He had taken to spending much of his day in a daze recently, thinking about everything and nothing at all at the same time. He became quite proficient in being dazed all the time, learning to navigate crowded hallways and sidewalks with ease while not even paying them any attention, and teaching himself to listen to just enough of conversations that he could still at least appear to care about what was being said, when in reality, he didn't.
Not caring was a common theme with him at the time, actually. He wouldn't have said he was depressed, just detached. Nothing felt like it mattered to him, but it it didn't merit thoughts of ending it all. In fact, he had been doing pretty well otherwise; getting good grades in college, running a steady part-time job, and even managing to keep in touch with old friends, if to a far less real degree than in the past.
But something was different today, drifting through the halls of his school to his first class of the day. The date held some importance, some significance that he could no longer remember, and could only pin to the girl that used to mean so much to him. Perhaps an anniversary of some sort?
But it didn't matter why, it only mattered that today, he was even more distracted than usual.
The late warning bell rang, and he automatically quickened his pace, not even noticing it happen. He never did. Walks across town passed in the blink of an eye, the trips completely occupied with chasing stray thoughts around his head. It was like trying to catch the detritus that swims around the surface of your eye; the harder you try, the harder it gets to reach your goal.
Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one hurrying, and though he surely held the title of most distracted, he was not the only one living in their head at the time. Add a corner in the hall to this equation, and the result is a classic scene of two people in a hurry running straight into each other, books flying everywhere as a result.
Surprisingly, or maybe not, this didn't even faze him. He simply got up, not bothering to brush himself off, and began collecting his things, still on auto-pilot.
"You know, generally this would be the part where you rush to help me pick up my books, apologizing profusely, share an awkward sort of smile with me, and go on your way. Your way is a little less familiar."
It took him a few moments to notice that he was being spoken to. He had managed to completely ignore the part of the equation that had knocked him on his arse in the first place, and had continued gathering books a little longer before finally turning his attention to the source of the voice.
The source was a she. A she of the sort that, were she a character in a movie, she would be considered to be not the most attractive girl, but she would be the one that the main character realizes he actually loves at the finish, cue happy ending. She was the perfect image of a 'rebel', without going overboard; a few piercings, a couple tattoos that you could see and a couple more you couldn't, and a dress code that was so hard to peg, it would make an Enigma Machine jealous.
He shot her a quizzical look, having not heard a word of what she said.
"Never mind," she said, having not understood a thing about him. She bent to pick up her books on her own, coming to the conclusion that whatever was wrong with the guy wasn't getting better any time soon.
But he was interrupted now, and not going back into that comfortable daze just yet. Noticing his books mostly in his hands already, and hers mostly on the floor, he leapt into action, scooping up her books and the rest of his right quickly, and even forcing a bit of a sheepish smile onto his face as he handed the papers and texts back over to her.
"My knight in shining armour," she sarcastically commented as she accepted her books. "Thanks though," she added sincerely, if a little confusedly.
In reality, the roles were more or less reversed; she had roughly pulled him from his dream world and given him a taste of real life again, if only a small one, and now he was looking at her instead of through her, interacting with her, and truly listening to what she said.
He nodded in acknowledgement of her thanks, but said nothing.
"Oh, I know you," she said, sounding as though it was stupid of her to have not realized this already. "You're that kid from my next class. Always sits in the back, never talks, staring off into nothingness 24/7? Rowan, right?"
It wasn't Rowan, but he didn't bother correcting her. He couldn't even remember the last time he had spoken aloud when he had to, let alone doing so freely. Let alone to a stranger. Let alone to a girl.
She took his silence for acquiescence. "I'm Harmony," she said, looking as though she would have shook his hand, had she not been holding all her books. Instead, she moved her hands and books toward him, presenting a fist for him to knock.
He obliged, after only a small moment of confusion. And with that contact, he was solidly grounded on earth again.
"Walk with me to class?" she asked. It sounded like a question, and she meant it as a question, but somehow he felt compelled to do it whether he wanted to or not. "My locker is just over there, and we're going to be late anyway."
In his newly aware state, he remembered with no small amount of confusion that there weren't any lockers at their school, but he simply nodded and followed along behind her as she began to walk back the way he had come from. And before long, they came to...
"The custodial closet," she explained, gesturing toward it. She pulled a key from a pocket (she had lots of pockets) and unlocked the door, throwing her books in and grabbing some other ones. She spoke as she worked. "There is no way in hell I'd carry this all around with me all day, and this closet is nestled right in the middle of my route every day, so I borrow it."
Her tone and the mischievous smile on her face hinted this 'borrowing' was only very distantly related to actual borrowing.
"We're going to be late. Let's get goin', Rowan."
"Eowyn," he corrected, in a voice too quiet for her to pick up.
As they walked down the halls beside each other, he looked over at her with a cautious smile, and his mind finally found a subject it could settle on.