“This is so hard!” you cried in frustration as you stared down at your open math textbook, which was sitting on your lap. “I don’t get any of this at all!”
“It’s okay, _____,” Arthur, who was sitting somewhat close to you against the wall, reassured as he lifted his gaze from the book to look up at you. “It’s normal not to understand the math in here if you haven’t been paying attention in class for such a long amount of time.”
“It’s not normal!” you cried again before you slammed the textbook shut and flung it off to one side, not even bothering to wince as it hit the ground with a loud thud. “It’s not normal,” you repeated, more softly this time, as you rested your forehead in the palms of your hands. “Everybody else understands the math. I should be able to understand it, too. But I don’t.”
“If you don’t understand the math, how do you even manage to do your homework?” Arthur asked as he raised an eyebrow in confusion.
You removed your hands from your forehead and lifted your head to meet his gaze. “I don’t know. I just put some random stuff down and do what I think makes sense and that would be good enough. But now...” You let out a sigh before you looked away from him and stared desolately in front of you. “Now...when you're explaining stuff to me...and I actually pay attention...I realize...how much I just don’t understand.”
“_____, you have to realize that you won't understand everything right away,” Arthur said as he placed his hand reassuringly on your shoulder, and for the first time, you did not stiffen. “You have been inattentive to what was being taught in this class for a very long period of time, and now you have to catch up for all the work you missed.”
You let out a frustrated sigh. “And how am I going to do that?”
“I'm going to help you,” Arthur said. “I'm going to teach you the math that had been taught previously, not just what is being taught right now.”
You lifted your gaze and shifted it to the side to look at him confusingly. “But...why can't you just help me with what we’re learning now?”
“Because what you're learning now connects to what you’ve learned before,” Arthur explained. “You're not going to understand what you’re learning about now unless you understand everything that had been taught before on a fairly average level.” He raised an eyebrow. “Do you understand?”
You nodded slowly before you moved your gaze back in front of you. “I do, but...when are we going to have time for you to teach me all of this? We can't just sit in the library until the evening when the school already closed.”
“You're right...” Arthur was silent in thought for a few moments before he finally spoke up. “If you'd like, we can meet up in the park close to the school on weekends and I can teach you the math that you need to know.”
You looked up at him in surprise. “B-But I can't do it on weekends.”
Arthur looked at you, frowning in confusion. “Why not?”
“Because...because I...” You fumbled with your words for a few seconds as you tried to come up with a sufficient excuse. Finally, you let out a sigh as you realized there was no point in lying. It wasn't like you had a very busy schedule all the time, anyway. “Because the weekends are my only time to relax from all the stress I had throughout the week. They’re the only time when I don’t have to worry about school, homework, or getting up early and skipping breakfast or anything like that.”
“Well, if meeting on weekends in the park means that you’ll be able to actually understand at least some of your schoolwork, you’ll find out that you won't feel as much stress as you usually do on weekdays.” You had to admit that Arthur had a point. The both of you were silent for a few moments before he spoke up again. “_____, what's the hardest subject for you in school?”
You looked up at him a bit warily. “Why do you want to know?”
Arthur returned your gaze seriously. “Because then I’ll know which area I need to work on the most with you. I want to try my hardest to get you to pass most of your classes, and I can't do that if I spend a lot of time with you on a subject you’re fairly good at and little time on a subject that you’re failing.”
“Oh...” You shifted your gaze to the side so that you were able to look at your math textbook, which was still sprawled out on the floor next to you, before you shifted it back in front of you. “I guess math would be the hardest for me...The other subjects, well...I guess it’s just a matter of paying attention in class and reading what’s required for homework and all that stuff. But math...” You were silent for a moment before you continued. “In math, I can pay attention in class and focus on my homework and still not get a thing.”
“I understand,” Arthur said with a nod. “Well, why don’t we focus on the homework that you have in your other classes and then get back to your math when we’re done with everything else? That way, you won't have as much to do when you arrive home.”
You nodded. “Fine.”
The two of you remained in the library until the school closed at 7 p.m. By that point, the both of you had gone through most of your homework, only having about half an hour to spend on your math, which you still had a very hard time understanding.
“_____,” Arthur said as the both of you walked outside the front doors of the school, pausing as he turned around to face you and causing you to stop in your tracks as well and look at him expectantly.
“Yeah?” It was cold outside, and the evening air slapped against your face with such force that you instantly began to get a runny nose, though you didn’t dare wipe it with the back of your sleeve.
“Promise me you’ll go to bed early tonight,” Arthur said, and you were able to detect a bit of pleading in his voice. When you looked up to meet his gaze, you saw that the expression on his face was filled with concern. “You have a very small amount of homework left to do, so it’s unnecessary for you to stay up so late for no particular reason.”
You continued to look into his eyes for a few more seconds before you stuffed your hands in your pockets and sniffed. “I can't promise anything,” you said. “I still have math homework to finish.”
“If you want, you can arrive early to school tomorrow morning and I’ll help you complete it,” Arthur said as he grasped your arm. You were able to tell by the tone in his voice that he seemed to be trying his hardest to persuade you. “I just really, really hate to see you so tired, and I would hate it even more if I find out that you got less than 6 hours of sleep when you could've easily gotten much more.”
You dropped your gaze down to the ground before you lifted it to look up at Arthur. “Why should my sleep concern you anyway?”
“Because your lack of sleep is also one of the main reasons why your grades are terrible in school,” Arthur said. “Even if you were paying attention, your brain would've been too tired to process all of that information, especially if you don’t understand it. I don’t want that to happen anymore with you, _____. Please.”
You continued to stare into his eyes as he looked back at you, his gaze filled with nothing but concern. Finally, you sighed. “Okay...I’ll try.”
He smiled. “Thank you.”
You woke up the next morning at the same time as you usually did, though you felt very different. You had arrived home yesterday absolutely starving, and so you had prepared yourself dinner before you watched TV for about an hour and got ready to go to sleep. You found it hard to fall asleep because you had gone so much earlier than usual, but eventually, tiredness took over you and you dozed off at around 10 p.m., which was a lot earlier than you usually went to bed. You had woken up at 5 in the morning the next day like usual, but the fact that you had actually gotten over five hours of sleep caused you to feel a lot less tired than you usually were. You still felt like you could've slept for a month, but the urge to do so was not as great as it had been before.
When you had arrived at the library that morning, Arthur was already there, just like you had expected, and the two of you were able to finish what little you had left of your math homework with over an hour of extra time remaining until school officially started.
“So...” you said as you tapped your fingers against the surface of the table, with Arthur sitting next to you. Your math textbook was closed and pushed off to one side, leaving some space for you to put your arms on the table if you chose to. “What do you want to do now? We finished everything, and we still have over an hour left...”
Arthur was silent for a few moments as he drifted his gaze down to the table. “If you want, we could start working on the math that you missed over the years.”
“No!” You let out a groan as you rested your head in your arms, which were both placed on the table, and looked up at Arthur. “I don’t want to do that now right after I struggled with the math that I already had to finish.”
Arthur chuckled. “Well, would you rather struggle with the math for a longer period of time than if we were to work on some of it now?”
“No...I just...” You sighed. “I just don’t want to do anything school related right now. I already have a whole day that I need to get through. Besides,” you raised your head from your arms so that you were eye-level with him, “all that stuff can be saved for the weekend, right?”
Arthur nodded. “Yes, if that’s what you want.”
You put your head back down on your arms. “So, tell me. What do you like to do in your free time?”
He tapped his fingers lightly against the table as he put his elbow on the rim and put his chin in the palm of his hand. “Well...” He was silent for a few moments before he replied. “I usually read.”
“You read?” You scrunched up your nose in slight disgust. “What kinds?”
“Classics, mainly,” Arthur replied.
You rolled your eyes and let out a groan. “I can't imagine myself reading a classic, let alone a book at all.”
He shifted his gaze to the side to look down at you. “Why not?”
You shifted your head so that the side of your face was resting on your arms before you looked up at Arthur. “I hate reading. I always have. I feel like it’s nothing but a waste of my time.”
“Oh,” Arthur murmured. “Have you ever considered it, though?”
“Barely. The only time I ever read is when my English teacher forces me to.” You let out a groan. “But I hate reading for school more than anything.”
“Oh,” he said again. “So what do you do in your free time?”
“Well, considering what little free time I have, I don’t usually do much,” you said a bit disappointingly. “I usually just go on my laptop or watch TV, but that’s about it.”
“I barely watch television or go on my computer,” Arthur said as he shook his head. “I always think that it’s an incredible waste of time, but my brother does it constantly. If I have any free time, I usually spend it reading or studying.”
Two of the things I hate to do the most... “So does that mean you get good grades?” you asked a bit curiously as you looked up at him.
He nodded and a tiny smile came to his face. “I always get straight A’s. There has never been a time when I failed or had gotten even remotely close to failing.”
“Wow...” you murmured. “Now I suddenly realize how different we are...”
The smile on Arthur’s face faded as he turned his head to look down at you in a bit of confusion. “What do you mean?”
You sighed as you removed your head from your arms and lifted it before you shifted your gaze to the side so that you were staring directly at Arthur. “What I mean is...that...well, I procrastinate all the time and I’m always so disorganized, but you're so...so organized and you look like the kind of person that does everything right away and doesn’t ever think about saving it for the last minute. I'm failing almost all of my classes while you get perfect grades. Apparently you love to study and read and I hate both. I love to go on my laptop and watch TV and you hate both. You were so nice to me when I first met you...but I was so rude.”
You sighed again before you dropped your gaze down to your hands. “I guess the only thing we have in common is that we don’t have any friends,” you murmured so softly that your voice was barely able to be heard.
The both of you were silent for a long stretch of time, you staring desolately down at your hands and Arthur staring at you with the same expression on his face. Finally, he reached out his hand and tightly grasped yours, causing you to instantly look up at him in surprise.
“Even though we’re both different,” he said to you quietly, “even though we’re both lonely, the two of us...we....we’re friends...right?”
You were silent for a few moments before you let out a tiny smile—the first smile that you seemingly made in years. “Yes,” you murmured. “We’re friends.”