The boxes were packed, most of them well dented and rippled, the words cocina, dormitorio, bano still visible beneath the Sharpie's black lines, new words scribbled above or below.
It wasn't something new. Raul knew he should not be surprised, or angry, or disappointed. But he was. This time felt different. This time he didn't want to go, and not just because moving involved extra work, and his mother was always out of sorts for the first few weeks, which typically lead to heated and sometimes violent arguments between her and his father.
This time was different because he liked it here. For the first time in his short life, he didn't dread going to school every weekday morning. He was not made fun of to the degree that he normally was, and even considered the small, pale boy who sat next to him in the classroom full of musical instruments a distant sort of friend. Raul's English was still basic, so they didn't talk much, or even really know anything at all about each other, but there was a feeling of acceptance by this boy that could not be denied. He would turn sideways and smile his shy smile. He would without fail say hello and goodbye at the beginning and end of each music class, and he once even offered Raul a piece of mint chewing gum.
The school itself was also a nicer place than he was accustomed to, with some sections of spotty grass in the inner courtyard and playground equipment that wasn't wrapped with yellow caution tape, now off limits to the students. Not that he ever played on the equipment. Raul did not go outside at recess. Instead, after finishing his free lunch, sipping the remains of the bagged, now warmish milk, he moved from his seat to the lunch table at the far end of the cafeteria, the one below the high metal-meshed window that let in filtered afternoon light.
This spot was the most exciting part of this school, this town, this growing season. Raul was getting individual help with English three days a week. For the first time he was experiencing fleeting feelings of understanding. He was able to decode longer and longer strings of words, and Mr Phelps never seemed to get irritated when he failed to make progress, or made the same mistake that he had made yesterday and the day before and the day before that.