Fiction Thriller Suspense

The curtains are drawn this morning, allowing the sun to wake me. Jordan must have known I wanted to sleep in, but also that I would be angry with myself if I did. He usually parts the curtains first thing in the morning for me, before he gets ready for his morning jog. I needed the extra sleep, thankful not to have been brutally awakened by a striking alarm clock. I can still hear the cries from the evening before. Despair has a taste if you didn’t already know, and it never seems to truly dissolve. I carry weight I don’t need, the emotions of other’s greatest losses and misfortunes. Maybe in another life, I wake up to these mornings where my only burden is to perform house-hold tasks and take the children to soccer. This life is too painful for those endeavors, I am not allotted the grace others have.

Disco jumps into bed to greet me with his usual good-morning kisses, thankfully blessing me with a respite from my own thoughts. He knows when it’s truly time to get up and moving, so I don’t fight him when he runs to bring me his leash. Jordan won’t be back for a while now, and Disco is too lazy to run with him, he prefers his morning walks to consist of uninterrupted sniffing and people watching. I change, head to the kitchen, and pour myself a to-go cup of coffee before lacing up my tennis shoes and taking Disco on our morning stroll. If I’m moving and getting my daily dose of Vitamin D, my mind can stay on autopilot. I swear by it, movement and sunlight can cure some of my darkest memories—and when they can’t there’s always Zoloft.

The café is three blocks from our house, on the corner before entering town, and by far my favorite place in the entire World. Nothing bad happens here I swear, expect for maybe burnt croissants and an occasional ass-hole customer who thinks he can brew a better medium roast (and trust me he can’t, I don’t care if he’s recently traveled to South America, that doesn’t make you a guru on the art of roasted beans). Disco knows where we are heading so I follow his lead. It’s our usual Saturday routine and he is ready to be doused in continuous affection from café goers and Janice the barista who makes a little extra bacon in the morning just for him.

When we approach the corner, we can already tell it is just another bustling Saturday Morning at the Grind. Beautiful. Although, I don’t normally care for my outward appearance on my days off, today I am exceptionally drained and cannot imagine how that is manifesting on my face. But, a better reason to refresh with another cup of coffee and Janice’s freshly baked scones. The door chines when we walk in, and Janice is behind the counter taking orders while her little minions, the local High Schoolers who work here over the weekend, fill them as quickly as possible.

Janice sees us as we enter the queue, “Welcome Friends! Happy Saturday, the usual?”

“Yes, please,” I feel bad shouting over the others in front of me in line, and they seem disgruntled I’ve taken notice before them. The harms of being a loyal customer and an exceptional tipper.

“Can I say Hi?” A woman behind me asks, gesturing to Disco,

“Oh of course, he’d love it.” Disco is sitting by my side but can’t hide his excitement with his tail thumping against the ground as the woman gives him a couple of pats on the head.

“So well behaved,” she coos to him

“Only on Saturdays,” I awkwardly jest back.

Janice steps away from the counter to bring me my coffee and to-go bag of two scones. She carries with her two pieces of bacon for Disco to devour as I hand her over the cash and tell her to keep the change. Disco and I make our way out of the café, to sit in outdoor patio the Grind has open on days like today.

           Content with his walk and bacon treats, Disco lays down under the table and I begin opening my bag of scones. At the table across from us there is a young woman with her two children: a toddler sits in her lap, and an infant beside them in the stroller. She rips off pieces of her muffin to give her little girl as she giggles while bouncing in her lap. They look radiant together, two pieces meant to be. A mother and a child. She kisses her little girl while making sounds to make her laugh and the child is ecstatic, giggling and grabbing onto her mother’s face to return the gesture. My phone buzzes, a text from Jordan “Be home in 15. Cooling down now.” I reply with a thumbs up not to be short, but just to acknowledge him.

It’s her tone that makes my stomach instantly drop when the young mother says,

           “Macy. Macy…Macy what’s wrong,” she’s lightly shaking her daughter who has now gone silent with her eyes wide open in shock.

           Fuck. I knock my coffee over quickly rising from my chair, Disco is alert now, “Stay Disco.” and he must sense there is something wrong because he listens.

           Rushing to them, I tell the mother, “I’m a doctor, I believe she’s choking.” She doesn’t even have to fight me, she relinquishes her baby girl into my hands without a second thought. The situation is gathering more attention, I look through the crowd gathering on the patio, and those stopping on their way out of the café. My eyes lock with an older gentleman in bike wear, I speak directly to him and him only, “Sir, call 911. Tell them there is a child choking,” as I simultaneously turn the girl so I am supporting her upside down by the shoulders and begin to slap her back in hopes of dislodging the piece of food. I have no time to follow up with biker man and hope he has done the task I delegated to him, there is no time to stop what I have already begun.

           Janice has run out of the café by now, “Melanie, what can I do?”

           “Make sure the police were called by that gentleman, and I need you to start a timer on your phone. I’ll need to know how long her windpipe has been obstructed to report to the paramedics. If I’m reaching 5 minutes, tell me immediately,” Janice nods.

Now the mother is starting to panic. Her hysteria overcomes me, but I must remain calm. I turn the child over, so she is still upside down, but now her face is upwards, I place two fingers onto her sternum. She’s blue. I need to provide her with some circulation. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. I say in my head. One count for each compression, then I flip her over again. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Five back slaps to give her diaphragm, praying this time the piece of food will dislodge and we’ll hear her scream and cry.

Come on, Macy. Come back to me, Macy. Don’t stop now. Don’t stop now.

           One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Flip. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Flip

           Where are the paramedics? I need assistance. I can’t do this alone. Come on, Macy.

           It is utterly silent, and yet chaotic at the same time. The mother’s screams ring in my hears, but my focus is on Macy. I can’t let her penetrate it.

           One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Flip. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Flip.

           “Melanie, you’re reaching four minutes,” Janice says calmly but assertively so I hear.

           Come on, Macy. God damnit. Come on. The longer you’re without oxygen, the more damage there will be. Come on, baby girl.

           The back slaps continue, One. Two. Three.

           And then the gasp followed by a scream. This time, not from the mother.

Relief washes over me. I cannot even feel my body. My arms lay limp as the mother grabs her now breathing, very alive, screaming child from me. I come up for air as well, realizing the tension left me without taking a deep breath in either. Arms wrap around my neck, thanking me and providing gratitude. I can only lightly smile and nod. I don’t know how to recover myself. The sirens are approaching, paramedics rush to the scene where Janice tells them what happened. They give the little girl their full attention, making sure she’s safe. With all the commotion, I slide back towards Disco. I give him a pat on the head and pick up his leash. Together we make our way home in silence.

April 29, 2023 01:51

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Delbert Griffith
12:40 Apr 29, 2023

Wow, what a great tale! The scene at the Grind was told quite well, and it also lets the reader know much about that first paragraph. That had me puzzled a little, that first paragraph. Why was she in such despair? It all became clear at the coffee house. Critiques: I think the first paragraph is a bit too long. Breaking it up into two paragraphs allows for an easier entry into this excellent tale. "I change, head to the kitchen, and poor myself a to-go cup of coffee..." I think "poor" needs to be "pour." "Disco knows where we are headin...


Anne O
18:27 Apr 29, 2023

Thank you for reading and for the feedback, Delbert!


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