He could get another job. I spoke petulantly into my tie knot. In England. He acts like a stupid history teacher most of the time, he could be one of those.
Now, now. Dont be rude, my mother told me, but with her face pointing the other way.
She blew her nose.
This country is our home for the time being, she went on dutifully. I could tell she was forcing her mouth into a smile. Itll be better this time. I believe that, I really do. Back at home your fathers old department just didnt appreciate his . . . skills, but I think hell finally find his feet with this new job. Hes running a whole office. Things will be different.
But I dont really know anything about this country, I said, a plea as I eyed the small boy over on the grass who now appeared to be looking right at me. What if they dont like me?
She turned around again.
Then we will go back, one way or another. I promise. Its where we belong. We can go and live with Granny while we settle back. She says were always welcome. She misses us so much since we left.
Now her smile was real.
But you have to promise youll at least try. If you can do that then Ill see what I can do. Your father does listen to me sometimes, he does care. Maybe he can put in for a transferIm sure the Civil Service does that sort of thing all the time. Deal?
I nodded quickly up and down, knowing I could believe her optimism, and my mother leaned into the back to give me a hug. Beyond, my father waved me out with impatience.
Youre at grown-up school now, Robert. You dont want the other boys seeing that, he said as I went to him. Until that point Id always been Bobby. It seemed Bobby had been left at home and I wished I was there with him.
I lowered my head and pulled on the oversized blue blazer that itched my skin.
Weve found you a new friend, my father went on, pointing to the small black boy. Hes starting today, too. This is Nelson. Nelson, this is Robert. You two are going to be best friends.
Nelsons father smiled and agreed. Nelson himself didnt move until his father gave him a nudge, and he nodded a silent hello. His eyes cried out that he was in fact having the same kind of day as me, and we laughed anxiously together. It wasnt a sound we would make many times that first term.
Excerpted from Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace. Copyright © 2011 by Jason Wallace. Excerpted by permission of Holiday House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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