Look, look, we tell each other. It's Tom!He's Mr. Bellamy to his history students. But he's Tom to us. Tom! It's so good to see him. So wonderful to see him. Tom is one of us. Tom went through it all with us. Tom made it through. He was there in the hospital with so many of us, the archangel of St. Vincent, prodding the doctors and calling over the nurses and holding our hands and holding the hands of our partners, our parents, our little sisters - anyone who had a hand to be held. He had to watch so many of us die, had to say goodbye so many times. Outside of our rooms he would get angry, upset, despairing. But when he was with us, it was like he was powered solely by an engine of grace. Even the people who loved us would hesitate at first to touch us - more from the shock of our diminishment, from the strangeness of how we were both gone and present, not who we were but still who we were. Tom became used to this. First because of Dennis, the way he stayed with Dennis until the very end. He could have left after that, after Dennis was gone. We wouldn't have blamed him. But he stayed. When his friends got sick, he was there. And for those of us he'd never know before - he was always a smile in the room, always a touch on the shoulder, a light flirtation that we needed. The y should have made him a nurse. They should have made him mayor. He lost years of his life to us, although that's not the story he'd tell. He would say he gained. And he'd say he was lucky, because when he came down with it, when his blood turned against him, it was a little later on and the cocktail was starting to work. So he lived. He made it to a different kind of after from the rest of us. It is still an after. Every day if feel to him like an after. But he is here. He is living.A history teacher. An out, outspoken history teacher. The kind of history teacher we never would have had. But this is what losing most of your friends does: It makes you unafraid. Whatever anyone threatens, whatever anyone is offended by, it doesn't matter, because you have already survived much, much worse. In fact, you are still surviving. You survive every single, blessed day.It makes sense for Tom to be here. It wouldn't be the same without him.And it makes sense for him to have taken the hardest shift. The night watch.Mr. Nichol passes him the stopwatch. Tom walks over and says hello to Harry and Craig. He's been watching the feed, but it's even more powerful to see these boys in person. He gestures to them, like a rabbi or a priest offering a benediction.Keep going, he says. You're doing great.Mrs. Archer, Harry's next-door neighbor, has brought over coffee and offers Tom a cup. He takes it gratefully.He wants to be wide awake for all of this.Every now and then he looks to the sky.
David Levithan
HlI watch Ethan try to connect the dots in his head, And suddenly his face falls into a sad smile.Oh, he says. And that's all.I walk over to him, my bare feet sinking into the sand as I trudge along. He's grinning at me now, but it's not the usual plastered-on smile he usually has. This one is somehow more authentic.When I am within a few feet of him, he holds his arms out.You're going to be such a good leader, he says. I am so proud of you, Five.I embrace Ethan. His arms fold around me as he pats me on the back. He lets out a long, slow sigh and then starts to say something. I cut him off before he can get the words out. I can't stand to hear him say another thing.Ethan, I am really sorry about this. But it's for the best.I can feel his body clench as the blade slips out of my forearm sheath and into his back. It slides between his ribs-a lucky shot- then retracts back into my hoodie sleeve. It's over in an instant. I step away from him. He stands frozen, probably in shock. There's a deep spot of read blooming across the right side of his chest where the blade must have broken the skin. Blood drops down from the hidden wrist sheath, running over my right hand before falling from my fingertips to the sand.It's over, I murmur, more to myself than to Ethan. He's probably not paying much attention to what I have to say. Tears are welling in his good eye, but I don't know if they're for me or for himself. He blinks once and then falls to the beach with a soft thud.
Pittacus Lore