1) We meet Laura on a Saturday, deep in thought in her home office where Roy thinks she is writing her book. Instead, we learn that she is trying to write a letter explaining why she is about to leave. Her thoughts take her far away, and only a loud noise brings her out of the trance. Upon investigation, Laura learns that it was only wind that slammed the previously open window shut. Relieved, she tries to write, but nothing satisfactory makes it onto the paper. A pile of discarded balls of paper surrounds the trash can. Roy returns home with groceries to make dinner. When Laura confesses she was not able to write anything, he comforts her by saying she will do better next time. [AGFTAO Part 1]
2) Roy returns with groceries on another Saturday afternoon to a quiet home. Assuming that Laura is writing, as per usual, he unpacks the bags and begins to make plans for dinner. After a while, he grows slightly agitated and looks for Laura in her office. In the dark room, all he finds is what looks like a gift bag placed on the desk. In the meantime, we learn that Laura is on a moving train, but we are unsure of her immediate plans. Her fellow passenger – a young boy keeps swinging his legs and kicking her in the shins, but his mother does not even seem to care, excusing him as: “just a kid.” Laura gets up and walks out in search of a more peaceful seat. Then, we jump back to Roy who is finishing reading a letter from Laura. There is a teddy bear for Tommy in the gift bag. When Tommy runs into the room and tells Roy he is hungry, Roy puts the gift away and tells his son they will get pizza for dinner and watch TV. They leave the room, the letter, and the bear behind. [AGFTAO Part 2]
3) About a week or so later, Laura fires her gun reflexively and kills an enemy combatant, which leads to her being chased by his compatriots. As she runs away, she trips and falls down a hill, but manages to get up quickly and runs towards the forest where she hides and tends to her injuries. Unfortunately, shortly after, she is apprehended and taken away on horseback. Her captors bring her in before a woman on a throne. [AGFTAO Part 3]
4) Once Tommy falls asleep, Roy laments the fact that, just like him, Tommy might be destined to grow up without a mother. In the shower, he finally allows himself to cry. In the living room, he pulls out a hidden piece of paper containing wedding vows. Afterward, he rereads the letter Laura left behind in hopes of finding some comfort but it only makes him sadder. Before going to bed, Roy wonders why all the women in his life end up leaving one way or another. [AGFTAO Part 4]
5) Laura finds herself in front of a woman who is stylized differently but is undeniably her friend for whom she was looking. ” Queen Naayelli,” the locals call her. Although Laura is pleased to see that their mutual friend – Jason, was right about the fact that Olivia was not dead, she finds herself confused with how unperturbed the queen is by her arrival. Laura was hoping for a warm welcome, but instead, she gets thrown into a small, dark cell for the night. The next day, Olivia comes to meet Laura in her cell, but, to Laura’s surprise, she continues to act coldly and does not ask about Roy or even Tommy. The chapter ends with Naayelli calling in the guards as she is leaving, to presumably inflict some pain on Laura. [AGFTAO Part 5]
6) When another day goes by without Laura making contact, Roy runs out of reasons to excuse her actions. Instead of taking care of his son, he starts to rely heavily on the babysitter to help with Tommy as he goes out drinking with his mates. We witness Roy undergo a change. He starts being more and more selfish, pointing fingers at everyone around him and being especially resentful towards women. When his babysitter quits, Roy leaves his son with his co-worker and goes to a bar to meet someone. There, he has a hard time finding a woman receptive to his questionable charm until a full-figured red-head joins him. They have a grand ‘ol time. The only problem – she is gay. [AGFTAO Part 6]
7) Roughed up by Naayeli’s men, Laura continues to be stuck in the dark cell while the Queen formulates plans on how to best deal with the new prisoner. After a couple of days, Laura wakes up to Olivia in her cell. A look around the room reveals the presence of a table with various tools that could be used for torture. The sight of a hammer prompts Laura to recall a traumatic event from her childhood. Having come back from school one day, when she spots her dad dead on the floor and his killer rummaging through his things, she grabs a hammer. She uses the element of surprise to her advantage and kills the murderer. Olivia confirms the gossip Laura did not want to believe in – she killed her partner and allied herself with the enemy. We part with Laura as we learn that Laura is holding the hammer after Naayelli had left the room. [AGFTAO Part 7]
8) Roy hopes for a lone night of drinking at home, but when Tommy is brought back early by his friend’s parents, he is forced to edit his immediate plans. The father and son duo spend a pleasant evening eating pizza and chatting. At bedtime, while reading to Tommy, Roy starts reminiscing about Laura and recalls her maternal abilities. He realizes that her creativity makes for a perfect trait in a parent, meant to inspire curiosity and open-mindedness. In Laura’s desk, Roy finds a note with her scribbles that are initially hard to decipher. After some stellar detective work, he learns that in that note Laura was trying to tell him that Olivia – Roy’s first wife and Tommy’s biological mother is still alive. [AGFTAO Part 8]
9) Laura detests the fact that the Queen is living life in the fast lane while all she has to look forward to are regular lashings, and Roy and Tommy are stuck without a wife and mother. She struggles with her thoughts on how and if to use the hammer when Olivia returns and unlocks her bindings. Once unrestrained, without hesitation, Laura loops the chain around Naayelii’s neck, taking her as a hostage and stunning the guards for a moment. Seconds later, Olivia frees herself and begins to fight the soldiers. Laura joins in and the female duo ends up incapacitating the watchmen and making their way out of the dungeons. When on horseback, Laura learns that Olivia still deeply cares for Roy and Tommy. Out of an abundance of caution, Naayelli leaves her friend behind on the outskirts of a nearby town as she searches for a phone to call for help. When she is gone for hours, Laura starts to question her friend’s allegiance again. [AGFTAO Part 9]
Roy tried calling Jason a couple of times since he found out about Olivia being alive, but ‘the number had been disconnected.’
“Damn it!” Roy swore out loud and tossed the phone against the wall.
He had so many questions yet no way of getting them answered. He wondered what it said about him that he was safely tucked away at home, watching TV, while Laura was risking her life God-knows-where, searching for his wife.
“Everything OK, Daddy?” Tommy stood in the doorway with a look of terror on his face. His eyes drifted from Roy to the phone that bounced off the wall and now laid on the floor.
“Fuck!” Roy’s thoughts screamed. He did not want to be that dad that his own child would fear. Healthy respect was good. Being terrified of your old man? Not so much.
He inhaled to smell the roses and exhaled to blow out the candles – a technique he picked up from a TV show he had been watching before he tried Jason.
“I am sorry, Tommy. Sometimes adults deal with what is known as stress and I am not the best at managing it when it is a chronic issue.” Roy said while squatting in front of his son, his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“What does ‘chronic’ mean?” The boy’s voice was barely louder than a whisper, his hands clamped together.
“It means that it happens again and again for a long time. But it is NOT an excuse to act the way I did. OK?” Roy looked deep into Tommy’s eyes and was happy to see the barrier in them melt a little.
The boy nodded. “Is the phone still working? Mommy might want to call to check in on us and we have to answer and let her know we are doing alright. She will worry if we don’t.”
Roy remembered how distraught Laura was one day when he did not bring Tommy straight home after picking him up from pre-school. He thought it would be fun to take the boy to the pier for some cotton candy while Laura was at work. However, that day, Laura decided to surprise them and came home early. Only no one was there to greet her, and Roy’s phone was off.
“You’re making this into such a big deal,” Roy said once they got back home later that evening and Laura proceeded to lecture him on letting her know about their whereabouts if they were out of the ordinary. Now, he knew that it was not out of the need to control them, but out of a place of concern and love.
He picked up the phone and pressed the power button on the side. The screen came to life, displaying a photo of Laura and Tommy on a swing in the orchard. No sign of cracking anywhere, thanks to a great cover and a screen protector.
“It works,” Roy replied triumphantly and smiled at Tommy. “How about we go outside and maybe look for butterflies?” He had to make it up to his son and hope that the memory of the outrage does not lodge itself into the boy’s head permanently.
The boy smiled back. “I’ll get the net!” he shouted and ran out of the room.
Roy grabbed a blanket from the closet, a pack of Cheetos from the pantry, two juice boxes and followed Tommy into the garden. After a while of chasing colorful butterflies that were commuting between the purple and white pansies and the red clove pinks, Tommy and Roy settled on the spread-out blanket.
“That’s a huuuuge butterfly,” Tommy said with amazement, staring upwards.
Roy looked around but failed to see the one his son was talking about. “Oh, yeaaaaaaa…. wow…,” Roy said in a monotone, still trying to spot the butterfly.
“I hope the frog doesn’t eat it,” Tommy said with a chuckle. “Clouds have such amazing shapes!” He grabbed a handful of Cheetos, stuffed them into his mouth, and washed them down with apple juice.
Roy smiled. He did not remember the last time he looked at the clouds for any other reason than to assess if it would rain or not. It used to be one of his favorite past-times when he was about Tommy’s age.
“And there’s a horse!” Roy exclaimed and pointed to the right of the frog cloud.
“It’s a dog,” Tommy corrected him without hesitation.
A ringtone interrupted their shape guessing game.
Roy pulled out his phone from his jeans pocket and looked at the screen. It was a call from a number he did not recognize. Probably one of those extended car warranty spam calls he could not get rid of. He was just about to let it go to voicemail when Tommy ushered him to answer.
“Answer it! It might be Mommy!” The boy sat up, the anticipation clearly visible on his face.
“Hello?” Roy swiped the button towards the green headset on the screen.
“Hi…” a soft voice returned his greeting.
A lump formed in Roy’s throat. He had not heard that voice in so long. He never thought he would, ever again.
“Roy? You there?” the female voice asked.
“Y-ea, Yes. I’m here.” He felt like a fool, stuttering. What should he say?
“I’m just calling to say that I hope to be home soon.”
“Is that Mommy?” Tommy was now on his feet, trying to press his ear to the phone.
“Give me a minute, bud.” Roy got up and walked away from his son, his heart beating out of his chest.
“… Tell him I love him,” the voice cracked.
“Where are -” Roy tried to ask, but the line went dead.
He wanted to call that number back to get some answers, maybe even to scream and yell to release his anger a little, but figured the number had been disconnected the moment the call ended. At least now, whenever Tommy would ask when Mommy was coming home, he could sincerely answer: “soon.”
Roy took a moment to compose himself and turned around to go back to his child.
“I think it’s time-” Tommy was not in the garden and Roy wondered if maybe he should have let him talk to his mom instead of shutting him out. If they gave out the ‘Worst Father of the Year’ award, Roy was convinced that he would at least be nominated.
“Tommy?” he called out as he entered the house. But before he could utter anything else, a black bag was thrown over his head, and someone swept him off his feet.
“Tommy?!” Roy screamed at the top of his lungs. Jason told him that getting Olivia back was dangerous but he never mentioned that Roy or Tommy might be in jeopardy as a result of that search.
“What do you want? Where are you taking me?” he shouted out one question right after another, but the answers never came. Instead, he felt a needle prick after which his eyes grew heavy.
When Roy opened his eyes, he was sitting in a lazy chair with Tommy right next to him. He looked him over quickly, but the boy looked just fine, only as if he was sleeping. “Oh, thank God!” Roy breathed a sigh of relief.
Soon, the boy stirred. “Where are we?” he asked, groggily.
“I have no clue,” Roy whispered, looking around.
There was a folded piece of paper on the table right next to the chair. It contained five words: “She will be home soon.”
“What is it?” Tommy asked, extending his hand out for the paper.
“It says that Mommy loves you very much and she will be back home soon,” he answered with a half-hearted smile.
He knew that she was coming home soon, but his thoughts were scattered. He was not sure which ‘she’ was the one to return. For a moment, Roy forgot about the kidnapping and the strange room he and Tommy found themselves in. Instead, he wondered what the future held and which woman he would grow old with. Was it going to be the one he fell in love with and married a decade ago? Or was it going to be the one he learned to love to help create a family for his son?
“Write a story inspired by the word ‘scattered.'”
– prompt used for this CW piece.
P.S. As always, you are more than welcome to use this prompt to inspire your post. If you decide to write something, be sure to pingback to this post so that I can get an alert and check out your piece. (A post on how to do pingbacks can be found here.) If pingbacks are not your thing, feel free to simply leave a link to your piece in the comment section below. The more, the merrier!
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