by Hailey Hudson
We were at the old barn that day when everything changed. Lucia, Eryn, Krystal, and me, Kenyon, the oldest. The three of them were sisters, my neighbors; I was an only child with a mother who worked long hours and a nonexistent father. The barn was our favorite playplace. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t entirely safe, but it was wholly ours and we loved it. We never talked about the past or the present—only the future. How we would travel the world together—London, Italy, Paris. How Lucia would have a pony and Eryn would lie around and eat chocolate all day. Krystal wanted to live in Hawai’i so she could go to the beach. And me—well, most of the time I just listened. They were young; six, eight, and ten. I was fourteen. I was resigned to the fact that I might never get out of our little podunk town. I understood money all too well; my mother, although she tried, never had much of it. So I listened to the little girls spin their fantasies with only half an ear.
Until that day. Their father had left, little Lucia said without much emotion. Eight-year-old Krystal whispered to me that he hit their mother, so she didn’t really mind. In the next breath, she was telling me how she couldn’t wait to learn to surf. In the next breath, she was dreaming again.
It was almost twilight, and warm out. We leaned on the gate and talked. Lucia and Krystal acted normal, but ten-year-old Eryn was quiet. When it began to grow dark, I helped Lucia jump down from the top rung so that we could leave. She and Krystal ran on ahead, but Eryn hung back.
“Tomorrow we’re leaving,” she whispered. “We’re going into foster care. My mom can’t take care of us.”
I looked at her silently, stunned.
“Thank you for being our friend, Kenyon,” Eryn said quietly. “I’ll miss you. Lucia said one day we would meet you in Paris, but—I’ll never get to Paris. We were childish to think that we would.”
She ran to catch up with her sisters. It was the last time I ever saw them.
Today, thirty years later, I am in Paris. Lucia, Eryn, and Krystal are not with me. I do not know what happened to them. But I am here. I made it after all.
I sit down on a bench to catch my breath. It is almost twilight, and warm out. Three little French girls run by me, chattering excitedly. They run by again, and again. At last they stop to ask me for the time. I tell them—I studied French in the university. Then I ask if they would like to visit America one day.
“Oui!” says the youngest one, her eyes lighting up. One of the older girls shakes her head and lets loose a flood of words. They would never have enough money, it would not be safe, they would not have time because they must have a job when they are adults.
I shake my head and look the girl in the eye.
“Vous pouvez,” I say. “Vous pouvez aller en Amerique.” You can. You can go to America.
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Hailey lives in the southeast United States. She has been obsessed with reading and writing from an early age. Hailey also loves hiking, sports, and spending time with her family.