Early April 1982, West End of London, 7:50 AM


Hassen ignored the voice, watching the sunrise from the top of his favourite tree. It was the same height as the townhouse he and his family lived in, with a trio of thick branches growing just outside his bedroom window. The clouds from the night's storm were just beginning to pull from the horizon, so the scarlet orb of the sun glowed behind a thin wall of haze.


The six-year-old nearly fell from his perch. He looked back to see Cadin, looking annoyed.

"What is it?" he demanded.

"Mum and Dad are looking for you, genius!" Cadin replied. Hassen rolled his eyes and gave a low sigh.


Hassen stood and took one last glance at the sunrise before walking back easily along the branch and climbing down to the small platform Arron had built beneath his son's window.

"Why are they looking for me?"

"It's time for school," Cadin shook his head. "It's our first day, remember?"

"I'm not going." Hassen spoke just as their mother walked by, and she stopped upon hearing his words.

"Why not?" she asked.

"Because," Hassen plopped on the floor. "I'll be the only six-year-old in kindergarten, that's why."


"The kids will laugh at me," he crossed his arms stubbornly across his chest. "I won't have any friends."

"Hassen," Magena's tone brooked no argument, and Hassen quieted down. "We didn't have a choice but to hold you back," she continued. "Don't you remember?"

Hassen had been quite sickly in the past year, and they hadn't enrolled him because of his frequent trips to the hospital. The doctors had officially ruled it as diabetes, and had said he'd be all right as long as he had daily insulin shots and was careful about what he ate.

"You won't be the only six-year-old," Magena told him. "There's always a few in the class, and you could always make friends with the older kids."

"No," Hassen shook his head again. "They'll all laugh at me, because I don't look like them."

Hassen's hair was dark and thick. His wide, bright eyes were a glittering blue. He was tall for his age, with lithe muscles just barely visible beneath his dark skin. Magena smiled, shaking her head as Cadin slipped past her. She stepped into the room, kneeling before her youngest and gripping his shoulders.

"Hassen, there is nothing wrong with you," she said firmly. He stared at the floor, kicking his feet against the wood slats.

"Then why do I look so different?" he muttered. He stared at his hands, curling them into tight fists. "Why am I so dark when everyone else is so…"

"So what?" she ran a hand through his hair. It reached just below his ears and never seemed to get tangled, no matter what he did.

"Light," the boy finally looked at her. "Why am I so dark when everyone else is so light?"

He held his arm next to his mother's, proving the vast difference between their skin tones. Magena's smile turned sad, but she made no effort to answer his question.

"We can talk about this later," she kissed his forehead before getting to her feet. "But right now, you need to get ready for school."

He sighed. "Okay."

She smiled, pausing in the doorway and looking at him over her shoulder. He hadn't moved, picking at what appeared to be a loose thread at the hem of his shirt. His shoulders again slumped in a deep sigh. Magena bit her lip, seeing a flash of white on Hassen's side.

"The way you look isn't what you're worried about, is it, baby?"

He looked up, his eyes wide with fear. He nodded.

"None of the other kids there have diabetes," he said. "I know it. I'll be the only one who has to go to the nurse's office every day to get insulin shots."

"Hassen, there are lots of people, billions of them, who are going through what you are. Don't feel like you're the only one with this disease in the world."

He was quiet a moment longer, then slowly got to his feet. He went to his dresser, pulling out new jeans and a thick sweater. He looked back at his mother one more time before giving a weak smile.

"I'll be down in a few minutes," he said quietly. "Can you get my insulin ready?"

She nodded, pulling his door shut as she moved back down the hall. She often thought of telling Hassen the truth about his birth, of how he had come to live with them and be one of them, but she feared he would grow to hate them. That he would do something drastic if he found out the truth of his heritage.

Its better he not know, she thought. Especially at such a young age, I'll tell him when he's older.