Another day, another story for the A to Z Challenge. I cheated, slightly. This isn’t a brand new story but one I wrote some time ago and had reviewed by a small group. They didn’t like it much. The main feedback was the lack of an actual story. I think this has less to do with a non-existant plot and more to do with inadequate writing. So I rewrote it. Tell me if I’ve succeeded. And uh, by the way, today’s prompt is ‘B’.
“I’m parching up, Janet! Get me some water, quick!”
Vera began retouching her mascara, her left eye large, a little reddish patch showing at the base of the eyeball. Janet knew every microcosm of Vera by now. Even the mascara had been chosen, keeping Vera’s stubby eyelashes in mind. They had had a tiff over it but finally the bridesmaid had won over the hysterical bride. Janet knew she had picked right. The midnight blue mascara toned down the reddishness in Vera’s eyes, that Janet had correctly anticipated.
“JANET!!! Now!! Don’t be such a slowpoke! I need water! Quick, quick!”
Vera’s hand jerked out a snap-snap. Janet stepped up to the table and put the glass down carefully, amidst the clutter. It made a neat little tock sound against the mascara tube and sent it rolling, the brush coming loose off the stick and plunging over the side of the table. Janet caught it just before it fell onto the white confection that formed the bridal gown’s base. Vera’s eyes had widened but Janet calmly pocketed the brush and picked up the glass. She held it out, right over Vera’s face. But her arm was rock-steady and after a few seconds, Vera turned back to the mirror.
“More, I need more than this.”
“Your lipstick will fade. That’s all you get.”
Vera narrowed her eyes but she picked up the glass. Ignoring the bendy straw, she sipped from the rim. Janet turned away, not really caring. She couldn’t care less what happened to Vera’s lipstick but she didn’t want to accompany her to the bathroom again and hold up her gown while Vera peed. Even the husband wouldn’t have to go through that indignity.
“There. How does that look?”
Vera turned, making a pouty face at Janet.
Janet stepped up to the vanity mirror again, scrutinizing Vera’s face. The lipstick was on a bit thick. It would start to cake into tiny pellets and once completely dry, it would start flaking. She leaned in a bit further, studying the eyelashes to see if the mascara would follow suit. Vera guffawed an explosion of sound and spittle right in Janet’s face.
“That good, huh? Ooh, I hope Victor feels the same way. Tonight, tonight, tonight. Oh my god, I’m so excited! You think he’ll be hot for me after all this effort? Oh I hope so, I hope so, I hope so!”
Janet stepped back, smiling. But when she turned away, she was rolling her eyes. That was all Vera chose to focus on? She pursed her lips. It would be over in a matter of hours anyway.
She opened the cupboard, surveying the contents of Vera’s going-away luggage. The cutesy clutch that she’d carry at the reception later was atop a vanity case. But the make-up was lying strewn all across the dressing table that Vera was seated at. Instead the case was crammed with utilities like the mobile phone charger and nail clippers. A glass bottle rolled about inside, as Janet pushed the vanity case aside. Vera had asked her to stock it up with birth control pills, two months ago. Janet allowed herself a tiny grin. It was stocked with white pills now. Some white pills. She sneaked a look back over her shoulder.
Vera was chatting on her mobile phone. Her hair was put up and her long neck descended into a curved back, a narrow waist and the voluminous skirt. That skirt. Janet had known it would be trouble. She had tried to convince Vera to choose the satin, midi-length sheath instead but to no avail. She had tried to tell her how uncomfortable it would be. But Vera had winked and said,
“It’s just the day. And after that I’m not going to be in it very long, am I?”
Janet told herself that that was the moment she had first thought it. The plan began right then. In the weeks that followed, she had had a chance to study every detail of Vera’s life. She knew her bra size (the real one), her period cycle, the date of her last electrolytic hair removal and when the stubble was expected to come back. The things that Victor didn’t know, would never know.
She tapped her fingernails together. Earlier in the morning, she had checked Vera’s mobile phone. There were dozens of messages to be deleted. Photographs and four videos too. The things that Victor might not know. Might not.
Vera giggled and then shushed into the phone. Janet wondered who she was speaking to, but she let it be. It would probably be her last flourish of fun.
Janet checked the clock. It was time to put on the pearl embroidered top that formed the bustier of the bridal gown. She stepped back to Vera’s seat and bent, pretending to smoothen the ruffles and check that the pins were in place. Vera gasped but Janet ignored her. The tiny, hard knots in the lace hem dug into Vera’s throat.
The clock chimed 11:00. Footsteps sounded in the corridor outside. But Janet was already there, nodding her ‘all’s well’. She returned to the bride’s room. Vera had her head down on the dressing table. A row of pearly buttons cascaded down her smooth back. Janet was proud of her handiwork. It was such a neat finish. No one could tell. The gashes were neat and fine, works of precision. The red stains would only show when the garments were taken off.
The orchestra struck up the wedding march. Janet raised her weapon. Then she rolled the lipstick back into its tube and dropped it into her pocket. And she turned to her best friend.
“Vera, it’s time. Let’s go get you married.”
*Image courtesy Victor Habbick on FreeDigitalPhotos.net