It was raining outside the subway. Between Kate's apartment in Peckova and the station in Zličín, the weather had turned foul and there was still a twenty-minute wait for the airport bus. I bought a coffee from the vending machine and walked through the rain to the bus shelter. A girl wearing pussy cat beanie sat staring at her phone. We were the only two people there until the drunk arrived with an almighty thud. He slammed into the bus shelter, and the pussy cat girl dropped her phone in fright. The drunk clung to a pole, his feet no longer his own. A bus arrived, and the pussy cat leapt inside, and I watched her sail off into the night; leaving me alone with the drunk. When the 100 to the airport pulled up, the doors opened, and the drunk crashed into the bus. He landed face down on the floor, his legs protruding from the doors. For a while, he lay there, not moving. Then like a knocked down boxer he reached up for the railing and pulled himself to his feet. He swayed and wrapped his arms around the railing, then collapsed into a seat. I found a place at the front of the bus. Well out of range of any verbal diarrhoea or projectile vomit, he may have seen fit to deliver.
We arrived at the airport without incident and shortly before the Daughter's flight was due to land. I had promised her food on arrival, but the only place open was McDonald's, and they had no vegetarian options. She would have to survive on fries and mayo until we got home. I collected my order and took up station in the arrivals hall. When she walked through the doors, I hardly recognised her. 'Hi love,' I said. 'Hi Dad,' she said. 'I'm sick.' 'What's wrong love?' 'My throat hurts.' 'Did you pick up some dreaded disease in Dubai?' 'Ja, I started feeling sick shortly before I left.' 'Look, I brought you fries,' I said, smiling and holding up the bag. 'They'll make you feel better.' 'I'm fine. I had some food on the plane.' 'You don't want fries? Shit, it must be bad. Here, hold the bag while I call us an Uber.'
Back home we sat on the bed sharing the fries and some cola we had found in Kate's fridge. 'Did mom notice your tattoo?' I said. 'I told her about it a couple of days after I arrived.' 'You did ... and?' 'One morning I asked her if she was in a good mood. She asked why and I said because I have something to tell you ... and I told her.' 'And?' 'She told me I live under your roof now and you make the rules.' 'Does she like it?' 'I dunno, she didn't really say much.' 'At least she didn't chop your finger off or give me an earful. I suppose she expected I'd let you get away with murder when you came to live with me.' 'Probably, can I get more piercings now that I live under your rules?' 'Hell no. I refuse to walk the streets with a daughter who looks like a human pin cushion. 'Ah, please daddy.' 'No, go to sleep. The only piercings you're getting are the pins in your sore throat.'
Kate made Palačinky for breakfast. Traditional Czech pancakes filled with strawberry jam and cream. They reminded me of the pancakes we ate back in South Africa–the thin ones with cinnamon sugar and lemon juice. After breakfast, we walked toward the old town. Past the Pivovarský Klub where I had first eaten in Prague and under the railway bridge toward the Hilton. We passed the Municipal House, where I had first spoken to Aphraella, and my heart skipped a beat. It was a bittersweet return, and the cobbled streets created a strangeness in my mind. What if things had been different? Might she be walking along with us now? I pushed the thoughts from my mind, and we continued through the maze of streets toward the Charles Bridge.
'Can we try to find Strepsils?' said the Daughter. 'Yes, and carrot juice,' I said. 'Carrot juice will sort your sore throat.' We found a pharmacy and bought the Strepsils. Then we bought three different blends of carrot juice from three different stores. None of them came close to being drinkable. 'Dad, this stuff tastes like shitty baby food,' said the Daughter. 'Language daughter,' I said. 'Oh yes, that's another thing mom picked up on.' 'What?' 'My language has become far more colourful since I came to live with you.' 'What! I hardly ever fucking swear. It's all that shitty television you watch.' 'Madonna, between you and Chico I've picked up more foul words in two months than in my whole life.' 'I told you he would help you with your Italian,' I said, giving her a nudge. 'Let's go home; I feel sick,' she said. 'Okay,' I said. We turned around and retraced our steps back to the apartment.
Posters from gangster movies decorated the walls of Kate's apartment. She called her place 'Kate's Apartment for Bad Boys'. There were posters of Johnny Depp in Public Enemies and Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing and mug shots of Capone. We spent the afternoon watching the movies on the posters and drinking various mixes of vile carrot juice.
In the evening the Daughter still wasn't feeling well, so I walked back into the centre of town alone. She had tasked me with finding something vegetarian in a city of sausage lovers. The only thing that came to mind was Trdelník; the traditional Slovak rolled pastry. I chose her one topped with a dusting of nuts and cinnamon and had the inside with lined chocolate. Then I spotted a woman selling 'fried cheese'. A vegetarian meal without vegetables, I thought and ordered a slab. It came on a slice of rye bread, brushed with garlic butter and it was warm and salty and utterly delicious. For a second time, I was in love in The Golden City. 'May I have another please?' I said. 'You like them?' said the cheese woman. 'Yes, they're delicious.' 'Would you like to try the berries this time?'
'Hmm, no. I'll stick with the garlic.' 'Okay, her you go,' she said, handing me generous serving. I walked home savouring my slab of fried cheese, sipping on a glass of Czech wine and dripping Nutella. 'Got your Trdelník,' I said, opening the apartment door. 'Thanks, Dad,' croaked the Daughter 'I found a cheese lady who makes the most delicious cheese you've ever tasted.' 'Where's mine?' 'I ate it.' 'Dad!' 'Sorry, it was so good I couldn't help myself. I should marry her so we can have 'fried cheese' all the time. ' 'No dad! I don't want an old cheese lady as a mother.' 'She's not old. She's young and attractive and makes heavenly cheese.' 'I don't want another mother.' 'You just want me all to yourself?' 'Yes.' 'Okay, you win. Hooking up with the cheese lady isn't a good idea anyway. I'll just get fat, and the cheese will make me fart constantly.' 'You already fart constantly.' 'Eat your Trdelník and go to sleep. We have an early train to Berlin in the morning.'