William’s heart broke first, but his laces followed swiftly after. As he fled the scene, racing through filthy puddles down stinking smoky alleyways those laces split and sent him flying.
For longer than was comfortable he considered not getting up from the puddle he landed in.
Spurned as he was, he might spurn in turn and call that fair. Denied love as he was, he might deny the world his life and call that just.
But something soft patted his head, and then strong fingers were lifting him by the roots of his hair. Dropped suddenly back on his heels, he rocked against the slick stones of the wall.
Through the smoke he could see a tall hat, a wide grin, a pair of eyes, but it was only intuition that told him they belonged to a man.
A handkerchief dabbed at William’s face, though he could make out no hand holding it. Hidden in the smog, he told himself. Blurred and lost in bitter tears.
“Poor boy,” said the stranger. “I could hear your screaming for miles.”
“I wasn’t screaming,” William sniffed.
The smile widened, and the smog grew thicker. William coughed against the sudden scent of sulphur. “But you were, William. That’s always been the difference between the two of us. God speaks,” said the stranger, “but I listen.”
by Thomas Boyle
(prompts: shoelaces / Smog / The Prince of Darkness Is A Gentleman)