The new boy liked making little origami weapons- swords, spears, axes- and leaving them on his desk for the next class to find. Aaron Privet was the one who found them this time. Ignoring Mr Doyle’s droning voice going on in the background, he examined the tiny war-instruments with a childlike fascination. When the other kids found them, they usually crushed and threw them away or played with them for a few minutes before becoming bored and flinging them in the dustbin.
But not Aaron. The delicate intricacy with which they’d been fashioned surprised him. He wondered how anyone’s hands could be so deft and clever.
Aaron hurriedly stuffed them in his pocket as Mr Doyle’s voice, like an arrow, shot straight at him.
“Where’s your attention, Mr Privet?”
“On- on the lesson, Sir.”
“Then get up, Mr Privet, and tell me, what is tan-squared-theta plus one?”
Aaron took a blind shot. “Um… sin-squared-theta?” He hoped it would be correct. Turned out, it wasn’t.
“Everybody, clap for Mr Privet, please!” The class didn’t oblige. It knew what was coming.
“I want fifty problems of trigonometry solved in your notebook by the end of the day, Mr Privet.”
Aaron found him quite easily when Math class ended- the multitude of coloured squared papers peeking out from his black jacket gave him away. “Your origami weapons are beautiful,” he said, walking up to him and simultaneously pulling out the armaments from his pocket.
The boy’s freckled face stretched into a grin. He put out his hand. “I’m Jace.”
Aaron shook his hand. “Aaron. Pleased to meet you.”
It had been six months since Aaron had first met Jace in the hallway. Now they were the best of friends. Today, Jace looked like he wanted to tell him something. He kept fiddling with his buttons as they walked home.
“Will you come out with it?” Aaron asked, exasperated.
“I- I don’t know how to tell you this,” Jace replied, his eyes not meeting Aaron’s.
“With your mouth, dummy.”
Jace let out a long sigh. “Okay. I’ll just say it.” He drew in a long breath and then blurted out- “I have terminal cancer.”
This one statement hit Aaron like a wrestling club to his head. He stopped dead in his tracks. His stomach lurched. Then the full force of what it implied jolted him and he began to sob, putting his arms around Jace’s shoulders.
“It’s okay, Arnie,” he said, stroking his head.
“No, it’s not. I’ll kill you if you die,” he screamed between sobs.
Jace sat him down on the pavement. “You must be strong, Aaron. Death is a necessary and inevitable end. It comes to all of us.”
“Isn’t there any way they can save you? Prolong your lifespan, at least?” he said, ignoring what Jace had said.
“There’s chemotherapy, yes, but- “
Jace sighed. “First of all, it’s too darn expensive. And second of all, I’ll live longer, but tell me, Aaron, will it really be living? I don’t want to live like this- swallowing 30 pills a day, being a good-for-nothing burden for my family. I’ll be no better than a zombie. Also, I’ll live maybe one, two years more but then what? I’ll die. The ultimate result will be the same. All those thousands of bucks will have been wasted away for nothing. You could take a world tour with that amount.”
Aaron wasn’t paying any attention to his words. He kept letting his anger and grief out, wetting Jace’s shirt.
One year later…
The biting cold wind froze Aaron’s cheeks. The sun, out of fear of the cold, had tucked itself in its fleecy blankets. But Aaron walked towards the graveyard. He found what he was looking for.
‘Jace Winterfield, January 2018’- said the black granite tombstone, the mild fragrance of jasmines and roses permeating the gloom of the graveyard. But Aaron wasn’t going to put flowers on Jace’s grave. He knew what he’d like.
“Don’t throw them away, Jace.” He pulled out an assortment of origami swords, shields and spears, a small bow and a tiny quiver of arrows from his pocket and carefully placed them amongst the old flowers, his tears watering the weeds.