After the holidays ended and you went back to school, you and Arthur once again resumed meeting in the library after school to work on your homework, and in the park on weekends so you would've gotten caught up in math. With each passing day, you felt that it was getting easier for you to pay attention in class, and you began to understand more and more of almost every subject in school. Before you knew it, you were hardly, if ever, feeling angry or frustrated, and every night you made sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep. You never imagined how much the quality of your life would've been able to increase for the past two and a half months since you met Arthur.
One afternoon in the middle of January, you sat in the back of the library with your back pressed against the wall, your homework neatly spread out in sections around you. Next to you sat Arthur, doing his own homework while you tried to finish as much of your own before the school closed without any of his assistance.
Finally, about an hour after the sun set, you closed the last of your textbooks with a satisfied smile on your face. “Done!” you said happily before you took the textbook and put it in your backpack and began gathering the rest of your things together.
Arthur lifted his gaze from one of his open books, which was placed on his lap, and shifted it to look at you with an impressed expression on his face. “Oh, really?” he asked, a smile coming to his face. “You finished faster than me.”
You giggled and zipped up your backpack once all your books were inside. “I guess I just wanted finish it as soon as possible so I wouldn’t have had to worry about it anymore.”
Arthur nodded and moved his gaze back down to his book, closing it and putting it down on the floor next to him. “I suppose I’ll have time to finish my homework later.” Lifting his gaze back up to look at you, he asked, “So, were there places in the homework where you had any difficulties in understanding or completing?”
You shook your head. “Not really. The math was a little confusing, but I was able to understand what to do and everything.”
Arthur smiled. “Well, I think that you no longer need me to help you after school anymore.”
Your happy expression instantly drooped and was replaced by confusion. “W-What?”
A frown came to his face as soon as he realized that this wasn't the reaction he had been hoping for from you. “Well, since you seem to be getting along so well in doing your homework, I thought that maybe you, you know...don’t need me to assist you after school anymore...”
“Oh...” you murmured as you dropped your gaze down to your hands. “But...but what if there's something that I don’t understand and need to you help me with?”
“I can always help you in the morning before school starts,” Arthur assured. “I wouldn’t leave you to deal with your work on your own if you're even a little bit unsure of yourself.”
“Yeah, but...” You paused and pressed your back against the wall, unsure of what you were supposed to say that would've perfectly described the emotions and thoughts you were experiencing at that moment. “It’s just that...meeting with you after school and talking with you, not just about homework, but about other things, always made me feel more relaxed and calm. Usually at the end of the school day I'm worn out, exhausted, and frustrated, and usually relax by myself at home until the evening when I actually start doing my homework. But meeting with you instead, it just...makes me feel more secure, more satisfied with myself than I was before, even when we met only in the mornings....”
Arthur stared at you for the next few moments in silence, unsure of how to react to your sudden statement, since it was one that he admitted he had not been expecting. Finally, he let out a sigh and ran his hand through his hair before he drifted his gaze down to his closed textbook, which still lay on the floor next to him. “_____, you have to learn how to be able to work successfully on your own without my assistance. I understand that meeting with me after school on weekdays makes you feel better, but you can't depend on me to make your homework easier for you. Being able to work independently is a skill that you're going to need not just now, but later. The only reason we meet after school is so that it would be easier for you to complete your homework with my explanations so that by the time you arrive home, you won't have as much work to do and you can go to sleep early.”
“I know, but....” You remained silent for a few moments, but finally let out a defeated sigh when you realized that there was nothing for you to say that could've possibly convinced Arthur otherwise. You had to admit that he had a point.
“I can trust that you won't continue procrastinating anymore, _____,” Arthur said as he put his hand on your shoulder, causing you to lift your head to look up at him. “I think you’ve reached the point where you're not so distracted that you end up saving your homework for later. It seems like by now you’ve gotten used to doing your work right away. Do you promise me you won't procrastinate like you used to?”
You continued to meet his gaze, unsure of how to respond. You were always terrible at keeping promises, especially to yourself. But this time, as you continued to think about it, you realized that Arthur was right. You’ve reached the stage where you should've gotten used to doing your homework right away instead of saving it for later, and unlike before, you actually felt positive about your decision. “Yes,” you said firmly. “I promise.”
“Good.” With that, Arthur turned his gaze away from you and began packing his things. “Now, it’s time we began heading home. The building should be closing soon, anyway.”
“You're going to walk me to the bus stop, right?” you asked a bit hopefully.
He paused from his packing and lifted his gaze to look at you, a tiny smile coming to his face. “Of course.”
As the both of you walked outside into the cold night air and headed towards the bus stop a few blocks away from the school, you felt your confidence in being able to do your homework at home without Arthur’s help grow. Sure, spending time with him after school always made you feel more relaxed, but this time, you had gotten used to doing all your work at once that you figured it shouldn’t have been a problem for you to come home, sit down, do your homework until it was complete, have dinner, and go to bed. At least, that was what you thought.
But it was easier said than done.
After school the next day, you made sure to be quick in packing the necessary books you needed to take home with you before you made your way out the front door of the building along with dozens of other kids who were eager to leave as well. A tiny part of you thought about waiting for Arthur to get out of the building so you could've said goodbye to him before you made your way home, but you eventually decided that that would've been a waste of time and that you had other, more important priorities to take care of first. It felt kind of weird leaving the school when it was still daylight, but you figured that you would've eventually had to get used to it, since from now on you were going to be leaving the building along with everyone else instead of just with Arthur when it was already dark.
When you unlocked and opened the door to your house, the first thing you were greeted with was silence. You continued to stand in the doorway for the next few moments after you had closed the door, the only sounds being the faint chirping of birds outside your house and the soft ticking of the wall clock in the living room. Usually when you came home after your after school meet with Arthur, you didn’t really care about the silence since you were too hungry or tired to do so, but this time, you found that it was something that made your skin prickle in discomfort.
You decided to head upstairs to your room, trying to ignore the feeling of emptiness that slowly crept up on you with each passing second that you spent in your house. As soon as you opened the door to your room and walked inside, the first thing your eyes settled on was your laptop, which was placed on top of your desk, which you had previously cleaned a few weeks ago.
You walked over to your desk and set your backpack down on the floor next to the chair before you sat down, closing your eyes and letting the quietness fill your ears. Once you opened them again, you let your gaze drift down to your backpack and opened it, taking out some of your textbooks and placing them on the desk in front of you.
You sat back in your seat, several thoughts running through your head as you shifted your gaze from your textbooks to the laptop, back to the books, and back to the laptop. Well, you began to think, doing my homework now is a lot easier than it was before so it should take me less time to do it, right? You moved your gaze back to the laptop. And besides, I'm still tired from everything that happened at school, so I could really use a break. It’s not like taking a break for an hour or two is going to hurt me, anyway. There’s still plenty of time for me to do my homework.
With that, you pushed your textbooks aside and opened up your laptop, prepared to spend the next few hours simply relaxing in contentment.
You knew as soon as you walked into the school early that morning that you were in trouble. And not with your teachers or anybody or anything in the school, but with Arthur.
The previous day, instead of spending only an hour in front of the computer as you had originally planned, you ended up sitting in front of it right up until it was time for you to have dinner. By that point, it was already dark, and it was only about two hours until it was time for you to go to bed. Well, the time when you actually started going to bed early instead of past midnight. After you had finished eating, you scrambled to complete your homework, but you were only about halfway done with it when you decided that it was getting late and it was time for you to go to bed.
You woke up at the same time as you usually did the next morning, but because you had gotten a significantly smaller amount of sleep than you usually had for the past few weeks, you were outrightly exhausted. It was barely possible for you to go five minutes without yawning throughout the time that you got up, got dressed, had breakfast, headed out the door, and began to go towards the school.
But the fact that your afternoon had been spent almost exactly like it had been months ago was not what concerned you at the moment and not what made you worried to go and meet Arthur in the morning. It was the fact that you had broken the promise that you made to him, the promise that you would go home and do your homework right away. Well, you said to him before that you weren’t that good at keeping promises, so why should he have expected you to fulfill yours, anyway? But then again, after how much he had been able to improve your negative traits, you assumed that he figured you had reached the point where you would've been able to live up to your promises.
Well, that just proves him wrong. You didn’t want to prove him wrong, but at this point, it didn’t seem as if you really had a choice.
As soon as you entered the library, you already found Arthur sitting in one of the chairs in front of the table, his gaze dropped down to an open book placed on the desk in front of him. As soon as he caught the sound of the door opening, he lifted his gaze from his book so that it was able to lock with yours, and he gave you a tiny smile. “Good morning, _____.”
You gave him a slightly nervous smile in return as you hesitantly approached him. “G-Good morning, Arthur.” You sat down in the other seat across from him before you took off your backpack and placed it down on the floor against your chair, taking off your jacket and hanging it behind you as well.
A few moments passed in silence after you made yourself as comfortable as you could've gotten. Finally, Arthur let out a sigh and closed his book, pushing it to the side and resting both hands on the table as he stared at you seriously. “So, _____,” he began. “How did it go yesterday?”
“Oh, it went...great,” you lied as you dropped your gaze down to your hands and began to fiddle with them. “Everything was fine. Perfectly fine.”
“Are you sure?” Arthur asked a bit cautiously, making you lift your gaze to look at him in confusion. You found that he was staring at you through narrowed, doubtful eyes, and the look that he carried on his face was one of dissatisfaction.
“Of course!” you said, trying to make your voice sound confident. “Everything was alright. You have nothing to worry about.”
You were able to notice some of the doubt in Arthur’s gaze fade, and just as you figured that he was going to believe that you kept your promise, you felt a sudden feeling start to stir inside you and parts of your face start to tingle. Oh no, you thought dreadfully. If he finds out...no...No! But your mental begging was no use. Before you could've tried to stop yourself, you covered your mouth with your hand and let out an abnormally loud yawn. Instantly, you drew your hand away and stared at Arthur, attempting to keep your gaze calm through your now watery eyes.
He frowned and once again narrowed his eyes, the doubt returning. “Are you tired?”
You quickly shook your head. “No, not at all. I'm telling you, I'm fine.” But you instantly wished you had taken those words back when you felt another yawn escape you.
Arthur let out a sigh as he continued to look at you. “_____, what time did you go to sleep last night?”
“Oh...at around...maybe...10 or so?” You dropped your gaze down to your hands, too nervous to allow it to meet his anymore.
“_____, you would not be yawning like this if you had gone to bed at 10,” Arthur said matter-of-factly. When you lifted your gaze reluctantly to look at him, you found that he was staring at you with a prominent frown on his face. “Now, did you do your homework right away yesterday afternoon or not?”
You were silent for a few moments, staring at him with slightly wide eyes, before you cleared your throat and forced a smile to come to your face. “Of course I did!” you said. “After all, I made a promise to you that I would, right?”
Arthur stared at you in silence for a few moments, a blank expression on his face, before he let out a long sigh and shook his head, rubbing his forehead with his fingers. “_____, you don’t have to lie to me. I can tell by the tone in your voice that you're not telling the truth. You know, I thought that by now, since we’ve known each other for almost three months, that we would've reached the point where we would've been able to trust each other just like friends and not have to keep any secrets from each other. You told me a lot of personal information about yourself and vice versa, so why do you still bother lying to me when you should already know that it won't make me believe you?”
You were silent for a few moments, letting the meaning of Arthur's words sink into your head. As soon as they fully registered in your brain, you felt your cheeks heat up in shame and guilt, and you dropped your gaze down to your hands. Arthur was right. You should've known by now that he would've been able to see through your lies, because by now he had already figured as well as you that you weren’t a very convincing person or a good liar. And he was your best friend—your only friend, actually—and you had already shared many personal things with him. So what if he got mad that you broke your promise? At least he would've known that you were being honest and he might've been able to help you resolve your situation somehow. But going out and vainly lying to him like that was just rude.
“You're right,” you murmured softly. “It was wrong for me to lie to you. I'm sorry, Arthur.”
“‘Sorry’ doesn’t make up for the fact that you still broke your promise and lied to me about it,” Arthur said as he crossed his arms and closed his eyes. “And you should be apologizing to yourself, not me.”
You rolled your eyes, feeling irritation start to grow inside you at his stubbornness. “Okay, if it will make you happy. I'm sorry, _____, for breaking my own promise and lying to Arthur about it. I promise myself that I won't do it again.”
“Are you trying to humor me?” Arthur asked after a few seconds of silence as he opened his eyes and lifted his gaze to look up at you, trying to resist the urge to smile.
“No,” you said with a sigh. “I'm trying to get you to stop being stubborn and help me find a way to help me solve my problem.”
“Oh.” A few moments of silence passed between the both of you before an idea came to Arthur’s head. “I know what we can do.” He placed his hands on the table and gazed at you intently. “_____, do you have a planner of some sort with you right now?”
You eyed him a bit hesitantly, unsure of where he might've been going with this. “I do. Why?”
“Do you mind if I see it for a few moments?” Arthur asked as he gave you a tiny smile.
You frowned in confusion, but didn’t refuse as you turned in your seat and bent down so that you were able to unzip your backpack and search for your school planner. “Sure. But...I still don’t know why you need it.”
As soon as you took out your planner and gave it to Arthur, you watched as he flipped through its pages attentively, an unusual stretch of silence passing between the both of you. “Ah, here we go,” he finally said as he paused at one of the pages and set the opened planner down in front of him on the table. You continued to watch in confusion as he bent over and dug through his backpack for a few seconds before he pulled out a pencil and a piece of paper, set the paper down in front of him, and began to write on it something that was being shown in your planner.
“Hey, what are you—” But you never got the chance to finish your sentence before you stood up so that you were able to get a better look at what page he was on in your planner and what he was writing down on the paper. You could've sworn you almost had a heart attack and your eyes widened when you saw that he was on the page that contained all of your personal information—your address, city, zip code, birthday, phone number, and some other things.
“Arthur!” you yelped before you reached out and quickly snatched the planner away from his gaze, but not before he had the chance to write down whatever it was that he wanted to. He looked up at you confusingly and a bit surprisingly, and you glared down at him angrily. “Are you trying to stalk me or something? I never gave you permission to look at my personal information, and you shouldn’t do so without asking first!”
The befuddlement that filled Arthur’s eyes quickly faded and a frown came to his face. “I only need to know your phone number, nothing else.”
You still weren’t convinced that he wasn't looking for a way to try and stalk you. “Why do you need my phone number? It’s not like you have a very good reason why you need to talk to me when we’re not seeing each other. Aren’t our morning and weekend meetings enough, anyway?”
“If you’ll just be quiet for a few moments and give me the chance to explain then maybe I’ll be able to answer your questions,” Arthur retorted as he stood up from his seat and grabbed your wrists a bit forcefully, causing the irritation and anger to leave your gaze and replace with confusion.
After a few seconds of silence passed between the both of you, he gave you a nod before he resumed speaking. “Since you seem to have a hard time working at home, especially without my presence, and since you don’t want me directly in your house, the only way we’ll be able to interact with each other and make sure you're doing your homework while you’re at home is through the phone. That way I’ll make sure you're doing your homework right away and not distracted with anything in your house.”
“That sounds stupid,” you mumbled as you tried to break free from Arthur’s grip on your wrists, though it proved to be useless. “That won't help anything.”
“Well, we’ll see,” he said before he dropped his hands back down to his sides. “You said it takes you about a half hour to get home, so as soon as about that much time has passed after school ended, I’ll call you. Alright?”
“Fine,” you muttered as you lowered your gaze down to the ground. “If it will make you so happy, then sure.” You felt uncomfortable knowing that Arthur had your phone number and was now able to call you outside of school whenever he pleased, even if it was in the middle of the night, but a part of you took it as no big deal. He was using it only for homework purposes, right? It’s not like he would've used your number to stalk you every moment of every day. And you trusted that he would've used it for what he said he was going to, so you saw no reason to feel uncomfortable.
Still, the thought that somebody knew your personal phone number and was going to be calling you after several years made your skin prickle with anxiety, exhilaration, and another unfamiliar feeling that you weren’t able to name or recognize, no matter how hard you tried.