11 years old
Papa, why did you leave us here? She says you’ll be back, she promises me everyday. But Papa, I don’t like this town. The beds make noise. The water is muddy and the air smells funny. The baby keeps crying and she ignores him.
13 years old
We’ve shifted to a new place today, Papa. The sun here is too hot and there’s hardly any breeze. It reminds me of when we went to the beach in Santa Monica, except this is a lot less pleasant, Papa. The baby talks now. She doesn’t say much. I’m worried, Papa. When are you coming to take me home?
15 years old
There’s a new man here, Papa. She says I’m supposed to obey him. I don’t like him. He calls me into his room late at night. I don’t like what he makes me do. I want to tell her, but she’s always crying these days. Its becoming a routine. We eat and then they go into a room. I hear screaming and she comes out crying and starts doing the dishes. Then he calls me. I don’t like what is happening, Papa. I don’t think you get these letters. She tells me she sends them to you. I think she’s lying.
17 years old
I ran away, Papa. I ran away. He hit me yesterday and I ran away. I trusted you for years, waited for you to come get me. But you never did. You left me with her. You promised she’d be good to me. But she did nothing and I suffered so much, Papa. I’ve taken the kid along with me, I don’t want him to stay in that rotten house with them. How could you leave us here, to die? I’ve run away with nothing but my rucksack. I don’t know what I’m going to do, or where I’m going to go. But I will not wait for you any longer.
19 years old
We’re in Vegas, the kid and I. I went back to that house for my clothes and your old jacket. I found the letters I’d written you, and God, I sound hopeless. Well, I went back with a gun. He was beating her. She died, Papa. He threw her down the stairs, and she bled to death before I could call the police. I did what I wanted to. He’s dead too. I shot him right in the eye. Those eyes that had leeched at me, I watched as their lights went out. It gave me strength. I took what I could and ran away with the kid, Papa. We’ve been travelling and earning our way to Vegas. I’m a bartender here. They think I’m 24. I guess all those painful nights with him and the scars he gave me make me look a lot older than I am. I don’t know if they’ll reach you, but I’m sending you all the old letters with this one too. You gave up me, but I still love you. Goodbye, Papa.