Nathaniel took a deep breath to regain his composure, rubbing his red eyes in the process.
The doctor’s eyes were filled with painful sympathy, and for the first time since he’d started talking to the boy, he felt powerless to help him.
“That’s enough for today, I think…”
Nathaniel bit his lip, nodding slightly.
“I’ll be back tomorrow, though.”
“Yes, and you’ll need a good night’s sleep. So don’t stay up too late.”
“You’ll see. Make sure you’re here by eight o’clock tomorrow morning. No sooner, no later.”
Nathaniel nodded, not questioning the doctor’s reasoning for such an early start. His eyes met the doctor’s, and he detected the hint of sympathy. The doctor didn’t look away as he normally did, but his gaze softened. After a while of prolonged silence, Nathaniel spoke.
The doctor frowned.
“I think you know what I mean.” Nathaniel said, smiling as he got up to leave.
Nathaniel did as he was told, and set his alarm to wake him at 7:30. His mother wasn’t fond of the early dropoff, but she agreed anyway. He wasn’t used to going to sleep so early, for he’d usually stay up well after midnight, listening to music and focusing on his pain. There were days where he avoided eating until obligated by his parents. Even then, only half a plate of food would be eaten. He never fell asleep looking forward to the next day, for he knew that it would only be the same.
Sometimes he’d call one of his friends to push the dark thoughts to the back of his mind. Though he knew they’d persist after the click of the phone, he wanted to find any pocket of happiness he could, no matter how short lived. However, this longing deteriorated over time, being replaced by a voice that reiterated it’s hopeless… each time he picked up the phone.
Tonight, however, was different. Though he’d only eaten his usual ‘half-dinner’, it was not from hopelessness, but from anticipation of the next day.