He paced back and forth, wearing a hole in the floor, as he waited for the door to open. How long had it been? 10, 30, 60 minutes? It was hard to say at this point since time seemed to drip like molasses.

Every once in a while he could hear noises from behind the door: hushed mummers, papers shifting, a stifled sneezed. Yet nothing hinted at him how much longer he’d have to wait for his fate.

Aiden sat back down on the bench allowing his knee to bounce like a jack hammer while he rubbed his sweaty palms on his pants. Small beads of sweat that had formed on his forehead were breaking and rolling down the side of his face.

He leaned back and tried to take a slow breath to calm his racing heart. What had he been thinking? He knew it had been a bad idea from the start and yet he allowed Seth to sway him into doing it anyway. Now he was the one awaiting punishment and not his so-called friend.

Aiden stood back up again, unable to contain his anxiety. The secretary sitting at the front desk eyed him suspiciously.

“Can I get a drink of water?” His voice sounded raspy.

“Go ahead, it’s just across the hall, but just know, I’m watching you,” she snorted.

Aiden gave her a half-hearted smiled before walking over to the school drinking fountain. The water was cool but it tasted like metal and other minerals he was certain, after years of drinking out of public drinking fountains, would one day make him sickly.

After taking a sip to quench his dry throat, he allowed the water to run over his burning face. It was refreshing, even it was for only a short moment.

Walking back over to the principal’s closed door, Aiden paused, straining his ears for any sign of their conversation ending, but all he could hear were continual murmurs.

Aiden plopped down on the bench and rested his head in his hands as he replayed yesterday’s decisions. If only he had been stronger. If only he had been faster. If only Seth had been a true friend. There were so many if only’s, but none of them mattered now. It was too late to go back, too late to make a different choice.

At that moment Aiden heard a click. His head shot up like a cannonball and his heart stopped. The principal, Mr. Dearly was standing in the doorway staring at Aiden. He didn’t say a word, but rather, with one simple hand motion, he beckoned Aiden in to the office.

Aiden gulped, his throat tight like someone was squeezing it. He stood up, wiped his hands on his pants again and walked inside ready to face whatever was coming his way.

The door clicked shut again.