By: Laila Hameedi
Liliana failed to understand the world around her.
She hated how loudly children would scream when the recess bell rang. She hated how
elementary school felt like a ticking time bomb, anticipating the next soprano-like scream, ready
to cover her ears almost instinctively. It seemed so barbaric, almost as if it was straight out of
The Walking Dead. Why scream and give other people around you an aneurysm? In Liliana’s
world, screaming was reserved for emergencies only. Liliana hated how children would
complain; she hated how they spoke to one another. Why couldn’t they be nice? Why wouldn’t
someone stop to help a kid who dropped their lunch? Why didn't anyone want to play baby deer
during recess? Liliana loved deers. She loved how gracefully they pranced across the prairie.
Liliana didn’t know exactly what a prairie was, only that it sounded pretty when used in a
sentence. Sometimes Liliana wished she were a deer. She imagined her life as a deer, with a deer
husband and deer babies. She imagined her cozy deer home. Liliana imagined a lot. She dreaded
her daily seven hours of prison; Imagining helped her escape.
The day went on. Liliana was now in class, in Monsieur Nicholas’s fifth grade math class.
She loved Monsieur Nicholas. She loved this room. It was decorated so beautifully. Colorful
caterpillars lined the walls, covered by her classmates' art and accentuated by sparkly gemstones.
The room had a poster featuring a baby deer above the left window. The poster simply read ‘be
kind’. She wished her classmates would learn from this very poster once in a while. Although,
she knew they thought it dumb to take advice from a poster.
Monsieur Nicolas continued on talking about addition, but all Liliana could think about
were her future deers. Liliana wished she owned a deer. I’d take such good care of her. I’d walk
her, I’d feed her, I’d even bathe her.
“If I had 5 apples...”
Apples. Do deers eat apples? Do deers have teeth? How would I cut the apple for her? Liliana
giggled to herself at the thought of her very own deer eating an apple.
“And I added 2 apples”
Added. Haha. No need for adding. Her deer would simply have been given enough food off the
Monsieur Nicholas looked over. His discerning gaze fell onto Liliana. He had made note
of the girl with the far away look in her eye. He knew. Everybody knew, Liliana wasn’t paying
attention. Liliana’s cheeks flushed a bright red. She felt the smallest bead of sweat roll down her
That night Liliana’s mother received an email.
Liliana reappeared in what seemed to be her old apartment. Lilliana was restless. She
couldn’t seem to fall back asleep, no matter how many deers were counted. It was early, much
too early for any sane person. She gently turned to her alarm: 6:26 am. She didn’t have to be
awake for another hour. She looked over at her mother. Liliana needed her mother. Even with her
by my side-
BANG BANG BANG.
There was a thud on the door.
“FBI OPEN UP”
Liliana froze. She prayed this was a dream, a very bad dream. She prayed she’d wake up
crying, as she did with any nightmare. Carrie shot right up. Liliana heard her father James’
familiar footsteps in the hallway. Liliana hadn’t a clue why eight agents from the Federal Bureau
of Investigation had entered her home at 6:30 am on a Wednesday. Every room was thoroughly
checked, for what - 10 year old Liliana didn’t know. James was handcuffed behind the sofa.
What did he do? What’s going on? Carrie escorted Liliana and her little sister Anna into her
parents’ room. Liliana knew Carrie had wanted to protect 10 year old Liliana, but Liliana had
already seen enough. She knew she wouldn’t forget.
Two ladies, dressed in black from head to toe, with the letters FBI printed across their
chest, approached Liliana and her sister. Where had Carrie gone? Liliana needed Carrie.
“Where do you go to school?” the first lady asked.
“What do your parents do?”
“How old are you?”
Liliana was shaking. Her palms were sweaty. The coyote was waiting for her opportunity
to pounce - to kill any remnant of innocence in Liliana’s 10 year old 4 '11 self.
Liliana heard the loud slam of her front door. The agents were gone, and so was James.
10:30 am. Liliana found herself back in school. Liliana could only think of James. What
had happened to him? Would he be alright? Where was he? Would Liliana see him again?
Liliana couldn’t focus. Liliana tried to think of her baby deers, baby deers had always proved
soothing to her. Today, all the baby deers seemed to have gone. Liliana was faced with her
reality, the memories from that morning.
At recess, Liliana sat in her usual spot, alone. She watched as her classmates played
soccer or as they stubbornly called it, football.
“GOALLL!” A boy from her class howled, as the monochromatic ball hit the net.
Her classmates cheered in excitement.
Loud noises. BANG BANG BANG. Suddenly Liliana was thrown back into this morning.
She began to shake, just as she had this morning. She looked up, only to be met with the
close-set eyes of the female FBI agent.
Liliana wanted to scream, she wanted to cry, but nothing came out. Liliana didn’t have anyone to
talk to. She knew no one would understand. Liliana was alone.
Support Us (SUSU) raises awareness about and increases support for children of incarcerated parents. SUSU is a year-round effort with national partners, culminating in a month of action in October. Learn more at www.susu-osborne.org