The awakening

Wrote this as a way of getting to know Michael, one of the protagonists in my new story. This scene is from his childhood:

At nursery school Michael had been too young to understand why he was different. But today was his first day at big school, and his small world was about to change in ways he could not have imagined.

“Was that your grandma?” asked a small boy in blue dungarees and glasses.

Michael turned to the boy and frowned. “No,” he said. “She’s my mum.”

Now it was the other boy’s turn to frown. “But she’s so….old.”

Both boys turned to watch as Michael’s mother walked out of the school gates. Was his mother old? Michael had never really thought about it. Why would he? She was his mum, and that was all there was to it.

“Aren’t all mums the same age?” Michael said.

The other boy regarded him with a cool stare, and Michael felt suddenly like he was being tested, and, worse still, that he wasn’t doing very well. “No,” said the boy, his eyes rolling in their fat little sockets, “of course they’re not. Well, not exactly the same age, anyway.”

“Oh, right.”

“As in,” the boy continued, “they can’t all be born on the exact same day. That would be impossible. But-” – and here he paused for dramatic effect – “mums normally look the same age – even if they’re not. Only your mum looks more like a grandma than a mum. She’s even got grey hair.”

Michael felt a knot of something horrid form in the pit of his stomach. Before he had a chance to work out why the teacher began to round them up and lead them towards the hall for first assembly. As they walked through the heavy swing doors into the school, Michael cast one last mournful look over his shoulder. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he had the distinct feeling nothing would ever be quite the same again.

I took this photo in Cambodia in 2007 and have just stumbled across it for the first time in ages. I love the look on the little boy’s face – less so his dirty clothes and the packet of cigarettes tucked into his pocket 😦

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