It was supposed to be a phony prophecy, yet the fires of jealousy and rage were stoked.
“So you wish your husband was dead.”
“You want him killed!”
“No! Not that…”
“You wish terrible and horrible things to happen to him. You want him to pay for what he did to you. Am I not correct, Missus Shipman?”
Debra squeezed the handkerchief in her hands tightly and struggled to contain her impatience. She couldn’t believe Brenda, her best friend, had actually talked her into seeing this phony. He called himself The Great Prince Abdullah, and his colorful flyers, which showed his narrow grinning features, were stuck all over the city. In Debra’s opinion, there was nothing sincere within those beady black eyes and too wide teeth. He reminded her of a shark whenever he opened his mouth while his pencil mustache seemed to jump with each part of his lips. His laugh was too loud and Debra felt claustrophobic in the closet-sized room. He reeked of greasy oil, something akin to olive and not the good kind.
She took a moment to glance around their surroundings again, wincing inwardly at the too bright colors of the supposedly genuine Turkish rugs and Persian silk drapes which lined the walls. Debra could tell they were fakes on sight. Real silks wouldn’t fray so easily and several of them were already showing signs of wear. She groaned inwardly and tucked her auburn hair behind an ear, leaning forward to peer into the large crystal sphere on the table. It was roughly the size of a soccer ball and all Debra could see were floating snowflakes - like the kind you see in any cheap snow globe at a department store. She wondered if the ‘Great Prince’ hadn’t gotten it on discount at Cheap Ends.
“Listen, Mr. Abdullah…”
“Great Prince Abdullah!” he interrupted as if deeply offended. His mustache had twitched again when he scowled.
“Yes, well... whatever,” Debra replied with a weak attempt at a smile. She wanted to get out of here and she wasn’t even going to haggle for a refund. He could have fun with the five hundred dollars she had paid at the door. “Listen, my friend made me come here and I didn’t want to. So … if you could just tell me something genuine enough…”
“Great misfortune awaits you,” he suddenly said with a solemn look and a voice devoid of emotion. It sent reluctant shivers of fear down Debra’s spine. She hated it.
“What is that supposed to mean?” she bit back coldly. “Look, if this is some kind of joke, you’ve taken it way too far, you pho…”
“Someone very near and dear to you will try to get you killed.”
"Why, you…” She rose to her feet, clutching her handbag much tighter than she would have liked. She didn’t want to let his words get to her, but whatever he was doing was working. She was very spooked, and the room, which had once looked gaudy and cheap, now felt ominous. Every shadow seemed to hide an invisible figure, and she jumped as she heard something shuffle behind her.
Prince Abdullah was oblivious to this as he continued in that same flat tone. “Be careful of those who claim to love you,” he said. “One of them will want to eliminate you…completely!”
“Eeek!” The breathless squeak she gave coincided with the sudden fizzle of the lone light bulb above them, leaving them in semi-darkness. She took a frightened step backwards and almost tripped over the wooden chair, her breath now shallow and a bit strangled. She really had to get out of there now.
“Do you still think I’m a phony, Missus Shipman?” he asked and grinned, showing shark-like white teeth in the gloom. However, Debra didn’t wait to give him a response as she spun on her heels to stumble out of the room.
Once outside, she took several deep breaths, allowing the city’s polluted but crisp winter air to cool her fevered skin. She dabbed her forehead with the wrinkled handkerchief and swallowed, her mouth as dry as a desert in summer. Lifting her gaze to the towering skyscrapers, she vowed to give Brenda a piece of her mind this evening. She didn’t like being spooked and if Brenda had sent her here for some practical joke…
‘You can ring my be~ll. Ring my bell!’
The familiar ring tone of her cell phone jerked her from her diabolical reverie. She reached into her handbag, now glad to see her hands weren’t trembling as much. Looking at the caller id, she groaned inwardly at the name. What could he possibly want now?
“Yes?” she replied impatiently, while searching for her car keys.
“Where the hell are you?” came the equally impatient voice at the other end. It brought a rueful smile to her visage. Ah, dear Richard – her precious but dumb husband of five years. They were just two regular peas in a pod.
“What’s it to you?” She couldn’t wait to get her divorce papers, and when she finally sprung it on him, she knew she’d enjoy gloating at her revenge. That would teach him how to cheat on her with his bimbo of a secretary.
“Have you forgotten about the dinner party tonight? We were supposed to be at the Hartman’s almost half an hour ago!”
“Oh…that.” Hadn’t she told him she didn’t feel like going? But as usual, he never listened. She thought of telling him to stick his party where the sun doesn’t shine, but decided against it. Besides, she could do with a little outing. After the escapade with Abdullah, she could do with a little down time.
“That phony!” she whispered vehemently as if trying to convince herself that it had all been a prank.
As she got into the car, she began to think of what outfit to wear and by the time she arrived at their large Spanish-style home, Great Prince Abdullah’s prophecy was forgotten completely.
Or so she thought.
She stared morosely at her reflection in the oval ornate mirror, her features pale and drawn. She wasn’t as young as she’d like to think. The lines of age were tell-tale evidence of her thirty-seven years on this earth.
“Impossible,” she muttered to her ‘twin’. “I only imagined it, that’s all. He couldn’t have possibly…”
A noise startled her and she turned around quickly, a trembling hand going to her throat as she stared at the cause of it. Sprawled across their large bed was Richard in his underwear, fast asleep. His snores were something she had gotten used to, so why was she so jumpy? Was it because of his threat the other day?
It had been a week since her visit with the phony fortune teller and Debra had thought she had gotten him out of her mind. However, his ominous warning had come back to haunt her after an argument with Richard two nights ago. He had stumbled home in the wee hours of the morning, reeking of alcohol and women’s perfume. It set her off immediately, her venomous words of hate and contempt spilling from her lips with each angry hit on the cheating bastard’s body. Finally having enough of her tantrum, he had gripped her wrists to threaten her gruffly.
“Touch me one more time, woman, and I swear I’ll kill you.”
She had stared into those cold, bloodshot eyes and felt a fear unlike any other. His threat had felt real and yet the next morning, he had apologized profusely, saying he had no recollection of saying any such thing. He would rather die than touch a hair on her head. He loved her that much. Debra thought it was a load of crap, but she had shrugged it off and tried to put it out of mind. So why? Why couldn’t she still get rid of that nagging sensation? Why did it feel as if her life was still in danger?
Later, over lunch with Brenda, she finally voiced her concerns. “It’s not that I’m taking it seriously, but still…”
“I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Debbie,” Brenda replied with a warm smile, patting her friend’s hand gently. “You said he was a phony, right? I’m sorry I dragged you into that when you didn’t want to go.”
“But what if it’s real?! He could very well do it,” Debra insisted, ignoring the scrumptious plates of salmon placed before them. “I have to get those divorce papers.”
“Haha,” Brenda laughed. “Well, hurry up and get them. You know how hot Richard is and he’d make a fine dish for a gal like me,” she finished with a playful wink.
Debra laughed but it was an uneasy one. Staring at Brenda, much more carefully, she noticed that her friend looked much more youthful and sexy than she could remember. Was it the hairstyle or the clothes that looked like something a teen would wear? Or was it perhaps knowing that Brenda and Richard had dated back in high school? What if the old bonds and attraction was still there? She had noticed the long looks both shared whenever they thought she wasn’t looking. There was no doubt about it. Brenda was still attracted to Richard and would want to keep him to herself if the divorce went through. After all, the gorgeous blond was still single and didn’t look like she was willing to settle with anyone anytime soon.
“Someone very near and dear to you will try to get you killed.”
The sudden sound of Abdullah’s voice in her head made her start and she accidentally knocked over the cup of water before her. How could she have been so blind? Of course, it had to be Brenda! The very friend she had thought she could trust was planning to get rid of her so she could be with Richard.
“Is everything all right, Debbie?” Brenda asked with concern as she noticed the drawn look on her friend’s face. “Here, drink some of this…ah!”
Debra knocked the offered glass of red wine and the sound of shattered glass was like thunder in the quiet restaurant. The blood like stain was beginning to spread quickly as both friends locked gazes. Debra’s was cold and resentful, Brenda’s confused and slightly annoyed.
“What in the world is wrong with you?” Brenda finally asked.
“I know what you’re up to,” Debra hissed coldly as she rose to her feet. “But I won’t let you get the satisfaction. This was all a ploy, wasn’t it? You set this up, didn’t you? The phony fortune teller, the threat and then you want me to drink something you’ve probably poisoned so you can get Richard all for yourself!”
“Debbie!” Brenda stood up unsteadily, as if thunderstruck. Her cheeks were flushed with color, her blue eyes wide with a mixture of disbelief. Debra sensed a fright on Brenda's face. “Where’s this coming from?”
“Don’t play coy with me, you self-centered bitch,” Debra hissed, slamming some money on the table. “Don’t you dare come near me or Richard again, do you hear me? Never!”
She stormed out of the restaurant with her head held high, conscious of the whispers that began floating behind her back and the gossip already on the lips that couldn’t be silenced. She knew what they thought…that socialite Debra Shipman had finally gone off the deep end.
“They think I need to check myself into rehab or see a shrink or something,” she muttered to herself the next day over breakfast. In her hand was clasped the weekend paper and the columnist, a stupid surgically enhanced woman she had once had the misfortune of meeting at a party, had been nice enough to write the article. Apparently, she had been at the restaurant at the time of the argument. It never ceased to amaze Debra at how fast news seemed to fly in this city. One moment you could be sitting in your house eating breakfast, the next minute it was all over the national news.
She flung the paper to the side in disgust and tried to digest a piece of toast. Without make-up, she could pass for a woman in her twenties. Unfortunately, this morning she knew she looked even worse for wear. She had barely gotten enough sleep last night and Richard’s snoring had gotten more on her nerves than before. She sighed as she remembered her weak attempt to get him in the mood.
“Not tonight, honey,” he had groaned while burying his face in the pillow.
“But I just bought this teddy,” she whined. “Don’t you like it?”
“Great…beautiful, sweetheart…just not tonight…long day at work…”
She had kicked him off the bed then, scowling and feeling even more put out at not being attractive enough for him.
I’ll bet if I was Brenda, he wouldn’t think twice about it, she thought bitterly, unaware of how tight her fingers were wrapped around the butter knife. I’ll bet that right now, they’re together having brunch somewhere. Those two…those two!
A loud cracking sound caused her to look down quickly. She blinked at the pieces of ceramic, now realizing she must have stabbed the plate repeatedly. A tight smile came to her lips, giving her otherwise pretty features, a look of grim determination. She was going to have to do something about her cheating husband and her best friend. She was the only one who could put a stop to their relationship.
After all, ‘The Great Prince Abdullah’ had warned her about it.
As she waited in the warm confines of her convertible, she thought of her friendship with Brenda. They had been the best of pals since grade school, two rich girls with too much time on their hands. They had sleepovers almost every weekend, and they talked and shared their love for the same boys, music, hair and make-up. Then she had traveled to Europe for a year with her parents, only to return in her final year of high school to see Brenda with the new kid in town, Richard Shipman. He had just moved to the city, Brenda had explained in excitement, and his father was in the automobile industry.
Debra guessed it was love at first sight when she saw Richard for the first time. Those piercing green eyes, blond hair and chiseled features – the typical All-American kid – attracted him to her. Compared to Brenda, she thought she wouldn’t have a chance, but when she got the call one night that Richard was crazy about her, Debra thought she had died and gone to heaven.
The next few months would be like something cropped out from a fairy tale. Richard was the perfect boyfriend and even though they went to separate universities, their relationship grew even stronger as time went by. Richard finally proposed to her on graduation day. He had traveled all the way from his school just for that. Needless to say, it was the happiest moment of her life.
But things do have a way of going sour quickly and Debra learned that the hard way.
Brenda, who had been out of the country at the time (she went to study in France), returned looking even more beautiful than Debra could remember. Perhaps it was then that Debra began to be wary of her husband’s motives. The reunion between the former friends had gone well into the wee hours of the morning. Debra had felt left out, unwanted, unable to fit in as they sometimes rattled on in French. And yet, despite her inner trepidations and jealousy, it was Brenda who had been a listening ear whenever she had a problem. It was always Brenda who was a phone call away after a fight with Richard. It was always Brenda who would be waiting in her apartment with a warm hug and a hot cup of chocolate, ready to comfort her.
“Lies. All lies,” Debra whispered into the quiet as she stared out the window and into the lit restaurant.
She didn’t know what hurt most. Knowing that her husband was still cheating or knowing that her fears and worries were actually coming to fruition. It clawed at her insides, the way Brenda and Richard leaned towards each other. Biting her lower lip hard enough to draw blood, she restrained herself from running in there and causing a scene. It wouldn’t do to embarrass them now. The perfect opportunity was bound to present itself soon.
She drove home as silently as she had arrived. A good long soak in the bathtub and several cookies and warm milk later, she felt she had things under control. She was reading in bed when he stumbled in, hands tugging his tie, a heated look in his eyes.
“Hey, babe,” he crooned, crawling into bed, lips puckered in readiness for a kiss. “You’re looking hot.”
No, she wasn’t. She was only dressed in the dowdiest set of pajamas she could find. The ugly paisley design was something her mother-in-law had thought exquisite. She could laugh if she wasn’t already feeling a dull throb of anger flowing through her body. Her fingers tightened around the weapon in her hand, safely hidden beneath the blanket.
“God, I could just eat you,” he continued, his warm breath against her neck and cheek, his tongue darting out to trace the outline of her jaw, moving closer and closer to her lips.
She remained silent, suffering the attention she had craved for many days now. She gritted her teeth as his hand crept up her thigh, beneath the hem of her top, warm flesh touching cool skin. Oh, how she felt cold. So very cold.
Lying. Cheating. Bastard.
She failed to notice the silent figure standing at the doorway, the calm blue eyes that watched as she lifted her hand from beneath the blanket.
“I love you baby,” Richard whispered against her chest.
“And I love you too, Richard,” Debra replied in a voice that seemed to come from a million miles away. The blade of the knife gleamed beneath the light, and as she plunged it into the back of his neck, his low gurgled sound of shock was lost as she held him prisoner against her bosom.
“You poisoned him, didn’t you? You must have given it to him at the restaurant,” she said quietly, as her best friend walked into the room. “I could feel it. He was so…hot…and had a funny taste…as he kissed me…”
The grip on the knife was slackening, her breath becoming uneven as Brenda seemed to become a blur before her eyes.
"I'm surprised he managed to get home," came the barely audible, but cool response. "The drug was supposed to send him crashing. It would have looked like an accident. Pretty clever, hmm, Debbie?"
Debbie. Debbie! Don't call me that, you bitch! Debra's mind screamed, even though her lips were forming entirely different words.
“Seems like I was right after all. You were always jealous of my happiness, weren’t you?” She laughed then, a weak sound that was still bitter. She tried desperately to hold on to consciousness, but the cold sensation and Richard’s still body against her chest was too much to bear. Silent tears of regret, anger and pain cascaded her cheeks as her worst fears finally came to fruition.
“It’s going to be okay now, Debbie dearest,” Brenda was saying from so very far away. “Everything is going to be just fine.”
She felt her eyelids being closed by the warm hand, even though she wanted to yell, to tell Brenda to get the hell out of her house. However, she wasn’t a bit surprised to find herself in that claustrophobic room filled with fake Turkish rugs and Persian silks again. She stared into the crystal sphere and sighed heavily as the events happening within the ball were shrouded in a thick mist.
“Do you still think I’m a phony, Missus Shipman?” Abdullah asked in an oily tone, his shark like teeth gleaming in the darkness of the room.
“Guess not,” Debra replied as she reached for her purse. “How much do I owe you this time?” she asked in resignation.
“Oh, your money is no good here, Missus Shipman,” Abdullah said with a laugh that seemed to bounce off the walls. “You are my greatest customer yet and your eternal patronage will be more than enough.”