When You Are Near
There is a heaviness on my chest as the first light from the morning sun sneaks in between my curtains. Peeking one eye open, I glance over at my clock and realize it is way too early for me to be awake. The body next to me whimpers softly and instinctively snuggles closer, seeking comfort, drawing my eyes downward. Win’s familiar face is scrunched up in worry and pain, even in sleep. Studying the lines across his brow, I raise my free hand and trace them with my finger, gently smoothing them out. Wrapping my arms around him, I pat his back until he relaxes once more and sleep overtakes me.
🎶 🎶 🎵🎵🎶 🎶
I’ve realized I am not lonely when you are near
And despite me and all of my doubts, gone is my fear
I am made warm by your care
I was disarmed so slowly
For you, my heart goes untied
You chase away all of my pride
I would give you everything I have
Coz I want you here by my side
( by Marion Grace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhilHMpbt-I )
When I wake up later to my alarm blasting an English love song from my nightstand, I am alone in bed. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I reach over to turn off the alarm then sit up and look around the room for Win but he’s gone. I make a beeline for my window which faces his room in the house next door and pause just before opening the curtains. I can hear the faucet running in my bathroom and I breathe in deeply then let it out in a loud sigh, my body collapsing against the wall for support. He’s still here.
“Per, are you awake? You didn’t go back to sleep after hitting the alarm, did you?” Win yells at me as he turns off the water. “You need to get up for school.” The door opens and his head pops out to look at the bed in search of me. His hair is twisting every which way and his cheeks are still flushed from sleep, telling me that it hasn’t been long since he woke up.
“I’m up.” Rubbing a hand through my hair, I try to get it to lay down. Morning messy bedhead looks cute on him, not so much on me.
“Oh.” He whips his head around to look at me with a smile before stepping into the room, still wearing my clothes from last night. “You are awake. I’m gonna head over to my house to get cleaned up for school.”
I glance over at my curtained window and the worry must be obvious on my face because Win walks up to me and lays a hand on my forearm.
“It’s okay, Per. Dad left earlier so no one is home right now.”
“Is he going to be mad at you for staying out all night?” Looking down into his eyes, all I can see is the damage to his smooth skin that I saw last night. I don’t want to see it happen again, to hear his crying at night and feel the wetness of his tears on my skin. Just remembering his wounds, I can almost feel the pain of them as if they happened to me.
“It’s fine. I texted Mom last night while you were in the bathroom so there shouldn’t be any trouble with that. I’m sure Dad has calmed down by now anyway.” Win’s hand slides off my arm and his eyes lower to the floor. As he backs up, he changes the subject. “Are you busy after school again today?”
“I have to go to the club room after class to help the guys with stuff for the Live Contest. No practice today… not that I need it. I’m already awesome.” I give him a cocky smile, trying to hide my concern but I should have known better. Win knows me too well.
“Don’t worry about me.” Picking up his clothes from yesterday, Win walks away without giving me a chance to protest. He stops in the doorway and looks back. “See you outside in half an hour?”
After I nod my head, he leaves with a wave and closes the door behind him. I’m left standing here, staring after him. It’s a strange thing how weak he was last night, yet how strong he seems this morning. For some reason, I don’t find it reassuring. Instead, it worries me more.
Win and his dad didn’t used to be this way. His dad has always been stern and stiff with formality but he used to smile, too. I’m not sure what happened exactly since Win doesn’t like to talk about it but the smiles and laughter disappeared as we got older and the rules became stricter. Nothing seemed to please his dad anymore and he was almost constantly yelling at Win. No matter how good Win did, his father thought he should have done better. He started hitting Win not too long ago for whatever he felt Win had done wrong. Win tried to hide it from me at first, but it’s hard to hide the truth when we live next door to each other. I could even see the bruises on him from my window. We talked but the only thing I could get out of him was a promise to call me whenever he needed help. It’s never been as bad as it was last night though.
Shaking my head to clear it of the harsh thoughts, I head into the bathroom. Forty minutes later, I walk out my front door with a sweet roll between my teeth and my school bag in my hand. Win is leaning against my gate playing with his phone while he waits for me. Sneaking up, I give the gate a good rattle while yelling “HA!” at him, making him jump in surprise.
“Hey, did ya fall asleep standing there?” I ask while laughing.
“If you had been any later, I might have.” He frowns at me as I open the gate and step out.
“It takes time to look this good.” Popping my collar, I smirk at him. Win rolls his eyes but doesn’t argue with me. Of course, he can’t. I know I look good. He just smiles and pulls my arm to get me moving after I close the gate behind me.
“Come on or we’ll be late.”
At the end of our block, a neighbor’s dog barks at us and Win turns to yell a greeting back. The words get stuck in his throat as he winces in pain. He grabs his side and takes slow, deep breaths.
“Are you okay, Winnie?” I don’t know what I can do to help him so I simply set my hand on his shoulder, letting him know that I’m here.
“I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute.”
“Take as long as you need.” Seeing his school bag, I move my hand from
his shoulder and slip the bag from his loose fingers. “Let me carry this.”
“Shut up.” Stepping away from his reaching hand, I hold our bags behind my back. “I’ve got it. You can have your bag back when we get to school, well before we go in the gates. Wouldn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea. They might think we’re dating if I carry your bag all the way to class.” I wink at him to lighten the mood.
Win gives a half-hearted chuckle but I can see a bit of disappointment lurking in his eyes, like he’s upset I won’t let him carry his own bag. We continue walking to school but I deliberately go slower than usual.
“We don’t have to walk this slow for me. It’s going to make us late.” Win tugs my shirt to get me to move faster.
“Who says I’m going slow for you?” I raise my eyebrow at him in question, walking even slower. “I’m enjoying this beautiful morning.” Putting my free hand in my pocket, I start whistling an aimless tune, trying not to laugh at Win’s frustration.
“Seriously, Per?” He gives me a perturbed look and walks ahead. “Fine. I’ll just go to school without you.”
“Go right ahead but won’t you need your bag?” Smirking I hold up his bag which is nestled against my own in my hand.
“Pepper! Give me back my bag.” Win holds out his hand expectantly.
“Relax, Mawin. We have plenty of time.” Looking down at my watch, my eyes widen. It’s a lot later than I thought. “On the other hand, a little faster can’t hurt.”
Chuckling to himself, Win waits for me to catch up and we continue on, side by side. No longer at a slow stroll, we make it to the school on time. Just before we get to the gates, I hand over his bag as promised and we walk in.
The rest of the morning is spent in classes where Win is the perfect student and I mostly sleep through. It’s our typical routine. He pays attention and takes copious amounts of notes, while I copy his homework later. We study for tests together so there’s no point in both of us paying attention in class and Win is a very patient tutor.
At lunch, Win sits down to eat with Mick so I’m hanging out with some of the guys from band club. Anytime we get together it is a rowdy, good time. After we sit down with our food, Knott decides eating his noodles one bite at a time is too slow so he tries to swallow the entire bowl in one go and ends up spilling it on himself instead. P’Khom laughs uproariously at this. Unfortunately, he also has a mouthful of rice and ends up spitting it all over the guys across the table from him, which includes Knott who is now covered in both noodles and rice. This, of course, means war and we break out into a mini food fight.
“You won’t take me alive!” P’Ohm yells as he flings a fish ball at P’Khom’s head.
“You fucker!” Picking up what’s left of his rice, P’Khom leans over and dumps it on P’Ohm’s head, who immediately goes into death throws and falls to the ground convulsing. He latches onto P’Film’s foot who starts poking him with the end of his fork.
“Yep. This one is done.” P’Film says with one final poke.
“I’m not a fucking pot roast, asshole.” Sitting up, P’Ohm punches him in the arm.
“Really? I thought you were with way you were hamming it up.” A chorus of groans greets that horrible line and P’Film grins at his own cleverness.
This effectively ends our foolishness. Everyone but me needs to clean their shirts or shorts so they run off to the locker room. I’m very good at dodging so I only need to brush some rice out of my hair and off my shirt. Across the room, I see Win and Mick watching our antics and laughing their asses off. It’s good to see him having fun.
Afternoon classes drag by, full of droning teachers’ voices, scratches of chalk against the chalkboard, and the shuffling of papers being passed around. When class finally ends, I grab my stuff to make a run for it. I give a quick wave to Win before bolting out the door, just in case the teacher finds a reason to keep us there longer.
I don’t stop until I reach the safety of our club room. Looking around, I’m the first to arrive so I set my bag to the side and throw myself onto the couch. It’s not long before I hear the others arrive. We horse around until everyone is here then P’Ohm hands out stacks of papers to a few us. It’s posters for our Live Contest and we get sent to different sections of the school to tape them up on all the walls.
Really, P’Noh is the president of our club but, lately, he hasn’t been around much. He’s always out with his cute girlfriend from the convent school or messing around with P’Phun. (Not that I’m judging or anything, but he seems a lot happier with P’Phun than with that girl, Yuri, but whatever.) P’Ohm is our VP so he picks up the slack when our Pres is M.I.A.* (*Missing In Action)
I walk to my designated area, which is near my classroom, and randomly put posters on whatever available wall space I see. While taping one up, the rest of my stack slips and scatters across the floor at my feet. Swearing under my breath, I finish putting that paper up and turn to pick up the others, only to have them placed back into my arms by a familiar face.
“Want some help, Per?” He offers watching me shuffle the papers awkwardly.
“It’s okay. I can handle it.” Really, it’s a pain in the ass but I’m not about to admit that.
“Is this the Live Contest?” Win looks closer at the writing on the posters.
“Yeah. Are you participating?” Nodding my head, I wonder at his interest. I didn’t think he had much interest in music. It was always been my thing, not his.
“I don’t know how to play any instruments.” Win reminds me, making me smile. “So, are you putting these up all over the school? Want some help?”
“It’s fine. I got it.”
“But, if I help, then we’d finish faster.” He’s determined to stick with me on this which is weird. Seriously, who would want to hang around the school longer than they have to and do work for a club they aren’t even a part of?
“Is there something the matter?”
“It’s nothing. I figured we should head home together after.” His voice gets quieter as he continues. “You seem to be pretty busy lately.”
“Of course. I got plenty of dates with Convent girls.” Trying to get a smile out of him, I wiggle my eyebrows at him suggestively. Win only stares at me, biting his lower lip. It draws my eyes to his mouth and how adorable he looks when he does that. Of course, this is Win, not some cute girl I want to get with so I lower my gaze and look away. “So, how are you doing? When are you gonna start dating someone?”
“I don’t really want to.” He looks and sounds completely serious when he says this.
“You’re never gonna find a girlfriend if you keep following me around like a puppy.” I can’t look at him when I say this but it needs to be said. “Just go do what you need to do.”
“You really don’t want my help?”
“I got this.”
“Are you sure you don’t want my help?” His pleading gets to me as he looks up at me through his dark eyelashes. I can’t say no again.
“Take these.” Since he wants to help so badly, I hand him the whole stack of papers when a mischievous idea comes to mind. “You can put them up. I’ll sit back and watch. Go on.”
Win takes the papers and struggles to get even one of them up while holding the rest. He turns to look back at me with a frustrated frown. “Help me out.”
“Gimme that.” Laughing, I pat his head affectionately and take the poster out of his hand. “You hold the stack and I’ll tape them up.”
It takes almost no time for us to finish. Win runs into the classroom and grabs his school bag before catching up with me and we walk to the Band Club room to get my things. We wave at the other members that are in the room before leaving for home. When we arrive at the gate outside Win’s house, it is dark inside and the car is gone.
“Looks like nobody is home. Want to come over to my house until they get back?” I haven’t asked him about his wounds and he hasn’t said anything about them, but the memory of them last night is haunting my thoughts. It makes me feel very protective of him.
“No. Mom will be home soon and I have some homework to finish.” He won’t look at me as he says this, just stares down at his toes.
“Are you sure?” I eye the dark house uncertainly. “Want me to come in with you?”
“It’s okay.” Waving me off, Win walks through his gate and into his house, glancing over his shoulder as he disappears into the gloomy darkness inside. “See you tomorrow.”
“See ya.” I watch him go and feel an emptiness creep over me. Looking over at my house which has about every light turned on, I really can’t make myself go inside so I turn away. I wonder if that girl from last night would be interested in hooking up again…
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A Different Kind of Perfect (Original)