The fifth entry to the second round of the already infamous search term challenge!
If you are the author – or know or guess who the author is – hold your tongue; this post will be updated with author details after the challenge is over. If you want to enter, remember that submissions are due Sunday!
Voting has closed, so I can now reveal the author of this entry: Cassie Hart!
An Unwelcome Intrusion
Jessica Sloan sat on the sofa, swaying gently back and forth while Talia fed. The firm suckling of the baby lulled her otherwise tumultuous thoughts and she found herself relaxing without intending to.
Until there was a knock.
Pushing herself up carefully without detaching the baby she made her way to the door and opened it one handed, letting it swing back against the wall and exposing herself to whoever the unwelcome guest was. Let them see Talia latched on her nipple, it was a sure fire way to get people to bugger off.
‘Oh,’ was all she said as her eyes raised from the child. A heavy weight bloomed in her still swollen stomach and she took a step backwards. Three men stood before her, blocking the entrance to her apartment. ‘What are you doing here?’ Their black suits and frowns were a dead giveaway but she would make them go through the formalities. They could at least have called first.
‘We’ve got a job for you,’ one of the stiff men said, his lips the only thing on his face that moved. Jessica thought it was Marco, but they all began to look the same after awhile.
‘You know I’m on maternity leave, and besides, you’re not meant to come to my home,’ she hissed the words, quietly though so as not to disturb Talia. She glanced down again and noted that the baby’s eyes were closed, though her suckling was no less urgent. ‘Get inside, before you start any rumours.’ Jessica stepped back from the entrance, letting the men pass and taking a quick look up and down the corridor to see if anyone was watching. It seemed clear, but still…she could only hope that nothing would get back to her husband.
Turning back to the men she shook her head. ‘I’m on maternity leave,’ she repeated, forcing herself to remain calm, strong.
‘It’s Jacob,’ Marco said, pulling dark glasses from his eyes and giving her a heavy look.
‘Oh.’ Jessica grimaced, closing her eyes with a sigh. Of course it was Jacob. She opened her eyes again and looked back to Marco. ‘Where is he?’
‘He’s here.’ He held a slip of paper out towards her but she just looked at it, biting her lip.
‘I can’t. I’ve got a baby.’
‘We’ll take care of her,’ Marco said plainly. Jessica couldn’t hold back the laughter that bubbled in her throat, she could think of nothing more ridiculous than the three of them taking care of a newborn, changing a diaper, trying to comfort her…that final thought chilled her and she narrowed her eyes at him.
‘No, no way.’ She shook her head, clutching the baby tighter than before.
‘You don’t have a choice. You can either put her to bed and go, or we will take her off you.’ The threat in his words was obvious.
Jessica searched his eyes for a glint of humanity but found nothing, found even less in the eyes of the other two. ‘Fine. But you’ll have to wait until she’s settled, and I want you to page me if she wakes up.’
‘We can do that,’ Marco said with a nod. ‘Now go gear up.’
Her clothes were too tight, but she had managed to force herself into them anyway. Her belt was on its last notch and she couldn’t help but think that it was just as well she’d been trying to eat right – not so that she could fit into her gear again, but so she could try to reignite the spark with Matthew, her husband. Ever since the birth he’d been a little distant, as though he was afraid to touch her.
Jessica glanced back down at the piece of paper in her hand, confirming that she was at the right address, and then took stock of the setting. It was a single story house, placed well off the road. Jessica exhaled deeply, trying not to think back to her last encounter with Jacob. She didn’t have time to waste, so she walked up the path to the front door, making sure that her taser was loose, then slipped on her knuckle dusters, tightening her fingers into fists around the grips.
She didn’t bother to knock, instead pushing down the handle, kicking it open and entering the building with her back to the wall. The syrupy scent of booze hung in the air and she sent a quiet prayer heavenwards, hoping that Jacob was drunk and perhaps that would mean they were on even footing. Ever since the birth she’d been exhausted, and unwilling to flood her body, her milk, with energy boosters she’d opted to go in without the regular dose.
‘Jacob?’ she called out, edging her way down the foyer to the main door. Her heart thumped in her chest so hard that she thought it might break through her skin, but she tried to keep her breathing steady.
‘Ah Jessie, Jessie, Jessie,’ he called back, his voice slightly slurred but jovial. ‘I was sure with you having just spawned a brat I’d manage a few weeks of freedom, but I see they sprung you early – not cut out for motherhood huh?’
She moved into the lounge, following the sound of his voice and found him spread out on the couch, a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other. ‘Motherhood suits me just fine,’ Jessica said, her voice tense enough to slice cake. ‘Unfortunately for you, it hasn’t put me totally out of action.’
‘I’m not sure it suits you as well as you think, dear.’ He smirked and nodded to her attire. She refused to look down, instead scowling at him and forcing herself not to buy into his jibes. She’d just had a baby; of course she looked worse for wear. A few more months and she’d be back to her old self. Surely.
‘So, are you going to come easy? Or am I going to have to make you?’ she asked, raising an eyebrow. ‘I don’t have time for this so let’s cut the crap.’
‘Got a hot date?’ he asked with a sneer which pushed Jessica over the edge. She launched herself forward, landing a blow on his face before he had time to react. Crimson flowers bloomed under his skin where her duster had made contact and Jessica smiled. Inflicting pain to Jacob was certainly going to improve her mood.
He pushed himself off the couch and smashed his bottle against the coffee table, taking a wild swing when she approached again. Jessica wasn’t fast enough and he caught her across an already tender breast. Incensed, she drove onwards, ignoring his blows, pummelling him again and again with her knuckles until he collapsed on the ground.
Confident that he was unconscious, Jessica breathed heavily and sank to the floor beside him, tears welling up in her eyes as her weary arms dropped to the floor. She looked down at her hands, hands she comforted her baby with and sobbed harder.
When Jacob stirred, she pulled her taser out and zapped him without even thinking about it, then wondered if maybe she really wasn’t cut out for motherhood.
She quietly closed the door behind her. All up she had only been gone an hour and a half, but Talia was already awake and being held by Marco. Soft whimpers wafted from her delicate mouth until Jessica snatched the baby from his arms and held her tightly, inhaling the warm soft scent of her child and allowing a wave of relief to crash over her. Finally, she turned to the men.
‘He’s in the boot of my car. You might want to take him before he comes around – take the car too. I’m reporting it stolen. Now get out.’ She turned away, not waiting to hear the sound of the door behind them, and headed directly to the bathroom.
Jessica placed Talia in her bouncer and when the baby was content she stripped her torn, bloody clothes off and stepped into the shower, letting the hot water rake her flesh. She carefully washed out her wounds, wincing at the pain, but coming to tears over the fact that she would be reminded of her violence for weeks to come. How on earth was she meant to explain this to Matthew?
Talia had fallen asleep to the sound of the water beating against the tub when she stepped out, so Jessica quietly dressed her wounds, bandaging them skilfully despite how exhausted she felt. Then, robed only in a towel, she picked up her babe and slipped into bed where Talia’s mouth opened and latched once more onto her breast, easing Jessica’s fears and the ache in her swollen chest.
Sated, the baby opened her eyes and looked up at her mother, a small smile gracing her lips. Jessica didn’t care if it was just wind; it was what she had needed. Leaving Talia on the bed, she slipped on the periwinkle peasant skirt that Matthew loved and a loose white top, picked up the baby and dialled his work number.
‘Matthew,’ she said, tears spilling out once again. ‘I got mugged, they took the car… I need you. Please?’