A couple of weeks later and I’m sitting near the back of English class, listening to Mr. Davis trying to tell a scary story. Mickey the Mumps and Sammy are snickering behind me. I hear them hiss the word 'witch' a few times in my direction. Sal, a girl I've started talking to recently looks over at me, and looks back at Mumps and Sam and shrugs before smiling warmly at me. Then she's got her head in folded-arms on her desk. Sal loves sleeping in class.
I listen to Sam and Mumps snickering some more, and stare out the window at the field behind our school. Mr. Davis' story is really lame – something about poisoned pumpkins and children disappearing.
I look out the window. I remember when my father once took me to the beach. I must have been about eight, just before he died. I remember I thought it was a little strange, because he had taken me to this beach late in the evening, when the sun was already going down. At the time, I couldn't imagine the beach was good for anything else but playing and swimming in the sun. Anyway, my dad took me there in his car, and when we got there he took me to the water's edge, and told me:
"Kaddie, sweetie. I want you to remember something. It's very important,
"OK," I said, not understanding. I just look down at the waves rippling between my toes and listen to my father's voice.
"When you start to grow up, sweetie,” he started to say, but stopped. I listening to the waves washing up to the beach in a long, continuous hiss.
“Well,” he began again, “When you grow up, maybe you’ll be different from other people. Like unique, sweetie. You know what that means, Kaddie? Unique?" I nodded. I was beginning to understand what my father was trying to say. Maybe he didn’t know how much I knew already. "Well,” he went on, “when you realise how unique you might be, sweetie, you might have to choose.” Again, he paused, and watched the waves approaching. “Maybe you'll choose to keep it secret, Kaddie. Maybe you'll hide it. And that's OK sweetie. You understand? There's nothing wrong with that. OK?” I nodded. “But, maybe you'll choose to live your life very differently from others. Yes," he said, "maybe you'll choose to be very different." And I understood. "And I want you to understand, Kaddie, that if you choose to be different, even if it’s very, very different, that that’s OK too, OK?” I nodded, but my father frowned. “Maybe you don't understand right now, but in a few years you will. I want you to remember my words then, Kaddie, OK? It's OK to be different. Even if it means being very, very different from others. OK?"
There, as the sun set on this empty beach, I noticed that tears had been forming in my father’s eyes. I had never seen him cry before, and I couldn't understand why he was crying now. He wasn’t sad, exactly, or happy. He looked, I don’t know, like he was sorry.
I came out of my daydream then, and found myself returned to Mr. Davis' class. He had finished his story and was now talking about Halloween, which was next week. A full moon this Halloween, he said. That meant more demons and poison pumpkins, he said. And witches, he said, which made Sam and Mumps snicker in my direction. I looked over at Sal who was raising her head from her desk. She looked at me, smiled and rolled her eyes . The bell rang then for lunch, and Sal nodded her head towards the window.
I like eating lunch outside with Sal. I like Sal. She makes me smile.