Perhaps foolishly, I gave him my real one.
“Kahlen?” he read off his skin.
“That’s pretty. Nice to meet you.”
I gave him a thin smile, still uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to do small talk.
“That’s really cool that you’re going to a traditional school even though you use sign language. I thought I was brave just getting out of state.” He laughed at himself.
Even with how uneasy I was feeling, I admired his effort to keep the conversation going. It was more than most people would do in his situation. He pointed at the books again. “So, uh, if you ever have that party and need some help with your cake, I swear I could get my act together long enough not to ruin everything.”
I raised one eyebrow at him.
“I’m serious!” He laughed like I’d told a joke. “Anyway, good luck with that. See you around.”
He waved sheepishly, then continued pushing his cart down the aisle. I watched him go. I knew I’d remember his hair, a mess that looked windswept even in stillness, and the kindness in his eyes. And I’d hate myself for holding on to those details if he ever crossed my path on one of those dark days, days like those on which Kerry or Warner had encountered me.
Still, I was grateful. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d felt so human.