As soon as you came home the next day, your mind filled with dread when you realized that you were going to be forced to sit down and actually do your homework when there was still daylight outside. You weren’t used to this kind of procedure at all, but Arthur had promised to call you as soon as you got home, and since he knew about your commute, you figured that it wouldn’t have been long after you arrived home that he would've called you. But when he did, you already wanted to be doing your homework, just so you could've proved to him that it wasn't necessary for him to monitor you outside of school.
Honestly, sometimes you felt as if he were your babysitter. You were nearly 16. You didn’t need someone else watching you constantly just because your life was unstable.
When you entered your room, you immediately focused your gaze on your laptop, which lay on your desk, shiny and glossy in the afternoon sunlight that shone through your open window. You stood in the doorway, staring at its sleek surface for a good long minute, feeling your hands clench into fists.
No, you thought. I won’t get distracted. Before you were able to have any other thoughts, you walked over to your desk, put your backpack down on the floor next to your chair, picked up your laptop, and approached your bed. Raising your pillow, you put your laptop down on your bed before you hastily covered it with your pillow, making sure to drape your covers over it as well so that you wouldn’t have been as tempted to get on your laptop as you would have if it was sitting directly next to you on your desk.
Okay. That should take care of it. You knew your laptop was the biggest thing that kept you from doing your homework immediately, and since it almost always sat right in front of you when you were at home trying to do your homework, you figured that it would’ve been easier for you to concentrate on your work if you kept yourself a good enough distance from it.
When you walked back over to your desk and sat down, you shifted in your seat so that it was easier for you to unzip your backpack and take out all the textbooks you were going to need for your homework. As soon as you had everything neatly spread out in front of you, you figured that you would've started with history, the subject that quickly became the easiest for you. And so you opened up your textbook to the beginning of the required pages, pencil tightly gripped in one hand.
But just as you were about to read, you paused, sitting there in silence for a few moments, staring down at the open textbook even though you weren’t reading any of the words. After about a minute passed and silence continued to fill the room, you let out a long, rather loud sigh before you leaned back in your seat and loosened your grip on the pencil, drifting your gaze off to your cell phone that lay on your desk next to your pile of textbooks.
When is Arthur finally going to call? You frowned as you continued to stare at your phone, waiting expectantly to hear its loud, repetitive ring. You reluctantly drifted your gaze away from it before you shifted in your seat and tapped your fingers rhythmically against the table, looking up at your wall clock and back down to your textbook. You didn’t know why you felt so anxious to have Arthur call you all of a sudden. You talked to him enough in and out of school, so there was no reason why you should've been so nervous and impatient to hear his voice over the phone. And besides, it wasn't like he was going to call you to give you some kind of an important lecture. He was just going to make sure that you were sitting in your room doing your homework, that’s all.
But, still. This was the first time someone was going to be calling you—and only you—since several years ago, back when you actually used to enjoy your life. You kind of forgot what it was like to hear someone’s voice over the phone, so you were a bit anxious to once again experience what you had experienced a couple of years ago.
Your thoughts were interrupted by the sudden, obnoxious ringing of your phone, causing you to practically jump in your seat. You were no longer used to its noise, so for a few seconds you debated on what you were supposed to do next before you finally extended your slightly trembling hand and picked up the phone. As soon as you brought it over so that you were able to gaze down at it properly and take in the unfamiliar phone number displayed in the called ID, you already knew that it was Arthur.
Your heart pounding in anxiety for a reason you didn’t know, you turned on your phone and pressed it to your ear with a quiet, slightly trembling “H-Hello?”
“Hello?” the voice on the other line said. “_____?”
“Y-Yeah,” you stuttered, taking a few deep, quiet breaths to try and calm your nerves. “Arthur?”
“Yes,” the voice replied calmly. “_____, where are you now?”
It took you a second or two before you finally were able to once again retrieve your voice. “Oh...I-I'm...I’m at home...in my room...everything’s quiet...yeah.”
“Are you doing your homework?”
You were silent for a bit, staring down at your open textbook a bit uncertainly, before you replied. “Y-Yeah...I am.”
“How do I know you're not lying?” Arthur challenged suddenly, causing you to be taken aback for a few moments.
“Because I'm not!” you retorted a few moments later once you were finally able to regain your voice back. “I'm sitting in front of my desk with my history textbook open. I took my laptop and hid it under the pillow and the covers of my bed so I wouldn’t have gotten distracted.”
“Oh, that’s good,” he said, a bit of satisfaction detectable in his voice. “Hiding any things that threaten to distract you will make it easier for you to concentrate on your homework.”
You nodded, an expression of longing coming to your face. “Yeah, but...i-it’s just that...”
“Hmm?” You were able to notice the satisfaction in Arthur’s voice replace with confusion. “It’s just what?”
You let out a sigh and closed your eyes, resting your elbow on your textbook and putting your chin in the palm of your hand. “It’s just that...you sound...so...so different over the phone.”
“What?” The confusion in his voice only grew as you began to subconsciously drum your fingers against the surface of your book. “How do I sound different?”
“Well...” You were a bit unsure of how you were supposed to explain, until you finally decided to do so in a way that would've hopefully made the situation less confusing for the both of you. “When I talk with you over the phone, you just sound so...distant, so far away. I haven’t talked to anybody like this for a long time, and I guess I kind of forgot what it was like to hear someone's voice as if they were right next to me. But with you...all the other times I’ve talked to you, you were right next to me or I was actually able to see you. But now...now I'm sitting here talking to you, and I hear your voice, but I don’t actually see you, and for some reason you seem so far away....I know you are, but...I guess...I’m just so used to seeing you and hearing you at the same time that it kind of makes it...a bit awkward and unusual for me. And in a way I kind of wish that you were here next to me, so I wouldn’t have this weird feeling of talking to you over the phone like this. And...and I sort of feel lonely knowing I’m hearing your voice in my ear right now as if you were next to me but in actuality you're far away from me.”
You were silent for a few moments, still trying to make sense of the situation, before you spoke again. “Do you get what I'm saying?”
An abnormal quietness passed between the both of you, and you were about to ask if Arthur was still there before you finally heard his quiet voice over the phone. “Oh, _____, I-I...I get what you're saying. I understand how you feel, and in a way...I kind of...feel the same way too.”
You sat upright at this, your eyes slightly widening in surprise. “You do?”
“Yes.” You were able to notice a bit of longing come into Arthur’s voice as well, the same kind that you were currently experiencing. “It does feel unusual talking to you knowing you’re so far away, and yet it still seems as if you're right here next to me. In a way I suppose it does kind of...make me feel...er, lonely, too.”
“Oh,” you murmured softly. “But I still think it’s weird that the both of us have to be lonely just by hearing each other’s voices through the phone. I mean, we’ve seen each other earlier today and we spend a lot of time together, so it’s still kind of confusing why we should be feeling this way.”
“W-Well...maybe it’s because we’ve grown so accustomed to each other’s presence over the past few months that it’s a bit difficult for us to talk to each other while we’re separated like this for the first time,” Arthur said a bit uncertainly.
“Yeah...” you agreed. “But...lots of people grow accustomed to the presence of someone else and they’re still able to talk to each other through the phone without a problem. But with us it’s different, and I don’t know why.”
After a few moments of silence, you were able to hear him let out a sigh. “I don’t know either, _____. Maybe it will pass within time, but right now, we should stop talking and let you get back to your homework.”
You let out an irritated sigh, annoyed by the fact that Arthur had to cut off a somewhat normal conversation between the both of you and turn it back to something as boring as homework. “Fine,” you huffed. “So I’ll see you tomorrow morning before school?”
“Yes,” Arthur replied. “Remember to go to bed early, _____.”
You let out a chuckle. “Okay, I will.”
And with that, the both of you hung up. Even though it became silent in the room once again, the perfect condition for you to be doing your homework, you continued to sit there, staring blankly down at your textbook. You had gotten distracted by Arthur’s call enough so that you were unable to focus on your homework, which you now saw as a disappointment. Even though talking to him through the phone gave you an unusual, lonely feeling, you wondered if he was going to call you back again. Surely he must, if he wanted to make sure you were doing your homework? But what if you wanted to call him and he didn’t know it?
Suddenly, an idea popped into your head, and you let out a tiny smile. Reaching out to grasp your phone, you briefly browsed through your list of callers before you finally came to the one you were looking for, and you smirked as you took out a piece of paper, grasped your pencil, and wrote down Arthur’s number. You had no idea why you wanted it all of a sudden, and you weren’t sure if he was going be entirely comfortable with the fact that you had his number. But you weren’t comfortable when he took your number without asking, so it was only fair.
After all, there was nothing wrong or unusual with getting someone else’s number just in case, right? Of course.
The week after your talk with Arthur through the phone, you had an unexpected math test. You honestly had no idea that something like this was going to come up so suddenly, but for some reason, you weren’t frustrated over taking a test this time like you usually were in the previous months. You had spent a lot of time paying attention in class ever since Arthur ended up sitting next to you, so you figured that you couldn't have done as bad as you usually did before.
But then again, you had always thought you did well on any test, but the grade you received back the day after told you otherwise.
Even though taking the test was a lot easier for you than it usually was, you were still more than relieved when it was finally over and you had to head on to your next class.
“How do you think you did on the test, _____?” Arthur asked, turning his head to look at you as the both of you headed down the hallway to your next class.
You let out an exhausted sigh. “I think I did just the same as before...”
He frowned. “Why do you think that?”
You shifted your gaze to look up at him, staring into his eyes with a look of doubt. “I don’t think I studied enough for this test. And besides, I'm still not completely caught up with everything that’s being taught in math right now...”
Arthur gave you a tiny smile. “Well, the amount of effort you put into your work so far is better than not putting in any work at all, right?”
You nodded, slowly moving your gaze back in front of you. “I guess so. Still...I feel like I could've done more to try and do even better...”
“You don’t have to do perfect,” he assured you. “Your score going up even by a little bit will be enough to prove that you're in a better position now than you were before.”
Despite the doubt that still clung to you, you let out a tiny smile. “You always know the right words to say that help me feel better, Arthur. I couldn't ask for a better friend than you.”
“O-Oh, it’s nothing...” he stammered, a tiny, flattered blush coming to his face as he dropped his gaze down to the ground and let out a small smile.
The next day in math, you were surprised when the teacher announced a change of seats for the whole class once again. You should've known that a test meant the end of a unit, which meant the whole class was going to be rearranged once again. When the unit first started and you were sitting next to Arthur, you wanted it to be over as soon as possible so you no longer would've had to sit next to him. But now you were disappointed when you found out that your new seat was all the way across the room from him, preventing any kind of verbal communication throughout the whole class. Even though he was no longer monitoring you during this period, you still made sure to pay attention to what was being taught, just like you had done so before.
As soon as the bell rang, signaling the end of class, you were the last one to gather your things and start making your way towards the door. Much to your dismay, Arthur didn’t wait for you to head out into the hall with him, and instead walked out with the rest of the other kids.
As soon as you passed the teacher’s desk and were only a few feet away from the door, you heard a voice behind you firmly say, “_____.”
You mentally groaned, knowing your teacher wanted to have another conversation with you, probably about how you were still failing this class. For the thousandth time, you didn’t need a lecture, because you already knew!
Despite your internal irritation, you turned around to gaze at her. “Yes?”
She motioned you over with her finger and dropped her gaze down to a paper that lay in front of her on her desk, and you walked over to her a bit hesitantly, bracing yourself for what already was going to happen. As soon as you paused in front of her, she lifted her gaze from the paper and looked up at you, her eyebrows raised in suspicion. “Have you been getting...any outside help in this class lately, _____?”
You felt your throat close and your body tense in surprise. Did your teacher know about your secret meetings with Arthur? Maybe she was in the park one day and happened to spot the both of you sitting with each other practicing math or something. But seriously, why did she have to bring this up? She was making you late for your next class! Despite your troubled thoughts, you cleared your throat and calmly asked, “Um...why do you ask?”
Your teacher looked back down at the paper in front of her and let out a tiny smile. “Well, you certainly did much better on yesterday’s test than the previous one.” She lifted her gaze to look up at you and handed you the paper that was on her desk. You grasped it through nervous hands, and as soon as you were able to gaze properly down at it, you were instantly able to notice a big B circled in red in the upper-right corner of your paper. Your eyes widened in surprise and you had suddenly lost the ability to speak, but despite this, she continued. “I was curious as to why your performance had been raised so significantly in a span of only a few months. Surely there must be some kind of assistance you’ve been getting to make you do exceptionally better?”
You continued to stare down at the test with wide eyes and slightly open mouth, your whole body trembling, before you finally lifted your gaze to stare up at your teacher. “O-Oh...I’ve been getting help from a-a...tutor,” you stammered, not wanting to mention Arthur’s name.
“Oh, I see,” the teacher said with a nod, a look of understanding coming to her face. “Well, I certainly hope you continue to try hard and improve in this class. I'm very proud of you, _____.”
“Th-Thank you,” you stuttered, still shocked about what just happened. Without having any other thoughts, you turned and headed out the door, closing it behind you just as the full realization of the situation sank into you.
You got a B.
You continued to stand there in silence for a few moments before a happy grin made its way to your face and you let out a shrill, happy squeak. “I got a B!” you cried in enjoyment before you took off running down the hall, not caring about the kids who were giving you weird looks. “I passed the math test! I finally passed the math test!”
You were able to spot Arthur with his back facing you as he calmly walked down the hall, and your smile grew even wider as you ran up to him and threw yourself on top of him, causing him to let out a surprised gasp and his eyes to widen. “I got a B! I got a B!” you repeated excitedly as you wrapped your arms tightly around him. “Arthur, I got a B on the math test! I actually passed!”
Arthur, who was still thunderstruck from your sudden attack, shifted so that he was able to stare down at you as you still kept your arms wrapped tightly around him and your chin rested on his shoulder. “I passed, I passed, I passed...I can't believe it!”
“Ah...good for you,” he said in a slightly strained voice as you continued to slowly crush his limbs and were unaware of how forceful your hug actually was. A blush instantly made its way to his face as he put his hands on your shoulders. “Er, _____, do you think you can...let go of me?”
You removed your chin from his shoulder and lifted your head to meet his gaze, your happy expression replacing with a look of hurt. “Why? You don’t like it when I hug you?”
The blush on Arthur’s face only grew deeper as he looked around and rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “It’s not that. I-It’s that...other people are watching...”
You smiled. “So what?” You once again rested your chin on his shoulder. “I'm too happy to care about other people.”
He let out a sigh before he finally, slightly hesitantly, returned the hug. “Fine, if you think so.”
The both of you continued to stand there in the middle of the crowded hallway, hugging silently, before you finally let out a sigh. “Arthur,” you murmured. “Thank you so much. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten such a good grade if it weren’t for you. I'm so glad I was able to finally respect you and allow you to help me in school. You're so wonderful and kind and caring, and...I...I don’t think I would've been as happy as I am right now if it weren’t for all the amazing things you’ve done for me...”
This compliment caused the blush on Arthur’s face to grow even deeper, and when you finally decided to pull away from him and look up into his eyes, you frowned. “Are you okay? You look like you have a fever...”
“R-Really?” he asked, his eyes slightly widening. “What makes you think that?”
You continued to look up at him confusingly. “Well...your face is really red. Are you sure you're not getting a cold?”
Arthur continued to look at you in silence for a few moments before he finally cleared his throat and crossed his arms, turning slightly away so that he would've been able to hide his flushed face from you. “My face isn’t red. And I'm not getting a cold.”
The frown that was plastered to your face was instantly replaced with a slightly confused smile. “Well...okay, then. If you say so.”
You were unable to focus in any of the rest of your morning classes, too exhilarated over your passing test grade to pay attention. Finally, all your hard work was starting to pay off, and the test proved it. Pretty soon, you would be getting grades in all of your classes that were just as good as Arthur’s.