Paul is one of the kids in my class.
Paul always sits by himself at the back of the class. He has big green glasses, looks shy and has such a trembling voice that he sounds as if he’s stumbling over every word. When I smile at him, he looks away. When a teacher asks him a question, he looks at his feet when he replies, even though he almost always knows the right answer.
Paul looks a bit weird sometimes but there’s nothing really wrong with him. I sometimes wonder why he’s like that, always sad, almost invisible.
Paul doesn’t really have any friends. The others often torment him between lessons and in the cafeteria. I would like to be brave enough to stick up for him, but I don’t dare. What if he didn’t want me as a friend? And what if the others rejected me, too, if I sat next to him one day?
One evening, after dinner, while we were playing chess in the living room, I told my big sister, Chloe, about Paul.
“Don’t take any notice of the ones who tease him,” she said to me. “They’re not worth it. But talk to Paul. I’m sure he’d really like someone to chat with.”
There was a silence, then she added, moving a pawn, “Nobody ought to be on their own all the time, you know. It’s not much fun.”
Talking to Chloe made me feel braver. So when we had finished our game (I beat her), I went to fetch a packet of cookies from the big cupboard in the kitchen and slipped it into my backpack. In the morning, I would gather up the cookies and my courage, and at recess I would go and share them with Paul if he let me. I would also ask him how he was. Maybe his voice would tremble a bit less after that. Maybe he might even smile, who knows?
Translated by Wendy Cross