Maria watched the lights of the 11:14 dwindle until they disappeared around the bend in the tracks. Damn. At this hour the next train would not be by for another forty minutes. Her own fault for not paying attention. How could she be so stupid as to get off at the wrong stop, worse yet, not realize it until the train pulled away?
The platform was not quite deserted – a wino curled lovingly around his bottle in the corner near the stairs. She almost felt sorry for the guy, it was going to be a chilly night.
She glanced up to street level contemplating her options: walk or wait.
Considering the neighborhood and the time of night no rational woman would walk here alone. But then no rational woman would stand on this platform alone either. The guy with the bottle sure wouldn’t be of any use. She put her hands on her swollen belly. She had to think of the baby. That settled it, if she walked fast she would be home before the next train even arrived.
The wino looked up as she stepped over him, tried to say something, but was only able to stammer gibberish. He put out a hand, palm up.
“Sorry, I gave at the office,” she said and quick stepped beyond his reach.
She paused at the top of the steps to catch her breath and look around. Not a single car sat in the parking lot across the looping drive, nor were there any moving in either direction on 9th street. The streetlight overhead flickered, casting eerie shadows from the leaf-bare trees. “Well, no time like the present.” She headed out at a brisk pace.
She had not gone far when two guys drifted out of the shadows down the block. At least they were on the other side of the street. As long as they stayed on that side there wouldn’t be any trouble.
When she drew parallel to them the two guys started walking along in the same direction. She could hear them talking in hushed voices, snickering, and saw them casting many a glance her way. She picked up her pace.
They matched it.
“Hey, big momma, what’cha doing out so late?” one of them called over. The other one laughed and spun a complete circle on his heel. He seemed impressed with the move and did it again. She ignored them.
“Hey woman, you hear Tommy ask you a question?” the spinner shouted.
Tommy poked the spinner on the shoulder, saying something under his breath.
“Hell no.” Spinner jerked away from Tommy to stop and stare right at her. “She just dissed you. Now she dissed me. I’m talking to you woman.”
“Come on, Lloyd. Let’s go.” Tommy spoke loud enough to hear.
Lloyd stepped into the street, then started across.
Tommy caught up to him, tried to grab him by the shoulder. “Come on, man, she’s pregnant.”
“I don’t want to do no pregnant woman.”
“Then you can watch me.”
At that she turned to face her tormentors.
She saw Lloyd’s hand come out of his pocket, heard the snick of a switchblade, saw the glint of steel.
“Don’t be stupid,” she warned him.
Lloyd spun around again, but there was no mirth in his laugh. “You the stupid one, arrogant bitch.”
Tommy hung back, looking up and down the street reflexively.
Lloyd closed quickly, raising the knife for her throat, a broad smile on his face.
She let him come. At the last second she side-stepped, grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back. There was a loud pop followed by a howl of pain. At the same time her other hand closed around his neck, suction pads emerging to lock onto his skin. He struggled ineffectively, subdued by the neurotoxins, as his blood drained into her veins. Her belly was already swollen from feeding tonight, but baby could always use more.
Tommy stood dumbfounded in the middle of the street trying to comprehend what the hell was happening. She looked up at him as Lloyd slid to the ground.
“You want some of me?” she asked.
Wide-eyed, Tommy shook his head, no.
He ran, yelling like a mad man.
She could hear baby stirring as she closed the apartment door behind her. “I’m coming, sweetheart.” She stripped off her jacket and dropped her purse to the floor. “Mommy’s home.”
Upon hearing her voice the baby began to cry. She rushed into the nursery, scooped him out of the crib, cuddled him to her breast. His eyes lit up with delight as he reached up to wrap his hands around her neck. His adorable little suction pads locked onto her skin. She sank into an armchair, cooing and rocking as he fed.
“Hush little baby, don’t say a word…”
© 2011 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.