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What Had Gone Wrong?

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He had a boyish grin spread across his face, it was mischievous and full of delight. His sun kissed skin seemed to glow under the Bahamas’ sun. Even through the small 2X3 photograph I could feel the warmth of the sun brush my skin and I could feel the glinting of bright happy eyes.

He wore a pair of shockingly bright blue bathing trunks and a slightly oversized white swimming t-shirt. His hair lay plastered around his face, wet after a cool afternoon swim in the ocean. You could tell just by looking at the photograph that he was a good kid. The kind of kid that did his homework right after school so he could go outside and play with his sister and brother. The kind of kid that offered to set the table before dinner and didn’t complain when he was asked to help wash the dishes.The of kid that wasn’t afraid to stand up to the neighborhood bullies when his little brother and sister got picked on. He was a good kid, a very obedient, good kid. 

So what had gone wrong?

My finger drew circles around the once so innocent, and happy face of the young boy in the photograph.

His name was Timothy, he liked sunny days and cartoons, Beatles music and comic books, the smell of freshly baked cookies and the sound of the violin.

He was a sweet little child, when his parents would left for date night or last minute business meetings and I’d arrive at their house to watch the kids Timothy never complained. While his other siblings would cry at their parents absence, Timothy never cried. He simply ask me to play a board game with him and I’d round everybody up and we’d play “Sorry” or “Checkers” laughing and eating freshly popped popcorn until their parents came home later that night.

Whenever the parents came home and the children were instructed to bed, Timothy always lingered around for an extra second to thank me for coming and playing with them, it always startled me when he thanked me, sometimes the children I babysat would ask me to come back and play again, sometimes they’d cry when it was time for me to leave, but I had never been thanked for staying. I had never been so honestly thanked for any action in my life, his eyes warm with happiness, his hands softly gripping mine. His maturity at such a young age startled me and I always told him he was welcome and I’d be sure to come back again. Timothy was a very polite and mature kid.

At the end of my senior year I had to quite babysitting because I was planning to attend Boston University, a school several states away from my hometown. I thanked the children for having fun with me when their parents were away and thanked the parents for generous sums of money they paid me when I babysat. When it was time for me to leave I received a small wallet sized photograph from Timothy. The photo was taken during Timothy’s family vacation a few years earlier in the bahamas. In the photo everyone was having fun, Timothy was building a sandcastle and his siblings ate watermelon while the parents lounged on beach chairs. It was such a happy photo and I took the photo graciously thanking Timothy for being such a good kid. He smiled a full pearly white smile and gave me one last hug good bye before I left the family for good.

It was during my senior year of college that I received the news.

I was back home with my family for winter vacation. It was an early Monday morning and a brisk cold had swept through the town, seeping it’s way through the small cracks of our home, my mother suggested we go to a newly opened restaurant that was rumored to have the best pastries in town. I left, grabbing my wallet and keys and arrived with my mother to a small
cafe with large windows and warm lighting. We sat at the long counter facing the large clear windows and ordered coffee and freshly baked pastries, we watched the snowfall and talked about Holiday plans. When we had finished the last of our pastries, wiping sugary frosting from our fingers, I pulled out my wallet to pay the bill when the small wallet sized photograph of Timothy and his family fell out. Picking up the photo the unfamiliar faces slowly growing into recognition I laughed and passed the photograph to my mother.

“I completely forgot about this photograph! Do you remember them? I use to babysit Emily and Jackson and Timothy!”

My mother’s eyes looked at the photo solemnly, she sighed and handed back the small 2X3 photograph.

“Oh that poor family.”

Confused I asked my mother for more details and she shook her head heavily. Hesitantly she told me the news, Timothy had apparently run away from home. Shocked I asked her more, though she didn’t know much. According to my mother he had been hanging out with some bad people and was having a hard time in school, he often got in trouble and was even caught stealing a bike from a neighbor's house. The parents had also been going through a rough patch and were looking towards divorce.

“It’s been ages since I last had a conversation with Timothy’s mother….” My mother sighed wearily. “Last time I talked to her I had invited her over for a game of cards when she suddenly cancelled last minute. Apparently they were having a bit of a family issue, and since then I haven’t spoken to her. Then about a week later I heard her son had run away. I tried contacting her but no matter how many times I called no one picked up.” Completely appalled, I asked if they had any idea where he had gone. My mother shrugged telling me that know one knew and there wasn’t much we could do. So I slipped the photograph into my wallet and we proceeded home silently.

Looking back on the small 2X3 wallet sized photograph I could never have guessed that the sun kissed, happy little boy in the photograph would have run away only a few years later. He was such a mature, kind boy, what had happened in the last few years I was gone? How could a once seemingly perfect angel change into something completely different? How could such an innocent boy turn into such a rebellious young teen?

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