Wendy begged her mom to sit in the back of the taxi with her. Her little cheeks were red with rage when her mom told her to hush. She said she needed to sit up front with the driver to tell him where to go. The cab driver was a fat man who sat behind the wheel expressionless. He wore a gold Rolex on his left wrist and a gold tennis bracelet on the other. He had a ring on every finger and he talked fast through his earphone in Spanish.
Wendy watched them through the glass panel that separated them from her in the backseat. Wendy clenched her fists as her mom giggled at everything the cab driver said to her. She leaned over on his arm and ran her hands across his chest. He patted her leg. She looked back at Wendy.
Look out the window for a few minutes sweetie. I need to tell Mr. Jeffrey a secret.
They drove down German Street. Wendy imagined the families that lived in these three-story houses with sprawling fresh-cut lawns were rich and happy. It was another world from where the taxi man had picked them up on Bolaire Avenue. Strange men with hunched backs had walked past Wendy and stared at her with bulging yellow eyes. Pit-bulls guarded the boundaries within the chain-linked fences they were trapped in and growled for blood. Wendy had wanted to hold her mom’s hand but her mom wouldn’t put out her cigarette.
In the cab Wendy watched a little girl pedal down the sidewalk on a pink bike. She wore a princess dress and her parents were close behind her. They clapped and pumped their fists and shouted things Wendy couldn’t hear. The girl picked up speed and a smile spread across her face. The sun reflected off the pink metal of the bike.
I want to go home and play with Daddy, Wendy demanded.
When Wendy looked to the front seat the glass panel had been shut. She saw her mom in the sideview mirror with her head down. She watched her twitch and exhale. She moaned and said Yeah baby.
Her mom laughed at the taxi man and fell over on his shoulder and he propped her back up like a mannequin. Even though her mom was happy right now Wendy knew she’d be tired when they got home and she wouldn’t want to play. She would tell Wendy she felt sick and would go lay in bed. Daddy would walk in the front door and bend down and hug Wendy and ask where Mommy went today. She’d look into his bloodshot eyes and she’d remember the promise she had made with Mommy. He’d say it’s ok to tell Daddy. You can trust Daddy. But Wendy would shake her head. Daddy would stand and grab his bottle and take a sip. He’d beat on the bedroom door and he’d tell Mommy to open the fucking door, open the goddamn door now. Bang bang bang until the hinges on the door rattled.
They stopped at a motel on the edge of town. It was a place where truckers and addicts came to lay their heads or kill time. They went into the lobby. The cashier was a tall round woman smoking a cigarillo. One bed, said Mommy. And do you think she could hang out here with you for a bit?
She put her hand on Wendy’s back and nudged her forward before the woman responded. The woman shrugged. You can come back here with me babe, she said.
Wendy’s mom went with the taxi man down the hall. She teetered from side to side until he grabbed her waist and drew her in. Wendy sat behind the desk on the floor. The woman never told Wendy her name and never asked Wendy for hers. She flipped through her magazine and blew smoke.
So are you old enough to like boys? she said.