There were a lot of things Nicholas did not have. Parents, for instance.
Nicholas had been given up for adoption at birth, sent from Grace Medical Center in a blue beanie and blanket to the Honeywell Home for Boys. There was a woman, Eleanor Hardaway-Fisk, who was looking to foster and possibly adopt him, but a mountain of paperwork was holding up Nicholas’s transfer into her care.
Paperwork had also held up Nicholas’s enrollment into Covington Elementary as a kindergartner by a little over two weeks. “Everyone,” Miss Ferguson had said, standing beside him in front of the class, “This is Nicholas Alexander Leach.”
Had it been a day or two, the other children may have still been in transitional shock and acceptant of a latecomer. But at a little more than two weeks, they had settled in—spaces had been called, teams chosen, rules established—and though Miss Ferguson had asked the children to make Nicholas feel at home, he was shunned only slightly less than Danny Ramey, the boy who peed his pants.
“Nicholas?” Miss Ferguson asked, when she saw that he had not joined them. “Did you get to see the giraffe?”
“Well, maybe next time,” Miss Ferguson said, kindly. “We’ll play the cloud game again, I’m sure.”
Nicholas nodded and smiled, best he could.
“All right,” Miss Ferguson called out, “Lets line up and head back to the classroom.”
The children fell into place.
Nicholas was last in line. Miss Ferguson had folded his name onto a tiny piece of paper, like a Chinese fortune, and chosen it from a fishbowl. He was door monitor for the week, she had told him. It was his duty to close the door whenever the kindergartners entered or left the classroom. Door monitor was always last in line.
Nicholas liked being door monitor. He took his responsibilities very, very seriously. He liked being last in line too. All of the children did. But Nicholas would have traded both his duties and his place in line right then and there, if only he could have seen something in the clouds other than clouds.