Sticks and Stones This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   His foot hung loosely off the edge of the bed as Iwatched him through the blur of my tears. I saw his chin quiver, his lips purseand his eyebrows narrow in pain. Embarrassed, I looked away. I had never seen himcry.

I avoided his red eyes and focused on his shaking shoe instead. Inhis silence, the soft noise of his shoelace bouncing off the side of the brownleather was barely audible. Suddenly, something caught my attention: a smallstone was wedged in the tread of his shoe. It was gray and speckled with white,its sharp edge cutting into his sole. I wondered how long it had been there.Maybe it was from my driveway, which he ran up only a few minutes ago, or maybeit had been there all day. Perhaps it had buried itself there three days ago ashe had nervously scuffed his feet in the parking lot, realizing I could seethrough the mask he put on for his new friends. Or maybe it had always beenthere, and I just never noticed it.

His voice broke into my thoughts. Hetold me how he lay down one night after overdosing on aspirin, not expecting towake up again. He didn't really want to die, he said, but he couldn't deal withhis classmates' criticisms and torments. I longed to hold him and protect himfrom his pain, but his tears kept me away. Instead, I remained silent and staredat that bothersome stone in his shoe. I wondered if maybe it would become a thornin his foot, and I was the only one able to pull it out. Would he accept my helpif I offered it?

The collar of his sweater cast a perfectly U-shapedshadow on his chest as he heaved a heavy sigh. I echoed with a sigh of my own.That damn stone, I thought. If only I could just pull it out and free him of itspain forever. I imagined surrounding him with a bubble that could protect himfrom the world, and wished I could keep him in my room forever.

Hiswatch warned him impatiently that he had to leave, and he stood. I stood too,startled by the notion that the stone was pressing even deeper with the weight ofhis body. His hand on mine interrupted my thoughts, and when I looked up, I sawthat his eyes were dry, his brows were relaxed, and the smile wrinkles around hismouth had reappeared. I returned his soft smile, and he turned and left.

Maybe he will be okay, I thought, but still my heart worried. I thoughtof running after him, yet I knew deep in my core that I couldn't save him. Iburied my face in my bedcovers to smell the trace of his cologne. With his everyother step down the hallway, I heard the faint tapping of the stone in hisshoe.



This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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