Excerpt for Love Lost by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Chapter One

‘What's wrong?’ the boy asked him, ‘are you alright?’

Haru swallowed the lump in his throat, gritting his teeth as he stared at the boy who stood before him. The boy looked to be about seventeen or eighteen, the same age as Haru.

He stared back at Haru, waiting expectantly, calmly standing there with his hands in his pockets.

‘Well?’ the boy asked in a playful manner. ‘What's wrong, cats got your tongue?’

Haru gave a small gasp, eyes widening slightly.

A memory flashed in his mind then of his mother, many years ago when he was very young.

He remembered the words she had spoken to him when Haru was afraid, or when times were difficult for him, she would help him.

It just takes one act of bravery, a single breath, a heartbeat……just say the words……

Haru drew himself up, forcing the words from his mouth.

‘I'm all alone here’ he began awkwardly. ‘I’ve just transferred here, my.... f-father wanted me to go to this school.’

Haru waited for a moment, but the boy just stared back at him, blinking. After a few seconds passed, it was clear that he was waiting for Haru to continue.

‘Um…I….’ Haru’s heart beat harder in his chest, and he fought back his nervous tears. ‘I don’t…know anyone in this school…I was wondering if you could…would…’

The boy continued to stare mutely, his expression passive, if not a little curious.

‘I was wondering if you wanted... to be my friend…I mean…if that’s ok’ Haru finished, trailing off. ‘I get lonely...’

A second past, and Haru’s nerves failed him.

‘I'm sorry’ he whispered, turning to run away.


Haru was jerked back suddenly as the boy grabbed his sleeve. Haru glanced around tearfully, seeing that the boy was smiling.

‘I would love to be your friend’ he said.


‘What is your name?’

Haru blinked back at him.

The boy let go of his sleeve, and Haru turned back to face him.

‘Do you mean it?’ Haru mumbled.

‘Well sure.’ He paused. ‘Why are you crying?’

‘I get so nervous’ Haru said wiping at his eyes. ‘I'm sorry…’

‘There’s no need to be sorry’ he replied jovially. ‘My name is Aubrey, what's your name?’

Haru groaned to himself.

‘Well?’ Aubrey asked with a teasing smile, tilting his head at him. ‘What is it?’


‘You're awfully nervous, aren’t you?’ Aubrey smiled.

‘I don’t mean to be…’

‘Oh no don’t cry’ Aubrey hastened.

‘I’m not crying, I've just…got something in my eye…’


Haru glanced up, watching a pair of girls walk past them in the hallway, caught up in their conversation they didn’t seem to notice anything else. But Haru waited until they were gone before speaking again.

‘This is all so new to me’ Haru said to Aubrey glumly. ‘I get scared.’

‘What's there to be scared of?’ Aubrey asked him casually.

Haru groaned again, looking away towards the ground. ‘I get picked on a lot’ Haru said shyly. ‘I'm weak, I get sick a lot, and I'm shy and awkward around people.’


Haru gasped then, feeling a little panicked.

‘Oh no! Please don’t feel bad for me!’

‘You're like a little puppy that’s been left out in the rain’ Aubrey gleamed.

Haru hesitated, blushing slightly.

‘Are... are you making fun of me?’

‘Oh, not at all’ Aubrey said sounding surprised.

Haru buried his face in his hands.

‘I have to go’ he mumbled, before turning and running away.

‘Hey wait, hold on a second!’ Aubrey called after him.

But Haru was already gone.

Aubrey returned to his friends shortly after that, walking at a leisurely pace down the corridor as he headed to class. It was supposed to be a revision class, but most people who went there just messed around.

‘Aubrey! Finaly you jerk! Where the hell were you?’

‘Sasha, keep your voice down’ Aubrey tutted at his friend.

‘How do you expect to pass these exams if you keep missing these revision classes?’ Sasha glowered.

‘Get off my back’ Aubrey snapped, ‘I missed one class.’

Beside Sasha, their friend Amelia began to giggle at their antics.

‘You guys are always so funny’ she smiled.

‘So where were you?’ Ben asked, approaching them, they talked outside the classroom now. ‘You wanna borrow my notes Aubrey?’

Aubrey stared transfixed at the papers Ben held in his hand, but it was clear that his mind was not focused on the notes.

‘What's wrong?’ Ben asked.

Aubrey closed his mouth, hesitating.

‘I…I talked to someone.’

‘Could you be any more vague?’ Sasha asked gloomily, rolling her eyes.

‘There was this kid…’ Aubrey mumbled, turning away and ignoring Sasha’s comment, ‘…he looked so sad….’

It was about ten minutes or so later, and Haru was still crying. Hidden just outside the building where he had been speaking to Aubrey, he was concealed by bushes now, out of sight of anyone just passing by. He was leaning back against a tree, hugging his books to him and sobbing quietly.

He gasped then, hearing movement to his side.

‘Hey I found you’ Aubrey smiled down at him, ‘at last. I should have known you’d be crying’ he added quietly as an afterthought.

‘N-no I wasn’t I…!’

‘I really wasn’t making fun of you’ Aubrey told him seriously, moving around the bush and coming to stand before him.


‘Come with me’ Aubrey offered, holding out his hand, ‘I want to introduce you to my friends.’

Haru hesitated, clutching at his chest as if his heart pained him.

‘You say that you were lonely and scared’ Aubrey said, ‘I’ll introduce you to my friends, then they will be your friends too, then you won’t have to be lonely anymore, or scared. I promise most of them are not scary.’

‘But…’ Haru breathed, still teary eyed, ‘what if they…don’t like me…?’

‘If they are mean to you then I will fight them’ Aubrey gleamed happily.

Haru stared up at Aubrey, he couldn’t help but smile a little.

‘That’s a funny thing to say.’

‘Are you going to take my hand or what?’ Aubrey asked, still holding it out, ‘come on, it’s getting tired.’

‘Sorry…’ Haru mumbled, reaching out towards him.

Aubrey grasped his hand tightly, pulling Haru to his feet.

‘There, that’s better’ Aubrey said with a smile, ‘and don’t look so frightened…I'm not going to do anything bad.’

‘I'm sorry’ Haru murmured, quickly looking away.

He let go of Aubrey’s hand.

‘You really are timid aren’t you?’ Aubrey sighed wearily.

‘I just…lack confidence…’ Haru mumbled, head bowing lower. ‘I…don’t have any self-esteem…’

He flinched suddenly as Aubrey touched him beneath the chin, lifting his head gently.

‘Look people in the eye when you talk to them’ he said.

Haru blinked, the edges of his lips tweaked in a smile.

‘Or else people will sense your weakness and go in for the kill’ Aubrey finished happily.

Haru’s smile faltered.

‘Come on’ Aubrey smirked, letting go of him and moving away, sticking his hands in his pockets calmly and casually as he walked away. ‘I want to show off my find.’

‘Hey look I found a stray!’

They were back in the revision class, everyone around them was busy at work. Ben, Sasha and Amelia all stared silently up at Haru from their seats as he stood there nervously beside Aubrey.

Sasha drew a deep breath, opening her mouth to speak.

‘You shut up’ Aubrey butted in before she had a chance to use her voice.

‘I think he’s really cute’ Amelia beamed, as beside her Sasha gasped indignantly, glaring up at Aubrey.

Haru blushed furiously, balling his fists nervously at Amelia’s comment.

‘His name is Haru’ Aubrey continued. ‘His dad’s an astronaut and he’s spent the last eight months with his dad in space trying to build a facility so that the human race can populate the moon because earth is getting too crowded.’

‘Really?’ Amelia gasped in awe.

‘No you idiot’ Aubrey answered flatly.

Amelia began to protest loudly, and Aubrey began to argue back defensively at her.

‘So, you’re a transfer?’ Sasha spoke to Haru asking him a very normal question.

‘Um…yes’ Haru replied awkwardly, hugging his books to his chest.

‘What's wrong?’ Sasha asked, ‘are you shy?’

‘Um…yeah…a little…sorry.’ Haru hunched his shoulders, feeling his cheeks were hot.

‘There’s no need to be sorry’ Sasha grinned at him, ignoring Aubrey and Amelia who continued to argue beside them. ‘I bet you don’t have any friends hu?’

‘Don’t be rude Sasha’ Ben snapped suddenly. ‘Sorry’ he shrugged apologetically to Haru, ‘I know how hard it is changing schools. My dad is in the army and we move house a lot. It’s tough I know.’

‘You’ve…changed schools like that?’ Haru mumbled.

Ben smiled warmly at him. ‘We can be friends if you like.’

‘Thank you’ Haru flushed. ‘I um…’

He groaned, bowing his head.

‘Uh-oh’ Aubrey gasped, turning away from Amelia then and clapping his hand over Haru’s eyes. ‘It’s ok’ Aubrey laughed awkwardly. ‘If you don’t see the tears it means he’s not crying.’

‘What are you doing?’ Sasha protested. ‘Get off him you jerk! He’s not crying!’

She pulled Aubrey’s arm away sharply then, gasping and drawing back at she saw that Haru really was crying.

‘I'm sorry…’ Haru whispered, brushing his tears away. ‘I…’

Aubrey’s arm shot out then, grabbing Haru by the sleeve.

‘Don’t run away again’ Aubrey ordered, and Haru stared back at him wide eyed. ‘If you run away…’ Aubrey hisses dramatically, ‘if you give into fear…………...then the terrorist win.’

‘Jerk!’ Sasha snapped, leaping up and smacking him over the head with her book as Amelia moved over to Haru to comfort him, shielding him from the mayhem as Sasha began to verbally assault Aubrey.

‘Girls…’ Aubrey uttered in exaggerated pain when all of it was over, ‘are so violent these days….’

They settled down quickly, having drawn attention from the rest of the revision class for their mayhem.

‘I know it looks like we’re all crazy’ Ben waved at Haru smiling awkwardly, ‘but we’re actually really nice.’

‘I know it’s hard’ Amelia was saying to him. ‘Ben was really shy when he first came here.’

‘He was?’ Haru asked tentatively.

‘Yeah’ Ben replied sheepishly, scratching the back of his head.

‘He’s really come out of his shell’ Amelia said to Haru. ‘Ben and I have been friends the longest. I was going through a hard time and…Ben didn’t know anyone back then…we sort of connected…you know?’

‘Um…yeah…’ Haru laughed awkwardly at her, smiling then. ‘Thank you, you’re very kind.’

‘Why don’t you sit with us?’ Amelia suggested. ‘Do you want a drink from the vending machines or something? I’ll get you something. What would you like?’

‘Oh no I couldn’t’ Haru began to protest.

‘Don’t be silly’ Amelia giggled, smacking his shoulder lightly. ‘I want to get you something. Don’t upset me. That’s what friends do for each other, they help each other, now…’

Amelia pulled back a chair, dragged Haru over to it and forced him down into the seat.

‘What would you like from the vending machine?’

Haru blinked up at Amelia in wide-eyed confusion.

‘Um…’ he struggled to find his voice, ‘just…juice…orange…. please…’

‘Great!’ Amelia cried happily. ‘Back in a jiffy!’

Ben leant on the table, resting his chin on his palm as he watched Amelia go.

‘You can relax you know’ he said to Haru. ‘You’re so tense.’

‘Sorry’ Haru mumbled.

‘And stop apologising for everything.’

‘So…’ Haru stopped himself.

Ben smiled at him happily. ‘It will get easier, trust me. You’ve got us now. Will you two shut up?!’ he snapped at Sasha and Aubrey who had been arguing. ‘I can barely hear myself think!’

Haru hunched his shoulders then, giggling into his hand.

‘What's so funny?’ Aubrey grumbled at him, the front of his shirt balled up in Sasha’s fists as she held him there.

‘It’s nothing…you guys are just…so weird…’

‘Well at least you're smiling now’ Aubrey said, prising Sasha’s hands off his shirt. ‘It means you're beginning to relax.’

Amelia returned a short time later with a carton of orange juice, handing it to Haru who took it from her tentatively.

‘Thank you very much’ Haru mumbled shyly.

‘It’s ok’ Amelia waved merrily at him. ‘If you ever want a favour, don’t hesitate to ask, that’s what friends do for each other, right?’

‘R-right’ Haru answered quickly, clutching the carton to his chest.

Amelia immediately struck up a conversation with Sasha, as Ben and Aubrey began to speak together.

Haru bowed his head smiling then, feeling a little more at ease.

‘What do you think Haru?’

‘Hu?’ he tensed slightly, glancing back wide-eyed at Aubrey.

‘Jeez you're not spacing out are you? Stay with the program will ya?’

‘Oh yes’ Haru fumbled, smiling awkwardly. ‘I will.’

‘You don’t know what I was talking about do you?’ Aubrey said to him, giving him a tired expression.

‘I’m sorry’ Haru laughed nervously, ‘could you repeat that again please?’

It was a few hours later when the small group left the revision class. Sasha, Amelia and Ben went on their own way, and Aubrey stayed with Haru.

‘So are you alright then?’ Aubrey asked Haru out of the blue.

‘Why…I mean…sure I'm fine…?’

‘I just want to make sure you're ok’ Aubrey tilted his head, regarding Haru closely. ‘I want to make sure the others aren’t too much for you…you're like a frightened little mouse you know?’

‘I'm not a mouse’ Haru scowled at him sullenly.

‘It’s alright’ Aubrey replied with a smirk, strolling past him, ‘I'm just teasing. So what class are you in?’

‘Class C’ Haru replied.

‘I'm in D’ Aubrey said, ‘it kinda suck, all my friends are in different classes. The only time I really get to see them is in break and during our club-time, or revision class.’

‘Club time?’

‘Yeah, we all have a drama club together. Are you in any clubs?’

‘No’ Haru bowed his head glumly.

‘You should stop around some time and see what we’re up to’ Aubrey smirked. ‘It’s a lot of fun.’

‘It is?’

‘We should both probably be getting back to our dorms now, you know what the teachers get like if they catch us wandering around too late…what room are you in?’


‘And who do you share a room with?’

‘I don’t know right now’ Haru answered, ‘he’s home due to a family situation…or so I heard…’

‘Aww. That’s too bad’ Aubrey said turning and heading the other direction. ‘Gotta go now. See ya!’

Haru watched him saunter away, walking with confidence. Haru felt a twinge of jealously and resentment at that.

‘Sure…’ he mumbled after him, speaking now to the air, ‘…see you…’

Chapter Two

The next day after the morning classes were finished, Haru sat upon a stone wall on the edge of the grounds. It was a raised platform built in a circle, the flower bed behind him was filled with colour, and a small tree hung over him, its branches drooping.

He sat alone in silence, staring down at his carton of juice.

In the distance he could hear other people with their friends, laughing as they enjoyed each other’s company. There was another group nearby playing with a Frisbee, throwing it back and forth. They all sounded very happy.

Haru let out a sigh, bowing his head further. He squeezed the carton of juice lightly, fiddling absent mindedly with the little white straw at the top.

He heard movement then, seeing something out of the corner of his eye.

He turned, giving a start at the sight of the figure, hooded and cloaked all in black, the figure sidled up beside him.

‘Haru...’ the figure spoke in a foreboding and dramatic voice, face hidden completely by the low hood. ‘Meet me in the drama hall in five minutes.’

Haru stared back at the figure in shock, eyes wide and mouth open.


‘Don’t be late’ Aubrey said rising to his feet and gliding dramatically backwards, slipping around a corner and out of sight.

Haru stared after him a little confused, wondering what that was all about. He looked ahead again, straightening up and quickly finishing his carton before putting the rubbish in his bag. He made his way across the grounds, heading to the drama hall, following Aubrey’s path.

‘Hey you made it!’ Aubrey called out happily as Haru let the doors swing gently shut behind him.

Aubrey stood there wearing the same cloak but now with the hood lowered, and he watched as Haru stood there at a distance looking nervous.

‘Come child’ Aubrey spoke reaching a hand out to him, ‘there is nothing to be afraid of young one…you are safe with me.’

‘W-what's going on?’ Haru mumbled, stepping closer, seeing the others in the hall, Amelia and Sasha and Ben, they were carrying stuff around and unpacking boxes of costumes.

‘We’re holding a little play’ Aubrey told him playfully, clutching at his own chest, balling the dark fabric up in his hands. ‘I’m naked underneath you know.’


‘Just kidding!’ Aubrey gleamed, smacking Haru playfully on the shoulder a little too hard.

Haru straightened up, rubbing his shoulder and frowning nervously as Aubrey walked away from him, talking to the others.

‘Will you hurry up?! Is this going to take all day?’

‘Be quiet!’ Sasha instantly snapped back at him. ‘I don’t see you helping!’

‘I'm carrying this cloak’ Aubrey answered curtly, indicating the cloak he was wearing, and saying so as if he were doing a wonderful thing.

‘Oh, hey Haru, it’s good to see you’ Sasha said ignoring Aubrey now.

She put the box she was carrying down.

‘Aubrey was talking so long I thought he’d never find you’ Sasha said.

‘Why...’ Haru asked nervously, ‘why do you want to find me?’

‘We want to show you our play’ Sasha grinned excitedly.

‘We’re putting on a play’ Amelia said to him, sitting upon a seat a short distance away, beginning to unpack the box before her.

‘And it’s going to be so much fun’ Ben added, sifting through his own box he had carried out from the store room. ‘We did something like this last year and it was a real blast.’ He straightened up, putting his hands on his hips. ‘Have you been in a play before?’ he asked Haru.

‘Oh’ Haru replied, ‘um…no…I haven’t.’

‘Maybe you should try it’ Ben suggested. ‘It’s really fun once you get into it. Though at first it’s a little nerve wracking.’

Haru blushed slightly as he stared back at Ben, a short distance away Aubrey still wearing his cloak, glanced back at them.

‘I.....’ Haru began, ‘I’ve never been in a play before…. I’m too nervous…I get awkward around people I don’t know.... and I get awkward in new situations.’

Ben fell silent then as the others continued with what they were doing, rummaging through boxes unpacking props, continuing to listen to their discussion.

‘Why don’t you join us in the play?’ Ben offered suddenly.

‘Hey that’s a great idea!’ Sasha cried out suddenly. ‘Why don’t you do that?’

‘Oh no’ Haru fumbled. ‘I’m no good at that sort of thing.’

‘It would help you make friends’ Aubrey spoke up, ‘and build your confidence. I think it would be good for you.’

Haru stared back at Aubrey, for a moment lost for words.

‘Come on’ Aubrey prompted. ‘We would love to have you on our team, it will be fun. We’re still working on the play so we can fit you in easy.’

Haru pursed his lips, blushing slightly, he swallowed the lump in his throat.

‘Ok’ he breathed.

‘Great’ Aubrey clapped his hand together. ‘Oh, we’re going to have so much fun!’

Haru blinked nervously back at Aubrey, before glancing away towards the others. He was surprised to see them smiling.

‘Are....’ Haru began, ‘are you sure I won’t cause any trouble for you?’

‘Don’t be silly’ Sasha waved at him laughing. ‘We could do with an extra member, you’re helping us out, and in turn we can help you out. This could really help you come out of your shell.’

‘Oh’ Haru hunched his shoulders. ‘You’re making me feel like there’s something wrong with me’ he mumbled. ‘I don’t mean to be so shy…I wish I was more confident…’

‘Oh no don’t take it the wrong way’ Amelia said quickly. ‘We’re only trying to help.’

‘I know’ Haru smiled, a little more relaxed now. ‘I know I need to change…and I want to…’

Aubrey smirked at him. ‘Well come on’ he said clapping his hands loudly all of a sudden. ‘Let’s get this show on the road!’

‘What’s going on?’ Haru asked Sasha as the others moved over towards the stage at the back of the hall.

‘Practices’ Sasha smiled. ‘We’ve only just decided to start a play recently, and we’re doing all this in our spare time so it can be a little tricky to get together to work. But we managed it last year so we’ll manage it this year too.’ She grinned. ‘We’re still deciding what play to do.’

The lights shut off suddenly, and Haru jumped, glancing around nervously.

‘It’s ok’ Sasha said to him, taking a seat in a chair that faced the stage, ‘sit down.’

Haru did so, sitting in the empty seat beside Sasha. On her other side was Ben, he glanced with a smile towards Haru, before looking ahead again, towards the stage.

Haru realised suddenly that Aubrey and Amelia were missing, and he glanced about for them, but couldn’t see them.

The heavy black curtains of the stage drew slowly apart then, and Haru blinked as he watched, seeing, Aubrey standing there, still wearing his black cloak. The spotlight from above focused on him when the rest of the stage was in darkness.

Aubrey took a step to the side, and the spotlight followed him. Haru realised then that Amelia must be controlling the levers, hidden somewhere backstage.

Haru’s attention drifted back to Aubrey who stood now centre stage with the spotlight on him. Aubrey bowed his head, hands clutched at his chest.

In one dramatic move he threw the cloak off suddenly, revealing the glittering purple trousers and long sleeve top he wore.

Haru’s eyes widened, and he drew a slow gasp.

Upon the stage Aubrey gestured, a dramatic pose, sweeping his black hair back. He turned towards the audience, arms pressed over his heart now, he began to speak loudly and clearly, his voice resonating around the empty hall.

‘All I wanted was to be loved…to be accepted.’ Aubrey bowed his head then, shoulders hunched, his body began to tremble. He raised his head suddenly, teeth gritted, tears in his eyes. ‘You were the only one who ever cared for me, and you left me, abandoning me to suffer my trials alone!’

Haru glanced nervously to the side of him, seeing Sasha smiling at him and holding something in her hand. They were eye drops, tears in a little bottle.

‘It’s ok’ Sasha smiled, speaking in a whisper as she noticed Haru watching her. ‘He knows what he’s doing, he’s done this before…’

Haru smiled awkwardly back at her, feeling a little embarrassed for panicking slightly, for thinking that Aubrey was actually crying.

He raised his head, watching Aubrey as he continued to act.

‘When you were gone…’ Aubrey continued, ‘…I felt as if I could not go on any longer…I felt as if my heart had been ripped from my chest…as if I had already died…though I kept on breathing and moving.’

He paused then, for several seconds Aubrey did nothing. And then he grasped his chest again, drawing a shuddering breath.

‘Not a day goes by when I don’t miss you…. why did you have to leave me…? Your loss…your absence…. has left a permanent scar on my heart…. mother…’

Haru gasped then, his eyes wide with shock.

‘It just takes one act of bravery’ Aubrey recited, ‘a single breath, a heartbeat……just one small push.’

He moved his hands forward then, as if to push an invisible object before him.

‘And then….’ Aubrey breathed, ‘you are free……...’

Aubrey lowered his hands, smiling down at those before him as Sasha and Ben began to clap, Amelia stepping out onto the stage from behind the scenes, clapped also as she approached Aubrey.

‘That was wonderful’ Amelia told him, ‘you recite very well.’

But Aubrey was not listening, he was staring at Haru in shock.


Haru who had been fighting back tears, biting the flesh of his hand so hard it hurt, could no longer control himself.

He hunched forwards, bawling into his hands, to the alarm of Sasha and Ben beside him.


Aubrey leapt off the stage, rushing up to him.

‘Haru! What’s wrong?’

Haru raised his head then, looking Aubrey in the face.

And then, through all his tears, he smiled.

‘I’m sorry’ Haru spoke a short time later, once he had calmed down. ‘I don’t know what came over me.’

Aubrey glanced at him tentatively, the two were sitting side by side now backstage. Sasha, Amelia and Ben had left the hall to go back to classes, and Aubrey and Haru were alone. The others had been reluctant to leave Haru, but Aubrey had insisted, not wanting them to get in trouble for missing class. As for himself, he didn’t care.

‘I must have really surprised you’ Haru said awkwardly, raising his hand to his head.

‘Yeah’ Aubrey replied uncertainly, ‘a little.’

Haru lowered his hand, staring ahead now, though not looking at anything in particular.

‘I was just so overcome’ Haru began, ‘I…couldn’t stop myself.’

‘Was it something I said?’ Aubrey asked tentatively, ‘if it was then I’m sorry.’

‘No, it was nothing like that’ Haru waved away. ‘It wasn’t something you said….’ And then he broke off. ‘Ok it was’ he relented, staring at his lap.

He smiled weakly, eyes glazing over.

‘You recite beautifully’ Haru spoke in a distant voice. ‘You are…an incredible…ah….’ He scratched his palms nervously then. ‘I’m no good at all this.’

‘It’s ok’ Aubrey encouraged. ‘Tell me what’s on your mind.’

Haru grimaced then, a little tense. He hunched his shoulders, frowning.

‘You….’ He forced himself to speak. ‘You reminded me of my mother…’

Aubrey blinked in surprise at this. But he did not interrupt Haru, as he continued to speak.

‘My mother used to recite words from a play to me…when I was very young. I was just a boy.’ Haru swallowed the lump in his throat, breathing slowly and deeply, calming his beating heart. ‘I was always a weak person’ Haru spoke with regret, ‘my mother helped me a lot growing up, but I never really fit in anywhere.’

‘I guess you haven’t changed much’ Aubrey said.

Haru felt a stab in his heart then, but when he looked at Aubrey, he saw that he was smiling.

‘It’s ok’ Aubrey said, ‘I was making a joke.’

He grabbed Haru by the shoulder, shaking him roughly.

‘You need to learn to lighten up.’

‘Oh.... s-sorry.’

‘And you need to learn to stop apologising for everything.’

‘So-’ Haru broke off then, stopping himself.

He smiled suddenly, and Aubrey smiled with him. Haru was beginning to relax.

‘Thank you’ Haru said to him, ‘for being kind to me…for letting me be your friend.’

‘No problem.’

Haru’s eyes fluttered towards Aubrey then, keeping his head low and shoulders hunched.

‘Ah’ he said, turning his head away. ‘I’m so jealous of you.’

‘Of me?’ Aubrey said. ‘But why?’

‘It’s not just you’ Haru said, ‘it’s everyone. I just…. hate myself sometimes. I have always been so weak… I get sick a lot… because of that I missed a lot of days of school when I was young. I stayed at home a lot, but my mother was always there to look after me when I got sick, she was always good to me, she did everything for me, she was always there no matter what, even when she was sick herself.’

Aubrey watched him silently.

‘My mother’ Haru continued, ‘she used to speak words to me when I was scared. I was afraid of school because I didn’t know how to fit in. Everyone had their own group of friends, and I was always an outsider… because I spent so long out of school when I was sick… but my mother was always there to help me.’ He smiled. ‘She used to say something to me when I was afraid…she used to say, ‘it just takes one act of bravery, a single breath, a heartbeat……’

‘The words I said’ Aubrey realised, ‘the words from…. a play…’

‘Courage of the Black Nightingale’ Haru whispered. ‘A story about love and loss… broken hearts… and learning to trust again.’

‘It’s one of my favourite plays’ Aubrey mumbled.

Haru held his hands together before him, scratching at his nail.

‘When I was scared, my mother used to say to me, that it took just one push, one act of bravery. I was able to overcome many obstacles because of her… but then...’

Haru bit his lip, as hard as he could to stop himself from crying again.

‘Did your mother….’ Aubrey asked, ‘did she…?’

‘I mustn’t cry’ Haru whispered to himself, ‘I mustn’t…I have to be strong…. That’s what she wanted….’

Aubrey grasped his shoulder firmly then, as Haru turned to face him, gasping, frozen now, his breath caught in his throat.

‘Your lip is bleeding’ Aubrey said.

Haru fumbled, hand going to his mouth automatically.

‘Stay here’ Aubrey told him firmly.

He left his side, returning seconds later with a box of tissues.

‘Here’ he said, lifting the tissue to Haru’s lips, dabbing the blood away

‘Thank you’ Haru murmured.

‘You say you were able to become strong again because of your mother’ Aubrey said to him. ‘I want to help you like she did, you have friends now.’ He smiled warmly at Haru, drawing his hand back. ‘We will help you’ he told him, ‘that’s what friends do…’

‘I’m sorry everyone’ Haru said to the others when they had returned to the hall after classes had finished. ‘I didn’t mean to worry you all.’

‘If Aubrey said anything to upset you’ Sasha told Haru, ‘just tell me and I’ll beat him to a bloody pulp.’

‘Don’t do that’ Amelia fumbled, ‘that’s too violent.’

‘It’s ok’ Haru waved at them, showing both his hands in a submissive gesture. ‘Aubrey helped me, a feel a lot better now.’

‘Ha! You see that Sasha? I did a good thing’ Aubrey said smugly.

‘Why were you upset?’ Ben asked Haru uncertainly.

‘Aubrey didn’t do anything wrong’ Haru told them, ‘it’s just…’ he took a deep and steady breath, blinking slowly. ‘Aubrey was just reciting the same lines from the play my mother used to tell me about’ Haru explained. ‘I loved that story…even thought it had its painful moments….it was a beautiful story…and it still is.’

The others watched him with interest, listening silently. Haru had finished speaking, and a moment’s silence passed.

‘Why don’t we do that play?’ Sasha suggested, speaking quietly.

‘Not if it’s too painful for you’ Ben added quickly.

‘It’s ok’ Haru smiled, ‘I don’t mind. Only if you guys are ok with it though. I don’t want to cause any trouble for anyone.’

‘Don’t be silly!’ Aubrey said loudly beside him, leaning on his shoulder, causing Haru to stumble. ‘That’s what friends do!’

Haru turned to face Aubrey then, blushing slightly as he stared transfixed at him.

‘You don’t need to be sad’ Aubrey told him, ‘you don’t need to be afraid, because you have us.’

Haru felt his stomach tighten, his heart began to skip in his chest.

‘Well you have us anyway’ Sasha finished flatly. ‘Amelia, Ben and I. If you have any problems just come to us ok?’

‘Hey that’s not fair’ Aubrey protested loudly. ‘I was the one who made his feel better!’

‘You’re just a jerk-face’ Sasha said to him glowering.

‘And you’re just a whiny little-’

She smacked Aubrey over the head before he could finish his sentence, causing Amelia to cry out loudly in shock as Aubrey began to dramatically howl in agony as Ben tried to break them up.

Haru began to laugh then, clutching at his sides. The others all stopped what they were doing, turning to him with confused expressions.

‘I’m sorry’ Haru gasped as he doubled over, crying tears of laughter. ‘You guys are just so funny!’

They watched him for a moment, blinking uncertainly as he continued to laugh. And then Aubrey grinned.

‘See Sasha’ he said to her, causing her to instantly shoot him a dark glare, ‘…I’m doing a good thing….’

The next day they met up in the drama hall again, and when lunch was over, Aubrey insisted on walking with Haru to his next class.

‘I told you, you don’t have to escort me’ Haru laughed.

‘But I want to’ Aubrey gleamed.

‘Won’t you be late to your own class?’

‘Probably’ Aubrey replied, ‘but I have to keep up my reputation as a delinquent.’

Haru turned away with a frown of amusement. ‘You’re not making any sense.’

Aubrey just smiled silently in return.

‘Well here it is’ Haru said slowing to a stop a short while later.

‘Great!’ Aubrey gleamed, spinning on the spot and strolling away. ‘See ya!’

Haru watched him go, letting out a sigh.

‘Strange boy’ Haru mumbled to himself, before turning and heading into class.

Haru attended his classes for the rest of that day, breathing a sigh of relief when it was over.

He filed slowly out of his last class with the others, trailing after the others into the corridor. He slowed to a stop, glancing up in surprise to see Aubrey waiting for him.

‘Hey’ Aubrey waved.

‘What are you doing here?’

‘I came to walk you back to your dormitory.’

Haru hesitated, giving an uncertain and nervous laugh.

‘I don’t need someone to walk me back.’

‘You mean you don’t want me around?’

‘No no’ Haru fumbled. ‘I didn’t mean anything like that… it’s just…’ he let out a sigh then, smiling warmly to Aubrey. ‘You remind me of a puppy’ he finished.

Aubrey stared back at him in surprise, his expression frozen for a moment, before he adopted a comical expression of exaggerated sadness.

Haru began to laugh into his hand.

‘You’re so strange’ he said to Aubrey.

‘Come on’ Aubrey said stepping back. ‘I want to see which room you’re staying.’

‘Oh is that the real reason you want to walk with me?’

‘No?’ Aubrey replied innocently.

They walked side by side through the school, heading out of the building across the grounds and towards the dormitory blocks, where the students slept. The dormitories were split into two sides, one side for the girls, and the other for the boys. There were several small dormitory buildings.

As they made their way closer towards the dormitories, Haru’s attention drifted away, looking towards the edge of the grounds, where there was steel fencing, grey bars that ran around the entire school and its grounds. Too high to easily climb, the bars too narrow to fit through. They trapped the students here, they were like bars of a prison.

‘Are you alright?’ Aubrey asked.

‘Yeah’ Haru spoke hastily, turning back to him. ‘I’m fine.’

‘You don’t like it here do you? Aubrey spoke quickly.

Haru groaned then, dipping his head to the ground.

‘Is it that obvious?’ he mumbled.

Aubrey looked away again, towards the dormitories. ‘Come on’ he said, ‘let’s keep going.’

They parted ways after that, but not before Aubrey had walked Haru all the way to his door.

Aubrey glanced up, looking at the number above the door, remembering it.

‘I’ll see you around then kid’ Aubrey smirked turning away.

He left without another word or backwards glance, walking with his hands in his pockets, whistling a tune.

Haru watched him go nervously, feeling butterflies in his stomach. He gritted his teeth, forcing himself to look away, and opened the door to his dormitory.

Each room was shared by two people, with two beds on opposite sides and matching furniture as well, all of which was identical, two of everything.

Haru put his bag down, moving over to one side of the room to sit on the bed.

He was alone here, his roommate was away, taking some time off due to family reasons, or so he had been told, and it was lonely here. Haru wished to meet his roommate, just for the company, and at the same time was nervous for it. He knew he would meet his roommate soon, the matron who monitored the dormitories and kept an eye out for bad behaviour as well as organising the students that stayed here, had told Haru so.

He looked towards the window then, seeing the grounds beyond, seeing the steel fencing, beyond which was a small area of woodland, beyond that the town.

He felt so trapped here, it was only a short time he had been at this place, and like almost everyone one who stayed here, he did not come here by his own choice.

This was a boarding school, and their rules were strict. Most people were sent here by their parents for one reason or another, and they stayed here for months without being allowed to leave. They were not even allowed to see their friends outside the school, or their families, not without special circumstances. Not that that mattered much to Haru. He had not made any friends outside this place, and his family….

He rose to a stand, leaning forwards on the windowsill and staring outside.

‘Still…’ he mumbled to himself, ‘it’s not all that bad here…’

Chapter Three

Haru woke the next morning, rising early and quickly getting dressed.

He exited his room, expecting to see Aubrey outside waiting for him, but was disappointed to see that he was not there.

Haru glanced one way down the corridor, then the other, but he did not see him.

Around him the other students were one by one leaving their rooms, walking away to head to their first classes.

Hoisting his bag up his shoulder, Haru made his way forwards with the others, leaving the building and heading outside.

Haru attended his first class. The boarding school Haru attended had several classes, there were the standard English, Maths and Science, and there were also other classes like History, Languages, IT (computers), Geography. Haru struggled in these subjects and didn’t enjoy any of them. Worst of all was P.E. He enjoyed sports, but enjoyed it at his leisure. In school, he found it difficult and challenging. He didn’t know anyone in his class, and people mostly ignored him. He had tried to speak to some of them and make friends, but people had already formed their groups and they weren’t interested in him. Aubrey was the only one who had accepted him.

Aubrey… Haru thought to himself. I really miss you…I miss all of you…Amelia and Sasha and Ben…. He hung his head, staring at the books before him as he worked silently. I really look forward to seeing their show…I wonder what they’re doing now….?

Haru became quickly lost in thought. He didn’t enjoy his lessons in school, and though he had only seen a glimpse of the play Aubrey and his friends were about to perform, he was exited.

I’ve never been in a play before Haru thought to himself. It’s going to be fun…and a little scary.

Much of the time, Haru’s mind was far away from his studies. He performed at best only average in class and was awkward around people. But he had a creative mind. He struggled most in Maths and Science, but in other fields, he excelled.

Haru had a deep love of music, and art. He did not get an opportunity to indulge in such things while he was here, and that was part of the reason he felt sad, and at times a little lost.

He had only been at the school for a short time, and already he was beginning to stand out for all the wrong reasons. He was shy, introverted, and people began to notice. It wasn’t long before certain people began to stare at him, deliberately trying to intimidate him and make him feel uncomfortable. While most ignored him, others began to tease him.

Oh no, they’re here as well? Haru thought glumly to himself as a couple of the boys a short distance away continued to stare at him. I guess they’re everywhere. Haru bowed his head, keeping his attention fixed on his work.

The rest of that day went by as usual, and Haru kept an eye out for Aubrey and his friends, but he did not see them. He sat alone at lunchtime simply watching the scene around him, then when classes were over, he went straight to his dormitory, glancing about him as he went in case Aubrey was around, but he wasn’t.

Haru went to his dormitory, closing the door after him and turning to face the small room. It was empty, his roommate had still not arrived.

Haru put his bag down on the floor beside his bed, moving over towards the window and leaning forwards on the sill, staring.

The grounds were beautiful, with the setting sun off in the distance casting is orange glow upon the land, everything was lit with a gold lining.

Haru let out a sigh, tilting his head as he smiled.

Despite his difficulties, his fears and the constant feeling of anxiety he felt when he was here, he felt a strange sensation of joy.

He blinked slowly, staring with eyes out of focus at all that was before him, through the window to the big wide world beyond.

‘What a beautiful world we live in….’

Several days passed in which he did not see Aubrey or any of the others, and things began to get difficult for him.

On the way to one of his lessons, one of the boys waved to him, but his smile was not a friendly one.

‘Hey rich kid!’

‘Hu?’ Haru baulked.

‘Yeah I’m talking to you’ the boy said as he walked past him with his friends.

They all smirked at him as they went on, turning away and sniggering amongst themselves.

Haru watched them cautiously with wide eyes as they went away.

He swallowed the lump in his throat, hands going to his chest as he began to clutch at his heart.

He bowed his head, gritting his teeth, forcing himself to stay calm as anxiety threatened to overwhelm him.

Keep calm keep calm. He often followed this mantra on his worse days. As he straightened up again, arms dropping to his sides, his left hand twitched, and he felt a great need suddenly.

He let out a breath, turning his head to the side and pushing the thought away.

He begun to feel lost again.

Haru raised his head, straightening his body and staring down the corridor.

It was later that day during PE, that he was playing a game of rounders with his class.

He hated it. He remembered when he was younger playing rounders with his mother and some of the gardeners in his home. It had always been a lot of fun, and they had all smiled and laughed together, sitting down to rest afterwards to have drinks together. It was enjoyable, relaxing.

This is not like that Haru thought miserably to himself, standing at the edge of the game as a fielder. For a long time, he had stood there doing nothing. At first, he had tried to keep attention to the game, but after a while of nothing happening, his attention began to drift.

He stood there lacklustre, his mind in another place entirely, somewhere it was more beautiful.

As he stared at the ground a short distance away, his eyes began to water and a tear trickled down his cheek.

He bowed his head, wiping his eyes slowly with the back of his hand and gritting his teeth, angry at himself.

‘Dammit…’ he hissed.


Haru glanced up suddenly, seeing the ball shoot over his head.

‘Get the dam ball!’ one of the boys hollered.

Haru began to panic, turning and running in the direction of the ball.

He reached it too late, grabbing it and throwing it back to one of the boys on his team. He stood there uncertainly as several began to complain loudly at him, not knowing what he had done wrong.

‘Haru what are you doing?!’

‘I…I-I’m sorry!’ Haru called nervously back.

One of them began to berate him, but he couldn’t hear what the boy was saying.

Haru’s chest began to feel tight, and he clutched at his heart, beginning to breath rapidly.

He was suddenly unware of anything going on around him as he bowed his head again, blocking out the rest of the world from his mind.

He began to tremble as his breathing became more pained, his gasps deeper as he began to hyperventilate. His vision clouded over, and he sunk to his knees, body hunched.

‘He’s having a panic attack!’ someone called, as the teacher ran over to him.

The teacher knelt beside him, hand on his shoulder and speaking calmly into Haru’s ear, telling him to control his breathing, his words spoken firmly but gently.

But Haru did not hear him, that was when the teacher put Haru’s arm over his shoulders, lifting him to his feet and walking away supporting him.

Haru was taken to see the nurse, where he was eventually able to calm down.

He sat in the quiet room with the nurse before him. She was kind, and through her kind words, Haru was able to control himself.

‘Do you feel better now?’ she asked him softly after a time.

Haru glanced up at her, his eyes red. The box of tissues sat on his lap, several tissues clutched in his hand.

‘I’m sorry’ he whispered, not trusting his voice to speak, ‘I hate being so weak all the time.’

‘It’s ok’ she told him. ‘I understand.’

‘My heart hurts’ she told him.

‘You get heart palpitations?’

He raised his head, eyes teary as he watched her.

‘How often does this happen, when your heart feels like that I mean?

‘Quite a lot’ Haru mumbled to his lap. ‘Mostly when I’m around other people…’

‘It may just be stress’ she said to him, ‘I’ll take a blood test just in case.’

The nurse left the room for a few moments, returning a short while later with a small plastic box. From it she took a needle, cleaning a small area of Haru’s arm before lifting the needle.

He flinched as she touched him, turning his head away.

‘It’s ok’ she spoke soothingly, ‘you’ll just feel a slight sting.’

Haru made a slight sound as the needle went in, tensing his body and gritting his teeth.

He waited a few seconds as the nurse drew blood, sighing with relief when she took the needle out, but he didn’t look back at her, too scared of seeing the needle.

‘If you have any problems’ she said to him, ‘please don’t hesitate to come to me at any time.’

She dapped his arm with a cloth and put a small plaster on the spot the needle had gone in.

‘Do you feel better now?’

He at last looked back at her, his expression breaking into a smile.

‘Thank you so much’ he said to her, ‘I do feel better.’

‘Don’t let other people make you feel low’ she said to him, and his expression fell, watching her with worry now. ‘People who try to intimidate you or make you feel that way are not worth it.’ She smiled. ‘You should just ignore them, they’re only words.’

‘Words carry meaning’ he said to her. ‘Love….is just a word.’

She smiled wider at that.

‘Of course it is’ she said, ‘but people who want to hurt you are not worth listening to, do you understand?’

He closed his mouth, blinking at her.

‘Yes’ he breathed. ‘Th-thank you.’

She nodded. ‘You can stay here if you like, I have informed the teacher you won’t be attending next class.’

‘Oh no you don’t have to do that’ Haru fumbled.

‘It’s alright’ the nurse told him as she moved away, ‘I’ve already let your teacher know. He’s fine with it.’

Haru supressed a groan as she left the room, leaning forwards on his knees clasping his hands together. He stared at the floor beneath him.

He hated this. He didn’t want special treatment.

‘No doubt my father will hear about this’ he spoke glumly to himself, once the nurse had left the room.

He left shortly after, and sat in the grounds alone, upon a raised flowerbed in a secluded area, the tree in the centre of the flowerbed behind him casting a shadow upon him.

He was lost in thought now, and did not notice Aubrey approaching him.

‘What’s eating you?’

Haru glanced up, jumping slightly. He hadn’t heard him coming.

‘Oh, Aubrey…it’s you…’

Aubrey smirked. ‘You almost sound disappointed to see me.’

‘Oh no’ Haru spoke hastily. ‘It’s nothing like that!’

‘Have you been crying?’

Haru stared at him, thinking for a moment about objecting. But in the end, he just let out a sigh, slumping his shoulders.

‘I guess there’s no point denying it’ he mumbled.

‘What happened?’ Aubrey asked him seriously.

‘Aw just some kids’ Haru replied nonchalant. ‘It’s nothing…’

‘What did they say to you?’

Haru hesitated, before glancing up at Aubrey.

‘It doesn’t matter’ Haru said to him.

‘Please tell me…’

Haru let out a reluctant sigh.

‘They were calling me ‘rich kid’…’


Haru kicked his feet, staring at the floor.

‘I don’t like to talk about it’ he grumbled, ‘but my family has a lot of money...and people often treat you differently because of it, either they are nice because they want something…or they hate you for having what they don’t…’ a sad expression crossed his face. ‘I don’t care about money…. truth be told I don’t really want any of it…I only care about…. about…’

‘About what?’ Aubrey asked.

‘About living’ Haru replied. ‘Being myself…making friends…. I have a dream that I can one day meet someone…have kids…. get a job….’

He bowed his head, putting his hands between his knees.

‘It’s stupid’ he mumbled.

‘If those guys bother you again just let me know’ Aubrey told him. ‘I’ll sort them out.’

‘Oh no I don’t want any violence’ Haru fumbled.

‘Its only violence if they fight back.’

‘Please’ Haru begged.

‘Alright’ Aubrey relented. ‘I won’t do anything.’

‘Thank you’ Haru sighed, relaxing now.

‘Do you want to come to the drama hall with us?’ he offered. ‘You can see what we’ve been up to so far.’

‘Sure’ Haru said rising. ‘I would love to.’

They walked side by side as they headed towards the buildings, Haru glancing tentatively towards Aubrey as they went.

‘Um…’ Haru began. ‘Aren’t you supposed to be in class right now?’

‘I skipped’ Aubrey replied with a wide grin. ‘I’m a delinquent remember? I have to keep up appearances.’

‘Oh’ Haru smiled awkwardly at that. ‘R-right. I forget.’

Haru began to smile then, letting out a relaxed sigh.

He felt happier now that Aubrey was with him.

‘What about the others?’ Haru asked. ‘Shouldn’t they be in class?’

‘They do what I tell them to’ Aubrey gleamed back.

Haru turned away with a scoff.

‘Yeah right…’

They reached the drama hall, and Haru saw that the others were indeed here.

‘Oh Haru’ Sasha beamed, stopping her performance. ‘It’s you.’

‘I’m here too you know’ Aubrey spoke up as they moved further into the hall, but Sasha ignored him.

‘It’s great that we’re all here now’ Amelia spoke joyfully.

She and Ben were sitting before the stage, around their chairs were several opened boxes that were filled with props, several were scattered on the floor as they had tried to sort through them.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt’ Haru mumbled.

‘Oh, don’t be silly’ Sasha waved him away, crouching and slipping down from the stage, moving over to them. ‘And stop apologising for everything.’

She was wearing a very wide-brimmed hat with a fabulously bright red feather pinned at the side, the hat itself was bright yellow.

‘Is that an ostrich feather?’ Haru asked, standing before Sasha now as the others watched them silently.

‘Yeah, it’s nice isn’t it?’ she gleamed, taking it off her head and shoving it down roughly onto Haru’s head. ‘What do you think?’

‘Yeah is really nice’ Haru said straightening up again and tipping the hat back on his head so that it didn’t cover his eyes. ‘I really like it, it’s so pretty.’

‘You can keep it if you want.’

‘Oh no I couldn’t’ Haru fumbled. ‘That would be stealing.’

‘Everything here is donated’ Aubrey beside him explained. ‘They wouldn’t even notice. Heck, half the stuff here we donated ourselves. Didn’t we Amelia?’ Aubrey spoke to her.

‘We sure did’ Amelia gleamed. ‘That hat belonged to my grandmother, she really did dress fabulously. Look’ she said, turning back to one of the boxes at her feet and reaching into it. ‘Do you like it?’ she asked pulling from the box a fox-fur scarf. ‘This is the real thing’ she told them, ‘sadly… I don’t really like fur…. But it’s here already and so….’ She brought it to her face then, snuggling into it. ‘It’s really soft’ she mumbled, ‘but smells a little dusty.’

‘Forget that’ Ben sitting beside her scoffed. ‘I like this’ he said, bringing from the box at his feet a hat (that looked more like a helmet) with a rotor blade on the top.’

‘Oh waw’ Haru gleamed. ‘I’ve never seen anything like that out of a cartoon.’

‘Here’ Ben gleamed, moving towards him and handing it over.

Haru took it from him, holding it in both his hands. He raised a hand to spin the blade, glancing back up at Ben happily.

‘It’s so cool’ Haru breathed.

‘So, do you still wanna be in the play?’ Amelia offered, as Haru moved forwards to see what else was in the boxes.

‘I would love to’ Haru beamed excitedly, ‘that is…. if you still want me to.’

‘Don’t be silly’ Sasha told him firmly. ‘We wouldn’t have offered if we didn’t want you to.’

‘Yeah what did I say about being nervous and stuff?’ Aubrey said to him.

‘You never said anything like that’ Haru replied quietly, a little uncertain now.

‘Well I’m saying it now’ Aubrey gleamed.

Haru chuckled lightly behind his hands at this.

‘You’re so funny’ he smiled to Aubrey.

‘Thanks buddy!’ Aubrey gleamed back.

Haru’s attention lingered on Aubrey then, he tensed suddenly, glancing away hastily, feeling a jolt in his heart.

‘I um…’ Haru said, taking the yellow hat off his head. ‘I can’t take this’ he said handing it back to Sasha. ‘It belongs in this drama hall.’

‘Ok’ Sasha frowned in amusement, ‘if you say so.’

She took the hat from him, tossing it back into one of the open boxes on the floor.

‘So, um…’ Haru began, ‘how is the show going?’

‘We haven’t decided still on what we’re going to perform’ Sasha said to him. ‘We’re still just messing around.’

‘Oh, I see’ Haru mumbled with a smile.

Beside him Aubrey frowned down at him.

‘Hey I have an idea’ he blurted suddenly. ‘Why don’t we perform Courage of the Black Nightingale?’

Haru cast a look to Aubrey, eyes wide with surprise. Sasha and Amelia both began to clap lightly with approval at the suggestion.

‘I’m afraid I don’t know that one’ Ben voiced.

‘It’s a story of love, loss and betrayal’ Aubrey told him dramatically.

‘And…’ Haru added, ‘learning to trust again.’

He and Aubrey shared a glance then.

‘I think it’s a great idea’ Aubrey continued, turning back to Ben.

‘Great’ Ben smiled. ‘Then let’s do it.’

Aubrey turned back to glance at Haru with a smile. Haru stared back tentatively, before sighing, and smiling in return.

‘Let’s make a start then’ Sasha voiced, ‘we should…’

The door to the hall suddenly opened, and one of the teachers entered.

‘What are you lot doing here?’ she barked. ‘Why are you not in class?’

Haru tensed suddenly as the others around him instantly scattered, running in all directions.

Aubrey escaped through a nearby window, and the others ran backstage, escaping through a door hidden at the back of the hall.

Only Haru remained.

He glanced back at the teacher nervously, alone now in the hall.

He swallowed the lump in his throat.

Chapter Four

‘I didn’t get in any trouble’ Haru told Aubrey the next day. ‘I was given permission to skip class so….’

‘Lucky’ Aubrey glowered. ‘I got in trouble. I got detention for days! I’m not allowed any free time, I have to be either in class or in my dormitory.’

‘Then what are you doing here?’ Haru asked him. ‘Shouldn’t you be in detention?’

‘No, I ran away’ Aubrey replied sullenly, resting his chin on his knee as they sat on the bench at the edge of the grounds, ‘I’m a delinquent remember?’

Haru turned away with a groan, bowing his head. ‘You shouldn’t do stuff like that…... and I’m not lucky for skipping class. I had to skip class because the others were picking on me… I was having chest pains…I had a panic attack.’

Aubrey glanced towards him then, listening silently.

‘I got the tests back earlier today… the results for my blood test. They didn’t find anything wrong….so um…. the nurse thinks it’s just stress.’

Aubrey looked away then, staring towards the buildings nearby.

‘School….’ he began, ‘…can be hard…’

‘We should find a time to do the play together’ Haru said, placing his hands on his lap and leaning back.

‘Yeah’ Aubrey said distractedly. ‘That would be nice.’

‘But we need to do it in a way that won’t get anyone in trouble’ Haru said turning to Aubrey, who glanced back at him. ‘Promise you won’t get yourself in trouble like that again.’

‘And why would I do that?’ Aubrey laughed, waving him away. ‘Aint nobody gonna tell me what do to.’

‘Aubrey please.’

Aubrey frowned, letting out a sigh. ‘Fine’ he relented. ‘I will try to be good. Happy?

‘Yes’ Haru gleamed. ‘I am. It’s not good to break the rules.’

‘If you say so’ Aubrey replied turning away. ‘I’m just trying to keep up my reputation as a delinquent. So what do you like to do?’ Aubrey asked him suddenly changing the subject.

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