This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
For more information on the author, go to www.annie-reed.com.
"Are you going to miss it? Being a hero?"
I heard snickers and groans, pretty typical for a crowded classroom full of nine-year-olds. I've been in enough of them over the years to know. These days the desks are all molded plastic, clean-lined, ergonomic, not the knee-scraping wood and metal-framed contraptions I grew up with. The cafeteria smell's gone, too; now it's the smell of too many bodies crowded together in too small a space. Everything's more crowded these days.
The girl who'd asked me the question, a pretty thing with braids in her auburn hair and shaved patches the size of my thumb on the sides of her skull—the newest thing in fashion, my granddaughter tells me—blushed a bit but managed to keep looking at me.
"Children!" That was the teacher, a harried woman whose face—lined around her mouth, weary shadows underneath her eyes—looked every one of her middle-aged sixty or so years.
"That's okay, that's okay," I said. I held my hands up in a shushing gesture and the room quieted down. I smiled at the girl with the braids and naked strips of pink scalp. "It's a legitimate question. Not the first time I've been asked, so don't go getting embarrassed, no matter what these guys think." I winked at her and she smiled back. I still had some of my old charm. At least it still seemed to work on nervous nine-year-old girls.