(Parental Guidance is Advised)
By Anthonia Nicol
Christopher and Penny were back in Queens and were now in front of a twenty-year-old brothel called Brenda’s Place.
‘Brenda’s Place,’ read Penny. ‘Dad, are you sure we are in the right place? We should be going to Daisy’s school to ask for Brenda’s address. There is no way Daisy’s friend will have her name on their house.’
Penny was too smart, Chris thought as he spotted a coffee shop across the street and heaved a sigh of relief. ‘Penny, are you hungry?’
Her eyes shone, ‘ Yes, daddy! I can eat a horse right about now!’
‘Good,’ he said, helping her out of the car. ‘Let’s go to that coffee shop and get you something to eat.’
He ordered her some doughnuts and hot chocolate and positioned her in front of the TV. ‘Let me make sure Daisy isn’t at that place across the street, and I’ll come to join you. Deal?’
‘Deal, dad!’ she said excitedly, biting a chunk of her sugar glazed doughnut.
He phoned Carl from his drugstore at the mall.
‘Can you please come over to Morning Dew Coffee Shop, opposite Brenda’s Place? I need you to watch Penny for me’.
He was there in five minutes, and Chris went out to meet him.
‘Boss, no one should see you in a place like that,’ warned Carl, before entering the coffee shop. ‘The press will have a fill day.’
‘I don’t care, Carl. I need to go in there’.
Carl sighed and followed him into the coffee shop. ‘Penny will ask questions. Please stir her mind away from that place’.
‘Sure thing, boss,’ assured Carl. ‘You can count on me.’
Chris crossed the street, pulling his coat close to his face and doing his best to avoid street cameras. The stench of beer mixed with body fluids filled his nostrils and made him gag. In a second, he was surrounded by three women, seeking his attention, and he flashed a couple of hundred dollar bills at them in exchange for information on Daisy.
She was with a client.
A thirteen-year-old girl.
He felt like he was going to have a nervous breakdown.
‘Show me where she is,’ he ordered.
The redhead among them told him it was against the rules. He tripled the bills.
‘You know I will make it worth your while.’
The ladies looked at each other and shrugged. ‘We’ll take you to her, but you will be on your own after that,’ said the redhead.
He carefully opened the room the girls showed him to and saw Daisy was with a middle-aged man, a little bit older than Chris, and it made him sick to his stomach. He yanked the man off her. ‘What… Who are you?’ asked the man outraged.
‘Shut your trap!’ Chris barked as his eyes met Daisy’s. She was on drugs. ‘ Da…a..d?’ she called out.
‘This is unacceptable. I will ask for my money back!’ wailed the man, putting his pants on.
It took all of Chris’s patience to stop him from pounding the man to the ground. ‘ Daisy, let’s go,’ he said instead, dragging her off the bed and covering her with his coat.
‘No!’ she snapped, yanking her hand away. ‘You need to leave!’
He was stunned.
Seeing that there was trouble brewing, the client ran out of the room without his shirt.
‘Daisy, please come with me. We need to go now. Come on, baby,’ he pleaded.
‘I am not your baby!’ she screamed, almost stumbling over a stool behind her.
‘She told me! Mum told me I wasn’t yours. So leave!’
Chris cursed under his breath. What was wrong with Sarah? How could she be so insensitive towards her children?
A huge man and a woman burst into the room. From the look on Daisy’s face, they were probably her managers.
‘Mister, you need to leave now,’ said the man as he moved towards Chris.
Chris turned to the woman with tears in his eyes. ‘She’s my daughter.’
‘What?’ the woman said. ‘I thought she was Heb’s girl! That bastard brought someone else’s daughter here? He’s going to pay!’
Daisy was still agitated. ‘ You need to leave now, dad,’ she said. ‘ I can’t come with you. I am no longer your little girl.’
He fell on his knees.
‘You will always be my little girl baby,’ he admitted, tears flowing unimpeded down his cheeks. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t fight to get you back. I listened to what everyone else was telling me. I made a mistake. I will never leave you again, I promise. You are mine, and no one will take you from me ever again.’
The man and the woman behind Chris looked confused.
She started to walk towards him. ‘Dad!’
He stretched out his arms. ‘Come to Daddy, baby,’ he said. She did, and they cried together.
‘Alright, mister, take your daughter and leave. This is bad for business,’ said the woman, leaving the room with her assistant and closing the door behind her.
He rose with her. ‘Forgive me, Daisy. Forgive me for everything you have gone through. We will get through this together.’
She gave a weak smile.
‘I was never angry at you, Dad,’ she assured him as she looked for her clothes and put them on. He was relieved, but as he studied Daisy, his heart melted. She looked emancipated and way older than her age.
‘I always knew you would come back for me someday,’ she said as they left the room. She suggested they took the back door to the alley to avoid prying eyes. Suddenly, Chris felt guilty. ‘Actually, Penny found me.’
He went on to narrate how he met Penny. A hint of jealousy flashed through Daisy’s eyes for a moment, but Chris caught it. He held her shoulders. ‘There is no difference between you and Penny to me. You are both my daughters and never forget that. Forget what your mother said. You were never Hebert’s. You have always been mine!’
He was an amazing man, thought Daisy, as she let herself fall into his embrace.
Shortly, they were at the coffee shop, and Penny was hugging her sister. ‘Where have you been? You had us worried!’ said Penny, pinching her. Just then, Daisy realized they had never had that kind of relationship. It felt nice. ‘I was around the block,’ she said, patting Penny’s head. ‘With Brenda? I need to meet her someday,’ she announced.
Daisy looked at her dad, who signaled her to play along.
‘Well, Brenda was going on a long trip, and I wanted to help her pack,’ she lied.
‘Awwww. Oh well,’ said Penny. ‘Want some doughnut? I saved some for you and dad. You know he’s our dad, right?’
‘Sure and yes!’ Daisy said with a smile.
Phewww thought Chris. They were never coming back here again.
He turned to Carl and handed him his house keys. ‘Please take them to the house, on 54th, and tell Mrs. Donohue to ensure they settle in properly.’
He took a napkin and wrote a prescription down.
‘Daisy needs a shot of this as soon as you get it,’ he said, looking at his daughters. ‘Carl will take you home now. To my house.’
Penny looked up at him, ‘ Dad, are you going to get mum?’
‘Yes, princess,’ he said, lifting her and planting a kiss on her cheeks. ‘I promise I will bring her home to you.’
Penny smiled, but Daisy didn’t look too pleased.
‘Hebert is dangerous, dad,’ Daisy said, walking Chris to the door of the coffee shop. Penny intensified her grip on Chris’s neck to illustrate Daisy’s point.
He smiled, ‘I’ll be fine. I will bring mummy home to you. Don’t worry.’
Daisy didn’t buy it. ‘Let me come with you,’ she offered.
He put Penny down, and Daisy held her close. ‘I need you two to be safe,’ he said. ‘That’s the only way I can concentrate on what I need to do. Please promise me you will stay at home and not do anything rash.’
They nodded in fear.
‘I love you very much,’ he added, hugging them before entering his car and zooming off.