Almost everyone reaches a point in time when life becomes a boring cycle of predictable routines and uninteresting activities and chores. Some people look forward to that phase, when there's stability and a set pattern to settle into. The lack of surprises, drama, and unforeseen circumstances can make life easier, but also a bit dull.
Sarah found herself precisely at that point in life. Everything in perfect order and happily set in the right way. Married just under the eight year mark, a doting mother to her five year old son, and a perfectly settled housewife in a three bedroom house situated in a well-known residential area. It was all she had ever wanted since she had graduated from highschool. All of the other girls had applied to colleges and universities, determined to make a name for themselves, but Sarah had other ideas. She married her highschool sweetheart, who had fallen head over heels in love with her the moment he had seen her, and promised to fulfill all of her dreams and desires. Thus began the climb to reach her dream of having a perfect home and family. Although Sarah never directly worked in the business world, she advised her husband in his business ventures and encouraged his investments. She would use her spare time to research profitable opportunities on the web with the computer at home. Starting off was hard work, but their devoted marriage made life's financial challenges easier. They had each other to lean on and when Michael had a tough day, Sarah would prepare his favorite meal and give him the comfort he needed to make it through. Sarah enjoyed the struggle and strife, and happily pushed through challenges with determination and purpose. Then, their marriage and wallet, took a strain after Adam was born. Parenthood is hard work and no amount of savings or planning can prepare anyone for their first newborn. Between the extra duties, sleepless nights and petty fights, Sarah became distant and Michael was pressured to achieve success on his own.
Within two years, all the hard work paid off and life became easier. They could finally afford their dream house and Adam, now an independent toddler, became the couple's pride and joy. However, the distance in the marriage that was initially created never ceased to exist. Now, two years since things fell into place, the void between Sarah and Michael was still there. Of course no one could see it. On the outside, they seemed like the perfect family with the perfect life. Michael worked a comfy job that easily paid the bills and gave him plenty of free time to be a family man and catch up on his hobbies, whilst Sarah looked after the home and took great care of her son. Adam grew up to be the one that kept Sarah and Michael together, and brought them many happy moments. The couple enjoyed exploring everything with their little one, watching with delight as he experienced things for the first time. He would soon be starting school, something which Sarah had dreaded, but now looked forward to. Although Adam kept her days busy and full of life, she liked the idea of having some free time and a change in routine. Life had become a little boring, having no more dreams to chase, and, maybe Sarah was being ungrateful, but she wished she could relish in the feeling of striving for something again or experiencing something new again. The drift in her marriage didn't affect her anymore. She had chosen to accept that this was how relationships change when children come along. She occasionally reminisced about her first years being with Michael. Their invincible love that made them innocently experiment on all sort of things, and the excitement of unexpected surprises and unlimited attention from each other. Now, things weren't all that terrible; they just lacked the spark they once had. Surely that was part of growing old together, right? Except, they were still in their twenties.
Proves that one can't have everything in life.
It was nearing the beginning of the school year and Adam was super excited about his first day at preschool. Sarah had already taken him to see his classroom and teacher when registering him at the nearby school. He had seen the kids playing on the jungle gym and couldn't wait to try out the monkey-bars.
"Ready to go?" Michael asked, grabbing the car keys from the kitchen counter.
Sarah sighed distractedly and continued rushing around gathering last-minute things.
"Can you get his stationary list off the fridge?" she ordered, slipping on her heels and wobbling towards the lounge mirror. She was just about to neaten her hair when something caught her eye in the reflection.
"Oh my God, Mike, why didn't you tell me?!" She complained in annoyance. Michael turned to look at Sarah.
"What is it, now?" he asked with a sigh.
"Look at me!" She opened her arms trying to make a point.
"You look great, love" he reassured her, turning to the door.
"Let's go now, Adam is waiting at the car."
Sarah took a deep breath to calm herself and began undoing the buttons on her red blouse. She shook her head in frustration, if she hadn't seen it in the mirror, Michael wouldn't have even noticed that all her buttons were incorrectly done, making her blouse sit at an odd angle across her torso.
She hurriedly smoothed her hair, and after checking windows and locking the door, she got to the car.
"Mummy, Daddy said I can choose my own school bag," Adam informed her from the backseat.
"Yes, baby," Sarah replied absent-mindedly, rummaging through her hand bag.
"Do you want to leave his uniform shopping for next week?" Michael asked as he drove.
Sarah was using the visor to apply her make-up. She always used natural shades of make-up to blend with her olive skin and sharp features. Today she was trying brighter shades, hoping that Michael would notice something different for a change.
"It's better if we just got everything done today, don't you think so?" Sarah reasoned, applying a deep red shade of lipstick to her pouty lips.
"I have some things to sort out with upgrading my cellphone contract, so you'll have to do that without me. Otherwise we won't make it for lunch" Michael said distractedly, eyes on the busy road.
The mall was chaotic due to the 'back to school' offers at many stores, and Sarah frowned as she regretted having delayed Adams shopping. She felt tense in such crowds and subconsciously moved closer to Michael as they entered the first floor.
"Come here, my baby, and stay close, okay?" Sarah nudged Adam forward so that she could keep him in sight.
The stationary shopping wasn't as stressful as Sarah had expected. Michael called out the items, Sarah and Adam searched the aisles, and soon, each and every item on the long, bothersome list was stacked haphazardly in their trolley. Adam took great pride in choosing his pencils and pencil-case.
"I'll take this to the car and get my contract sorted out, then I'll meet you both at the restaurant for lunch,'' Michael said as he gave the cashier his card.
Sarah frowned unhappily at the thought of doing Adams uniform fittings on her own.
"Fine, but it shouldn't take that long. If we don't get what we need, or the ques are too long, then we'll just meet you for lunch," she replied, holding Adams hand and rushing out the store into the busy mall corridor.
The clothing stores were on the next floor, so she hurried along until she came to the escalators. Adam's attention was on the toy store windows as his mother dragged him through the crowd.
"I want a new bicycle, mummy. I'm big now, I need a big one," he insisted.
"Of course baby. It makes me sad how big you are now. You used to be so so tiny. I promise we'll come back another day and you can choose any bicycle you want," she smiled, bending and giving him a quick kiss on the head.
She took a deep breath as her eyes roamed over the crowds of people on the floor below as she descended with the escalator.
Meanwhile, at the nearby coffee shop, Jack sat sipping coffee. He had been awaiting this moment ever since the idea had formed in his head. He had waited impatiently as his plans began to unfold, and the preparations were made. The money and time spent, meticulously organising each detail of his idea had made his bodyguards laugh at his insanity. He thought of it as a recent hobby and called it an 'idea', whilst they referred to it as a 'crazy obsession'. Maybe having all that wealth and free time had created a restlessness inside him. A restlessness that made him conjure up this idea. It was totally possible to pull it off, but was he capable? Could he pull it off? It wasn't an experiment, it was something he had to do to satisfy this restless craving. It had taken a month and a half to renovate his penthouse on the 31st floor, and transportation was no issue. The difficulty began when it came time to choose his subject. There were the obvious places, like colleges and universities, which brought him no luck. They all lacked something. He wanted some maturity and needed a bit of a challenge. Then he began scouting airports and random restaurants. Within a week he realized that time was being wasted due to his extraordinary taste or picky choices. It didn't seem like anyone would fit his criteria and each frustrating day that passed made him more resigned to settle for anything. He had taken his fifth cup of coffee for the day, each at a different restaurant, when he decided to call it quits. His head began to spin as his brown eyes scanned hundreds of faces in the crowded mall.
He was just about to tell his men to bring the car to the entrance when she caught his eye. The lighting gave her straight hair a reddish glow as she descended the escalator, like an angel landing on earth. Her skin was smooth and her perfect lips held a slight smile as she spoke. What caught his attention were her striking hazel eyes. She was the one he had been searching for. Even though her body was hidden by the people in front of her, he knew that she would be his perfect subject. Then, just as he was about to call his men, he watched as she bent and gave the boy standing beside her a gentle kiss on the head.
"Fuck..." He swore in disappointment.
She had a kid. That wasn't part of the deal and he hadn't planned for it. He watched as she gracefully stepped off the escalator and weaved her way through people, tugging the kid along with her. He stood up and threw some cash on the table then made his way towards her, never taking his eyes off her dark hair. He picked up his phone and called one of his men. Maybe the kid wasn't part of the plan, but he had to be certain about her. Maybe if he met her, she wouldn't appeal to him.
Sarah entered one of the more expensive stores, hoping it wouldn't be as chaotic as the others. She peered over at the counter section and was relieved to see a relatively short que.
"Mummy, I want this shoe. I saw all the other boys at school wearing this one," Adam commented, pointing at a shoe stand.
"Okay, baby. Let's see if they're comfy," Sarah bent to buckle on a pair for him.
Getting Adams school uniform sorted wasn't as tiresome as Sarah had initially thought it would be, but Adam did get annoyed after fitting on three different sized shirts. Sarah was finally content with the three sets of uniforms that fit Adam well, and was standing in the que when someone tapped her on the arm.
"Excuse me," he said politely.
Sarah turned and looked up at him questioningly.
"You dropped this," he handed her a couple of folded notes.
She glanced at it for a second, then blinked up at him in confusion.
"It's not mine,'' she stared at him, trying to read his demeanor.
When he continued to look at her, holding out the money, she looked away uneasily and put her arm on her son's shoulder protectively.
He was en-tranced by her eyes that seemed to give away her emotions. They captivated him, and her assertiveness and guarded demeanor was precisely the challenge he needed.
"Red shirt, dark hair, and she has a kid. Leaving Edgar's" he spoke into his phone as he left the store, smiling wickedly.
His patience had finally paid off, and now the plan was in motion.
Sarah watched the well-built man in the suit leave the store. What a strange encounter. He seemed so sure that she had dropped the cash. She hadn't carried any cash in her handbag. Michael had the cash and had given her the MasterCard to use.
"Thank you, ma'am," the cashier handed Sarah the receipt and shopping bags, snapping her out of her thoughts.
As she walked out of the store her cellphone rang.
"Hey, are you two done yet?" Michael asked.
"Yes, we're on our way. How are things your side?" Sarah replied.
"I'm gonna be a little late for lunch. Order the usual for me, I'll meet you soon," he replied.
"Okay. Oh no!" Sarah ran a hand over her face.
"What is it?" Michael asked, concerned.
"The escalators aren't working. I'm walking to the lifts. It's so crowded, Mike," Sarah groaned into the phone.
"I'll meet you soon, love. If you want to go eat somewhere else we can do that," Michael suggested.
"No it's fine, I'm starving. See you soon." Sarah was about to cut the call.
"Wait! Sarah?" Michael shouted over the phone.
Michael looked at the diamond encrusted bracelet that the jeweler was making adjustments to in front of him.
"I love you." he smiled into the phone, imagining her blush on the other end.
"Oh Mike! Just hurry up and get to the restaurant please!" Sarah scolded him in annoyance, but her smile was evident in her tone.
She shook her head, still smiling as she shoved her phone back into her handbag. The lifts were working slowly as dozens of people tried to squeeze in with their trolleys. She eyed the fire escape stairs next to the three sets of lifts. It was one floor, surely she could just walk up.
"Come this way ma'am," two men in security uniforms and walkie talkies pulled Sarah towards the fire escape emergency door.
"Why? What's going on?" She asked alarmed, turning to the people around her. Everyone was busy going about their business, not noticing her panic at all.
"There's been a suspected kidnapping. You and your son need to come with us for your own safety," he replied as he opened the door and gently pushed Adam in.
Sarah rushed behind Adam and looked around, confused at the unusually quiet staircase. Why wasn't anyone using the stairs, especially since the escalators were out of order? She turned to the men, confused, and saw that one had filled a syringe while the other had already taken Adam upstairs. Sarah dropped her shopping bags and tried to chase after them.
"Adam!" She wasn't fast enough, and as a chloroform cloth was placed over her mouth and nose, she felt a sharp prick on the side of her neck.
Everything happened quickly after that, as things became unclear and her body became numb. She felt herself being carried downstairs, and was barely conscious when she heard a vehicle door slam shut, then everything went blank.
Sarah felt sick. Between the pounding headache and nausea, she couldn't focus. She tried to open her eyes, but the fuzzy bright light that blinded her, caused more pain. There was a weird feeling as gravity seemed to alter her senses, then she turned to the side and vomited whatever was left in her tummy from breakfast.
"Her blood pressure is too low. Give me that," a man's voice commanded.
Sarah wanted to mention something about starving and missing lunch, but her body wasn't allowing her to move a muscle. She struggled to stay conscious as she felt a cold needle enter her arm and fluid begin to flood her veins. She groaned as her headache seemed to intensify, and then she slipped into unconsciousness once again.