving you with no choice but to agree.
“Can't we do something else besides math for now?” you asked him as soon as you saw him open his backpack and look inside for the textbooks that the two of you had been using previously.
At the sound of your voice, Arthur lifted his head to look up at you, pausing from his searching and putting his backpack down next to him on the bench. “Whatever for?” You were able to notice a bit of irritation in his voice. “If we don’t work on math now, you’ll be confused in school for the rest of the week.”
You sighed as you drifted your gaze back in front of you and dropped it down to your hands, which were rested on your lap. “Yeah, well, we’re going to be here until the late afternoon, right? We still have a lot of time to learn math, and besides,” you turned your head a little away from him and focused your gaze on a nearby leaf that was on the ground next to your feet, “it’s nice talking with you out here when there's absolutely no one to bother us.”
“Oh,” Arthur murmured. He continued to keep his hands rested on his backpack in silence for the next few seconds before he finally removed them. “Alright, then. If that’s what you want.”
You smiled in satisfaction, turning your gaze back in front of you. “Great. It’s not that I don’t want to learn math or anything,” you said after a short pause. “I really do, believe me. But I just don’t want to think of you as someone who only hangs out with me just to teach me stuff around math or some other school subject.”
“_____, do you think it’s true that all our time together has been spent like that?” Arthur asked as he turned his head to look at you, a bit of surprise in his voice.
You shook your head. “No, but a lot of it is. We hardly spend time talking about the things that normal friends talk about.”
Arthur looked at you for a few seconds before he asked, “Well...what are the kinds of things that normal friends talk about?”
You shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t had a real friend since I was in...middle school.” A somewhat long stretch of silence passed between the both of you before you turned your head to look at Arthur. “So...can you tell me a little bit about your childhood?”
He looked at you in a bit of confusion. “Well, what would you like me to tell you?”
You shrugged again, swinging your legs absently back and forth. “I dunno. Maybe something about where you were born, your family...things like that.”
“Oh.” Arthur leaned back in his seat so that his back was pressed against the bench before he cleared his throat and replied. “Well, I spent the first few years of my life living in London. My real father died before I was born, so my mother spent most of my early childhood as a widow. When I was 7 she bought a new house and we moved in, and she married an American a year later and had my little brother, Alfred.”
You blinked. “Your childhood doesn’t sound that difficult. Not like mine, anyway.”
Arthur sighed as he stared down at his feet. “That couldn't be farther from the truth, _____.”
You looked at him in confusion. “What do you mean?”
He was silent for a few long moments until he replied, his voice much softer and quieter than it was before. “From the time I was young right up until I left middle school I was constantly harassed by several of the kids around me. They were constantly teasing me, insulting me, causing me so much physical harm that no matter how much I tried to isolate myself from them, they simply would not leave me alone. They frequently sent me hurtful and insulting messages and often tried to get into fights with me outside of school before I had time to escape them. They always said cruel things to me between classes, during lunch, in the restrooms, whatever places you could think of. Throughout the whole time they bullied me, not a single person ever told them to stop or offered to help me, not even the teachers.”
“Oh, no...” you murmured, drawing your hand to your face as you stared at Arthur in shock and pity. “What did you do?”
He shrugged casually as he crossed his arms and closed his eyes. “I always did what I thought was necessary for me to express my emotions without anyone else finding out. I went home, locked myself away in my room, and cried. I sometimes cried for hours, starting from when I came home and ending well after it was time for me to go to bed, sometimes skipping dinner because I was too depressed to face my family.”
“Oh...” you murmured quietly. “And nobody knew about this...not your brother, not your mother...no one?”
Arthur shook his head as he slightly opened his eyes, and you were able to tell that they were filled with depression and misery. “No. I didn’t want to tell anyone in my family because I didn’t want their concern. I knew that it would've only made me even more miserable than I already was, so I just kept it to myself for all those years. Sometimes I felt like taking my own life, but I knew that it would've made my entire family depressed, so I decided to deal with all of the harassment until I got to high school, where it finally stopped. But throughout all the years that I've been suffering, I hadn’t had a single friend. Now I think about how my life back then might've been easier if I had someone who supported me whenever I was harassed, but now I assume my constant loneliness was just one of the reasons why I was bullied so much.”
You were silent as you continued to stare at Arthur, who was staring down at his feet, looking more miserable than you had ever seen him before. Suddenly, you no longer saw him as a person who seemed to have the perfect life, who sometimes got on your nerves, who wanted to give you some of his perfect life. Now he seemed like someone who outlived a life filled with pain and torture that was so bad he had wanted to kill himself. That was when you came to understand that your procrastination, your anger, your disorganization, was absolutely nothing compared to the agony that Arthur had to live with for so many years.
“Oh, Arthur...” you finally murmured after a few minutes of silence as you reached forward and grasped your hand tightly in his, causing him to lift his head and look up at you. “I'm so, so sorry. I...I never realized that you actually had a life that was bad. All this time I thought that nearly everyone else in my school had lives that were way easier than mine, but now I realize that I'm terribly wrong. I wish there was just something I could've done to help you when you needed it...”
Arthur shook his head before he dropped his gaze down to the ground. “You don’t have to pity me, _____. You—”
“Yes, I do,” you interrupted as you tightened your grip on his hand. “I've been teased a lot by many of the kids here, but I’m surprised you were still able to do well in school even though you had to go through harassment that was a lot worse than mine. I think that part of the reason I do so bad is because I'm always distracted by the kids who like to make fun of me, but...you...it’s...it’s a different story.”
A few moments of silence passed before Arthur lifted his head to look up at you. You were able to notice that his eyes were filled with anxiety and a bit of pleading. “_____, do you promise me that you won't tell anybody about what I've said to you?” he asked, his voice slightly trembling. “You're the only friend I have and the only person I feel I can tell this to, and I want this conversation to be only between you and me.”
You have him a tiny smile. “Well, who’s there for me to tell anyway? I don’t have any friends except for you, and I'm almost always alone in the house, so my options of telling someone are really limited...”
Arthur let out a small, relieved sigh and smiled. “Thank you, _____. You don’t know how much this means to me.”
“It’s nothing at all,” you said as you patted his shoulder in assurance. “I just don’t want you to feel upset over something that happened a long time ago, especially now that you have a friend.”
Arthur nodded. “You're right, although it is going to be very hard for me to try and put all of this behind me.”
A few moments passed in silence, your hand still on his shoulder as you looked at him while he kept his gaze fixed on the ground. Finally, you spoke up. “You know, I kind of find it weird that...” you trailed off uncertainly and removed your hand from Arthur's shoulder.
He lifted his gaze from the ground to look up at you expectantly. “Yes?”
You sighed before you continued, staring down at your feet. “I just...find it weird that I'm able to talk to you this way when just only three weeks ago I was angry at you so much for getting in my way. I...I never realized how much you could've tried to help me and I never knew that I eventually would've thought of you as a friend and we would've gotten along so well.”
Arthur smiled. “Well, anything can change overtime, right?”
You nodded, a smile coming to your face. “Right. I don’t know how I would've tried to handle my life if I’d never met you.”
“Well, you can handle your life better after we get through some of the math,” he said before he reached out for his backpack and prepared to pull out some textbooks. “We’ve spent enough time talking and it’s time we did some work.”
You sighed, reluctant to get out of your previous conversation with Arthur, though the only reaction you gave was a nod. “Okay.”
The next day in math, you actually became excited to learn that some of the stuff that the teacher was talking about actually was a bit familiar and understandable to you. This was the first time in what seemed like a long time that you were actually curious to pay attention and see what the teacher was explaining, because now these concepts were getting to be easier for you than they were last week. You recalled your meeting with Arthur on the weekend, and how the two of you had spent hours going over the math that you mad missed as a result of your inattentiveness over the years. Now you were relieved that you had met him over the weekend and after school, where he would've helped you, because now everything seemed to slowly be getting easier for you.
The woman behind the front desk wasn't in the library when you and Arthur met up after school, so the two of you were able to sit at the table where you usually sat in the morning, where you were able to explain your better understanding of math to him.
Arthur nodded. “That’s good, _____. Of course you’ll understand eventually if you actually pay attention in class. Pretty soon you’ll be caught up with everyone else.”
You couldn't help but smile. “Yeah, but it’s not only paying attention that allows me to understand better.” You lifted your gaze, which was previously fixed on the table, so that you were able to look up at Arthur, who was sitting directly next to you. “Everything that you’ve taught me for the past few weeks was what really allowed me to understand more of what's being taught in school. There were times when I actually tried to pay attention in class, but the way the teacher explained everything was just so confusing that I wasn't able to get it at all.”
You sighed as you leaned back in your seat and rested your gaze on your hands, which were placed on the table. “But the way you explain things...the way you teach me all this stuff...it...it’s really helpful and it makes me understand a lot better and easier than I would've ever understood even if I paid attention in class.”
“Oh...” Arthur murmured. “I-I'm flattered. Thank you, _____.”
“No,” you said as you lifted your gaze so that it was able to meet his. “Thank you. If it wasn't for your help, I probably would've been just as lost and confused as I was before I met you. But you...you actually came out to help me when nobody else did, and it wasn't like I could've just asked the teacher or anything since she tried to ask for her help several times before but I always turned her down, just like all the other teachers.”
Arthur frowned. “Why did you think it was right to do that?”
You shrugged. “At the time I didn’t feel like I wanted someone else to get involved in all of my problems. I felt like it wasn't any of their business, even though almost everyone acted like it was, even you.”
“Well, that was because I was concerned,” he argued with a frown. “I knew you were leading a difficult life, and I wanted to help you in whichever way I could.”
You shook your head. “I know, but that wasn't the same feeling for everyone else. Many of the kids knew about my hard life and anger problems and they only saw them as a way to tease me and make my life even worse instead of trying to help me and make it better. Sometimes I wished that there was someone that could help me, but every time I had thoughts like those, I pushed them away.”
“But now you do, don’t you?” Arthur asked. “I've been here to help you for the past few weeks.”
“Yeah, but eventually you probably would've given up on me,” you said quietly as you lowered your gaze. “If I had continued treating you like you were a nuisance and someone who only got in my way and I kept on refusing your help, you would've just left me alone, just like all the other teachers had.”
“That’s not true,” Arthur said, causing you to lift your gaze to look up at him in surprise and a bit of confusion. “I knew from when you first crashed into me and you denied help when I offered it that you would've been a difficult person to deal with. But I was determined to make you realize that what I was doing was eventually going to help you, even if it would've taken months to convince you.” He was silent for a few moments before he continued a bit more quietly. “I didn’t want to leave you alone after I saw what a difficult life you were going through, and I wanted to be the one to try and change that. And since nobody ever helped me throughout most of my childhood, I wanted to feel like I was helping someone instead, so they wouldn’t have had to go through something like I went through.”
“Oh...” you said, your voice barely above a whisper as you continued to stare at Arthur. “I...never thought of it that way....” A few seconds of silence passed between the both of you before you suddenly blurted out, “I'm sorry.”
He looked at you in confusion. “Sorry for what?”
You let out a heavy sigh before you continued. “I'm sorry for treating you so badly when we first met. With all that you’ve been through, you probably felt like you were just being bullied again.” You stared down at your lap a bit shamefully. “And it’s my fault for making you feel that way.”
“No,” Arthur said as he shook his head and put his hand on your shoulder. “It’s not your fault, _____. I understood that you were going through a very difficult time, so I accepted your anger as kind of an excuse. I agree that it wasn't right for you to treat me the way you did, but I understood why you acted that way, and it was for a reason that was completely different from bullying.”
“R-Really?” you asked as you lifted your gaze to look up at him once again.
Arthur nodded. “Of course.”
You were silent for a few moments before your gaze filled with sadness. “I don’t deserve a friend like you,” you said. “You're just so...so thoughtful, helpful, friendly, and I'm so...so...”
But he cut you off before you had the chance to finish. “_____, you shouldn’t ever be thinking that. If you didn’t have a friend like me, probably nobody else would've been able to help you out in the way I do. It seems that now I'm the only one who actually wants to help you make your life easier, and that’s exactly what you need right now.”
You sighed. “I know, but...still...”
“But nothing. Trust me, within a few months, you'll be glad you had a friend like me to help you out.” With that, Arthur reached for his backpack and began to take out some textbooks from school. “Now, we should get started on your homework before it gets too dark and we’ll have to leave.”
You instantly came to dislike the way he so abruptly cut off your previous conversation, but you didn’t feel like telling that to him, so instead you just sighed and said, “Alright.”