I wait in the hall, watching them come in from recess.
“Which line is hers?” I wonder.
I see her walk through the door from recess. Purple hoodie, her favorite color, leggings, hair in ponytail. She doesn’t see me yet. I walk towards her and pivot turn, falling into step beside her.
“Hey, you!” I whisper.
She looks at me and rolls her eyes. A seven-year-old going on seventeen. She turns her head and stares at the wall as she walks by. She won’t give me the gift of her smile.
“Let’s go read. Do you want to?” I ask as I grab her hand. “I like your hoodie. Purple is a good color for you.” I’m still whispering. I don’t want to draw extra attention.
“Why are you whispering?” she asks.
“I don’t want to bother anyone,” I reply.
“That’s why you like me.” I give her a big grin. “Which one is your sub? I want to tell her I’m stealing you for a bit. I want to read with you.”
She huffs. Rolls her eyes again. Drama queen extraordinaire. “That one.”
I pull her out of line and down the hall with me toward the sub. I tell the sub I am “borrowing her” for a bit and we duck into the Title room.
“You said you would be back in 16 days. What happened?” The words burst out before she realizes what she has said.
Now I understand. She was worried I wasn’t coming back. That I made a promise I wouldn’t keep. That I had forgotten about her.
I turn and face her and give her my best smile. “Oh, don’t I know it, Chicky. My schedule has been all sorts of messed up lately. I’m sorry. But look what I brought for you to read today!” With a magician’s flourish, I pull out Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider. “Check out how Eric Carle illustrated this book. You can feel the spider web. How cool is that?”
We make ourselves comfortable on the couch, the book spread between our laps. And she starts to read, “Early one morning, the wind blew a spider…”
When we last read, she promised me she would start taking action at difficulty on her own and not wait for me to prompt for it. She stops. She is stuck. I hold my breath, wondering what she will do. She looks at the word. Her fingers go in and frame the chunks. Her lips start to blend the word. When she is sure, she says it.
I smile at her. “You’ve been working.”
She grins at me, eyes sparkling. “Yeah.”
I couldn’t be more proud!