"Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most." –Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment.


- 8 -

Today is Thursday.

It's a family tradition to go out for dinner on Thursdays. It is the only day father comes home from work early, the only day Sora doesn't utter his name, and the only day Mother's smile looks less strained.

Roxas comes home and finds Sora sitting on the couch, lazily watching television. His feet take him towards the stairs.

"Why don't you go to French any more?"

The question is flippant and hangs in the air like a cloud. Roxas stops, but doesn't turn around. He can picture Sora flicking through channels in search of something good to watch.

He is silent and debates on answering his brother's question. He thinks if he doesn't answer, then the question in turn doesn't exist, therefore what he's being doing by taking the local bus between the hours of one and three is not wrong.

"What would mother say?"

Roxas stiffens. Sora's second question mocks more than asks and Roxas turns to look at him. He can only see Sora's mess of brown hair.

He feels his chest rise as he takes in a breath. "Nothing," he says, because if mother were to find out that he went for bus rides instead of going to class, she would just smile even harder.

Sora says nothing and just switches to another channel.

Roxas turns around and goes up to his room.

---

It's 6:30 p.m. and father is not home yet.

The family tradition of going out for dinner on Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. is now broken and he can picture his mother down stairs, smiling while wringing a wash cloth until her knuckles bleach. He wonders if his father is truly late or if he just doesn't want to go.

Roxas pushes his unfinished math homework aside and stares outside. The afternoon sky is orange and the red sun sets right behind the tips of the trees. The world outside is normal. Children are coming home from after school activities, parents are coming home from work, and mothers are busying themselves in the kitchen for dinner. He wonders why these routines come so naturally to them and wonders why his own routines feel make him feel like the life is draining out of him. It's as though his soul is like a thick iron block which sinks further and further as the days roll by. It makes things difficult to the point where he thinks he won't be able to walk or breathe. He feels the lightest during his bus rides, when his lungs fill up with the stale bus air and his senses are teased with odd bumps, sounds, and sights.

"Roxas."

His name breaks him from his thoughts and the blond turns around in his chair. Sora is at the door, a hand on his hip while the other is on the knob.

"Mother says to come down. We're going to dinner without father."

Roxas feels his forehead frown and his lips do the same. He gets up from his chair and he wonders why he hasn't fallen through the floor yet, he feels that heavy. He licks his lips once then twice and as he opens his mouth to answer his brother that he'll be down in five minutes, his mind kicks out another answer.

"I'm not going."

Roxas' eyes widen in horror and he resists bringing his hand to his mouth. Sora looks confused.

"Why?" and he leans on the door this time, head tilting to the side, blue eyes curious.

Roxas swallows and it feels thick against his dry throat.

"I don't like going."

A heart beat.

Sora straightens up and seems to ponder the reply as he chews on his bottom lip. Roxas feels the weight of his soul wavering between the weight of an iron block and the weight of a bird's feather. The swaying between the two is making his head dizzy and he doesn't think he can last much longer while he stands.

"Then pretend like you like it, like always do." Sora shrugs.

Roxas looks at his feet now, ashamed that his brother knows him better than he does himself. He looks up at Sora, who's pouting in concern.

"Roxas," and his voice is apologetic.

Roxas narrows his gaze, forcing his blue eyes to darken. His lips scowl and his ears tingle. He feels his jaw tighten and when he opens his mouth to say "I'm not going," his voice is crisp, firm, and cold.

Sora's eyes dart from side to side in confusion. That is a side of Roxas he has never seen before. It was a side that Roxas didn't even knew he had.

Sora nods, eyes still unsure, and closes the door behind him.

Roxas collapses onto his knees, breath ragged and chopped, hands digging into the soft carpet. Despite the cool exterior he displayed, Roxas is a mess of tangled nerves and emotions. He looks up and for the first time since he could remember, he feels the corner of his lips curl upwards into a smirk.

Who knew that speaking for one's self was this invigorating?