by: Sarah Stodola
Roseanne Douglas smiled to herself, studying her reflection in the mirror and smoothing her dress carefully. She’d just received the phone call from Sanchez, and he’d found Daisy Mae. And he was bringing her home where she belonged.
Yes, where she belonged. A farm was no place for a little lady. Roseanne heard the front door open, and smiled again, patting her neatly pulled up hair to make sure it was in place, then heading for the door with the swish of silk skirts. She was halfway down the stairs when she stopped, not sure if Sanchez had even found the right girl.
But, it was Daisy Mae. She could see that. Yet she looked so different..! She wasn’t wearing a dress, but instead some rather dirty-looking… jeans, she thought they were called, and boots! Boys’ clothes for a farm! The child’s hair was no longer a smoothly-brushed fall down the center of her back, but instead a wild, wind-blown looking mass of curls. And it was shorter, too!
“What… what’s been done to you, Daisy Mae?” she cried, stepping the rest of the way down to the first floor. The girl didn’t answer, and Roseanne reached out to raise her chin with her fingers. She was surprised again at the look in those eyes when they finally flashed up to meet hers. The quiet, shy little girl was gone there. Instead was a flame, something wild, and almost… angry. And defiant. That hit her the hardest of all.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Daisy Mae…”
Daisy Mae pulled away, stepping back. She looked taller, too, Roseanne thought. At least she’d been fed well, if not dressed well. “It’s just Daisy,” she said. Her voice sounded confident, assured. “And what’s wrong?” She laughed, almost bitterly, the sound totally unladylike. “What’s wrong is you took me away from my family.”
“But darling, I *am* your family.”
The now-disconcerting dark blue eyes met hers again, unhesitatingly. “Yes… But I was happy there. Why didn’t you let me stay in Hazzard?”
Some of the old quiet unsureness showed through into the last question, and Roseanne relaxed slightly. At least the young girl was still there somewhere, even if she been buried by the new, shocking sassiness. Hang those stupid country bumpkins! If they’d had Daisy Mae much longer, they would have ruined her forever! “Because you’ll be better off here, with your loving Aunt Roseanne,” she said gently, bending down to kiss the girl on the cheek.
To her surprise, Daisy Mae ducked away with a smooth, agile move that bespoke none of the fragile daintiness she’d always had, but rather a sinuous strength. Was the child perhaps more healthy now, thanks to mountain air? Maybe it was one thing those folk did right, living there. The girl wandered into the living room, looking around. “It hasn’t changed any.”
“Of course not.” She waved Sanchez away and followed her young niece. “It never has, and never will.” She smiled when Daisy Mae glanced back at her. “You know, you will need a bath and some clean clothes before you could really sit down though, so why don’t we let that be first? Then we’ll talk.” She rang the little silver bell that would signal the maid.
But Daisy Mae stepped towards the door. “I can get my own bath, Aunt Roseanne. I’m not a baby anymore!”
Roseanne felt her patience thinning. “No!” she snapped. You’re not! You’ve become a spoiled little brat, Daisy Mae!”
The girl spun around in the doorway. “Just Daisy! I don’t want to be called by my full name! And I ain’t spoiled!” The flash of defiance in her eyes told Roseanne that the child had used the bad grammar on purpose, just to spite her.
“Shut your mouth!” she ordered. “I don’t want any lip from you, understand me, Daisy Mae?”
Daisy Mae stood her ground, but slowly, under her aunt’s angry stare, gave in, looking away and sagging a little, no longer as drawn-up or proud. “O-okay… but Aunt Roseanne?”
The eyes meeting hers now were shy, almost afraid. “Could you please just call me Daisy?”
Roseanne sighed. “Very well, I suppose. There is nothing wrong with that name. Now go with Marie like a good girl and take your bath.”
“Yes, Aunt Roseanne.” The child went out the door, with the maid, who’d been standing in the background, right behind her.
She sighed again, sitting down on one of the couches and folding her hands in her lap. Maybe there was hope. Maybe her baby was still there somewhere. The way Daisy Mae — Daisy — had backed down gave hope. She’d just have to be strict until she was sure that the girl was herself again.
“Are you sure?” Jesse asked, feeling downheartened.
“Well, you could try,” JD Hogg answered, waving a hand, “but those are rich, powerful folks up there.” He nodded, emphasizing his own point. “Too powerful.”
“There must be something that can be done, JD!” Jesse snapped, not at his old friend but at the situation. He sprang to his feet, pacing Hogg’s office. “Daisy is happy here! Why take her back to the city? Roseanne never seemed to show much interest in the kids before! Why now?”
“Daisy grew up there.” Hogg stood as well, putting down his cigar to cross the room and put a hand on Jesse’s shoulder. “This Roseanne wants an heir, someone to inherit her money and imitate her.”
Jesse turned his head to stare down at his old buddy. “All little Daisy wants is to have a family. She told me that she’d never felt like she had one before, what with her mama always being gone and her aunt ignoring her. She said she felt like she’d found a home here. And the boys love her. So do I.”
“Folks like them down in Atlanta don’t care about what a child wants,” Hogg told him sagely. “They care about power.”
“Then, how do we get her back?”
“There’s only one way.” At Jesse’s questioning look, JD nodded, smirking a little. “You’ll have to prove that the lady doesn’t love your niece, and that Daisy would rather stay here. You’ll have to take her to court.”
“But we don’t have the kind of money it takes to hire a lawyer!” Jesse exploded, starting to pace again. “That would be impossible! We’re just making ends meet now as it is!”
“Well, there is one way.”
He spun to look at Hogg. “So help me, JD, if you can help us and won’t…”
“Not I, oh, no, no!” JD hurried to say, moving back to his desk. “But I have a… friend, shall we say, who does lawsuits like that. He won’t charge you unless you win. But, he will charge you an arm and a leg if you do.”
“But I…” Jesse stopped to think.
“If you get your little girl back, isn’t that worth it?” Hogg smiled. “Money is what makes the world go ’round, you know.”
“No it ain’t, JD,” Jesse shook his head. “But… if it’s the only chance…”
“It is, unless you can get the girl here to testify for herself.”
He shook his head. “Okay, JD, call your friend’. I’ll find some way to pay for it, I suppose.” He sighed and picked up his hat, preparing to leave.
“You know I wouldn’t lie to you, Jesse,” Hogg told him. “Not when it’s somethin’ this important.”
“I know.” If it was the only chance, then he would have to take it.
Daisy didn’t say much during dinner, and afterwards, she was sent up to bed. She closed the door to her bedroom, and wiped tears out of her eyes as she looked around. The room was almost as large as the whole of the downstairs of the farmhouse. It seemed too big. She swallowed back sobs, but the tears continued to flow.
She had to admit it. She missed her new home. She missed the things she’d only recently gotten to know, the coyote howls in the distance, the crickets in the tree outside her window. She missed staying up and hearing Bo and Luke talking though the wall, she missed the Morse-code messages she and Bo would send back and forth. She missed Uncle Jesse yelling for them to be quiet and go to sleep. She missed sneaking out of her room after he was asleep to go play midnight fort with the boys under the blankets they’d strung across the room from bedpost to bedpost. She missed it all.
Daisy slowly walked across the huge room, wondering how she could ever have slept here and felt it normal. It seemed too big, too girlish with its pink and ruffles. She ran a hand along the edge of a shelf, looking up to see her old collection of dolls, as neat as ever. The picture of the cars that she and the boys played with, spread out across the whole bedroom floor, came into her mind, and she smiled. Now *that* sort of thing was fun. Things like those matchbox cars, and the treehouse that she’d helped Luke and Bo finish. Luke had said she could come into the club because she’d helped, but she could see that Bo had been right when he’d said that Luke really did like her. Even when he pretended he didn’t.
Finally her eyes rested on the bed, a wide expanse of pink polyester. She’d always thought it the most comfortable thing, until she’d snuggled up on a crisp fall night under a quilt of goose and duck down. Nothing was warmer or airier than that.
Daisy went into the bathroom and brushed her hair and teeth, then stared at herself in the mirror fiercely. “You are Daisy Duke,” she told herself, pointing a finger at the mirror. “Not anything or anybody else. You belong home, in Hazzard County. And somehow, you’re gonna get back there.”
Saying it out loud made her feel a bit better, as though now she was only sleeping over instead of living here. Heartened by her thoughts of home, she began to whistle as she moved back into the room, a trick Bo had taught her. She paused in mid-note when she remembered that Aunt Roseanne didn’t approve of girls whistling, then realized that no one could hear her though the almost sound-proof walls anyway, and continued with the cheerful melody she was making up.
She dug through her dresser for something comfortable to wear to bed, and managed to find only one article that didn’t have itchy lace, an old nightgown which was too small when she tried it on. Knowing that nobody would check on her until breakfast time, she just shrugged and pulled the dress that her aunt had made her put on for dinner over her head, not bothering with the buttons. She slung the dress over the foot of the bed, now dressed in only her t-shirt and underwear, but comfortable.
Daisy eyed the bed, then pulled a pillow and the comforter off. She struggled with the oversized quilt wanna-be until she managed to get it folded in half, then she folded it again from the other direction, making a somewhat small but soft square on the floor. Then she tossed the pillow onto it and tugged a blanket out of the closet, folding it in half. She threw the blanket up in the air and dived to get under it before it came down, giggling. She didn’t quite make it, she stood and threw the blanket up again. This was fun! On the fourth try, she got all the way underneath the blanket before it came down, and she just laid there for a couple of moments, grinning.
Then Daisy sat up, crossing her legs. Locking her fingers together in her lap, she looked out the open window, up at the stars. “Dear God,” she whispered, “thanks for letting me go live with Uncle Jesse, and Luke and Bo. It’s so much fun there. It’s really, truly home. Please, God, help me be good for my aunt, but help me get back to Hazzard too. Forever, cause that’s where I wanna be. Amen.”
She sat there looking at the stars for a few more seconds, then her eyes sought out one particular star, Bo’s special star that he had said he’d share with her. Daisy stood and crossed to the window, then reached up to place her finger over the dot of light in the sky. It wasn’t nearly as big or bright here in the city as it was at the farm, but it was there. “Hi Bo,” she said quietly. “Can you hear me? I’m okay, honest. But I wanna come home. I hope Uncle Jesse has a plan.” She was silent for a few minutes, just looking out, then finally said, “Goodnight, cousin. Friend.”
Then she went back to her little bed on the floor, and fell into it. She was asleep almost as soon as she’d pulled the blanket around herself.
Bo Duke was looking out his window, too, at the same star. He blinked tears out of his eyes, knowing that crying was a girlish thing to do, and reached out to touch the star through the windowpane. “I hope you’re lookin’ at this star too, Daisy,” he whispered so that he wouldn’t wake Luke, who was already asleep in his bed. “I care about you, ya know.” He paused, a little awkwardly. “G’night, Daisy.”
Then he went back to bed, and fell asleep as well.