Jenny froze in the act of strapping her four-year old daughter into her car seat. No one had called her by that name in a very long time. Keeping one hand on her daughter, Jenny slowly turned to face the voice.
She found a tow-headed man, dressed in a suit, looking straight at her. “There’s no one here by that name.” She did her best to keep her voice level, but a slight tremor gave her away.
The man smiled in a way that told Jenny he had noticed the tremor. “Come on, Jenny. You must have known this was coming.”
Jenny sighed inwardly. She didn’t let it show, but it still helped to steady her. She cast about for a way out of this, but only for a moment. The truth was she thought she had finally managed to put all this behind her. Now that she was literally looking it in the face, she realized how naive she had been to think that. There was no way out. She had known that when she signed up.
“You did a good job, I’ll give you that,” said the man. “Better than most. New place. New job. New name. New hair color. You even gained some weight. But you should have known nothing could stop this.” He wagged a finger at her and she gulped.
“Mommy, I don’t like this.”
“It’s OK, baby. Just go inside. Mommy needs to talk to this man.”
“I don’t want to.”
Jenny turned her back on the man for the first time since hearing his voice. Facing her daughter, she lifted her out of the car seat and set her on the ground. “Look, honey, sometimes in life we just have to do things we don’t want to do, OK? Now I am not asking you, I am telling you that you need to go inside right now so we can have a grown up conversation, OK?”
“I don’t want to.”
“I don’t care.”
She pouted her best pout, but it was no use. Her mother hugged her, kissed her and stroked her hair, then turned her around to face the house and gave her a little push.
She turned back and pouted some more, but Jenny just said, “Go.” She admitted defeat and went inside to wait for her mother.
“Cute kid,” the man said once the little girl was inside. “What’s her name?”
“Her name is none of your business. She has no part in this.”
The man held up his hands, palms out, as he slightly inclined his head. “Just making conversation. I really do admire what you’ve done here, you know. No one ever suspects the soccer mom.”
“Just do it.”
“As you wish.”
Jenny closed her eyes and focused her thoughts on her husband and children. They would be all right without her. In fact, they’d probably be better off. With her gone, there’d be nothing to keep them from leading normal lives. They would never again be in danger. At least that’s what she told herself.