General Fiction posted November 18, 2019


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A woman is rudely awakened only to walk into a nightmare

Reflection

by AshelinaB


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
The author has placed a warning on this post for sexual content.

There was a knock on the door. Then more, and more still until the staccato sounds become rapid-fire and rattle the door in its frame. The doorbell soon joins the cacophony in an unending buzz. 

“I’ll get it,” Erica grumbles as she gets out of bed, silently urging her fiancé to stay with his daughter. She’s had yet another nightmare about them and could use some space anyway.

Her jaw drops when she opens the door and looks into a face she has only seen in a picture, one that looks quite like her own, actually. 

This can only be Maya’s mother, whose sudden disappearance into the night close to a year ago kept the little girl up for weeks straight, waiting by the window for her mother to come home and worrying her father to no end. 

Lauren’s face splits into a bitter smile as she looks Erica over. “Ah, so Jay traded up, eh? I mean,” she says as she gestures up her nemesis’s body, “if you’re into the whole delicate, wounded bird thing.” A strange sort of triumph lifts her chin. “Guess he still hasn’t gotten over me, if you’re the best he could do.”

“Wh-what are you doing here?” Erica stammers.

“Excuse me?” Lauren repeats but with more acidity the second time. “I live here. What the fuck are you doing here?”

“I... live here too, mostly.” Erica looks down at her feet and tries to keep herself from shifting her weight from one to the other.

One of the older woman’s eyebrows arches. “Right. Well, my husband and kid are in there, so step aside, birdy!”

“N-no.” Deciding quickly, blonde pushes past her doppleganger to stand beside her on the porch and closes the door without letting go of the knob. “Please don’t do this!” she begs in a terse whisper.

“Move!”

Erica whimpers again when rough-hewn fingernails claw at her wrist. “Please, you can’t be here!”

“It’s my fucking kid’s fucking birthday. Of course I can be here! Now get out of my way!”

Carefully keeping the unsteady woman back with her opposite forearm, Erica steps a few paces forward. “Lauren, please! It’ll really upset her! Please don’t do this. Can you come back later, tonight? She’d-”

“‘It’ll really upset her’? I’m sorry, but who carried her for nine months and was in labor with her for twenty-two hours, five years ago today? You?”

Erica falls to her knees, desperately but gently grasping injurious hands. “Lauren, please, I’m begging you! Not for me. But for her. Please don’t go in there right now! It’s 3 AM. Let her sleep, please!”

“Who do you think you are?” the towering woman roars, grabbing the blonde’s shoulders and shoving her aside. “I am her mother! How many diapers of hers did you change? That’s right, zero! James may have found himself a new fuck toy, but that girl will never have another mother!” She goes as far as to lift a foot to bring it down on Erica’s head but stumbles backward when the door swings open silently.

“You are not Maya’s mother, Lauren,” James says with muted fury burning in his eyes. “Now you will lower your voice, or you will leave. And you will not touch my fiancée again!” With that, he bends over to help Erica up before wrapping her in a protective embrace.

His ex-wife regains her ability to speak when she sees James and Erica together like that. “Your fi- The hell I’m not that child’s mother, James!” 

“I already asked you once to lower your voice, Ren. I will not ask you again.”

Erica’s heart pangs at the endearment that rolls off of the man’s tongue so naturally. Her hand automatically tightens its grip on the front of his white V-neck, and she swallows hard.

“Oh, sure! Mr. Control Freak! I have to do everything you say, don’t I, Master James?”

Her ex-husband takes on the expression of someone who’s been slapped.

The accusation is not unfounded. His confession resonates in his and Erica’s minds: I had a lot of rules, but my main ones were absolutely no unhealthy substances in the house ever and no going anywhere outside it without me even for a moment. I knew what her friends were like and that she’d run to them the first chance she got. So, no more smoking, pills other than the prenatal vitamins that I all but forced down her throat, and of course not a drop of alcohol to drink her entire pregnancy. Even when she started hitting me. I would let her do anything to me as long as she didn’t hurt herself or Maya. Withdrawal was really hard on her, but not nearly as hard as a lifelong sentence of fetal alcohol syndrome would be on a child, I thought... I didn’t give Lauren a choice.

James shakes his head to clear it. “Ren, that’s enough,” he says at last. “Maya’s lost enough sleep because of you. Now get your drunk ass off of my property!”

Both women gasp at his hard tone of voice and word choice.

“Did this bitch teach you to talk like that, James? Do you take orders now?” The words are soft-spoken but no easier to accept.

“Don’t talk about her like that! Her name is Erica, and she—” is a better wife and mother than you could ever dream of being! James stops himself from saying— “at least knows that Maya’s birthday was yesterday.”

“No! It’s still-” Lauren whips out her phone to check the time, almost dropping it. “Dammit! I lost- Do you know why I’m drunk, James?” she asks as she teeters on her crimson high heels, glaring at the man blackly.

He scoffs. “Because that’s all you know how to be?”

The brunette stands stunned again. They fought in the past, but James had never spoken to her in such a way before now. Pure hatred emanates from her as she fixes Erica with a glower too. “I’m drunk because it’s the only way that I can face you! You make me sick! You and that miserable kid! You ruined my life! I can’t stand to look at you!”

Erica rises to her family’s defense without thought or hesitation. “Then why are you here, Lauren?”

The other woman explodes once more. “Don’t talk to me, you skank! I’m here because- for my daughter’s birthday! What the fuck do you think?” she answers Erica’s question anyway.

“She wouldn’t be happy to see you, Ren. ...Not like this,” James whispers for once that evening. 

That breaks his ex more than anything else could, though.

Lauren topples over and begins to cry. “You know how I celebrated my fifth birthday? My mother actually asked my father to stop three whole times when he got four of his friends together and they took turns on me! Don’t touch me!” she screams when Erica goes to put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Her unfocused eyes then hone in as best they can on amber ones. “Are you like him? Is that why you’re so possessive of my kid and won’t even let me see her? Are you doing her?” The question that was meant as taunts come out a lot more rawly and searchingly than intended. The drunk sobs into her knees. “Don’t do it! Don’t do it to her, okay? She’s just little and will end up like me if you do!”

Erica kneels once more before her lookalike. “Lauren, I would never do that. I wouldn’t hurt her for anything in this world.”

“I had to see you for myself!” Lauren screeches next. “One of my friends saw you with her, and, and I- ...Who are you? What do you want with my little girl?”

“I want to take care of her, Lauren. I love her like she’s my own child. But!” she heads off the obvious rebuttal, “I have no intention of replacing you. She needs you! We all know that.” Her pointed look at him begs James to keep quiet. “We would love for you to be a part of her life! It’s just- Can we please start tonight? Please?”

Lauren stares at Erica until she starts to see through her. “Are you me?” she asks at last. “Are you the me I’d be if my daddy never fucked me and my mom didn’t just stand by watching or go get more smashed whenever he started? Are you the good Lauren?”

“No.” The younger woman lowers her gaze to her own fidgeting hands. “My name is Erica. Lauren...” She’s known for some time about the maltreatment the other woman suffered, but never really faced it before that moment. While she too had to deal with an abusive man in her past, at least it had been an old boyfriend rather than her own father. “I’m really sorry that happened to you,” she finishes.

The brunette grins for a moment, looking very much like Maya in that ephemeral flash of time before throwing her arms around Erica and clinging to her while sobbing into her chest. “Thank you! That... means a lot...”

“How about I drive you home?” the blonde asks hesitantly. “We’ll let James and Maya sleep, but I’ll make sure you get home safe. ...Does that sound okay?” 

Somewhat embarrassed at long last, Lauren begins to nod. “Do you think you could take me to the Motel 6 a few blocks from here? I was sober driving all the way up here, but... I had to get something to drink to build up my courage to meet you. Of course I fucked up and drank too much, for too long. Story of my life!” Her disgusted sigh hits Erica’s heart through her skin.

“Baby-” James doesn’t complete his thought so as not to hurt or rile up Lauren again, but he’d really prefer his vulnerable fiancée not go anywhere with his volatile ex.

“We’ll be fine.” Erica grins too widely. “I’ll be right back, okay?”

Lauren nods, continuing to ignore James’s existence. “Yeah, okay. Then I’ll come back here too, okay? I’ll just sleep it off and come back.” Her dark eyes look to Erica for confirmation. 

“S-sure...”

“Mommy! Daddy!” Maya cries upon waking up alone despite having fallen asleep nestled between her parents.

“Go to her,” Erica tells her fiancé.

Unsure for only a second, he obeys.

Lauren stares at the closed door for several long seconds. “She sounds just like I used to- when-” Abruptly, she leaps to her feet and slaps both hands on the door to balance herself, trying to see in through the peephole. “No one else’s in there, right? They’re not hurting her?”

“No, Lauren. She’s safe.” Erica smiles faintly. “Let’s get you back to your motel. How did you get here from there?” she wonders after a short time.

“Walked,” the older woman answers distractedly.

“Well, my car’s right there. It’s the white one; o-of course.” Erica tries her best to stand firm at least physically. She doesn’t want to open the door to grab her jacket and keys only to have Lauren push past her and get to Maya.

“Yeah, sure. ...Yeah.” But Lauren doesn’t move. Her eyes find the smaller woman a moment later. “Don’t... Don’t let him knock you up, okay?” she says, her voice low and haunted. “James... He’d never hit you or anything like that, but he has this way. ...I was scared of him all the time. That’s another reason why I drank so much, once he let me again, of course. Liquid courage. I’ve actually been sober for months now. Just broke out of rehab to wish my baby happy- Except tonight, of course.” She snorts in self-recrimination before shaking her head. “He just. Part of him reminded me of my father. Once I got pregnant, it was like I couldn’t even breathe without his say-so.” She stares at, through, and nowhere near the blonde.

Pale, Erica answers with a nod. “Come, Lauren. Let’s go.” A bit of relief eases the pressure in her chest when the brunette obediently wheels around and totters down the steps and then across the driveway. She follows a moment later.

Though Lauren falls fast asleep soon after Erica begins driving, snoring the whole way to the motel, Erica doesn’t feel like she can breathe even after she crawls back into bed with her family.



Sentence writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a story that starts with this sentence: There was a knock on the door.
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