Marilyn Burke pushed the trolley with no cares in the world. She bopped her head in tune with the music blasting through the headset on her head. As she perused the aisle with all the chocolates she’d ever known, she couldn’t help but remember a scene that looked just like that one...
“Mummy please let it be bounty.” Dani Looked up at her with the best puppy eyes the five year old girl could muster.
Marilyn shook her head and kept rummaging in her bag for the food stamps they were supposed to use for dinner that night. She earned extra tips at the diner from her late night shift the previous evening, so she thought she could afford to give the twins a little chocolate treat while they shopped for minimal groceries.
“No, I want Twinkles.” Andrew shook his curly brown locks with a fierce and brooding expression that only reminded her of their father.
She stopped looking through her bag for half a second, just to send them a look that will quell their bickering. She saw the stubborn look on both their faces, and she sighed, knowing she won’t get anything done unless she pacified them.
She knelt down to their level and looked deep into each twin’s eyes. “Fine, you can get your bounty, and he can get his Twinkles.”
Dani Looked confused for a bit. “But we usually share one bar.”
Marilyn’s heart broke at the obvious pointer at their near destitution.
“Don’t worry sweetheart. Today, you get to do something different.” She ruffled both their heads and they grinned at her.
“They are so beautiful. You must be so proud.” Marilyn heard a voice say behind her.
She stood up, gave the twins a look that said ‘don’t move’, and turned around to stare at the owner of the voice. To say she was surprised was an understatement. Since the one night stand that led to the conception of her twins, Marilyn could not remember the last time she felt attracted to a man again, until that moment.
The guy that stood before her looked every inch like a perfectly sculpted Adonis, and with her unfortunate experience with men, she knew it was too good to be true whenever someone looked that good.
“Yes, I’m proud of them.” She threw her children a glance as she smiled at the man.
Her gorgeous kids looked nothing like her, except for the olive skin complexion they got from her. Their hair, attitude, smiles, and stubbornness were gotten from their father.
The man stretched his hand towards her. “HI, I’m Ashton.”
Marilyn took the offered hand in a firm grip. “Marilyn.”
“Beautiful name for a beautiful woman.” He gave her a panty-melting smile, and Marilyn could swear he was trying to flirt. “Your husband must be a lucky man.”
“Oh, no. I’m not married.”
“Dating then?” He pressed on.
Marilyn shook her head. “No. I’m just single and happy to be.”
She had to let him know she wasn’t searching and she wasn’t going to jump into bed with him just because he paid her a compliment.
“Not searching eh? Would have really loved to know you better. What do you say we….”
“Ashton baby, they’re out of my brand of whipped cream. Did you get my bars of chocolate yet?”
A woman’s voice interrupted Ashton’s proposition, and Marilyn watched him wince visibly as he slowly turned around to watch the approaching woman pushing a filled trolley. She looked so beautiful, it was almost predictable that such beautiful creatures belong together.
The woman stopped near them and gave them a sweeping glance. “Oh, hi. Did you make new friends?”
“Yes babe. This is Marilyn and her kids.” Ashton switched into the perfect husband role immediately, and it made Marilyn sick.
The woman’s smile was genuine as she looked at Marilyn and the twins. “HI, I’m Cassandra. Your children are so beautiful. Are they twins?”
“Yes. This is Andrew and this little lady is Danielle.”
“Call me Dani.” Danielle threw her input and the adults laughed.
“Excuse me miss Cassandra.” Andrew called to the woman.
The woman laughed and the sound was flowery. “It’s Mrs. Ashton here is my husband.”
“He’s married to you?” Andrew sounded surprised.
“Then why was he asking my mummy on a date?” Dani asked, while Andrew nodded in affirmation.
Marilyn was mortified as everywhere became silent. She could only hear the hum of the other shoppers in the supermarket, but no one in their group could make a sound. Ashton suddenly looked pained, while Cassandra looked annoyed but not surprised.
Not ready to be a partaker in their family drama, Marilyn shushed Andrew and Dani, and apologized to the obviously embarrassed Cassandra. She led her kids away, and took the almost empty shopping basket from Andrew, to help him move faster.
When they were well away from the now fighting couple, Marilyn stopped the kids in front of the chocolate aisle and asked them to search for what they wanted.
“Search for something delicious for mummy too.”
They chorused their thanks and got to work. Marilyn knelt down to look properly in her bag for the food stamps. She could hear her kids bickering in the background, Ashton and his wife fighting a few feet away, the other shoppers buzzing like bees, but she knew her to tune out the noise.
Marilyn wondered if she was still very attractive. She got pregnant with the twins when she was just twenty years old and in her third year in college. They were a product of a hot and steamy one night stand with Dane West, and she never saw him again since that night.
She was now twenty five and managing to get her life back in order. Her hand felt a long piece of paper and she brought it out. It was a flyer she got from the creepy man in suit from the diner. He was always sitting in her jurisdiction, never talking, always the same order, and a generous tipper. The last time he came in, he dropped that flyer and only said three words “think about it” before stepping out of the diner.
She had totally forgotten about it until that moment. It was something about making all problems go away. The flyer had Rumpelstiltskin written in large cursive letters on top of it. At the base though, there was a box with the command “say yes!”
Marilyn shook her head for being ridiculous enough to believe something magical would actually happen when she said yes. She threw the paper in her bag, and faced the kids instead.
There were no kids.
That was very strange. Ashton and his wife were nowhere to be found either. In fact, the supermarket looked very empty and devoid of life except her.
What’s happening? She asked herself.
She left the basket, made her way over abandoned baskets, and through abandoned and cluttered trolleys. No one was in the pay point either. Where were the kids?
Marilyn’s heart started beating uncontrollably in her chest as she made her way out of the supermarket to the hot Hollywood boulevard. All she saw were abandoned cars on the street, swinging swingsets with no one on them, empty shops and booths, and an empty street.
Her voice only echoed back at her. Everyone was gone and Marilyn did not know what happened or where they were. She didn’t know how long she ran from shop to shop, screaming, crying and looking for her kids.
Marilyn wiped her tears as she packed every brand of chocolate her hands could carry, and dumped them into her nearly overflowing trolley. It has been twelve weeks since that day and she had finally accepted that she was all alone in the world.
She was standing in a deserted supermarket in the heart of Rabat, Morocco. She had met a cruise boat docked at the harbor few weeks back, and she had boarded it. The ship sailed itself and finally docked at Morocco, where she had spent more than a week. She knew it was finally time to move on.
She would end it all one day, but that would be after fulfilling all her life long fantasies of traveling around the world. Her next stop was Paris, and she knew she had a long drive ahead of her. Morocco to Spain was almost a day’s drive, and from Spain to France, well that was another thing entirely.
Paris had always been a place she wanted to see with her kids and a man she loved. It was a well guarded secret, and the only person she’d ever told was the father of her missing children. She never had money to make her dreams come true, but now she suddenly had the whole world at her disposal, and she was going to make the best of it.
Paris, here I come!
Dane West scowled at his reflection in the waters of the undisturbed Canals in Venice. Who knew the water could be this peaceful and clean? It was his second time in that city and he still hadn’t had enough of it. How much he wanted peace. He prayed for it every day, but if he had known this was the cost, he would never have made such prayers.
“If you come to this house drunk one more time, I will skin your hide. You hear me?”
Dane’s head throbbed and he could have sworn there was a marching band practicing their drumline moves in his head. He hated hangovers.
“Dane Henry West! I am talking to you.” His Nanny’s shrill voice jolted him from his pity party.
He raised his head from the cool kitchen counter to stare at his menacing nanny. Mrs. Brown raised he and his siblings from birth and she was a permanent fixture in their lives. Who knew a thirty year old man would still be afraid of his nanny?
“I’m sorry Elda, but can you please not shout?”
It was obviously a wrong thing to say because Mrs. Browns eyes grew larger, and he didn’t even know that was possible.
“I should not shout? Fine. How about I whisper to your Ma and Pa that you came home, into their home drunk off your bottom last night?” She looked menacing and concerned at the same time.
Dane felt like such an ass for annoying his wonderful nanny again. He seemed to be doing a good job of disappointing all the people in his life for the past six months.
He sighed and gave her a repentant look. “I’m sorry Elda.”
She sighed too and her hard expression gradually thawed. She smiled at him reluctantly and pushed a plate of steam hot omelets under his nose. Followed by a cup of piping hot black coffee, just the way he liked it.
“I’ll pass on the eggs this morning Elda. Just the coffee will do.”
Mrs. Brown nodded and turned around to continue making breakfast for the rest of his family, leaving him to think and feel sorry for himself.
He had lost his fiancée, his coming baby, his best friend, and his job all in one week. Since then, he had been trying to get back on his feet, and his parents had gladly volunteered to let him come home to them.
Unfortunately, with the way they wouldn’t leave him alone, he was wishing he could go back to Sydney, to his lonely bachelor pad.
He never knew he could feel so much about a woman since the night he left the mysterious but beautiful Marilyn in a hotel room in Hollywood five years back. But then, he met Anna and everything changed.
She was so beautiful, and too good to be true. That’s the thing with things that are too good to be true, they ARE too good to be true. Anna was a model and they met when he went back to Hollywood to trace Marilyn.
When he got to the same hotel, he didn’t meet any staff that worked there five years back, but he met Anna. She came for a modeling gig at Hollywood and was lodging in a room in that same hotel. When she realized he rented a suite in the same place, she was putty in his hands.
He forgot about his search for Marilyn and blessed the Heavens for his good luck. His and Anna’s love was a whirlwind romance and he didn’t hesitate to bring her back to Brisbane to meet his family. Surprisingly, none of his family members approved of Anna. Apparently, they saw what he failed to see; that she wanted his pockets more than she wanted him.
He had woken up one day to discover his name trending on social media. When he finally pulled up a tabloid page on his phone, it was to discover that his best friend was now the owner of AlmaCorp, a toy factory he had always wanted to acquire for his company. Coupled with that, secret details about the vulnerability of his company that he had shared with Anna were all over the news.
The board members, displeased with his letdown had allowed Mark, his so called best friend to buy him out and acquire his shares, after all, the shares were in Anna’s name. It was a gift she asked for when she told him they were expecting a baby. Apparently, the baby wasn’t his, but Mark’s.
Dane shook himself out of memory lane and managed to give his mother a smile.
“Good morning Ma.”
“I didn’t see you return on time last night, what happened?” She asked him while Mrs. Brown placed a plate of omelet and sweetened tea in front of her. “Thank you Elda.”
Before he could answer his mother’s question though, his smirking little brother strolled into their sunny and large kitchen to answer for him.
“That’s because he was getting shit-faced at the pub.”
“James watch your mouth young man.” Their mother scolded his annoying little brother.
James had the decency to look abashed. “Sorry Ma”
She turned her eyes to Dane. “And you, were you getting drunk?”
Dane shook his head. “Of course not.”
Mrs. Brown snorted and his mother looked at him with a suspicious glint in her eyes.
“Who’s getting drunk?” His father asked with his booming voice and overbearing presence as he walked into the kitchen.
He kissed his wife on the forehead, pulled a stool near her, and started helping her finish off her omelet.
“No one.” Dane muttered.
“Hey, are we frustrating Dane? Why didn’t anyone tell me?” They were finally complete when he heard Elizabeth, his little sister say.
She gave him a huge grin and placed a sloppy kiss on his cheek. Dane wiped the mark off his cheek with exaggerated irritation, while Elizabeth shook her head and helped herself to the omelet Dane pushed away earlier.
“Dane, when are you going to snap out of this? It’s been six months for the Lord’s sake.” His mother cried.
His father patted her on the back, and then helped himself to a sip of her tea. “Let it all out darling.”
“I think he needs to get laid.” Mark inputted from his position beside Mrs. Brown at the cooker.
Dane choked on his coffee, and Elizabeth started patting his back.
His mother turned to give Mark a stern look while Mrs. Brown spanked his hand with a ladle. Serves the goat right.
“Does he know how to have sex again though?” Elizabeth’s soft voice came from his side.
Dane dropped his mug, slid off the stool and raised his hands in surrender. “Jesus! Is nothing sacred in this house anymore?”
“I think if you tell him it’s a back and forth motion with…” Mark began, ignoring his question.
Dane shook his head and walked out of the kitchen. He was done with his family. He needed to find a way back to Sydney before those people pushed him to the edge. He saw his jacket on the couch, where he passed out the night before.
He grabbed it with force, and a small flyer floated out of it slowly to the floor. He bent and picked it up. It was the flyer the quiet man in suit gave him the previous night. They had always met at the pub but they never spoke. Until last night. He gave him the flyer, said “Think about it”, and stepped out of the pub.
He saw the Rumpelstiltskin written in large letters on top of the flyer and chuckled. Someone loved being a fairy tale character obviously. He was intrigued when he saw the “say yes” command at the base of the paper.
“Yes?” He murmured quietly.
The ringing landline jolted him out of the trance the strange looking flyer had placed him in. The ringing continued and Dane became suspicious. One of his annoying family members should have picked up the ringing landline in the kitchen by now, but they were obviously busy plotting his life that they could care less about a ringing phone.
He marched into the kitchen with annoyance, ready to tell them off, but stopped short when he realized there was no one there. Only empty plates and mugs.
Dane shook himself from the memory lane and away from the canal. He walked back to his waiting helicopter. He had a trip to Paris to begin.
Marilyn thought she heard a helicopter outside but it wasn’t possible. It was probably the movie she was watching in the very empty theater. Best be on the safe side, she told herself as she decided to go check it out.
“Marilyn? Is that you?”
Dane wasn’t sure his subconscious had conjured her up, but there she was, stepping out of the same theater she had always wanted to go to.
Marilyn couldn’t believe her eyes.