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]
10) Roy attempts to contact Jason in order to find out more about his previously-thought-of-as-dead wife but the number had been disconnected. When Tommy witnesses one of his father’s bouts of anger, we catch a glimpse of the duality of being an imperfect human and trying to be the perfect parent. To make up for his unruly behavior, Roy sets up an impromptu picnic in the backyard for him and his son during which they search for shapes in the clouds. It is then that he gets a brief phone call telling him that she will return soon. Before Roy can pass that message onto Tommy, a black bag gets thrown over his head, his arm gets pricked, and his eyelids grow heavy. He awakens in a house which he does not recognize. Thankfully, Tommy is there, too – unharmed. A note on the table echos the words of the woman on the phone “… will be home soon,” but Roy does not know whether it is Laura or Olivia coming back. [AGFTAO Part 10]
After what seemed like forever but was actually about 30 minutes, Laura could not wait any longer.
“Such a beauty,” Laura whispered as she approached the black stallion calmly standing by the tree to which he was tied. She thought of the horse’s strength and determination – something she needed more of now more than ever.
A part of her wanted to just stay put for the night and curse the fact that she did not have her speech-to-text app which she could use to jot down her thoughts from this mission, but the other side of her reminded her that survival was of the utmost importance. “There’s no way I’m going to forget any of this for a while.” Laura chuckled, thinking of the torture she had endured.
“At least you didn’t abandon me,” Laura said softly as she ran her fingers over the animal’s face. She found herself staring into the beast’s hypnotic hazel eyes. She saw strength and determination, but also pain and strain. Laura truly believed that eyes were windows to the soul.
Tommy’s eyes were hazel, too…
Laura was overcome with emotion. When Olivia first asked her to look after her family if anything happened to her – be a fairy godmother of sorts, Laura did not think the promise she made that day would ever be called upon.
When Olivia was presumed dead, Laura went to the funeral but remained out of sight – making sure Roy and Tommy did not see her. Answering questions were not Laura’s strong suit.
When Laura ‘bumped’ into Roy at the grocery store for the first time, Tommy was barely nine months old. She told herself that taking care of Roy and Tommy was just another mission – a promise given to a then-dead friend. Leaving the agency was not too hard for her. She only joined to get revenge for what happened to her father and she stayed only because her partner – Olivia – always convinced her not to leave. Leaving that life behind would allow Laura to focus on writing – something she had always dreamed of, but never had enough time.
To Laura’s surprise, she found herself liking Roy more and more with every date they went out on. However, she knew she was in trouble when she first looked into Tommy’s eyes – he was about 15 months and he looked like an absolute angel whether he was asleep, or playing with his toys. Blond, slightly curled hair, hazel eyes, and that honest smile…
Whenever thoughts of having to give Tommy and Roy ‘away’ surfaced, Laura pushed them back towards the bottom of the thought-pile. She knew that the pain would be too much.
“She doesn’t deserve them,” a rogue thought lingered for a moment too long before Laura wiped away her tears and snapped back into reality.
She had given Olivia plenty of time to get into town, make appropriate phone calls and arrangements, and return. Laura had to face the truth – Naayelli was either captured or left Laura behind on purpose. Surely, living among the Zapotec for several years – a civilization most thought was long gone – must have had an impact on Olivia. “Would she ever be able to learn how to live among her own again?” Laura mused. It is every little girl’s dream to one day become a queen and Olivia managed to do exactly that. For a split second, Laura hoped that Olivia indeed did choose to go back to her palace and guards.
Laura sighed and got up on the horse. It was time to get into town and call Jason for help. Hopefully, there would be fewer prying eyes there at night. Before she could make it out of the woods, she heard a familiar whistle. She reined in the horse and listened.
“Where are you going?” Olivia appeared from between the trees to the side.
Laura jumped in her saddle. Her hand went straight to her chest to ensure that her heart did not pop out. She recalled that when she first got to this area, she had to shoot a man, which drew unwanted attention to herself because she had not seen him until it was almost too late. She did not need any more signs that the life of a spook was no longer for her. She enjoyed being alive and writing surrounded by nature.
“Some people there knew about the fire. I had to make them believe it happened when I was en route into town and had not known about it. I gathered intel under the cover of figuring out how to rebuild. You know how long working people takes.” Olivia looked at Laura who was studying her intently. “We should get going if we want to make it on time to the exfil point.” Not getting a response from Laura, Olivia smacked her friend’s horse on the butt and took off galloping through the woods herself.
“I thought you weren’t coming back,” Laura said after a while, once they gave the horses some reprieve by slowing down. She kept her eyes focused on what was in front of her. She could not risk looking at Olivia and letting her see the mistiness in Laura’s eyes. Ever since she found out that Olivia was alive, Laura had been looking forward to reuniting with Jason. But now that everything was actually coming to a close… She grew to love Tommy as if he was her own. And Roy was such a perfect husband and father…
Olivia stopped both of their horses and looked Laura straight in the eyes. “I told you it wasn’t by choice that I left them. I HAD TO in order to protect them.” She grabbed Laura’s head and turned it in her direction. Laura’s eyes were glassy. “You didn’t think you could just stay in my place forever. Did you?” Laura swallowed and Olivia let go of her head. “You were just a stand-in for when I was away,” Olivia spat out and lightly pushed her heels into the horse’s side to end the conversation.
The remainder of the way, Laura spent grieving. Not only was she going to lose Tommy and Roy, but she was also mourning the loss of her best friend. Again.
The plane sat in the middle of a large clearing on top of a hill. The women left the horses behind, setting them free at the base of the mountain. Meeting at a higher elevation gave them a better vantage point, in case there was anyone following them. Laura thought that she would feel relief when she would see Jason, but when he took her into his arms, all she could feel was sadness.
A man entered the house in which Roy and Tommy had been held up for a few hours. “I’m Mike,” he announced in a deep voice.
“Do you ever shave, Mike?” Tommy asked without getting up from the couch.
Roy shot his son a dirty look. He did not want his son to be rude, but he could not help but smile – the man’s beard was very thick and reached down to his sternum. Roy stood up. He had no idea who Mike was, but the guy looked friendly enough. Would he introduce himself if he was there to kill them?
“Jason sent me,” the man stated matter-of-factly. “Can we talk?” he asked.
The boy’s eyes were still fixed on Mike’s beard.
“In private?” Mike added.
“Hey, bud, go play upstairs for a moment. I’ll come to get you when we’re ready to leave.” Roy spoke to his son in a soft and calm voice. He noticed that Tommy was much more responsive to that than to screaming and yelling – definitely Laura’s influence.
Tommy gave a slight nod and ran upstairs, periodically turning around to catch a few more glimpses at the strange man.
“Jason went to get them,” Mike said in a lowered voice. Jason filled him in on the situation and he could not fathom to think how confusing all this was to the little boy. “You two are safe here until they get back. Then, you will have to move. Permanently. It’s not safe.”
Roy wanted to ask some questions, but before he could, Mike gave him a slight nod and disappeared through the door. Roy felt annoyed that he was always the last one to find out. He was told after things happened, and no one seemed to care about the fact that he might have questions.
When the door opened the next time, Roy was ready to start firing questions. Or so he thought until he saw the woman standing in front of him. She had jet black hair, high cheekbones, and pouty red lips.
“Who are YOU?” Tommy asked, tired of all the recent unknowns.
“Olivia,” Roy muttered.
“I’m your Mommy!” the woman at the door replied. She opened her arms and rushed towards the boy.
“No, you’re NOT!” Tommy screamed out and then ran out of the room.
Roy looked to see if Laura was there, too, but there was no one else coming in.
Olivia shook Tommy’s rejection off and turned towards Roy. “Honey, I’m home!”
“Write a story inspired by the word ‘hypnotic.'”
– 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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