Before Bethany even knew what she was doing she had picked up the crystal candlestick and was running toward Ivy. There was no sound. The pounding of her heart in her ears left nothing but a throb. Even if Ivy screamed she hadn’t heard it. It was all happening so fast. Ivy’s eyes were wide as Bethany approached her. She seemed frozen to the spot where she was standing. Bethany did hear Ivy suck in one breath before bringing the candlestick down upon her head. Ivy crumpled to the floor. Bethany’s heart was pounding faster than she even knew was possible. She couldn’t let Ivy ruin her plan.
As fate would have it, Ivy fell inside the door leaving no trace of blood in the hallway. Tapped into the adrenaline, Bethany used all the strength she had to pull Ivy into the bedroom. She dragged Ivy to the foot of the bed. This wasn’t part of the plan, but she would have to improvise. She decided to leave the light on behind the closed door. She would use Ivy to her advantage. She wondered what Christopher would think when he saw the thin line of light at the bottom of the door. Where would his mind go when he opened the door and saw Ivy lying on the floor? Bethany thought her own image would inevitably be conjured in his mind. She found this new plan delicious and exhilarating. In the hallway, there was no evidence that anything out of the ordinary had happened.
After shutting the door behind her, Bethany walked downstairs. She didn’t know why Ivy was home and she didn’t know when Christopher might return. Now that it was upon her, things were happening quickly. She had to take a moment and regain her control. She walked into the salon and straight to the cabinet where Christopher kept the liquor. She opened the cabinet and scanned its contents. There was nothing cheap inside, but there was good and then there was best. She found the best bourbon in the cabinet and poured herself two-fingers worth.
She was decidedly calmer than one should be in a situation where the current wife of your husband is lying on the floor bleeding from a wound to the head, but then again, she was calm about what she wanted to accomplish. The bourbon didn’t hurt.
Her plan had already gone slightly off course so she thought about making one more change. She sat the drink down on the table just inside the door of the salon before she left the room. She walked back upstairs to her “shrine”. She slowly opened the door and peaked into the room. Ivy was still lying on the floor, unmoved, barely breathing, still alive. She could see the rise of Ivy’s chest with each shallow breath. She felt mostly nothing as she took a moment to just stare at the body. Mostly nothing. There was a small bit of sadness. Maybe it was merely the image of seeing a body lying at the foot of the bed where she had lain. That sadness, no matter how small, is the only thing that kept her from being truly insane. It was the one thing that kept her human.
She walked over to the fireplace and took a moment in front of the painting. It was a beautiful piece of artistry. She remembered sitting for it. It wasn’t a painting in the traditional sense. She didn’t just sit in a chair and stare at the painter. She wanted to do something different. Since people didn’t really sit for paintings anymore, she wanted it to be something unconventional. She had so admired the painting Venus at a Mirror by Peter Paul Rubens. That’s what she wanted. Her back to the onlooker while her face was reflected in a mirror.
While considering the painting, she delighted in the dress she had chosen to wear. It was a 20’s style, golden green satin gown - haute couture by Dior. It was stunning, with a low draped back made to show skin, the color perfect for her brunette hair. As her face was only a small reflection in the mirror, it was important to her that the gown be a piece of art in itself - simple, but worthy of a second glance. She no longer owned the dress. She had donated it to a charity auction to raise money for the Somerston Public Library after the painting made its debut.
She took the painting off the wall and made her way down the stairs. It wasn’t as cumbersome as she thought it might be. She wanted the painting to be in the salon, but not immediately apparent. She wondered how long it would take Christopher to notice something in the room was different. If the painting were hanging in its former spot in the salon, it would seem natural upon first sight. It was sure to get some kind of reaction.
Bethany realized she didn’t know where she had discarded her purse. The last time she actually remembered it was when she was searching for her invitation so that the valet would park her car. She sat the painting down and paused. She went back to the parlor, the room where Christopher had almost caught her. She hoped she had left the bag behind the sofa.
It was indeed there on the floor. She picked it up and took a moment to marvel at the room she was in. It was still so lovely. She and Christopher had once made love in this room. Really it was probably more hot sex than making love. It was a moment so intense and passionate they couldn’t keep their hands off of one another. They barely made it into the mansion before they started tearing each other’s clothes off. It had been fast, but good - an explosion of desire. They both were so out of breath, lying on the floor, that they started laughing at how hard they each were breathing. She laughed a little to herself even now at the recollection.
The room was also tainted. It was the room where Bethany had seen Christopher kissing Ivy. She didn’t want to be in the parlor anymore. In fact, she really didn’t want to be inside Ocean Point. She wanted - needed - Christopher to come home so that she could get on with it, get done with it.
She took a breath, turned the light in the parlor off and made her way back toward the salon. She wanted to add a little extra kick to Christopher’s psyche when he saw the portrait. She walked straight over to the entertainment system. It didn’t take long to find what she needed. Christopher did like to keep things alphabetized. She put the CD into the player and set the controls to play over the entire house. She then picked up the remote control and put it in her purse.
She heard keys in the door. She didn’t have to wait much longer, but she wasn’t exactly ready. Her mind was plying her with conflicting thoughts. She turned off the light.
“Ivy, honey, I’m home,” said Christopher as he shut the main doors. “Ivy, are you awake?” He put his keys down on a table in the grand foyer and started removing his tuxedo jacket. “It was a dreadfully boring party especially without you there.”
Bethany stood just inside the doorway of the salon, out of the grand foyer’s light, watching Christopher starting up the stairs.
“Everyone was talking about the same things they talk about at the country club,” Christopher rattled on undoing his tie. “They all asked about you. I told them you were a little under the weather.” He stopped at the top of the stairs. Bethany could barely see him from where she stood, because of the angle of the staircase, but she could see him. She saw him notice the thin line of light shining underneath the door to their old room.
“Ivy?” He paused. “Hon, are you in there?” said Christopher as he walked toward the door. “Are you alright?” He knocked while opening the door.
“Oh my God! Ivy. Ivy, baby, can you hear me?”
Bethany could no longer see Christopher, but she could hear everything he was saying. She didn’t know what he did inside the room. She took an apprehensive step beyond the cover of the shadows that the dark salon provided. She saw him as he started running down the stairs. Her breath caught in her throat as she stepped back into the room with the gentle precision of someone avoiding a landmine. Now was not the moment for Christopher to discover her.
“Hang on baby. I’m calling an ambulance,” yelled Christopher.
Bethany quickly hid inside a closet located in the salon. She had just managed to close the door, with a slight ajar, when the light came on.
He ran to the phone and picked it up. He stopped before dialing. He noticed the portrait. It was reflected in the mirror that hung above the mantle. He put the receiver down as he turned in disbelief to stare at the portrait of Bethany. Through the crack she’d left in the closet door she could see his face full of confusion. She pulled out the remote control and pushed play. Journey’s Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ began playing over the speaker system. Christopher broke his gaze from the painting to look up at the ceiling as if he could see the noise that was now filling the mansion. She thought the line about the lover not coming home because he’s out lovin’, touchin’, squeezin’ another was appropriate, but she thought Christopher was too stupid to connect the dots and see the brilliance in her choice of song.
Bethany continued to watch him. He made his way back to the phone and lifted the receiver. Before he could dial, Bethany walked up behind him.
“Hello, Christopher,” she breathlessly whispered in his ear. If they had still been lovers it would have been an intimate moment.
He looked up and saw the living, breathing Bethany reflected in the mirror this time, but could do nothing before he felt the pain of the puncture from the needle she stuck in his neck. His hand went to the spot as he turned and stared at her.
With wide-eyed shock he tried to say her name but could only manage “Beh” before collapsing to the floor…
©2010 Michael Rohrer