The boy laughed and played in the summer sun. Dressed in shorts and a shirt, he also wore gloves. And in those gloves were hands, hands that didn’t look like human hands, but rather like talons with scales that were as black as the night sky. Every day, after school let out and kids went home to their families, the boy took to the shore. The shore with water that freezes even the fish. The barren, cold sand, lumpy and callous on the boy’s back. But it was the only place where he wouldn’t be judged, the only place where no one talked or called him the boy with the talon hands, that kid who everyone feared. He was the kid that no one came near. He was the kid that never raised his hand. He was the kid that sat alone at lunch, scared, like everyone else, of what he was.
Rumors had spread all through the town of the boy with the talon hands. That was his name, well, that was his name to the kids in P.S. 38. But his real name; that was a secret only the boy knew. Never holding a conversation long enough to tell his name. If you asked someone what he had for a face, no one would answer, not because no one ever saw him, but because his flaws were not on his face. All of that, it took place in 1932.
That boy, after everyone went home and he went to the shore, was never seen again. It was said he committed suicide; it was said he ran away; it was said he was killed. But no one knew for sure.
In every school there’s that kid. Someone different, someone who stands out for all the wrong reasons. Like the boy with the talon hands in P.S. 38.
There was a girl named Sarah though, the girl who has it all, her name to the people who don’t know her. Her perfect complexion, top grades, and indescribable laugh were what made Sarah Sarah. She was the kid who everyone aspired to be. She was the kid on top of her class. She was the kid eating her lunch as if a queen. And so, when everybody went home to families that love, Sarah didn’t. She did go home to a something, something that didn’t love. It wasn’t a family but a man, in it for the money. Sarah never talked about him, that abrasive drunk, that cruel creature, that greedy stealer. She never talked about him, but of a family she once had. One she claims she still does. She told stories of her family heading to the beach, having two homes, each more pristine than the other. How they loved her, how she was their little star. She was adored by all because of a lie she told herself and everyone. Until that time she couldn’t control.
That time when Ms. Applebee ran the screeching chalk across the powdered board. Slowly, as to be neat: February 13, 1972. Slamming sounds came from textbooks falling onto desks made Ms. Applebee scold the children. She never wanted to hear a peep unless she asked. Sarah smiled towards the teacher, but it wouldn’t last. The smile died out when she saw a stumbling, bottle-wielding, half-naked man heading down the hall. Heads turned; mouths dropped. Shards streaked the hardwood floor as the bottle contacted the ground. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Sarah’s right then were musty and stained by tears. That night Sarah wanted to die, never wanting to show her face again at school. Never wanting to be seen by her friends. Never wanting that man to foster her. But it was too late. She didn’t have a choice. She couldn’t control what he did, when he drank. She couldn’t control who raised her. That night Sarah cried, not to sleep, but to drown the pain. Throat burning, head light, hands clenched. The memory wouldn’t leave her head. Sarah was that kid, that kid who stands out for all the wrong reasons.
The next morning, Sarah went to see the person only the problem kids had to meet. And so, Sarah grabbed the metal doorknob, cold and rusty, turning it till she heard a creak. Her hand gently pushed the wooden door, swinging open to a room that smelled like the night sky.
A small sound climbed out of Sarah’s mouth, which only amounted to, “Hi.”
“Hello, what is your name?” the man questioned her.
“Sarah,” she said so quietly it was almost invisible. Her eyes gazed downwards at his nameplate. Turned over, nameless. “And yours––”
“Is not necessary to this conversation, Sarah.” The frail man stared at Sarah’s bloodshot eyes with tears welling up inside. “Why are you here?”
Sarah’s eyes darted around the room. First caught by the peeling walls, painted black like ravens’ claws. Then attaching to the man’s face. A face that showed no emotion, a face that was not memorable, a face that could disappear. “I thought the whole school heard.”
“Those rumors? The story comes muffled when it reaches my desk.”
“I’m the butt of all the jokes, the kid with no parents who had to lie for attention.”
“Why attention? I would think someone without parents would just fade to the background,” the man asked, calmly questioning a broken Sarah.
“Because,” Sarah said, shrugging off the question. The man, now inquisitive, slowly placed his hands on the armrests of his chair, sitting up. She stared at the man’s hands, now woven together atop the desk. Sarah noticed many things about the man’s office. How sunlight gleamed off the metal pen near his hands, how the room was like the summer sun, warm and inviting. How it still smelled like the night sky. Sarah, being top of her class, opened her mouth as if she took his place, “Sir, why do you wear gloves?”
Ignoring the question, he broke the eye contact as if uncomfortable.“I attended this school, just like you, and when I left, I promised to never come back. This school was once my demon, filled with nightmares and terrors that only return in dreams. For twenty-one years I held that promise, but as if a moth to a flame, I couldn’t resist. I kept on thinking, what would happen if there was a kid just like me, just as alone as I was? I could be the person who wasn’t there for me; and Sarah, I hope to be that for you.” Silence filled the empty room, the man’s words echoing off the walls, ringing in both their ears. Perfectly timed, the bell went off; it was time for class.
Sarah sat up in her chair, brushing off her skirt and pulling her bag of the ground. She smiled the smallest smile and said, “Sometime again?”
The man nodded, and like that, she left.
After school let out, and everyone went home to families who love, Sarah held back. Walking down the Hall of History. Class pictures and trophies lined the class cabinets. Her hand sliding across the metal plaques that signify the year. 1935, 1934, 1933. Sarah’s eyes stuck to a class photo, 1931-1932. The boy in the bottom right corner. Skinny and pale, eyes with no emotion. Hands, positioned unlike others, behind his back.
The girl who has it all, a child that grew up in a lie, now walks a path with no end in sight. Until she finds the kid, like herself and the boy with the talon hands or anyone that has walked a similar path.