It was late afternoon. Bryan was constantly gazing towards the clock that hit 2:55 PM. But it wasn’t just him eagerly waiting for the school to end, everyone else in the class did too, including Ms. Hamilton, their History teacher. After all, the weekend was approaching. For a few of these fifth graders, weekends were the only time they got to meet their single parents, or grandparents, while others enjoyed the rare family trips or sleepovers. Ms. Hamilton also loved spending some quality time with her sick mom. But Bryan wasn’t like his friends. Although mocked & bullied mostly because of it, he still enjoyed solitude the most. His usual weekend routine included playing video games, reading comics & occasional visits to the nearby RadioShack. His father, Mr. Miller; a single father, always tried his best to manage his work & raising his son efficiently. Bryan’s mother had died giving birth to him, so he never actually got to know her. Holding his mom’s picture with a teary eye, he always wondered how different his life would have been had she been alive today. The clock hit 3 and the bell rang, along with the echoing cheers of the children.
Bryan lived closeby hence he always returned walking. He usually preferred taking the longer route home since he liked spending some time at the bench nearby the river. That was his special spot, the place he visited every time he missed his mother. As he neared the place, he noticed a girl who must’ve been in her mid-twenties, sitting on the bench. He was angry as he considered this his spot and was unwilling to share it with anyone else. But his anger vanished in a moment, as he was mesmerised by her beauty. The innocent little boy regarded her as more beautiful than any other girl in his school. Shly, as he was about to approach the lady, he saw a glittering teardrop roll down her apple-kissed cheeks. She was weeping. He thought that if a beauteous girl like her was crying with no shoulder to lean on, it must be something serious. Defying his age, he was emotionally more mature than the other kids. His desolation had carved this in him. Silently, he sat beside her on the bench. With sudden realization, the girl wiped her tears and tried to calm herself.
“It’s better to let it all out than suffering from those bottled up feelings, you know,” said Bryan.
Shellshocked to hear these words from him, she wasn’t actually expecting this kid to initiate a conversation with her, let alone offer such a profound remark. Clearing her throat and turning towards him, she softly uttered, “Excuse me?”
“My dad always says this to me whenever I try to hold back my tears,” Bryan said.
The girl didn’t know how to respond. “Your dad seems like a very wise man”
“Yes he is!” replied Bryan.
“Hi, I am Veronica. What’s your name?” the girl asked.
“My name is Bryan. Never saw you around here before” he said.
“I come here a few times a week, mostly when I feel low, do you come here often too?” she asked curiously.
“Yeah, every evening actually. This is kinda my special spot” he said.
“Ohh, sorry, I was just leaving anyway,” said Veronica while getting up to leave.
“Chill, it’ fine” assured Bryan. After a long pause, he mumbled “Sam hit me again today. He bullies me a lot, but today he did it in front of the other kids. I wish I was stronger”
Veronica wasn’t really expecting this kid to open up to him about his problems. Unable to respond to his recent statement, she just stared at him blankly.
“I can’t really expect you to trust me and share your feelings until I do the same myself, can I?”
She was just amazed to hear the kid speak. “Nice one, kid”
“My dad does the same with me to make me open up whenever I’m low. So can you please tell me what’s been bothering you and why you were crying?” he asked.
“I just broke up with my boyfriend, with whom I had been in a 5-year long relationship. And guess why? Because I caught him cheating with my best friend. Today I lost two of the most important people in my life. Suddenly the world doesn’t feel like living anymore. I just don’t know what to do now. I’m lost.” she spoke sobbingly. “But I think you are too young to understand something like this”
“Love doesn’t require an age limit to comprehend, Veronica. Surely I won’t go on to say that I understand what you are feeling right now, but I do know what it feels like to lose a loved one. I understand the pain and grief it causes. I understand the loneliness that it brings. I can relate to the heartache you are having right now.” he replied.
“How could you? How can someone of your age possibly understand any of this? Don’t tell me you had a breakup too, young man!” she asked amusingly.
“No, it’s something else. I lost my mom. She passed away while giving birth to me. Although I never got to see her, I love her a lot and miss her every single day, and I think my dad does too. That’s why perhaps he never got remarried, but we have each other for everything. ”
“Ohh, I’m so sorry Bryan. I never could have guessed,” she said apologetically.
“It’s fine, you don’t have to be sorry,” assured Bryan.
“But still, how do you manage to stay so strong and calm dude?”
“Because I have to be! For my dad. Staying strong and supporting my dad is the least I can do for him. I think he needs me more than I need him. I’m the sole reason for his existence, his happiness. I love him a lot and I always want to be there for him.”
A teary-eyed Veronica calmed herself, pondering about what to say next to this brave little kid she never even met before. Before she could think of something, Bryan stood up saying “I’ll have to leave now, I have to prepare a meal for my dad before he comes back from work. I guess I should try ramen today. It’s one of his favorites. Would you like to join us too?”
“Maybe some other time Bryan, perhaps tomorrow, what say?
“Sure, dad would love to meet you, he’d finally be happy to know that I have made a friend that too with such a beautiful girl,” he said with an innocent smile on his face.
Embarrassed by the sudden compliment she replied blushingly, “Thank you so much, Bryan. You know what, you are stronger than that Sam or any other kid out there, hell, you’re even stronger than me. Let me walk you home, this way I can find your house easily tomorrow. C’mon let’s go!” saying this, both walked away.
While returning home after dropping Bryan, Veronica realized that while she was breaking down for something she considered such a big loss in her life, this young kid lost something much more valuable, his mother, whom he never even got the chance to meet, yet he loved her so much whilst staying so strong not for himself but for his father. The courage and heart this young kid possessed was incredible. If someone like him can manage to be so strong and mature, she thought she can too. Yes, it may take some time but eventually, she will be out of it. This brave kid had inspired her to bounds unknown.
Smiling her way through, she decided to take her family out for dinner that night. To celebrate a new beginning in her life.