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The Same Air

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There’s a knock at the door and the girl heaves a gentle sigh.

“Hey.”

Enid doesn’t bother to glance up from her journal. She already knows who it is, why he’s here, and exactly what his unwarranted visit entails. Ron Anderson has been doing this since she arrived, and as much as Enid would like to say that she dislikes his company, she’s never been able to bring herself to tell him to leave. That doesn’t mean she’ll say anything back, though. She simply sits and listens to the boy drone on and on about things she knows he can’t talk about at home. In a way, she knows she’s doing him a favor by doing so, but she feels a bit guilty that she can’t offer anything more. She doesn’t let it get to her, however, for she doesn’t owe him anything, and he certainly doesn’t owe her anything either.

“I’m tired,” Ron continues, leaning his back against Enid’s wall to slide down and draw his knees to his chest once he’s reached the floor. He pauses and tilts his head back, gaze focused on the light fixture in the middle of the ceiling. “But I wanted to come see you.”

A few moments pass and Enid awaits an explanation; something more, but that’s it. She shifts her focus subtly from the words on the page to the boy sitting in the corner, arms folded over his knees. Typically, Enid doesn’t mind silence in the least, but Ron is being uncharacteristically quiet. At this point in his visits, he’s usually explained every detail of his day and attempted to ask Enid about her own, but she's never given him a proper answer. Now, however, she’s curious as to why he’s so silent. Concerned, almost.

“...You okay?” she finally inquires, breaking the silence that has wedged its way between them.

Ron says nothing, maintaining his gaze upon the light fixture. Enid squints slightly, leaning forward from her place against the bed frame. “Ron.” After a pause, he glances over and forces a smile, and that’s when Enid notices that his eyes are glassy with tears.

“Ron?”

It takes a few seconds for Enid to shove her notebook out of the way and find her way to the boy’s side, but she crouches beside him, brows furrowed and lips parted. “Ron,” she says a third time.

This time, the boy simply closes his eyes and draws his knees closer to his chest, tightening his hold on them and biting his lip. He shakes his head as his body racks with a silent sob.

Enid has no idea how to go about addressing the situation; she’s never seen Ron like this before. But everyone has their tipping point, she figures. Something must have happened, or rather, he’s finally let it get to him.

“Hey... it’s okay to cry,” she murmurs, drawing a hand up to place upon the boy’s shoulder. He shakes his head again. Absentmindedly, Enid begins stroking down the side of his back, repeating this motion for a while until his body has stopped quivering.

Ron inhales sharply and finally opens his eyes, pink and swollen. Enid quirks her lips up a bit and tilts her head. “I’m sorry,” he sniffles with a meek smile, wiping his eyes. “I didn’t mean to--”

“It’s okay,” Enid cuts in, giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

“It’s just... a-at home, my...”

“I know.”

Of course Enid knows; he always comes in with fresh bruises, once with a slight limp. Even so, Ron is startled, mouth agape, and he blinks several times.

“But between the two of us, you don’t deserve it. I mean that.” With that, she leans in to press her lips against his cheek, hovering there for a moment until she feels Ron’s hand against her back. She pulls her lips away but only draws closer and lays her head against his chest. He’s cold, and his heart rate is quick, but the two lean against one another, simply breathing the same air.