The knock on the door startled Amy. She’d been absorbed, playing with the baby on the floor in the sun. After ensuring the tiny girl was safe, she went to the door.
“Can I help you?” she asked politely, wondering idly what the guy was selling. Couldn’t be anything important, dressed as casually – even scruffily – as he was.
“Hello Amy,” he said, staring at her intently.
She was taken aback. “Yes,” she said hesitantly. “Do… do I know you?”
“You don’t recognise me?” The stranger seemed disappointed, but not very surprised.
Amy peered at the man, taking in each feature, considering carefully. It wouldn’t do to be tricked into thinking she knew him, if he was trying to perpetrate some scam. But finally, realisation dawned. He had changed a lot in the last decade, had aged poorly. He was overweight and red of face, where he had once been fit and handsome. But it was certainly him. “Paul?” An ex-boyfriend from a very long time ago.
“Yes!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “Hello.”
There was an awkward pause. “What do you want?” Amy asked finally.
Paul leaned towards her suddenly, making her recoil; up close he smelt of beer and sweat. “I want my daughter,” he snarled, viciousness coming out of nowhere.
Amy hesitated, unsure what he meant. “I didn’t know you had a daughter,” she told him at last. “Why are you here, at my house?” She thought perhaps re-phrasing the question might elicit a more helpful response.
“I am here for my daughter!”
“But your daughter doesn’t live here, Paul. This is my house. Are you alright?” It occurred to Amy suddenly that perhaps he was drunk, or confused. The smell of beer was quite strong.
“Your daughter,” he answered slowly and deliberately, as though speaking to a child, “is my daughter.”
All Amy could do was to stare at him, realising in horror that he was quite serious. “Do you mean my pre-schooler, Emily?”
“Paul,” Amy explained, “Emily is four years old. I haven’t seen you in over ten years. She couldn’t possibly be your daughter.” He said nothing, so she continued to make it a question: “Could she?”
“Four years. Ten years. What’s the difference? She’s mine, and I want her!” Paul’s face turned even redder in his anger.
“Well, the difference is six years. Human gestation period is only forty weeks. What you’re suggesting simply isn’t possible, Paul.” Amy was trying to stay calm and rational, but even she could hear the tremor in her voice. He was much bigger than her, and even if he was drunk he could probably overpower her if he wished.
“Where is she?” he roared, paying no attention to Amy’s logic.
“She’s not here! Her dad has taken her shopping.” Too late, she realised what she’d said. Not only had she incensed him still further by mentioning her father, but she had also revealed that there was no man in the house; she was alone with a baby. Vulnerable.
“Where?” Paul demanded, stepping still closer.
“Paul, you need to leave,” Amy told him, trying to sound firm. “You really need to go. I think you might be sick. You need help, yeah? A doctor, or something.” She stepped back quickly, and wrenched the door closed between them. Paul grabbed hold of it, but fear lent her strength and she slammed it shut, catching his fingers and causing a yell of pain from the raging brute.
“You open that door right now, Amy! I’ll call the police!”
“You’ll call the police?”
“I know every cop in town, bitch, I’ll have my daughter back!”
And then suddenly, silence. Amy paused, worried for what it might mean. She peeked out the window beside the door to see Paul disappearing around the corner – towards her back gate. She hurriedly locked the front door, then ran to the back to lock that too. She glanced at the baby, still lying happily and quietly on the floor. “Stay quiet, bubba boo,” she murmured. “I don’t think he knows about you. Stay safe.”
She took up position just inside the back door, out of the sight of any window, crouched quietly, waiting. The bang on the door, simultaneous with a yell, made her jump and she bit back a yelp of surprise and fear. There was no point pretending she wasn’t home, but maybe if she didn’t respond or show herself, he might get bored and go away.
The banging continued. “Well,” Amy muttered to herself and the baby, “I know where he is. He’s not going anywhere. I think it’s time to make some calls.”
Minutes later, sirens rang out in the distance, coming closer, getting louder. As the police cars pulled up out the front, the banging at the back stopped. Amy stuck her head out the front window and yelled, “Around the back!”
There was a scuffle. Some yelling. A police car pulling away with an angry face in the back. A very welcome bang on the front door from a man in blue. And it was over.