The New Boy
Henry squirmed uncomfortably as he sat on the 'story time' rug in the main playroom, his face scrunched up in frustration. Miss Trelawny was taking forever to come back from wherever it was that she had dashed off to. She'd gathered all of the children into the playroom, telling them to sit on the rug and to not move until she came back. "I won't be gone too long," she told them all with a smile, "so stay here and be nice to each other." And then she'd left, leaving the twenty little girls and boys to sit and ask each other where it was she had gone.
She lied, Henry thought to himself angrily, folding his thin little arms over his chest. She's been gone for hours already-what's taking her so long? In truth, it had only been about five minutes or so since the head of the orphanage had left the room. But Henry wasn't the only one who thought that she was taking way too long. Some of the older boys had started a shoving match, and the little kids were starting to whine a bit. Henry pulled his knees up to his chest and hugged them tightly. Why couldn't Miss T. hurry up already?
Suddenly, the handle on the door turned with a loud click. All twenty heads swiveled in the direction of the door as it swung open. Miss Trelawny glided into the room, holding the door open for someone behind her. When no one came in, Miss Trelawny chuckled and said something in a language that none of them knew. After a moment or two, a child shyly walked into the room, hands clasped behind their back. Henry's eyes widened, and his 6-year-old heart went faster. He couldn't tell if they were a boy or a girl, but they were very pretty.
The newcomer had shiny black hair that fell loose around their face in gentle waves and dazzling blue eyes with long lashes, which were open wide as they stared back at the curious children. They were dressed in a grey, tunic-like shirt that came just above their knees, and a pair of faded brown leggings. Henry noticed with some surprise that the child's feet were bare. The new child looked up at Miss Trelawny, as if silently asking for her to make the first introductions.
"Children," Trelawny said, "this is Pierre Hautecourt." Oh, Henry thought to himself, so that's a boy. He stared at Pierre for a minute, who had perked up a little when he heard Trelawny mention his name. He still looks like a girl to me. "Pierre will be living with us from now on, alright?" There was a collective nod from all the children. "Wonderful!" Miss Trelawny said with a warm smile. Then she turned very serious. "Now, pay attention everyone. Pierre has just come here from France, and he doesn't know English." There was a lot of whispering and giggling around the room at this. "We will be teaching him English," she went on, "but I expect you all to be nice to him even if you don't know what he's saying. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Miss Trelawny," chorused the children. Henry noticed some of the bigger boys talking in low voices to each other, ignoring Miss Trelawny completely. He frowned a little bit. He hoped that they would leave Pierre alone.
Trelawny smiled fondly at her charges. "Wonderful. Pierre," she said, turning to the little boy, "would you like to say something to the students?" She said something in the funny language she'd spoken earlier. Henry guessed it was French, and that she was repeating what she'd said in English. A big smile broke out on Pierre's face and he nodded eagerly. Henry's heart went faster again. Even though he looked like a girl, Pierre's smile was really nice. Pierre walked closer to the group of sitting children, the smile still on his face.
"Salut!" he said brightly, his voice clear and bright. He started talking in French very fast, and Henry only caught the words "Pierre" and what he guessed was "France," and he held up his hands to show eight fingers as he finished talking. Miss Trelawny translated what he said-apparently he had introduced himself, said that he used to live in a place called Tuné in France, and that he was eight years old. Henry's eyes got bigger-that meant Pierre was older than he was!
"Alright everyone!" Trelawny chirped. "You may go play out in the yard now. I'll be helping Pierre move his things into his new room. Henry," she said, turning to him, "he'll be staying with you, John, and Peter." John and Peter were two older boys that had 'adopted' Henry after he had moved into the orphanage. If anyone makes Pierre welcome, Henry thought, it'll definitely be them. Sure enough, John and Peter had hopped to their feet and walked over to introduce themselves to Pierre. Henry slowly got to his feet to do the same as the other children scurried past him to go play outside. He walked up behind John and Peter, who were saying something very awkwardly in French to communicate with Pierre.
"Bon-joor," Peter was saying, trying his best to pronounce it the way Miss Trelawny was saying it. "Je mapple Peter." John copied what Peter said, though he got a little closer to how Trelawny had said it. Pierre giggled and responded with something that sounded like "enchanted," though he didn't pronounce the 'n' or the 'd' at the end. Henry stayed back behind the two boys, who were laughing sheepishly at their awful pronunciation. Pierre caught his eyes and Henry felt his face get hot. He ducked his head quickly, looking at his old brown shoes.
He felt a little tap on his shoulder and looked up to see Pierre's big blue eyes staring into his green ones. Pierre tilted his head curiously at him and said what sounded like a question. Henry looked up at Trelawny, silently begging for a translation. "He asked what your name is," she explained. "Say je m'appelle, and then your name, to answer him."
Henry looked back at Pierre, who he now realized was a little taller than he was. He tried to say the foreign phrase, stumbling over the words. "J-je m-m'apelle Henry," he murmured softly. He knew that it probably sounded horrible to the pretty French boy, and he looked away shamefully.
Suddenly, he felt two warm hands on either side of his face. The hands gently tilted Henry's face back up so that he was looking Pierre in the eyes again. His smile was gentle as he gazed at Henry, and he replied his strange "enchanted" word again, though he said his name after it this time. Henry's heart skipped two beats-Pierre said his name in a way that made it sound mysterious, and almost magical.
He decided right away that he was going to be Pierre's very best friend.