By Anthonia Nicol
Penny heard the front door slam shut and nothing else. He’s here! She thought, holding on to her pillow. He’s going to get me for telling mum the truth! She had locked the door, but all it would take was a heavy kick to bring it down because it was old and rickety, so she was careful not to make a sound. With any luck, he might think I’m at school, she thought. She waited for an hour, but no one came. Summoning up some courage, she opened her bedroom door and looked around. The top floor was empty. She ventured down t stairs, into the living room and the kitchen. Empty. Where was her mum?
Panic gripped her because she feared her dad would walk in at any time and take his revenge. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she called out for her mum, ‘Mum, where are you?’ How could her mum leave her alone? She wondered. Did he come for her? Her eyes caught a note on the center table. It read, ‘ Baby, I have gone to make things right. I will make sure Herbert doesn’t hurt you again. Please go next door, to Mrs. Jenkins’s place. From there, call Christopher. Call your father. He will protect you. I love you!’
Christopher, she thought. My dad? I don’t understand, thought Penny. She folded the note, put it in her backpack, and went over to the neighbor’s, but no one was home. What now? She remembered Chris gave her a $100 bill to buy a $10 ice- cream.
As she looked through her backpack for the change, she thought of where to look for him.
He was only there because of her mum, and now that they weren’t there anymore, he must have left. With her dad on the loose, the hospital wasn’t safe.
She sighed as tears stung her eyes.
Think Penny, think. Don’t cry!
The store at the mall, she thought, almost exciting herself. They would know where to find Chris and maybe have another number that she could call. Besides, it was closer than the hospital, and her dad wouldn’t think to look for her there.
She stood by the sidewalk. ‘Taxi!’ she called, and a yellow cab stopped just in front of her. ‘I’m going to Queens Place Mall. How much will it cost me?’
‘Should you be going around by yourself, kid? Who’s going to pay for the trip?’ asked the driver, cautiously.
‘It’s urgent, sir. I have the money. I will pay,’ she said desperately. She showed him the squeezed bills, and he shrugged. ‘Alright. Watch the meter.’
She did, and the moment it hit $80, she jumped out of the cab and ran the rest of the way to the mall. When she got to the store, she was happy to find the supervisor on duty. ‘Oh, it’s you again,’ he said warmly. ‘How are you, little one?’
Penny shook his hand. ‘Please, I need your help!’ she said while panting.
‘What can I help you with, little one?’ he asked, crouching to her level.
‘Please, I need to find Christopher Wallace.’
The supervisor blinked. ‘My boss? Why do you need to find him?’
‘He’s the only one that can help my mum!’ she said, tears falling down her cheeks.
‘Please don’t cry, little one,’ he said as he reached for his handkerchief.
‘Let me give his office a call and find out if he’s there.’
Some hope. ‘Thank you, sir,’ she said, waiting apprehensively.
He called, and Chris’s assistant informed him that Chris ordered her not to transfer any calls to him.
‘I’m sorry little one. The boss doesn’t want to be disturbed,’ he informed Penny.
‘Please, I have to see him!’ she cried. ‘Please!’
He couldn’t bear to see her cry. ‘Tell you what. I will ask my driver to drop you off at his office. He doesn’t want calls transferred, but he might feel differently with a visit’.
She hugged him. ‘Thank you, sir!’
‘Call me Uncle Carl,’ he said, walking her to his car.
Uncle Carl said Chris’s office was in Hudson Yards, and it would take about 40 minutes to get there. She thought of her mum and if she had gotten hurt again, and how irresponsible Daisy was because she was always skipping school and running off to her friend’s place. These were why she was perpetually angry. No one in her family made any sense.
The driver stopped the car in front of a skyscraper that went deep into the clouds. Never in Penny’s life did she think she would enter a building like this. She swallowed hard when the driver took her hand and walked her into the building. ‘We are here to see the President,’ the driver said. Was Chris the president of this place? Suddenly, she felt shy. ‘Do you have an appointment?’ the receptionist asked, ready to call his office.
‘Yes,’ the driver said. ‘He’s expecting this young lady.’
He lied. Would he be in trouble because of Penny?
The receptionist called his office as they waited. ‘Well, there is no appointment…’
‘Certainly not,’ Penny said, smiling. ‘I don’t think an eight-year-old girl could have an appointment with the President, do you?’
The receptionist looked suspiciously at the driver and Penny.
‘I didn’t let you in,’ she said, punching the button to the top floor on the elevator.
It took a while for the elevator to get to their floor. Penny tried to think of what she was going to Christopher while the elevator moved at break-neck speed. What if he was still mad at them?
Christopher’s assistant was an astute middle-aged woman with a strong jawline and thick hair that matched her glasses. She looked so scary that Penny almost ran back into the elevator but stopped when the driver nudged her forward.
‘Can I help you?’ she asked, sternly.
‘Please, I want to see Christopher Wallace,’ she said softly.
She felt the atmosphere go tense. It was obvious no one here called Chris by his full name. ‘The boss does not want to be disturbed,’ she said flatly.
‘Even by his daughter?’ Penny said confidently. She wasn’t sure. She only knew what the note said.
The assistant adjusted her glasses.
‘He doesn’t have a daughter,’ she said.
Penny searched through her backpack and produced the note her mother left.
‘It says here that I am,’ she added.
The assistant read the note intently, walked towards his door, and knocked, asking her to come along.
She opened the door and said, ‘Doctor, this young lady is here to see you,’ and Penny emerged from behind her.
‘Penny?’ he said, spreading out his arms to her.
Never in her life had she felt so relieved. ‘Chris! Mum is gone!’ she said as she ran into his arms.
By Anthonia Nicol