Cora watched the boy hobble into the classroom, feeling an unpleasant suspicion twisting around in her gut. Third time this year that Robbie had broken a bone; and while some children were just unlucky, Cora didn't think it was just bad luck dogging this child. Not unless you counted the luck of the draw when it came to parents.
Robbie's mother had run off with a trucker when the boy was three years old; Robbie's father was rumored to be a prodigious and violent drunkard, although he was apparently smart enough to do most of his drinking out of town. Robbie himself was a small child, with the kind of face that always looked bruised around the eyes. Cora sometimes wondered whether he ever got any sleep at all. A bit of prying had revealed that he and his father lived out by the woods in an old Airstream trailer, but nothing beyond that. She didn't like to get too nosey about her students.
The problem, she found herself thinking as the clock edged towards 7:30, was that Robbie's case was so... unusual. He acted enough like any second-grader, and seemed only a little shy. Loud voices or noises did not cause him any apparent fear. He committed the usual number of classroom transgressions, and responded to discipline just as well as the other children. But there was that look he got, sometimes, when no one was paying him much attention, as though he were sadder than any little boy had a right to be...
And there was the fact that he kept breaking bones, of course. And the oddly-shaped bruise she had once found on his arm, that he had refused to talk about. That was the one time he had seemed... fearful. As though the bruise was part of some guilty secret. Cora wondered now, for the millionth time, whether she should say something to someone, or whether she was just being paranoid.
The morning bell rang, and Cora forced herself to smile as she rose from her desk. "Good morning, class," she said, and "Good morning, Miss Sedgwick," they all chorused back at her. Except Robbie, who was looking down at his fresh white cast as if afraid to meet her eyes. By the end of the week, she knew, it would be covered with the names of classmates; more well-wishing signatures for a collection already bigger than any child that age should have.