Lisbeth felt the first severe wave of pain roll over her. It started in her belly, but she felt it penetrate every cell in her body. Every tiny little hair on the surface of her skin stood on end and she screamed out loud. Her water had broken ten minutes before, but she knew there was still a lot more anguish to go through before it could get here. It. The baby. Something that nobody knew about, something that she’d kept hidden for seven months now. She’d had to. A pregnancy would’ve ruined everything for her. She wouldn’t have got a full scholarship to one of the best colleges in the country, nor would she even have been able to face going back to school. So, she’d hidden it. At first, she hadn’t thought she would be able to, but as the months had gone by, she’d carried the baby quite low, so she hadn’t shown much. Coupled with big, baggy sweaters and a permanently held book in front of her stomach, she’d gotten away with it. Now, as she lay in the back seat of her car, she wished she’d told someone; then she could’ve gone to the hospital and this pain wouldn’t be so bad. The labour was premature, and she knew the baby would need help once it got here, but it was too late now. With one last horrific scream that filled the empty car park, she pushed the tiny human out into the world. The baby’s face was blue. Lisbeth cleared the fluid from the mouth and slapped its bottom a few times, like she’d read to do. But the baby still wouldn’t breathe. With tears pooling in her eyes, she waited a few more minutes. Even though she knew that it was already dead. She wrapped the baby in her old sweater and left it next to a pile of trash bags. And if she hadn’t been in such a hurry to get as far away as possible, she would’ve first checked the one pocket of that sweater. For right at the bottom was an old, squashed receipt with a distinct “Lisbeth B” printed on it.
“Miss Bass? Did you hear me?”
Lisbeth shook herself out of the memory that often ambushed her thoughts. “Sorry, Lanie, what did you say?”
“I said the new girl from the temp agency is in the lobby. Should I let her up?”
“Oh. Yes, please do. And bring in some coffee.” Lisbeth looked around her dishevelled office that had been screaming for help for months now. A new assistant would be very welcome here. Lanie was doing her best, but it was obviously getting too much for her. There was a knock on the door and a young girl entered. She looked about 19 and was very pretty, with dark hair that fell to her waist and deep brown eyes.
“Hi, you must be Macy. I’m Lisbeth. Glad you could make it,” she smiled at the girl.
Macy smiled back and shook Lisbeth’s proffered hand. “It’s great to finally meet you,” she said, sitting down at the desk.
“Yes. I’ve been following you for a while.”
“Um, following me?”
“Your work, I meant. Following your work. I’ve read all your articles,” giggled Macy, breaking into a grin.
“Oh. Right,” Lisbeth said with a grin of her own. “Is journalism something that you’d like to do?”
“Definitely! Though I doubt I’d ever be as great as you. You’re so famous.”
“Oh, nonsense,” Lisbeth blushed. “Not that famous!”
“Are you serious? You have success in spades. I bet you don’t even have any regrets.”
Lisbeth glanced at the girl, whose eyes had suddenly grown hard and cold. “Of course not. Regrets and success don’t mix. It’s one or the other,” she said, with a bright smile and a downcast gaze.
A month later, Lisbeth’s office looked a lot better. Macy was organised and efficient, and took initiative to do things that Lisbeth had never even asked of her. In short, she was the perfect assistant. Lisbeth came back to the office one afternoon, however, and saw Macy crying at her desk.
“Macy? What’s wrong?”
Macy looked up with red-rimmed eyes and a streaming nose. “Oh, it’s nothing. Stupid guys, you know,” she sniffed, wiping her nose with the back of her hand.
“Oh, you poor thing. Here,” Lisbeth cooed, handing over a tissue.
“Thanks, Lisbeth. Do you think you could give me a ride home tonight? He was supposed to fetch me. But now …”
“Of course. We could go now if you want?” she offered. Macy smiled and nodded dumbly. She picked up her bag and followed Lisbeth downstairs.
When they got to the apartment, Macy offered Lisbeth a glass of wine upstairs.
“I really shouldn’t. I have a few meetings to get to back at the office,” Lisbeth smiled apologetically.
“Oh, come on. You can have a coffee, then. I’d just … rather not be alone right now,” Macy replied, her lip trembling. Lisbeth glanced over at the girl, who, in many ways, reminded her so much of herself, sighed and got out of the car. She could spare time for a coffee.
Lisbeth looked around the living room while Macy made the coffee. She spied a framed photo on the mantelpiece and went over for a closer look.
“Is this your boyfriend?” she asked, edging closer for a better look. Macy quickly glanced up from the small kitchen counter and rushed over to where Lisbeth stood. She picked up the photo and slammed it back down, face first. Lisbeth took a step back in shock.
“Sorry,” Macy said, ashamedly. “It’s just that I’d rather not look at him or talk about him right now.”
“Oh, no, I completely understand,” Lisbeth said, making herself comfortable on the couch. “You know, when I was your age, there was a guy who hurt me, too. It gets easier.”
“Does it? So, what happened with this guy?”
“Oh, gosh. Nothing worth rehashing, really,” Lisbeth replied dismissively. She took a big gulp of lukewarm coffee. It was terrible. It left a bitter tinge on her tongue. She swallowed the rest of it and stood up to leave. Then quickly sat back down. Her vision had doubled and Macy’s face had suddenly morphed into a smudge. She vaguely heard a doorbell being rung. Or was it the telephone? It must’ve been the door because just before everything went black, Lisbeth glanced up to see Macy opening the door and letting someone in.
She woke up, tied and lying face down in the back seat of her car. Macy was in the passenger seat and a young man was driving. The car suddenly stopped and they both turned around to look at her.
“You’re awake,” Macy said, with a sardonic smirk. “This is Brian, my boyfriend.” The young man got out of the car and came around to the back seat. He hoisted Lisbeth into a sitting position and crouched down in front of the open door. Even in her disoriented state, Lisbeth immediately recognised where she was. It was the same car park. She looked down at the boy sitting in front of her. He couldn’t have been more than 17. The same age she had been the last time she was here. The boy had fair, curly hair and emerald green eyes. If it hadn’t been for the masculinity of it, Lisbeth could’ve sworn she was looking into a face that was the splitting image of her own.
“Y-you … it’s not possible,” she stuttered, her breath catching in her throat. The boy smiled serenely and caressed her cheek with one hand.
“Hello, mother,” he said, as his other hand came around and plunged a knife deep into her stomach. As the pain rolled over her entire body, he picked her up as if she weighed nothing, and threw her into a trash pile, as if she meant nothing. And as she slowly bled out under the rotting, reeking garbage, Lisbeth’s eyes pooled with tears, and she knew this was the least she deserved.