Ethan didn’t come back to school until the second month.  He picked up a virus at the doctor’s office and then got the flu.  He spent a lonely, boring month in bed, fighting fever.  Genevieve brought him his homework every day, and he actually did all of it, but it didn’t make the monotony of the days go by any quicker.  He read a lot, but he always did that, and grew tired of it some days.  He would mostly just stare out his bedroom window at the trees in the backyard for hours, just thinking.  They began to turn colours and some leaves were even falling by the time he got back to school.

            He was in Daniel’s class, but that was little consolation to him.  Dan was busy every day, playing soccer or baseball or football, hoping to have as much fun as possible before the weather turned bad.  He had made new friends, and they were none too willing to include a strange boy who was still too tired from his extended convalescence to run around for very long.  Even though he had been in the same class as many of the children the year before, Ethan had rarely spoken to them.  He was too shy.  He wished fervently that he could be good at sports like Dan, or maybe as outgoing as Alex or Zoë had been.  Maybe then people would like him.

            Evan seemed to be always preoccupied with his own thoughts, so they never played after school.  They would sometimes sit together on the sidelines of the games, taking some comfort from each other’s presence, but they never really talked.  Neither one knew what to say to the other.  Gradually they stopped even saying hello or asking how the other was, they’d just sit.

            Some of the boys actually began to pick on Ethan, both in and out of class.  His books would get smacked to the floor or ground, he’d get hit with the football if he didn’t watch carefully out on the field, and in class, when they had to put him on a team, he’d always be picked last, even after the girls.  All in all, they made it clear that they didn’t like him.

            He stopped watching the football and soccer games after he got tackled while standing at the sidelines.  The two boys that landed on him knocked him into the mud, dirtying his clothes and hair.  They apologized, saying that they hadn’t seen him there, that they were just trying to catch the ball.  He saw them snicker and grin at one another as they turned their backs on him.  That’s when he saw that Dan had been the one who threw the ball.

            They locked eyes for a moment, staring at one another across the muddy field, the grey autumn sky above them as cold as the feeling that seized Ethan’s heart, like frozen knives or claws that clutched and grabbed at his very soul.  A voice sounded in his head, just as cold as the knives in his heart.  It seemed very adult to him:  You swore an oath, on sword and table and circle, on your life, to defend me as a Companion, as a brother.  You break your oath, your life is forfeit.  Liar, liar, liar!  You broke the oath!

            Rage bubbled up, but he fought it, pushed it down.  To strike out, attack Dan or the others, would be to admit that they had hurt him, and he wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.  He vowed that he would not cry, that he wouldn’t let them have that victory over him, no matter what they ever did.  Even though he ignored them and buried the feelings their actions created inside him, pretended like he didn’t care what they did, he never, ever forgot those actions, either.

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