It was a dark and cold day when Jacob made his way down to school that morning. Since what had happened on the rooftop, no other girl had confessed. Some of them would come to him and try to talk but usually, after they had felt ignored, they would stomp away angrily.
Every house in the neighborhood had been decorated in view of the Day of the Dead, held from the last day of October to the first day of November. All the little businesses would be closed and the people would roam the streets wearing grotesque masks until sun down, when they would hide inside their home until the sun was up the next morning.
Porches were decorated with pumpkins, gourds and apples. Some had scarecrows and skeletons. Some only had hay and offerings. It had been a really important holiday once, but now it had become more of a tradition. A day to honor the dead and the gods that protected them but also a day where you could hide inside all night, watch scary movies and eat a ton of candies.
Jacob wasn’t a really religious person but he would still walk around the street before sundown, from his house to the cemetery and back, offering apples and gourds as he went. He would probably get himself a bag of candy or two before he went inside and shut the door for good.
Thinking about it, he took a deep breath that went out as a misty cloud. The cold air burned in his throat. On that holiday, His mother and father would be confined to the same space for the whole night. Previously, festivities had been a challenge sometimes. He was scared a fight might break out again. “It’s okay, we’re going to watch some movies, then they will go to bed and I’ll be fine.” He reassured himself halfheartedly.
At school, everything felt lively. The walls were packed with decorations and the corners of the halls were covered in offerings. Many students were laughing happily, placing their own about everywhere they could find a space for them. Some turned when they saw him walking through the corridor. Some waived and he greeted them with a slight nod, feeling that a greeting was the least he could do. The girls who received it would turn to their friend excitedly to whisper some remarks.
Already tired, Jacob sat at his desk and almost fell asleep, head on his arm. He was dozing off when he heard a book slap against his desk and jerked awake.
-“Seriously? It’s morning already, Jay. Get your lazy ass up!”
Slowly, he raised his heavy head to see Kathelyn. She smiled.
-“Aw, look at you! Your hair’s all messy.” She said, grinning from ears to ears.
Then, she went to her desk as the teacher came in and class began.
Truthfully, Jacob wasn’t lazy but the day before, his parents had fought longer than usual and he was tired from lack of sleep. The darkness of the day didn’t help much either. In the end, he fought against sleep all morning and, finally, it was lunch break.
He rubbed his eyes and fought back a yawn before placing the lunch he had made for himself on his desk. He heard some noise in front of him and, looking up, saw it was Kathelyn again. She looked hesitant, rubbing her hands together nervously as she approached.
-“Um… Jay?” She asked, peering at her own hands.
-“Well, Um… Jeremy isn’t here today and… Uh… Can I still eat with you?” She asked quietly.
Jacob stared at her a moment, head tilted on the side, wondering if she was joking. Seeing her dance from one foot to another, he realized she was serious and felt strangely nervous himself.
-“Didn’t you say you were my friend too?” He asked to sound cool but his voice sounded arrogant and he felt like punching himself in the jaw.
-“Ah, yes, of course. But… you never confirmed it so…” She trailed off, looking through the window.
-“Sit. It’s fine. I won’t mind.” He forced himself to say.
-“Ah, it’s okay then!” She smiled a forced smile and sat herself.
The silence fell on the both of them as they ate and Jacob felt a growing pressure surrounding him. Unable to stand it any longer he spoke up.
-“I fear I might not be a very good talker but… I wouldn’t mind if you said something…” He said, trying to sound confident. Instead, he sounded arrogant again and cursed himself.
-“Ah! I thought you would find me annoying so… Ah, but is it really okay?” She said, blushing slightly though she looked rather happy.
-“Mh.” Jacob nodded and she smiled.
-“Then, um…” She rolled her eyes, thinking. “Well, Jeremy isn’t here because he caught a cold and has a fever.”
-“Will he be fine?” He asked. Though he didn’t think of Jeremy as a “friend”, he still felt worried about him.
-“He’s okay…” She said. Her eyes suddenly lit up.”If you want, we could go visit him after class. Would that be okay?” Seeing Jacob hesitating, she pointed at the window. “He lives close from school.”
-“Then, I’ll go.” He said. His answer made Kathelyn smile.
-“You’re really our friend after all, huh Jay?” She said, a warm smile on her lips.
-“Uh… That’s…” He tried to explain himself but failed.
-“You worry about Jeremy, right?” She asked, her head cocked to the side.
-“That’s because he’s your friend! See? You can actually make some.” Kathelyn smiled again.
Seeing her smiling like this, Jacob felt a pinch in his stomach and looked away. He had never thought of it that way. “Are they really my friend just because I worry about them?” He thought. He wanted to believe what Kath had said but it was all mixed up in his head. He turned to look at her again, happily eating her meal while glancing at him. He felt the pinch again and frowned.