I could see her.
That was the problem, really, and I don’t necessarily think it was fair to stake my entire future on a little girl in the front of the classroom, but that’s Time for you. Always meddling.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with introductions. My name’s Michael Frederickson, and I guess I’ll start by telling you this whole story is absolutely true—no matter how much I wish it wasn’t.
It started in high school. One of many I’d been to—my dad moves around a lot because of his job, so I was used to being the new kid. I guess you could say I was used to the stares, but they weren’t really the kind of stares you get used to. But I knew how brutal people could be ignoring the new kids, and I thought this poor little girl in the front of the classroom was just another victim of that. I was trying to work up the nerve to say something to her, but I wanted something to go on. A name, at the very least.
And I knew just where to get that sort of information. Her name was Erin DuBois, and she was the most beautiful, kind, intelligent girl in the school. And my best friend. Yeah, I knew I was lucky. Sure, it drew more of the staring, but I’d been used to that my whole life—why would I let it stop me from actually having a friend for the first time since before I could remember?
So when I turned to her and asked, “Erin, who’s that girl in the front?” and didn’t get an answer straight away, this time I knew it wasn’t just people ignoring me or ignoring the girl. This time I knew it was something else.
Erin turned to me, her big, green eyes wide. “What girl?” she asked. Something flashed behind her gaze, but I didn’t recognize it, so I decided not to read too much into it. I was still trying to decipher having a friend, and the intricate workings of Erin’s facial expressions were still lost on me—a fact that often got me into more trouble than I realized.
“The blonde in the front,” I said, and I tried to be careful about pointing so no one would see. Not that anybody paid attention to me. I was like a ghost here.
(And, no, I’m not being melodramatic. I was born this way. Like a half-developed photograph. Shock-white hair; pale, almost transparent skin; gray, colorless eyes—the works. Like a figure from an old black and white movie bleeding through into reality. Half the time I get ignored just because no one is sure if they quite see me.)
“I don’t see her,” Erin said. And she looked like she was trying.
“In the desk right up by Mrs. Barr’s,” I said. That was what had surprised me about the girl in the front. No one ever sat there. It smelled like too much perfume.
Well, that had surprised me—plus her outfit.
It was like the girl threw together a bunch of different outfits all at once—a dangerous thing to do at a school like this. Dressing in anything but the best was an easy way to get singled out as a scholarship kid, and those of us that were on scholarship, well, it was us against the world, so to speak. I mean, it would be if I was included in the scholarship kid group, but not even they wanted anything to do with me. I guess I was off-putting. Like I said: ghost kid.
Anyway, she had started off okay, with a nice, white, button-up collared shirt. But then, for some reason, she threw a big red tee shirt over that, and it was so big that it barely clung to just one shoulder. She was skinny as a twig, so the shirt must have had some significance—no way it ever fit her. She wore camo pants tucked into army boots, and to top off the outfit, she had a silver mesh hat and two mesh fingerless gloves—one blue and one green, but she would switch up which color went on which hand for fun. She had her hair in one long braid that reached her hips, but it had almost all fallen out on one side, and she hadn’t bothered to redo it but had rather shoved a lot of it into the hat. It was falling out.