Challenge #01743-D282: Absence Makes...steemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  2 years ago

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"Ugh, I never would have made any friends if I knew I was gonna waste so much time missing them when they're away." -- OohLookShiny

If there was any one, universal truth to the tragedy of Jarik's life, it was this: Everyone leaves.

Ze was orphaned young. A disaster that ze couldn't remember and that politicians denied being to blame for for years afterwards. After the disaster was a fact of hir life. Always moving. Never calling any place home. Months spent in temporary camps and waiting in queues for a little food. No lasting relationships. No meaningful contact. For most of hir life.

So it was no shock that Jarik was the last person in the office to make friends. Even now, when ze had more than a decade of stability under hir belt. Ze was reluctant. Hesitant to be friendly. Awkward at it because ze never learned the rules. And Karil made friends with hir anyway. He was just... that friendly. Everyone liked Karil. Even -in spite of hirself- Jarik.

Karil was just that kind of person. Happy, outgoing, eager to share all the cool stuff. Even in his cynical and bitter moments, he was funny about it. Nobody could hate Karil. Bit by little bit, he winkled Jarik out of hir shell. Encouraging hir to try new things, test hir limits. Even to do the things that seemed against the rules, like putting his number in hir phone under the name of "That Asshole". He thought it was hilarious.

And through him, Jarik made so many more friends. Ze went to more social events. Allowed hirself to enjoy life. And... to be vulnerable.

They were on the roof and watching the stars. Just lying next to each other on a picnic blanket so that the bare concrete didn't sap their heat. It was their favourite thing to do when the rolling blackouts hit, and the universe was visible.

Apropos of nothing, Jarik said, "I've never had a friend who's lasted so long."

Karil stopped staring at the stars to stare at Jarik. "It's only been a year since you admitted I'm your friend."

Jarik thought about arguing, but said, "Yeah. Exactly." A deep breath. A sip through the crazy straw so that ze didn't have to turn away from the starlight. "After the big one... I never had a home. I never had a neighbourhood. By the time I had a place to call home? I just... didn't know how to make friends."

Karil lurched over and hugged hir. His typical response to that kind of reveal. "You got the hang of it now, right?"

"Kind'a," Jarik admitted. "I'm still awkward and weird about it, but I think I'm getting better." Sigh. "I'm still terrified of people leaving."

Karil hadn't let go. "Guess this is the worst time to tell you I'm going on my holiday for a month."

Now ze turned away from the stars to glare at him. "Don't even joke about that. That's an asshole move."

Now he let hir go. Sat up. "I... won a stupid prize and it's non-negotiable. I arranged this weeks ago, and... I'm sorry."

Ze couldn't hate him for it. "It's just a month, right? It's not permanent. You're coming back."

"Of course I'm coming back. I work here."

That always made hir laugh. "You'd better. Asshole."

That month when Karil was gone, Jarik texted him every day. But it was still a bad month. Sam left for maternity reasons. Boxi retired. They got a new manager who frowned on in-office chatter. Things got... cold. Karil was the glue that kept everyone together.

And now they were all falling apart.

Jarik especially so.

At least ze still had the texts to Karil. Counting the days until he got back. Not getting into anything at all because ze was allegedly enjoying it alone.

Hir mood fell like a meteor during that month. And it culminated in one message, I never would have made any friends if I knew I was going to waste so much time missing them when they're away.

His reply was, Trying to keep touch?

Yes. Of course I am. Nobody wants to talk to me except you.

Coming home tomorrow. Meet you at port?

There was only one reply to that. OFC

Jarik didn't exactly know why ze dressed up for the day, wearing all hir best stuff. Ze even went out of hir way to fancy up hir hair. Terrified that this would all turn out to be a cruel joke. Heart pounding in hir throat. Craning hir neck to catch the first glimpse of him.

It took far too long to find him. Far too long for him to get clear of all the security nonsense. Way too long to find hir in the crowd.

Jarik wanted to hold him forever. "Don't ever leave again," ze chided as he held her in return. "Never ever ever leave again."

Karil laughed. "Next, you'll want me to move in."

That sounded nice. Ze could keep hir eye on him and he could get hir to trust the world all over again.

It was still true that everyone left. But Karil was the only one who ever came back.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / g215]

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