“Want one?" Bruce held out one of his
Oreo cookies to Katy who sat beside him
at the lunch table in the school
“No thanks," Katy answered, and
abruptly turned her back to Bruce.
Bruce tried again.
Reaching into his lunch bag, he pulled
out a small green ball and forced
himself to tap Katy on the shoulder.
“Would you like to play catch ball
“Not really, Bruce.” Once again she
quickly turned to talk with her best
The sickening thought rose from deep
inside of him.
His new school was going to be just
like his old school.
Bruce slowly put the green ball back
into his lunch bag, took a final sip of
his juice box and waited for the
teacher to announce dismissal from the
As the students marched out, each one
dumped their empty lunch bags into the
open garbage container.
One bag held a green ball.
Sitting alone by the entrance to the
back door, Bruce watched as the other
students joined their friends or
formed play teams. Tears slowly filled
his eyes . Hanging his head so no one
could see, he blinked fiercely to
keep the tears from spilling over, and
thought about Joey.
Earlier that day, Joey, who sat at the
desk in front of him, had peered at his
“Why do you look like that?”
“I was born with a cleft palate,” Bruce
“Oh,” Joey replied, “It sure looks
His words echoed in Bruce's mind. It
sure looks funny. It's sure looked
When the whistle blew signaling the end
of recess, Bruce walked slowly, head
down towards his class
and took his usual place at the back of
As she always did everyday after
recess, their teacher, Mrs. Owens,
directed the class to take out their
homework assignment book.
“For today's assignment, she
began, “You will need to choose a
Bruce's heart sank.
“Just a minute," Mrs Owens continued.
"Before you choose your partner, I want to tell you a story.”
“One summer, when I was a little girl
just about your age, my mother, father
and two sisters died in a terrible
fire that destroyed our home. My
brother and I were the only ones to
escape, but my face was badly burned.
During the summer I had several
operations to try to repair the burns
on my face. When the summer was over, I
returned to school with a big red scar
on the side of my face. Of course, all
the kids noticed
it. After a while, I got tired of
answering the same question over and
Every day for a long time at least one
student in the school would ask, “What
happened to your face?”
And each day, when school was over, I
would rush home, never wanting to go
back to school again.
I felt ugly, lonely and different.
Joey raised his hand.
“I don't see any scars on your face,
“No," Amy piped in, what happened to
“Doctors can do wonderful things," Mrs.
“After many surgeries, the scar is
barely visible, and what's left I cover
over with make-up," she said, almost
“But, let me finish my story.”
“The doctors were able to remove most
of my scars, but the scars on my
heart took a little longer to go away.
For long a time I continued to feel
ugly and unaccepted.
After Mrs Owens finished, no one said a
word. A few students shifted in their
Finally, Mrs. Owens broke the silence.
“Now, back to your assignment. I want
every one to choose a partner.”
Bruce stiffened in his seat, afraid to
look around. Suddenly, he felt a
tap on his shoulder, and he turned to
see Katy smiling at him.
“Will you be my partner? ”
A smile played at the corners of
Bruce's disfigured upper lip.
“Sure, if you want me to.”
Yes! Mrs. Owens almost shouted, as she watched from behind her desk. Mission accomplished!
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