Together in the Dark

Submitted into Contest #42 in response to: Write a story that ends by circling back to the beginning.... view prompt



“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than alone in the light.”

The quote was written in cursive in the center of the black chalkboard with white chalk in the Introduction to Philosophy class along with the current date in the top right corner of the board, the fifth of March. The window near the teacher's desk of the room showed a cloudy, dark gray sky. Students filed in, took their seats, and placed their textbooks on their desks while they waited for the professor to start class. Quiet chatter filled the classroom before the bell in the heart of campus chimed ten times. Then the blue-eyed professor with black wire-rimmed glasses that matched her hair said, “Good morning class. Who said the quote written on the board?”

The entire class fell silent and quietly exchanged glances with one another. No one knew the answer, nor did anyone desire to guess.

“Helen Keller,” the professor said. “Now can anyone tell me what this quote means?”

“How should we know? She probably just said that because she was blind. I bet she never knew what it was like to see,” a young man with green eyes and a dishwater blonde Mohawk said from the back left corner of the room.

While a few other men in the room chuckled, some other students lightly shook their heads.

A young man with chocolate brown eyes, oval golden wire-rimmed glasses, and short curly brown hair raised his hand.

“David,” the professor called on him.

“The quote means that it’s better to be with someone than be lonely,” he answered, putting  his hand down.

“Good,” the professor said. “Would anyone like to elaborate?”

Moments later, a young woman with hazel eyes and long, straight dark blonde hair raised her hand.

“Kara,” the professor nodded at her.

“It’s better to be with someone when times are hard than be alone when times are good,” she lowered her hand.

“That’s  true. Now how did you come to that conclusion?”

For a few seconds, Kara paused. She didn’t  like to be the center of attention. If it weren’t for the fact her hair covered her ears they would have been obvious they were bright red. “No one does well if they are alone all of the time...”

“Yes, yes. Anyone can chime in as well to add their interpretation.”

David raised his hand again.

The professor looked at David and nodded.

“We’re created to be in community,” David said, thankful for the chance to redeem himself. “Life lacks meaning if we have no one to share it with.”

“No duh Sherlock,” the young man with the Mohawk jeered, his feet now on his desk while he slouched in his chair, his arms behind his back. He made it his personal pleasure to pick on whoever the smart people were in the class. David was an almost daily victim of Jackson's immature behavior.

Had Jackson paid any attention, he would have noticed the harsh glare from Kara. She was sick and tired of his daily disruptions ever since the beginning of the semester last month. If looks could kill, Jackson would have been dead in that instant.

“Mind your tongue Jackson,” the professor warned. Alas, warnings were about all she could do. Jackson was the son of major benefactors on the Board of Trustees for the college, if he were to be expelled his parents would likely withhold further funds for the college. “Today's lesson will be on how people use their opinions and experiences to interpret information...”

Eventually the bell chimed eleven times, signalling the end of class. Students packed their backpacks and scattered various directions. Once outside Kara sprinted a few steps until she caught up with David and together they headed to the cafeteria. “Are you okay? Jackson really seemed to have it out for you today.” She couldn't stand bullies, even if Jackson was a sophomore while she and David were freshmen. David and Kara went to high school together, and they ended up at the same college through a combination of academic and music scholarships.

“Yeah I'm-” David took out his cell phone from his back right pocket. His caller ID showed it was his step-dad. “Can I take this call real quick?”

Kara politely nodded and waited while David was on the phone. David’s step-dad never thought he was worth the time of day, so she was confused why he called. As the conversation progressed though between David and his step-dad, she noticed the color fade from David's face before they entered an alcove in the hallway that led to the cafeteria. After David ended the call, he put his head in his hands and sank to the floor.

“What happened?” Kara knelt on the ground next to Daniel and gently put her right hand on his left shoulder.

“My mom...I can't believe she's gone...” Daniel's voice was hollow and full of disbelief.

“I'm so sorry...” Kara pulled Daniel into a hug. Moments later, she felt his sobs rack against her.

For an entire week Daniel was off campus. When he came back, he wasn't quite the same. Before his mother died, Daniel had a cheerful disposition but now his eyes most of the time had a glazed-over look to them. If he didn't have class, choir, or a meal he would sleep. Even after he slept, David always felt tired. His participation in Introduction to Philosophy dropped to once a day, sometimes once a week. It was as if he was only half alive, with choir being the only exception. Spring break came and went with no change in his dismal demeanor. David dropped out of most of his extracurricular activities; he didn’t see the point in them. Towards the end of the semester though, David seemed to perk up a bit; this was especially evident in choir. However, Jackson's frequent insults of David didn't let up in spite of daily attempts from one classmate or another to convince him to lay off.

On the last day of classes for the semester, five minutes before the start of Introduction to Philosophy, Kara was in the hallway just outside of the class door- bracing herself for what she had to do. Jackson's torment of David had to end and she wouldn't forgive herself if she didn't try again.

“After being in class with you all semester I think I figured out your philosophy,” Kara said with her arms crossed in front of her as Jackson entered her line of sight. “Your philosophy is sadism. You wouldn't care if your parents died because you would inherit all of their money. You don't deserve to be a sophomore, just the root word moros.”

“What did you say freshman?!” Jackson yelled in Kara's face.

People inside the classroom rushed out of their desks to get as close to the classroom to the door as possible. They wanted to be at least within earshot of what was going on in the hallway.

Kara was frightened, but she wouldn't give Jackson the pleasure of seeing her fear. “I'm not done yet. You refuse to listen to repeated requests to leave Daniel alone as if you were born with no ears. You are a boy without a soul with the emotional range of a teaspoon who preys upon those you see as inferior to you no matter how much they are already hurting on the inside. You seek pleasure from people's pain like a vampire who wants blood and isn't satisfied until you suck every last drop. I wouldn't be surprised if you try to throw your own family under the bus-”

“Take that back or you will regret it, freshman.” Jackson cornered Kara by the drinking fountain inside the hallway alcove.

“You’re a bully which I despise. May you never be a supervisor or a CEO. Or do you need me to dumb it down for you? Moron.”

“Why you-” Jackson swung his left fist at Kara but it was intercepted by someone's right hand to restrain him.

“If your parents taught you any manners, you would know better than to hit a woman.” David pulled Jackson's left arm away from Kara and into a lock behind his back.

“Just wait until my father hears about this.” Jackson wrestled from David's grip for a few moments before breaking free and storming off with his pride between his legs.

“Kara you're shaking. Are you okay?” David whispered as he gestured to Kara's right hand.

Kara looked down at her right hand as it trembled. She lightly nodded as Daniel escorted her to class. When they entered the rest of the class were back in their desks and attempting to pretend they didn't just hear what happened. There were two open desks right next to each other so Kara and Daniel took them.

“You sure you're okay? From what I heard, Jackson was pissed.” David mouthed to Kara and hoped no one would notice. At the same time, the bell chimed ten times.

Kara grabbed her notebook and shakily wrote, I'll tell you more after class.

After the bell chimed eleven times, most of the class hastily put their books in their backpacks and headed off to their next destinations. David and Kara were the last two to leave and headed to lunch.

“How much did you hear?” Kara asked sheepishly.

“Enough to know that Jackson didn't like what you had to say.” David walked alongside Kara. “You didn't give him any Shakespearean insults, did you?”

Kara shook her head. In high school, she gained a reputation in English class for delivering the best Shakespearean insults. “I doubt he would have enough brain cells to understand them.”

For the first time in months, David chuckled. The sound was music to Kara's ears.

“David I've missed hearing your laugh.” Kara paused and gently put her right hand on David's left shoulder.

Lunchtime came and went. Later in the day David and Kara were in choir and people turned in their music folders. David left as the conductor asked for a volunteer to sort the music and put it back in the music library. Kara volunteered since the project seemed more appealing than studying for finals. She took the stack of fifty folders, and sorted the music folder by folder. Slowly the pile of empty folders grew taller than the folders still full of music. Although the work was monotonous, it was a good distraction from studying. 

Towards the bottom of the pile was folder number twenty-seven. When Kara opened the folder, out fell a slightly dirty paper folded in two. Curious, she unfolded the paper. As she unfolded it, she felt how wrinkled the paper was as if it was crumpled before. The paper was dirty from multiple times of words written only to be erased. She read about a step-dad who refused to provide more financial assistance for college, grades dropping due to a lack of energy to study, and a bully who wouldn’t leave them alone. They lost their sense of purpose and belonging with the exception of choir class. Her face filled with shock as partway through the message she read, in David's unmistakable handwriting where the capital letters were slightly bigger than even the tall lowercase letters, I hope Kara knows how amazing she is. I'm just sorry that I was such a burden to her for the last couple of months...

Kara's heart pounded as she left the choir room and walked across the hall only to find the conductor's office empty. Silence filled the hallway as she left the music building. Outside the sun was still out as the bell chimed seven times. She rushed over to David's dorm, knocked on the door, and prayed she found him. There was no answer, so she pulled out his phone and dialed David's number before she put it on speaker. However, the phone stated that David's phone was disconnected or no longer in service. Kara was on her own.

First she checked the Student Union, followed by the library, then double-backed to the music building. But she didn't find David in any of those places. Next she checked the science building and Old Main, but he wasn't there either. She even checked all of the restrooms in each building, catching a couple of random guys off guard. As the bell chimed eight times, the sun started to set and she entered the Arboretum. She walked the trails and called out his name for over half a hour until she was hoarse. But she was the only person there. She was running out of options as she raced to the bridge near the river at the edge of campus. Her legs began to throb as the sky entered the blue hour. In the distance at the edge of the bridge was a lone person in a black sweatshirt. Kara sprinted. Her lungs were on fire and her throat constricted, but she still ran. Her eyes recognized the short, curly brown hair and red headphones she gave him for his birthday. She found him. By the time she reached him, her legs gave out as she gasped for air. Kara did the only thing she could think of to stop David from being able to go over the bridge; wrap her arms around his legs and hold on for dear life.

David was about to step over the bridge railing, but at that moment felt something around his legs and couldn’t move. Confused, he removed his headphones that were cranked to max volume and heard someone gasp for air. He looked down and saw a thin pair of arms wrapped around his legs. The right arm had two rubber bracelets, one sky blue and the other purple but the left arm had a single pink rubber bracelet with black music notes around it. Only one person he knew wore those bracelets. “Kara... What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

“I looked- everywhere- for you,” Kara said with a sharp gasp for air with every break in her sentence. “I- didn't know- how much- pain- you- were in. Why- didn't you- tell me? If I- had known- I would've- tried harder- to stop- Jackson- sooner.”

David attempted to turn, but Kara held onto his legs like a vice which tightened every time he tried to move his legs. “Let me go Kara.”

Kara's arms only tightened more around David's legs. “Promise me- you won't- jump.”

David's face became crestfallen. He looked down again and saw a dirty piece of paper in Kara's right hand. “You found the note...”

“I- volunteered- to sort- choir music- after you left. The note- fell out- when I opened- your folder.” Kara's breathing hadn't calmed down yet.

David put his hands on the bridge's railing. He really didn't like how Kara sounded. “I promise not to jump if you let me go so I can help you. You sound like you're having an asthma attack... Did you bring an inhaler with you?” Once Kara released his legs, David quickly turned around and knelt on the ground to support Kara so she could sit up straight. Then he gently rubbed her back encouraging her to breathe. “Deep breaths.” Only then did David notice the tears streaming down Kara's face.

Minutes passed in silence except for cricket chirps as the harsh sound of Kara's breathing decreased in severity. “Here I thought I grew out of my asthma...” She turned to face David and gave him a hug. “You are not a burden to me... not now and not ever...”

For the first time since the day after his mother died, David wept. Between the lack of support from his step-dad and siblings, to the constant torment from Jackson, to the lack of sense of purpose as his grades slipped, he had felt numb to basically everything except for the music from choir class. Today was the first time in a while he genuinely felt like he mattered and wasn't a burden. After he felt he couldn't cry anymore, he sat quietly with Kara.

“Shouldn't you be studying or hanging out with other friends?” David looked at Kara to see her shiver lightly. “You shouldn't catch a chill before finals.”

Kara rubbed her hands together to keep them warm. “Tonight I have something more important to do... remind you that you are not alone. I'll stay here all night with you even if it means I don't get any sleep.”

David stared at Kara, his mind unable to fathom her persistence. “I don't understand. Why are you staying with me?” The day after tomorrow finals began, which was also when the Introduction to Philosophy final was that he didn't study for.

Kara looked up at the stars for a moment as the bell faintly chimed ten times. She made eye contact with David and smiled. “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than alone in the light.”

May 23, 2020 00:04

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12:05 May 30, 2020

I like how you first used that quote in a theoretical setting, and ended with a situation in which the quote was very appropriate. Great story about friendship and support. :)


Lisa Slaikeu
18:11 May 30, 2020

Thank you!


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