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Crime Horror Suspense

Trigger warning: Child abuse, hazardous driving, character death, suicide


           “I wish this trip never happened.” I leaned my forehead on the driver’s side-window watching my husband carrying the baby into another diner. This was the fifth time we had to stop to change her diaper since this trip started two hours ago. My stomach had been filled with banana cream pancakes, over-roasted coffee and milkshake that got us those bathroom privileges. I hoped this diner would have something else for a change, or the baby could actually keep the food down this time: she vomited the strawberry sauce from the last place all over my freshly steam-washed backseat carpet. I turned off the engine and air conditioning to save some gas, but when I smelled the combination of hot air mixed with greasy food, scented wipes and vomit, I suddenly regretted my choices.

           A knock on the window woke me up from my daydream. My husband came back with baby in one hand, and a takeout box in another. I opened the door and took the baby from him. “All cleaned and ready to go!” He cooed at the baby and handed me the box. “Here! I have to use the restroom too.” He ran towards the diner again. ”I got you French toast this time!” He yelled as he ran. Sighing, I started putting the baby into the car seat. Her little legs kicked leaving grey marks all over the forearms of my white chiffon blouse while I strapped her down. After clicking on the seatbelt, I got out of her claws and groaned at my ruined blouse. Glaring at her blissful grin from ear to ear, I reached out one hand and pinched her lotus-liked calf just behind the knee with my thumb and index finger, leaving a purple bruise. She screeched like fingernails scratched over a blackboard but could only wiggle under the straps.

           The corner of my lips twitched upward.


           This was our first family trip to celebrate our daughter’s first birthday. Like our trip, having this baby was a mistake from the beginning: I never wished to be a mother. This pregnancy was an accident, “but a happy one.” Commented by my husband. He always said he was fine with no kids, but the obvious tinge of sadness in his voice whenever we talked about it was hard to miss. When I told him I was pregnant, he got on his knees and begged me to keep it. “I will do anything to support you. This baby will be half you and half me. Don’t you like that idea?” He looked at me with pleading eyes: “Besides, you don’t want to kill a little life that’s already inside you, right?” I touched my still flat stomach and imagined a baby inside. I couldn’t do that. Just the thought made my heart ache. I ended up making a choice that I regretted.

           The pregnancy was just as hard as I thought, but motherhood was far worse. Since the beginning of my pregnancy, everyone we knew judged me from head to toe: “You’ve put on too much weight! it’s not healthy for the baby.” “Your breasts are too small! You won’t have enough milk supplies.” I felt my identity as a woman had been stripped away and replaced by the title mother without my consent. No one cared about me as a woman anymore. My sole purpose of living was protecting this little human growing inside me. They always said: “You are a mother now!” “You have to think of the baby!” My needs as a woman no longer mattered: what it mattered was what’s best for the baby.

           It was worse after she was born. My husband and I agreed we would take turns changing her and feeding her at night. Little did I know once that man was asleep, there was no way of waking him up. For the past 365 nights, I ended up taking care of her morning and night all by myself. Even the days I suffered mastitis along with a 39 degree fever, he would sleep through the times when her screaming could wake up the entire building. Left me no choice but getting up and tending her needs. Many nights, long after she had gone to sleep, I sat in bed widely awake. In the past year, I had seen the night sky at every hour. Kobe had a famous line when accepting the Icon Award: “We are up here because of 4am.” I wondered what award I deserved for getting up at every hour as a mother.


           He finally got back into the car and I started the engine again. The baby cried in the background as I got out of the parking lot and drove down the highway again. “You sure took your time.” I peaked at the baby crying helplessly in the rare end mirror. “The line was insane.” He shrugged, opening the box of French toast. “Why do diners always sell the same food?” I complained again. “Probably get their shipment from the same place?” He turned his head, smiling at me while handing me a forkful of French toast dripping in syrup. I took the bite, wincing: “You know I don’t like too much syrup.” “Sorry, it’s hard to add the right amount in a moving car.” His apologies never sounded sincere. He put rest in his mouth, chewing and speaking at the same time: “It’s a hundred times more delicious with lots of syrup. I still don’t understand how you don’t like it.” I glared at him briefly at the red light: “Some of us are trying to watch our calorie intake.” I had been on a diet since giving birth, but the results were disappointing. “I told you, I’m fine with the way you look.” He shrugged again.

           The car in front of me was driving at 80km per hour on the freeway. Seeing my chance at the side mirror, I aggressively changed lane: “Some of us don’t want to be just fine. We want to look good!” “You don’t think beauty is more on the inside?” He put his elbow on the window, face leaning on his syrup glazed hand. “Oh, now I am not beautiful on the inside?” I shot him a glare, but kept an eye on the road. “I never said that.” He put up his hands in defeat: “I am just saying maybe if you can’t change the way you look, you can change your perspective. Like read more, stay healthy, enjoy motherhood…” “Motherhood is what got me into this mess…” I mumbled the last line, taking another peak at the baby crying in the background. “Should we do something about the baby?” He turned around, trying to figure out what made her uncomfortable this time. “She will be fine. Let her be for now.” I kept my glaze on the road. “But she was fine when we got out of the bathroom. Did something happen when you put her in the car?” He turned to me again. Feeling guilty, I avoided his glance: “Why would you ask me that! If you are worry, do it yourself next time!” I shot him an angry glare. He turned his head again, seeing tears and snot streaming down the baby’s face. He dug out his phone and started looking at the map: “Let’s find a service station. I need to check on her.” I rolled my eyes silently. Great, another stop.


           Marriage is a magnifying glass that enlarges each other’s shortcoming. To me, child bearing made me learned a whole new side of my husband. Before the baby was born, I thought we were the perfect match. Our honeymoon phase lasted for three years prior to having a baby. After the baby’s arrival, everything became a source of argument. Who would wash the endless bottles? What to do with the ruin clothes? How to stop the baby from crying? Those little arguments piled on and left unresolved, because our communication was constantly interrupted by the baby. If our marriage was indeed a magnifying glass, it was starting to crack from the middle.

           The backseat door opened and closed. I didn’t bother to look as I laid my head on the side window again taking a power nap. The passenger side door opened, a heavy weight settled in. I woke up from my nap, eyes unfocused and annoyed at the awakening. “Good news!” He buckled his seatbelt while I pushed the car keys in. “I found a hidden spot about 3 miles from here. The people at the restaurant said they have a small waterfall that you can go for a quick dip. Let’s take a detour!” I blinked, a waterfall sounded wonderful as I embraced the feeling of my sweat soaked shift sticking to my skin. I smiled for the first time since this trip started. “Let’s go!” I slammed the gas pedal.

           The road leading to the waterfall was quite a bumpy ride. I made a U turn at a sign that read “mirror pond”. The road started with concrete, then turned into soil and cobbles here and there. Tall spruces spread on the right side like silver colored fence guarding the scenery waiting ahead. The top of a soil slope peak out the trees crowns. I carefully steadied the steering wheel to avoid slipping down the narrowed wild roads. After 10 minutes of driving, we arrived at the bottom of the slope. A tour bus slowly climbed the hill heading towards the parking lot locating halfway. I settled my foot on the brakes, decided to let the bus go first. “Your secretive spot doesn’t seem that secretive.” I commented while putting my right elbow onto the window and stretched my neck. He clicked his tongue: “Next time, I will drive and you can make the itinerary.” I snickered: “Like you can ever drive on these types of roads.” He kept quiet, I inwardly smiled to myself. It was always a nice feeling to get under his skin.

           “What the…” He suddenly sat up right. I looked towards him, not sure what he meant. “That bus! Oh gosh…” His hands quickly unbuckled his seatbelt: “Get out of the car! QUICK!” Before I knew what was going on, he was out of the door. I looked back out the front window: the bus in front of us skid down the slope uncontrollably. It was going to crush into… US! I finally understood the situation, but my limbs felt heavy like they were made from lead. My arms tightened on the wheel, legs fixed on the pedals. The only thing moving was my quickened breathing. I heard the some shuffling noises when the backseat door opened. Then everything went quiet, except for the bus tires shrieked down the road and my loud breathing.

           Overwhelming panic washed over me. I knew what I need to do: I needed to get out the car, but fear gripped my chest so tight, my entire body froze. The only thing I could do was listening to my heavy breathing and quickened heartbeat. I could hear the shouting outside the window yelling for me to get out, but I couldn’t do anything. As I watched the back of the bus heading towards me, I shut my eyes and braced myself, waiting for the horrific pain to come.


           The pain never came. I heard a loud crush, then cracked open a slit in one eye after a few more minutes: the bus had crushed into the wall behind me, leaning heavily on the right side stone wall. Later I found out I was incredibly lucky: The bus driver saw my car and steered the wheel to the right, causing the right tire to burst while sliding down the mountain. The bus had missed my car and didn’t land on me either. Adrenaline pumping in my veins, my limbs suddenly regained motion: I shifted the gear to park, released my hands from the wheel while letting out a long exhale.

           A wave of knocking on the window startled me. My husband held the baby in one hand and knocked the glass with another, yelling and asking if I was hurt. Hands shaking, I slowly unbuckled the seatbelt and opened the door. He immediately reached for my hand. I hesitated for a moment, before taking his hand and stepping out of the car. Together we made it to a rather safer place away from the bus. As we stood there watching the people slowing getting out of the deformed bus door, the fear and near-death experience I just encountered melted into tears. I collapsed on the grass, not caring for the stains for the first time, buried my face in my hands and burst into tears.

           For a while, he just stood next to me cooing the baby in his arms. After the baby had calmed down, he squatted next to me and patted my shoulder: “Hey, it’s okay now. You are safe. There is no need to cry.” I yanked his hand away and shouted: “What was that back there? Why didn’t you help me?” He looked at me with puzzled eyes: “I told you to get out the car, our baby needs my help.” “You only helped her! I could’ve died in there! Even after you secured the baby, you didn’t come back for me!” I pointed towards where he stood: “You stayed there like a coward!” Eyes blurred with tears, I then pointed at the sleeping baby: “You only cared about that baby! You didn’t even try to save your wife!” He hugged the baby tighter defensively: “She is only 12 months old! I helped her first because she couldn’t get out of the car by herself!” He glazed into my eyes, not backing off my staring: “Honestly, I think you would have done the same thing. At least one of us needs to stay alive to take care of the baby. I wouldn’t be mad if you choose her over me in the same situation. It’s maternal instincts.”

           I couldn’t believe my own ears. No one told me after having a kid, my husband would no longer care about my life. Feeling the aggravation building up, I buried my head inside my arms and cried even louder. My crying woke the baby up, she started crying hysterically. After a few minutes of perfunctorily calming down the baby, I heard him said: “You are upsetting the baby. I will take her down to the river and let her play. You can join us when you can act rationally.” He turned to leave without looking back. I watched his back as he walked away, forgetting to wipe the tears streamed down my face.


           I didn’t know how long I sat there by myself. It wasn’t until a paramedic came to ask me if I was hurt, I realized that people were staring me from afar. I dusted myself off and went back inside the car. The roads had been cleared and the broken bus had been tolled away. I drove halfway up the hill and waited in the parking lot.

           I laid my head back on the headrest and closed my eyes, his words ringing in my head: “You would have done the same thing.” Would I? Ever since I became a mother, the focus of my life had been forced to shift to the baby. Now my husband expected me to give up my life for her, was this right? Was this the only way to be a good mother? I needed to sacrifice everything, including my life, for her? I stared out the sky window and thought to myself. Was there any other way?

           They came back an hour later, both looked blissful and contented. He sat in the passenger seat making the car bounce after strapping the baby in: “You should have joined us! That river was so clear, there was fish and tadpoles everywhere!” He looked back at the baby: “We are both cool down now, right princess? Mommy should’ve joined us, yeah?” The baby made a confirming noise. I kept quiet while I started the engine. He reached over one hand and scratched my nose: “Are you still upset? We are on vacation! Lighten up already!” He turned up the air conditioning as he rolled up the window: “I asked the parking lot manager, they said our hotel tonight is not far from here. We will there in under two hours!” He grabbed my head and kissed my sweaty forehead, “You can finally take a shower and wash away your troubles! It has been a long day for all of us. Right, sweetheart?” He looked at the baby through the rare end mirror, the baby made another confirming noise.

           I started driving without another word while he kept on talking. “Having a baby sure is a lot of work. I only had a day with her and I am spent. I can’t wait to go back to work next week.” He fanned himself with his hands: “Honestly, I don’t know how you can handle maternity leave. I would go crazy spending all day with a baby, not able to talk to any adults.” That was the last straw, I made up my mind. I tighten the grip on the steering wheel and stepped harder down the gas pedal. It was the only way out. “I guess maternal instincts are real? Hahaha… Wait, this is a downhill drive. Babe, slow down! Babe, what are you doing? Slow down! SLOW DOWN!”

September 11, 2021 03:40

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1 comment

Joshua Yee
20:12 Sep 20, 2021

The endings a bit meh, but overall, despite a few spelling mistakes, great job!


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