By Leila Toba
Adrienne rolled over in bed, cozying up to Derek, her partner of nearly two years. She loved being the big spoon as Derek dozed, a soft rustling of restful sounds confirming he was asleep. Her two chonky cats, Peanut and Titan, nestled in between the couple’s legs, Adrienne exhaled a breath of contentment, feeling a peace and genuine satisfaction with life. Christmas was fast approaching, and this year, Adrienne had successfully managed to complete all of her shopping early. The warm light of excitement lit within her. For once, she had a life and partner with whom Christmas could be spent in merriment and joyful anticipation. Growing up, Christmas was never celebrated in her home, as it served for a dark and exhaustive memory of her mother’s death. Adrienne’s family, thrown into abject financial ruin over funeral fees, loss of dual income, would have made gifts and decorations impossible. Even if money hadn’t been a factor, the absolute soul of her father had dissipated before her young five-year-old eyes. Though Adrienne was far too young to understand the consequences of life and death, much less how expensive both were, even as a child, the absence of affection, through speech or touch, was very clear. Adrienne remembered very little about her mother, and her father never spoke of her. What scarce info she had came in crumbles from family members, whom she only saw at church, and when she was caught speaking with them, her father would quickly usher her away. She knew her parents were very young when she was born, forced to marry, and unable to finish high school, as the mounting bills of parenthood surrounded them. Her father shuffled away to work quietly in construction for his uncle’s small company, her mother, to the local factory line of prepackaged dough. Adrienne furrowed her brow as these thoughts tried to take her, refusing to allow her hollow past take yet another night’s rest. She took a deep, furtive breath, and banished the creeping blues, and focused on the moment. Feeling grateful, she kissed her kitties, now snuggled at her back, and turned to squeezed Derek even tighter.
Pleasant drowsiness was coming over Adrienne, as she heard a loud thwack on the side of their house. Fucking drunk neighbors, she rolled her eyes to herself, allowing the warmth of snuggles to win out. The front door of the house crushed open wildly, in one clear strike. Adrienne’s chest filled with ice, wondering if she was dreaming. She heard footsteps pound their way towards her, realizing this was happening. She hurriedly thrashed and yanked at Derek, who was still quite unconscious, as she frightfully looked around for her phone. Peanut and Titan shot like bullets into the bedroom bathroom and hid under the sink. Adrienne, confused with sleepiness, barreled into the bathroom behind them. She locked the door, and tried to quietly climb into the stand in shower, Peanut and Titan gladly hopping in with. She snatched Titan as tears started falling from her face. She kissed the cat repeatedly, begging her mind for this nightmare to end. Titan patiently allowed this for about five seconds, and promptly peeled her way out of Adrienne’s fervent grasp. Adrienne rocked herself back and forth, pinching at both arms, when she heard a loud thonk, and what sounded like a large sack of potatoes being dumped to the floor. Derek. Oh my God. Guilt drowning her sanity, Adrienne started weeping loudly, trying to muzzle her sounds. She could never live with herself if anything happened to him. But what could she do? And where the fuck was her phone? It was always on her nightstand. She contemplated screaming for help, but the loud music of the neighbor’s party was enough to swallow the sound of a bomb, there was no way anyone who could help would hear. What if this attacker didn’t know Adrienne or the cats were in the house? Maybe if she stayed quiet enough, the attacker would take what they wanted and leave, and Derek would probably be ok. She tried to comfort herself in these rationalizations as her questions were swiftly answered. The door to the bathroom punched open, and a tiny, feminine figure, not much larger than a child, holding an assault rifle, promptly indicated for Adrienne to move out. Peanut and Titan, flew back into the bedroom, rushing to hide in the closet. Adrienne went stiff in shock. The figure once again, indicated for Adrienne to come, with far less patience than before. Adrienne shook her head, and started weeping loudly, screaming “No no no” as the figure spare her no more chances, abruptly snatched Adrienne up, half shirt, half hair, and deftly dragged her into the living room.
Upon being towed mercilessly, Adrienne’s eyes found Derek, looking confused, blood dripping from the side of his head, looking worse for wear. “Derek!” Adrienne wailed as she tried to come to her feet and make her way towards him. The figure slid her foot just under Adrienne’s, causing her to fly forward and hard upon her chin. The figure forced her knee into Adrienne’s back, and pulled her arms back and she began to bind them. Adrienne cried helplessly as she stared up at Derek, still dazed, unable to register his surroundings. Adrienne buried her face into the rug and howled in pain and fear, snot and tears smearing her face and stringing her face to the carpet. The figure bound Adrienne’s feet in almost no time, then laid a chair upon her back, looping her now tied hands and feet. The figure linked her foot into the chair leg, and kicked it upright. Adrienne startled and slightly impressed at this, unceremoniously bounced into place, no longer crying. Snot and tears covered her blood filled face. Adrienne looked directly at her attacker, who moved forward and swiftly gagged her with a black rag. Adrienne groaned loudly in a feeble attempt to cry for help. The figured came into Adrienne’s face with her own scarf covered head and placed her hand upon Adrienne’s mouth. Adrienne, overcome with shock and confusion, fainted.
Adrienne awoke, her head throbbing, relieved to know it was all a dream. She tried to reach for her head, when she realized she was still tightly confined to the kitchen chair. She bolted into consciousness, struggling to focus, her head heavy like iron. “Just do and take whatever the fuck you want. The other half of the money is hidden in my bible on my bookshelf. We had a fucking deal.” Adrienne heard Derek’s voice desperately trying to negotiate with the attacker, now lounging upon the couch, dirty heavy boots rudely propped upon the arm, enjoying a small snifter of bourbon. “Had” the attacker responded. “We had a deal.” She looked over to Adrienne, who met her gaze with bewilderment. The attacker removed her head cover, and looked intently at Adrienne. “Do you know who I am?” she asked. Adrienne, at a complete loss, started weeping again, not knowing how to answer. “Why the fuck does that matter, just do your job!” Derek yelled wildly. The attacker gave him a predatory glance and said, “Or what? You gonna report me to the Better Business Bureau?” Derek huffed loudly to himself in privileged outrage, as Adrienne slowly turned her head to him, starting to understand. She groaned deeply from underneath the cloth gag. The attacker approached her and ripped the cloth out of Adrienne’s mouth. Adrienne never removed her eyes from Derek. “What’s happening, Derek?” she asked quietly. She didn’t want to believe what she thought was happening was happening. Derek looked at her like she was stupid. “Don’t look at me like that”, he said flatly. “This relationship was never going to work. Neither of us was happy. I know that you fucking hate me, and if you had the resources to do it, you would have.” “Do what exactly?” Adrienne asked, pressing harder, needing to hear it from him. Derek looked to the attacker, “What are you doing? Why are you dragging it out like this?” He shrieked at the attacker. Adrienne started sobbing, as the attacker turned her face to Derek. “Are you going to tell her, or am I?” Adrienne started crying louder, “Tell me what?” the knife of betrayal burning in her heart, refusing to believe. Derek started bouncing in his chair, trying to escape his binds as he continued to yell at the attacker, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING JUST GET IT OVER WITH!” Adrienne was bawling hysterically. The attacker, unruffled, walked over to him and slapped him so hard, that the blood oozing from his head splashed onto Adrienne and said, “Yell at me again and see what happens.” Derek’s eyes wide with terror fell completely silent. “I have given you a chance to at least tell her to her face, but I see that cowardice is your weapon of choice. Adrienne, your boyfriend here has hired me to kill you,” The attacker explained with the same calm as if she was ordering a coffee. Adrienne threw up all over herself. “Oh gross!” Derek whined, childishly. The attacker sat down on the couch smartly with her bourbon, resting her right leg over the other. She stared at Adrienne, awaiting some kind of response. Adrienne looked down, embarrassed, her face hot. The attacker heaved a deep sigh and made her way to the kitchen. “I loved you. I thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.” Derek laughed cruelly. “I was never going to marry you. You never loved me. Let’s face it, no one was going to miss a poor girl from Indiana.” “Then why didn’t you just break up with me and leave me alone? Why go through all of this?” Adrienne pleaded, begging to understand. “You know too much.” Derek answered flatly. The attacker made her way back into the room and started wiping Adrienne down with a warm wet towel in a strange act of kindness, tenderness even. She walked over to Derek, stuffed a ball of cloth in his mouth and with a roll of duck tape, she wrapped around his head several times as he struggled and groaned loudly in protest. “I think we’ve heard about enough out of you” She looked back over to Adrienne. “Today is the day that your life changes forever. You are being given a choice. What fate is deserved of the man you’ve loved and trusted all this time who has only betrayed you in return? Adrienne blinked hard, trying to gather her senses, unsure of what was being asked of her. The attacker continued, “Should we turn him into the cops, and allow him to be humiliated, and likely spend the rest of his life in prison?” Derek started bobbing radically from his chair, but the attacker was unbothered. “Or do we kill him?” She questioned Adrienne plainly. Adrienne’s heart tried to take flight from her chest as she attempted to digest this unthinkable proposal. The attacker spoke again, “What this garbage can didn’t realize when he employed me, is that I’m your mother.” Adrienne’s jaw nearly unhinged from her skull as she gasped at the attacker in disbelief. The attacker nodded. “I escaped your horrible father just like you did. Only, I had to fake my death to do it.” Adrienne started weeping uncontrollably, so much sorrow and confusion in her mind, she couldn’t comprehend the reality set before her. “So I’m giving you the choice no one gave me.” “I can’t, I can’t” Adrienne sobbed. “You can”, her mother said, “it gets easier after the first time. You and I can leave here and you can have a new life. With me. I realize how fucked up all of this seems, but we can figure it out. We have the rest of our lives to do that, if that’s what you want. But truthfully, if you let him live, if for some reason he gets off, you know he will come after us.” Adrienne breathed deeply as the thought of being hunted down for the rest of her life overcame her. “We have to let him live. I could never live with myself knowing I was responsible for the death of the love of my life, even if he fucking deserved it.” She said through gritted teeth, glaring at him. A new strength had overcome the normally meek Adrienne. Having the power to wield mercy over death filled her. “How do I know if you’re really my mother?”Adrienne asked the attacker. “I guess you don’t, but what choice do you have?” She responded. Adrienne considered this, knowing the answer. “I’ll go with you. But you have to let him live.” Peanut and Titan had made their way to the living room, now rubbing themselves upon her mother’s legs. “What about my cats?” Adrienne asked shyly. “Bring em. I like cats,” she answered. I’ll give you thirty minutes to grab what you can, and then we have to leave.” She cut her restraints and started packing up her tools and weapons. She checked Derek’s binds for security, and promptly covered his head with a sack as he tried desperately to escape. When Adrienne returned, she stared at Derek, pondering what his future would be like. He was soft, he wasn’t going to do well in prison. But he was also a rich spoiled brat, so what if his parents got him out of this? Just like every other asinine thing he had been caught for? Oh well, at least she would be far away from him by the time anyone found him. Her heart in pieces, she started to load Peanut and Titan and sparse belongings into her mother’s beat up Chrysler Town and Country. An odd choice for a hitman, she thought to herself. She went back into the house, awaiting further instructions, meeting her mother at the door. “I just want to say goodbye first.” Adrienne requested with sad eyes. Her mother regarded her briefly, and stepped aside. Adrienne pulled the bag off of Derek’s head. Tears were streamlining his face and had smeared some of the blood away. She cupped his face. “I truly loved you. I will miss you so much.” She gently kissed his head. “Goodbye.” She turned to leave him and stopped. She snatched up the assault rifle that had been resting on the couch by the door and said, “Never fuck with a girl from Indiana,” and blasted him without a second’s thought. Her mother, shocked and impressed, lightly took the gun away from Adrienne, now shaking. She directed Adrienne to the back of the van, quietly went back into the house. When she returned to the van, Adrienne was serene, buckled in the front seat. They said nothing as they began to drive away, the house, rushed with flames, and said its final goodbye with a loud boom, leaving nothing but crackling scorched foundation behind. Mother and daughter, not looking back, drove into the night.
Leila Toba is an actor residing in Los Angeles, California. Their recent work includes The Garcias on HBO Max. They recently completely their training in the Meisner Technique at The Baron Brown Studio, and currently pursuing their studies at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. They would like to dedicate that story to their loving partner, Bobby Gonzalez, for inspiring them to believe in their storytelling. Happy Holidays!!!
Find out more on Leila’s IMDB page.