Flash: Burdened Reflections

Photo by Antoine Da cunha on Unsplash

Art cropped by Erin Penn

Rating: Mature

Heather pulled into the daycare parking lot shaking from exhaustion. Two co-workers had quit in the early morning because of the insulting and vulgar rudeness of the pre-Christmas crowd, leaving the rest of the store to take up the slack. Lunch never happened. Getting off at her normal time had required her to demand the ability to leave, or payment to cover the daycare penalties if she showed up late.

The backup at the registers had been bad enough the tightwads running the outlet debated the costs until she shut off her light and walked away from the waiting customers.

Prying her fingers from the staring wheel, Heather shouldered her handbag before leaving the car, feeling a little naked without extra weight of the diaper bag she had left when she dropped off the children. She glanced around at the four other cars, recognizing all the them, as she quickly crossed the graveled lot, shivering in the cold. The daycare wasn’t the best, but it was willing to take in the twins and the government covered all costs so she could work. She didn’t know how she would have made ends meet without welfare assistance.

It wasn’t like her ex would be paying child support. After he dumped her once the baby bump showed, he disappeared without a trace. Phone number, facebook, twitter, old address – nothing worked. She had been so stupidly enthralled she hadn’t notice she never met any of his friends and he hadn’t bother meeting any of hers. No one existed anywhere with the name Jevil Horne, and she had looked in ways not available to most people. It was like he wasn’t on the planet anymore. She couldn’t even find where he got his inks, and they had been elaborate.

Heat embraced her through her windbreaker once the door closed behind her. The tight entryway required her to step out of the path of an exiting parent, toddler on his hip. The father nodded in passing, looking as harried as she felt. They overlapped each day during pickup and dropoff. One day she should ask his name.

She needed a new group of friends since her old ones dumped her. Babies didn’t mix with the half she used to club with, and the rest, well, they had good reason for distancing themselves even if it hurt. Getting involved with other parents might be the answer, because she sure as sunspots wasn’t going to stick around at the General Outlet after the holidays. They already treated her as a second-class citizen since she gave birth.

Breezing by the always unmanned receptionist desk at the understaffed, cut-rate daycare, Heather made her way back to the nursery area.

“Hey, Mrs. Forester, running a little late today?” asked the extremely overweight woman rocking one of the babies in the crib area, greed gleaming in her eyes.

“Only twelve minutes, which, since I usually run twenty minutes early, means I am still ontime.” Heather snapped going to the crib where they double-bunked her twins. “And it’s Miss,” she muttered under her breath, knowing no amount of correction worked with the caregiver. Heather picked up the pink and blue striped bag hanging off the side of the crib, automatically counting diapers and bottles. She hadn’t got to pump today, missing lunch, but she had enough at home for tomorrow.

“They ate just fine and needed three changes today, plus one change of clothes.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Gula.” Heather pulled out her customer service smile for the hag, then lifted first one and then the other of her twins from the crib. She should complain about the daycare putting them in the same crib, but she did the same at home. At two months, there was plenty of room. Thinking into the New Year, and what her growing babies would need, required sleep she seriously lacked. Decision would be made later.

Juggling the two mostly awake children, Heather exited the building and loaded them in her blue Honda, carefully checking all the straps and kissing first her son and then her daughter on their foreheads, saying “I love you.”

Her parents, and her several sets of step-parents, never said it enough to her. If she remember right, and since she had wrote it in her diary because it had been unusual even then, the last time was her eleventh birthday. When she left home, she swore she was never going back.

If that means raising two children on her own, so mote it be.

It would be nice to hear the words from someone again. Not even her coven-mates said those magical words. Only things like “We support each other before the gods.” and “Blessed be.”

Tucking her blonde curls behind her ears, Heather climbed into the car and started shutting her door. The coven had been relieved to have a reason to kick her out; they always been scared about how quickly she learned and mastered new magics. Magic soaked into her like sunlight into a tan, it didn’t matter the form – fire or water, nature or –

The door wouldn’t close.

Heather looked up to find her ex, Jevil, grasping the top.

“Hello sexy.”

***Chapter Break

Heather’s breast tingled at the voice, trained after nearly a year under his kinky appetites, but her mind pulled the rest of her deeper in the car. He looked dangerously delicious, silhouetted against the gray, winter sky. His black curls hung around his shoulders ready to swing forward and cut off the world has he hovered above her, building anticipation before he slammed into her the first time, every time. His large hand pulled the door completely open, and he filled the space with his wickedly well-muscled body. She remember digging her hands into the hallows and stroking the planes of his sinfully perfect build. All she could think about is how much she wanted to kiss him, have him work his way down her body until she screamed for release.

Then someone tried to open the car door into the back seat. She always locked them after loading the children.

“What?” She snapped her head around to find two men, even larger than Jevil, if that was possible, trying to get in the car. The back of her car. Where her babies were.

“The door’s locked,” one of them reported, his voice satin and melted chocolate late at night, stirring hormones buried beneath the changes to her body required during nursing.

When Jevil reached to the button on her door to unlock the car, she called the winter wind and shoved him back, his unseasonably thin shirt covered in a light layer of ice.

He smiled, his eyes darkening beyond black, like they did when he applied nipple clamps or taught her a new incantation. “Don’t be that way babe.” He wiped the crusty frost from his front and strode toward the car again. “We just want the brats. It’s not like they are anything but a burden.”

burden. burden.

The day weighed down on her. Lack of food made her shake. Every screaming, demanding customer. The looks the daycare workers gave her. The abandonment of her friends. And all for what?

Her son made a sound, a half-cry for attention.

“Don’t you dare!” she spat, slamming the door. The Honda turned over instantly without her touching the key, and she peeled out, spraying gravel, hearing a slight thud when one of the men with Jevil didn’t move out of her way quickly enough.

She saw him leap impossibly high in the air, and for a second, a split second, that if she didn’t have the Sight, her mind would have brush aside for a more comfortable version of reality. Behind the suddenly naked man stretched two large wings. Black, shimmering with midnight purple and sunless silver scales, and perfectly matching the horns growing out of his head. One hand gave her a single taloned finger in her rear-view mirror, as he landed back on the ground, pulling the illusion back into place.

“Oh goddess, oh goddess.” Heather kept looking at her side mirror all the way home, though nothing seemed to be following her.

The rental was small, but affordable, at least on the salary she had before she got fired because of missing days from morning sickness. The hard scrabble since then from one minimum wage to job to another destroyed her anemic savings long before the babies were born. Government assistance workers had helped arrange partial payment until some real section 8 housing opened up, but she had to make up the difference. She hadn’t made her portion of this month’s payment; she didn’t think her landlord would kick her out until after Christmas. Her luck said today might be the day.

Well, good luck with that. No one would get anywhere near the house today. Pulling into the garage, she raised the wards her coven had put in place back when they used to meet here and locked the house up tighter than a fortress. When Jevil had dumped her, she had rescinded his welcome and cleaned the house of all traces of his existence. The first pass had been mostly to find something to cast a tracking spell because she wanted to give the jerk a piece of her mind, but the bastard hadn’t left even a hair behind. No way he could get inside now.

She breathed deeply instead of hyperventilating, and turned off the car, this time with the key.

“So, Apollo and Diana, how did you like meeting your daddy?”

The twins started crying after being silent the entire wild ride home.

(Words 1610; first published 1/27/2019)