Read an Excerpt
The day started off different from any other. First of all, we slept in a hotel the night before, which was rather strange seeing as though we had an apartment just blocks away. Then, that morning my mom woke me up and dressed me quickly while my dad loaded up his friend's car with our suitcases. My mom sat me on her lap in the backseat of my dad's friend's car. My dad sat in the passenger seat. It was so early in the morning that I could see the sun rising over the palm trees as we drove away from the hotel. I remember thinking about how beautiful the sight was and then falling asleep in my mother's arms.
When I was awakened by my mom we were at a small airport. My dad's friend had stopped the car and he and my dad got out and started taking our suitcases from the trunk. There was a small plane on the ground just a few feet from where we were parked. It was like a big open parking lot and all that was in it was the car we were in and the small plane my dad and his friend were transferring our bags onto. My mom carried me out of the car and over to the plane. There were two men already on board whom I never saw before, but my mom and dad apparently knew them well as they greeted each other with hugs. One man helped my mother and me onto the plane while the other went to the cockpit. My father hugged his friend as if he was saying farewell and then joined my mom and me. A big smile on his face, my dad caressed my mother's knee, then kissed her on the lips. I turned my head to look out the window as the plane started to slowly pull away. My dad reached down and tickled my stomach, bringing my attention back to him. I laughed so hard and tried to resist, prying hisbig hands off my tiny body every chance I could.
"Mommy, help me!" I squealed, squirming around on my mother's lap.
My mom just laughed along. Soon tears started rolling down my cheeks I was laughing so hard. Then my dad stopped, calling himself giving me a break. I wiped my eyes and was trying to catch my breath when the plane took off. The sudden increase in speed and the force of the plane lifting off the ground took me by surprise. I started choking on my own air. My mom immediately started to pat my back and my dad lifted my arms up over my head.
"Enough already. You're going to kill the poor child," the man who had helped us on the plane said.
I stopped choking and laid my head back against my mom's breasts. I remember looking at the man and wondering if he was serious about what he said about my dad killing me. I waited for him to smile or laugh and when he didn't I concluded that he was a bad man. I rolled my eyes at him and turned on my side so I wouldn't have to look at him. My mom adjusted me on her lap to suit my new position and before long I was asleep again.
"Aaarrrr! Aaarrrr! Aaaarrrrr!"
I woke up to the echoing sound of a gunshot and the screeching sound of my mother's screams. I burst into tears at the sight of my father slumped over in his seat beside my mother and me. Blood was splattered all over my mom's clothes and I could feel it on my head and face. My mother tried to jump from her seat but was held down by the seat belt. Startled and panicked, she was unable to unbuckle it no matter how many times she tried.
"Shut up!" the bad man shouted to my mother, still holding the gun that he had used on my father.
"What you do that for? What wrong with you?!" my mother shouted in broken English.
"I said shut up!" the man shouted back, knocking my mother in the mouth with the butt of the gun.
I wanted to scream when I saw my mother's head fall back against the seat of the plane, but somehow I didn't. I guess I was afraid that I would suffer the same punishment if I did scream. So instead, I squeezed my eyes shut and cried as quietly as I could. I only opened them slightly when I heard my mom going off again.
"Nooo! Noooo! Please no! Please! Oh God noooo! Cliff! Cliff, help us!!" my mom yelled, a tooth falling from her bloody mouth.
I followed my mom's eyes and saw the man dragging my father toward an opened door on the plane. I turned my body around and jumped in my mother's arms with my knees in her lap. I squeezed her so tight and buried my tear-covered face in her chest. Muffling my voice, I screamed, "Daddy!" And that was it. I felt my mother's body jerk forward as she finally broke free of the seat belt. She dropped to the floor and practically crawled over to the door. With me still in her arms she tried to throw herself from the plane. It took the man hitting her again with the butt of the gun to keep her back, but that time he hit her in the head. She fell backward and I was on top of her. I was crying uncontrollably while maintaining my grip on her.
I was scared for my life. I didn't know if the man was going to throw me off the plane next or if he was going to hit me with the gun. All I knew was that he had killed my father and there was no telling what else he was capable of. I clung to my mother for dear life. I could feel her heart beating so I knew she was still alive, but I hoped and prayed that she stayed unconscious so that she wouldn't get hit again. As I lay there on top of my mother in the aisle of the small plane, I noticed that we were landing. The wheels hit the ground with such power and the plane started to decelerate. Once we came to a complete stop, I heard the man's footsteps walking in my mom's and my direction. My heart was pounding and the tears were gushing out. I had no idea what the man was going to do to us. I closed my eyes and held my mom tight, then I felt him pulling me.
At that point I didn't know what else to do but scream. He was taking me from my mother and most likely was going to kill her, too. I yelled out to my mother, screaming for her to wake up, begging her to help me. She didn't budge. I didn't give up though, because I knew she wasn't dead. I knew I felt her breathing under me. I just needed her to wake up. I knew if she had woken up she would have fought for me. She wouldn't have let the man take me away. But no matter how loud I screamed and how much I pleaded, my mother remained unconscious. I was taken off the plane and put inside an empty shack where I was gagged and bound to a chair. My tiny teeth sank into a dusty bandanna. My eyes were covered with a blindfold. My little wrists and ankles were held together by duct tape. I was left alone, scared and confused. I just knew my life was about to be over and that's a hell of a feeling for anyone to have, let alone a five-year-old.
I didn't know how many days went by, but I knew I was hungry and dehydrated. I felt like I had lost every bit of my energy, like I was dying. I felt myself drifting off to sleep when the door opened. I had to squint because even through the blindfold the beaming sunrays bothered my eyes, now so used to pitch darkness. I heard two sets of footsteps coming toward me and I tried to muster the strength to scream and move around, hoping to get whoever's attention. But then I heard the voice of the man who had killed my dad and I froze with fear.
"Her father was killed and her mother was deported back to the Dominican Republic. I figured with what you're doing, you could take her. She's young and fresh, perfect for your business. I'll give 'er to you for little money, too."
"Let's talk outside," an unfamiliar male voice suggested.
I was frightened beyond words. I didn't know what the men were plotting. Their footsteps headed away from me and it got dark again. I was trying to think of something to do or say to get their attention, particularly the attention of the unfamiliar male. At that point I would have gone with anyone if it meant getting out of that chair and getting to some food and water.
Within minutes I heard only one set of footsteps coming my way. My heart started to pound. I didn't know whether it was the man I had come to hate or his companion. I felt someone's hand peeling away the duct tape from my wrists and ankles. Then the blindfold came off and the bandanna was removed from my mouth. I started coughing and I was so weak I couldn't cover my mouth. My body was limp. There was a man, dark skinned like my dad, staring at me. He was more muscular and looked a lot older than my father, though. His hair was cut close to his head, almost bald. He had a light mustache and goatee and he appeared to be well groomed. He didn't look mean like the bad man who had brought me there and for some reason I didn't feel afraid anymore. I actually felt a sense of security, like I had been rescued. He picked me up out of the chair and my back ached terribly. He carried me out of the shack and put me in a dark-colored SUV. It was air-conditioned inside and the soft leather seats felt so comfortable compared to the hard chair I had been sitting in all those days. I lay across the backseat and struggled to keep my eyes open.
"You hungry?" the man asked, climbing into the driver's seat.
I tried to answer him but I couldn't. I was too weak. The man picked up a Kit Kat, opened the wrapper, and handed the four chocolate wafers back to me.
I began eating the Kit Kat like it was a McDonald's cheeseburger. I lifted my head a little when the man pulled up in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. I was licking my dirty fingers when he turned off the car and hopped out.
"I'll be right back," he said.
I just nodded real slowly. When he got back inside the car he sat in the backseat beside me. He sat me up and placed a bunch of food in front of me. I reached out for the drink he had in his hand and he put the straw in it and gave it to me. My hands were shaking so badly that I couldn't hold the cup on my own. He had to help me. He fed me, too. After eating the chicken sandwich, French fries, and juice, I burst into tears.
The man rubbed my head, starting from my hairline. He worked his way down to the middle of my back where my ponytail ceased.
"I'm sorry about what you had to go through," he said. "But that's life. Children pay for the sins of their fathers."
Not paying him much attention, I lay back down on the seat and continued crying softly. The man discarded all the trash from the food and then got back in the driver's seat. Flashbacks of what happened to my parents kept piercing my brain. The vivid images, the pleasant breeze that poured in all four of the car windows, and my ongoing tears put me in a deep sleep. When I woke up I was being carried from the car to a house. I was taken upstairs and placed on a bed. I was sweaty and sticky and my clothes were filthy with bloodstains all over them. I was surprised that the man had laid me on clean sheets.
"I'm Chatman, by the way," the man finally introduced himself to me. "Sophia will come clean you up, okay?"
I nodded my head yes.
He turned to walk out of the room and then paused. He looked back at me and assured me, "If you need anything, she's the one to ask, all right?"
I nodded yes again.Chatman then continued out of the room. He closed the door behind him.
Immediately, I felt myself becoming tired again. My eyes were closing and I was just about asleep when a young yellow-toned girl with tiny eyes and black curly hair came into the room. Unable to control my nerves, I jumped.
She pouted and approached me slowly.
"What's the matter?" she sang in her Asian accent.
"I want my mommy!" I cried out.
The woman, whom I assumed to be Sophia, knelt down by the bedside. Her eyes watered as she reached out and wrapped her skinny arms around me.
"I know, sweetheart," she sang, rubbing my back. "And I'm sure your mommy wants to be with you, too."
Sophia began to take me out of my clothes. She wrapped a towel around me.
"My name is Sophia. What's yours?" she asked, walking me down the hall to the bathroom.
"Sienna," I whispered.
"Sienna? Is that what you said? Don't be shy."
I nodded as she placed me in a tub of warm water.
"That's a pretty name," she commented, dipping a washcloth in the water and wringing it out. She started washing my face, scrubbing my forehead first. Then she put a bar of soap inside the washcloth and began scrubbing my body with it. After she was done, she rinsed me off with the water. Next, she gently laid me backward just enough for my hair to fall in the water. I was resistant, scared to go back, but she sang in her little voice that she was not going to hurt me. She took out my ponytail and wet my hair thoroughly. Then she shampooed it. A few washes later she put conditioner in and combed it through each strand.
"You're hair is so pretty and long. Is your mother's hair like this?" she asked. "I bet she was one pretty lady."
I nodded, almost breaking into tears again envisioning my mother's beautiful lemon-colored skin and long dark hair, her bronze eyes looking down at me and her smile that lit up my life. Sophia wiped away the one tear that managed to escape and asked, "How old are you?"
I held up five little fingers.
"Five? I have a boy your age. Well he's a couple years older actually, but..." Sophia paused. "I miss him so much." She sniffled. "I know how you must feel."
After that it was complete silence. Sophia rinsed the conditioner from my hair, took me out of the tub, dried me, and dressed me in a big T-shirt and some mix-match socks. She took me back to the bedroom I would later call my own. She put me in the bed and walked over to close and lock the only window in the room. By then it had grown dark outside. I remember purposely watching her every move. The fact of the matter was I didn't trust her. I didn't trust anyone at that point. I couldn't. For all I knew everybody in the house was out to hurt me. I mean, I had witnessed a man who had smiled in my father's face right before he murdered him. So as far as I was concerned, it was the people who befriended you whom you had to watch close. And that's what I did. I paid close attention to everyone all the women who came and went, Chatman, and all his workers. And in the process I learned a lot.
I learned all about Chatman's business in the sex trade, the boatloads or shipments as he called them of women from overseas he would pay for, the doctors that would come to the house to examine them in the basement, and the circle of guys Chatman had working for him that would do anything he asked at the drop of a hat. I learned that Chatman had power and along with his power came money. And in just two short years I watched Chatman go from a small-time businessman who had a three-bedroom home in a rough part of Florida to a self-made billionaire who laid down cash for a fifteen-thousand-square-foot mansion in an affluent neighborhood in Miami Beach called Star Island.
It was a Tuesday when we moved into the ten-bedroom, nine-and-a-half-bathroom mansion. I remember because it was the day of the last episode of Encyclopedia Brown and I had to miss it because we hadn't gotten the cable connected yet. Sophia was most excited about the move. From the day that Chatman came home with pictures of the new house until months later when we were actually able to move into it, she spent the hours she was supposed to use home-schooling me expressing how happy she would be once Chatman moved us out of the small house and into the huge dream home. She had big plans for that house and had no idea that she'd never step foot in it. Apparently she and Chatman had totally different agendas. I will never forget it.
A U-haul truck pulled up to our house. We all thought it was there to move all the things we had packed up. But as it turned out, it was there to take away the women Chatman made his fortune off of over the past decade, among them Sophia. I was in Sophia's room playing in her makeup when we both got wind of the news. One of the other Thai girls came in crying. Sophia, nurturing as she was, rushed to console her.
"Noi, what's wrong?" Sophia asked her, rubbing her back.
"He's selling us!" Noi wept.
"He's what?" Sophia asked.
"He's selling us. Our time is up. He's getting new women, younger ones. We're not going with him. He's sending us away."
Sophia grew concerned. "Where did you hear this?"
"From his mouth! That U-haul out there isn't for this furniture! It's for us!" Noi screamed.
Anger took hold of Sophia's face as she let the information penetrate. Then she got up from the bed and walked out the room. I jumped from the vanity and followed behind her, only I stopped in the hall when she barged into Chatman's office.
"Chatman, tell me you're not getting rid of us!" she demanded right away.
"Now is not the time, Sophia," I heard Chatman say in an oddly calm tone.
I couldn't see Chatman, but I could imagine the look on his face. Over the years I had gotten to know Chatman and based on what I knew I wouldn't have dared do what Sophia had. It was a wonder she was still standing. The Chatman I knew would have slapped her into the kitchen the minute he realized it was she who had swung his office door open.
"Now is the time, Chatman! I've been with you since I was fifteen years old! That's ten years, Chatman! You didn't do this alone! You've achieved all that you have on our hard work! We planted the seeds and you mean to tell me you're not even going to let us taste the fruit! You're gonna replace us with some girls who didn't contribute one second to the last ten years that we all spent building your so-called empire!" Sophia ranted.
"I said, now is not the time, Sophia!" Chatman yelled.
At that point, I backed into Sophia's room, only peeking out her doorway. Noi stood in front of me and some of the other girls were scattered in the hall whispering among themselves.
"Chatman!" Sophia shouted one last time before being slapped off her feet.
Next thing I knew, her frail body flew out of Chatman's office and onto the hallway floor. A.J., Chatman's right hand, immediately started running up the steps from downstairs.
"What's going on, boss?" A.J. asked in a ready-for-action tone.
"What did you just call me?" Chatman asked A.J.
A.J. looked baffled. "Boss," he repeated himself.
"Say it louder," Chatman ordered, looking down at Sophia cringing in fear on the floor.
"Boss!" A.J. shouted, following Chatman's instructions.
"You hear that, bitch! I'm the boss around this motherfucka!" Chatman said, kicking Sophia in her stomach and ribs.
Sobbing, Sophia cowered beneath Chatman, who was beating her to no end. A.J. tried to get Chatman to let up off of Sophia several times before he actually did, and by then she was covered in blood and could hardly walk. "Take the bitch to the truck!" Chatman instructed A.J. "Y'all other bitches follow!" he yelled to the other girls who were all in the hallway crying in dismay.
"What about my boy, Chatman? Huh? Is that deal off, too?" Sophia whimpered as she was being carried down the steps by A.J.
"Shut the fuck up," A.J. told her as more of a warning than a command.
But she kept going. "You promised me! You promised him! Please! Please send for my boy like you promised!"
Chatman leaned over the banister to respond to Sophia. "You act like you've been a fucking angel through this! You got knocked up the day you got here! The only reason why I didn't beat that baby out of you was because you kept the pregnancy from me!"
"I was fifteen years old! I hardly spoke English then! If you wanna blame somebody, blame your fucking partner! He sought me out!" Sophia sobbed.
"That's why he's not here anymore!" Chatman retorted. "And now you won't be here anymore! I can start fresh and run my business the way it's meant to be run without distractions like you! Every time I turn my back you're in one of my workers' faces! A.J., get her the fuck out of here!"
A.J. headed for the front door, carrying Sophia's limp body in his arms.
"Oh, and as for your son, I'll send for him, all right! He'll follow in his mother's and his father's footsteps! He'll work for me and I'ma use 'im up 'til he can't be used no more, then throw 'im over like I did his scheming, conniving, worthless parents!"
"You're a cruel bastard, Chatman! And I hope you burn in the hottest pits of hell!" were the last words I heard Sophia speak.
I was seven at the time and a child no more. I had seen so much in my short life that my mind and my heart had long outgrown my body. I was all alone once again, taken away from a person whom I had considered to be another mother. It was weird that I didn't cry, though. I just remember thinking that I had to be tough. I remember telling myself that I was a woman now and that I was left to teach myself, to understand, and to deal with the world I had been given. I made myself a promise that from that day on I would not get attached to anyone ever again, man, woman, or child.
That promise was easy to keep even when we moved into the mansion and the new boatload of more than twenty teenage girls moved in with us. Chatman had given me my own room and that's where I stayed most of the time, playing with my dolls or using Sophia's home-schooling material to teach myself stuff like reading and mathematics.
I didn't communicate with the new girls. Most of them didn't speak English well anyway. So for a long time I stayed to myself, until another newcomer drew me out of my shell.
One afternoon, Chatman had left the house with A.J. and when they returned they had a boy with them. He was older than me but much younger than any of Chatman's workers. Chatman called me into his office and introduced me to the boy.
"Sienna, this is Ryan," Chatman said.
Then he told me that Ryan would be staying with us for a while and that I was to share my room with him. I wasn't thrilled about having to share my room, but for some reason I felt an instant connection to Ryan, so I didn't complain. I just told Chatman okay and walked Ryan out of Chatman's office and down the long marble hallway to my room.
"How old are you?" I asked Ryan as soon as we got in my room. I sat down on my bed and he stood in the middle of the floor as if he was lost.
"Nine," he said, looking around. "How old are you?"
"Seven and a half. Where are you from?" I continued my personal questionnaire.
"This is a big house," Ryan said, looking up at the ceiling. "Is your dad rich?" he asked.
"My dad is dead," I answered him.
He took his eyes off the ceiling and looked at me. His big brown eyes softened and buck teeth bit his bottom lip.
"Your dad is dead, too?" he asked.
I nodded my head. "So where are you from, like I said?"
"Thailand," he responded. "Where you from?"
"Here. But my mom is in the Dominican Republic," I said, remembering what the man who killed my father had told Chatman. "And one day I'm going to find her and live with her."
"My mom is here in America," he said. "She used to live here. Do you know her?" He pulled out a small cut-off picture of a beautiful lady and put it in my face.
"That's Sophia," I said, enthused. "I know her. She took care of me."
"She did?" he asked, surprised.
"Do you know where she is now?" he asked.
"No," I said, wanting to change the topic.
"I want to find my mom, too," he said, looking down at the picture.
Feeling sadness coming on, I quickly turned chipper and suggested, "You can help me find my mom and I can help you find yours." I figured I'd offer hope.
"Okay," he said, nodding his head as if he were in negotiations.
I just smiled at the little naïve boy and then introduced him to my toys. I took a pretty sudden liking to Ryan. I guessed it was because we had similar situations and goals and we often shared them with each other. He became the only person in the house I truly trusted and confided in and over time we found ourselves dangerously attracted to each other. But who knew the chemistry that brewed between us would turn out to be fire and ice.Copyright © 2008 by Miasha