“Terra, get in there and stay there,” Mom commanded, the color slipping from her face as she pulled the front door open. The screen door let in a cold whiff of undisturbed air that circled the small living room. Terra saw her Mom’s hands fist and could see her body trembling as her mother swallowed hard, trying to eliminate the lump forming in her throat.
Terra’s interest piqued at her reaction. She may have only been ten, but she was as curious as they come. Terra looked up at her mother from the couch she was perched on. Suddenly, their living room didn’t seem as safe as Terra always thought it was. Mom was scared of nothing. “Mom? What’s happening?”
Terra jumped up from the couch and tried to peek around her Mom as she pushed herself towards the front screen door. Mom didn’t dare open it, but her face was stone hard as she stared out it. Terra circled her mother and bounced on the old sofa, springing the curtains open as swiftly as she could.
A young man had parked a nice car in the driveway, his gray bumper centimeters away from Mom’s rusting red truck. He stood there, his hand resting lazily on his car door with a thick pair of black glasses blocking his eyes from view. He turned his head from the porch, finding Terra in the window and resting his head there. Terra shivered, not needing to see his eyes to know they skimmed over her.
Mom noticed his change in focus and slammed the door shut, running over to the couch and squeezing the curtain ends back together. The opposite ends of the curtain drew in, revealing the corners of the window, but Mom never noticed as she grabbed Terra forcefully, her muscles straining as she threw her from the couch and placed her promptly on her feet.
“Terra, listen to me. You are going to go to your room and stay there until I tell you to come out. Everything is okay, you just need to go play now.” Mom barely got the words out of her mouth before she spun Terra around and gently pushed her in the direction of Terra’s room. Terra stumbled, but caught her footing without a problem and started towards her room.
Terra stopped in the hallway, turned around, and leaned on the wall. Her body was flush against the thin drywall separating the hallway and the coat closet, her ear straining to hear what was going on. Something was wrong; she had to help.
“You destroyed it! So you have to bring it back.” An unfamiliar voice called to the building.
“I can’t! You asked me to fix it, so I did. I took off the malicious hardware and replaced it with the appropriate programming. It’s what you asked me to do.” Mom replied, her voice quivering. Her fear was nearly tangible from the sound in her voice.
“I asked you to get it back up and running. That is not what you did,” someone snarled, their tone threatening and becoming louder.
Terra darted from her wallflower position and swung around the kitchen, slipping out the dusty sliding door leading to their back yard, which was overgrown with dead weeds. A blast of cold air slapped her face as soon as her foot touched the creaking wood on the back deck. Terra pulled her arms in, trying to centralize her heat and keep warm.
Terra’s feet scampered on the wood as she tried to silently circle the house. It became suddenly aware to her that she didn’t have shoes on as she padded around the small house and reached the gate. Pulling on the thin, rusting sticks engulfing their property, she bit her lip and tried to plant her bare feet in the sod crawling with prickly weeds. The iron swung open slowly, fighting the rust in its endeavor to open wide enough for her to sneak through.
“I can’t do anything!” Mom’s voice quivered and the hair stood up along the base of Terra’s neck at the deepness of her mother’s fear. “Why don’t you get that?”
“Because you do this for a freaking living!” The intruder shouted. His car door was now sealed and he stood just steps from the front porch, where Mom still refused to open the screen door. His glinting leather jacket bounced off some matching shoes and faded blue jeans matched the blue hints in his eyes while his sunglasses rested comfortably on the top of his head, hidden in the mass of his thick, brown hair. But what froze the air in Terra’s lungs was the sight of a bulky, black gun squeezed in his palm.
Terra didn’t think, just acted. She dove out from her safe location behind the house and grabbed the long wooden pole supporting the rickety stairs providing the only path to the front door. Swinging her little body around the wooden staff, Terra planted her frail body between the intruder and her mother.
The intruder looked shocked as he took a couple of steps back, stabilizing himself in their grassy front yard next to his shining car. His eyes opened wide and he lowered his weapon, pointing it directly to the ground. His mouth was parted slightly in a small ‘o’ as he stared down at her.
Terra could hear the screen door before she heard Mom. “Terra, you get in the house this moment!” She roared, her delicate arm engulfing the majority of her upper arm. Her hold was tight and bruising as she all but threw Terra back into the small house from her location on the bottom of the porch. Mom’s chest was heaving heavily, wracking her small chest with uneven breaths in a desperate attempt to calm herself down.
“No, Mom,” Terra rebutted, scampering back down the stair and slipping in the small space between Mom’s leg and the wooden post Terra had just swung around. Terra’s mother’s jaw was hard and her eyes void of emotion as Terra planted her feet firmly under her light body. “He won’t shoot me.”
“Get in the house, little girl. This is just about me and your Mom.”
Terra turned around but saw why Mom was so scared. The intruder stepped closer, abandoning his safe distance and coming closer to Mom. He raised his gun again, lowering it at the angle of Mom’s chest.
Mom pulled her arm again, but this time her focus was more firmly planted on their impending danger. “Terra, go inside the house, now.” She commanded, her quivering voice gone and now in its place was a strong, commanding one.
“But I can help,” Terra rebutted quietly, not sure if she currently belonged in this present conversation anymore.
“Actually, this may be what Mommy needs.” Terra saw movement and flicked her attention to the intruder, who had lowered his gun to her face. Terra’s mouth dried instantly and she wanted to shrink under the heavy connotation the gun beheld, but somehow managed to keep her knees locked and feet planted. “Now, you’re going to restore the files on my drive or your daughter dies.”
Mom’s hand on Terra’s thin arm became tighter and Terra prepares for her mother to throw her back onto the porch. The intruder, however, sees it as well and takes a step closer, the gun now inches from Terra’s face. Terra crosses her eyes to stare at the barrel and the queasiness in her stomach becomes more prominent as the color drains from her face.
“If you want her alive, you better not do anything but agree and grab your devices.”
Bright blue and red lights encompass the streets, about ten cars swarming around the small, cracked driveway. The intruder looks stunned as he lowers his hand, his gun once again pointing at the cement. Swarms of uniformed officers buzz out of their cars, tucking behind their car doors with large, bulky guns pointed directly at the scene. Terra doesn’t even hear the voices speaking and threatening words being exchanged as she watches the intruder raise his hands above his head and the heavy weapon land gracefully on the ground.
The deafening sound of gunfire is heard right before Terra feels a stinging sensation in her calf. She falls to the ground, her wobbly knees unable to hold her up. Terra takes deep breaths, trying to settle her racing heart and calm her rapid respirations.
She came a little closer to earth as Terra sees her Mom fall to his knees behind her, hands pressed firmly on her skinny calf. Mom’s mouth is moving and Terra could distantly hear her whispering everything was going to be okay, but even with all her attention, Terra can’t hear her through the blood rushing in her ears.
She wanted to close out the world. Terra wanted everything back the way it was. She closed her eyes, wanting everything to go away.
Be careful what you wish for.
The gun fell to the ground and because it was cocked, the pressure on the loaded gun caused it to fire. Terra’s mother saw blood spurt from her young daughter and instantly felt worry flood her chest. Her daughter was pure, innocent. She was the reason she still did what she did every day. She was the reason she put up with her abusive husband. And she knew if nothing else happened, she had to save her. Terra lost her mom that day.
Emergency Medical Technicians flooded around her, their words hurried as they asked her questions. She shoved them away as she grabbed her daughter’s leg, pressing tightly on the flesh, whispering comforting words to her unconscious daughter. She knew the Paramedics around her were pulling to get her attention. She felt dizzy, really dizzy, even though she was kneeling on the ground. She couldn’t understand, blood had never made her woozy before.
“Ma’am, we need you to let go, we will take care of your daughter. Can you feel your leg?”
Terra’s mother thought of the strange questions before looking down at her own leg, which was covered in deep red blood. Her inner thigh was gushing blood, pouring even more red liquid on her daughter, who she was still clinging to.
She felt lightheaded again and felt her grip loosening on her daughter’s leg. I don’t care if I die, she thought she has to live.
She opened her mouth to tell the EMT’s around her when her head suddenly felt heavy. She completely released her daughter, distantly recognizing someone lowering her slowly to the ground. “I love you, Terra. Take care of Noah,” She whispered with her last energy before welcoming the black dots spiraling in her vision.