Capturing Jenny's heart was never going to be easy.
Jenny McAlister is ten years old with curly, almost white hair, and almond-shaped eyes that are sometimes light blue and playful, and sometimes dark blue and mistrusting. She has a laugh that makes others laugh because she laughs with her head thrown back and her eyes closed and her mouth wide open. She is fearless on the playground and almost always has a skinned knee. She plays soccer with the boys at recess and she plays to win.
On this day, a Tuesday, just after recess, she is in trouble again and her teacher, Miss Kent, who(absent-mindedly) sends her to the principal’s office even though the principal is out of town on Tuesdays. Jenny knows this from past Tuesdays, so she sits herself down in the nurse’s outer office in her usual chair by the window because this is not Jenny’s first rodeo and it’s her favorite chair of the three in the nurse’s outer office. The nurse is not there.
Morgan Presley, who is also ten, sits across the room in another chair. He has a long scratch down the side of his face over his cheek. He was sent by the same teacher to the nurse’s office. The two sit in silence. Jenny won’t look at him, but Morgan steals glance after glance after glance at Jenny across the room.
Morgan likes Jenny a lot, but Jenny doesn’t share the same affection for Morgan. According to Jenny, Morgan is a big, dopey boy who is lousy at soccer and is slow on the soccer field and gets in Jenny’s way. To Morgan, Jenny is the great love of his young life. She is the most beautiful thing he’s ever laid eyes on, and he so wants to tell her this but he doesn’t, because he’s afraid he’ll jinx it. And because he knows better.
Morgan might be a bad soccer player, but he is no fool. He knows things most boys his age don’t know. He knows he has to bide his time with Jenny. He knows that if he had his two front teeth he’d be more attractive, and he knows not to worry about his two front teeth because they will eventually grow back. He knows his ears stick out, but his ears are not going to stop him from wooing and capturing the love of his life any more than his cowlick will. He only plays soccer so he can be near Jenny. He's aware of the fact he’s no good at it. Today, Jenny kicked him in the face with her tennis shoe and called him a butthole. He’s pretty sure it was an accident like the last time she kicked him in the knee. And the time before when she headbutted Harry and gave him a black eye. Miss Kent said if she hurt anymore boys she wouldn’t be allowed to play soccer at recess.
He steals another glance over at Jenny. She is in trouble and she looks like she knows it. She sits looking out the window and she looks small in the big chair. Her red tennis shoes don’t reach the floor and they just hang there unmoving and Morgan sees what he has to do to gain her love. He must first gain her trust.
The nurse’s inner office door opens and Morgan sees the nurse, and behind her, Cassie Adams, a fourth grader, sitting on the examining table. The nurse closes the door and looks at the two newcomers.
“Not again!” she says. She does not look happy.
She walks quickly to Morgan and bends down to look at his face. “Who did this? Did you do this, Jenny?”
“No,” Morgan says.
“No?” the nurse says, making it a question. She looks hard at Morgan.
“No,” Morgan says again. He looks the nurse in the eyes when he says it. Her eyes are questioning. His are steady and firm, even defiant.
“Well, then, maybe you can explain how this happened to you. It seems to me things like this happen to you a lot.”
“No, ma’am this is different. This is from a cat.”
“A cat? What cat?”
“One of them out in the bushes by the playground.”
“Those are feral cats, Morgan! You all have been told not to go near them.”
Morgan stares at the nurse with his steady, firm, defiant eyes. Then he looks at Jenny and she is looking at him. Their eyes lock and his heart is beating a thousand beats a minute and she just keeps looking at him with an expression of wonder and amazement and he just keeps looking back, steady and firm and trustworthy.
"Those cats can give you worms," the nurse says.
Morgan goes on looking at Jenny with his trustworthy eyes.
He says to her, "Sometimes you just can’t trust a cat."