For the rest of that afternoon, you had gone through your remaining classes without paying even the slightest attention to what was being talked about. Instead of focusing in class, your mind was instead focused on what Gilbert had done while you had almost got bullied by another group of boys you were completely unfamiliar with. You had made an assumption a while before that pretty soon, Gilbert wasn't going to be the only one who was bullying you, and it had been proved right based on what happened after lunch. But instead of doing absolutely nothing or joining in as you were about to take a punch to the face by the unknown aggressor, he had stepped in and saved you. This was something that you weren't expecting at all.
After all, wasn't Gilbert the one who wanted to bully you and see you get hurt? But after seeing the look he had given you earlier that morning, a part of you believed that his entire attitude had changed since your attempted suicide. It was because of that that he no longer felt the desire to have you get hurt anymore, right?
You let out a groan and put your elbows on the desk you were sitting at, tugging at your hair in frustration and confusion. You couldn't have been absolutely positive about any of these thoughts unless you actually had a talk with Gilbert himself, but would he even want to talk to you? Would he have even wanted to face you after seeing you try to kill yourself? The thought of you having an actual conversation with him for the very first time made your skin prickle with discomfort. After all, every other time you interacted with him, it usually involved him throwing a blow at you that usually ended up having you lying on the floor. It was barely possible for you to imagine having an actual conversation with him that didn't involve any punches or blows. Just a regular conversation as if he was any other ordinary person, not the one who was the cause of all your injuries and the majority of your problems.
You closed your eyes and frowned, still contemplating on whether or not you should've met up with Gilbert at any available moment and asked him why he was suddenly behaving the way he was. If you didn’t, you probably would've never found out why your attempted suicide caused him to suddenly start acting this way towards you. At least, if you talked to him, you would've been able to gather a bit more information about why he was behaving the way he was. Besides, you shouldn't have been afraid of anything bad happening to you anyway, and it wasn't like Gilbert was going to physically hurt you if you walked up to him and asked. Besides, he told you he didn't want you to get hurt ever again. You had absolutely nothing to be worried about, or so you wanted to think. What if Gilbert was acting so calm towards you only to hide the fury that was secretly growing inside him? That thought feared you, but you couldn't have been exactly sure of it until you went up to him and tried talking to him.
After your last class was over and the bell rung, signaling the end of the day, you made sure to be quick in heading to your locker and gathering all the necessary books you needed for your homework. If you took too long to get out of the building, Gilbert might leave, and you needed to talk to him as soon as possible. You knew that he liked to stay around the school with friends even after dismissal, so that gave you the opportunity to speak with him.
As soon as you opened the door to the front of the school and stepped outside, you looked around you, trying hard to search for Gilbert among the many crowds of kids that were already outside. You weren’t able to spot him among several groups of boys, which you found confusing since he always liked to hang around them. It took you at least 5 minutes of walking around the front of the building and actively searching before you were able to spot him sitting on a bench by himself, staring down at the ground. He was a good enough distance away from the nearest group of kids, and this made you wonder why he was sitting there by himself instead of being with his friends or bullying you like he sometimes did.
You continued to stand there, watching Gilbert for a few more moments before you finally, hesitantly, began to walk over to him. You were able to feel your heart racing in your chest, and for a second you wondered whether or not this was a good idea. But you decided to replace your unsureness and slight fear with determination as your steps became more confident.
You paused when you were standing only a few feet away from him, though he still didn’t lift his gaze up from the ground. A few more moments passed between the both of you in silence, him still unaware of your presence and you staring down at him with that same cold, hard gaze, before he finally seemed to notice someone standing in front of him and he lifted his head to look up at you.
You were able to see an expression on his face that you had to admit weren’t expecting. Instead of finding anger in his eyes, they contained surprise and a bit of confusion. “_____,” he began uncertainly. “What—”
“We need to talk,” you interrupted firmly, causing the confusion in his gaze to grow.
Finally, Gilbert let out somewhat of an irritated sigh and stood up, flinging his backpack over one shoulder and looking down at you with a slightly annoyed gaze. “Fine,” he muttered. “Follow me.”
You remained silent as Gilbert led you away from the bench and to the back of the school, where there were significantly less people than in the front and more privacy was available. You continued walking behind him for the next few moments until the two of you approached a bench that was in the presence of numerous trees. He turned around, sat down, and so did you, though you made sure to keep at least two feet of space between the both of you.
A few moments of silence passed as the two of you continued to sit there. You couldn't have helped but shift continuously in your seat in discomfort, thinking about how uncomfortable and awkward it was for you and your worst fear to be sitting on the same bench without you getting assaulted in any way.
Finally, Gilbert let out a somewhat loud sigh and turned his gaze from the ground and over to you, causing you to almost jump in surprise. “So?” he asked impatiently. “Are you going to tell me what you wanna tell me or are you just gonna keep wasting my time?”
You turned your head to the side so that you were able to meet his gaze, which you found was starting to fill with a bit of impatience. You changed the expression on your face from fear to seriousness before you began. “Why are you acting so different all of a sudden?”
In an instant, you were able to see that Gilbert became a bit taken aback at your question, and you were able to notice his eyes slightly widen. “D-Different? How?”
You rolled your eyes. “Don’t pretend like you don’t know. When we saw each other this morning, you did absolutely nothing to try and confront me. You just looked at me without even giving me a threatening look. And then, when I was being teased by a group of boys after lunch, you actually stopped them. You actually prevented me from being bullied as opposed to watching me get beaten up or joining in with them.”
You paused and glared at Gilbert. “So what's the reason for all of this? Why do you think my suicide attempt was a way to get you to act this way towards me all of a sudden?”
Gilbert remained silent for a few moments, still staring at you with that slightly surprised expression. Finally, he let out a sigh and dropped his gaze down to his lap. “Well...if you really want to know...After I caught you and figured out that you were trying to kill yourself...I realized how much pain all of my bullying caused you. All the other times I’ve done something bad to you, I’ve never seen you cry or show any signs of real, intense pain, so I figured that you were handling it a lot better than I thought. But then when I saw you try to kill yourself, I realized that what I was doing to you was so bad that it made you actually want to take your own life.”
Gilbert lifted his gaze from the ground so that it was able to meet your slightly surprised one. “When I was younger, I was close friends with a girl who promised me to never bully anyone in my life. I had told her that I would try to help anyone who was being bullied, and I realized that if broke my promise I made to my best friend. After that, I vowed to myself to do everything I can to make sure you wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”
You stared at him with slightly wide eyes, several thoughts spinning in your head. That’s strange...I think I made a similar promise to someone else when I was younger...
But instead, you let your thoughts focus on something else that came to you. “But...what about our promise? The promise that if anybody found out about what you were doing to me, you would beat and burn me to death? The staff at the school already knows that I'm being bullied by someone, and it won't be long before they figure out it’s you.”
Gilbert continued to stare at you in silence for a few moments before he sighed and lowered his gaze. “Forget about that promise,” he muttered. “I didn’t mean what I said, anyway. I just wanted to scare you enough so nobody would’ve found out about what I was doing to you. But...after I saw what you tried to do last night, I don’t think I'm ever going to bully you again.”
You were silent for a few moments, still staring at him with that same look of surprise and confusion. “So basically...” you began, “the only reason you feel this way, about not wanting to bully me anymore and all, is because I tried to kill myself. If I hadn’t tried committing suicide and decided to keep on dealing with the pain instead, you probably would've kept on bullying me, right?”
“I-I guess...” Gilbert stammered, deliberately avoiding your gaze. “If you hadn’t tried to commit suicide, I guess I never would've realized exactly how much pain I was causing you.” After a few moments of silence, he lifted his gaze to meet yours and gave you a tiny smile. “I know it’s kind of awkward to ask you this...but now that I’m not going to hurt you anymore, maybe we can...be friends?”
Friends. That word made you feel like your heart had stopped. Gilbert, the one who had caused so much trouble to your life ever since you entered high school, wanted to be your friend. And it was all because you tried killing yourself.
What a joke.
You clenched your hands into fists and gritted your teeth, trying to hold back the anger that was building up inside you as you stood up and glared down at him. “How can I be your friend if you’re acting this way because I wanted to end my life because of you?” you asked loudly. “How can I be your friend after all the hell you’ve put me through? There's no way I would ever think of being friends with someone who had bullied me so severely for so long!”
“_____,” Gilbert, who was a bit taken aback at your reaction, began as he stood up and looked down at you convincingly. “I-I can prove to you that I’ll—”
“No!” you said, feeling tears start forming in your eyes as you turned away from him. “You can't prove anything to me!” With that, you turned so that your back was facing him and ran away, leaving him staring after you in surprise and confusion with his mouth slightly open.