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Silence (8)

"..."

"Miss Jones? Are you there?"

A deep male voice replied, "Fuck off."

Then the line cut off ominously.


Mia was lying down on the kitchen floor, shaking terribly with tears staining her boiling cheeks. She gasped for air, struggling to catch her breath.

"Aw, what's the matter, kitten? Aren't you happy to see me?"

She turned over on her backside and stared up at the ceiling. There was a sharp pain shooting up her ribcage. It hurt to even breathe.

"Don't you miss all the fun times we've had together? I know I do."

She picked herself up, groaning and wincing in sheer agony. Her head was pounding while the world was spinning below her.

"What's that, eh? You want me to leave? But I just got here."

She exited the kitchen and tumbled forward, tripping on thin air. She clung to the sofa for support. Max was in her sight with his back turned towards her. He appeared to be playing with his toys, as usual.

"Who says I'm here for you, kitten? What if I want to see him?"

Her grip tightened on the sofa.

'Asshole,' she thought.

Mia walked forward to get a closer look at her son. A faint orange glow was lighting up his little face. Her eyes widened in terror when she witnessed what he was holding in his hands.

"No, Max! Give that here!" She barked, as she snatched the item from him. It was an emerald green lighter with the initials 'S.K' imprinted on it.

"That dou-" Mia paused, looking at the three-year-old boy. She knew better than to curse in her child's presence. "That thing must've left it behind."

Her son raised his little arm, his black glare focusing on the glistening object.

"No, Max! This isn't a toy!" Mia said firmly. "I'm sorry, baby, but I'm taking this away. It's for your own good. There are some things in your life that you just don't need."

"So, I'm forbidden from seeing him? Bad kitten. That's my kid too, y'know."

****************************************************************************

"Your son appears to be fine, ma'am," the GP said after a lengthy examination.

"Are you sure?!" Mia asked, biting her nail. "He doesn't have any breathing issues, or skin problems or any eye irritations?"

"No, he doesn't," the GP replied. "I must say, you're a very cautious and sensible mother. Not many people would come for a check-up if they escaped a house fire safely."

"I'm aware the toxic smoke is just as dangerous as the fire - especially for my infant son," Mia said. "It can cause horrible things, like heart attacks and cancer. I lost my friend to a stroke because of this very reason."

"I'm sorry to hear that, ma'am."

"Are you sure there won't be any long-term consequences for Max?" Mia questioned.

"Well, at the moment, he isn't showing any signs and symptoms of anything life-threatening. But if you're worried, you can return for more check-ups in the future."

"Yes, I'd like that," Mia said, as she picked up her son. He squirmed around, clearly wanting to be put down. She held onto him tight. "I'll see you later, doc."

"Wait! You need to get checked too."

"That won't be necessary," Mia replied, shocking the GP. "Thank you for your time. Goodbye."

****************************************************************************

"Thanks for letting us stay here," Mia said, as she fumbled around with her hands awkwardly.

"No problem. I'm glad you two are alright," Josh said, as he patted Max's head gently.

The little boy was sitting down on the leather seat attached to the arcade machine, seeming oblivious to the adults.

"Yeah... same," Mia breathed out. "That was a close one."

Josh pulled her away into the corner, as he sneaked a glance at Max cautiously. Then he looked back at his anxious girlfriend.

"So... what exactly happened?"

"Um... there was faulty electrical wiring or something like that," Mia said, as she looked down at her fumbling fingers.

"Really? That burnt the whole house down?"

"Mmh."

Josh understood that she didn't want to talk about it further. He sighed.

"Well... whatever it was, I'm glad. I mean, I didn't want you guys hurt or anything. I'm just thankful that you're both here with me."

"Thanks. You're the best," Mia said, beaming brightly. "But we won't be here for long. I'll find another place soon enough."

"Don't stress it," he said, wrapping his strong arms around her waist. "Stay as long as you like. It's quite lonely in this big ol' place by myself and I'm barely here, since I've got a busy job and all. It'll make the house feel more alive with you two around. Besides, if it means getting to be with you everyday, then it's my pleasure - really."

Mia blushed, as Josh pulled her closer to him. Their foreheads were touching, while he stared at her like she was the most beautiful person in the world.

"There's nothing I won't do for you, baby girl," he said, his voice smooth and silky. His words were like a punch to her heart.

"I know," she whispered, looking down guiltily.

He tilted her chin up, forcing her to look him in the eyes. His kind, deep-brown eyes that made her feel weak to the knees. It sucked her in and made her forget about everything for a moment. She leaned forward, closing the distance between them.

Kissing him made the world disappear around them. It was slow and soft, comforting in ways that words would never be. His hand rested below her ear, his thumb caressing her cheek, as their breaths mingled.

He pulled down the collar of her sweater, wanting to tease her neck with his kisses. He was greeted by the sight of long purple and blue bruises. He froze.

"Mia... what happened to your neck?"

Her hand quickly flew to her neck, as she stepped back. "Nothing."

"Don't lie to me. It looks like... finger marks," Josh said, stepping closer to her.

"It's nothing. Really. I was just-"

"Who hurt you!?" Josh demanded, his eyes alight with fury. "You can tell me, Mia. I swear on everything that I love, I won't let them get away with this! Just say the name and I'll hunt that sucker down real quick - they won't know what hit 'em."

Mia crossed her arms, as she looked away. "It's nothing! Seriously! You're making a fuss out of nothing. I had an allergic reaction from this sweater my mom sent me. I'm fine though, it's calming down now."

"Mia..."

She turned her back on him.

"If you don't mind, I want to be alone right now," Mia said, as she headed towards the door. "Please keep an eye on Max. I'll be back."

"Sure, kitten."

She tensed up. "What did you say?"

"I said, sure thing," Josh repeated.

"Oh."

Confusion and worry was written across his face, as he watched his girlfriend walk away.

****************************************************************************

"He stopped by earlier today and claimed that he was Max's father," informed the practitioner of Sunny Lane Nursery.

"Oh? Is that so..."

"Yes. But, of course, we wouldn't let him in. Not without your authorized consent," the practitioner said reassuringly.

"Thank you," the mother said. She sighed in relief.

"Mind you, he does look an awful lot like Max - but you told us that the father died," the practitioner pointed out.

"Hmm... strange."

"You did tell us the truth... didn't you?"

The mother stayed quiet.

"It's alright if the father is alive. We are here to help. We just need you to be honest with us," the practitioner urged on.

"No. He's dead," Mia replied stubbornly. "I have no idea who that imposter is. Please let me know if he comes back. Most importantly, make sure he stays far, far away from my son."
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Published: 8/18/2018
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