Some 18 year-olds are mature for their age, striving for adulthood like it's some kind of prize. Others are still kids, naïve, and not quite aware of the despicable acts that human beings will commit, just because they can.
She was one of the young ones.
She came into the shelter, clutching her teddy bear, still doped up from the painkillers the hospital gave her.
He had been her very first boyfriend. He was 27. It made her feel special and important, she said, that someone so much older had shown an interest in her. Boys never showed an interest in her. He had been so nice.
And then he hadn’t been so nice.
I explain to her that it is very important that she takes this pill in exactly an hour, and that she keep it down, but the painkillers are making her sleepy, and I seriously wonder if she heard half of what I just said. She just keeps hugging her teddy bear, and something about the gesture hurts my heart. I set the alarm on my phone, just in case. I’ll make sure she takes it.
She’s afraid to be alone, so we curl up on the couch together and watch Disney’s “Prom.” She tells me that if she goes to prom, she wants her dress to be pink and baby blue, because those are her two favorite colors. She nods off, still clutching her teddy bear. Her nightmare wakes her before my alarm does.
As my shift ends, all I can think about are teddy bears who have been loved too hard and little girls who have been loved too little.