Daisy's Last Day

Daisy Reyes Matapang has been enslaved twice in her life. Once by human traffickers who sold her as a domestic servant. She ran from them, only to be imprisoned by a life on the streets, caring for a group of teens addicted to heroin. After her last friend overdoses, Daisy is ready to change her life. Her way out arrives when she wakes up on day in another world,

Daisy is a character in my first novel, "Tenderfoot". This novella is about her life before she arrives in Enova ,and extra scenes about her early days adjusting to life in a world across the universe.


1. Daisy's Last Day

© 2016 Abby Drinen. All rights Reserved.

An eternity of CPR, and Lu's lips are still blue. No breath tickles my cheek when I lean in close to her mouth. No pulse in her neck either. My arms are rubber. My fingers ache from the cold. I make the awful decision to stop.

I shake our burner phone again. The one Manny stole from Kmart, and Luis got to work somehow. I jam my finger down hard on the power button for the hundredth time. A blip of a charge, that's all I need. Just enough to call 9-1-1. But nothing happens. Of course not, the battery's been dead for three days.

I scream and chuck the useless thing at the sagging wallpaper with the tiny rosebuds. Shards of black plastic burst like a firework as the phone hits the wall.

"Help! Please help!" I shout out a broken window. No one comes.

I slump next to Lu, hold her in my arms. I rock her and kiss her. Wipe away the white bubbles oozing out the corner of her mouth. My tears run into her hair.

"Please, please, pal. Don't be dead," I beg in a whisper.

Wait! Did her chest just rise? I squint and watch her middle for signs of life. I swear I see it move again. Maybe it's not too late? Should I lug her body to the nearest ER?

"Lu?" I bend an ear down to her mouth. No movement of air. I stare at her torso, watching for it to move. She remains still and silent as stone. Lu is dead.

"Oh God, Lu! Oh God, no!"

Wrapping myself around her lifeless body, I dissolve into sobs.


I wake up feeling heavy. Did I have a nightmare? I stretch and smack my dry lips together. 

"Hey, Lu? Any water left? Lu?" I sit up and circle my eyes around. A lump in the corner forces me to remember. Tears sting my eyes, but I push them down. Can't risk dehydration.

It's not like I didn't know this could happen. Lu was hooked on heroin before I met her. And she's OD'd twice in the last eighteen months. But I never saw foam come out of her mouth before.

Like me, Lu's parents are dead. She has no other family that I know of. All of our friends are dead too. We lost them one by one over the last year. The only person, besides me, that will miss her, is her dealer.

I'm not sure what to do with Lu's body. I don't want to call the police. I don't want the paramedics to come, and to seal my beautiful friend into a cold, black body bag. Strangers touching her. Lu was shy, when she was sober. Lying naked on a steel table while detectives snap pictures to identify her? Without a bump of junk to make her brave, Lu would be horrified.

I wander around at the dilapidated Victorian we've been squatting in, swiping at cobwebs in the hall, and running my fingers over the chair rail in the dining room. This was once a very elegant place. A well to do family probably lived here in like the 1950's or something.

In the kitchen, I picture a loving mom, baking cookies while her children color at the table. The kind of mother that tells you to wear a jacket, and checks your math homework. The kind of mom I had once, but Lu never did. As I envision the perfect mother and the perfect father in this once perfect house, it hits me. This house is an excellent tomb for my friend. A home like she never had. A life she could only long for.

I can see Lu, sober, well-fed, bouncing from room to room. Giving the mom a kiss on the cheek. Handing the dad a perfect report card. Ruffling the hair of her little brother. No more track marks on her arm, no more sorrow draped across her shoulders. Her eyes bright, and ready to barge into a great future.

I roll her body up in a threadbare carpet, and somehow manage to get her up into the attic. I block out most of our trip up there, except for busting a stair step on the way up, and the splinter I got in my hand on the way down. I don't want to remember "burying" my best friend.

Once I'm back downstairs, I rifle through Lu's backpack. There isn't much for me to take. A first aid kit, a comb, a bottle of water. I bury my nose in her sweatshirt, and inhale the perfume she always sampled in the pharmacies on Market Street.

I tuck a photo of her and her brother into the back pocket of my jeans. It was taken when she was seven and he was four, in the last foster home they shared. She hadn't seen him in nine years.

There's baby wipes and shampoo, but I leave those. I can get more of that kind of stuff at the shelter. I dump the rest of the contents out, and fold her backpack up as small as I can to put it into mine. Always good to have a spare backpack.

I walk east up Anza Street, and then hang a right on 8th Avenue, toward the park. I want to walk through the Japanese Tea Garden. It was Lu's favorite place in the park.

I arrive at ten after nine, according to the guard at the gate. The cherry blossoms aren't in bloom this time of year, but the ponds are nice. The orange and white koi swish through the water in hypnotic patterns, lulling me into numbness. If I never leave the gardens, and spend the rest of my days watching these elegant animals, can I keep this blank feeling? Nothingness is better than wrestling the in depths of grief.

"Hey, hey, hey. There's a pretty face I know!"

Banjo Trout, that's his real name, slides up and plops down on the bench next to me.

"Hi Banjo. What's new?" I say.

He puts a cigarette in his mouth, and fishes in his pockets, probably for a lighter. I should have hugged him when I first saw him. I hope he doesn't get suspicious.

"You can't smoke here," I scoot closer, and thread my arm through his so he won't know today is different. The rot of patchouli oil swims into my nose. My nostrils flare to protest, but I clear my throat and stay put.

"I'll just get rid of it if they say anything." He lights the end, and it glows red, intensifying as he sucks in. "Want to share?" He offers me a drag on his cancer stick.

I shake my head.

"That's right. You're kinda straight-edge, aren't you?"

"Sort of. Someone's got to be the designated driver." My smile hurts my stomach.

"Where's Lu?"

I gasp. I wasn't expecting her name to stab me in the heart like it does. I cough to hide the shocked noise I made. He slaps me on the back a few times, and then offers me a bottle of water from the pack he's carrying. It's half full, I don't want to touch anything that Banjo's laid his lips on, but I need to keep up this rouse. Plus, I'm really thirsty.

"She went to go see a cousin across the bay." I say after a couple of swigs. Fortunately, he doesn't know Lu well enough to know this is a lie.

"So you're just kicking it alone today?" He takes another drag, and blows the smoke away from us.

"Yep. And I might be on my own for a while." I swallow hard. "I don't know how long she's going to stay over there."

"You want to come back to my place? I'll make you a grilled cheese." He tickles my ribs and I force a grin.

Banjo is the only kid I know who has a home. He lives with his mom, in a tiny box apartment over a New Age bookstore. She used to be a stripper at Big Al's until it closed in '09. Now she's a priestess for a religion she made up. She actually has seven followers. I'm not sure what they believe in. All I've ever seen them do is smoke pot and chant, in what she claims, is ancient Egyptian. She also works at the bookstore on weekends.

"Come on, Daze. You love my grilled cheese." He draws a circle on the back of my hand with his index finger. The tip of his finger is as slimy as the rest of him. I shouldn't go with him. Banjo will expect things if I go back to his apartment.

"I don't know." I say. "I was going to see what's shaking at The Wharf."

"Sounds cool. I'll go with you." He flicks his cigarette into the Koi pond. I turn my head and swear under my breath.

"Great." I grin widely at hippie boy. I could win an Oscar for this performance.

Banjo pays for both of us to ride Muni to Fisherman's Wharf. Once we're there I buy a coffee with the last bit of change I have, and dump out the contents. I wipe the moisture out of the cup with the hem of my shirt, and start begging strangers to put money into it.

Banjo leaves for a couple of hours to stroll up and down the Wharf with the tourists. Maybe he'll find someone better to pester.

The cold weather seems to have put a damper on people's generosity. Coins jingle in my cup, but no paper money yet. Thirty-five is the magic number. Thirty-five dollars is the difference between a night in a ratty hotel, and a night with a ratty boy.

A lady, whose face is almost eclipsed by her sunglasses, tosses me her doggie bag instead of money. I swallow the urge to throw it back at her and say, "woof". Of course, I wolf down the contents of her half eaten pasta primavera as soon as she's out of sight.

I work hard not to look disappointed when Banjo returns.

"It's after six," he says.

"Uh-huh." Is it possible he smells worse than he did this morning?

"The sky's getting dark, too. It's gonna rain."

"Won't bother me." I pull out my rain poncho to make my point. It's still sealed in the packaging.

"We should go back to my place," he rubs the palms of his hands together.

"You can go." I shrug. "I'm good here.

It starts to sprinkle. Banjo stiffens his collar, and stays right by my side. I collect a five dollar bill before the sky breaks open, and sends down the big drops.

The downpour chases everyone off the open street, including me. Banjo and I duck under a canopy in front of Boudin's Bakery. The scent of baking sourdough circles around our heads. Hunger burns in my stomach, but the feeling turns to nausea when Banjo pulls half of his army jacket around me. Gah! He really stinks.

I count my take. Thirty-six pennies, four nickels, eight dimes, eleven quarters, and one crisp five-dollar bill, are in my Styrofoam cup. Enough for a burger and a coke, but not a motel room.

"How does that grilled cheese sound now?" He narrows his eyes and licks his bottom lip. "You can take a shower too." His smiles like I'm a better treat than the bread we're smelling.

He wets his lips again, and touches them to my mouth. Oh God, what price am I willing to pay for a dry place to sleep?

Lu is laughing at me from the sky. She hooked up with Banjo twice. Both times she was too loaded to know what she was doing. If I'd known how bad he reeks, I never would have let her sleep with him.

Am I desperate enough to hook-up with this creature, just to get out of the rain? I've had sex with guys to score a soft bed and a roof before, but Banjo is revolting. I'm afraid without the protection of clothes, that earthy scent he carries might kill me. Even if Banjo has the body of a male model under his ridiculous outfit, his odor and scuzzy personality snuffs out any trace of a turn on. Even for a casual hook-up.

I let him keep his mouth on mine, and force myself to a pucker. He splits his blobby lips apart, and forces mine open with his sticky tongue. I pull away, pretending to be coy, and swallow the bile burning the back of my throat. He dips in to slobber all over me again. A dead octopus could suck face better, but I return his sloppy kiss because even my hair feels tired. I decide to take Banjo's greasy sandwich, and his tongue in my mouth, in exchange for a bed and a shower to wash Lu's death away.

"Is that a 'yes'?" He asks when he finally comes up for air.

"It's not a 'no'." I say and wink.

He uses the money I begged for all morning to pay for our bus ride to the Haight/Ashbury district, where he lives. We get off the bus, and start walking towards his home in the rain. A big digital sign reads 8:07. Wow, it took us a long time to get here.

It's stopped raining by the time we get to his crap hole apartment. The steep stairs are almost too much for my weary heart. I hope he's quick with me.

We get to the landing at the top of the stairs, and his mother drifts past us with a joint in her hand. So blazed, she doesn't even notice us. My eyes follow her into the living room. She plunks down on pillows in front of a big gold Buddha statute. A poster of Ziggy Marley hangs on the wall behind it. Chanting starts. I hear more than just one voice. Terrific. The weirdo witch has company.

A man dances around Banjo's mom, waving a couple of scarves over his head. A woman convulses on the floor at her feet. My eyes flick to Banjo, but he's disappeared. His doughy body fills the doorway to his bedroom down the hall. He turns around, and beckons me to come to him with one finger.

I can't see in all this smoke. My pulse races. I don't want to be here. I really don't want to be here! No matter what waits for me out there, I won't spend another minute in this disgusting palace of strange.

I scramble towards the door, falling down the last four steps of the narrow staircase. The security gate clangs as I bang my knee into it. With shaking hands, I twist the handle, and fly onto the street.

It's drizzling again I look left and then right. Which way? I pick right and run, without any idea of where I'm headed. I only stop for red lights. One block, two, three. I don't feel my hair grow damp until it sticks to the sides of my face. After seven blocks, I stop to catch my breath in the alcove of a hair salon. "Real Hair for Real Women" a poster advertises. I sink down and huddle in the corner. I pull my hoodie over my face, but leave a crack where I can keep a lookout. My body buzzes with adrenaline, and at the same time, drifts in an undercurrent of exhaustion. I battle with my eyelids, and lose.

"Do you need help?"

I jerk awake. An old man stands over me, a black umbrella in his hands. Panic drives me to my feet. I shove him aside and take off.

Several blocks later, my lungs demand a break. I stop under the canopy of a laundromat, and lean against the brick holding the stitch in my side. My breath creates clouds of smoke in the chilly air. The sprinkle transitions to a powerful shower. Something about the drive of the water, pouring from the sky, cleaning the concrete and asphalt, calls to me.

I step away from the building, and stand in the middle of the sidewalk. Let the rain wash away my stains. Banjo's slimy kiss, Lu's overdose, the whiskey I drank last night to get warm. The purse I stole two weeks ago to buy Lu some smack. I tilt my face up to the downpour, and let it scrub me clean. The cold penetrates me down to my blood, but I want more absolution. I want this storm to rid me of every sordid thing I've ever done since setting foot on American soil. Will the rain last long enough to bleach all of it white?

The clouds are empty, and I'm a shaking puddle. Where am I?

The street signs read: Page and Divisadero. I'm surprised at how far I ran. It's a relief to be so far from Banjo's house. Golden Gate Park is just a few blocks away. There's half a dozen places to sleep there, but none of them will be dry tonight. I walk toward the park anyway. I've got nowhere else to go.

An intense longing knifes gut, and doubles me over. Home. I want to go home. And not just my little house in the Philippines. I want to go back to my innocence. Return to the arms of my mama and papa. Live with peace in my heart again. Is that even possible? Can I have that feeling of home and family, if the people who first gave it to me are dead?

I've got to keep moving to stay warm, so I fold up the ache in my stomach and put it away. I'm at the corner of Page and Lyon now. Page and Lyon...why does that stick in my head?

Across the street, a blue grey house with white trim is my answer. I know that place...Blackberry Home? Something like that. They help street urchins like me. A 24-hour youth crisis center. Huckleberry House! That's its name. How did my feet find their way here? It seems like an impossible coincidence.

But I'll take it, impossible or not.

Lu, and our other friends, were the only reason I've never surrendered myself to a place like this before. They'd never have accepted help getting off the streets, because getting help meant getting clean. And they needed a mama bird to look after them. Keeping them safe was my life and my work. But they're gone now, and I have nothing else to take care of but myself.

I step off the curb, and quicken my steps toward salvation. If it's not good there, I can always leave in the morning.

I ring the doorbell and get the welcome I expect. A nice lady gives me dry clothes, a turkey sandwich, and a cot. No questions asked. She says in the morning I can shower, and talk to someone if I want to.

"What time is it?" I ask.

"About one-thirty."

"I'm sorry if I woke you up."

She smiles. "You didn't. I stay awake during my shift. Anything else you need, Daisy?"

When did I tell her my name?

"No. I'm good. Thank you ma'am."

"Sleep well then. Be at peace here."

"Okay." I say.

Lying on a skinny mat with four other kids snoring around me, I try to soften my bones into peace. But sleep takes me first.

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