I keep on walking the route. I see more homes. Some falling apart. Some look like they will make it through the coming winter. I see people who are alone and people who are in families. Even if I don’t know the exact story of somebody, I can make a pretty good guess.
I can tell if it’s a farm family, or a fishing family, or a family that’s given up and does the drug. I don’t know everybody by name, but I recognize every place on the route. I couldn’t tell you the names of the lanes that lead off it, but I know them all.
I have them memorized from the years of walking by. I notice if someone’s dog is missing or if they cut down a tree. I notice if they buy a new pony or have a baby. Suddenly there are toys in the front.
Once I get to the village, the road gets even and smooth. So many people use it between the houses.
Our school is a simple building. You might not even recognize it from all the other buildings in the village. Last spring, I couldn’t wait to leave it.
Seeing it this morning, knowing it’s my last year, I feel hot in my eyes. So stupid! Who cries on the first day of school for their last year? Even though it hasn’t always been fun, it feels better to be with people than on my own.
I blink. Stop it, Dot, stop it. Get a grip. Head up. Do you want them to see you like this?
I keep on walking.
Of course, I’m the first person. Our teacher says a word of welcome to me.
“Sit where you like, Dot. Did you have a good summer?”
“It was fine, thanks.”
I pick a spot by the window. The grey clouds hang over. They’re light from the long sunrise.
In my notebook, I write the date. I doodle in the margins. Ponies, seabirds, swirls.
People trickle in and greet each other. I get their “hellos” and “hey Dots.”
I try to answer back.
Finally, Abby comes in.
“Sorry I didn’t walk with you today, Dot! My ridiculous sisters! I will walk with you tomorrow, OK? They are just driving me crazy!”
She launches into a story that involves her sisters and sweaters and whose was what and who calls it borrowing and who calls it stealing.
I love being friends with Abby. She makes it so easy.
She loves to talk and I love to listen. I hardly have to say a thing and we can have a conversation for an hour. As long as I ask a question here and there, she will keep going.
And maybe, I wouldn’t even have to do that!