Chapter 0:

Nothing Else Matters


“Are you okay?”

Stellar looks up from his notebook, and comes face to face with Atlas Ego.

He was the laid-back, cool and silent type who’s always sitting at the back of the class. Lots of girls would flock to him during break time, which was why Stellar had been so confused as to how such a highly esteemed individual like Atlas was even talking to him.

Atlas was leaning against the wall in front of Stellar's desk. Cautiously, he flips the cover of his journal, and shoves it under his desk.

“It’s nothing,” he said slowly, as he continued placing his things under his desk, so keeping his journal wouldn’t be too suspicious. He offers Atlas a careful smile, so as to dissuade him from pushing further onto Asa’s attitude earlier.

He’d long gone and gotten over it already, and he was grateful that Asa at least still remembered his name, despite their fallout. “He’s always like that, I guess,” he lied. Though he knew deep inside that Asa wasn’t one to be a bully.

“Maybe he’s just stressed out.” Stellar dismisses the topic, but Atlas seemed too keen to follow his own path to justice.

“He still didn’t have to be so mean about it.” His classmate says through grit teeth. And before Stellar could flounder about, and try to defend his childhood best friend’s name and reputation, said guy comes barreling into the classroom, slamming the door open.

“Hey, Stellar! Sorry ‘bout earlier. I’ve been swamped with club stuff, and I hadn’t had any breakfast yet, so I was a bit cranky.” He says from the doorway, holding onto the doorframe like a lifeline. The lower half of his body was hidden, but this was as much as an apology Stellar’s gonna get from Asa, and that was fine with him.

“So, yeah. Sorry again.” He said, his expression is actually soft and apologetic, and reminded Stellar of their kindergartener days, when Asa was painfully too cute and innocent for his own good.

“It’s no big deal, Asa. I forgive you,” Stellar starts. "I always knew you’re not that kind of person.”

Stellar had always put a lot of faith in Asa, and the boy never failed to show that he earned every ounce of it. Stellar had always, always admired and respected Asa.

“Thanks, Stellar. You’re awesome!” He hollers, flashing him a wide smile and a thumb’s up. And just before running off to god knows where, he yells:

“Love you, Stellar!”

Grinning, Stellar finds himself yelling back, “I love you too, Asa!” Then the guy ran off to where he was headed without another word, closing the door the same manner as he did when he came.

“You… love him?” Atlas says, startling Stellar awake from whatever daydream he was just about to drift away to.

He’d actually forgotten Atlas was talking to him, still.

“What?” He asks, surprised at the question. “I mean, yes? He’s my friend, so I guess I do?” Stellar wasn’t really good at interacting with people from outside of his Daycare days— like Asa, Juniper and Remus— so he wasn’t all too sure if his answer was sufficient enough to feed Atlas’ curiosity.

“Like, love love? Like, more than a friend?”

This was, surprisingly— he’d realised this despite not interacting with each other much— the most Atlas has ever said to one person. Albeit still a tad bit confused, he tries answering his classmate’s burning hot queries.

Until, he has an epiphany.

He lets out a chuckle to himself, at first, that bursts out into small peals of laughter. He tried to cover his mouth with his hands, but his whole body was shaking from laughing too hard. He hadn’t had a good laugh like that in a while, he reckons.

“It was a habit we learnt back when we were kids,” he explains, once he’s recovered from his outburst. "We learned back in preschool, and I guess it stuck? None of the other kids from there stopped, so I suppose it's not too weird, I hope?" He wanted so badly to make new friends this year, and this is the first classmate who's come to talk to him! He can't possibly blow this chance!

Who knows when Atlas would decide to talk to him again?

With his getting assigned to a different class from Asa and the others, he knew he'll have to work twice as hard to make friends. Now that he thought about it, Asa must have already gotten half of his class to surround his desk during lunch break. And if Stellar wasn't too much of a scaredy-cat, he might as well join them in the other class. But he can't, because he won't.

His shy demeanor never did anybody good, he knows this, and he'll forever be thankful for Asa and June for pulling him out of his room, and get on an adventure he never thought he'd find himself to be a part of.

He probably went far too back in his reminiscing that he hadn't noticed Atlas moving past his desk.

"I see," was all he heard from him before he walked back to his seat.

There it goes, Stellar thought to himself with a sigh.

--- --- --- --- ---

The rest of the day went by without a hitch, and Stellar would be caught dead hoping something out of this world would happen- - he was half expecting Asa, or one of the seniors he's only met in passing (thanks to Asa!) to burst through the door, shouting whatever nonsense they were up to for that day, but nothing came.

Well, save for the bird he saw resting on the window sill nearest to the blackboard. That was cute, until their Foreign Language Studies teacher started yelling at it in French -Stellar may not be the best at it, he just knew Monsieur De la Costa was saying obscenities.

And no, he did not know what words he said specifically, he just knew. They sounded angry, so he hoped he was right on the money. 

(Later when he got home, he asked his eldest sister about it, repeating the words he heard, and pronouncing them the best he could, only to have her laugh in his face. 

Turns out he was right.)

As he's about to go to bed, he still wonders what he could have done, what he could have said to salvage that brief conversation he had with Atlas. And just as he flicked the lights off, he came to an idea:

"I'll ask Asa tomorrow!" 

Taylor Victoria
Joe Gold


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