“She gave it to you just like that?” Em asked.
“Phoenix.” I tried the name on my lips. “What do you think it is?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a strip club or something.”
“How do you know? Have you been to any? Christ! Please don’t tell me you’ve been stripping for money to pay off your tuition fees. I swear to ...”
“Calm down. I’m not a stripper. But hey, you could be a stripper. You have nice titties. They’ll pay you good.”
“Shut up.” She laughed. That bïtch.
“But on a serious note, you should’ve asked her name.”
“Before I could say anything she disappeared. I was too stunned to say anything. Anyways, my shift starts in” I glanced at my watch, “forty-five minutes. I better hurry up or my boss is going to have my ass handed over to me.”
I hurried to my workplace which was fifteen minutes away from our apartment.
The Grand Palace, was a pristine five star hotel. Wealthy people of the city often visited the hotel for business purposes or with their loved ones. It had hundreds of rooms and was a prestigious property passed on from generations of some rich French dude.
“You’re late again, Si.” My boss and manager of this hotel, Francisco, pointed out.
“Don’t apologise, honey. It’s not like you won’t be late again after saying sorry. Hurry up now.” He knew me too well for that. I hurriedly shoved myself into my staff uniform and pinned my hair in an updo such that no hair was sticking out from any angle. Smacking some shade of pink on my lips I headed to my usual work of smiling at the guests and changing their bedsheets, towels and cleaning their rooms.
I had an hour free everyday before my evening shift began. During that time I called Dr. Clark to check up on the progress of mom’s surgery.
“Dr. Clark, it’s Sienna.”
“Ms. Lake, I was about to call you. I’d like to have a word with you personally. Can you come right now?” I glanced at my watch. Still forty five minutes were left for my second shift.
“Okay, Doctor.” I took a taxi to the hospital. The doc was in his cabin as he said.
“Ms. Lake have a seat.”
“Did you talk with the trustees, doctor?” God! I really hoped they agreed. My budget was tight already.
“I did, yes but..”
“I’ll be very frank with you, Sienna. The trust fund will only sponsor thirty percentage of the money. And since my daughter and your sister are friends and I understand how much you need the money right now, I’m willing to forgo my fees. But that’s all I can do.” I took time to process the words.
Thirty percent? What about the remaining seventy?
I had no savings. I was living basically on weekly wage basis.
“I know this is difficult for you being in such a young age and taking responsibility for your family. But there’s one more thing I need to tell you.”
I waited for him to say. And I thought the earlier news was the worst.
“We took another test of your mother and everything is not well. Even if the surgery is performed in the next seven days, I can’t say for sure that Ms. Lake will live for long. Her body is already very weak.”
“So you mean to say that my mother is going to die.” I asked.
“No, I’m not saying she will die. I’m saying there’s no guarantee. I’m not putting a limit to her life. I’ll pray she lives longer. But you have to be ready for it if it comes. You understood what I’m saying, right?”
“I do.” Suddenly I felt so cold. It was like I was thrown into a cold ice desert with no sense of direction. I never thought that this day will come in my life.
“Take your time and talk to your sister or anyone else you want but let us know your decision within a couple of days.”
“There’s nothing to decide. I’m not going to give up on my mom if there is even a fraction of a chance that she’ll live. I’ll do something about the money. But please don’t stop her treatment.”
“Okay. I’ll let the trust fund know and we’ll schedule the surgery within a couple of days.”
Thanking the doctor I made my way out. My phone buzzed in my hand and I glanced at the caller ID.
“Francis.” Something about my voice must’ve given away because he stopped from his ‘where are you?’ and changed to, “Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not okay. I’m at the hospital with mom’s doctor and he said...” I narrated the incident to him and he immediate told me to take the day off. I thanked him because I genuinely needed the day ......or night.
I went to mom and talked to her for some time. I made sure to smile in front of her everyday. She didn’t need to worry about the financial problems. After talking to her for some time I went home.
Em was at home and as soon as I saw her I burst out crying. She hugged me and asked me what was wrong. But I couldn’t speak. I just wanted to cry.
After crying for some time I felt a little better and then I told her about the mom’s condition.
“I said I’ll do something but I have no idea what I’ll do.”
“Si, why don’t you see what that card means? Maybe it is a well paying job.”
“The card that the woman in the hospital gave you. What’s it’s name.....Phoenix?”
“I don’t know where I put it.” We began the hunt for the tiny piece of paper that could potentially be our life saver.
“I think I found it.” She held up a black card with the golden words inscribed in them.
“There’s no address or contact number given here.” I snatched it away from Em and flipped it only to see the address given at the bottom.
“Bay Street?” Em asked surprising.
“It does say that it’s located at Bay Street. What’s wrong with Bay Street?”
“I heard some girls in my class say that Bay Street is notorious for some weird stuff.”
“I don’t know. When I asked, the girls said I was still a baby for not knowing what it was.”
I’d never heard about it. I didn’t know where it was. Or what I was supposed to do going there. I didn’t even know why the woman gave me this card. I was hoping it was some sort of job recruitment.
God! I wish they’d help me earn fast money to pay for mom’s surgery.
All the answers to my questions lied at only place and it was calling me.
Next day morning I dressed up in my best attire and probably the most expensive one I owned. It was a tan sheath dress that blended well with my skin tone. My black hair that was highlighted with blonde streaks was left open and I put on my make-up to look presentable but not overdoing it. Talking my files that contained important documents I decided to take a cab to the place since I didn’t know where and how far this place was.
Turns out the Bay Street was farther than I’d thought. I paid the taxi driver and admired the place I was at. It wasn’t like the normal buildings in the city. It was in fact a two store house. I inhaled a huge breath to calm my nerves. With confident strides I walked in hearing the click of my heeled boots.
The door was opened and in the center of the wall was a huge sign like that on the card I had.
• • •