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Maybe tomorrow he’ll come.

Naithair drew into himself, tightening his coil. The rocks pressed into his soft body. They would be painful after he shed his skin. His new scales would be harder though. He’d welcome the gentle scratching of the rock edges then but only then. It was all he had to cling to. The rocks, the darkness of his hiding place, the certainty he’d shed his skin, and seeing his friend.

Footsteps approached the opening he had peered out of for weeks and he readied himself for the intrusion. His forked tongue flicked out. If it was the boy, he’d know soon enough. Others had passed by in his wait. Some paused, blind to his spot, but others stuck their hands in. Those were the ones he sent back with two reddish purple puncture wounds and swollen hands.

The boys flesh was soft too. He rested his head on his top coil as the faint memories entertained him. It was the first time he shed his skin. The itch was relentless. No amount of rubbing against the rocks helped so he ventured out. He had seen other snakes before. They dragged their bodies along the ground, over small rocks and gravel till, finally, they broke free. Naithair tried his best but in the end, the itch persisted and he was spent.

He rested in the middle of a long forgotten path, the sun warming his weary body. He didn’t hear the boy till it was too late. He went from the ground to the air in such a speed that he feared a bird had grabbed him. Instead, he was stared at the smiling face of a young boy. Naithair didn’t understand why the human’s face stretched or what it was talking about or why he didn’t want to bite him.

It turned out to be his best decision. The boy carried him to a nearby stream and set him in a off shooting pool that was shallow enough for him to rest both in and out of the still standing water. Naithair thought the boy was weird. He didn’t try to trample him or hurl him into the bushes. He was gentle.

Minutes ticked by. The boy talked, Naithair soaked, and just when he began to get cold, the boy lifted him and set him near a tree. Instincts told him it was high time to escape but he hesitated from darting into the safety of the bushes. Wiggling against the tree like a bear, was the boy.

Naithair raised himself up. That wasn’t normal. He had seen humans and none of them acted like that. The boy stuck his finger at Naithair, the tree, then wiggled even more. It was an odd request, Naithair thought, but he joined the boy. He rubbed and rubbed, slithering the best he could, and then it happened; his skin peeled back. It took a while longer but he was finally free.

He looked at the boy who jumped in excitement. He waved, something Naithair did understand, and ran off. Every day since then, he waited patiently for that boy. He had gone through five skins on his own and visited the same spot the boy showed him each time to do it.

A hand reached into his darkness. His tongue flicked out. Gentle fingers rubbed against his rough outer skin till he uncoiled and slithered out of his hole.

“Looks like I came just in time, old friend.”

The boy had grown but he knew it was him. He finally returned and Naithair was grateful; the sixth skin really itched.