The high-pitched ringing of Arthur Kirkland’s phone woke him up in the silence of the night and, glaring at the obnoxious device, he quickly answered it while rubbing his duly throbbing temples. An irritated “Hello?” was muttered from his end as he stared at the numbers on his alarm clock. It was nearly midnight.
“Mr. Kirkland?” a quiet voice stuttered into the receiver and Arthur felt his fatigue disappear.
Furrowing his thick brows, he swallowed, “Yes. Who is this?”
The hushed voice didn’t answer. “I- I know that you gave us your number with the intent of homework help, and I know it’s late, but-” the voice wavered weakly, “but I need your help with something- something else.”
Something in the Brit’s heart panged and he tried to recognize the caller’s voice. “Of course, love, anything you need.”
There was a relieved gasping of air on the other end as the caller forced themselves not to cry. “Thank you. I just-” The voice broke and there was a quiet sniffle, “I just needed to talk to someone.”
“I-” a small noise was made as more tears were held back, “Today, when I got home from school, I did something stupid.”
Arthur bit his lip nervously, “It’s alright, we all do things in our lives that seem foolish in hindsight. Would you like to tell me about it?”
A near-inaudible hum of agreement caused the man to pay close attention to his student’s next words.
“I had this- this idea, that if I-” the voice broke off again, no longer able to contain their tears, “I figured no one would miss me, you know? So I climbed onto my roof and just-” the voice’s volume was quickly rising into a desperate wail. “I just stood there! And, do you want to know the only reason I came down?” a shaky, sadistic laugh broke through the line, “Because I was scared! Can you believe it?”
The words were beginning to quiet, though the voice was even more pained. “I was scared.” Arthur nearly felt his heart break in two at the defeated sound that was hushed once more. “It wasn’t because I thought of one person who would care, it wasn’t because someone talked me out of it, I was just- Scared.”
Arthur swallowed so as not to cry himself, regaining his composure enough to speak, he smiled sadly into the receiver, “Pop quiz,” he said quietly, shocking himself as well as the caller, “I want you to grab a pen and write a semicolon anywhere. On your hand, on a scrap of paper, on a wall.” He heard a quiet shuffle, then silence once more.
“Have you written it?”
He almost missed the answer. “Yes.”
Licking his lips, he asked the only question she needed to answer. “In English grammar, what does this sort of punctuation mean?”
“That the sentence isn’t over?”
A relieved sigh passed through his lips. “Exactly, love. ‘That the sentence isn’t over.’ And neither is your sentence. Why would anyone even end a sentence that still has so many beautiful words to be written down?”
“But what if it’s a run-on?”
With a airy chuckled, Arthur answered the heart-shattering question. “Love, I can guarantee that you are not a run-on sentence. You know who is? That Betty White character. But, that’s the thing with some sentences, you just can’t bring yourself to put a period down. Because you know that there are still so many more words that fit in it.”
“You’ve written your semicolon, your sentence has to continue. I’d hate to see another fragment in the story of our world.
“Thank you,” the voice said sincerely, tears no longer hidden in their voice.
Arthur smiled a bit broader, happy to have helped the troubled student. “No, love, thank you.”
The next day Mr. Kirkland walked into his classroom still thinking about the mysterious caller from the night before. His class was as lively as ever, students just beginning to settle down for another exciting day of grammar and vocabulary.
Sitting in just another desk was a student who caught Arthur’s eye.
(H/c) hair, (e/c) eyes. That student who would only frown when they were working diligently on an assignment. Always first to raise their hand, always first to help a friend. (F/n) (L/n). Bright eyes, broad smile, and, on their wrist, a small, inconspicuous