It began with an old stone wall...and a band-aid. But that part comes later.
The wall was one of his favorite thinking spots. It stood on the farthest edge of the campus, overlooking the playground, and there were places all along the top row where the weathered stones had been broken or knocked off, leaving empty gaps that were just the right size and shape for a boy like him to sit. (Or crouch. Which was usually what he preferred.)
He would go there every other day or so during free time, lightly hoist himself up and stay perched there for a good long time, contented to hug his knees to his chest and watch the other children scurry and chase each other in the distance. No one paid him any attention or joined him on his perch, and he never bothered to come down and play with them. There was always just one on the wall; just him, solitary and impassive.
But today was different.
Because today, there was a girl. Sitting right in his favorite thinking spot. A scrawny little girl with messy, flyaway hair and freckles.
The boy vaguely recognized her as the latest addition to Whammy's House; the wispy 7-year-old who'd been introduced to the other 24 students two days ago. She was bent over a magnifying glass that looked far too big for her tiny hands, watching a line of ants swarm around a sugar cube perched next to her. Her white skirt was hiked up around her knees, rumpled and hopelessly grungy, and her sweater was a splash of bright dandelion gold against the grey trees behind her. Every few seconds she would absently drum her fingertips on her thigh in various patterns and rhythms, as if tapping out a melody in morse code. Noting the curve of her fingers, he figured she was a pianist.
The girl finally raised her head and saw him.
"Hullo," she chirped, still holding the glass up to one big, blue eye.
He stared back at her - and then there were two on the wall.