You usually don’t look past the sunshine face, moon mouth and neatly plaited hair. You usually don’t look past the pastel Polly Flinders dress, turned down bobbi-socks, and black patent-leather shoes.
You usually don’t look.
And if you don’t look, you miss the road map tracking the girl’s nine-year life across this earth: the sharp outline of square shoulders under puffy sleeves, the hard jaw offsetting apple blossom cheeks, the always alert irises behind baby-doll lashes.
If you don’t look, you might not see the girl at all.
Certainly Justin Prattle never looked.
And so, when he pushed the girl into the playground dirt one cold October morning, he could not have guessed what would happen next. He did not expect that she would gather her scattered books and pick herself up, rub away her snot and tears, and face him with a flash of fury and a precisely placed patent leather kick.
Some boys don’t know how to read maps.