Already a smile of anticipation was creeping across my face as the bell to Erring Elementary School resounded dimly, reaching out into the side parking lot where I was parked with my school bus. Soon the children would come scampering out the side door, clammering aboard with a bustle of high-pitched voices and colorful clothes, backpacks, and lunchboxes adorned with cartoon characters, shoes done up in Velcro or decorated laces. There would be about seventy of them, ranging in age from first graders to fifth graders, boys as well as girls- but it was the girls that made me wake up for work in the morning with eagerness.

Little girls… there's something so special about them, so clean and pure and- seductive, in an oddly knowing way they give off in words and gestures. Until reaching about age 12, little girls have a quality about them that is so beautiful and intensely exciting- arousing- that it makes my breath catch at times to observe them, makes my heart hammer, aching in my chest.

Before you begin to get the wrong idea, start thinking I'm some kind of monster or child abuser, let me assure you that I would never harm a little girl in any way, nor do anything outside her best interest. How could I do anything to deliberately ruin the precious innocence of their eyes, their movements? And my thoughts are far from wrong or immoral, but rather reverent and respectful- even worshipful, one might say. Nor do I believe they are uncommon- how could any man look at a little girl and not see what I do, think the same thoughts?

All children are beautiful, they say- but I hold that no boy child could compare to the beauty of a little girl. Their faces are gentler, softer, holding a stillness and reflection no boy can possess at such an age. They are neater, more deliberate , even their movements done with a sort of grace no clumsy-moving, awkward boy child can carry. No boy child possesses such exquisite facial features, small visages so lovely and smooth, not yet damaged by time or worldly knowledge- nothing yet destroyed their innocent beauty.

They come in such tantalizing variety, little girls, not one of them the same as the next. Little boys tend to blend together in my mind- one's about the same as the next- but it's fascinating how uniquely unique each girl child is. They come in all sorts of brightly colored, tiny outfits, so fresh and bright when compared to the jeans and dirty T-shirt uniform small boys live in. Little shirts and flowery blouses, childish, frilly dresses, little skirts that show off small bare legs, overalls and brightly patterned shorts, sleeveless shirts showing off smooth thin shoulders, a feast of bare childish flesh… so new and sharply defined, narrow-hipped and flat-chested, no woman's breasts or excess of flesh at the hips and thighs and upper arms. Even the chunky little girls have a sweetness about their larger-but-still-small bodies that no mature figure can possess.

Nearly as captivating as their clear features, their little bodies, is their hair… a little girl's hair is a source of fascination and mystery to me. Long or short, straight, wavy, or curly, thick or thin, blonde, brown, or black, red, there are so many variations of a girl's hair. I often long to take a girl child's hair and just run my fingers through it… sometimes, if a girl has a new hair cut on my bus, I will take this as an opportunity to touch it while remarking upon it- never longer than a few brief seconds, far too brief. It is just enough to sate my temptation, though still I ache to reach for her again.

I have no children yet- no daughter of my own, to both my sorrow and my relief. I know that were I the father of a creature like the amazing little girls I drive to and from school every day, I would savor every moment of my time with her, recognizing it for the miracle and blessing it is. I would love and cherish her the way every girl child should be, give her all she deserved in life.

But then, I fear, once my daughter began to mature, reach the age where her wonderful girl-child ways began to deteriorate and decay, I fear I would grow to hate her, become unable to love her or look at her. For she would be taking away from me the person I loved most in the world. I dare not allow myself to be exposed to such hurt- and therefore I believe I will never allow myself the brief luxury of having a daughter of this all too temporary age.

I often wonder how the fathers of the children on my bus can stand to be with them every day and not constantly touch them and speak to them, not love and revere them as I do… do they not see their blessing, the overt beauty of their children? How could they not see their daughters as something almost sexual in their appearance- certainly something fascinating and arousing? How could they let her leave their sides, send her out among others who will not see her in the same light they do? How could they think that someone like me is the one with a problem, when they do not even appreciate what is before their eyes, what they have created?

I think at least the great majority of them must… they are liars, pretenders, hypocrites of the worst kind, for they do not deny hatred, but love. They condemn in me what is only a sane, natural reaction to any girl child as a being.

If I was the father of a girl, I would do all I could to keep her one forever. Forever pure, forever unsullied and unformed, a raw and exquisite beauty and innocence. If I had to I would lock her up, keep her away from all but me, if by doing so I could further preserve her.

I can see the children coming now, scurrying to my bus on their short young legs, swinging lunch boxes and stumbling on untied shoelaces, jostling and bumping each other as they formed some lopsided semblance of a line. Their faces are shining, smiling with excitement, for they are going home… it gives me a thrilled shiver to be the cause of their joy each day, to know that it is I who they are so delighted to see.

They begin to scramble up the steps nearly too tall for short little legs, and I begin to greet them each by name- boys too, of course, but it is the girls who receive my warmest smiles.

"Hey there, Kyle, Emmett, Hayden- hi, Lisa, how are you today… how was your day, Kathryn? Jaime, that dress you have on today is simply lovely, where did you get it?"

Jaime, an eight-year-old with luscious red hair and bangs, flushes and smiles shyly. "My mama…"

As I greet each child, it is typical of the boys to merely nod, if they respond at all, before racing down the aisle to fling themselves into a seat. Nearly always it is the little girls who reply, who look me in the eye with a smile and say to me, "Hi, Mr. Patrick…"

Mr. Patrick- never would I have thought the slightly odd sound of my first name paired with an addressal of such authority as Mr. could sound so wonderful. But then, perhaps it was the lips forming it rather than the words themselves that made it so special.

There are so many little girls on my bus, but I know them all by heart, both names and faces. Nine-year-old Lisa, a dark-haired Italian beauty…. Six-year-old Kathryn, a curly-haired blonde with such a heart-wrenchingly tiny figure…. Eight-year-old Jaime and her best friend Shay with her pixie cut…. So many, ranging from chubby five-year-old Iris to nearly 12-year-old Nikka, who had been left back a year and was soon to lose the beauty of her childish form.

A few of the girls' bodies brushed mine as they stumble past me in their little backpacks, and my heart lurches at the feel of small shoulders or knobby knees against me. It is so difficult to refrain from reaching out and pulling them to me, never letting them go….

At one point, Alissa, a 10-year-old blonde girl with startlingly dark and intense eyes, tripped as she labored up the bus steps. I reached automatically to catch her, my heart nearly stopping in alarm- then abruptly speeding up as I became aware of the feel of her thin arm and shoulders under mine, so pale and delicate, so soft and unlined…

"Careful there, Alissa," I managed to say, "this is why you don't ever need to wear high heels as a grown lady, huh?"

"Thank you, Mr. Patrick," she said, and her face was disconcerted, embarrassed by the roars of the boys and the giggles of Sasha, the eleven-year-old girl behind her- but nonetheless she smiled at me, welcomed my help, my touch.

As I started up the bus, the last child having settled into his seat, I could not help but look in the large mirror above me frequently- not for misbehaving children, as it is intended, or traffic, but to watch the small actions of the little girls in their seats. To watch them whisper and giggle, squirm and sing, play clapping games and braid each other's hair, filled me with a sweetness also fraught with bitter longing.

As I dropped the children off one or two at a time, my eyes lingered on the retreating backs of the little girls- the swing of narrow hips, the small round buttocks, the scrawny shoulders and backs laden with brightly colored backpacks. I mourned the leaving of each.

There is one child every day who is the last to be left on the bus with me. Her name is Audrey Kate, and she is seven years old. A scrappy, quiet child with long brown hair and two missing front teeth. Audrey Kate does not wiggle or giggle like most of the others, nor does she answer when I greet her every day- rather, she ducks her head shyly, taking care to extract her body from coming in contact with mine. It hurts my heart to see her sometimes, her solemn face never cracking a smile…. Clearly she has never been treated as the gorgeous being she is.

Sometimes when it is just Audrey Kate and I, alone inside the bus, I daydream fervently of taking her away, riding off with her where no one could stop us, no one would find us. I would have her all to myself, my own little girl, my miracle… I would love her, I would bring her smiles and laughter she has never experienced. Somehow my love would be enough to stop her from ever growing, ever losing her special little girl status, and I would have her, my own little daughter, to cherish… forever.

The end Author notes

clearly as i am female this is nothing i condone, in fact, i hate this character. this is my attempt to get inside the mind of someone very, very different from me. patrick means "noble" by the way, a bit of irony.