JACE: 19, moved away from his controlling parents as soon as he could and now lives alone.

AVERY: 17, lives with his abusive father who uses him for the money that his mother sends him.

AVERY’S FATHER: alcoholic parent who isn’t present much

Scene 1

An apartment balcony. AVERY is leaning out the railing, gazing out at the night sky. They hear shuffling from the apartment below theirs, and notices JACE with a portable radio.

Jace   (glancing up at AVERY) You doing alright up there?

Avery   …Yeah.

Jace   Is- is your dad home?

Avery   (rubs the back of their neck and shakes their head) No. H-he went out for another drink. (He pauses.) Partially also why I’m allowed out here. He doesn’t like me outside on the balcony… Scared that people might find out I exist, that I’m related to him. Prefers to keep me inside. But I— I just needed a bit of fresh air, y’know?

Jace   I see. 

AVERY hears rustling from below, and leans down to see JACE fumbling with the old boombox. He turns it on, angles the radio so that the speakers are facing upwards towards the sky, and Lean On Me by Bill Withers plays softly. JACE looks back up, grinning and holding two thumbs up.

Jace   So, do you want to talk?

Avery   About what?

Jace   Hm. (settles onto a lounge chair) Well, I want to know more about you, so I’ll just start with something about myself first. I’m Jace, and I moved here a couple months ago… It gets a little lonely here sometimes; the neighbours are all just old and mean and noisy, so it’s pretty cool that someone my age finally moved in, you get what I mean?

Avery   That’s nice. Me and my dad moved in from Suffolk last week, but you probably— you probably know that already. It’s really just the two of us… My mother left us a long time ago.

Jace   Ah, I’m sorry for your loss. What’s your favourite colour? Mine’s red; it reminds me of the sunset- and fire, it’s pretty cool.

Avery   (chuckles) I like purple.

Jace   Ooh, pretty. What’s your favourite flower, then? Did you know that they can reveal a lot about people?

Avery   (He contemplates, the word barely coming out as a whisper) Irises.

Jace   Huh?

Avery   My favourite flowers are irises.

Jace   (brightens up) Woah—! Those represent faith, hope, courage and wisdom… you must be a really down-to-earth person, hm. Take that as a compliment. Creative, and practical—

Avery   Yeah. (his lips are set into a melancholic smile) They were… they were my mother’s favourite, too


Jace   Oh. I’m sorry.


Avery   (clears his throat) Sorry— It’s just… sometimes I wish that she wouldn’t have left me behind.

Jace   Wait, what do you mean? What happened? If- if you’re comfortable telling, of course—

Avery   It’s alright. M-my mother left our family when I was fourteen. I guess she was tired of how our father treated us. When she just disappeared, she— she didn’t leave me any way to communicate with her. She does leave a cheque at the door monthly, though. We couldn’t track the sender’s address.

Jace   Then why do you still stay with him, your father?

Avery   Uhm, he found out about the money. That’s how he’s been feeding his drinking problem without actually working. Mum doesn’t know about him using it, at least I don’t think. Money’s still arriving pretty steadily. He pays for my school fees with the money from my mother — and the rest that was for me to pay for my living expenses are usually gambled away. But I manage.


Jace   Your dad— He’s been using all the money after all this time?

Avery   Yeah. And he isn’t planning to change that. That’s why he’s been keeping me here, and why I’m stuck with him.

Jace   (hesitates a little before speaking) Hey, you’re always welcome to come in if you ever need a friend. I don’t mind if you stay for a couple hours, you can always talk to me, or if you just need to leave your own home for a while. (he smiles) Whenever you’re ready.

AVERY nods. A few moments pass, and the two sit in silence, except for the small melody in the background.

Jace   Alright then. you’ve never really told me your name, by the way.

Avery   Oh. I’m Avery.

JACE hums in response; the silence ensues once more, before AVERY finally speaks up again.

Avery   Actually… can I come down right now?

Scene 2

An empty stage, nothing but two stacked packing boxes and a short stool at stage left. Enter JACE, carrying an old video camera. He sets the camera down on top of the boxes, and sits on the stool, the entire setup facing the audience slightly. He clicks “Record”, and the camera whirs to life. A spotlight shines upon him.

Jace   Hello— Is this recording? (He waves at the camera with a lopsided smile) Alright, this is it, then. I’m here to say goodbye. I’m recording this to tell you that I’m leaving. That, and to apologise… I think?

When I first met you, you were… quiet, to say the least. Life was peaceful, boring even, before you got here. Then you guys moved in, and I started hearing things from my apartment.

The spotlight fades, and instead moves towards stage left, leaving JACE in the dark. Enter AVERY and his father, who has a glass vase in his hand. He shatters it to the ground beside AVERY, who screams and backs away. His father closes in upon him, shouting incomprehensible words, before both of them suddenly stop in their tracks. They look towards the left wing, the father roughly grabs AVERY up and shoves them towards the wing. He mimes opening a door.

Avery   (breathily) Oh, uh… there’s just someone here— I don’t think he’s a salesperson…? (turns back to JACE for confirmation) Yep. A-alright— Okay— (Brief silence. He seems visibly uncomfortable) I’m sorry— We don’t get visitors much… Well, my father doesn’t really like people…

The father hollers something along the lines of, “Get lost!” and AVERY flinches.

Avery   Sorry about that— He’s being a little fussy right now. But yeah, not much happening here. Perhaps the things you heard w- (he fumbles for a moment) were our moving vans? They don’t handle our stuff very well…


Avery   Mhm. My dad and I— We moved in yesterday morning. Still getting used to this neighbourhood, y’know. (glances back at his father worriedly) Uh— Father wants my help with something… Sir, I really appreciate you for checking in on us, but I’m sorry— Is it okay if I talk to you later?


Avery   It’s been nice talking to you—

More shouting.

Avery   I-I’m really sorry. I gotta go, but I’ll catch up with you soon!

The light disappears from stage left and shines onto JACE once more.

Jace   Our first encounter… was interesting. Everything was so abrupt, I didn’t really know what was happening, but one thing I was certain — you were in trouble. That’s partially why I wanted to get to know you. You intrigued me, Avery. Drawn like a moth to a flame. What I didn’t know was when I would fly too close… and catch fire.

The first night you stayed over, you sat in the living room in silence with me, until we heard your father heading back to your apartment. He didn’t question your disappearance, probably drunk and didn’t notice it — you found him passed out on the recliner when you went back in the morning, remember?

He buries his face in his hands, shaking his head.

You talked the entire night about your life. You told me about your alcoholic father, about your mother who left the family because she was sick of his abuse. You told me your mother didn’t make you leave with her because she probably didn’t know how to take care of you alone — that she couldn’t really take care of herself anyway — that she was sending you money in hopes that you would take care of yourself on your own. 

You told me about the nights where you would cry yourself to sleep, where your father would come back at early hours in the morning, drunk. You told me about the years you endured, yet you still asked me not to do anything about it, to keep whatever you said a secret. I didn’t understand — why would you do this to yourself?

You came over every day since then. I guess I appreciated how I was the one who you trusted to protect you from your father. That’s how you were like for the first week. We would either just sit at our balcony, listening to music; or when he wasn’t home, at my place. When you fall asleep, I always stayed up thinking about what you’ve told me.

You really affected my life, Avery. You gave me a reason to look forward to each day, yet also taught me to reflect, and to forgive. Made me think about all the things that I should have never said. Or never done. You taught me hope, resilience, and all that I could do— all that I could do was wish that I had gifted something to you, too.

He paces around the stage, before he sighs.

But then, I— I witnessed the fight. I got worried when you didn’t show up at the usual time, so went upstairs to check on you. I saw that the door was left ajar, and peeked in to see that your father had backed you up against the wall, with a knife poised in his hands. Was screaming about how you were never home. About how you were trying to escape him, trying to run away, trying to stop him from using his money. I panicked. I knew I couldn’t rush in and pry you away from him — I’d risk dangering you or myself in that process. So I called for the police, while watching him from a distance as he eyed you with disdain, sneering at your vulnerability.

I saw him splitting your lip with the blade of the knife. I could taste the metallic salt from here, ghostly blood bitter in my mouth. (His voice rising) I was helpless, hating how much of a coward I was— that I couldn’t help you at the moment when you actually needed it. The cops came, but I couldn’t miss the glare of pure hatred from you… (Pause.) that was directed at me.

I was confused at first, of course. I just saved your life, why are you mad at me? They dragged your dad away, and that was when you came rushing towards me, not with gratitude, but with anger.

He looks straight at the audience.

And that was when I knew I had caught on fire.

Scene 3

AVERY walks onstage, with a phone in his hand, pressed to his ear.

Avery   Come on… come on, come on— PICK UP!

He holds the phone helplessly, the beeps of a call not going through echoing throughout the speakers.

I’ll just— I’ll just make a voicemail or something— He can’t just keep ignoring me like this…

He brings up the phone to his ear again, and starts to record what might possibly be his last message to his friend.

Hey, Jace. Um— I know you might probably hate me, but I just wanted to call to check in on you. Are you doing well?

I feel like I owe you an explanation. Why I reacted like that. He was— he was my only guardian, and no matter how much I hate him, he’s still my father. I don’t like people leaving. I was scared that he would leave me, that you would, like how my mother did. He was the one who took care of me — no matter how rashly — and I just lost it. I was scared that you’d leave me too, like how everyone did. So I lashed out upon you, destroying whatever we had, before I would get too attached. I was scared, Jace. I’m sorry.

I can’t blame you if you don’t forgive me. But I’m begging you, please, just don’t forget me. You’ve helped me get through so much in my life, and I am eternally grateful for that.

His voice softens.

I’m so sorry. I— I’ll just leave it here now. Thank you, Jace. I miss you.

He stops the recording, and lowers the phone. He fiddles with the phone for a few more seconds, before walking offstage. The lights dim.

Scene 4

An apartment’s driveway. Recycling bins are lined up upstage with cardboard boxes piled around them. Enter JACE, with trash bags in his hands, heading to the bins to dispose of them. AVERY enters from the other wing, his head bowed, and they collide into each other.

Avery   Ow— oh. (He fumbles with the coffee cup in his hands, and coughs sheepishly.) Hey.

Jace   Hello. (He swerves around the stunned individual to throw the bag into the bin. He dusts his hands and turns around, looking at AVERY.) I haven’t seen you around in a while, have I?

Avery   Nope… What are you doing out here?

Jace   I’m just taking out the trash— and I could ask the same about you.

Avery   Uhm, I just got coffee and some trinkets, and I’m heading back home… I’ve been meaning to decorate the house a little. It’s been a little empty now that Dad’s, well, you know. Not around anymore. 

Jace   Ah, alright, that’s good to hear. I hope you’re doing alright. Well, enough chit-chat, I got to go somewhere. (The grin on his face doesn’t meet his eyes.)

Avery   No, wait… Perhaps— perhaps we can catch up with things that happened over the past few months? I haven’t actually spoken to you for a long time— I mean, maybe just like a coffee or something, if you’d like… 

Jace   I’m sorry, I would absolutely love to, but I have a few more things to pack. So if you could excuse me—

He gives a curt nod and shuffles past AVERY to go back into the apartment’s gates, but AVERY stops him.

Avery   W-what? Where are you going?

Jace   Somewhere far from here. Couple miles south.

Avery   Oh.

Jace    Mm.

Avery   Did you— did you get my voicemail?


Jace   Yeah. Oh right, this reminds me— (he pulls out the tape recording and hands it to AVERY.) Here you go.

Avery   What’s this?

Jace   An explanation of some sorts. I guess I’ll see you then, Avie. Goodbye.

JACE turns to go back into the apartment, while AVERY stands still, under the soft rainfall. The latter watches as the former enters the shelter, 

Avery   (with his head bowed, he whispers to himself) Then what about me?

JACE freezes, barely hearing what AVERY has said. He turns around slowly, his gaze settling upon the other.

Jace   You? (He lets out an unsettling chuckle.) What do you mean?

Avery   You know what I’m talking about.

Jace   (his eyes narrow) You have no idea what you’ve caused.

Avery   I- (Pause.) Were you avoiding me?

Jace   Do you know how badly I wanted to reach out to you, after… after your fight with your dad?

Avery   Maybe. (He glances down at the ground, shuffling his boots.)

Jace   Yet I wouldn’t talk to you for months, no matter how much I wanted to. You know why?

(Silence. AVERY shakes his head slightly.)

Jace   I was terrified. I was scared of you hating me. I couldn’t find a way to talk to you, to apologise, t-to say sorry for everything— (he pauses.) But it’s all okay now. I’m leaving, like you told me to. I won’t be a burden to you any more.


Avery   You were never a burden to me— I just didn’t know what to do… I just didn’t want you to keep worrying about me, you could’ve gotten hurt—

Jace   But it’s alright now. (he reaches out and pats AVERY’s shoulder, before letting his arm fall to his side.) It’s alright.


Jace   Don’t worry about me — take care of yourself, Avie.

He brushes past AVERY and starts trudging offstage.

Avery   (his voice cracking) Jace— wait!

JACE glances back, his head tilted.

Avery   I’m sorry. And thank you— thank you… for everything.

JACE smiles, turning away with a mock salute and watching as the movers load his things into the vans, before he hurries back into the building. AVERY still stands in the rain as the lights dim.

Ong Xin Yan (Class of 2026) is a fervent writer who finds solace in poetry and music. Xin Yan hopes to one day find the words that bring to light the nuance in expression and reminiscent, unspoken feelings.