Chapter 5:

"Hello, sir. Sorry to bother you, but I was wonderin' if you uh, seen a gal by da' name of Rosemary Sterlin'," Maria asked semi-politely.

"Not sure who you're talking about," Junior lied, obviously trying to protect me. Somehow I knew he would rather take a bullet for me than see me get hurt.

"Aw, c'mon now, bub. I ain't here to harm no one," Maria continued. "But let's just say she and I have some unfinished business and I've been lookin' all over the country for her. And this house is the one place I ain't checked yet."

"And let's just say I'm not letting you in," Junior replied in a more serious tone. "Do I need to tell you again?"

As their exchange slowly became more heated, I noticed a humanoid silhouette on the ground and looked back, almost screaming at the sight of one of her greaser goons staring me down through the living room window.

"Y'know, Marky Jr.," Maria said. "I'm not sure if you know this or not, but I don't take too kindly to bein' lied to. In fact, I hate liars, and there's just one thing I have a tendency to do to anyone who dares to not be truthful towards me!"

Without another word, she snapped her fingers, prompting her thugs, who had already surrounded the house, to break in through the windows. I got up and started to run for it, only for one greaser to hold both my arms behind my back. Junior was quickly overpowered too, and was escorted into the living room as he struggled to escape their grip. While one thug kept him restrained on the sofa, another one aimed a handgun at his throat in order to make sure he didn't fight back.

The thug that had captured me escorted me through the massive hole in the window, somehow not cutting me in the slightest, and we remained off to the side of the house as Maria slowly strutted over to us, an ever so eerie smirk creeping up the side of her face as she stepped into the glow from the lawn light. In her hand was a revolver that was plated with gold, silver, and bronze, and covered in many diamonds and rhinestones.

"Well, well, well, if it ain't Ms. Runaway Sterling," she said. "Hate to say it, but I'm ba-ack! Been quite a long time, ain't it?"

"I take it you're still sore about me seeing your little crime organization in progress?" I asked in response.

"You're damn right I am!" Maria abruptly snapped. "If you had just minded your own business, then I wouldn't be huntin' ya' down, now would I?"

"More like if you'd minded your business!" I yelled back.

"And let you murder your own child? I think not!" Maria countered.

"Look, in a perfect world, women would not need abortions. But it would also be in a perfect world where people didn't rape each other, and where life didn't throw curveballs in mid-pregnancy!" I shouted. "Besides, you tortured my child and brainwashed her into working for your wannabe mafia! I'd say that's equally as bad!"

"Well hey, just followin' the ol' tradition," Maria shrugged nonchalantly and chuckled a bit. "See this whole mob boss thing's been in my family for more generations than I can possibly count, and my ancestors' method was to take children and shape them into the perfect henchmen. But in order to keep a low profile, we figured the best way to get the kids was to convince unwilling mothers to give 'em to us. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we're the reason why abortion rates have gone down in recent years!"

"Y-You slimy little-!" I began.

"O-ho, that reminds me!" Maria snapped her fingers again.

This prompted the shortest member of her party whom I'd noticed earlier to step between us. I couldn't help but gasp. There was no mistaking this one. This little girl was Primrose, the daughter I'd given up for the sake of a better life for myself. The one I'd supposedly given to an unlucky aspiring mother, only to have been lied to.

She couldn't have been any older than four or five, but all the childlike youth and innocence seemed as though it had been drained from her body. She was short and skinny, dressed in a similar getup to the other goons on the scene. The small amounts of skin that were visible were plagued with scars, scabs and bruises, including a particularly large one forming over her right eye. It took a lot to avoid breaking down into tears at the sight before me.

"Primrose, darling? I'd like you to meet your doting, lovable mother," Maria spoke after a bit. "And by doting and lovable, I mean anything but. Just look at that face. Does she strike you as someone who loves you? Please. She ain't got an inch a'room for love in that black, shriveled up heart a'hers."

At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to run up and punch that smug look off of Maria's face, which would've been super easy to do seeing how my arms were now freed, but that would risk me getting shot. All I could do was drop onto one knee so I could look my daughter dead in the eyes. Those dull, emotionless, auburn eyes; the eyes of someone who'd been broken.

"Primrose... p-please, l-listen to me," I started to talk. A couple of tears slipped down my cheeks, but they were beyond my control. "I know what I did may have hurt you, but I am truly sorry for it. There are times in life where you have to make sacrifices and look out for yourself, and it just so happened that... I had to do the same thing."

"Ignore the crocodile tears and just fuckin' kill her already!" Maria hollered, but I ignored her. "She nearly killed you, so now's your chance for revenge!"

"It doesn't have to be this way!" I sobbed. "I-If you just give me... one more chance, I... I can make it up to you. I promise! From the very bottom of my heart, I... I... I-I love you, P-Primrose, and... and I am more than proud to be the mother of a beautiful little girl like you!"

"I'll be sure to include that in your epitaph, ya' schmuck," Maria sneered.

Nobody else said a word, but Primrose's expression remained blank as she slowly drew a pistol of her own, bringing it up until it was mere inches from my face. All I could do was helplessly kneel there, sniffling and panting all the while as my own daughter seemed poised to end my life right there and now.

"Oh c'mon now! What's the holdup here?!" Maria called out impatiently. "We've already been over this! Just pull the damn trigger!"

Primrose said nothing, but both of her hands started to tremble as they maintained a death grip on the gun. Before long, she eventually lowered them and started to cry as well, her widened mouth containing a distinctive lack of teeth.

"Ugh, leave it to you to screw dis' up for me!" Maria snarled. "Somehow I was right when I said you was one a'the weakest thugs I've ever trained!"

With that, she pulled the trigger on her own gun, nailing Primrose straight in the back and killing her in seconds before she got the chance to scream. For some reason I can't explain for the life of me, she didn't make her pain known, but instead maintained her perpetually lifeless demeanor up until the very end.

"Nooooo!" I screamed in alarm. "No! No! NO! What have you done?!"

All I could do was hurry over and hold my daughter for the first time since giving birth to her, unmercifully bawling my eyes out and not giving a shit if I was making a scene. All the while Maria continued to stand over us, cackling loudly and evilly in a way that only a true sadist would. I couldn't believe what I heard, but at the same time, I didn't care. It was only when I heard some sirens approaching that I looked up and started to calm down. I spotted some flashing red and blue lights out the corner of my watery eye, which Maria and the other mobsters on the scene also seemed to notice.

"Welp, looks like this is my cue to leave. I'll leave ya' be, since I've got other business to attend to anyway, including an offer I could not refuse: a $90,000,000 bounty on some big-wigs' heads!" Maria said as she darted into the bushes. "Come on, boys! Move it or lose it!"

I didn't even care that she'd escaped. All I cared about was the last thing she'd done before doing so. I didn't bother to look up, but I could hear Junior climbing out of the shattered window and kneeling down, having just been released from capture and consoling me as best as he possibly could. I just sat there and cried for as long as I felt the need to, ignoring the cops that slowly approached us.

Weeks later, my lawyers Roxanne and Chris made their return to the mansion, having been escorted here in those same black SUVs from before. They appeared to be in better spirits this time around, compared to my much more somber mood as a result of my daughter's death - a near reversal of the moment when we all gathered together at the beginning of summer.

"So seeing how Ms. Giovanni no longer seems interested in killing you, I'd say it's safe for you to return home now, Ms. Sterling," Chris said.

"Thanks for the offer, guys, but... I honestly think I'd rather stay here," I stated, awkwardly brushing a hand along my opposite arm.

"You're not serious," Roxanne gawked.

"Well I am. Let's just say I've gotten quite close to my witness protector," I chuckled as Junior wrapped an arm around me.

"I'm not even gonna question that," Chris scratched his head. "Anywho, it's your call, young lady."

"I'm positive, guys. Thanks for everything, though," I replied as the two climbed back into their rides.

"No problem. Just glad to see you safe and happy," Roxanne called back though her rolled-down window.

After they drove off, I looked up into Junior's handsome brown eyes as he returned my smile. I almost contemplated pinching myself as I just couldn't believe my eyes; my new life was just moments away from beginning. I was already picturing it all in my head as I stood there. We would soon hold a small funeral for my late child and I would get settled into his house. I'd get the chance to meet Junior's family, leave my mark on their legacy, and get the chance to fully explore Kicksburg without fearing for my life.

"I don't suppose there's more room in that master suite for me, is there?" I asked him.

"Of course there is. What kind of question is that?" Junior giggled.

"Oh, just wondering. Now I'll get started on hiring someone to move my things here. In the meantime, why don't you negotiate a deal to build a horse barn out back?" I asked, pecking him on the cheek as I stepped inside. "Oh, and maybe a vegetable garden too?"

"We'll see..." he simply replied.

~ ~ ~ The End ~ ~ ~