I gently rapped my knuckles on the door. "Mark?" I gently called out. "I wanted to apologize. Mark?"

No response came from inside his room. I knocked louder this time. The door silently crept open.

I lean forward. "Mark?" Hesitantly, I step into the room and glance around. Its empty. Everything's neatly organized, which isn't that surprising, knowing Mark's no-nonsense attitude. Mark's not here though. I should wait outside.

As I turn to leave, I notice a picture frame sitting on the nightstand. Its silver frame makes it seem so out of place. I glance around again and find that it's the only picture frame and picture in the room.

I can't help it. I walk over to the nightstand and pick it up. I immediately recognize the red headed boy in the photo. It's Mark. Mark looks so happy in the picture, so different from his normal stoic demeanor.

He's on the futon in the main common area, laying on a girl with blond hair. She has a soft smile on her face, eyes half closed, and she appears to be absent-mindedly drawing on his arm with her finger. Mark's chin rest on his hand on her stomach. Mark's smile is happy, content. His eyes are bright and watching her as if she were the most amazing thing in the world.

I don't recognize her, which is odd because I've met everyone here. She must have left before I got here, but for her to be with Mark in the common area, she must have been on the team.

The realization hits me like a ton of bricks. It's her. The girl no one talks about. The one who's mere mention can bring silence and sobriety to the most boisterous room.

"What are you doing?" a voice clips from behind me.

I spin around to face Mark. "I'm sorry. I came to see you- the door opened- I should have waited outside."

"Yes, you should have," Mark's tone is icy, but his eyes aren't on me, they're on the photo.

I should put it down and leave, but I can't help it. The words fall out of my mouth. "It's her isn't it? Aurora."

Mark sets his jaw and nods. He walks across the room and takes the photo from me. He holds it, looking down on it a for second in silence. "Yeah. It's Aurora."

Seeing how Mark looks at the picture of the two of them together, I realize that Aurora was more than just a team mate to him. "I'm sorry. I didn't know you were close."

"Rory was. . . Rory. She made the team what it was." A smile creeps across his face, "I remember one time, May was angry and was going to quit the team over some petty disagreement. Everyone accepted it, except for Rory. She ripped into May. She was always so kind. No one had ever seen her so pissed. . . Without Aurora this team would have fallen apart before it even really got started."

Reaching past me, he places the photo face down on the nightstand. I can hear his footsteps cross the room. I know that I am supposed to follow.

I take a step forward, then pause and glance back at the photo one last time. All that's now showing is a scrawling inscription in Han's terrible script.

Looking away I follow Mark out of his room, into the hall. "You miss her, don't you?"

There's a sharp click as Mark locks the door. I doubt he's going to respond, so I almost miss his answer.

A hoarse whisper of "All the time," floats in the air for a second before Mark turns on his heel and treads down the hall, asking "Why did you want to see me?" over his shoulder.

Right back to business as always. I jog to catch up with him, the words of my original apology changing, as now they feel hallow and empty, not that Mark would care, I think.


Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the first short in A Dime A Dozen. Stay tuned for more!
If you're interested, you should also check out my stories: The Next Death, Something Darker, Mindless, and Dead Ringers. If you like poetry, I also have a collection of my poems: Writing Poetry if for Losers.
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