It's not always the brown leaves, but the white interior.
Secrecy - by Oliver Saal
He was just about to open his front door, when he heard a voice shout.
"Hey dude, you wanna come over and game later today?" the voice shouted.
He turned around, and looked at Dan with an expression of melancholy.
"Nah man, I just... I'll just go to sleep," he answered.
Dan looked at him queerly, his head tilted slightly to the left.
"Oh, okay. Well... I'll see you at class tomorrow."
Whatever, he though, as he turned back towards the door and unlocked it. Whilst stepping inside, he could hear Dan's feet crushing the ice beneath him as he left the porch. Dragging his feet behind him, he shut the door and hanged his leather coat on the tiny hanger by the door.
"You're home early," his mother announced from the living room.
He chose not to respond, thinking it could only end badly. That was the usual case when conversing with his mother. Instead, he turned right by the door, and walked up the stairs to the hallway leading to his room. The stairs squealed beneath his heavy feet, but he didn't notice the sound. Like no one noticed him.
Opening his room door, he stepped into a small space of chaos. The room was tiny by all measures, but the amount of books, empty soda cans and dirty clothing lying scattered on the floor was overwhelming. Not to Dan, mind you; he was used to maneuver around assorted garbage in his room. Every day after school, his mother would snap at him for not cleaning up his room, and he'd respond with either a grunt or a shrug, followed by his collapsing on his small bed. And today was no exception.
"I already told you yesterday to clean your room, is it really that hard?" she asked rhetorically, as she peeked in through the doorway.
This time, though, she didn't wait for an interaction of any kind, but simply left the door open as she returned to her daily chores. He walked up to the door, slammed it shut, and sat down at the end of his bed. With emptiness in his eyes, he stared blindly at his drawer, plastered with stickers of metal and punk rock bands. He sat there for what seemed as an eternity, until he noticed the sun going down upon their small two-story cottage.
Turning to face the window, he wondered whether this would ever go away; this feeling of emptiness, of sorrow and grief, of plain agony. Wallowing in self-misery, he slowly removed his black hoodie and sweatpants, unclipped his earrings and placed them on the nightstand, and lied down on his feathered mattress. Slowly closing his eyes, the last thing he saw was a ceiling, white as snow. And then he drifted into dreamless sleep.
Morning dawned on him with usual haste; what had felt as a split-second, had actually been ten hours' worth of sleep. Turning to face his nightstand, he looked at the old alarm radio, which plainly stated that the clock was six in the morning. Yawning heavily, he rose to a sitting position and gazed across the floor, looking for clothes he deemed clean enough to wear. After a while, he found a t-shirt one size too small, a pair of worn-down black socks, a pair of knee-revealing jeans and a hoodie he had last worn on the first day of term. Pulling the clothes on him, he looked outside and noticed that the leaves in the small oak tree by the road had already turned brown. Fall is coming early, he noted, and proceeded to look for his phone hidden somewhere under the piles of laundry.
Upon finding his phone, he noticed that he had one missed call, as well as a text message. The missed call was from Dan, as was the message. He opened the message, only to find two words: Good night. For a split second, he wondered why Dan had sent such a plain message, only to be distracted by his mother, bashing through his door.
"Oh my dear, sweet boy!" she shouted, running up to hug him. He was shocked by her sudden show of endearment, and tried to shake her off, to no avail. She kept him in her arms, until finally loosing her hold of him and letting go. Instead, she grabbed his cheeks with both hands, and looked at him with sorrow in her eyes.
"The hell's the matter with you?" he asked, unnerved by her appearance.
"Oh dear, you haven't heard yet? Of course not, you just woke up, you sweet boy... Just know that, whatever you feel, it wasn't your fault, and you couldn't have prevented it," she blurts out.
"What's my fault? What couldn't I have prevented?"
"Dan, the sweet boy... He was, he was -" she started, bursting into tears. "He was found dead in his room this morning; he had slit his wrists."
And so, they both sat there, in his messy room; he, in shock, and she, in tears.
Around them, heaps of laundry had collected over the years.
Outside, the leaves were brown.
Inside, the roof was white.