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We Start With Stars in Our Eyes

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You never really know what to expect from school, especially when you’re completely blind. This might be a different feeling for someone who was born and raised without their eyes, but that was not the case for Michael Mell.
Michael dreaded any conversation of what happened that night, though the scene replayed in his head often.

“I’m honestly asking!” Michael looked the other teen dressed as a cyborg. It was the Halloween party. Michael wasn’t invited, but he had to tell Jeremy about his discovery.
“Really? Because I think you’re pissed that I have one and you don’t!” Jeremy shouted, obviously irritated. “Come on-” Michael tried to reason with his friend, but was cut off.
Jeremy scowled. “Maybe I got lucky, is that so weird? With my history, I’d say the universe owed me one. And I don’t know about your friend’s brother’s whatever, but if you’re telling me his squip made him crazy-“
“His squip didn’t make him crazy.”
Jeremy paused, looking at Michael. “Oh. Well... There you go.”
“He went crazy trying to get it out.”
Another pause. Tension between the two rising.
“Then I’ve got nothing to worry about. Why would I want that?” Jeremy shrugged and made his way to the door. Michael stepped in the way, looking at the taller boy coldly. Why couldn’t he understand?
“Move it.” He sent a glare down to Michael.
“Or you’ll what?” Michael challenged.
“Get out of my way, loser .”
That was a look Michael would never forget. He was serious this time. His friend of twelve years really meant that. Not in the joking way they’d say it before, but it was serious.

Michael shook his head, clearing his thoughts. It’s been a month. He’s moved on. Forgotten you. Michael reminded himself of this often, it didn’t help, but it did something.
He’d spent most of his time in the hospital, recovering. He got a few visitors from time to time, none of them Jeremy. That shouldn’t be a surprise, but God, did it hurt like hell. Michael was at least expecting an apology, but he got nothing.
Michael had been told that he was improving a lot since the incident. He was able to walk on his own, but that didn’t stop the countless bruises on his legs from running into things. He was learning to read Braille, it was a slow process, but it helped pass the time. Now all he needed to do was try to get through school for at least a day.
When Michael was offered the choice, his parents were of course hesitant, thinking of all that could go wrong for their newly blind son. Luckily Michael had those things in mind too.
Michael had to try. He was so desperate to be normal, but that seemed so far out of reach until now. He could almost feel it. Michael Mell, normal kid. Absolutely nothing wrong with him. All he needed to do was survive a single day. He could do it. He had to.

The car pulled to a stop in front of the school. “Are you sure about this, honey? It’s not too late to back down. We’ll still be proud of you for doing so good.” Michael’s mother spoke, a quiver in her voice. She reached from the passenger seat to place a hand on Michael’s own.
“I’ll be okay mom, really.” Michael promised with a smile. The smile was forced, but it felt real enough to where it’d probably trick his mother. “Okay, If you’re really sure.” She sighed, moving back into her seat.
Michael unbuckled and stepped out of the car. The soft chill of the coming winter air bit at Michael’s face, now decorated with burn scars.
“Your father and I can walk you to class.” His mother offered. Michael shook his head. “Mom. I’ll be okay.” Michael spoke sternly, making himself believe that statement.
“You’re so grown up, Micha...” His mom spoke softly. “I love you and I’m so so proud of you.”
“I love you too.”
With that, Michael was left alone. Hopefully prepared to fight whatever he had to face at school. He gripped his white stick tightly, and made his way through the front doors.
It’s odd, coming into a place that’s so familiar to you, yet you can’t see it. Michael knew the school grounds well. He could get from one side of the building to the other within a couple of minutes thanks to his knowledge of the layout.
Now, everything was different. Michael stepped in and the students around him quieted. Normally, they’d not even notice him there and Michael would be okay with that. Now, they all stared. Michael could feel their eyes on him and it was the most uncomfortable feeling in the world. Michael shook his head and moved on, white stick making little tip taps against the tile as he walked.
Hushed voices gossiped all around him. Some about who slept with who. Others about students in general. But most of them were about Michael, the blind kid.
He found himself in a quieted hall. Not many foot steps, only a few passing conversions. None about him, thankfully.
This area was never that crowded, so Michael knew it’d probably be his new hangout spot until he found someone that he could tolerate being around, and tolerated him too. He had about twenty minutes to spare before class started, so he sat, slouched against the wall. And that was where Jeremy found him.

 

Jeremy got everything he wanted. He had friends, popularity, and he was closer to Christine. They weren’t dating, but they were definitely friends. Yet, Jeremy wasn’t happy. It wasn’t the fact that him and Christine weren’t together yet. That was okay. But nothing seemed right without Michael, his best friend.
A month after the Halloween party and Jeremy hardly heard anything from or about him. It made Jeremy sick to his stomach, thinking of what might’ve happened to him. All he knew was that he was alive and in the hospital.
For the first couple of days of school after the party, everyone was gossiping and spreading rumors about what happened. Jeremy couldn’t be too sure of what happened since he wasn’t there for the fire. Thanks to the squip, he knew something was going to happen so he was able to get out. Unfortunately for the others, they had to stay and witness the fire.
Most of the people there made it out safe. Rich had loads of burns, Jake broke both of his legs, and then there was Michael. No one said anything about him, especially not Rich or Jake. They had to have known what happened to him at least, they were in the hospital together. Regardless, they refused to tell Jeremy.
Today seemed like it was going to be like any day in the past month. Squip-controlled, exhausting, and Michael-less. That was, until the squip started giving orders.
Turn right and go down the hall. The squip said suddenly when Jeremy was walking down to his locker. Why? Just trust me, Jeremy. It will help with your status and get you closer to your goal.
Jeremy sighed and turned right, walking down that hallway. What exactly are we doing? Jeremy questioned on the way. I will explain once we get there. Jeremy rolled his eyes and continued walking, smiling at a group of girls passing. That was something the squip got him in the habit of doing. It definitely helped with people being friendlier to him, but he didn’t care too much for it.
While walking, Jeremy spotted a familiar boy in a red hoodie, slouched against the wall. He had a cane-like thing at his side, scars across his face, and a pair of sunglasses. Jeremy felt a pit in his stomach at the sight.
“Michael?”
Michael looked startled, as if he wasn’t expecting someone to talk to him. This set Jeremy on edge. Something was definitely wrong.
The blind boy did hear the footsteps and was confused to why they just stopped. However, he just ignored the thought. Until the person spoke, that is. Michael knew that voice all too well.
“Jeremy..?” He turned his head to look upward in the direction of the voice. He wasn’t able to see the other, of course. It was a habit he had though.
Jeremy had no idea what to say. So, he began to interrogate the squip. Okay, what’s up with this? Is Michael okay? Why are you letting me talk to him? What’s your plan? Jeremy, the squip interrupted, I just want you to talk to... Michael. It spoke his name in the same disgusted way as when it first mentioned him. But why? You wouldn’t let me before. I will explain later, but for now, talk to Michael.
Jeremy realized he didn’t say anything back when Michael repeated himself, voice steadier than before. “I- yeah, it’s Jeremy.” He nodded, surprised not to get a shock for his slight stutter. He looked at the boy for a moment. His stare was blank, face full of concentration. Jeremy had to ask the question that was bugging him now. “Michael, can you... can you see..?”
The mention clearly made him get defensive. Jeremy hated to be so blunt, but he had to know.
“Yeah. I guess. So what? Does that make any difference to you?”
“Oh my god- Michael, I-I’m so sorry.” Jeremy whispered, covering his mouth. This couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be happening. Michael can’t be blind.
Hate to break it to you, but I can one hundred percent assure you that this is real, and actually works in your favor.
I- Wait, what? Works in my favor? What’s that supposed to mean?
Michael is in need of help. If your peers see you as a caring person, you’ll instantly get more respect. Plus, Christine seems to like it.
Jeremy was going to be using Michael? No. No, no, no, that only made things worse.
Michael rolled his unseeing eyes. Apologies were expected. They were a month late though. “You know what Jeremy? It’s fine. All of that was completely okay. I don’t even care anymore. I know you’ve moved on, so I should just do the same.” Michael stood, grabbing his stick and turning to leave.
“Michael, no, please.” Jeremy reached out a hand and placed it on his shoulder. Michael froze under the touch. Before he knew it, Jeremy was softly pulling him into a hug. “I’m so sorry. I haven’t moved on. I promise. I think about what happened everyday and I regret it so much. Let me make it up to you. Please. Let me fix this.” He mumbled softly, resting his chin on top of the shorter boy’s head.
Michael attempted to squirm out of the embrace, but Jeremy started talking in the soft tone, and it was just soothing. He hasn’t heard his voice since the fire, and even then it wasn’t in good terms.
Michael sighed. “What can you do, Jeremy? You’ve already left me once, how do I know you won’t do it again?”
“I know you don’t trust me,” Jeremy started, continuing in the soothing voice, “But I realized how bad what I did was and I need to fix it. I need our friendship back. I can’t just leave my player 1. You mean the world to me, Micha.”
Michael couldn’t take it now. It sounded too much like everything was okay and that they could just be friends again, just like that. He pushed away from Jeremy. “I can’t do this. You’re just-“ Michael made a sound in frustration. “You act like it’s just that easy. You apologize and now we’re friends again! It’s not like that!” His milky white eyes watered, throat getting tighter with each word. “Just- I can’t do this right now. Sorry, Jer.” Michael shook his head and walked away.
Jeremy watched, heart aching. He didn’t stop Michael though, he’d done enough to the poor boy. He needed space. Maybe Jeremy could try talking it out later.