Today's assignment had been a simple one...or so I thought. Each child in my class had taken to the task immediately. I could still hear the excited chatter and crayon boxes rattling. I think Salmon and Burnt Sienna found their fate on the floor. Someone's paper tore, bringing an onslaught of tears. But Molly's anguish had quickly dispersed as Iíd "magically" produced a new sheet.
"Draw your mommy or your daddy." I had wanted to encourage creativity and also see what the children's perspectives were. Later, the parents would get to see the pictures too. I imagined that most of the artwork would wind up on refrigerators where they would be proudly displayed.
A smile had toyed with my lips as I flipped through the drawings. I saw hairstyles made with curly Qs, and cheeks bright red. Some eyes were huge, some noses were crooked, and much of the coloring slipped outside the lines. But most faces wore bright smiles.
At the bottom of the stack though, I'd discovered Billy's picture. I recognized it to be his before I even saw the scribbled name with the backward Y. He always used blue crayons. Today hadnít been an exception. I would have laughed, had it not been for the angry face that stared back at me. It was a portrait of Billy's father.
I'd met Ken when Billy had started school, and I could smell the alcohol on him then. I'd seen the bruises on Billy's arms, but without real proof I could only hope that the boy was safe.
Tonight though, the parents would all be here, and Iíd be distributing these pictures. I prayed before I left work.
"Look, she drew my favorite earrings." Jody laughed as she pointed out her daughter's artwork to her husband.
It was funny to see the parents sitting at the little desks with their knees almost up to their chests. But it gave me the atmosphere I wanted to update them about the class.
I continued from desk to desk, handing out the papers. I dreaded the last one. Ken sat in the corner by himself. He'd come in his grimy work clothes - it was no wonder the others avoided him. For a moment, I almost felt sorry for him. His wife hadn't even come.
I hesitated. Taking a deep breath, I finally handed him the picture of the frowning face with jagged eyebrows.
He took it with an expression of apathy. I almost thought he wasn't going to look at it. But then he did. His face paled and his eyes widened with a horror I don't think I'd ever seen. He looked up at me quickly as if asking me if this really was his sonís drawing.
I nodded. "Billy drew this today," I explained. I turned quickly. I wanted to end the session without any disruptive scenes.
I didn't forget that night, though the weeks rolled on. Despite there having been no dramatic events, I still felt a strange stirring within me every time I saw Billy. I wanted to take him in my arms and just hug him for no reason. His smile was so bright...so brave.
"Alright, today I want you to draw anything you like."
"Anything?" Molly asked, her eyes wide.
"Anything!" I grinned. "I want you to draw something that makes you happy. Can you do that?"
The shuffle of papers and crayon boxes started again. I loved that sound.
The bell rang all too soon. I hurriedly went from desk to desk, collecting the papers. There were rainbows, kittens, fish and castles. My class was a creative one.
When I reached Billy, I stopped short. He'd used blue crayons again, but it wasn't a baseball or frog like I knew he loved. It was a face. The lips were drawn up into a smile and there was no anger present.
"Billy, who is this?"
He smiled proudly. "That's my dad."
I blinked. "Really? That's a lot different from the last picture you drew."
Billy shrugged as if the answer was simple. "He's friends with Jesus now."
Before I could stop them, tears filled my eyes.
Billy looked up at me with concern. "Did I say something wrong?"
"Oh, no, not at all." My smile emerged and I pulled the boy into a hug. "These are happy tears."
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