by: Sarah Stodola
“I don’t care. She’s my niece. I’ve raised her, with her mother of course, for the past five years. She’s hardly left these grounds! She’ll be lost out in Hicksville like that!” Roseanne Douglas wiped her eyes with her handkerchief, staring imploringly at her lawyer. “You have to get her back for me.”
“I’ll try, Miss Douglas,” the tall, thin man sighed, closing his briefcase. “But that’s all I can do.”
She stood as he did, her eyes narrowing slightly. “I won’t have my niece corrupted by hillbillies, Mr. Sanchez. Little Daisy Mae is a lady. That’s all she knows. I guarantee you she’ll be miserable out there. And…” she drew the word out, fingering her purse, “I could make it worth your while if you get her back.”
He stopped halfway through the door, turning to look at her. “If the price is right…”
Roseanne smiled. “It will be. I promise.”
The lawyer smiled back. “Consider it done, Miss Douglas.”
As he left, Roseanne nodded to herself, looking at the picture on her desk, a picture of a young girl in a Victorian-like dress, dark blue eyes wide and smiling almost shyly. No one was going to take her baby away. Certainly not some hick farmer from the back side of nowhere.
She would get Daisy Mae back. Whatever it cost. She had the money to spare, and she would use it.
“Daisy Mae Duke, come to the principal’s office please. The principal’s office, Daisy Mae Duke.”
The PA shut off and Daisy turned her head to stare at Bo, sitting in the next aisle almost even with her. He shrugged, making an “I dunno” face. She shrugged back, then slid away from her desk and headed toward the door, feeling all eyes on her back.
She wondered what she’d done wrong. She couldn’t remember anything. In the entire three weeks she’d been in school, she hadn’t gotten in trouble, except for that first day when she and Bo had shown that bully what was what. She grinned at the memory.
She was still half in day-dream land when she opened the door to the principal’s office, and stopped dead in her tracks. The thin man leaning on the desk, a man she knew, turned and straightened, staring at her. Slowly, one dark eyebrow raised. “Daisy Mae?”
Daisy swallowed hard, slowly shutting the door behind her. This man was her Aunt Roseanne’s lawyer, someone she had met numerous times. What was he doing in Hazzard? “Hello, Mr. Sanchez,” she heard herself saying automatically, then she raised her chin a little, the independence she’d learned from her cousins coming to the fore again. “Please, just call me Daisy.”
“But your full name…”
“I know. But just call me Daisy.” Yes, her aunt had always called her by her full name, and she’d grown up with that name. But just like Luke and Bo had with their names, she’d rather have a shorter version.
Mr. Sanchez frowned slightly, but finally nodded. “Very well… Daisy.” He looked her up and down, the disapproving frown deepening. “Why are you wearing boys’ pants, young lady?”
“Because I want to,” she said defiantly. “And cause they’re more comfortable than a dress, and let me run better too.”
Daisy grinned, enjoying the expression of disbelief on the lawyer’s face. “And I climb trees, and I play in the creek, and I’m on the softball team. Good enough for you?”
He straightened, eyes snapping. “Where’d you leave your manners, Daisy Mae? In the barn?”
“Just Daisy.” She shrugged. “And… I just don’t really wanna see you, is all.”
“And your grammar..! I wouldn’t have thought two months could do *this* to you! What happened to you?”
“I realized I’m a Duke,” she told him proudly, tossing her hair back. “And that’s all that matters to me.”
“Well, you’d better regain the manners you lost, young lady, before your aunt whips them back into you!”
Daisy faltered. “What?” She looked over at the principal. “What’s he talking about?”
The kindly man sighed and removed his glasses. “I’m sorry, Daisy, but this man has court approval to take you back to your Aunt Roseanne. They said that she can take better care of you than your uncle, since she has more funds.”
“But..!” Daisy spun to face Mr. Sanchez again. “But I don’t want to go back to the manor! I want to stay at the farm!”
“You have to admit, your uncle is poor,” he simply said.
She bristled. “Maybe we don’t have all the money Aunt Roseanne does, but we get by!”
“Yes, you get by.” He frowned. “Barely. Don’t argue with me. You have no choice. Now, go get your things. We’re leaving.”
“Now?!” She backed toward the door. “No!” Turning the knob, she spun and ran out, down the hall toward her homeroom. Bursting in, she interrupted what the teacher was saying with, “Bo! They’re taking me away!”
“What?!” He jumped up, knocking his chair over. “No way! Who?”
“My aunt!” Her eyes were blurring with tears. She felt lost, not knowing what to do. “Bo, I don’t want to leave Hazzard!”
“And you’re not gonna. Come on, we gotta find Luke!” He was already starting for the door.
“Don’t you dare.” The angry snap came from Mr. Sanchez, who was standing in the doorway. There was utter silence in the room. He looked straight at Daisy. “Get your things. We are leaving. Now.”
She looked helplessly at Bo, and he looked back, just as helpless.
“Daisy Mae, do as I tell you,” the lawyer ordered. She slowly walked to her desk, and picked up her notebook and pencil case.
She walked toward him, past Bo, and paused beside her cousin. “I…” Her eyes filled with tears. He was the only best friend she’d ever had. Bo bit his lip, then suddenly reached out and pulled her into a rough hug.
“Don’t let ’em get you down,” he whispered in her ear, so Mr. Sanchez couldn’t hear. “Uncle Jesse will know how to let you come home. Just hang in there.”
“I hope so,” she said earnestly, but quietly. “I love it here. And I love all of you.”
He colored slightly. “…Yeah. I love you too, Daisy.”
The cousins clung to each other for a few moments, then Mr. Sanchez cleared his throat loudly, glaring, and Daisy pulled away, trudging over to where the lawyer stood.
“Good. Now let’s go so we’ll be home in time for dinner,” he said, walking out the door.
Daisy met Bo’s eyes once more, then had to follow.
As they drove out of the school grounds in a shiny black sedan, she twisted to look out the back window. She saw Bo, with Luke right behind him, come running out the door and stop, staring, in the center of the yard. She waved, hoping they’d see her, then the car accelerated as it turned a corner, and her cousins were out of sight.
The shrill urgency in Luke’s voice made him jump, and he stopped the tractor, turning in surprise to see Luke and Bo running through the freshly-plowed field toward him. “What is it? Ain’t you two supposed to be in school? And where’s Daisy?”
“She’s gone!” Bo cried, leaping up onto the tractor. His dark blue eyes shone with not-too-well hidden tears. “Her aunt from Atlanta came and took her away!”
“What?!” Jesse stared, then met Luke’s worried eyes. “Is it true?”
The older boy nodded. “I saw them leaving. Bo came and got me, but it was too late!”
The farmer swallowed hard, then squeezed his eyes shut, whispering a fervent prayer for help.
“Uncle Jesse, what’re we gonna do?” Bo asked.
He opened his eyes, trying not to cry himself. He put a hand on each of his boys’ shoulders. “Luke, Bo, what we ain’t gonna do is panic. What we are gonna do is go see JD Hogg about what we can do to get her back. He’s the one who knows the most about laws and stuff.” He climbed down from the tractor. “But first,” he met two pairs of worried dark blue eyes, “we’re gonna pray for some help, cause we’re gonna need a lot of it.”