By Aubrey Maria
Sympathy was a rare thing for Lucy to experience. But on that chilly morning, as she sat in on a study group, she felt no different than any other day. Lucy didn't expect anything to be different – nor should it have been.
But there was a newcomer sitting the farthest seat away. He had tousled red hair swept to the side. His smile could be seen a mile away and Lucy couldn't help smirk to herself and think, 'who does this kid think he is?'
Inside her, she felt a pang of jealousy. Was it the fact he was happier than she was?
All the girls flocked to him like a fresh piece of meat. After he got over the fluster, he finally told them his name. "I'm Bartholomew," he paused, "but most people call me Barley."
Lucy stared in annoyance, "Couldn't think of a better name, Barley?" He shook his head blushing before going back to the conversation with the other girls.
Right after the study group concluded, he walked up to Lucy.
"I don't think I've met you before," he smiled pulling his hand out of his pocket.
Lucy just looked in disgust not making an effort to shake his hand.
He shrugged and turned away.
"Wait! I'm Lucy."
Barley laughed, “Yeah I know. I just wanted to talk to you.”
This was the first (and probably the only time) a guy had ever made an effort at all to talk to her.
“Can I walk you home?” He asked.
She sniffed, “I take the bus home.”
“Ok then, well I take the bus too. I live near the coffee shop ‘Oak Roasters Coffee’.”
“And why should I care?” she said. Lucy wanted to know how he would respond. He only laughed and exited the doors to wait for the bus.
When hopped on the bus, he wasn’t there. Part of her was glad, the other half was unsure why he wouldn’t follow through with what he said.
The more she sat on the bus, the more lonely she became. Then a gentle hand brushed her shoulder, “Can I sit here?’ It was Barley. She looked up anyway just to see his dimply smile. She nodded scooting over.
“So,” Lucy started to ask, “Why’d you move here?” It was a question she was most curious about. Why would a junior in highschool move to another school? It was so late in the year and so late in the classes. Barley didn’t speak suddenly - he only thought for a second before talking.
“Well, my parents recently divorced. I’m staying with my grandmother to finish this year and next. I don’t really have anywhere to go.”
It then occurred to Lucy how hard it must have been switching schools.
“And, you couldn’t have stayed at your previous high school?”
Barley scratched his head, “My parents split which meant they couldn’t really take care of me anymore. I’m with my grandma now.”
And that was that. No questions asked - it was a hard thing to talk about. The reason she knew, was because her best friend’s parents went through it.
She never knew the divorce rate was so common. Her own parents had always been happy and she automatically assumed everyone else’s lives were the same. But she was wrong.
She started hanging out with Barley more regularly after that bus trip. He then started to call her - and then she started to call him. They texted each other every night and even when they were only a classroom away.
Soon enough, nothing really could break their friendship - they were inseparable.
But soon enough - the school year was coming to a close. And the more it neared, the more Barley started to drift away. He stopped answering calls, riding the bus, he even stopped texting her frequently.
Finally, she showed up at his house. Just as she buzzed the door, his grandmother slowly opened coughing.
“Hi, is Barley here?”
She only smiled and nodded. Lucy had been here many times before, but this time felt different.
But there was one thing she couldn’t overlook: the house was emptier. Even the couch they would watch movies together was gone.
Hurrying up the stairs, she stopped suddenly seeing Barley sitting at the end of his bed crying.
Most people would think crying is a sign of weakness, but Lucy would never judge anyone for that. If it was a human emotion, it deserved some use.
“Barley...hey, what’s wrong?” She already knew something was amiss. But she needed him to say it first.
Being able to overcome something means you have to face it.
“I’m - I’m,” he couldn’t bring himself to say it.
She stayed silent.
“I’m moving back.”
“Is that why the couch is gone? Your parents are getting back together?”
He laughed bitterly, “No, my grammy’s sick. And she can’t take care of me anymore. I know my parents don’t want me - but there’s nothing I can do.”
Not being ‘wanted’ was the most horrible thing anyone could feel.
“Oh Barley, I’m so-”
“I don’t want your pity, thanks anyway.”
Lucy sat next to him hoping maybe a friend’s comfort could help.
The more she sat there, the more she tried to come up with a plan.
That same day, she talked to her mom. Lucy knew they had room in the basement, but her mother probably wouldn’t be happy with this plan.
The more they talked about it, somehow seemed harder to convince her mom to let Barley stay in the bedroom basement.
“Please. Barley needs our help, mom.”
“I can’t see why moving back would be such a bad option for him.”
Lucy sighed, “Because from where he came from is broken. He’s not wanted there.”
Her mom sniffed, “Barley’s a good kid. I just don’t think this is a good option for our family. Don’t worry Lucy, I’ll think of something.”
And there it went, the planning process began.
Finally, Lucy’s mother had found a good friend of hers who was already a hosting family through the foster care system.
“Well, this home can offer Barley what he needs,” her mom said, “he would only be a block away from us and could finish his senior year.”
But when Lucy asked Barley if that could be an option for him, he shook his head.
“I’m leaving for good, Lucy.”
And she couldn’t help but feel heartbroken inside.
“I like you, Barley.”
He smiled. “I like you too.”
Part 2, anyone?