Little Boy Lost

by Christine Griffin



The classroom is bright and cheerful despite the fading afternoon light and the steady sound of rain on the windows. Gradually the children begin their task and a contented hum settles over the room. They love art lessons and until recently I had loved them too. Today’s subject is ‘Autumn’ and already I can see rain-lashed trees and weather-beaten cliffs appearing as they try to capture the vivid Breton landscape outside.  I move from child to child commenting and praising, all the time putting off the moment when I will reach Pierre’s desk.

            I can see him in the corner of the room bent over his task and I feel the now familiar stab of anxiety when I look at him. Since he came to my school nearly a year ago I have watched and I have worried, because I know there is something bothering that little boy - not so you’d notice, but I am used to children and I notice what others often miss. Oh, don’t misunderstand me – he is a delightful child, well-mannered and intelligent. When he joined the school, he soon made friends and when I see him running around outside at playtime I wonder why I feel the way I do. And then I see his artwork and I know something is wrong.

            Not many new people come to this area. We are an isolated community, locked in the past, some might say – stuck in our traditions. So when Etienne and Monique Dubois arrived with their six-year-old son Pierre, there was great excitement. They came on a day when storm clouds raced across the sky and there was a taste of winter in the wind. She was elegant and slender, a writer for a Paris fashion magazine and he was a painter. They seemed so exotic in our wild land. It was not long before they came to see me in my little school.

            ‘Pierre will flourish here, I can tell,’ Etienne said, charming me with his smile. ‘He is a good boy. He will be no trouble to you. And I will paint your beautiful landscapes. Perhaps some can hang in your school?’

            ‘Monsieur is a painter then?’ I said. ‘You will find much to challenge you here, I think.’

            ‘Challenge yes. But also peace for the soul.’ And his wife smiled at him.

            They soon settled into our simple life and we loved them – he silhouetted on the far cliffs painting the sunsets and she tending her garden and telling her neighbours of her life in distant Paris. Pierre fitted in well too. The little boys flocked to him and the girls pretended not to look at him and giggled behind their hands. And yet .. and yet. Something bothered me from the start and it still does now.

            I have decided that today I will try to get to the bottom of it. It is a delicate task and I do not wish to frighten him but I can no longer put it off.  I reach Pierre’s desk and look at his painting.

            It is the same scene he always paints. In the centre of the page is a building - a sort of cross between a castle and a tower. At the foot of the building stands a small boy and the rest of the page is filled with faces. It is clear that some are men and some are women but the one thing they all have in common is that they have no eyes. The faces are turned towards the boy but they do not see him.

            I hesitate. ‘I see you have drawn your favourite picture again, Pierre,’ I say. ‘It is very good. Tell me, does your little boy have a name?’

            I have asked him this many times before, but he has always refused to answer. He is quiet for a long time adding more and more eyeless faces to the picture. Then quietly, ever so quietly he says, ‘It’s Lukey. His name is Lukey’

            I keep my voice neutral. ‘That’s a nice name.  Is he your friend?’

            Again silence. The empty faces continue to fill the page.

            ‘No, not my friend, he’s …’

            He stops again, but I am pleased. He has never spoken about his picture before. I wonder if Lukey is an imaginary friend. Some children have them and they can be very real.

            ‘What is the tower? Is it a castle with knights and ladies?’

            Again the silence. He starts to colour over the picture of Lukey.

            ‘I don’t know if it has knights and ladies, but it’s not a good place. Bad things happen there.’

            I know I must tread very carefully now.

            ‘What sort of bad things, Pierre?’

            ‘Just bad things.’

The tower in the picture looks harmless – quite pleasant in fact. It doesn’t look like a bad place to me. I try again.

            ‘I think it looks nice.  I’d like to see that place sometime.’

            ‘No, Madame, I don’t think you would like it. It is not a good place. It’s scary.’

The picture of Lukey is disappearing as he paints over it.

            ‘Perhaps if the people in your picture had eyes it wouldn’t seem so scary. Why don’t you draw their eyes?

            ‘I can’t draw them because they don’t have eyes. They can’t see. They can’t hear either. They’re just faces.’

            ‘Do you know who the people are, Pierre?’

            But, I see that familiar, stubborn look in his face and know that I will get no more from him. With a sweep of colour he obliterates the little boy at the foot of the tower.

            ‘Finished, Madame.’


At the end of school, he struggles into his coat and rushes across the playground to where his mother is waiting. He is waving his arithmetic book at her, eager to show her the gold star he had this morning. She bends down and he runs into her arms, laughing.

            I stand in the empty classroom and look at Pierre’s drawing again. No child I have ever known has painted such empty people, such desolation. I make my mind up. I will visit Etienne and Monique Dubois later and tell them of my concerns.


It was past eight o’clock when I arrived at their little cottage. Pierre was in bed and his parents were having supper and sharing a bottle of wine. They were surprised to see me, immediately anxious about Pierre. I told them the story of the drawings and they listened without comment. There was a silence after I finished and they exchanged glances. I knew they were saying something with their eyes, but I couldn’t work it out.

            Eventually Etienne broke the silence.

            ‘Madame, we are indebted to you for bringing this to our attention. As you know, I am an artist but cannot fathom what lies behind this. He is such a happy boy. Has something at school upset him – a quarrel maybe with another pupil?’

            ‘Monsieur, I am not aware of any quarrel. Normally he is very happy and excels at his studies. It is when we have the art lessons … ‘

            ‘Madame, you must leave this matter with us. We will speak to him – try to find out what is behind this.’

            All the time I was there, Madam Dubois said very little. The news had clearly upset her and when I came to the part of the story where Pierre paints out the figure of Lukey, she was close to tears.

            All that night, I worried about the little boy as the wind howled around my cottage. When I closed my eyes, I saw an army of heads walking towards me, while foul demons shrieked from the tower. Towards dawn the wind intensified and there was a clatter as objects were hurled around in the gale. Eventually, as the sun was rising I fell into an uneasy sleep.

            ‘Madame, come quickly. You must come. They’ve gone.’

Even before I could struggle into a coat I knew what I would find. The children bounced anxiously on my doorstep.

            ‘They’ve gone. Pierre has gone. Come with us and you’ll see.’

            We raced the short distance and sure enough the Dubois cottage was empty, the door ajar. The kitchen table still held the bottle of wine and the remains of the supper from the previous evening. They had clearly left in a great hurry.

            Oh, dear God, I thought. What have I done? I never for a moment thought that he might be in danger from his parents. It didn’t make sense. They were such a happy family.   I rushed to my cottage to phone the police.


It was a relief when three days later a police car drew up outside my cottage and two officers got out. Since the family had left I had known no peace.  I hoped I would now find out the truth, however shocking that might be.

            ‘Madame, at last we have news of the Dubois family. Thanks to your prompt action, they were caught trying to cross the border into Spain. They have evaded us for four and half years and at last we have caught them.’

            ‘Please tell me – is Pierre all right?’

            ‘Yes, Madame. Pierre, or rather Lucas, which is his real name, is safe in the care of the authorities for the moment.’

            ‘Lucas? But I don’t understand.’

            But even as the words left my mouth, realisation began to dawn on me. Of course. How could I have missed it? It had been a huge story at the time, but somehow other things happen and people forget.

            ‘He’s Lucas Jones, isn’t he?’

            The policeman nodded.

            Lucas Jones, the so-called Disneyland boy, on holiday from England with his parents. They’d turned their backs to buy ice creams and in that instant Lucas had disappeared. He was two years old. The police had always worked on the assumption that he had been snatched. His sweet little face had haunted the newspapers for months. There had been those harrowing interviews on the television with his mother crying and pleading in her broken French for the abductors to give her little boy back.

            ‘The paintings. It was all there in his paintings. Why didn’t I see it before? I blame myself for this.’

            ‘Do not blame yourself, Madame.  You did the right thing in the end and now the boy is safe.’

            ‘Safe? What will happen to him now? ‘

            ‘His parents - his real parents - have arrived in France and they will be re-united with Lucas shortly. It is a delicate matter, as I’m sure you understand. Lucas speaks no English and will almost certainly have no memory of them. Also they have another child now. Lucas has a younger brother.’

            I was stunned by this. How on earth would he ever grow up to have a normal life now? There flashed in front of me the picture of Pierre racing across the playground towards Monique Dubois waving his arithmetic book. Whatever anyone said, he loved that woman and she loved him. He would be heartbroken to leave her and go to a strange land with people he no longer knew.

            Outside, the wind changed and whined in the eaves. For all the world it sounded like a small child calling. A little boy lost.

            I put my head down and wept.

©2010 Christine Griffin

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