The First Fleet, 16 May 1787
My dear mother,
I will never forget the day Lilly and I left your body on the bed and set sail for Australia. I felt as if I was betraying you, trading you for a better life, fleeing from the home we had before the Russians invaded – even though you asked us to. I will never live down that guilty feeling though, as I watched our house disappear behind the trees of the forest and the thick black smoke. My dearest mother, Lilly and I are on the boat now, called ‘The Sunshine’ – although, as we sail through many storms and perils – I don’t think the name reflects the journey I am experiencing. I have been dreading telling you this, but Lilly has caught smallpox and I don’t know how much longer she has to live. I fear that one day soon she will be joining you in Heaven. I really did try to look after Lilly, but I fear I have been unsuccessful. I hope you and Lilly can one day forgive me.
I have been losing countless hours thinking about Lilly and her spotted face, frightened that it might be my last night with her. I have stayed up late each night, searching the books that I have stolen from wealthy women and men, trying to find my father’s name and whereabouts in Australia. Last night, I finally found it. He works as a trader and, when I set foot on Australia, I shall find him. I mean to tell him what a coward he is and how much pain he caused you and his family. I shall tell him what has happened to Lilly and you, and though he will apologise, I will not forgive him. I can never forgive him, for the pain he has caused you is worth more than a single apology.
I have met a man called Mr Berkley who happens to run a Black Smith business in Australia, he had been in Latvia to visit his family. Mr Berkley has been looking out for Lilly and I ever since we boarded the boat and told him our story. He also agreed to give me an apprenticeship which pays nicely and includes a place to stay and two meals a day. If Lilly survives, as I desperately hope, she will be able to come too. The apprenticeship starts as soon as I return from tracking down my father. I am very grateful to Mr Berkley and I owe him everything.
Your dearest son,
The First Fleet, 18 May 1787
My dear mother,
The Sunshine has crashed and our boat is in tatters. Lilly and I are among the few survivors. The storms at sea became too much for the old fishing boat to handle and so we have washed up on a beach somewhere near the coast of Africa. Lilly is getting worse as the days go by; it seems as if, as the waves grow higher, her illness increases. Some nights, when I have to comfort her tear-streaked face, I try not to cry myself. She told me this morning that today is her last day and although I told her it wasn’t, I worry she is right. Mother it is awful, there have been almost too many deaths to count on this voyage. I want things to go back to what they were. I wish you were here to help me.
I have furthered my search for information about my father by asking many people on board about him. Many people turn away muttering about how I probably snuck on to the boat because I didn’t have enough coin to pay for it, but some people like Mr Berkley are happy to help. I have uncovered his address and how he came to have a pretty well-off job in Australia. It is with great displeasure that I have to tell you that he has pretended to be a wealthy business man without a family or wife. This makes me hate him even more. Now he is not only a coward but a fraud too.
Mr Berkley’s daughter Isabelle has grown ill with Spanish Influenza and so Mr Berkley is not his usual happy self. However, his offer still stands and he still does as much as he can to look after me and Lilly, but especially me because now he knows what it feels like to have a sick loved one.
I love you with all my heart and so does Lilly.
Your dearest son,