‘Mum, what happened to your leg?’ asked Penny, leaning to the front and looking worryingly at the cast that encased Sarah’s right leg. ‘It’s fine, baby,’ Sarah assured her with a pat on the head. ‘Please rest now and use your seatbelt. Alright, honey?’
Penny fell back on her seat and cast a similar glance at Daisy’s leg before looking out her window.
‘We will be fine, munchkin,’ Daisy said, reading her thoughts. It was always like Penny to worry about everyone else. Even after an ordeal like what they had undergone.
Sarah’s eyes fell on Christopher as he drove through high-rise buildings into central Manhattan. Usually, he would throw in a word or two, but he had his full attention on the road, maneuvering the jeep through heaps of snow that had built up overnight at this part of town. His ebony-black hair was in a mess, with some strands falling over his face and obstructing his eyes, and she resisted the urge to put them in place.
Gosh, he was a beautiful man. A gorgeous man that didn’t ask for all of these problems. He would have had a beautiful life if she didn’t disrupt it, she thought just as they zoomed past the precinct. The police! Her heart made a thumping sound in her chest.
Were they looking for her? Unconsciously, she sank in her seat in fright. They had just weathered the storm. She was sure Christopher would never forgive her for opening a fresh can of worms.
She groaned inwardly.
He was never going to forgive her.
At times, she felt his desire seeping through, threatening to break his resolve to put her at arm’s length but just as quickly, it would fade away and be replaced with disdain and distrust. If only she could go back in time. How far back, though? Probably to the day God decided to put her on this earth. She doubted that coming through her criminal parents, again, wouldn’t make a difference.
He turned on the radio, and Sarah shivered involuntarily. What if there was news about her on the radio? Somehow, she doubted the police would go that far. They had to have their hands full with the events at the Waldorf Astoria and the mediation building.
However, that didn’t change the fact that she was a fugitive. Whether she liked it or not, she had to turn herself in
She had every intention of keeping the promise she made to the nurse, but Sarah needed to be with her family, even if it was for a few hours, but how was she going to explain this to Christopher?
The latter settled for a channel that just started reading the hourly news, and to her relief, she wasn’t the center of attention.
‘We bring you breaking news this hour of the criminal known as Herbert Wilcox a.k.a the weasel. He was found dead in the Bronx an hour ago in what seemed to be a hit-and-run situation. The NYPD has declined to comment on what the weasel was doing there in the first place after they had initially pronounced him dead in a shoot-out weeks ago. Police also found the bodies of some of his gang members on the scene. We will bring you more details as soon as they come in.’
He was gone! Sarah rejoiced inwardly. How? Did the bounty hunters get him, or was it, Gina?
There is nothing I wouldn’t do for Christopher.
Gina’s words sent chills down her spine.
Christopher’s eyes were on her now as they approached the hotel. From the corner of her eye, she saw that he retained the indifferent look he adopted since their reunion a couple of months ago.
Had he made up his mind on who he preferred? Had he given up on her?
‘We are here,’ he said, trying to sound upbeat.
They had changed hotels, and Sarah wondered when he made the arrangements. She could see that this one had top-notch security at every corner. They had to go through three checkpoints to get into the lobby. Two man-servants quickly helped Christopher place her and Daisy on wheelchairs while Christopher carried Penny.
In no time, they were on the top floor and in a very luxurious penthouse which consisted of a large lounge, a master bedroom, and a double room. The girls were in awe of the place, with Penny wheeling Daisy to their room to admire them and chirping excitedly about the Christmas decorations that greeted them on entry.
Sarah didn’t share their enthusiasm. There were two rooms, and there were four of them. She looked towards the direction of the master bedroom and swallowed hard but dared not ask.
‘I’ll see to Daisy’s leg then to yours,’ Christopher announced, unaware of her line of thought.
‘I… Can I come with you?’ she asked tentatively.
‘You don’t need to ask, Sarah. She’s your daughter too.’
His tone made her heart squeeze inside her chest. Did he still think she didn’t care about their daughters? Just when she thought he was starting to warm up to her, they were back to this.
She wheeled her chair slowly behind him, feeling like an outsider that was intruding in their lives.
She stopped at the door and chose to observe Christopher attend to Daisy because the last thing she wanted was another outburst from her elder daughter.
Christopher lifted Daisy onto the bed and unwrapped the bandages Gina put in place. ‘It will heal in no time,’ he pronounced, treating the wound afresh.
‘It’s crazy that you and Sarah got injured on the same leg.’
Sarah froze when Daisy’s eyes met hers. She wasn’t looking at her with hatred but with, dare she say it, pity. It puzzled her.
‘Dad, will you be treating mum too?’ Penny asked. She was acting like her dad’s assistant, handing him the tools he requested.
‘Hmmm,’ Christopher answered without looking at Sarah. ‘I sure will when I’m through with Daisy.’
Penny smiled broadly. She was enjoying her newfound job.
‘Dad,’ Penny continued, ‘Herbert gave Daisy pills that made her pass out. I was scared! I thought she was going to die!’
Daisy shot Penny a dreadful dare, and Penny was startled.
‘What?’ challenged Penny. ‘It is true!’
Christopher’s gaze made Daisy look away in shame.
‘I’m sure he did,’ he replied, still looking at her.
‘And I will purge Daisy of whatever he gave her for her illness.’
He knew! He must be very disappointed in me!
Daisy’s mind raced.
Christopher applied more bandages in silence, and Daisy searched his face for some emotion, but she didn’t get any, and she panicked.
‘Dad,’ she said with a high-pitched voice.
‘Yes, princess?’ he replied with a level tone, helping her find a suitable position on the bed. He didn’t give anything away, and she wasn’t sure what to make of it.
Change the subject. Bring it up when everyone’s calmer, Daisy thought.
‘Please, can I trouble you for a cup of tea?’
There was no getting out of this one, Christopher thought as his lips broke into a smile.
‘With plenty milk!’ she added, trying to sound cheerful.
‘And ice cream!’ added Penny, with her hands up.
‘Only you can want ice cream in this weather,’ Christopher teased, and Penny giggled. ‘Let’s go together so you can pick the flavor you want.’
‘Yeah!’ Penny rejoiced.
He saw that Sarah was still at the door, and he was a bit irked.
‘You know you can come in anytime you want,’ he announced, putting his medical kit away,
Sarah wheeled the chair in slowly, keeping her eyes on Christopher. His indifference scared her.
‘Daisy, please can I take a look at your leg?’ she asked, tentatively. She was expecting a yell.
‘Sure,’ Daisy said flatly.
Sarah breathed heavily before approaching the bed.
‘Are you going to be alright?’ Christopher asked, worried that a bomb would erupt in the room if he left them alone.
‘We are ok, dad,’ assured Daisy.
He carried Penny with him and closed the door behind them. Sarah stared at the closed door for as long as a minute before Daisy’s voice jolted her back into the present.
‘You know I learned this from you,’ she said accusingly. ‘Keeping secrets.’
Sarah looked down at her fingers.
‘And Dad will never trust you because of the secrets you continue to hide from him.’
‘I’m sorry, Daisy. I was …’
‘Thinking? Yeah, you do that a lot,’ Daisy cut in.
Sarah averted her gaze to the bandages on Daisy’s leg, and she unconsciously ran her fingers through them.
‘I’ll be fine,’ Daisy assured her, but that didn’t stop Sarah from breaking down in tears.
‘I’m so sorry,’ Sarah said through her tears. She could barely get the words out because she was sobbing uncontrollably.
‘You know, mum. When Herbert had us in that place, I thought I would never see you and dad again. I thought he would separate Penny and me and make us work in brothels miles apart from each other. I had never been more afraid.’
Daisy stretched out her right hand, and Sarah took it in hers and accepted the gesture as an invitation to move closer to her.
‘I’m done fighting with you. I just want my mum!’ Daisy added before hugging Sarah tightly.
‘You’re hugging me,’ she croaked in disbelief.
‘I love you, mum,’ Daisy whispered in her ear.
Sarah closed her eyes to savor the moment.
‘I love you more than my life, Daisy. I know I don’t deserve you, but I will spend the rest of my days fighting to become the mother you deserve.’
‘Really, mum? Then prove it. I want to know what you are hiding.’
Sarah broke away from Daisy’s embrace and turned away quickly.
‘You will lose dad if this continues, you know. I saw the way that lady, Gina, was looking at dad. She’s really into him, and I think dad likes her too.’
Sarah closed her eyes to block out images of Christopher and Gina together.
Daisy realized that her mum had noticed as well and continued, ‘If you want him back, you need to be honest with him. Tell him everything.’
Sarah nodded rapidly.
‘I promise I won’t judge you.’ Daisy heard Christopher and Penny giggling in the lounge as they approached the room and hinted at her mum.
‘Jail,’ Sarah breathed out. ‘I’m supposed to be in jail right now,’ Sarah confessed, turning to Daisy and twitching like a child.
Daisy was stunned but feigned calm once Christopher arrived with Penny.
‘Is everything alright?’ Christopher asked, noticing Sarah’s demeanor.
‘Yes, dad,’ Daisy said quickly. ‘Thank you for the tea. Mum has something to tell you.’
Christopher turned to Sarah, who trembled uncontrollably.
‘Do you want to talk here or privately?’ Christopher asked calmly.
‘We…we can talk outside,’ she stammered, pointing to the lounge.
He nodded and grabbed the handles of Sarah’s wheelchair, making her heart jump.
‘Please try to get some sleep after your tea,’ Christopher said to Daisy. ‘If you need anything, please press the button by your bed. I’ll be here in a flash.’
‘Don’t worry, dad!’ Penny said, with cream all over her mouth. ‘I’ll look after Daisy!’
Christopher laughed. His little one was something special. ‘Alright, nurse Penny, I’ll leave you to it, but you should rest as well.’
Sarah cast a worrying glance at Daisy, who mouthed words of encouragement to her before Christopher closed the door.
Was she supposed to start the conversation? Sarah thought, alarmed.
‘I’m listening, Sarah,’ said Christopher, crouching to her level. He was close enough to read her facial expressions clearly and was looking intently at her.
She swallowed hard. Spill! Sarah’s inner voice screamed at her.
‘It’s about my afternoon outings,’ she started, avoiding his eyes.
‘What about them?’ he asked, leaning closer.
‘I didn’t go back to the streets,’ she said, waving her head and hands in denial.
Christopher corked his head to the side. ‘You didn’t?’
She met his eyes quickly. ‘Never. I would never do that to you or the girls.’
‘Hmmm,’ Christopher uttered. ‘Then where did you go?’
His tone was husky, causing her insides to warm up and her cheeks to flush. ‘It had something to do with my past,’ she answered while holding her breath.
The doorbell rang, and Christopher groaned inwardly.
Who could that be because he had asked the staff not to disturb them
‘Who is it?’ he asked irritatingly. He wondered if this rude interruption would cause Sarah to run back into her shell.
‘It’s the police. We have a warrant for the arrest of Sarah McKenzie. Open up!’
Christopher’s brows narrowed in confusion. The police? Why? To avoid a scene and alert their neighbors, he raced to the door and opened it.
Two officers entered the lounge, and one of them handed Christopher the warrant while the other went towards Sarah.
‘We are arresting Miss McKenzie for the crimes of extortion, false identity, and escaping arrest. If you have any questions, Dr. Wallace, you can meet us down at the station. Would you like us to read you your rights, Miss McKenzie?
Sarah shook her head in defeat.
Christopher looked questionably at Sarah. The latter kept her head down as the other policeman wheeled her away.
‘What’s going on?’ Christopher asked, angrily but his response was silence.
Penny came out of the room to find out what the disturbance was.
‘Penny, go back to the room,’ Christopher ordered.
She saw the policemen and instantly knew they were there for Sarah.
‘No, leave my mum alone! I told you. She hasn’t done anything wrong!’ Penny cried, pushing past the officer and hugging her mum.
‘Penny, please do as daddy said,’ advised Sarah. ‘I promise we will sort this out, and I will back with you in no time.’
‘I’m coming with you!’ cried Penny.
Christopher gently lifted Penny into his embrace.
‘I’ll bring mummy home, don’t worry,’ he whispered in Penny’s ear. She calmed down and sobbed silently on her father’s shoulder.
As the policemen wheeled Sarah out, Gina appeared at the door.
‘Christopher!’ she exclaimed, watching the officers wheel Sarah into the elevator. ‘I was waiting for you to send me your address. What’s going on?’
Christopher didn’t respond. He was trying desperately to console Penny.
Gina took his silence as an invitation to step into the lounge. ‘This isn’t good for your image,’ said Gina, admiring the penthouse.
‘How will you handle this?’
‘I’ll be going to the station momentarily,’ answered Christopher. ‘I’ll sort this out.’
‘I hope you do,’ added Gina. ‘I can stay with the kids if you want.’
Gina walked to the minibar situated at the far right of the room and poured herself a bourbon.
Behind her, Penny tightened her legs around Christopher and met his eyes with an intense gaze.
‘No need to worry,’ Christopher said. ‘The kids will be fine. They will be coming with me.’
‘To the station?’ Gina asked, alarmed. ‘That’s no place for children! You sound like you don’t trust me.’
Christopher put Penny down and turned to Gina, ‘Buttercup, I trust you with my life and theirs too. It’s just that I just got them back, and I don’t want them out of my sight.’
Gina relaxed after his statement, ‘I understand. At least, let me accompany you to the station.’
‘There’ll be no need,’ Christopher assured her. ‘I’ll get to the bottom of this in no time.’
‘Alright then. I’ll leave you to it. Just call if you need anything.’
She downed the bourbon in a gulp, retrieved her purse, and left.
Christopher stood still for a couple of seconds before taking Penny to her room. Daisy was still awake and awaiting news from Penny.
‘Dad, what’s going on?’
Penny went over to her and lay by her side, looking dejected. ‘Daisy, the police came and took mum.’
Daisy stared at Penny’s back, wide-eyed.
‘Kids, I need to see your mum and get her out,’ informed Christopher, raking his hair.
‘We will be fine, dad,’ said Daisy. ‘We will stay here and not step out till you return.’
Christopher smiled, but he wasn’t ready to leave them alone.
‘Do you mind if Uncle Carl comes over to stay with you while I’m gone?’
‘No, but can we trust him?’ asked Daisy.
The girls had to be exhausted with all of this instability, and Christopher cursed inwardly. ‘I’m sorry, girls. Mrs. Donohue hasn’t been in the best of health, and he is the only other person I can trust.’
Daisy looked away, and Christopher’s eyebrows narrowed inquisitively.
‘It’s fine. We’ll be good,’ surrendered Daisy.
Great, Christopher thought. Now, he needed to call the Chief.