Waking from a Nightmare

Authors: Foster-Dallion4ever

Hosted by VendrediAntiques.com


1: The beginning of the end

"You stupid bitch," Lloyd's harsh voice slurred as he zipped up his pants and looked at Micki. She was naked, curled up on the bed covered only by a thin sheet.

"The next time I say that I want to fuck you, I hope you are more willing. You're better when you're not fighting me."

He turned away from Micki and walked out of the room, leaving her curled up on the bed sobbing and sore from Lloyd's recent attack.

The smell of alcohol still permeated the room from when Lloyd had thrown the bottle against the wall in a fit of rage.

He had come home early and had caught Micki wrapping a present. Christmas was months away yet, but she wanted to get Ryan's present wrapped up so that it could be shipped out with Jack's in plenty of time for the holidays. Plus, Ryan's gift had been found quite by chance, so when Micki had it, she figured she may as well wrap it up and keep it in good shape.

She had gotten him another copy of Green Lantern #3 and was sure that he would love it, since he had to trade his only copy a few years back.

She wished desperately to spend Christmas at the shop the way she used to, but Lloyd had convinced her that Christmas was best spent with their families.

Micki had a horrible relationship with her stuck-up, verbally abusive parents, but Lloyd liked them and insisted that they at least stop in to say hello on Christmas.

When he had come in and found her wrapping a gift that could only be for Ryan, he went ballistic, accusing her of being whore and having an affair with Ryan.

Now, more than ever, Micki wanted nothing more than to be back in her old bed at the shop.

Lloyd had been drinking again, and he was an angry drunk.

Micki lay sobbing, the pillow beneath her head wet with tears. A scenario that had replayed itself several times in the past few months.

She felt so alone...so far removed from the strange but cheerful life she had led at the shop for so many years.

When she and Lloyd had gotten back together, it had come as a shock to everyone, even her. Ryan hadn't been at all happy about it (which was no great surprise to Micki), and Jack had cautioned her about moving too quickly with him.

But, as time passed, she and Lloyd had started dating and it wasn't long before he had asked her to marry him.

The first few months went surprisingly well. She had kept working at the shop during the day and went to home to Lloyd after closing up the shop.

Her relationship with Ryan after the wedding had been slightly strained, particularly since he had never really liked Lloyd. But as time passed she and Ryan finally started to resume the usual, playful relationship they had once shared.

Things were going very well, and Micki was thrilled that she had been able to balance the two lives that had once stood opposite of one another.

That's when things started to change. One night, Lloyd came home and said that the firm offered him a transfer, which he had accepted on the spot.

She protested as gently as possible, asking why he had not thought to ask her about it, but Lloyd was too busy gushing about his place in the firm.

"You're my wife, so where I go, you go," he had stated bluntly, unconcerned about Micki's life at the shop or her happiness.

When she had told Ryan and Jack, they looked upset by the news. Ryan looked devastated, telling her how much they needed her there. It was a terrible time.

And now, here she was, hundreds of miles away from her old life. A life she wished, more than anything, she had back.

Shortly after moving, she wrote and phoned all the time, asking how things were at the shop. She missed them; especially Ryan.

A few times since their move, Micki had awoken in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, terrified from the recurring nightmare of the cursed coin of Ziocles.

Back at the shop, she remembered how Ryan used to rush in and hold her. Tell her that everything was all right. He always knew when something was wrong, and he always knew how to soothe her back to sleep.

Not like Lloyd, who had told her to "keep it down" since he had to be up early the next morning.

Micki stood, and moved unsteadily to the bathroom to survey the stinging bruise that was quickly darkening across her cheek. She hoped she could cover this one with foundation.

2: A loveless union

Lloyd moved in and out of Micki rapidly as she winced with each hard, clumsy thrust. She was still sore from earlier in the day.

Lloyd's alcoholic rage had worn off and he had muttered a cold apology before taking her out to dinner.

Once at the fancy, French restaurant, he had given her another diamond bracelet. Lloyd always bought her jewelry to make up for hurting her in some way; a way of buying back her love, perhaps.

When they got home, Micki knew what he would want.

She remembered a time when she liked being with Lloyd, but that time was long past and she wished that he would be quicker about finishing.

Micki shut her eyes tightly, trying not to cry. She thought about how her marriage had turned into what she feared most...her parent's marriage - cold and loveless.

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, Lloyd grunted and groaned a few times, then rolled off of her, satiated.

"So...is that what Ryan's like in bed?"

Micki's brow furrowed and she looked over at him, shocked and disgusted by his accusation.

"What?!"

"You heard me. I know you're fucking him, Michelle. I talked to your parents about it, and they can't believe you would do that to me."

Micki's eyes widened, "What...why did you tell my parents that?! I'm NOT having an affair!"

"You're a whore..."

Micki's anger overtook her and she slapped him, beginning to cry.

Lloyd brought his hand to his face and thought for a moment. Then he got up out of bed, pulling on his robe, and walked calmly out of the room without saying a word. A shiver ran up Micki's spine.

Something felt wrong.

When he returned a minute later, Micki was out of bed, pulling on something to wear.

"What are you doing?" Lloyd asked.

Micki turned away from him, looking for a pair of socks, "I need to get out of the house for a bit. Just take a walk and clear my head."

"I don't think so," Lloyd murmured.

A few seconds later she felt something strike her back, tearing at the cloth of her shirt. She heard the ripping of the fabric and fell to the ground in pain.

When she looked back at Lloyd, he was standing there menacingly, "Get back into bed, Michelle."

She looked through the dimness of the room, trying to make out what was in Lloyd's had.

It was a fire poker, the tip covered in Micki's blood.

She pushed herself away from him, sobbing, and he stepped forward, taking another swing.

This time, Micki caught it in her hand, her trembling fingers tightening around the brass, yanking it away from him.

"Get away from me!" she screamed, shaking all over now.

Lloyd's eyes narrowed and he stepped forward. Micki panicked and began swinging the poker frantically, desperate to keep Lloyd away from her.

He backed up, not wanting to get hit by the heavy brass, until he was practically out of the bedroom door.

When he was close to being out, she lunged forward, pushing him out, and locking the door behind him.

Lloyd pounded on the wooden door, screaming profanities and threats, as Micki frantically gathered her most precious possessions in a suitcase.

"Let me in, bitch! Let me in or I'm going to kill you!" Micki heard a crack in the wood of the door.

She took one last glance around, making certain she had everything she wanted, pulled on her shoes, and scaled out of the 2-story window.

She made her way down the trellis, pulled her keys out of her purse, and sped away in her car.

As she drove through the rainy night, she sobbed uncontrollably, knowing that there was only one place she could go that would make her feel safe again.

3: An unexpected visitor

Ryan swung his legs out of bed and let out a shiver as his bare feet hit the cold, wood floor.

He had heard knocking at the door, and wondered if it was Jack. He had left to hunt down an item, though, and wasn't due to be back at the shop for another week.

When Ryan heard the bells sound at the front door, he froze.

Was it a burglar? Some crazed maniac, coming to get an item back?

He grabbed a nearby baseball bat and silently crept down the stairs.

When he finally flicked the light on and peered down at the front door, a smile spread across his face as he rushed forward, "Micki?! What are you doing..." his voice trailed off as he got closer and looked at her.

Micki's hair, and clothes were dripping wet, and she had mascara under her reddened eyes.

When he got a bit closer, he noticed the bruise that covered the upper part of her right cheek, exposed by the rain that had washed away the foundation.

He rushed forward, gathering up her small, shivering frame in his arms, "Micki? What happened?"

"Ryan..." was all she could mutter as she fell against him, sobbing.

Ryan knew instantly what had happened, and every ounce of his being wanted to track Lloyd down and hurt him as badly as he had obviously hurt his Micki.

But Ryan knew that his anger towards Lloyd wouldn't help Micki feel any better right now, "C'mon, Angel, let's get you upstairs..."

Ryan took her suitcase and led her upstairs slowly so that she could change into his warm, dry bathrobe and get a hot cup of tea.

Maybe then she'd be willing to talk about what had happened, and he could convince her to call the police.

4: Safe at home

Ryan sat at the table, trying to keep his anger in check. He couldn't believe Lloyd could hurt such a precious creature as Micki.

To have such a perfect wife and treat her so badly was beyond Ryan's comprehension.

When she had turned to shower, Ryan had seen the blood that covered the back of her shirt. When he got closer to look at the damage, he noticed deep bruise and a gash across her back.

Ryan had started to ask her about it, but the pained look in her eyes broke his heart, and he didn't want to force her to talk about something that she wasn't ready to talk about.

He hated Lloyd, now more than ever, and Ryan wished that he really had throttled the asshole the night that he broke in to check up on Micki; the night before he and Micki tracked down the cursed mulcher.

He sighed, getting up to turn off the the kettle. Micki was in the shower now, and Ryan was glad that he had a chance to calm down before she saw him again.

He knew his anger might just make her more nervous. Right now, the most important thing was making sure that Micki felt safe.

Ryan had called the police, and they had taken down all of the information, making sure that a restraining order was filed ASAP.

That made Micki feel a bit better, but she was still shaken, and eager to shower. She still felt dirty and wanted to wash all memory of Lloyd off of her skin.

Micki had been in the bathroom for nearly an hour now, and when the door finally opened, Ryan's heart ached. She had been crying, and her eyes were red and raw.

"Feeling better?" he asked, not quite knowing what to say.

He got up, and helped her over to a chair. Micki smiled weakly, "Thank you, Ryan. You're always there for me."

Ryan smiled, "Anything for my girl. So, how about some tea?"

Micki nodded and they spent nearly an hour catching up as they drank their hot tea. Mostly it was Ryan telling her about his latest object recovery, complete with acted out scenes of a struggle, which made Micki laugh. She hadn't laughed in a long while.

Ryan was midway through another story when the phone rang, making Micki jump. Ryan picked it up, thinking it was Jack.

"Hello, Jack?"

There was a pause and Micki could tell by the expression on his face, that it was Lloyd.

By the time Ryan looked back at Micki, tears were streaming down her face, and she was shaking her head, "No..." she was whispering, terrified.

Ryan tried to speak as calmly as possible, but Micki could tell he was upset. "I know what you did, Lloyd, and I've already called the cops....No, because you have a restraining order against you now, so don't even think about it...If you ever go near her again, I swear you won't know what hit you...Stay away from her." Ryan's voice was deadly serious and she could hear Lloyd ranting and raving on the other end of the line as Ryan hung up.

Ryan gave Micki a small, comforting smile and got up to give her a hug, "He said he wants a divorce...is that gonna be okay with you?" he asked jokingly, trying to lighten the mood.

Micki let out a small, relieved laugh, and hugged Ryan tightly. She felt safe in his arms, and hearing Ryan protecting her from the evil person who had hurt her so badly made her feel guarded and loved. She knew everything was going to be all right.

5: Safe in his arms

Micki fell asleep in Ryan's arms that night. And now, a few months later, she still slept right next to him every night.

There was nothing romantic happening between the two of them, but somehow, being in Ryan's arms made everything okay. Micki was able to drift off to sleep and have the most pleasant of dreams.

Jack had gotten back a few days after Micki had shown up that night and he couldn't have been more thrilled to see her. He was happy to have her back, and seeing her and Ryan together again as they worked gave new life to the tired old shop.

Jack hoped that the two of them would be together, but he knew that after what Micki went through with Lloyd, it would most likely be a long while before she dated again.

Now a few months had passed and things were beginning to change between Micki and Ryan.

Jack could see it. They were more flirtatious than ever and, more than once, Jack would catch one of them staring dreamy-eyed at the other.

He knew that look well. It was the same looks he and Grace had secretly shared all those years ago.

It was love.

Logically, Ryan knew it wasn't the best idea, considering everything that had happened between Micki and Lloyd. And Micki knew it wasn't the best of ideas...after all, the divorce was still a few months from being finalized.

But neither of them seemed to be letting logic get in the way of their hearts' desires. They spent nearly every moment together and they liked it that way.

Suddenly, Micki looked forward to the stupid jokes that Ryan told; the same ones she used to roll her eyes at only a few years back now made her cry with laughter.

And Ryan found himself looking forward to the high-maintenance complaints when Micki was on her feet too long during one of the sales at the shop. He would rub her feet that night and listen to her go on about the latest fashions in Paris as if it were the most fascinating thing he had ever heard.

Jack thought it was adorable.

One morning, Micki awoke slowly to the sound of rain hitting the window and noticed that Ryan had already gotten up, letting her sleep in until just after 9:00am.

She let out a wide yawn, swung her legs around, and made her way out of bed.

When she finally reached the kitchen area she sniffed the air. Fresh coffee.

She smiled, Ryan always knew what she needed first thing in the morning.

Then Micki's eyes shifted to the table where a beautiful cream colored vase sat, filled with a beautiful arrangement. Next to it was a note:

'Morning, Micki. You may be wondering, why the flowers? Well, the first reason is that I wanted to get you something almost as beautiful as you. The second reason...I wanted to ask you out, but I've been too nervous to ask. So, I thought I'd put my otherwise stuttered words on paper. You'd be making me the happiest man in the world if you go out to dinner with me tonight.'

By the time Ryan had made his way back upstairs, Micki was holding the note, tears of happiness in her eyes.

Ryan stopped on the stairs and smiled.

Micki smiled back, "So...what time is dinner, Mr. Dallion?"

6: An unexpected surprise

Micki and Ryan sipped their coffees as they shared dessert. They had spent the entire time laughing, talking, and planning for their future together.

It was the best time Micki had experienced in years.

Ryan was so different from Lloyd. He was so warm and genuine, always with a kind word or a joke to make her laugh. She loved every second they spent together.

"Micki," Ryan started, setting his cup back down in the saucer. Micki looked up at him, noticing that he had gotten distinguished over the past few years.

Still the same Ryan, just a bit more grown up.

She smiled, "Yes, Ryan?"

"When...when everything with Lloyd is finished, and you are a free woman again...do you think that you'd be interested in marriage again someday?"

Micki paused, thinking, then nodded, "I think if the right person came along, I'd be more than happy to give it another try."

Ryan grinned, "I'm glad, 'cause...you know, if you didn't have anyone else in mind...I think we could make a great couple."

Micki smiled and reached across to take his hand, giving it a small squeeze, "I think we would to. And if there is anyone I would be willing to marry, it would be you."

Ryan's grin widened impossibly and it took all of his self control to keep him from jumping up and screaming the news to the entire restaurant. "You have no idea how happy you have made me."


They spent the next few hours strolling through the latest art gallery opening, holding hands, talking about what kind of wedding they would have and who would be invited.

Then, playfully, Ryan started asking what they would name their first child.

"Well, of course, she would be a beautiful little girl, just like her mother," Micki stated, teasingly flicking her hair back in mock vanity.

Ryan chuckled, kissing her hand, "I'm sure she would. So we'll have a beautiful baby girl and name her...Minnie!"

Micki made a face and Ryan grinned, "What?! That was one of my favorite cartoon characters...Micki and Minnie...it's perfect!"

Micki laughed and playfully punched him in the shoulder, "Not funny."

Ryan laughed as they made their way to the next room, a large space filled with colorful exhibits.

"What about Dori?" Micki asked, looking at one of the paintings, head tilted.

Ryan smiled, "I love it...Dori Jacqueline Foster-Dallion..."

Micki smiled, "Jacqueline?"

Ryan nodded, smiling, "After her grandfather, Jack, of course."

At nearly 10:30 they finally made their way home. It was mid-December now and the snow was beginning to fall gently on the street as they walked home arm in arm.

Micki loved the snow; it had a calm, pleasant effect on her, and she was hoping that it would last through Christmas. Her first Christmas back at the shop with snow. She sighed happily just thinking about it.

They strolled past the downtown area, looking towards the shops. Micki's eyes settled on a colorful neon display at the drugstore and she slowed to a stop, thinking.

When was her last period? It hadn't been during her past few months at the shop, that much she knew.

With everything that had been going on she really hadn't been paying close attention. But now she wondered...

"Um...before we go home, I need to run into the drugstore and pick up some...multivitamins," she didn't know why she had lied to Ryan...she just didn't want to have everyone thinking and worrying when there was a good chance that it was the stress, not a pregnancy, that had affected her usual schedule.

Ryan looked amused, "Wow, sudden healthy craving?" Micki forced a smile, "Well, I just thought, you know, since we're out here anyway..."

She made her way towards the store and Ryan said that he'd be looking at the new art supplies in the window of the building a few doors down.

Micki was relieved and told him that she would only be a few minutes.

-------------------------------------------

Micki had showered and waited impatiently for the test results, thankful that Ryan had decided to shower in the downstairs bathroom.

She knew she was most likely not pregnant, but better safe than sorry, and why worry Ryan for nothing. It was probably just all the talk about baby names that had put her on edge.

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, Micki looked down at the pregnancy test; she nearly broke down crying.

She knew it was Lloyd's...it had to be, she hadn't slept with anyone else since they had gotten married.

"No..." she said quietly, wondering what she would do.

She was pregnant, with Lloyd's child. She knew she didn't want him to have anything to do with this child; he may hurt it the way he hurt Micki.

But what would she do? Would Ryan still be interested in marrying her? Would he want to raise Lloyd's child? A million thoughts swirled in her head at once and she fought to compose herself before heading to the bedroom.

Once there, she covered herself, not sure what or how to tell Ryan.

When Ryan finally walked in to the bedroom a few minutes later he smiled at her and headed for bed. When he saw Micki laying there, looking worried, he sat down beside her, "Micki, you okay?"

She stared at him, confused, then took his large hand and placed it on her tiny tummy, "Ryan...say hello to 'Dori'..."

7: Reactions

Ryan's eyes widened, his hand resting on Micki's tummy; all was silent in the room for what seemed like an eternity.

He's angry...he doesn't want a woman with a child...he always hated Lloyd...Micki's thought overwhelmed her. She wished desperately that Ryan would say something.

Finally, Ryan looked up, eyes glistening, and smiled. He lunged forward and hugged Micki tightly, "I can't believe it..."

Micki looked at him when he finally pulled back. "You're...not upset about it?"

Ryan shook his head, "Why should I be? It's great news! It...won't affect us getting married someday, will it?"

Micki shook her head, "No, no..." she finally managed a smile, seeing Ryan's reaction, "I love you."

He grinned, "I love you, too..." he leaned down, talking to Micki's stomach, "And I love you, too, you little future artist."

Micki laughed, shaking her head, "Already pressuring the little one into a career as a comic book illustrator, eh?"

Ryan shrugged innocently, laughing, "What? I could get some good discounts from my own kid, you know?"

Micki smiled, noting the way Ryan was already thinking of this little child as his child.

When word got back to Lloyd, through a chain of Micki's big-mouthed friends, his reaction was not so favorable. He told her that she should abort the "thing."

Micki's parents were no better, telling her not to expect them to have a relationship with this bastard child. They were still angry and in shock over the fact that Micki would leave a successful attorney for "one of those artist types."

But Micki didn't care. She was thrilled that Lloyd wanted nothing to do with the baby (not that she would have let him be involved), and Micki was certain that Jack would make a much better grandparent than both of her parents combined with both of Lloyd's.

Months passed and Ryan was getting more excited by the day. They had found out that the baby was, indeed, a little girl, and Ryan couldn't have been more thrilled.

Jack often joked about how she already had him wrapped around her tiny finger.

Practically every week Ryan came home with frilly little dresses, toys...he even found a "my first comic book," his prized purchase.

They had begun to renovate the second floor, turning Ryan's old room into a nursery.

Eventually, when the little one was old enough, they would move her into their room and they would move into the big, hidden room downstairs. Ryan had even planned on putting a few windows in so that the place seemed a bit less creepy. He didn't, however, have any intention of putting in a "real" door; he liked the fact that there future bedroom door would be a bookcase.

They had also been talking a lot about weddings and decided that a small ceremony, with only their closest friends and family, would be best. They couldn't imagine waiting any longer and a small ceremony would let them marry in less than a month.

They set a date: one week after Micki and Lloyd's divorce was finally officially settled.

8: Judgements

The clink of champagne glasses filled Curious Goods. "Here's to your freedom," Jack toasted.

"From a total jerk," Ryan added with a grin, clinking Micki's glass of sparkling water.

Micki smiled, truly thankful to be back home with people who truly cared about her, "Thank you two, this celebration party was really sweet."

Ryan leaned back in his chair, "Nothing's too good for our Micki."

The mood was festive; Micki's divorce proceedings had gone very well, and now they were all celebrating the end of a terrible point in Micki's romantic life.

-------------------------------------

Ryan had gone with a nervous Micki to the proceedings and when he saw Lloyd, it took all of Ryan's self-control not to rush over and throttle the arrogant bastard.

Lloyd cast an evil glare at Micki and muttered a few names under his breath before finally blowing up at her in front of a shocked judge.

This made Micki's domestic violence accusations even more believable and the judge was more than happy to award Micki anything she wanted.

Micki, on the other hand, didn't want a penny of alimony for herself. Instead she asked for her car and the "guilt gifts" Lloyd had gotten her each time they had fought during one of his drunken outbursts.

Micki planned on selling everything off so that they could get a reliable car to add to the Curious Goods garage, and put some in the savings account.

"Are you certain, Miss Foster, that I cannot persuade you to ask for alimony for yourself and your child?" Micki glanced back at Ryan who smiled reassuringly. She knew that he would take care of them...that they would take care of each other, without the "help" of Lloyd. She wanted nothing else to do with that monster.

Micki looked back at the judge, "Not for me, your honor...but I would like to make a request..."

--------------------------------------

Ryan poured himself another glass of champagne, "Micki, you are not only a genius, but a compassionate genius. Having the judge order Lloyd pay his "alimony" every month to the battered women and children's shelter...Brilliant!"

They all clinked glasses again and Micki said, smiling, "Well, it seemed fitting."

9: Stormy bliss

Ryan's eyes lit as he watched Jack walking Micki down the aisle of the small church.

Micki's parents had refused to come to the wedding since she was "going through with her marriage to that artist boy," and Jack being like a father to Micki, had offered to walk her down the aisle. Micki was touched when he had offered and accepted immediately.

Micki's simple, elegant ivory gown was practically aglow in the warm candlelight that flooded the church.

The storm that raged outside had knocked out power across the entire city, and the church was no exception to the lack of electricity.

But Micki and Ryan didn't care, they didn't want to wait any longer.

So, their small group of friends and family gathered together in the candlelit church, sheltered from the driving rain that pummeled the building.

Jack placed Micki's hand in Ryan's and they smiled at one another before turning to the priest.

-------------------------------

Micki lay there panting, glistening as a bead of sweat trickled off of her body. This was the third time tonight, and she wanted more.

It was the seventh, and last, day of their honeymoon, and neither of them could remember ever having been happier.

Every day they would go out and see the magnificent sights of their destination, and every night they would go back to the hotel and stay up together until nearly dawn.

Micki and Ryan had waited impatiently for their wedding night before being together for the first time, and neither of them were disappointed; it had been well worth the wait.

It seemed ironic that they waited considering the fact that Micki was pregnant, but they both thought it would be best.

Besides, the timing and circumstances had never been quite right for them to be together until now.

Ryan leaned over and kissed her, "You're beautiful, Micki."

Micki smiled, kissing him, "I love you, Ryan."

10: The nightmare returns

Micki and Ryan got back from their dream honeymoon and hit reality head-on. Jack had just received a mailer back about a cursed set of watercolours and the 3 of them were soon in hot pursuit of a deranged artist terrorizing the nearby cities.

Micki did her best to keep up with her partners, but by day 3 she was exhausted. Her feet were sore, her back was aching, and her little girl was restless and kicking constantly.

As if she were trying to warn her mum of something.

"Honestly, Micki, we'll be fine tonight. We just need to go over to his house while he's at his gallery showing. We even know where he hides the things. We'll be an hour..maybe two. No problem." Ryan was trying to convince Micki, but she still looked nervous.

Finally, after several minutes, she agreed that it probably would be best for her to stay at the shop while they tracked down the object. But she made them promise to call as soon as they were headed home.

Ryan and Jack went out into the cold night and Micki locked up behind them, flicking on the radio as she made her way back towards the downstairs sofa.

Micki picked up her book, took a sip of coffee, and started in on the latest chapter of her horror novel.

She was on chapter 8 when she heard it. It was the faintest of sounds, barely audible.

Yet in Micki's terrified mind the sound was so loud it could have shattered glass.

It was a small click, followed by rustling.

Slowly, Micki put her book down and listened intently, straining her ears to catch even the slightest hint as to what was making the frightening sounds.

When Micki heard the sound of footsteps upstairs, she had the hint she needed and bolted for the front door.

By the time she reached the lock, Lloyd had already raced downstairs and had her pinned against the wood.

"You left me once, you fucking bitch, and now you and your little bastard child are going to pay."

Micki shrieked, "Lloyd! What are you doing?"

"What I should have done when you left," he snarled.

Micki looked away, smelling alcohol on his breath, "Lloyd, you don't know what you're doing..."

"I know exactly what I'm doing, you bitch! You've embarrassed me, you've taken my money, and you've both gotten better than you deserve," he shoved her against the wall, hard, to emphasize his point, and Micki felt her little girl begin kicking agitatedly.

Micki shook her head, "Lloyd, don't do this...you have no right to hurt me. You never did. That's why I left you."

Lloyd shoved her against the wall again, "Shut up, bitch!"

She took a deep breath, and brought her knee up, hard, connecting where she could hurt him most. As he doubled over in pain, she pushed him back and ran from him. Or tried to. His hand shot out to grab her wrist, and she yanked away from him, running up the steps and through the shop, her mind racing. Jack and Ryan had the Mercedes, but her new car, a sensible Honda, was in the garage. She ran for the steps that went down to that dark cavern where safety lie.

Micki was halfway down the steps when Lloyd caught up to her, grabbing her in the darkness. She fell forward, managing to twist so that she landed on her side. Lloyd chuckled coldly, "Oh, I'm so sorry...I didn't mean for you to fall."

Micki leveled a glare at him, and sat up. Her left arm, the one she had landed on, felt terrible. She struggled to her feet and tried to run for the car, but Lloyd was faster than her. He grabbed her by her upper arms, and shoved her backward to the wall where the vault was, "How do you open this thing, again, Micki? Maybe I should lock you and your bastard child in there?"

Micki's eyes widened, "No! Lloyd, you can't do that...you can't...No!"

He laughed, "You're such an ignorant bitch. I can't believe you still think those things are cursed."

She tried to yank away from him, but his grip was firm, "Lloyd, please, let me go..."

"I have no such intention."

"Lloyd..."

The back of his hand connected with her cheek, hard, "Shut up, Bitch!"

She bit back a cry of pain, and shut her eyes. Her arm was throbbing, and her little girl was kicking again. She took a deep breath, and opened her eyes, speaking in a voice barely louder than a whisper, "Lloyd, please...you can have everything back. I'll release you from the alimony agreement...anything, just...please let me go."

Lloyd's eyes darted to the vault, and a smile spread slowly across his face, "I think not. I think I have just the thing for you."

Micki shivered, "No...please, no..."

He pulled her to the vault, and started pushing on bricks along the left side, "Which one of these is it?" Micki didn't answer, and he yanked her closer to him, "Which one is it?!"

Micki winced, shooting pain emanating from her arm, "Lloyd, please, don't do this. You don't have to do this...what can I do to make you change your mind?"

He slapped her, "Where is it?!"

Micki hated herself for letting him do this to her, but she couldn't stop herself - she started crying, sobbing.

He slapped her again, "Shut up, Bitch! Just shut up!"


Ryan hit the button on the garage door opener, and as the door raised, he saw what he had feared the most when Micki hadn't answered the phone - Lloyd standing over his wife, holding Vita. Ryan yanked the handbrake, and was out of the car, faster than he knew he could move. He yanked Vita from Lloyd, throwing the evil little creation across the room.

He didn't even bother with Lloyd - nothing could have kept him from Micki's side. "Micki! Micki, are you okay?"

She was crying, and as Ryan knelt beside her, he could see blood on the floor beneath her. His heart stopped in his chest.

He touched her face, "Micki, are you okay? Is Doreen okay?" She nodded, crying too hard to speak. Ryan's eyes traced the blood to Micki's arm - she had somehow scraped her arm on the rough floor of the garage.

Knowing Micki was okay, Ryan turned on Lloyd - he stood abruptly, cold fury in his eyes - and decked him.

11: A new space

Things had calmed down quite a bit since that terrible night when Lloyd had come into the store and gotten knocked out by Ryan.

They had called the police since Lloyd hadn't just come into the store and abused Micki, he had also violated his restraining order.

Now Ryan was more protective of Micki than ever. He had promised her that he would never let anyone hurt her or their little girl again.

Micki thought it was cute when Ryan got so protective, and she began to notice how she felt safer and happier every time he entered the room.

Now, Micki and Ryan sat on the sofa downstairs, in the spare room that they had fixed up quite nicely.

At first the large room behind the bookcase had creeped out both Micki and Ryan and they had never even considered opening it up again. They had simply left the bookcase in place and pretended the room wasn't there. True, nothing had ever happened in the room.

After that Halloween night, years ago, they had gone back into the room where Grace had lay in bed with Lewis leaning over her.

But when they got back into the room they were shocked at what they found.

Nothing.

A completely empty room; no furniture, no Grace, nothing...

Despite this, they had still found the room creepy and hadn't thought of living in it until they realized that, once little Dori was born, there would be a serious space deficiency upstairs.

So, they mustered up their courage, and opened up the hidden room once again.

They were now glad they did. Micki and Ryan had spent weeks cleaning and painting the huge room, and Ryan had even put in two windows to let natural light into the space.

They realized that the more time they spent in the room, and the more they made it their own, the less creepy it was. Micki was especially excited about the large, private, antique bathroom that was just off of the room.

Now, Micki and Ryan sat on the sofa in the room, their attention split between the roaring fire and the heavy snowfall outside. The snowfall was so heavy, in fact, that power and phone service had been knocked out to the entire neighborhood.

Ryan silently thanked God that this hadn't happened when Lloyd had attacked Micki; that he was able to get home to his wife and daughter.

Micki let out a small, contented sigh and leaned against Ryan's muscular chest, listening to the fire crackle.

12: Happiness in a place of darkness

Ryan stroked Micki's hair as they sat, watching the flames dance in the fireplace, occasionally looking out at the mountains of snow that were being piled high outside.

The room was quiet except for the crackling that came from the large fireplace. Ryan jumped when Micki shot forward with a gasp, "Oh!"

Ryan's eyes widened, "Micki, are you okay?" She was breathing deeper than usual, and she held her stomach, "I...yeah...I think so."

Ryan looked worried, "You sure?"

Micki nodded, but minutes later drew in another sharp breath, "Ryan...I think the baby's coming..."

Ryan looked shocked, everything he had read about labor told him that it could last hours, contractions starting out small and getting increasingly strong over time. But not with this baby...Now here they were trapped in the store, no way to call for help.

"Are you sure?" Ryan asked in nearly a whisper.

Micki laughed, "Yeah, I think I'm sure, Ryan." Despite the pain, she thought it was cute that he seemed so nervous.

Ryan smiled, not wanting Micki to know how scared he really was, "Well, why don't you get into bed, keep warm, and I'll go wake Jack up. Women were having kids at home for centuries and I'm sure Jack knows all about it."

Micki smiled and nodded as Ryan helped her up and lay her in bed.

"I'll be right back," he said as he covered her up with the fluffy blanket and made his way upstairs.

The contractions were already getting stronger, and Micki lay there trying to remember to breathe. She and Ryan had gone to Lamaze classes together a month ago, and now she was glad they had.

Ryan raced in a few minutes later and was at Micki's side in a split second. Jack followed behind, looking cheerful, "I hear my granddaughter wants out!"

Micki let out a small laugh in between breaths, relieved that Jack seemed to be taking the situation so lightly, "She must be eager to see her Grandfather."

Jack chuckled and looked around, getting things set up. Then Jack sat beside Micki, took her hand, and told Ryan to scrub up and get ready.

Ryan nodded with a small smile and kissed Micki's forehead, tasting the sweat that was already coating her skin, "I'll be right back, Love."

Micki nodded and concentrated on breathing through the next strong contraction.

By the time Ryan got back, Micki was breathing deeply, pain evident on her face. Jack's brow furrowed as she yelled out in pain.

He shook his head, "I know I can do something for the pain, I have some things that will help. But I can't work with the pain and deliver little Dori..."

Ryan nodded, looking nervous, but thrilled, "No problem. It'll be good for my daughter's first glimpse of the world to include such a handsome face," he motioned to his own face and Micki laughed softly despite the pain.

This was not how she had planned the birth, but both Micki and Ryan's lives had never been what society would call "normal" so this seemed oddly fitting. Just like their wedding.

She let out another loud yell and Jack rushed to put together tinctures and oils that he knew would help with the pain. By the time Micki let out another yell, Jack had the mixtures ready and worked to ease Micki's pain.

She was relieved that, despite the strange scents of the oils, her next contraction seemed much less painful.

Ryan, meanwhile, did his best to steady his shaking hands as he held Micki's tiny hand and kissed her fingers, "You're such a strong women, Micki, and even now you're beautiful.."

She kissed him gently on the lips, "I love you." Ryan smiled, "I love you, too." He checked how she was doing and, after consulting with Jack, too his place to help bring his daughter into the world.

Jack helped Micki lean forward, "All right, Micki, during your next contraction, I want you to push." She nodded and with her next strong contraction, pushed with all her might, practically screaming from the effort.

By the time she lay back a bit, Jack and Ryan were smiling and supportively telling her what a great job she had done.

Three hours later, and after 2 more rounds of the strange oils and tinctures, the baby was almost ready to greet the outside world.

Jack had given Micki something not only to dull the pain, but to make the birth as quick as possible. He was pleased that it seemed to have worked extremely well.

Meanwhile, Micki was drenched in sweat and exhausted. "One more push, Micki...just one more."

She leaned forward and pushed as hard as she could, letting out a scream as she felt an odd, painful sensation wash over her lower half.

Seconds later, a small cry filled the room.


13: Family portrait

Micki and Ryan laughed as Jack raced forward, nearly falling over the bundle of presents that lay under the small Christmas tree.

This was his third attempt at setting the timer feature on the camera and the last two times he had tumbled forward, giving the camera a good view of him as he fell.

Dori had thought it was hilarious and squealed "Pop Pop!" both times he had fallen. Micki and Ryan decided to keep those two pictures for posterity.

This time, however, Jack made his way back to the trio, successfully maneuvering around the presents that blocked his path.

By the time the camera clicked a photograph, Jack was standing behind a seated Micki and Ryan, Dori perched happily on Micki's lap.

"Aha! Success!" Jack chuckled as he took Dori and gave her a kiss on the forehead, her red curls bouncing around as she happily tapped Jack's head, "Pop Pop!"

He laughed, "All right, Dori and I are going to get some drinks for all of us. Orders?"

Micki smiled, standing up, "Ummm, coffee?"

Ryan grinned, walking towards the camera, "Scotch and Soda for me and the kid."

Jack chuckled, "3 coffees and a warm milk it is!"

Ryan walked over with the camera and Micki and he laughed at the first two acrobatic photos.

Then they looked over the third photo.

Micki grinned, leaning in and kissing Ryan, "We may be a strange family, but I feel so blessed that we all have each other. That I have you."

Ryan kissed Micki, and held her tight, "I couldn't ask for a more perfect family."