TW: child abuse
Sophie’s feet kicked idly as she shaded a tree with a green crayon. She finished the tree and held her paper up like she’d seen an adult do once, squinting as she nibbled on the crayon. She decided the drawing looked good, and hopped off her bed to pad across the carpet and stick it to her corkboard with a thumbtack.
Stepping back to admire her work, Sophie put her hands on her hips and tried to whistle appreciatively, but all she managed to do was make herself dizzy. Someday she’d learn to whistle.
The sudden increase in her parents’ voices made her pause, and she cringed as her father began yelling. Trying to ignore the screaming argument coming up through the vents, Sophie walked to her window and leaned against the sill, looking out through the clean glass.
Long, gleaming streets stretched out of sight, lined with ornate stone houses and gorgeous trees. People hurried up and down the sidewalks while teams of horses pulled beautiful carriages slowly through the crowds. Sophie loved sitting and watching the sights. Sometimes she saw different places, but none were as nice as this city. Some of the places she hadn’t even tried drawing.
After a while, she sighed and went back to her desk to get another piece of paper. Her parents were still fighting, and that meant she couldn’t go downstairs yet. Sophie’s stomach grumbled, but she ignored it and began drawing, an intent look of concentration on her small face as she carefully sketched with her black crayon. Today she would draw the big mansion across the street.
Sophie engrossed herself in drawing, getting up occasionally to walk to the window and peer out at the mansion, holding up her paper for comparison. It was never as perfect as she’d hoped, but it was still good, so she kept working.
Suddenly, her door burst open, and her father strode in, red-eyed and red-faced. Clutching the crayons in her fist, Sophie turned and tried not to tremble. He was always mad when she trembled.
“What’s this?” her father snarled, snatching the paper off her desk. Sophie made a noise of protest in her throat, and he glared at her. “Wasting more time with crayons? Do something useful! Why don’t you find a hobby that’ll teach you how to make a living?”
Sophie’s mom appeared in the doorway. “Leave off, Bob! Just because you can’t make any money doesn’t mean she has to suffer! She’s just a kid, leave her alone!”
Her father turned, and seemed ready to do something terrible, so Sophie started crying. He shook his head and shoved past her mother.
“Will you shut that blasted kid up, Gwen? I’ve got a headache.”
Bob stormed downstairs, and Gwen held up a finger to her lips, glaring at Sophie. Sophie immediately stopped crying, and hugged her mother.
“I’m sorry, Mommy. I’ll try not to make him mad again.”
Gwen patted her on the head for a moment distractedly, then walked down the stairs. “Just be quiet for the rest of the day, okay?”
Sophie nodded and closed the door quietly behind her. She walked to the window, opening it just a little bit before closing her eyes and letting the wind wash the sounds of the city over her. Smiling, she imagined herself someday walking those beautiful streets, and becoming as happy as the people she below her.
Sophie’s lip trembled, no matter how hard she tried to stop it. All of her classmates surrounded her, taunting and laughing. She’d just wanted something good for show and tell! Why were they so mean?
“C’mon, you copied that!” taunted Paul, one of her classmates. He reached for the paper clutched in her hands, but she jerked away. “Just admit it, you didn’t think of that yourself!”
“No! I told you, I looked out my window, and drew what I saw. Why don’t you believe me?” Sophie was near tears now.
A big third grader pushed her from behind. “Because, stupid, we’ve all seen the movies. A desert planet with two suns isn’t very original,” he said importantly.
“I didn’t make it up! I saw it out my window!”
“Look everyone, Sophie thinks a television is called a window!” shrieked Mary. She’d been held back a grade, and lorded it over the rest of the first graders that she was a year older than them all.
All the kids began chanting. “Window Sophie! Window Sophie! Window Sophie!” She couldn’t take it anymore, and began crying, sitting in her dress on the asphalt until a teacher came and broke up the gathering. Miss Lockhart scooped Sophie up, brushing her off and soothing her until the tears stopped. When she asked what had happened, Sophie explained through her gasping sobs. When she finished, Miss Lockhart looked at her sternly.
“It wasn’t right of those kids to make fun of you, but you shouldn’t tell lies, Sophie. It’s great that you’re practicing your art, but you can’t pretend you came up with the idea yourself! I’ve seen similar scenes on television too.”
Sophie was too miserable to do anything but sniffle and nod. She hadn’t imagined her drawings, but she hadn’t copied from television either! She’d just drawn what she could see out her window! Why did nobody believe her?
A bleak landscape stretched below her window, and Sophie sketched furiously. She’d gotten a set of colored pencils for her birthday, and the graduation from crayons had improved her art considerably. Broken, tumbled boulders lay strewn in a field choked with brown, thorny weeds. Farther away, a large mountain glowed faintly. She had just learned about geology in her science class, and she was pretty certain it was a volcano.
The window stayed closed today. She’d opened it when she saw this sight, once, and her room had filled with a horrible smell, like something rotten. She’d closed the window quickly, but her father had still smelled it, and come up to yell at her for making a mess. He hadn’t seemed to notice what the outside looked like. Nobody ever did.
Sophie kept drawing, holding the pencil steady. Her old crayon pictures still hung tacked on the wall, but she had moved beyond those simple wax drawings. Now that she was nine years old and practically a grown-up, she needed to stop approaching this like a child. Once people saw what she had drawn, they would be sure to believe her! She’d tried taking photos out the window with an old camera, but they’d just turned white and murky, and you couldn’t see anything. Drawing was the only way to make this work.
She stopped for a moment and just stared at the people walking by. Sometimes she wished she could live among them, but this window was the only place she could ever see the city from. She’d considered trying to climb out once, after her father had beat her, but her window was several stories in the air. When the city appeared there were trees nearby, but Sophie was too afraid of heights to try anything. No, all she could do was look. Look and draw.
Laying on her bed, Sophie let the tears flow as she cried silently. She’d opened her window so she could listen to the sounds of the city outside. While the noise couldn’t drown the sound of her parents screaming at each other, at least it was comforting.
Suddenly, she heard a tapping at her window. Fearfully, she sat up, and looked over at the glass panes. Another tapping sound, and she saw a stick moving jerkily, beating against the glass. Holding her breath, she tiptoed over to the window and looked out.
A boy looked up at her, gripping a tree branch tightly where he’d climbed up an enormous tree near her window. His wild red hair matched his freckles, and he gave a snaggle-toothed grin.
“Hi! I saw you in the window the other day, and you looked lonely. My name’s Mark, want to come play with me?”
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