There’s a girl following me. I first saw her at Wallach’s when I was drinking my double vanilla shake. When she saw me look at her in the mirror behind the counter, she scooted out. I only saw a flash of purple. I wish she wouldn’t run. I saw her up at the graveyard, too, at Pop’s. I call her Shhhhhhh. Pop passed on five years back. He’s my only family, but we weren’t even blood. Pop took me out of North Hills Boys when I was twelve. He took in other boys before me, but I was the last one. Pop showed me how to drive a truck and tend his flowers and whatnot. I was putting pansies in at Pop’s stone when I caught the smell of lilacs. It was Shhhhhhh. But when I turned around, there was just a flicker and shake and she was running down the road. She’s fast. We have a big park here in town and each tree has its own name tag. My favorite is Princess. Her leaves are big hearts and her flowers are purple bells that land on the ground and smell better than anything. When Shhhhhhh plays near my tree, I pretend I don’t see her so she’ll stay. She hasn’t followed me home to Pop’s yet. The man from the state says I can stay here so long as I don’t make trouble. I wish he wouldn’t say that. There was just that one time, but that little girl was my friend; she wanted an iris from Pop’s garden. Today I was at Pete’s looking at the puppies. Pete said: “why don’t you buy one of those damn puppies already?” Shhhhhhh was there. She smelled like strawberries. I went to pet her, the way Miss Foster showed me, but she moved away real quick. Miss Foster was the nurse at Boys. She smelled like honey. When I got sores on my tongue, she painted them with purple medicine, and when the kids made fun, she told me not to mind them. And when I got a fever, she took me into her office and laid me on her cot and wiped me all over with a cool washrag and after that bundled me under blankets. Then she’d whisper Purple. That’s only for special people to talk; nobody else knows about it. Miss Foster left Boys before I turned twelve. The police came and asked us boys if Miss Foster ever hurt us. I told them she surely did not. When I went to live with Pop, I told him the same thing. He said she played with a kid’s wiener. That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. I miss Miss Foster. Next time I see Shhhhhhh maybe I’ll sneak up and surprise her and bring her back to Pop’s so we can talk Purple.