Lizbeth had already saved a report she was doing to keep track of the notes of her students when her phone rang. Still looking at the screen of her computer, she moved her hand, tapping on her desk until she found the cell phone. Sawyer.
“Hey, handsome! What’s up? I thought you’d be sleeping.”
“Yeah... I should, but I’m a bit edgy today...” He sighed.
“Well, you’re trained to face those situations, and as much as you try to keep it cool, your mind could play with you for a few days,” she noted. He was strong and his night ended well, but entering in a building that was, literally, breaking down, to save people and watching your partner fall could never be easy to deal with.
“It’s not that...” He heaved and paused. “Maggie was at my door when I came home.”
“What?” Lizbeth slightly screamed, making the literature teacher turn to her with a confused expression on her face. “Sorry,” she vocalized.
“Yeah... I don’t know what’s got into her. Why the fuck is she so persistent?”
“I have the feeling she’s a little bit obsessed about you?”
“Yeah, but why now after so much time?” he huffed.
“I don’t know...” Lizbeth said in a low voice. “Anway, what did she say?” she asked him as she started getting her stuff into her bag, holding the phone between her ear and her shoulder.
“She wanted to explain something.” She could picture him rolling his eyes when he sighed again. “I don’t know what else she had to say, to be honest. She’s been busted and she’ll probably have to face a huge fine for all the fuss and problems she’s caused with Nicolas and all that.”
“Anyway, I just wanted to warn you that she might be coming your way, and I don’t know what she’s capable of anymore.”
“Why do you say that?”
“When I kicked her out of here, she kind of threatened me.”
“Have you called the police?” Lizbeth stopped what she was doing at the moment.
“I called Jim to let him know. But you know how this is... Until there’s no actual danger or physical harm they have their hands tied. Blah blah blah.”
Sawyer slightly chuckled at the other end of the phone. “Yeah... So please, be careful, okay?”
“I’m going to give Noah a quick walk and then will head to the school.”
“I told you I can pick them up so you can rest...”
“I know, but I’d feel better if I met you there because I have this strange feeling... Like something’s gonna happen.”
“Okay, now you’re scaring me, Sawyer. You’ve never been so paranoid,” she told him as she walked out of her office, waving her hand at her friend and coworker.
“Yeah, but Maggie found out my address and she was waiting for me here, so she also knows my schedule... And I don’t know how she got all that information. It gives me the creeps.”
“But do you think she’d do anything in a public place? I mean, the police are already digging into her life to close the case, and they’ll probably find out she’s not the most stable person and will come after her... If she does anything reckless it won’t just be a fine but jail.”
“I don’t think she cares much about any of that right now.”
“Are you keeping something from me?” She frowned as she approached her car.
“No, I told you everything she told me. I’m just a bit shaken because the glare she gave me before she left... I had never seen a look like that on her face. It was as if she was out of her mind, empty and full of rage at the same time. It gave me this odd vibe, I don’t know how to explain.”
“I get what you mean...” she whispered as she remembered the psychopath from the case she worked on the previous year. “I’m getting in the car now,” she told him as he buckled her seat belt. She turned on the engine and glanced at the clock on the screen of the radio. “The kids’ classes are ending in something less than an hour, you think you’ll make it?”
“Okay, then. We’ll wait for you there.”
“Of course, Babe.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Thirty minutes later, Lizbeth was pulling over in the school’s parking lot. She put her briefcase under the passenger’s seat, grabbed her purse, and got out of the car.
As she made her way to the entrance of the school, she checked her messages. Liam had texted her with a picture of the last ultrasound.
April was in her seventh month of pregnancy and the picture showed the baby perfectly. He was in a fetal position, his little hands so clear Lizbeth felt her heart tightening. He was so real.
Liam: We’re going to name him after Sawyer.
Lizbeth: That’s great, goofball. Is it going to be the first or the middle name?
Liam: I wanted it to be Sawyer, but I don’t want both of them turning their heads when someone calls the name in a family reunion. So it’d be the middle
Lizbeth: Alexander. It’s a beautiful name. What did April say about it?
Liam: She likes it. Besides, Sawyer’s always been such great support for us, she agrees on honoring him like this.
Lizbeth: You’ll make him cry
Liam: I’d like to see that, he can be like an iceberg when it concerns anything related to feelings
Lizbeth: that’s completely untrue! You’d have to see him with the kids every day
Liam: Oh, right! How are they doing? I miss those little balls of energy
Lizbeth: They’re fine. I’m actually picking them up from school now.
Liam: God, Liz! You've grown up so much! I never thought I’d see the day when my baby sister became a mom
Lizbeth: Shut up!
Liam: I’m so proud of you... And so happy too
Lizbeth: Are you going to cry?
Liam: Of course not! I’m just so emotional lately
Lizbeth: April’s the one pregnant, right?
Liam: Lmao. Shut it!
Lizbeth: Gotta go. Talk to you later. Say hi and hug April for me.
Liam: Sure. Take care, Baby girl!
She had wrapped her mind around the idea of never having a baby. It still hurt, but Sawyer had been so supportive she ended up accepting it.
However, watching her nephew growing strong and healthy made her heart throb with happiness and sadness at the same time. She was happy for her brother, but couldn’t hide the pain it still caused her.
“Hey, gorgeous!” Emma’s voice snapped her out of her stupor.
“Hey, Em! How are you?” she asked her as she sat beside her on a bench.
“I’m good. What about you? You look a bit pale...”
“Thanks!” she sarcastically said. “I’ve been sick since I saw you the other day and I feel tired as hell.”
“You should go to the doctor and see what’s going on,” she suggested.
“It’s just the stress for everything we’ve been through lately. It’s happened before and there’s nothing much a doctor can do,” she noted.
“It could be something else and you lose nothing for checking it up,” Emma insisted.
“What are you, my mother?”
“No, but I’m a nurse and I don’t think that’s normal. It could be a mild gastroenteritis.”
“Aright, I’ll go to see a doctor…” Lizbeth sighed, rolling her eyes. Emma was persistent and she wouldn’t accept no for an answer, not when it was health-related.
“Good.” She wickedly smiled.
“Lizzy!” Sophia ran towards her, bringing her back to the real world.
“Hey, Princess!” She exclaimed as she opened her arms, circling them around the little girl when she jumped on her. “How are you?” she asked, brushing away the locks falling onto her face.
“Good,” she grinned.
“I like the sound of that,” Lizbeth smiled back. Sophia's and Adam's schools were in the same complex, just different buildings, which made it easier for them when they had to pick them up.
“Mom!” Eric shouted as he approached them.
“Hey, Superman!” she said as she stood up. “How’s your day been?” she asked him as she took his backpack and straightened his red t-shirt.
“Good!” Can I come over to Adam’s today? He has this new game and I want to play, please?” Emma glanced at Lizbeth. “Why doesn’t he come with us instead?” she suggested, looking at the psychologist.
“Can he?” Eric grinned, his eyes glowing as he looked at Lizbeth.
“We have things to do today, but what about you come over the weekend?” She didn’t want to tempt fate by letting the kid sleep over at his friend that day. After what Sawyer told her, she was uneasy and alert.
“Cool!” He grinned.
“Where’s Adam, by the way?”
“The teacher wanted to talk to him.” The boy shrugged.
“He did this homework very well and she wanted to ask him about it, I think,” Eric explained.
“Oh,” Lizbeth simply said. “That’s great.”
“It is! He can be a writer when he grows up!”
“Good to know,” she chuckled. Eric was outgoing and so blunt, he always made her smile.
“Well… We’re going then, okay? If you need anything just give me a call,” Emma told her with a knowing look.
“Sure, thanks!” Lizbeth nodded.
As they waited for Adam to come out, Lizbeth undid Sophia’s ponytail. She was so lively and restless that at the end of the day her hair always looked like she had been on a battlefield. “So what did you do today?” she asked her as she untangled her hair with her finger. It was curly but it was so soft. She was like a doll.
“I painted a lion! Teacher says it has to be in a museum!”
“That’s amazing, Princess!” she exclaimed as she finished making her ponytail. “Did you bring it with you?”
“The teacher hung it on the wall so everyone can see it!” She happily grinned.
“I’m jealous now! I want to see it too!” The little girl giggled when she tickled her.
Kids were running, playing, and laughing as they made their way out of school carrying their colorful backpacks. Hugging their parents and talking about their day as they walked towards the parking lot.
It was a sunny day, but those scenes always made everything shine even brighter. Lizbeth couldn’t help it and smiled. She never thought she would be there, sharing her life with such an incredible man and those beautiful kids.
“I like your dress...” Sophia said out of the blue as she fiddled with the black fabric covered in flowers of the skirt.
“Thank you, sweetie. I like your outfit too.” She smiled, touching the frills on the short sleeves of her mustard yellow pants bodysuit. When she saw Adam out of the corner of her eye, she turned her head to him and smiled. “Hey, buddy!” she said as she got up, leaning forward to kiss the top of his head. “How was your day?”
“It was okay...”
“I think it was more than okay. Eric told me you did a great job on that essay about the family...” She cheekily grinned.
“Yeah...” he said, slightly blushing and averting his eyes.
“The teacher praised you, so it means it’s really good! Would you let me read it now?” Lizbeth asked him as she walked towards the car, hand in hand with both kids. When he wrote the essay, he said it was bad and he didn’t want to show it to her or Sawyer. They knew he was shy and they didn’t press him, but now she was feeling really curious.
“It’s embarrassing!” the boy explained, turning even redder.
“Please?” Lizbeth begged him as she put their backpacks in the trunk of her car. It was already past three twenty and Sawyer was probably about to get there.
“I don’t know...” Adam said as he opened the door of the car.
“You know... Sawyer is coming too,” she said leaning on the door. “So... What if we make an exchange? You show me the essay and we go eat those pancakes you like so much?”
“That’s a bribe!” Adam laughed.
“Where did you learn that big word, little man?” She chuckled.
“On TV.” He shrugged when Lizbeth was buckling his seat belt.
“Oh, wow! I didn’t expect to find you here!” A shiver ran down Lizbeth’s back as she heard her voice. Then, something hard and solid touched her lower back, making her heart rate increase. “Don’t,” Maggie said with a warning tone of voice as Lizbeth put her hand on her purse. She looked at her over her shoulder, the purple of her bruises already turning yellow.
“Who’s she?” Sophia asked.
“I’m a friend, Baby,” Maggie responded with a sweet coated voice that made Lizbeth want to punch her in the face. “It’s been a long time since I last saw your mom, so why don’t we all go for a ride?”
Lizbeth tensed as her breathing started to feel heavy and accelerated, she was scared for her life but much more for the kids. If something happened to them, she would never forgive herself. If they lost them, they would break like a crystal vase crashing on the ground, into such small little pieces that they would never be able to stand up again. “Please...” she breathed as she straightened.
“If you behave they’ll be safe,” Maggie whispered into her ear with such a tint of hatred her whole body froze.
“What happened to your lip?” Sophia asked out of the blue.
“I feel down the stairs.”
“Does it hurt?”
“A little, but I’ll be fine. Thanks for worrying, sweetie.” Maggie smiled at her.
“We were going to eat pancakes,” Adam told her, looking at her with suspicion. Please, don’t say anything, Lizbeth prayed in her mind. “You could come with us...” he added.
“Oh! But we can make the pancakes at home! I’m great at cooking, and besides, I have horses... Do you wanna see them?”
“Yay!” Sophia exclaimed. “Can we come?” she asked, completely unaware of what was going on. Lizbeth wanted to cry and scream for help, but she knew if she dared to move Maggie could shoot her or the kids, which would be even worse.
“Great!” Maggie exclaimed. “Let’s go then, buddies. My car is parked right on the other side of the street, ” she said as she motioned to Lizbeth to walk away from the door to let the kids get out.
“But we can go in our car,” Lizbeth told her.
“Yeah, right,” she snorted. “You must think I’m really so stupid...”
“Maggie... Please... You can take me but leave the kids alone, please. I beg you...” Her voice quivered.
“You’ve taken everything from me, so you don’t get to ask for anything now.”
“What are you talking about?”
Maggie didn’t get to answer because the kids were already out of the car. They walked towards them and grabbed both Lizbeth’s shaky hands. When they began to walk, Maggie pressed the gun to her back, hiding it under her light cardigan, urging her to walk forward.
“So, what type of syrup do you like for the pancakes?” Maggie tried making small talk with the kids, acting as if everything was so normal.
“I like chocolate!” Sophia exclaimed.
“I like caramel,” Adam answered.
“Do you like ice cream with the pancakes too?”
“I’ve never tried that,” Adam slightly turned his head back to look at the woman.
“Oh! You’d definitely love it, buddy!”
Lizbeth wasn’t seeing her face, but she could sense the poison in her fake grin.
“What flavors do you have?” Sophia asked.
“Whatever you want, darling!”
“Strawberries? I love strawberries!”
“Of course! It’s the best, isn’t it!”
“Okay, here we are,” Maggie stated when they stopped in front of a dark blue car with tinted windows.
Lizbeth’s eyes opened wide and her heart started hammering in her chest with so much force she thought it would break through her ribcage.
It had been more than almost three months since the last time she saw the vehicle wandering around their neighborhood. And there it was again. She looked at Maggie, bewildered, and she gave her the coldest and nastiest smile she had ever seen in her life.
Sawyer, please, find us! Lizbeth screamed inside her mind as Maggie motioned her to get into the driver’s seat. Tears burning in her eyes as she fought them back, trying to be strong and stay calm for the kids.