Halfway through our first lesson, the door opens in the back of the room. Miss Primrose stops talking about grammar. “Frank, I’m glad to see you made it to school,” she says.
I hear the whispers before I turn. When I do, my chin drops. This time, I see him in the light. The boy from the thicket. He’s wearing dark circles under his green eyes and the same muddy Keds from last night. But his hair is combed now, parted on the side.
“Students, I would like to introduce you to our newest member of Hilltop School, Frank Sanders.”
He still has that look. The one where no one can touch him. Like no one’s smarter or braver than him. I know better. He’s scared of dogs—even the three-legged kind.
He sticks his thumbs in the straps of the suspenders that hold up his Clean breeches then nods to the class like he’s Jesus come to turn sour milk into fresh lemonade.
“Frank lives here now. So let’s make him feel welcome. How old are you, Frank?”
“Almost fourteen, Miss Primrose,” he says like he’s President of Confidence World.
“You may sit down, Frank.”
Frank-Gatsby-Thicket Boy limps to a desk. Without the twisted ankle, he’d sure-fire swagger to his spot like Wild Bill Hickok after catching bandits.
Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket