The Girl in Pink Ballet Shoes

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The ragtag band of children made their way through the ruins of the city streets. Maybe twenty, boys and girls, none over fifteen. They were dressed in the rags of what had once been pajama's and school clothes. Some had tied ropes around their shoes to keep them from falling off. Their faces were drawn with tiredness and hunger. Many were cut or burned, and they were all filthy. The older children carried the younger ones, but looked as if they needed to be carried themselves. Some of the boys carried sticks and table knives as if to fight off an enemy none of them could see. The only light was far to the west where the city was still burning; hours after the planes that had brought the bombs had flown away. Still the children all knew that soldiers walked the streets, armed to kill.

"How much farther?" a little boy, about nine, with tangled brown hair and a burn down his left arm asked, dragging his feet. The leader, a girl about fifteen answered, without turning around to see the sorrow behind her, "We have to leave the city before dawn, they'll be looking for survivors." She didn't need to say who "they" were. The child slumped with exhaustion, but didn’t stop, even as young as he was, he knew stopping meant death.

At the back of the motley pack a little girl in her big sisters arms shook with silent sobs for her mom. Her sister rubbed her back, but couldn't think of anything comforting to say; Mom was never coming back, neither was Dad. Not for any of them.

A little girl with no shoes whinned," I want to go home." and started crying. A boy, with eyes that must have once been reassuring but were know simply sad, went back to scope her up. He said reassuring things to her that he only half believed himself, "It will be alright,” he said, “We'll find a new, better home."

His eyes said what his mouth didn't, they would never go home, there was no home to go to anymore. No family. They had been the survivors before, now they were simply alive. There was a rumor that they would soon be freed, that help would come, food would come. He had believed them, they all had. They had clung to the tiny hope that tomorrow could be better. Then the planes came. He looked away from the girl he carried. He didn't want to lie to her anymore, but he couldn't put her down. If she lost hope then he knew there was none to be found, and then his heart would truly break.

They neared the edge of the city around dawn. Most were asleep on their feet, eyes half-closed, no longer caring what they stepped on. Can, stick, bone, or charred body, nothing mattered anymore.

At the front the leader trudged on, guiding the band of kids and looking ready to fall herself from hunger and exhaustion. Walking next to her was a little girl that could have been her sister. She was maybe six or seven with dirty yellow hair and bright eyes. All the other children her age were asleep in the arms of their siblings or struggling to walk on legs that were almost too weak to support them, but she looked ahead. Her skirt was scorched in places from its original pink to black, she had cuts down one leg from when she had fallen earlier during the escape. She didn't even have a jacket.

But there was a fire in her blue eyes lacking in the other kids faces. There was saddness there too, but it was overpowered by hope and determination and that little kid knowledge that everything will be alright. And on her feet, dirty and worn, but still somehow beautiful were a pair of pink ballet slippers.

While the sun rose around them and the ragtag gang set out into the country, the little girl reached for her sisters hand. Not to comfort herself, to help her sister. That hand told her everything the little child knew, that life could be good again, and gave her sister strength. They walked on, out of the city. Clinging on to each other, refusing to give up. As they left the city,the flames framed them. Dirty, tired, and led by a little girl in ballet shoes.





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