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The One R

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“Mommy, what does this word say?” Ashley asked, holding up a book.

Barely looking up from her work, Helen murmured, “Not now, darling, mummy has to work.”

Shoulders slumped, Ashley nodded and left the office. Her mom always had work. Face scrunched, Ashley listed in her head the people who could help. The Big Guy was busy feeding the abnormals. Charlie would be helping him. Sitting on the window box outside her mom’s office, she threw down the stupid book.

“Hey Ash, what’s wrong?” Henry asked, flopping down next to her.

“Nothing,” she mumbled. Henry couldn’t help; he only ever played computer games. “No, don’t!” she cried when he picked up The Book. His face scrunched up and Ashley’s tummy hurt.

“... I like this book.” It opened naturally to the place where she’d held it earlier.

"You do?"

He nodded. "The Big Guy used it to teach me to read when I came here."

Ashley bit her lip. Could she ask him? Would he laugh? Would he even help? Hand shaking, she pointed at The Word she couldn't get. "What does that say?"

Smiling, Henry put the book on her lap, and for the next forever he helped her read.