Tag Archives: motherhood

An Unexpected Guest…

An Unexpected Guest

A person lacking Margo’s training would surely have slept through – or completely disregarded – the muffled thump from the first floor.

The digital clock on the bed table read 3:13 AM.

She widened her eyes and quickly did the math: in bed for six hours and twenty-three minutes, plenty of time to have entered N3 sleep and therefore she could be 60-80% sure that the thump she’d heard was the initial stimulus.

Her two-year-old daughter, Ursula, was warm and still at her side. Margo put a hand on the child’s shoulder, which rose and fell with comforting regularity.

No one else was in the bed.

Margo snapped her head around.

There it was again: a soft impact tremor emanating from below, but closer this time.

Someone was definitely coming up the stairs.

Margo emerged from under the blanket and swung her feet soundlessly down to the carpet, being careful not to awaken the child.

Adrenaline tingled up and down her torso, front and back. She closed her eyes, tried to remember her training: shallow, silent breaths; a posture she could hold without lactic acid accumulation; and most importantly, a vantage point that kept her concealed while allowing the maximum flexibility for aggressive response.

Margo’s mind flashed through questions and answers:

Q: Does Abrams have another job to push on me?

A: I haven’t heard from him since entering the program.

Q: Someone I crossed while I was active?

A: I left most of them dead or maimed. Can’t recall anyone with this kind of stealth ability or the contacts to track me down here in the program.

Q: Did Abrams finally decide I know too much to be running free in suburbia?

A: Unlikely, given the fact that he’s aware my attorney is in possession of a detailed affidavit in a sealed envelope with instructions it be made public in the event of my ‘accidental death.’

Q: A random B-and-E? Maybe a rapist?

A: I can only hope it’s that straightforward.

A breeze blew in the open window. Margo heard the rustling of the linden tree’s leaves and wished the window were closed so she could focus more clearly on the approaching danger.

She stepped quickly to the walk in closet and removed all the hanging clothes from one of the wooden rods. She eased the rod out of its brackets, and moved to the side of the master bedroom door. Margo assumed a batter’s stance and, like a slugger with three balls and no strikes, prepared to swing away.

Creak.

Directly outside the door now.

Suddenly Ursula started to whimper.

Margo raced back to the bed like a panther. She lifted the little girl with one arm and cradled her against her chest.

She bounced by slightly flexing her knees, trying her best to keep the child asleep and quiet.

Night terrors. At times, the girl would begin screaming for no apparent reason. As a single parent, it fell to Margo to manage each of these incidents, cooing, cradling the child until the terror passed, and she was able to drift off again.

Of course, Margo blamed herself for these episodes. Felt they were in some way related to the incident with her first daughter, also named Ursula. Many years ago.

She often wondered if it could be possible that the horror of her first daughter’s death could have been passed on to this Ursula. Could the horror held deep in a mother’s heart be passed to a child during pregnancy? Margo’s guilt compelled her to think it could be so.

The doorknob turned.

Margo placed Ursula in a laundry basket in the closet and, as quietly as possible, slid the door closed.

She then resumed her position next to the bedroom door.

The door fell ajar, letting ambient light from the hallway spill into the bedroom.

A large man entered. A hulking but silent shadow.

Although just a silhouette, Margo could tell he walked with a slight left-sided limp. She immediately decided to pulverize that leg once she’d incapacitated him with a head shot.

Margo took no chances.

The man was holding something in his right hand, but she couldn’t make out what it was.

He was completely in the room now.

Margo swung hard, hitting him directly at the base of the skull. She didn’t swing to kill. She needed information.

The man fell forward onto the carpet.

Margo strode forward to attack the left leg as she’d planned, but the man whirled around and clutched her ankle, pulling her down on top of him.

“You are so dead,” she said, gritting her teeth.

“Margo, stop,” the man said.

She stood and drilled his left knee with the end of the rod.

The man held his leg with both hands and moaned. The thing from his right hand lay on the floor next to him.

Margo ran to the light switch by the bedroom door. “Now, let’s have a look at your sorry ass before I take another pot shot at your leg.”

When the overhead light came on, Margo nearly passed out.

How could he be here?

“Dan?”

“I’m sure that knee will need replacing.” He dragged himself up to a sitting position.

“Dan?”

On the floor next to him were a doll and a toy pistol.

He noticed what she was looking at. “I didn’t know what to bring. Did we have a boy or a girl?”

Tears filled her eyes. “Dan?”

And Margo slammed him again with the rod.

___________________________________________________________

Chuck Wendig is at again with another flash fiction challenge. This time out, the story needed to center on the concept of an unexpected guest’.  Well, I simply couldn’t resist another Margo story. If you’re new to this blog,  you should read earlier Margo installments (“Margo in Rome” and “Hermosa Beach Heartache”) just for some context. As I’ve noted previously, I’m serializing Margo’s bizarre story in this blog. It’s great fun (and a great challenge) to approach each installment as a stand-alone flash piece as well as another addition to an ongoing story. Hope everyone enjoys the story!

Image by Nathan Eckinrode

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Hermosa Beach Heartache…


Hermosa Beach Heartache

Margo sat alone on the pier at dusk.

The oranges and reds in the western sky burned down to embers, and then to deep purple.

She watched couples strolling along the beach, hands linked, heads inclined toward each other. Occasional laughter filtered up: kids making out or getting high under the pier.

The salt air kept her alert despite her lack of sleep. Since Abrams had called yesterday, she’d been unable to keep her mind from spinning out the possible scenarios.

She fought back another wave of nausea.

Either Dan was still alive, and she had room to negotiate with Abrams, or they’d already turned him into an artificial reef somewhere off Santa Barbara. Either way, she’d be next if she didn’t stay focused and nimble.

And she had to stay alive.

At least until the baby was born.

She was wearing the wig Abrams – or one of his boys – left in her mailbox. A fiery red mop. I guess they don’t want me flying under the radar for this job, she thought.

Margo crossed her legs and hugged herself. Cold tonight, she thought.

At the entrance to the pier, she saw a man in a dark blue suit get out of a car and start walking toward her.

OK, she thought, here it comes. If it looks in any way like this is going south, what’s your plan B? C’mon Margo, think! Abrams hadn’t called back until two hours ago to tell her where to go. She’d had no time to plan an escape or a counterattack. Again, Abrams being his usual thorough self.

The red pumps were killing her feet. She’d always hated assignments where she needed to dress like this. Abrams knew that, the asshole. He knew he could neutralize much of her physical training with the shoes, the tight gold dress, and a wig that could obstruct her vision. Margo knew only too well that it was just in the movies a woman kicked any serious ass in a pair of high heels. God, she needed to puke.

The man continued slowly up the pier. He stopped directly in front of her.

“Hello Margo.”

She knew the voice. “So that’s what you look like, Abrams. Not bad. I’ve always envisioned you as more bureaucratic. Pear-shaped, male pattern baldness and everything. So, what brings you out from under your rock?”

“I’m happy to disappoint you on my looks. Given the years we’ve worked together, I wish this could be all kumbaya and handholding, but we’ve got a problem you and I.”

Margo raised an eyebrow. “Do tell.” She was trying her best to appear nonchalant.

Abrams sat down next to her. “Oh, I will tell. Dan told us you were planning to run. He told us all about the connubial bliss after getting hitched in Rome. And now you want out? You look hurt your hubby sold you out.”

“Under torture, I’m sure. C’mon Abrams. Someone with your years in the field appreciates the unreliability of that information. What did you do? Pound a nail into his balls?”

“My methods are none of your concern. Not at this point, anyway.”

Margo shivered as adrenaline spilled into her bloodstream.

“No,” Abrams continued, “I think you still have a useful role to play in this little drama.”

“Why am I dressed like this?” Margo was getting cold now.

“I need you to go across the street to the Del Ray Hotel. Get a little information from someone.  The guy’s got a thing for redheads. Don’t worry, we’ll put a transponder in your cell phone; we’ll hear everything.”

“Gee, thanks. That makes me feel so much better. By the way, where is Dan, anyway?”

“Alive and well, I assure you. And he still has his balls.” Abrams handed her a manila folder.  “Finish this, and you two can go frolic in suburbia with impunity. We’ll put you in the program and you’ll be baking cookies for the PTA before you know it. You two are pathetic.”

It was full dark now. Margo was outwardly calm, but inside she was scrambling to understand the game and what her next move should be. At this point, she had no choice but to go to the Del Ray. After that, she’d have to improvise. As usual. And she had to find Dan.

“Who’s the mark?”

“He’ll be at the bar. Omar Sharif – looking motherfucker. From what Dan tells me, you’re quite the little monkey between the sheets. Ought to be no problem for you to chat this guy up, get him up to his room and, well, you know what to do.”

“I’m not killing him. Fuck off.” Margo stood up to leave.

“Sit. The.Fuck. Down,” Abrams said. “You will kill him or you and Dan are both dead. Not to mention your little bundle of joy.”

Margo felt her stomach tighten and lurch.

Abrams laughed. “Don’t look so shocked. Dan told me. Good thing you still got your figure or you’d be useless to me on this one. You don’t kill this guy and get me my information from his hard drive? No kiddies, no cookies, no little league. Got it?”

Margo stood up and looked down at him. Another wave of nausea caught her and she puked all over him.

“Ah, that feels better,” she said, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

“Fuck you, Margo. Brush your teeth before you kiss that guy. After a few months of smelling baby puke, you’ll be begging me to reinstate you in the field. Look at this fucking mess.”

Margo straightened her wig and started across the street. She turned and said, “Hey, what about the transponder?”

“Just do your job.”

In the lobby bathroom of the Del Ray Hotel, Margo stared at herself in the mirror, her hands pressed low on her stomach.

I’ll protect you.

I’ll find your father.

I will make this happen.

Just sleep, little one.

This is not going to hurt at all, baby.

______________________________________________________

I wrote this story today in response to another Chuck Wendig’s terrible minds flash challenge . The challenge was to write a story (1,000 word limit) off of five random words chosen by an online prompt generator. The five words were: wig-dusk-figure-cell phone-flirt.  Hope you enjoy the story. I like Margo – she’s a can do gal.

Image is by Nathan Eckenrode


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