Not Thinking Clearly
She and her husband were supposed to celebrate this special moment together. In the end, she was glad that the labor had come to an end after fourteen hours.
She was exasperated and afraid that her son might not survive, so she could not think clearly.
Her hardest tests awaited her outside the delivery room, which she had no idea about.
She Deserved A Win
This was supposed to be Erica’s year-ending win.
Having overcome so many obstacles, she deserved something that wouldn’t cause so much suffering and pain.
She had been under the thumb of her mother-in-law for years, making absurd demands and treating her as if she did not matter. When her newborn baby caused even more chaos, Erica thought she would change.
Not An Easy Life
There had been enough suffering for Erica Bing.
Upon turning twenty-five, she had been divorced, left to raise her six-month-old daughter alone, and moved to another state.
In the last two years, she has encountered many things that have caused her to believe in curses for the first time. Eventually, she hoped the stress would subside.
Leaving Brooklyn, New York City, for Midway, Utah, was quite a change.
It was quieter, the air was cleaner, and the streets were emptier.
Her heart and mind were calmed by the pristine, alpine town, which promised a better future than the one New York had offered her. She found a place where she and her daughter could begin afresh.
Doing Her Best
Following the discovery of a reasonable apartment, she began searching for a job.
She would be best suited to a management position in any business organization.
She was only concerned about making ends meet. The pain of her nasty divorce was still fresh in her mind. Despite this, she could not stand by as her little angel died from starvation. There should have been no doubt in her mind that fate was watching her.
Searching For A Job
It was challenging to find a new job in a small town where Erica had no friends.
Kelly, her baby, would be left at the daycare while she went about her morning’s business.
There was an amusement park, a movie theater, and hotels and restaurants she visited. Her resume did not seem to attract anyone’s attention. That was until she came across this small bakery in town.
The Perfect Place
After stepping through its doors, Erica’s breath was taken away.
It was filled with a warm scent of freshly baked pastries as the walls were painted arctic blue and blush pink.
In the end, it was the staff inside that made the difference. After welcoming Erica with a hug, they served her a cup of coffee and muffins. She clearly had found her new home.
Her New Job
Mrs. Letty, the company’s owner and head chef, was happy to have Erica on board.
The forty-year-old smiled brightly and said, “We have long needed a manager for everything! I think you’ll fit right in.”
It would have been better if she had told Erica about the strapping young man who attended lemon cake deliveries every Tuesday afternoon with his daughter. Certain things, however, should remain private.
The Mysterious Man
A week had passed since Erica last stepped into the bakery.
At first glance, he appeared tall and imposing, taking measured steps that indicated his seriousness.
In front of him, his daughter was waving at Mrs. Letty and hugging her behind the counter. She anticipated a rude or nonchalant response from him. This was going to be a life-changing experience for her.
She Was In Awe
There was nothing rude about Marcus Townsley.
He seemed to lose his businesslike demeanor as soon as his eyes fell on Erica. A curled lip softened the angular planes on his face.
When he reached the counter, he stretched out his hand to Erica and said one word that pushed them from their bakery counter to the altar of their town church.
Love At First Sight
“Hi,” Marcus said, a simple greeting that almost had Erica falling over.
“A new face,” he continued, oblivious to how difficult she was finding it to make coherent responses.
His intense eyes seemed to devour her where she stood, his conversation about leaving work every Tuesday afternoon because his five-year-old daughter had a sweet tooth capturing every brain cell in her mind. Even Mrs. Letty knew this was love at first sight.
She wasted no time explaining who Marcus was: a single dad and the town’s resident dentist.
Although tall and burly, he was the sweetest man Mrs. Letty had the pleasure of watching grow.
Since he came in every Tuesday, it was only a short time before he and Erica became friends. But that friendship gave birth to something more, pledging a life of happiness.
Like Erica, Marcus came into the relationship with baggage.
After losing his daughter’s mom, he’d become completely closed off. His daughter and mom were the only people that mattered to him before Erica.
His daughter, Macy, was the sweetest girl Erica had ever met. The fact that she saw Erica as her own mom was among the reasons why Marcus fell in love with the Brooklyn native. But it would be soon that trouble came knocking.
In three months of dating, Erica was yet to meet Marcus’ mom.
Although the woman lived five hours away on a ranch deep in Utah’s untamed wilderness, Erica knew all she needed to know about her.
Mrs. Letty had shared everything, telling Erica about how protective the woman was over Marcus and Macy. But that was only half of it.
Her Love For Her Family
She explained that despite having seven grandchildren, Marcus’ mom treated Macy like she was the only one.
She constantly bought the girl gifts and drove her across the state.
She’d even converted one of her ranch’s guestrooms into Macy’s room, a luxury the other kids in the family didn’t enjoy. But all these things wouldn’t deter Erica from giving herself to Marcus. She should have known better.
Moving In Together
Erica and Marcus moved into Marcus’ house on the outskirts of town with their daughters, Kelly and Macy.
Marcus quickly introduced Erica and Kelly to his mom, who was all smiles and compliments at the time.
She even asked Erica to visit the ranch over the weekend, saying she wanted to spend time with her and her daughter. But slowly and gradually, she’d make her true colors known.
At The Ranch
Erica was at the ranch when she noticed something was off. Despite Marcus’ mom having other grandkids, she only had Macy’s pictures in her house.
Every framed photo was of the little girl, be it on a dresser in some room or any wall.
The woman had Macy as her laptop and phone screensaver. Erica initially dismissed it, thinking it was a loving grandma doting over her granddaughter. But things were about to get weird.
When it came time to sleep, Macy, who had just arrived alongside her dad, asked if she could have little Kelly sleep with her in her room.
Erica didn’t see a reason not to.
But Marcus’ mom was livid. She reprimanded Macy for suggesting such a heinous thing, stating that the room was only meant for her and no one else. But it would only get worse from there.
She’s Out For Her
Erica realized that in every conversation she and Marcus’ mom had, the woman would try to one-up her. She had a better/more depressing version of everything depending on the topic.
Her past was more traumatic, her trips across Eastern Europe more exciting, and her experiences with diseases and accidents more painful.
She was also keen on correcting Erica at every turn, whether on grammar or something she did. She went as far as insinuating that Erica was a bad mom to Kelly. But she was only beginning.
She kept leading conversations to focus on herself, trying to paint a picture of a woman who’d conquered everything.
She’d constantly put Erica down, especially when Marcus wasn’t in the room.
She had advice about everything, advice that felt more like gloating than words of wisdom. Erica should have taken this as a sign to reassess everything. She didn’t.
After the visit, Marcus informed Erica that his mom approved of her.
“She’s very picky,” he said with an awkward smile. “I’m glad she likes you because I really like and wouldn’t wanna lose you.”
As the last born of the family, it was clear that he was his mom’s favorite. He also lived in the state, unlike his three siblings, who’d moved away because, according to them, their mom was overbearing. This alone should have been another sign for Erica.
Love Is Blind
But Erica didn’t heed the signs. After years of abuse and suffering, she’d finally found somewhere she felt loved, appreciated, and seen.
These blinded her to the danger constantly looming, convincing her she was where she was meant to be.
“Everything happens for a reason,” she’d long told herself. After a failed marriage in New York, she’d finally found someone who treated her right. But just as everything was falling into place, disaster struck.
In The Darkness
It was a warm summer night a month after her marriage to Marcus when it happened.
Erica had laid Kelly, who was seven months, in her crib. The little angel usually slept for five hours before coming to.
But today, it was different. Her wails didn’t wake Erica up at night. The young mom thought Kelly was sound asleep, not knowing it was something far worse.
“Sudden infant death syndrome,” the doctor said over the weeping mom in the emergency room.
Erica couldn’t believe it. She blamed herself for Kelly’s passing, almost losing her mind because of the guilt and pain.
Of course, Marcus’ mom came to the hospital as soon as she received the news. But her intentions weren’t pure.
Pulling Marcus aside, the woman said she needed him, Erica, and Macy to move into the ranch.
To her, Erica wasn’t fit to be a partner, let alone a mom. She used Erica’s loss and troubled past as ammunition, explaining that such a ‘broken’ woman shouldn’t raise her granddaughter.
Marcus couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Although he didn’t tell Erica why, he banned his mom from visiting the hospital or their home. It was time he drew the line between his family and her.
Seeing Things Clearly
But the mom didn’t give up.
She still showed up uninvited, bringing Macy gifts and insisting on being let in. She tried to use the gifts as blackmail, even feigning sickness to access the house. But Marcus was no longer the mommy’s boy he used to be.
He was beginning to understand why his brothers’ maintained that their mom was overbearing. He told her not to visit his home again unless called and made it clear she’d regret stepping at his door without an invitation. But how did Erica feel about all this?
Erica, lost in her head after losing her baby, woke up to a fighting mother and son.
She couldn’t understand why Marcus was suddenly so cross with his mom. They’d had the best relationship before she came into the picture.
Was it because of her? Marcus would not say. He only insisted that the measures he’d put in place were for Macy and Erica’s good. It was then that they discovered they were going to have a child.
Erica was having her routine check-up at the hospital when the doctor returned with a pregnancy report.
Erica was three weeks pregnant, having conceived just a week before losing Kelly.
She called Marcus immediately, shaking as she shared the news. A loving husband, he skipped work to spend the afternoon with her. After everything that had gone wrong in their lives, they needed this. But Marcus’ mom had her view on the matter.
Why Should I Care?
Erica was still in a daze when Marcus told her he’d revealed their pregnancy to his mom.
His mom responded, “Well, why should I care? Not like you’re going to let me see it, anyway!”
Marcus also shared why he’d barred the woman from visiting them. Emily couldn’t believe it. As someone who had children and must’ve known the fear of losing one, how could her mother-in-law be so insensitive?
Erica’s dislike for her mother-in-law grew throughout her pregnancy. When her trimester ended, she and Marcus drove to the hospital, ready to welcome their son. But Erica didn’t allow her mother-in-law into the delivery room.
She knew how challenging and private giving birth was. She was still recovering from the woman’s scathing comments about her past and losing Kelly. The doctor knew the whole story and was keen to ban the mother-in-law from the delivery room. If only she knew the decision would land them all in court.
To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.