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She hurried the children to bed without her usual finesse.
“But Mommy …” they protested as she insisted that it was too late for a bedtime story. Usually it was never too late for a book, but tonight was different. She needed them in bed and fast asleep so that she would have time to prepare the house and herself. She kissed the children good night and started to leave.
“When is Daddy coming back?” her daughter asked plaintively.
“He’ll be back from his trip in two days, honey, and I promise to read to you tomorrow,” she responded over her shoulder as she closed their door and headed to her bathroom.
After her shower, she stood in front of her full length mirror and examined her body critically. The toll of two pregnancies showed in her sagging breasts and the folds and stretch marks on her stomach. She had always been proud of maintaining her weight, but tonight she noticed every bump and spot. They revealed the wear and tear of the passing years on her body.
‘No longer the body of a teenager,’ she thought with a sigh, ‘but it’ll have to do.’
She sprayed herself with perfume and smothered her skin with cream until it shone. She appraised herself again, spinning around and looking over her shoulder.
‘Not TOO bad,’ she thought, ‘At least the gym is beginning to pay off … in more ways than one!’
She looked through her closet for something to wear. Everything looked old and frumpy. Finally she settled on a girlish dress that fitted at the waist and flared, falling just above her knees. It accentuated her legs, her best asset; the only part of her body that was unmarked by the passage of time.
They had agreed that she would leave the garden gate unlocked so she would not be seen letting him in. The gate and the front door, actually, so that he could enter surreptitiously. Although the house was on a half acre of land and quite far away from their nearest neighbour, she could not take the chance of a passerby seeing her letting a man into her house so late at night, especially when the man was not her husband.
She was as giddy as a school girl on a first date as she completed her preparations. She opened a cupboard in the kitchen to get out some candles and knocked over a box of salt by mistake.
“Oh shoot!” she said softly, and without thinking she grabbed the broom and started to sweep. “Oh shoot!” she said again.
Her grandmother had always warned her never to sweep at night. “Bad luck,” she would say shaking her head, “very bad luck. You might as well break a mirror, instead.” It was one of many superstitions that her Trinidadian grandmother had drummed into her head as a child. Sometimes she found it hard to completely disregard them.
“I guess now I’m supposed to throw a bit of salt over my shoulder for luck,” she said out loud with a laugh, finishing the clean up job quickly.
She heard the sound of a car approaching slowly. Her heart rate quickened with anticipation, but the car continued past her house. She sat in the living room and contemplated having a drink of wine to calm her nerves. She had never done anything like this before. She had never even been touched by any man except her husband. But it had been a long time since he had touched her with love. She knew that somewhere inside the reticent soul he had become, he still loved her, but she could no longer reach him and it was not enough to live with a memory of who he had been. When she met Mike at the gym it had been like a breath of fresh air. Although he was almost 15 years younger than she was, they had great conversations and he looked at her the way her husband used to when they first met.
She knew that she was being naïve, but she felt young and desirable when he spoke to her. When they first met, she had convinced herself that there was nothing wrong with them having a drink together after their work out. Then, it was just one kiss. But when his lips touched hers, she knew that it would not stop there. The passion that rose in her was immediate and tremendous. There was a physical movement in her loins.
‘Loins … do people still use that word?’ she wondered, laughing at herself.
She tried to anticipate what it would be like once he arrived. She would invite him to sit on the couch. Hopefully she wouldn’t be too nervous. She would offer him some wine to lighten the mood. She wondered if he would make the first move and how she would respond.
She heard a soft knock and then the door opened. Mike stepped in.
“Lauren! Wow!” he exclaimed, “you look …. you look fantastic..”
Before she could respond, before she could execute the script she had planned, he walked over to her, took her in his arms and kissed her passionately, roughly. His hands moved on her body starting at her breasts and then drifting downwards, caressing her legs and raising her skirt. With one arm around her waist, his mouth still on hers, he turned her around and led her towards the couch.
Lauren didn’t know how to respond. She enjoyed the kiss at first, savoring the passionate embrace with her eyes tightly shut, but when his hands began to roam, she thought, “This is going too fast.”
She opened her eyes and almost bit Mike’s lip as she screamed in horror.
Another man was in the room. He was standing in front of her. He must have come in behind Mike, but the couple, locked in their passionate embrace, had neither heard the door nor noticed his arrival. He wore a ski mask and black clothing. He looked Lauren in the eyes, put a finger to his lips and pointed downwards. Lauren’s eyes followed his finger and she realized that he was pointing a gun at Mike’s back. She barely stifled another scream.
Mike swung around to see what had captured her interest behind him.
The man spoke. “Now what do we have here?”
“Take whatever you want and get out,” Lauren said.
“Yeah, I’ll take what I want,” he replied, leering at her. “Tonight and any other night I come back. Or I’ll tell hubby your dirty little secret.”
He grabbed Lauren by the hand and pulled her roughly towards his chest. He held her in his arms.
‘Time for those Taekwondo lessons to pay off,’ Lauren thought to herself, and she stepped hard on his left foot. With only a second’s pause, she raised her right foot to knee him in the groin. Then she snapped her hands out sharply, freeing herself from his grasp and knocking the gun out of his hands.
“Get the gun, Mike, get the gun!” she cried, pulling the ski mask off of the intruder’s face as he bent over, groaning and holding his groin. She looked at him and thought to herself that his face looked quite familiar.
Mike ran to where the gun had fallen and picked it up. The intruder straightened up slowly and laughed.
“Good moves lady,” he said, “but you made one miscalculation. Tell her Mike.”
“I’m sorry, Lauren, it wasn’t supposed to go down like this.” Mike said, pointing the gun at Lauren. Her mouth dropped open in disbelief.
“Yes, Lauren,” the intruder said mockingly, “lover boy here set you up. But he misjudged YOU. We never thought you’d put up a fight.”
“You set me up?” Lauren said to Mike, her eyes filling with angry tears. “You know this man?”
“He’s my brother,” Mike said. Then he continued softly “Lauren, I thought he would just rob you all and leave. You’re a nice lady, so quiet and all, I thought it would just be easy and no one would get hurt.”
Lauren looked from one to the other and realized why the intruder looked familiar. He and Mike had the same short curly hair and the sensuous lips that had attracted her to Mike in the first place. Ignoring the gun in Mike’s hand, Lauren strode over to him and slapped him hard across the face.
“You worm!” she hissed. She could not believe she had let herself believe that a 20-something year old could find her irresistible. She thought of the spilled salt. Her grandma had been right; sweeping in the night was bad, bad luck.
“Mommy?” a sleepy voice came from the end of the room. All three adults snapped their heads in the direction of the voice and saw Lauren’s 6 year old son standing in the entrance to the living room, rubbing his eyes with one hand and clutching a teddy bear in the other.
Lauren recovered from the surprise first. She took advantage of the distraction and with a quick front kick she knocked the gun from Mike’s hand. She dove for it and pointed it at the two men.
The little boy began to cry.
“Don’t cry, darling.” Lauren said soothingly, “Mommy needs you to be a really brave boy. Go to the kitchen phone and call 9-1-1 just like I taught you. Tell the police there are some bad guys in our house.”
The boy ran quickly into the kitchen. Mike’s brother took a step towards Lauren, staring her straight in the eye.
“You would never shoot us,” he said menacingly, “Come on, hand me the gun and we’ll leave quietly.”
Lauren’s voice matched his. “You misjudged me once before, don’t make the mistake again.”
The man took another step forward, his hand outstretched towards the gun. He jumped back as a loud noise reverberated in the room. Lauren had aimed just to the right of his leg and fired into the floor.
He raised his hands in mock surrender. “Okay, okay,” he said to Lauren and then to his brother he said, “Mike, it takes you to hook up with a crazy woman.”
Lauren’s son came back to the door. He was crying now. “Mommy? Mommy? I called the police.”
Lauren answered without taking her eyes off of the two men. “You did great, honey. Daddy will be so proud. Now go wait in your room, Mommy’ll be right there.”
They heard sirens in the distance.
“Wait, there, little boy,” Mike’s brother spoke to Lauren’s son. The boy stopped, not sure what to do.
The intruder spoke to Lauren. “You won’t shoot us with your son watching. Plus, if the cops get here, we’ll tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, right Mike?”
Mike looked down at his feet in silence.
His brother continued “Come on, Mike, let’s go.”
The two men backed away from Lauren, their arms in the air and their eyes on the gun until they reached the front door. Without turning around, they opened the door. They stepped outside and made a quick exit in their vehicles.
Lauren looked at the gun in disgust. She dropped it on the carpet and collapsed on to the floor in tears. She pulled her son to her and hugged him tightly as together they waited for the police to arrive.