When I was young I was known as the oddity, the freak of the playground. I generally wandered its borders with my head down and my shoulders hunched, as if carrying something on my back. I suppose it was because I thought differently than everyone else - I was real Looney Lovegood of the class.
So it came as a great surprise to me when one day a boy, that I had never noticed before, came over to ask me how I was. I bristled defensively at first, sure that it was some sort of dare to touch the freak or something. "I'm fine", I replied snappishly. The boy didn't poke me or tease me, he just smiled, as though he knew exactly what I was thinking.
I tried to ignore him, but that was hard with someone following me around, talking animatedly about this and that........ So slowly, grudgingly I began to talk to him.
Within a week we were inseparable, even when I escaped into the boys' toilets from the evil eye looks of the 'popular group'. I had been laughed at for that too, but he hadn't minded. He had stood loyally by me as the teachers bullied me, teaching me my first swear words when he referred to them. I don't know what I was thinking then, but I should have known that it was far too good to last.
Things continued on like that for months, all the way through first class. Near the end of the year however, I noticed a change in him. He wasn't talking as much and once I caught him with tears in his eyes.
One day I heard someone sobbing in the boys' toilets. I had scanned the yard for teachers but they were busy with some sort of fight on the other side of the yard.
I slipped silently into the toilets and over to the door from where the crying was coming from. "Is that you?", I asked gently. The sobbing stopped abruptly. "Emma?" came a very hesitant call from behind the door. "It's me", I said softly. The lock clicked open and I went into the cubicle. He was sitting on the toilet seat with tears running down his face, his eyes full of a sadness too advanced for an eight year old. "We're moving away", he choked. I swear at that moment, my heart stopped.
He's long gone now of course. His face faded and blurred in my mind. His name is a numbing pain. I will always remember him, even if I live to be a senile 100 year old, my friend - the boy who cared........