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Crime Drama Suspense

(Author's note: Depictions of abuse that may not be suitable for all readers.)


I see two doors. Same two I'm faced with every morning hours before sunrise. I wish the green and gold uniform reflected how I really feel about my job. But I realized a long time ago there is no job that's free from interaction with the other gender.


My gloved hand curls into a fist. One which I often daydream of using for something besides knocking. I have to control myself. I have to look golden, like these ridiculous stripes, eight hours a day, five days a week.


Seethe or sigh? These wee hours of the morning, before the bells of machines adds noise pollution to the heavy smog of cigarettes and vape pens, is my only chance to express anything other than routine scripted lines I'm paid to fake.


Good morning, Sir!


How are you?


Having any luck?


I'm so sorry! If you'll just give me one second, I'll be right out of your way!


This morning, I choose "seethe". My nostrils flare and my eyes, dulled by nights of shallow sleep, twist toward each other as I rap that fist just below the word "Men's" three times. The first is a warm-up; the second makes the door crack open briefly before thwacking shut again; the third makes my knuckles sting.


Housekeeping!


Any time I hear one of those deep grumbles followed by the boom of Someone in here! I quake with fear of losing control. I've never understood why they can't afford to hire a male to clean the Men's restrooms. Nope, it's all on me. All three of them, three times per shift (not counting the emergencies that never fail to happen in-between: clogged commodes, hangover vomit, whatever).


Maintenance!


Normally, I start with the Men's to get them out of the way, before all the cocktail-loaded bladders and horrible diets of the day turn the place into Grand Central Station. But today, I can't.


Though the font, size, and color are identical on both doors, there's always been something about the two simple letters prefixing men's on the other that's given me a sense of security.


I stare to the point of tunnel vision at the letter W. I noticed this a long time ago: It's an M turned upside down. I wish erasing the past could be as easy as turning one letter upside down. Always felt cozy about the O too. It's a complete, locked circle, and within it, I have nothing to fear. It's a bubble which can't be shattered; where the unchained rage of these hulking animals can't threaten me.


The frayed broom and warped dust pan lean against the wall, much like I feel doing for the rest of the day, as I reach behind me for the "CLOSED FOR CLEANING" sign I keep on the cart. They make these signs two words too long as far as I'm concerned.


I back away for a moment. Two doors. It's always a mystery what will be behind the one lacking the two extra letters on any given day. What will it be this time? Another cute little poem full of "F" bombs in the handicap stall? A pair of crap-stained briefs lovingly staring back at me from the interior of a bowl? A urinal plastered with shards of tobacco still glistening with saliva?


I retreat into my mind, begging for a way out of this. Go home sick? Yes! That's what I'll do. First, I'll clean the Women's. By then, it will have been an hour since I ate those scrambled eggs in the lounge. People were commenting that they smelled iffy.


The lingering scents of mixed perfumes guide me from stall to stall, searching for debris to sweep. The broom seems light as a feather now that I'm safe. I'm almost dancing with it by the time I reach the back of the restroom.


***


I should've known this was going to be the second worst day of my life. We stare at each other, for what must seem to him like decades. If my blood were pumping any harder, it would be seeping through my skin like lava. Is this a memory or a hallucination?


We're both shaking. His tears are streaming and cold. Mine are hot and mixed with sweat.


Who did this to you?


My throat itches from words I realize I just virtually screamed. The boy runs one half step backward, pressing himself against the toilet paper dispenser.


Your dad? I pry vocally with all my might for an answer.


Was it a stranger? Can you please tell me what he looked like?


I'm not helping anything with this tone, I know. It's just, if there's one thing I will not tolerate, it's...


He's silent and pale as death, but those swollen, throbbing eyes above his soft cheeks speak all that needs to be said for him. The poor thing probably ran in here to hide from that monster. My walkie is already unhooked from my belt, but I'm praying that sorry son of a bitch returns to the scene of the crime. I'll make him hurt like he's never hurt before, with no need for the assistance of Security!


These deadbeat fathers are all the same! I yell in thought. They come here to gamble and get drunk, and leave their helpless kids all alone with nothing to do but wander around waiting to be abducted. Which is bad enough, but this...this here...


I lower my outstretched hand to my side and take a deep breath. With emotions swirling, I ease toward the child.


Oh, honey. Everything's going to be all right now.


I'm hugging him before I realize it, and to my surprise, he lets me. I already know we're kindred spirits, both with the same childhood experience in common. But I'm going to see to it that this one grows up to be a wonderful gentleman, successful beyond his wildest dreams. I don't know how with the meager income I make, but I'm going to see to it! If I can't adopt him, I'll do whatever it takes to make sure he gets the care of a guardian who doesn't view children as tear-apart stress dolls!


I run the tips of my fingers across my own eye sockets. I can still feel the pain even though they healed thirty years ago. The psychosomatics of it all makes me so mad.


A spanking sound of footsteps approaching on concrete slices the silence. The boy shivers, wrapping himself around my right leg, burying his face into the fabric covering my thigh.


She's coming back! he stutters.


I sense the amplifying flutter of his tiny heartbeat, as well as my own as every muscle in me tenses up for action.


She? I attempt to ask through lips too far apart from each other to get the word out.


Who's she? I beg, struggling to keep my voice low.


The restroom door cracks open, with a withered young face and a shadowy, toothless mouth still venting a stream of vape smoke as a woman peeks through.


The boy doesn't have to endure the torture of peeking to know who she is. I can tell by the tone of his jittering voice as he tightens his grip on me. Mommy.


For a fleeting second, I pretend that skinny, meth-happy hag is just some evil stranger, and I'm the real Mommy. Protecting. Nurturing. Supporting this sweet, adorable little guy who has the right to spend these days playing and learning, rather than fearing for his life.


The door smacks shut and the sound of footsteps resumes in reverse, quickly diminishing as she flees. I jerk the walkie to my lips and shove the button in while sprinting after her.


Security to the front lobby, immediately!


May 23, 2021 18:43

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16 comments

Francis Daisy
01:47 Aug 11, 2021

Gip, The tragedy of this! The pain radiated off the page, yet I cheered so at the end. Praise be that the little boy was safe and saved. And, you showed that we just never know who the abuser can be; people make assumptions all the time. Well written story about such a difficult topic. This couldn't have been an easy write. -A

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Gip Roberts
19:45 Aug 11, 2021

Thanks, Amy. It was my least favorite story to write because of the difficult topic. Drama is by far my least favorite genre because I feel like there's enough of it in real life that stories and movies should all focus on providing some kind of escape to a better place. You won't be seeing any more stories like this one for a while now coming from me. Thank you for reading, and I'm glad you liked the ending.

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Lavender Blue
02:22 Jun 24, 2021

Good job on a touchy subject!

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Gip Roberts
19:17 Jun 24, 2021

It was indeed a touchy subject. I'm glad you thought I handled it well, and thanks for the feedback.

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Amy Jayne Conley
08:23 Jun 18, 2021

Ohhhhhhh lord above this was awful. Beautifully-written, of course, but the plot... awful. How could ANYONE do that to a kid?? :( Knocked me proper sick. I hope, HOPE there was a peaceful outcome? Did the "mother" (if you can even call her that) get arrested and sent to jail? Did the wee lad get his safe upbringing in a loving place? You never fail to make me feel things, Gip! Another stellar piece!

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Gip Roberts
19:47 Jun 18, 2021

Thanks, Amy. Yes, when I wrote it, I imagined that the cleaning lady went on to adopt the kid, the birth mother got put away for life, and he was ok from then on (Well, except for the mental trauma. I don't think anything can ever erase something like that). I hated writing this story, but I realize if I'm ever going to make it as a writer, I have to be willing to try writing about things I'm not comfortable with. But enough of that for now; I'm ready to get back to writing something that makes me happy with this week's prompts. Making th...

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Amy Jayne Conley
21:09 Jun 18, 2021

Right on all counts there, Gip. You have to step outside of your comfort zone, absolutely - it's the only way to improve, as it is with anything! You are FAR too kind! :D

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Akshara .
02:32 Jun 09, 2021

Hello! I really liked how you captured the feelings of the boy and the lady in the story. I really enjoyed reading this, great job! :) And part two of my story "Mistakes can't be undone" is up! I really hope you check it out and give me advice! 😄

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Gip Roberts
19:11 Jun 10, 2021

Thank you. I'll be glad to go read part two :)

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Kathy Roberts
17:20 Jun 03, 2021

Wow! You captured the feelings of both the little boy and the lady very well. This story was short but powerful.

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Gip Roberts
19:14 Jun 03, 2021

I didn't enjoy writing this one, so I'm glad for the positive feedback. Thanks for the like.

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Robert Consiglio
20:17 May 31, 2021

A very riveting and powerful story. Well done.

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Gip Roberts
22:23 May 31, 2021

Thanks, Robert.

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Rachel Smith
04:47 May 26, 2021

Hi Gip, very well written as always. I thought you captured his feelings and history really well. I felt like I wanted to keep reading, like the story wasn't finished? Still a good story though! Well done.

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Gip Roberts
20:08 May 26, 2021

Hi Rachel. Thanks for the comment. The fact of the matter is, I hate writing drama stories, especially about sensitive subjects like this. But it seems to be what the world wants to read lately, so I've been forcing myself to try and working on improving at it. Hopefully my future ones will be a little longer and more complete. Thank you for your input.

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Rachel Smith
20:31 May 26, 2021

Oh no! I understand wanting to improve in an area you're not comfortable with but I feel sad that you're forcing yourself to write something you hate! I don't think you need to do that. Write what you love. It's meant to be enjoyable for you!

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