“I wish I coulda gotten those!” the other boy said. “But my mom says they’re too expensive.”
“At least, your mom let you have a smartphone. Mom and Dad say I have to wait until I’m 14 in October. I’ll be the last guy in school with a flip phone.”
Todd sat at his desk nearby and listened to the two boys talk about their back-to-school shopping haul. He felt envious. They went to the mall. His shopping took place in the clearance section of a thrift store. His shirt today was his nicest shirt—in the right light, it looked like it could be almost new—but it had a stain. “The stain is probably why such a nice shirt got donated to Goodwill!” his mom said, trying to sound cheerful.
Todd wondered if he was the only boy in the entire middle school who wasn’t wearing new clothes today, the first day of school. He also wondered if he was the only one happy that the school year was starting. He didn’t like homework any more than anyone else. But school got him away from his awful apartment in a terrible neighborhood for a few hours a day. It also gave him time away from his mom’s often drunk, often violent boyfriend. And the school’s breakfast and lunch programs guaranteed he’d have at least two meals a day, unlike home.
The bell rang. The school year was now officially starting. The boy on the other side of Todd moaned unhappily. Meanwhile, Todd felt a sense of relief. For the first time since June, Todd had one place of security and stability in his life.