Ally waved good-bye to her friends and pedaled home. This summer was going to be the best one ever. Three days since school ended and they'd already gone canoeing every day, swung off the rope into the cold water and seen Jason Harlen in his cut-offs.
It wasn't dark yet but Mom would have supper ready just as soon as Dad got home. Ally cycled past the bakery, over the train tracks and up the street. She hoped it was mac n cheese. Not the best meal for a hot day but still her favourite.
"Hey, Greg." She braked at the bottom of the hill that led to their front yard. Her younger brother hunkered down in the ditch, muttering at himself in a hand mirror.
"Pardon?" She swung off her bike and sat down beside him.
"I'm a freak."
"No,you're not." Ally put her arm around his thin shoulder and gave a small squeeze. "Why would you say something like that?"
"Billy Schmidt said I was a freak." He scowled at his face in the mirror.
"Billy Schmidt is a poppy-head." Her brother didn't laugh.
"Bobby and Ryan laughed at me. They said I even looked like a freak!"
"You don't look like a freak."
Greg stared at himself even harder.
Ally tried to take the mirror from him. He had a strong grip for such a little kid. "You're not a freak."
"Yes, I am. Look!" He turned his face up towards her.
"Where did you get the mirror?" She gently pried it out of his hands, one finger at a time.
"I snuck it out of Mommy's purse." His bottom lip quivered. "I'm a freak and a thief."
"You're not either one of those things."
"Yes, I am." He grabbed the mirror back from Ally. "They said I had big round eyes just like a freak. They said Mommy and Daddy are going to lock me away. That freaks don't belong in school."
"I'm going to punch all three of those boys." She leaned over Greg's shoulder so that both of their faces were reflected back at them. "Look. My eyes are the same as yours. Same shape. Round. We are not freaks."
"Yes, we are!" Tears flowed from Greg's eyes. "We're both freaks and some guys are going to take us away from Mommy and Daddy and make us live in square rooms with padded walls and we'll never be able to see each other again."
"We are not freaks."
"Yes. Yes, we are. We have big round eyes."
"Oh, for pity's sake!" Ally grabbed the mirror from Greg and threw it into the ditch. It broke into several big pieces. She'd come back and clean the mess up later. Right now, she had a bigger problem.
"Let's go inside and talk to Mommy. She has big round eyes just like we do and she's not a freak. She didn't get taken away from Grandma and Grandpa. C'mon." Ally tugged Greg to his feet. "Let's go inside."
"Mommy's going to be mad that you broke her mirror."
"I don't think so, Rusty. I don't think she'll blame me at all." She hugged him tight.