Looking in

Jasper sighed.

He watched as the other kids all gathered around, talking and laughing and sharing good times. The newly graduated teenager sighed again, feeling like he was always the odd one out, the one always looking at the happiness of others but never finding his own. Jasper was tired of always being the one looking in.

After a few long seconds, Jasper walked away, his shaggy hair dripping into his downturned face. He shuffled along, hoping against hope that someone would call out to him, want him to join in their moments of joy. But no one hailed poor Jasper.

The house was dark when he arrived, finally, at his home. Jasper’s long fingers fished the keys from the front pocket on his baggy jeans. The fall air had cooled his uncovered fingers enough that the plunge into the pocket made his fingers ache with the sudden temperature change.

The keys dropped from his tingling hand when he finally freed them from the denim. Grimacing, the teenager sank to his knees, searching in the darkness for the tell-tale glimmer of his silvery house keys.

Jasper found the set of keys, buried under long grass and tumbled leaves. His fingers closed tight around the metal keyring. In the darkness, he imagined he saw figures standing in his yard, near the sidewalk he walked on, and near the dark windows of his house.

Laughing off his visions as his wild imagination, Jasper strode to his front door and inserted the correct key. The lock turned with an audible click. Jasper pushed open the red-painted front door, pausing one last time to look back into his yard. Darkness glared back, showing no signs of unwanted, unexpected visitors. The smile that crept across Jasper’s face was one of relief, touched only by the hint of sadness.

The teenager closed the door behind him, then reached toward the wall and flipped on the brilliant lights, illuminating his large, comfortable living room. He set his backpack down, next to the sofa, and paced to the end of the room to check for messages from his parents.

The lights blazing in the room kept Jasper from seeing his yard. It also kept him from seeing the shadowy figures that moved closer to the light, to Jasper.

He wasn’t the one looking in, now.


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