Short Story. Knuckles.

A story story based on the prompt from Reedsy: A story about two people who need each other but are too stubborn to admit it.

Do you ever not know what to do in a social situation? Like, when someone smiles at you and, for whatever reason, your reaction is to bow? I know some of us are out there. If you’ve never bowed to someone, chances are you’ve been bowed to. Maybe both, who knows.
I’m the kind of person that bows to strangers. So when I tell you that I have no friends, you know why.
Now you might be thinking, ‘but you seem so clever and handsome.’ Well, thank you, but it has gotten me nowhere.
I did have one friend. She understood me and laughed at my jokes and supported me… until she didn’t.
Now I see her in the halls and I don’t bow. I don’t say anything, because she never even looks at me. It seems I did something wrong, but there’s no telling what it was. So I stick to bowing to strangers.


I can’t even make eye contact with that idiot. He’s walking around like he did nothing wrong as if he is completely innocent. He’s a dope. An awkward fool… but I can’t help but miss him.
He’s the only one that listens, truly listens when I’m in pain. I can talk about my family and my insecurities, and he will make everything better by merely holding my hand.
He’s my best friend… but he’s not listening anymore. If only he would ask for forgiveness… even admit a fraction of what he did, and I would happily take him back.
But that would require he know what he did… would necessitate even an ounce of awareness. I’m not holding my breath.


Two can play at silence; I’m very practiced at it and I’ve been told by many annoyed acquaintances that I “couldn’t hold a conversation if it fit in the Pam of my hand.” To which I would reply… “huh?”
I imagine, if I wasn’t so good at silence, I’d have made more friends, but if they were so jealous of my talents, then I’m better off without them.
So I employ them here, ignoring her the way she was ignoring me. Well, not quite, since I couldn’t stop glancing in her direction, but mostly.
We pass by in a silence so thorough that I’m genuinely unsure whether or not she saw me.
I begin to wonder if she’s really mad at me at all. She has other friends, in fact, so maybe she is just distracted.
I look back at her and happen to meet her eyes as they bore a hole in my head. Okay, yeah, she’s ice cold.
I’m certain now that I did something wrong, but I have no idea what it was. Still, whatever it may have been, she knows I’m not responsible for bringing it up. She’s the one that tells me I’ve misstepped. She’s the one that apologizes for me and explains social etiquette.
If she wants to be my friend, she has to bring up the grievance so we can squash it. The fact that she hasn’t yet, suggests she no longer wants to be friends. That scares me more than I’d like to admit.


I’m not explaining it to him. I can’t. Not this time, not for something that should be so obvious.


We don’t have class together until the afternoon, but I spend the morning thinking about her. About how unfair this is and how much I miss her despite the fact that she almost certainly doesn’t miss me.
It occurs to me I may need to make an effort and figure out what went wrong, even if it should be her responsibility.
I didn’t kill anything of hers… her plant was safe the last time I saw it, and I stayed far away from her dog.
I didn’t share anything embarrassing with her parents, right? I mean, I may have been especially awkward, but I can’t help that… Let’s see, I was flustered and gave them knucks when they tried to shake my hand, but they didn’t seem to mind. Then I told them about my sand collection, but I don’t think that would have bothered her…
I didn’t spill any secrets… literally, no one to spill them to.
I genuinely don’t know what I did.


He might not figure it out. Maybe he never listened at all and it was all just a big act. If he paid any attention to her at all, he would know what he did. He would know what he missed.
No. Not this time.


I give up.


I pull the hair away from my face, fixing my pony tale so it pulled tight against my scalp. I know this is what I do when I get anxious, but I can’t help it.
I start envisioning class with him in the afternoon and how I might avoid him, but I don’t want to avoid him. How do I bring this up so he might apologize?
One of my classmates shoots me a smile, leaning over her chair. “Happy belated birthday,” she whispers while our teacher is turned.
“Thanks,” I whisper back with a tight smile. Maybe he isn’t the only one that listens. I have other friends; people that remember and care about my birthday. I don’t need him.
My classmate waits for another opening from the teacher before whispering back. “What’s the coolest present you got?” I feel a little weird about the question, but try to come up with an answer all the same. I was too slow. “Mine was a laptop,” the girl says before I can answer. “I get a new one every year….”
Her words turned into background noise, a rambling diatribe about herself with zero regard for me or the teacher.
My thoughts turn to my friend once more. Maybe I do need him.


I find something in my locker between classes, stuck inside one of my books.
My heart leaps as I imagine who it’s from. Maybe she’s forgiven me… but it’s not from someone else. It’s something I left in my locker last week, right before the weekend. A note to myself. “Don’t forget Lucy’s birthday.”
Crap. That what I get for not being on social media.
I find her in the hall, her eyes flickering nervously between me and nothing in particular as I walk in her direction. They finally settle on me as I stop directly in front of her.
She says nothing.
I bow. “I’m so sorry I forgot your birthday.”
She smiles, giving me knucks as a wave of relief washes over me. “All is forgiven.” And she tells me all about it, happy to listen to a friend.


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