The paper was crinkly, like it was really old, and smelled a little like the basement. The letters were small and the words were crammed close together. It was a plain sheet with no lines, and I guess that’s why all the lines slanted down, like they were falling off the page.
I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.
I should have listened to you. You knew Ricky was no good. You knew it was time to get out. I just wanted one last score for you and Lily. I was a goddamn fool and not a day goes by I don’t think about you.
I didn’t know any of the names in the letter. There was no Rachel or Ricky or Lily in town and I don’t remember Daddy ever mentioning any of those names.
I used to wake up nights gasping for air, dripping with sweat, your face burned in my mind but I don’t have those nightmares much since I brought Lily live with me. Still sometimes it hurts to look at her. When she turns her head a certain way or scrunches her face when she eats ice cream too fast it’s like I’m looking at you. Those nights I know I better drink enough to keep from dreaming.
I don’t like when Daddy drinks a lot. He gets really quiet and sad. I don’t know why he does it. I’ve taken little sips from his glass when he’s not looking and it tastes like medicine and burns my tongue.
She’s safe here. No one knows where we are. I’ll try to mail your sister now and again so she knows Lily’s alright but I can’t let her know where we are. It would just be too dangerous for her and for us.
I wish I could talk to you and tell you all this. I guess I hope you’re reading over my shoulder. That gives me some comfort.
All my love,
I didn’t know how come he couldn’t just talk to Rachel if she could read over his shoulder. That didn’t make much sense. The whole letter didn’t make much sense, though.
I finished unwrapping the cloth and found a picture and a little velvet bag like I use to hold my marbles. The picture was creased from being folded up for a long time, leaving a big white cross right through the middle of it. There was a woman sitting in a rocking chair with a little baby in her arms. She had long brown hair and a thin neck and long fingers, but her face was right in the middle where the creases were so I couldn’t see much of it. She looked like she was probably really pretty, though.
I undid the bow holding the bag closed and poured it onto my bed. It was filled with beautiful beads like the ones Miss Linda wears. I picked one up and held it up to the light and looked at the way it sparkled and made little rainbows. I’d never seen one this close, but now I was sure my tutor was wrong. They were definitely magic stones. I took one of them and went over to Rummy to figure out how to attach it to his mane, but I couldn’t. Maybe if I had some glue, I could use them like glitter on his side instead. I dropped it into my pocket and went back over to my bed.
I heard footsteps on the stairs and jumped. I had a lot of questions, but I didn’t think Daddy wanted to answer them right now. I scooped all the stones back into the bag and tied it shut so the mouth puckered like a fish. I wrapped the letter and bag and picture back up and tip-toed back over to Rummy and dropped to my knees. I opened the panel, which was a lot easier this time, and slipped the bag back inside.
Daddy opened the door and saw me poking around under Rummy and asked, “What are you doing there, Genny?” He sounded worried.
I started to stand when I saw the apple was still on the floor and I picked it up.
“Nothing, Daddy. I just dropped my apple under Rummy.”
He blew out a big breath and his face crinkled as he smiled.
“Good girl. You don’t want to leave any food out for rats. But come on, I’ve got a surprise for you downstairs.”
I brushed off my knees and followed Daddy out.