Lilly, I am coming back.
I’ll make it up to you, you’ll see. I promise. I swear Lilly. When I get outta here I am coming home and I am going to hug you and your sister so tight you’ll think I will never let go. And I will take you to the park and I will get you ice cream, whatever you want Lilly, I will make it happen. Please just hang on. Wait for me. Just wait and let me make it up to you. Please Lilly. Let me make it up.
There is bread in the pantry. With peanut butter and jelly in the fridge. You know how to make that. And a can of soup, although you probably won’t touch that, will you Lilly? No you and your sister will eat all the crackers and all the cereal before you ever touch the soup, before you even touch the bread most likely.
How many days have I been in here, Lilly? Five? Ten? I can’t tell. They knocked me on the head real good this time. They knocked me on the head and I didn’t know which way was up. And they were screaming at me. You know how they do. They were screaming and I was crying.
I never opened my mouth about you and your sister though. No matter how hard they hit me they could have never got that out of me. I know you may think I should have told them. I can see that look in your eyes, even though you ain’t here, I can still see that look. The I-done-wrong-by-you look. Oh how I hate that look. You know it stabs me right in the heart.
And I know you think you know what’s best. You probably think that me telling these cops where you and your sister are would be a good idea. I know that you think nine is too young to be watching over a toddler for days at a time. I know that each day that goes by you are getting more and more worried. Worried I won’t ever come home. Worried you will run out of food, worried that something will happen to your sister. I know Lilly. I know you are scared and alone. But I am here Lilly. I am right here, and I am coming home. Please, I will make it up to you, I promise, Lilly.
And trust me, trust your mama. I know what’s best. And as bad as you are off right now, as scared as you are, trust me, if I tell these pigs where you are and that you and your sister are all alone and have been for days now, if I tell them that, things will be so much worse for you and your sister. Trust me Lilly.
My mama didn’t come home once when I was your age and your Aunty Gemma was a little older than your sister is now. But my mama did tell the cops where we were, and instead of mama coming home, strangers came pounding on our door. Me and your aunt hid under the bed. We weren’t supposed to open the door for anyone, even if we knew them, not anyone. And so we hid. But that didn’t matter to these men. Oh no they came in anyway. Broke through the window. We screamed when the blinds suddenly burst inward and the screen cut through them. Then strange black boots were inside, treading everywhere, looking for us.
Of course they found us, you know that, Lilly. They found us and they ripped us crying and screaming out from under the bed. They tore us from each other’s arms and threw us in the back of separate cop cars. I thought we were being arrested for sure. I thought we must have been breaking the law by being home alone, and now the pigs had come and they were going to throw us in prison, and we would never get out. I already had friends whose parents were in prison, so I knew what happened once the cops arrested you.
But they weren’t arresting us. They were doing much worse. Believe me Lilly. They put us in a foster home. They told us we were lucky that we got to stay together. We never saw mama again. And suddenly we were living with eight other foster kids in a big smelly old house with a cross old woman who liked to whip us, and a fat stinky old man. He was the worst, trust me Lilly. He is why I promise I won’t ever tell where you and your sister are. No matter how hard they hit me.
The man liked to punish and reward. He had very creative ways of punishment. He would use his fat fingers first. He would shove them inside to start. He would smile when you cried. He would call you a good girl if you sobbed and begged him to stop. He would call you a good girl, but he wouldn’t stop.
When his fingers didn’t hurt you anymore he started using objects. And the more you squirmed the bigger his smile got. I can still smell his rotting teeth as he smiled over me as the tears screamed down my face.
Trust me Lilly, for all the time you are alone right now, you don’t ever want to spend a second in a house like that one. You don’t want to watch your little sister get punished too. You don’t want to watch helplessly as her eyes slowly go dead and her smile disappears. You don’t want to watch her get sick from an infection from a punishment. You don’t want to have to hold her hand while she slips away. You don’t want to only have anger in your heart. For there is nothing left but pain and hate.
I promise I will make it up to you. I know up until now I haven’t done much better than my mother did. I remember that sweet smell coming from the closed door. I remember her screaming at me and your aunty to go away if opened that door. I remember the smoke that filled that tiny room was so thick and so white it looked like they had captured a cloud and were playing catch with it as it bounced around the center of the room. That is all I really remember of my mom. Sweaty and wild-eyed, like a caged animal that could lash out at any moment for any reason.
And I know have not been any better to you. I want so much better for you though. Can’t you see? When I scream at you to get out it is because I don’t want you affected by what you might see if you stayed. Why won’t you listen? Rage builds up inside my chest when you won’t just listen to my words. Why can’t you just stay away when I tell you too? And even as I scream at you I can see the damage I am doing. I am so frustrated I feel like I am screaming into the wind. But at the same time I see how my words are like knives, carving chunks out of you, wounds that go so deep the memory of those moments will go on forever. My nails gripping into the soft flesh of your mind and clawing, raking, scratching at you. I see myself doing this and I can’t stop. My mouth is not my own, the rage has me. I see red. All I want is for you to be safe! Why won’t you go away and stay safe! Why wont you do what you’re told and be safe!
Things will be different when I get out this time. I promise Lily. I know I have said that before, but this time I mean it. No more dope, no more pills, no more shady friends coming over after dark. We will have bedtimes and dinnertimes and I will read to you. You would like that wouldn’t you? You used to ask me to read to you all the time. I can’t remember the last time you asked that though. I said no too many times I suppose. You gave up. Am I too late, Lilly? Have you given up on me? Please don’t give up on me Lilly. Please.
You are so smart for your age. So smart and so strong. So much stronger then I was, so much stronger then I am now. And I promise Lilly, you may not be able to see it, but I am protecting you now. Make the food last, take care of your sister, don’t answer the door, and I promise I will come home. I promise it will be better, that I will be better. And all this will be wiped away. Please let me wipe all this bad away Lilly. Trust me, Lilly, if I told them where you were, they would take you from me. They would take you from me and deliver you to a place so much worse. And I won’t let that happen Lilly. So trust me Lilly. Trust me and hold on, and your mama will come home. Just hold on a little longer, and I will come home.
- Published 11/17/17