Speak Like a Child
The afternoon sun hovered high above the city. From its vantage point in the sky, the people below looked like insignificant insects. And to those who desired to make the gentle day a time for anguish, that was what the people were.
At one of the city’s many playgrounds, children were making good use of the equipment. Boys and girls were swinging back and forth on swings, flying down the slide, hanging upside down from bars, and building castles in the sand. But not all of the playground visitors had the same idea of what pleasure was.
Rather than partake in the same activities as all the other children, a darling little blonde girl had decided she would rather watch everyone. As she did so, she snacked on a lollipop that was near the size of her head.
A pair of boys who were up to no good approached the girl. “Hey, that looks good,” said one of them. “How about you give us a taste?”
The girl ignored the two and continued licking away.
“That looks like too much for just one girl,” said the other boy. “Why don’t you give it to us? We’ll finish it for you.”
In unison, the boys reached for the lollipop, but when they did, an unseen force shot from the little girl, sending both boys to the ground. The two immediately got up and ran away, screaming loudly as they did.
“That must be why my mom told me to stay away from girls,” cried one of them.
“They’re all monsters!” shouted the other.
Acting as if nothing out of the ordinary had just taken place, the little blonde girl continued licking away on her lollipop.
A bug then made the horrendous mistake of trying to scurry past the little girl’s feet. After noticing the trespasser, she wasted no time in crushing it beneath her foot. “Tee hee,” she said in her childish voice. “Killing things is fun.”
Jaycee, Sage and Aiko were spending their day off shopping in the city. And though there was a boy on the trip, the day was meant specifically for the girls. Every shop they had stopped in was filled with either colorful outfits, shoes, or fragrances from around the world, not at all the items that most boys would be interested in.
Sage was relegated to telling the girls how good they looked each time they stepped out of the dressing room wearing a new outfit. Had someone been watching them, they surely would have noticed Sage shower more praise upon Jaycee, whose more womanly form fit into her clothes far better than Aiko’s ever could.
“Can we please do something different?” asked Sage after he and the girls exited from yet another boutique.
“We did something you wanted last week,” said Aiko.
“What are you talking about?” asked Sage. “The only thing you let me do last week was go to the bathroom while you two looked at stuffed animals, and that was only because I had to go so bad that I practically had to beg you.”
“Exactly,” said Aiko. “So this week we’re doing what me and Jaycee want to do. It’s called a democracy. If you don’t like it, then move to a fascist nation. Besides, if you need to use the toilet badly enough, I’ll probably let you.”
“Fantastic,” said Sage, rolling his eyes.
Knowing it was in her best interest to stay out of the couple’s spat, Jaycee did nothing more than smile politely when both turned to her, looking for an outsider’s opinion.
Down the street, the darling little blonde from the playground was waiting for the three to make their way to her. As they neared, she threw herself to the ground and began crying as loudly as she could, all in hopes of garnering their attention.
A man exited from a nearby store and was the first to find the crying girl. “What’s wrong, cutie?” he asked.
“You idiot, get away from me,” growled the little girl, showing that her crying had been nothing more than a very convincing performance.
“But you’re out here all alone. Are you lost?”
With the three nearing her position, the little blonde girl hastened the man’s dismissal. Her eyes immediately changed to a burning red. “I told you to get away from me,” she said, a mouth now full of razor sharp teeth.
Clearly not wanting to know why such an adorable little girl could pull off such a gruesome feat, the man ran away.
With the distraction removed, the little girl resumed her crying.
It was shortly thereafter when Jaycee, Sage and Aiko arrived.
“Oh, you poor little thing,” said Aiko, crouching down to the little girl’s level. “Why are you crying?”
“I’m lost,” said the girl through her crying.
“What’s your name?” asked Jaycee, who also crouched down.
“My name is Al . . . ice, Alice,” replied the girl.
“That’s a very pretty name,” said Sage. “My name is Sage, and this is Jaycee and Aiko.” The girls waved after their names were given.
“It’s nice to meet you,” said Alice.
“How did you get lost?” asked Jaycee. “Maybe we can help you get home. Or maybe your parents are around here looking for you.”
“Well . . .” said Alice. “I was playing in my yard when I noticed the gate wasn’t latched. I just walked out and kept going. My mommy told me I should never leave the house. This never would have happened if I had just done what she told me.”
“This shouldn’t take long,” said Aiko. “So, Alice, where do you live? We can get you home before it gets late.”
“Where do I live?” asked Alice. The young girl took a while to think about the question, then reached behind her back to retrieve a small piece of paper. “My mommy told me if I ever got lost, then I should show this to someone.”
Sage was handed the piece of paper. “This is halfway across town,” he said. Sage then took a long look at Alice, who was avoiding making eye contact with him. “How were you able to get all the way downtown?”
“Uh, I . . . ”
Sage began laughing. “Kids haven’t changed a bit. When I was young, I used to wander away all the time. They would find me in the strangest places.”
Alice let out a sigh.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” asked Aiko, offering her hand to Alice. “Let’s get you back home to your parents.” Alice was a bit hesitant at first to accept the offer, but she eventually took a hold of Aiko’s hand.
The four travelers began their trek immediately thereafter, and it took only a short time for Aiko to ask Alice a very important question. “So, are you gonna be in a lot of trouble when you get back home?” she asked.
“Probably,” replied Alice. “My daddy’s strict when it comes to obeying the rules. He says there has to be order. At least, I think that’s what he says. I don’t pay much attention to him when I’m being scolded.”
“Sounds like your parents have a lot of rules.”
“Are your parents strict?” asked Alice.
“I don’t live with both my parents,” said Aiko. “I only live with my father. And I can get away with pretty much anything. My father never punishes me.”
“Why don’t you live with your mommy?”
“Well, sometimes when a mommy and daddy don’t get along, they have to get what grown-ups call a divorce,” explained Aiko. “When that happens, the mommy and daddy stop living in the same house.”
“How about you?” Alice asked Sage, tugging on his arm to gain his attention. “Do you live with both your parents, or are they dee-vorced?”
“I only live with my mom,” said Sage. “My parents never got married.”
“Where’s your daddy?”
“That’s a good question,” said Sage, wearing a false smile. “If I ever find out, I’ll let you know. How does that sound?”
“Hey, who’s ready for a snack?” asked Aiko. “I know I am.” Knowing where the topic of their conversation was about to lead, Aiko wanted badly to point it in another direction before a very sensitive question could be directed Jaycee’s way.
“What about your parents, Jaycee?” asked Alice.
Before Jaycee could even open her mouth, Aiko answered the question for her. “Jaycee lives on her own,” she said. “She’s what’s called an independent woman.”
“Is that so?” said Alice under her breath.
“What was that?” asked Aiko, who had heard Alice say something.
“Uh, I said how about that snack,” said Alice. She then pointed to an establishment down the street. “I want some ice cream.”
“That’s the new place that just opened up,” said Sage. “Everyone’s been talking about it at school. They say it’s really good.”
“Look at the line,” gasped Aiko. “It goes on forever.”
“I want ice cream!” shouted Alice.
“I wonder if I was like that at her age,” Aiko whispered to Sage.
“What are you talking about, her age?” Sage whispered back. “You still act like that when things don’t go your way.”
Aiko grew angered by the comment but suppressed her rage to not upset Alice. “Alright, sweetie,” said Aiko. “We’ll get you some ice cream.”
The group arrived at a bench near the ice cream stand. It was shaded by a large tree, making it the perfect place for the group to eat their treats.
“Alright,” said Aiko. “Sage and I will go stand in line and get the ice cream. So, what does everybody want?”
“I can’t decide,” said Alice. “Let me think about it.”
“Sure,” said Aiko. “How about you, Jaycee? What flavor do you want?”
Jaycee thought about it before answering. “I guess I’ll have . . .”
“I know what I want now,” blurted out Alice. “I want strawberry.”
“Got it,” said Aiko. “Okay, how about you, Jaycee.”
“Could you get me . . .”
“I want vanilla,” said Alice, once again interrupting Jaycee.
“You want vanilla?” asked Aiko. “But you already said you wanted strawberry.”
“I do, but I want vanilla, too,” said Alice.
“Alright, strawberry and vanilla,” said Aiko. “Now, Jaycee, what can I get for you? And remember, I’m paying, so don’t be shy. Order whatever you want.”
“Chocolate, too,” said Alice.
“That’s some healthy appetite you got there,” said Aiko, patting Alice on the head. “You remind me of myself when I was a little girl.”
“You mean she reminds you of yourself now,” whispered Sage.
Aiko flashed an angry look at Sage before directing a more serene expression at Jaycee. “So, have you decided?” she asked.
“Um . . . well, I’m not really that hungry,” said Jaycee.
“Are you sure?” asked Aiko. “Not even a small scoop?”
“No. I’m fine.”
“Alright. Come on, Sage.” And with that, the two departed.
“Me and Jaycee alone,” whispered Alice. “Perfect.”
“Did you say something?” asked Sage.
Alice nearly jumped from her seat from surprise by the fact that she had made her comment loud enough for others to hear. “Uh, I said hooray for ice cream!” she replied.
“She’s so much like me when I was her age,” said Aiko.
Jaycee and Alice were then left alone on the bench. They sat quietly for a while before Alice broke the silence. “Those two must be boyfriend and girlfriend. Since you’re here alone, does that mean you don’t have a boyfriend?” she asked with the innocence that would be expected from someone of her age.
“Well . . .” said Jaycee, unsure of what to tell the curious young girl.
“Is there a boy you like?”
“There is,” answered a blushing Jaycee.
“How come he’s not here with the rest of you?” asked Alice. “Is it because he doesn’t like you back?”
“It’s kind of hard to explain.”
“I have an aunt that never got married. My mommy says she feels sorry for her. She says my aunt is always sad. One night I heard my mommy and daddy talking about her. My mommy said my aunt tried to commit suicide. What does suicide mean? Is it something fun? If it’s something fun, can you show me how to do it?”
“You shouldn’t think about things like that,” said Jaycee, looking off to the side to hide the sorrowed look on her face. “A girl your age shouldn’t concern herself with such grown-up things.” Jaycee then put on a brave smile and faced Alice. “You’re still young. You should leave the grown-up problems to the grown-ups.”
“I guess so,” said Alice. “Hey, is that a cross?” she asked, pointing at Jaycee’s chest. What Alice had noticed was the golden crucifix Jaycee always wore. It was usually concealed under her top, but it had come out on this day.
Jaycee took hold of her crucifix and began rubbing it between her fingers. “Yes, it used to belong to my mother,” she said. “She gave it to me when I was a little girl.” Jaycee then tucked it back under her top. “It’s very special to me.”
“Does that mean you believe in God?”
“Yes,” said Jaycee. “I believe in God.”
“My daddy says there’s no such thing as God. He says that religion is just a crutch that people use when they don’t want to face the real world. He said that if there really is a God, then why would He allow bad things to happen?”
“Living in a world like this makes it hard to believe in such things,” said Jaycee, but only loud enough to barely be heard. “Sometimes . . . I wish I didn’t believe.”
Alice was about to respond to what had just been said but nothing would come out of her mouth. To hear such a thing come from Jaycee left her at a temporary loss for words. “Uh, since I don’t believe in God, do you hate me?” she asked.
“Of course not,” replied Jaycee. “Everyone’s entitled to believe in whatever they want to believe in. Just because someone doesn’t believe in the same things as you doesn’t mean you should hate them.”
“My daddy says he says he hopes there isn’t a God. Because if there is, then God would be the most flawed creature in the universe.”
“Why would your father say something like that?”
Alice began staring into the distance. “Just look around, Jaycee,” she said, speaking in a tone that made her sound far beyond her years. “Look at this world. It’s overflowing with sin, boiling over with depravity. Mankind has thrown its belief system away, all to fulfill their own selfish desires. What kind of God are we supposedly made in the image of?”
Jaycee was far too dumbfounded to give a reply.
“Do you think God is capable of being flawed?” asked Alice. “If God is perfect, then so should everything made by His hands. This world would have to be perfect. But the good in this world is countered with an equal amount of evil. Is that perfection? Are humans’ hearts supposed to be just as balanced as the world around them? Are they supposed to harbor both good and evil within their souls?”
“I don’t understand,” said Jaycee. Never before had she heard such things said, but the fact that they were coming from the mouth of a little girl made each word said that much more disturbing to Jaycee.
“God must be enjoying what He’s seeing,” said Alice. “The evil around us has truly made this a perfect world.”
Sage and Aiko returned with hands filled with treats. “That didn’t take as long as I thought it would,” said Aiko. She then handed Alice her three tiered snack. “Here you go, you adorable little thing.”
“It looks yummy,” said Alice, whose disposition had so quickly changed from that of a harbinger of doom back to a normal little girl that it was frightening.
Aiko took a seat next to Alice, while Sage sat beside Jaycee.
Before having the first taste of his treat, Sage offered it to Jaycee. “Here,” he said. “I ordered this for myself, but I’m not really hungry.”
“Thank you,” said Jaycee, accepting the treat from Sage. She then tasted it. “I thought you didn’t like mint,” she said.
“I don’t,” replied Sage.
Had any of the three been looking at Alice, they surely would have noticed her watching Jaycee and Sage with a most unpleasant look upon her face.
Once their treats had been eaten, the four ventured out again. They walked three wide down the street, leaving Jaycee to follow from the rear.
Much to Sage and Aiko’s surprise, they found their hands had been clasped onto by Alice. “This is how I walk with my mommy and daddy,” she said.
“Did you hear that?” asked Aiko. “We remind Alice of her mommy and daddy. She must have very attractive parents.”
“Uh, yeah,” said Sage, who was unaccustomed to such tender moments.
As with many other times when out with her friends, Jaycee felt out of place. She felt as if she was an intruder on a moment that was never meant to include her. But the worst part of all, Jaycee felt unwanted.
Eventually the group’s journey led them to an up-scale two story home. It was evident that Alice was a child of privilege.
“So, this is where you live?” asked Aiko. “Nice.”
“Uh, yeah, I’ve lived here all my life,” said Alice, unlatching the gate. She then shut it quickly, ensuring the others wouldn’t follow her.
“Bye, bye,” said Aiko, waving farewell to her young friend. Seeing this prompted Jaycee and Sage to do the same. “Make sure you stay out of trouble. And maybe some day we’ll run into each other again.”
“Oh, we’ll be running into each other very soon,” whispered Alice as she made her way to the door. Before entering, she gave a departing wave.
Once inside, Alice fell against the door and let out an elongated sigh. “I’m surprised she didn’t insist on coming in for tea and crumpets,” she said in a far more adult voice than before. “Little brat.” A smile quickly replaced the sneer on Alice’s face. “But I must admit,” she said, stretching her arms above her head, “being a child was more fun that I thought it would be. But I still prefer my real body.”
A swirl of black smoke then engulfed Alice. After it faded away, Alenia had her original body back. “All in all, today was a very good day,” she said.
“What are you doing in my house?” asked a man, entering the room.
“Why don’t you take a nap,” said Alenia, snapping her fingers. The man immediately fell to the floor and began snoring.
“Well, Jaycee, what do you have to say for yourself now?”
Aiko was walking arm in arm with Sage as the two, along with Jaycee, made their way back in the direction from whence they had come. Jaycee, like before, followed from behind. And, like before, she knew there was no place for her there.
“I guess I’ll see you guys at school,” said Jaycee.
“Are you sure?” asked Sage.
“It’s getting late. I should get home.”
“There’s still time before it gets dark for you to come over,” said Aiko. “My father can give you a ride home, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“That’s okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Okay then,” said Aiko. “Bye.”
Jaycee then departed, exchanging waves with her friends as she did.
“The walk must have tired her out.”
Sage and Aiko then continued on their way. “Yeah,” said Sage, “it must have been the walk.” The whole time he spoke, Sage kept his focus on the departing Jaycee.
The hanging sky had since become draped in a tapestry of oranges and pinks, ushering in the conquering darkness of the night.
Jaycee, who had chosen not to go home just yet, stopped at a playground. She swung slowly on the one swing that was still intact. The dilapidated equipment around Jaycee matched her somber appearance so well that it seemed made just for her.
Two boys were watching from a distance.
“Tell her to get off,” said one of them. “It’s getting late. If I don’t get home soon, I’m gonna be in trouble.”
“You tell her,” said the other. “You’re the one that wants to use the swing.”
Rather than wait any longer, the boys left.
Jaycee stopped swinging and began staring blankly at the ground. “You’re really are a fool,” she told herself.