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The Giver: Katharine
After midday meal, all fifty of the community's Sixes filed into the play area. Katharine made a beeline for the "monkey"-bars, her favorite station. How odd, she thought, that the ladder-like rungs were named after a fictitious creature–one after which her comfort object was modeled.
She waited patiently as David, her peer, slowly traversed. She herself was an accomplished pro, but she wouldn't dare admit it aloud for fear of bragging. David dismounted; it was her turn. She grasped the immediate rod with her eager, calloused hands, and was greeted by the familiar sensation of the platform receding from her small feet. Now a pendulum, she propelled herself forward effortlessly; the motions had become muscle memory. Midway, the trusty crossbars altered. Startled, she plummeted to the earth. Sprawled on the wood-chips, she caught a glimpse of the monkey bars–they were unchanged. She must have imagined it.
She clutched David's extended hand and stood slowly. By good fortune, she had only sustained minor injuries–a skinned knee and a splinter–and no pain pill was needed.
"Thank you for your help, David," she said automatically whilst straightening her hair ribbons and removing dangling shavings from her jacket. Like all the Sixes' jackets, Katharine's buttoned in the back to promote "interdependence." With some buttons now undone, she called upon David for assistance.
While refastening the buttons, David made a peculiar observation. "Katharine..." his voice trailed off with reluctancy, "where did you get such pale eyes?"
Her face flushed. What did he mean? Doesn’t everyone have dark eyes? Before she could inquire this of him, a nearby play area supervisor interrupted. With the smack of a discipline wand, David was silenced. He apologized for his rudeness.
"I accept your apology," Katharine recited the customary phase politely, concealing her alarm and guilt.
Rattled by the foregoing events, she withdrew, and puzzled over David's allusion to her eyes. She couldn't help but consider, Am I different from the others? In the community, children were meant to fit in, not stand out. She suddenly felt self-conscious.
* * *
As Katharine's family unit performed the required nightly ritual–the "evening telling of feelings"–Katharine strained to concentrate and eat her meal portion; her mind was elsewhere.
"Thank you for your feeling, Roger," she and her parents said in unison. The focus shifted to Katharine.
The emotions of the day flooded back to her. How would she describe her uneasiness about the hallucination and the resulting tumble, her embarrassment for being the source of David's chastisement, and her being disconcerted by David's remark, using one precise word?
"I feel...." Katharine paused, getting caught up in the spider web of her jumbled thoughts, "Do you have a mirror?" All went silent. Katharine, now aware that she had blurted, expected to be chastised. Her parents' response shocked her.
They presented her with a mirror–a rarity in the community. David was right; Katharine was different. It was evident in her eyes.