The Outcasts

by Cole Parker

3

It was later that same evening when the two boys were brought together again by the vagaries of chance. Will was returning from the library. He spent a fair amount of time there. Most boys studied in their rooms. Will liked the solitude he was afforded in the library. He could sit alone at one of the carrels and not be bothered at all. His roommate left him alone and didn't engage in the disparagement he still faced sporadically from others, but they rarely spoke, and the boy's friends would stop by when they could, making Will feel awkward as they all talked around him, so Will had taken to spending as much time as he could during study hours in the library. He didn't use these hours for studying, or for that matter doing much reading at all. He'd found concentrating on textbooks difficult at first, but lately it had become almost impossible, which resulted in his unpreparedness in classes. He didn't like this, he dreaded being called upon, he hated being singled out, but it was just the way it was. He had initially tried to study. After finding he couldn't, he no longer bothered to try.

He was walking back to his house, alone in the dark. It was peaceful, and his thoughts were scattered, as they so frequently were. He was walking along, feeling the night chill and thinking about nothing really, when something caught his attention. At first he didn't notice, but gradually he became aware that he was hearing something. It was something foreign to the night, something out of place, and it stopped him. Standing still, he could hear it more clearly. Strange, but it sounded to him like someone crying.

It was coming, as closely as he could tell, from off to his left. This was a large expanse of lawn, set with occasional groupings of trees and bushes to break up the landscape but mostly broad, well-tended lawn the boys frolicked or slept on during warm sunny days when they had time away from their lessons. Will thought the sound was coming from some trees not far from the path he was on. Quietly, curiously, he walked towards the sound.

The twilight had thickened and it was now so dark that he couldn't see clearly, especially where there was a tight stand of five trees. The crying was coming from within them. Will stopped when he neared, then approached as silently as he could, not knowing what to expect.

What he saw when he looked around the tree he was closest to was a boy sitting on the ground, his back against the next tree to the one he was peering around, his knees drawn up to his chest and clasped with his arms, his head lowered to them. He was sobbing, with slight moans of despair loud enough to have caught Will's attention. His face was entirely hidden against his legs and Will would have had no idea who he was, except for the unkempt mass of blond hair on his head, the same hair he'd seen on the boy whose eyes kept fastening onto his at tea that day.

Will's reaction to seeing Liam weeping was uncertainty. He didn't know what to do. He immediately felt sorrow, for ultimately he was a kind boy, but it wasn't in his nature to get involved. Yet he felt for the boy's obvious grief. He was surprised at the sympathy he was feeling, because becoming immersed in anyone else's emotions seemed almost like a new experience to him, something out of the distant past.

He flirted with the idea of approaching Blake, of maybe crouching down and putting an arm around his shoulders, or perhaps trying to think of something comforting to say, but he really couldn't. After a few moments, he slowly withdrew, making no sound. As he moved away from the trees on the soft grass, he was left with the sounds of crying, which grew fainter and then could not be heard at all.

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