We’re getting closer to a paper wrapper and the reason I told you I really liked this shirt.

Read on, faithful followers.  Here’s the next five pages or so of the original manuscript.

Milly woke up well the next morning.  She studied her reflection in the bathroom mirror.  Besides her dark hair needing to be combed out, and little sleep crusties in the corners of her eyes, she looked healthy.  She pushed the glasses up on her nose and reached for her comb.  Her bangs were beginning to hang in her eyes.  She’d ask Karen to cut them.  Mom used to do it.  After working out the tangles she pulled her hair back in a ponytail with one of her purple ribbons.  She shuffled back to her room to find something to wear.

Last night she had packed her book bag with the supplies she and Karen had bought.  Dad had been too busy to go with her.  Daryl had been playing baseball yet again, so she had helped get him things too.  Karen had helped her pick a cool backpack.  It was purple, of course, with green swirls.  There were two smaller pockets in the front where she could put pencils, pens, and other little things so they wouldn’t get lost.  Milly opened her shorts drawer and picked out a pair of denims, found a T-shirt to go with them and got dressed.  Then she headed downstairs for breakfast.

Daryl was already there, spilling milk on the counter because he was trying to play a video game while fixing his cereal.  Dad was reading the paper and munching on toast.

“Good morning, Button,” he looked up.  “You look pretty.  All ready for your first day?”

She shrugged.  Did she have a choice?  She found some pop-tarts in the cabinet and chose to eat them cold.  She slowly picked around the edges putting little nibbles in her mouth.

“Come on, Squirt.  You’d better hurry.  Dad has to take me to the middle school after he drops you off.  The guys are waiting on me.”

“Shut up, Daryl.”

Dad looked up from his paper again.  His eyebrow was raised, but Milly knew she wasn’t really in trouble.  They never seemed to really get in trouble anymore.  “Button, you do need to hurry.  And you know Karen is going to pick you up today.  She’s going to stay until I get home.”

“Ok.”

Milly ate the last half of her pop-tart and went back upstairs to brush her teeth. Dad honked the horn and she hurried down again, pulling the door closed behind her.  In the car she felt her stomach tie up in knots.  She just knew she was going to be sick.  Probably shouldn’t have eaten that last pop-tart, she thought.  They drove past the library just as Mrs. Grey was going up the steps.  The man who owned the corner drugstore was sweeping the sidewalk.  Finally, they go to Rollins Elementary School.  Milly thought back to the day they had moved here and driven past the school.  Dad told Daryl to stay in the car.

As they climbed the steps up into the school, Dad put his hand on Milly’s back.  She could feel the pressure through the backpack.  She didn’t look at him, or around.  Lots of kids were going into the school, laughing and talking.  Some paused a second when she went past, but didn’t say hello.  Milly fought with the queasiness in her stomach that was working its way up her throat.

“May I help you?” asked the office secretary.  Her nameplate read Mrs. Cross.

“Yes. I’m Dean Ashton and this is my daughter, Milly.  I was wondering if you could direct me to Mrs. Lawson’s class room.  I was unable to come to open house with Milly.”

“Certainly.  If you’ll take a right out of the office and go to the second hallway on the left, Mrs. Lawson’s room is the third door.”

“Thank you.”

Mrs. Cross smiled warmly at Milly, which made some of the queasiness roll back down.

At the third door a tall lady with brown hair wearing a bright pink dress waved at older students going down the hall as she said hello to those entering the room.  Her hair hung past her shoulders and was clipped back with silver barrettes.  Milly immediately liked her and hope she was Mrs. Lawson.

“Hey, Ms. Preston,” a boy called as he went by.  The lady smiled, shook her head and waved.  Milly’s spirits plummeted.  Maybe this woman was just someone’s parent here to help out.  Dad stopped at the door.

“Good morning.  We’re looking for Mrs. Lawson?”

“That’s me,” the pink dressed lady reached out to shake Dad’s hand.

“But,” Milly started and then stopped.

“You heard Caleb call me Ms. Preston, didn’t you? I got married over the summer, and Caleb probably called me Ms. Preston out of habit,” Mrs. Lawson smiled again.  Her smile was warm and broad, and Milly noticed that her bottom teeth were a little crooked.  It gave her a quirkiness that Milly appreciated. “You know me, but I don’t you yet.”

Suddenly, Milly lost all control of her tongue.  She opened her mouth to speak but instead ended up pushing her glasses back to the top of her nose.  She swallowed and tried again, but nothing would come out.

“This is Mildred Ashton.  I’m her father, Dean.”

Finally, a barely audible whisper escaped from Milly’s dry mouth.  “Milly. I go by Milly.”

“Wonderful!” Mrs. Lawson truly seemed excited to have learned Milly’s name.  “Thank you, Mr. Ashton, for coming by and Milly, if you go inside, I’ll bet you can find your name on a desk.  I’d start near the back.  I do my seating chart in reverse alphabetical order.”

Dad gave Milly a thumbs up and hurried back down the hall to the car and a waiting Daryl.  Milly took one last awed look at Mrs. Lawson before heading into the noisy classroom.

Inside the room no one was sitting in a seat.  Everyone laughed and talked.  Milly stood at the doorway biting her bottom lip.  She searched the room for another student with glasses, and when she didn’t see one, she shuffled towards the back of the room like Mrs. Lawson had suggested.  At the back of the last row was Milly’s seat.  She’d never sat at the back of the room before.  Most teachers put her at the front because her last name started with an A. At least this way no one would see her glasses.  She reached to push them up her nose again, but then stopped and took them off.  Being different by being new was enough for one day.

The bell rang at eight o’clock, and Mrs. Lawson shut the door.  She clapped her hands twice and everyone found their seats.  At the front of the room on the board Mrs. Lawson was writing something.  Milly squinted but couldn’t make out what it said.

“Class, I want everyone to write this question on the front of your notebook.  Everyone should have a marker on your desk beside your nametag.  If your marker is missing, please raise your hand.”

Milly picked up her marker and squinted harder at the board.  If she sat at the front she would be able to see it.  Mrs. Lawson roamed around looking over everyone’s shoulders.  All the other kids were busily scratching out the sentence on the front of their notebooks.  Milly furtively glanced at the student next to her.  It was a boy with dark hair.  He was right handed so Milly couldn’t see over his arm at what he was writing.  Mrs. Lawson was only a row away, and Milly didn’t want her to be mad because she hadn’t written anything.  She ducked her head and drew a flower on the corner of her notebook.  While she drew the outline over and over, she felt a hand on her shoulder.

“Milly,” whispered Mrs. Lawson. “What did you di with your glasses?”

“I, I. . .” Milly stopped.

Mrs. Lawson squeezed her shoulder.  “Mark, are you finished writing the sentence?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Will you please let Milly borrow it?  I need to erase the board, and she hasn’t quite finished.”

Mark handed his notebook to Milly.  She quietly said thank you, but Mark had already turned to get a piece of paper and had started making a paper football.  On Mark’s notebook Milly read “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.  How will I make it extraordinary?” She wasn’t quite sure what it meant, but she like the way it sounded.  Maybe Mrs. Lawson would explain it.  She quickly copied it and handed back Mark his.