|Cover Art by Michelle Lee|
“Hey, gimpy, wanna race.” Amidst a gathering of her groupies, pep squad captain, Sally Rogers, yelled at Cindy Johnson from across the street. Sally fanned her shoulder-length auburn hair back from her face and stood with one hand on her curvy hip. “If you win, maybe I’ll buy you something new to wear.”
Her taunting tone ate at Cindy, but she refused to respond. Sagging against the tree at the bottom of the hill leading home, she wished she could sprint the distance to escape the piercing stares and haunting laughter. Seventeen years ago, she’d been born with one leg noticeably shorter than the other, and every day brought new heartache. Tears burned the back of her eyes.
She gazed down through blurred eyes at the sweater she wore—the one her mother bought last week at the used clothing store. It was clean and hole-free. How could Sally have known?
But then most of Cindy’s wardrobe was previously worn by someone else. Sally might have even owned the cardigan at one time. The thought made Cindy shiver.
With four younger siblings and only one income, the family struggled. There was never enough money for new clothes, and people like Sally Rogers, the vindictive, nasty types, always noticed and felt inclined to tell the world. When the crowd on the opposite corner dispersed, Cindy gave her aching forearm a rest by swapping her books from one side to the other and began the tiresome trek uphill. She couldn’t have jammed one more thing into her already-full backpack. What had she been thinking when she checked out extra romance novels from the library?
Her distinct walk drew too many stares, and she grew tired of them, but there was nothing she could do to stop them. People’s curiosity often came across as rude, as did their blunt questions. She clenched her teeth at the years that lay ahead with no relief in sight.
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