The Innocent This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I couldn't explain. I didn't know how. How do you explain to a seven-year-old child why a mother would kill her two little boys. I couldn't tell her because I wanted to know myself. Tears streamed down her confused, naive little face as we watched the news. I tried to comfort her. I tried to explain, "Some people have dark sides," I said, "but most people are good."

I wanted desperately to change the subject. I tried to ask her how school had been, but my babysitting charge would not be dissuaded. Instead, as the news on TV changed, so did her questions, although they were still as hard to answer. "Why do people hurt each other? Why do little kids get shot in their own front yards by other little kids? Why do people let it happen? Will that happened to me?" Wow! These were heavy questions for a seven-year-old to be asking a sixteen-year-old who didn't know these answers. What could I say? Do I tell her that the world is terrifying and cruel sometimes? Do I tell her that kids younger than her have guns and are in gangs? No, I couldn't tell her that. All I could do was give her a hug and tell her not to worry because no one would ever let anything bad happen to her.

Fearing more questions, I turned off the news and put Aladdin in the VCR. Soon her tears were dry and she was once again the sweet, unassuming kid I knew. But later, when I was saying good night, and she asked me to leave her light on because she was afraid of the dark, I looked into her trusting eyes and began to wonder. Should I have told her not to worry? Is that really true? Could I promise that simply because she lived in a nice house, in a good neighborhood, with a loving family and friends that nothing would ever happen to her? I realized I couldn't promise that and I became both angry and sad, and then I started to cry.

I cried for the little girl sleeping upstairs and children just like her. I cried because something had been taken away from her that could never be returned. She would always have fear now and she would always know that not far from the safe little world she knew was another world, a frightening world, filled with violence, fear and hate.

When I got home that night I cried for another little girl, only she was sixteen instead of seven. She too had lost something that day. She had lost her hope that more children could hold onto their childhood dreams and stay ignorant for a little longer to the world that surrounded them. She had hoped that by staying oblivious, the problems would disappear and never affect them.

As I said my prayers that night, I said an extra prayer to let one small child keep what I and so many others had been unable to hold onto. I prayed for the child who could still see the world, simply, through bright colored crayons and Disney cartoons, the child who is what we all long to be - innocent. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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