Sarah threw herself on her bed and blinked several times to stop herself from crying. His rejection hurt, but what did she expect? Did she think cooking up a storm would fix everything she did to him? But it hurt like mad. Today, he left her chasing after him with his lunch pack and zoomed off like she wasn’t there. If only she could get him to talk to her for a few minutes, she would tell him everything. Would she though? she asked herself as she thought of the consequences. No, she said aloud before she could stop herself. She couldn’t do this to him again.
Her phone rang, and she grimaced when she saw the caller id. Her time was up. Last night, she told herself she was ready to face the consequences but now, as Sarah watched the phone vibrate vigorously, she realized she wasn’t.
‘Why did you take so long to answer my call?’ her caller bellowed.
She ignored his question. ‘I tried, and I couldn’t get through to them, so I will see you this afternoon to get this over with.’
‘You can’t be serious, Sarah!’
‘Look. Christopher and the girls are happy. I am not putting them through this again. I will do whatever you ask of me. Please just leave them out of this.’
‘I won…’ Sarah started to say before Daisy stormed into the room and snatched the phone from her.
‘Who’s this?’ Daisy asked, angrily but the caller had cut the call.
Daisy took heavy breaths before turning to face her mother with bloodshot eyes. ‘You are back on the streets again, aren’t you?’
Sarah walked towards her. ‘Daisy, please hand me my phone.’
‘Like hell, I will!’ snapped Daisy, smashing the phone against the wall.
‘Daisy!’ Sarah yelled, retrieving the phone from where it landed. ‘You broke it.’
‘That’s not all I will break if you don’t tell me who your new handler is!’ Daisy threatened.
Sarah moved back, scared of her daughter’s rage. ‘I don’t have one.’
‘Liar!’ Daisy spat. ‘I heard you tell him you would be seeing him this afternoon! Where did you plan on keeping Penny and me? Were you planning on handing us over to him as you did with Herbert?’
‘Why are you fighting?’ asked a curious voice emanating from the entrance.
Daisy and Sarah turned to see Penny staring wide-eyed at them in confusion.
‘Nothing, baby,’ said Sarah, turning away so Penny wouldn’t see her swollen eyes.
Daisy walked towards the window to calm herself.
‘I know something is wrong,’ said Penny, looking from Daisy to Sarah.
‘Don’t worry about it, baby,’ Sarah said, wiping her nose. ‘We were just having a heated discussion.’
Penny sat slowly at the edge of the bed like if she made a false move, a bomb would explode.
‘Yeah, mum! Explain what a heated discussion is to an eight-year-old!’ Daisy snapped.
‘I know what a heated discussion is!’ Penny yelled at Daisy. ‘I thought Daddy coming back to us would make things better, but things are not better. Why?’
‘Ask mum!’ Daisy said, pointing an accusing finger at Sarah. ‘Wherever she is, things don’t get better; they get worse because she is the worst mum ever!’
Sarah swallowed a lump in her throat. She retrieved her jacket from the closet and moved swiftly towards the door.
‘See? She’s doing what she does best Who’s going to stay with us when you leave, Sarah?’ Daisy retorted, stopping Sarah from leaving the room.
Penny covered her ears. ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ she cried. ‘Mum’s doing better. Why won’t you try to get along with her?’
Daisy held Penny’s shoulders. ‘Because she is full of secrets and lies, Penny. That’s why Dad wants nothing to do with her. He doesn’t trust her, and we shouldn’t too.’
Penny shrugged her off. ‘I trust mum! If you made an effort, you would see that she had changed. I don’t know why you and Dad won’t give her a chance. She made breakfast, and no one ate. Dad just walked away!’
Penny was going to know if they weren’t cautious, Daisy realized, giving her mum a stare that expressed her thoughts.
‘Dad was in a hurry,’ Sarah said quickly, walking towards Penny. ‘Please don’t be upset with him, Penelope. I should have packed his lunch earlier.’
‘That’s not true,’ she challenged with a defeated tone which caused her mother’s and sister’s hearts to melt. ‘All he had to do was take it from you, but he didn’t,’ Penny added. ‘I thought we would be happy with dad, but we are not.’
Sarah held her close. This was supposed to be their happy ending, but it was anything but; because of her. ‘I’m sorry, Penelope. This is all my fault. I will fix this.’
‘How?’ Daisy asked menacingly. ‘Dad can’t even stand the sight of you, and neither can I!’
Sarah turned to Daisy with watery eyes. ‘I know you hate me. I hate myself for what happened to you. I hate myself for separating you from your dad. I took the coward’s way out instead of fighting for you and Penny. I should have looked for your dad, but I was too ashamed. Please… I’m sorry. Please.’
Daisy stared at her mum like she was looking at a stranger. Sarah never admitted her mistakes. The only thing she was good at was running away. Something was amiss.
‘I would believe you if you actually meant what you said, but as strange as that apology was, I’m more than certain you are up to something!’ Daisy accused. ‘If not, tell us where you are off to this afternoon.’
Sarah sniffed away her tears as she rose from the bed. ‘I wish I could tell you, but I can’t.’
‘Huh,’ Daisy said in disgust. ‘Come on, Penny. I have Mrs. Donohue’s number. We’ll ask her to stay with us today. It’s obvious we are not important to mum.’
Penny looked at Daisy’s outstretched hand through her tears and held on to her mother’s jacket instead. ‘I’m going with mum.’
Sarah hugged Penny and said softly, ‘Penelope, please stay with Daisy. You will be happier here with her. Besides, the men Daddy hired to look after you will keep you safe. Mummy has some errands to run and doesn’t know when she will be back. Why don’t you work on more Christmas decorations? It’s only five days away. I’m sure Dad will love them when he sees them. If you are hungry, there are chicken wraps and sandwiches in the fridge and hot chocolate in the flask.’
‘I’m going with you,’ Penny insisted, daring her mother to refuse.
‘All that nonsense you said, and she didn’t buy a word of it. You still think she’s five?’ Daisy attacked.
Sarah shut her eyes as she tried to think of ways to escape.
‘I know you are thinking of ways to stop me from going with you, but I won’t leave your jacket. I’m coming with you,’ Penny insisted again.
Sarah thought of dialing Mrs. Donohue’s number but remembered that her phone was busted.
God help me, Sarah thought as she took Penny’s hand and walked towards the door.
‘You know Dad will never forgive you if anything happens to Penny. Don’t you dare forget her in a coffee shop!’ Daisy spat from behind them.
In a matter of minutes, they were on the highway.
It had been a while since they sat in the car together, and it made her anxious because most of the time, it meant that they were driving home to Herbert. She watched as they zoomed past the turning into their old neighborhood and subconsciously heaved a sigh of relief. No more Herbert, Dad said he was never coming back.
Suddenly the car stopped in front of Christopher’s favorite diner.
‘Penny, I need you to go in there and wait for your dad.’
Penny turned abruptly to look at Sarah.
‘I’m going with you, mum,’ she said decisively.
Sarah put her head on the steering wheel and burst into tears.
‘You can’t. I can’t take you with me!’
‘Why?’ asked Penny, exasperated. ‘Why won’t you tell anyone where you go? If everyone knew, they would stop getting mad at you.’
‘Please, Penelope. I’m begging you. Go to the diner.’
‘No!’ Penny refused. ‘I won’t forgive you if you don’t take me with you.’
Sarah shook her head, forcing her car horn to hoot haphazardly. ‘Christopher will never forgive me.’
Penny stared at her mum in disbelief. ‘He won’t forgive you for leaving me here either, so take me with you.’
‘Penelope, I can’t!’
‘Yes, you can, mum. Whatever it is, I promise I won’t give you trouble. I’ll be good.’
Sarah caught a glimpse of the time.
She was going to be late.
She started the car and moved slowly away from the diner, breathing deeply to steady her fluttering heart. They drove for another hour before stopping in front of a run-down building just outside Manhattan. Penny tried to hide her fear as she alighted from the car and looked around. It reminded her of their old neighborhood. There were hoodlums around the place and a police car parked at a distance.
Her grip on her mother’s jacket tightened as Sarah led her to the entrance and knocked the door.
Please forgive me, Penelope, Sarah said inwardly as a scruffy-looking man opened the door.
Don’t forget to leave a comment! We will be back next week with the next chapter!