He hated the way she looked at him. How her eyes burned desire in his back during class. He avoided meeting her wandering gaze at all cost, lest his eyes betray. His heart was weak, but his conviction resolute. He kept to himself – for good reason. Other people hurt him. They never meant to, but they did.

As always, she sat at his table during lunch. He ate in silence and she followed his example, usually. Her eyes lit fires within him, his own were careful to never wander beyond the food on his plate. “Why those?” she asked, her fingers tapping on the table where his gloves lay.

He had started wearing gloves after the accident. The truck that came out of nowhere and nailed his dad to a pole. He wasn’t there, but he had seen it happen over and over. Every time someone held his hand, he’d see that person die. His gift, his curse, had been easy enough to ignore when all the people who touched him – mum, dad, grandma, uncles and aunts – were still alive. After his dad died, well…

“I’m sorry I asked,” she said. His tear filled eyes met hers. More than ever, he longed to feel her touch. He shouldn’t let her. He couldn’t. Then it was to late.

As her hand touched his, he saw her final moment. Her face had changed, the skin loosened around her bones. Her hair thin, long, white and moved only by the gentle breeze that swept the room. There was a smile on her face that remained, frozen, after her last exhale. She lay in bed, cuddled up against a man, his arms around her. The man too had changed, aged at least as much. But there was no denying it. The man’s face was his own.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel | Unsplash.