uch to my great embarrassment, twenty minutes later I found myself sitting in the backseat of a garish hot pink sedan with painted caricatures of Evangeline and her boobs on the hood and the doors. Cecil had donned a chauffeur’s cap and aviators. He drove silently. Unfortunately the evil hag didn’t pick up on his cue.
“So Ruth, it looks like we have a little situation here,” she purred, massaging her bosom.
“What situation?” I stared out the window, wondering if thirty thousand dollars was enough money to watch an old woman fondle herself. I reminded myself I needed a car. Thirty thousand could buy a brand-new car . . . I’d never had a new car before. I supposed as long as she was wearing clothes, I could tough out the boob handling.
“Well, according to the police, if I decide to press charges, you’ll go to jail.”
“For what? What do you have to do with my restraining order?” I shook my head and began demolishing my cuticles again. At this rate, the confusion I was feeling would cause me to chew my fingers off in the next five minutes.
“Dahalling, I have nothing to do with your restraining order. That’s all on you.” She smiled . . . kind of. Her lips didn’t allow for much give.
“What are you talking about?”
“Rhoda, surely you know,” she offered mildly.
“No, Ester, surely I don’t know or I wouldn’t be asking,” I shot back, casually trying to hide the dread threatening to consume me. I shoved my hands under my butt. I would not give her the satisfaction of watching me amputate my fingers. Something was so wrong; I just had no idea what it was. I could have sworn Cecil snorted. I was sure he enjoyed the Ester thing, considering she called him something different every time she spoke to him. I wondered if his name was even Cecil.
Evangeline’s bulbous lips thinned and her nostrils flared. She didn’t like the name game being played on her. Tough shit, I’d had about enough. In a moment of utter clarity, I decided being a greedy whore was a stupid move. Thirty thousand dollars wasn’t enough to sell my soul. I’d take the fucking bus to work for a year while I saved up for a car. Or maybe Aunt Phyllis would loan me a down payment if I offered to babysit the aliens and Martians inhabiting her abode.
God, I felt so much better. My need for self-mutilation all but disappeared. I put my raggedy hands back in my lap and felt a hundred pounds lighter. I turned to the evil queen to quit and was struck dumb. She had her hands down her shirt and was massaging for all she was worth. There were no words . . . I decided to wait and quit when we got back to her house. Two reasons: I was a little afraid she might put me out on the highway, and I was scared if I opened my mouth I would vomit. I noted that Cecil didn’t use his rearview mirror much; I guessed using the side mirrors offered less chance of witnessing unspeakable behavior from his boss.
Still clueless in the pressing charges department, I tried again. I knew in my gut this was important. Staring at the back of Cecil’s head, I broached the subject, praying she was done with her deep-tissue massage.
“So Evelyn,” I taunted. What did I have to lose? I was quitting. Cecil’s shoulders shook and a frisson of joy buzzed through me. His life seemed just awful; it felt good to make him laugh. “What exactly are the charges you could press?”
“Why, stealing, of course.” Her eyes pinned me to my seat.
WTF? “Stealing what?” I gasped. “I didn’t steal from you.” The blood left my face as it dawned on me that this was very likely the missing puzzle piece I couldn’t put my finger on.
“Of course you did, my pet,” she leered. “Three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars’ worth of jewelry was in that box you stole from me. Thank God you had a restraining order against you or you might have gotten away with it.”
Shock didn’t even begin to cover the feelings that overwhelmed me. Rage and nausea consumed me and my brain worked in overdrive. I shook like a leaf and my mouth was filling with saliva, making chewing on my cuticles impossible. Throwing up on her right now seemed like a fine idea. Why in the hell would she frame me for stealing? What did she have to gain? Fuck, did Jack think I was a thief? He’d never marry me now. This was by far the worst day of my entire life. Who knew karma for being greedy would kick me in the ass so hard and so quickly? I should have quit while she was kneading her rack, but somehow I didn’t think that would have made any difference. Fuck, shit, fuck, fuck.
“Cat got your tongue, dear?”
I looked away from her. I would not let her see me cry. Everything was careening out of control and I had no idea why. My chest tightened and the ringing in my head was making me dizzy. I’d been set up. She knew about the restraining order, and she’d loaded me down with jewels. She had to have been the one who’d tipped off the police, or maybe it had been Cecil . . . They were clearly in on it together, but what did they hope to achieve?
“So here’s how I see it, Ruba, you owe me. You owe me your life, so I don’t owe you anything.” She readjusted her repulsive bosom, grabbed my chin, and made me face her. “You will work for me for free. There will be no thirty-thousand-dollar payment. You will give me all of your ideas for the rest of your natural life, and you will tell no one about our little arrangement or your pretty little blonde self will spend the next three to five in the slammer. Are we clear, Rita?”
“You’re a bitch,” I hissed.
“That’s already been established, my sweet,” Evangeline trilled joyously. “Cecil, drive through the Dairy King. I want a Chocolate Doozy Parfait to celebrate. Ramona, would you like an ice cream?”
I turned away, refusing to answer her. I wanted to kill her, but Cecil was in the car and I figured a witness was a bad idea.
“Fine, be that way.” Evangeline pouted. “Cecil, you may get yourself a little something as long as it doesn’t cost more than ninety-nine cents.”
My fingernails dug into my palms as I struggled with the impulse to slap her intounconsciousness. Was this how she got all the little old ladies to be her slaves? Was she blackmailing everyone? She had to be . . .
“Reva, I can see your brain wheels turning and I want to be very explicit. You are to tell no one about our new modus vivendi. No one, especially not the little freak waiting for you back at the mansion. No. One. If you do, I will ruin your life and the lives of all your little writing friends. Not only that, I will see to it that your roommate’s shelter is put out of business and your father’s dental practice is sued repeatedly until he is bankrupt and destitute. Are we crystal clear?” She smiled, basking in the knowledge of her power over me.
“We’re clear,” I ground out through clenched teeth, hatred lacing my words. My fingernails dug into the skin of my palms. Warm blood began seeping into the creases of my balled-up fists and the bile in my stomach reached my throat. There was very little I could do to her on purpose, but if it looked like an accident . . .
“Shall we shake on it?” I whispered, giving the viper bitch whore from hell my most innocent look.
“Of course! I knew you would see it my way. We will have such a wonderful time together, making me the most successful and richest author in the world. J. K. Rowling can kiss my ass!”
She extended her claw and I grabbed it firmly with my bloody one. I grabbed her forearm with my free hand, smearing my blood up and down her toothpick arm with glee, making sure to drip on her skanky outfit. I watched with delight as she shrieked in disgust, knowing the best was yet to come . . .
“I don’t feel very good,” I moaned, tightening my grasp on her arm. I needed her to be in good range for the thank-you I was about to bestow on her. Literally.
“Oh my God, oh my God,” Evangeline yelped, trying desperately to free herself.
“I’m so sorry,” I gasped, trying not to grin from ear to ear. “My stomach is just . . .”
I reared back and let her rip. Normally I despise throwing up, it tends to give me migraines, but sometimes you have to suffer for the good of mankind. This would definitely make the world a better place. I had a moral obligation.
I opened my mouth and projectile-vomited on her from head to toe. The more I retched, the more I had to retch. It was a disgusting self-fulfilling prophecy. Her howls and screeches were music to my indebted ears. Her hair was covered and her net top held my gift beautifully. I noticed I’d successfully filled her thigh-high boots. My aim was outstanding.
“I’m so sorry,” I choked out, wiping my mouth and my bloody hands with a clean section of her mink coat. “I think the excitement of helping you attain mega-stardom was too much for my system.” I lowered my eyes and looked away. “Please forgive me, Your Greatness.”
She was actually confused. Her intelligence level was subpar at best, and she thought I was being honest. I filed this info away for future reference.
“Um, well . . . that’s okay,” she moaned, trying to remove my gift, but only succeeding in rubbing it in more. “You will never do this aguuun,” she gagged on her last word.
“I’ll try not to, Your Excellency, but I have a very active gag reflex and it goes off at unexpected moments.”
“Yes, well then, you need to work on your aim. Next time you will zero in on Cecil, he’s quite worthless.”
I had to agree with her on that. I would make sure I saved some of my wrath for him. I knew vomiting on people was not going to be my new weapon of defense; I wouldn’t be able to handle all the migraines that would accompany it. But Cecil . . . Cecil would soon get a taste of my evil genius.
“Forget the Chocolate Doozy Parfaaauhh,” Evangeline gagged. “Take me home, Jahhves.”
I popped a piece of gum into my icky mouth, turned back to the window, and opened it. The subzero temperatures felt good on my overheated skin, plus the smell was bad with a capital B. I knew she had me, but I also knew I had her. If I had been determined to bring her career down before, now I was obsessed. Her threats against my family and my friends raised this game to a whole new level. I would rely heavily on her stupidity and greed. Shit, my own greed was how I got here in the first place . . . She was going to get the story of a lifetime. Not only would there be conjoined twins and time-traveling vampire warlock pirates with erectile dysfunction, there would be halitosis, clubfeet, lice, pirates who preferred animals and blow-up dolls, venereal diseases, dirty fingernails, cannibalism, and flat-chested women. She was going down.
o, can you read that back to me?” I asked a crimson-faced Cecil.
I wasn’t sure if he was appalled, embarrassed, or simply grossed out. Shoshanna seemed stupefied and I was on a roll.
After getting back to the mansion, I’d brushed my teeth, put my sweats back on, and began my guerrilla warfare. I was going to take the bitch down and no one was going to stop me.
“Are you sure this is what you meant?” he asked.
“Oh yes, very sure. Now read it,” I barked.
“But is this the beginning?” he whispered, thinking if he spoke quietly he might escape my crazy.
No. Such. Luck.
“Yes, it’s the beginning,” I rolled my eyes. “The book will be written in a series of nonconsecutive flashbacks and flash-forwards to signify the time-traveling element. It’s the new thing that the buying public doesn’t realize it wants yet. Read it.”
Cecil fidgeted uncomfortably and Shoshanna rocked back and forth, trying not to cackle. We were holed up in a disgusting mauve pink office littered with fornicating statuettes somewhere in the Monster Mansion. Evangeline was cleaning my vomitous gift off, but still had the wherewithal to demand we begin working before she retired to her dungeon. Thankfully, I had no alone time with Shoshanna. It would be very difficult to hide today’s events from her, but I would. Too many lives depended on my silence. I might be a loose cannon, but I was a loyal friend and daughter. No one fucked with my people. And if they tried . . . they would pay.
Evangeline was about to pay through the nose.
“Read it,” I snapped.
Cecil blanched, but he read.
“I have a date with Mork and Mindy,” Pirate Dave told Shirley, looking down at her with pity.
He yanked on his plaid breeches and ran his hands through his greasy hair. He picked several lice from his chest fur and smashed them with his bare hand. He briefly considered bathing, but decided against it. A manly smell was something he prided himself on. Besides, he had bathed two weeks ago last Sunday.
“Whatever do you mean, my cocksman extraordinaire?” Shirley screamed, confused by his behavior. She shoved her ample bosom back into her corset and fluffed her fiery red curls. She had just performed thirteen disgusting sex acts for her lover. How could he not be satisfied with her acrobatic performance?
Pirate Dave glanced over at the formerly conjoined twin and realized, much to his surprise, he’d been more attracted to her when she was attached to her bitch of a sister, Laverne. He wondered if Captain Hook could sew them back together . . . His warlock powers would not work on such a major feat as rejoining separated conjoined twins. Maybe he could time travel back to 1974 or possibly 1983 and have Johns Hopkins Hospital rejoin them. After all, they’d been the scurvy bastards who’d separated the twins in the first place. It mattered not to him that he had demanded the operation. He was a pirate and pirates were known for changing their minds, if not their underpants.
“My well-hung love, have I offended you?” Shirley shrieked. “Is there something you want me to do?” she bellowed.
Pirate Dave slapped his hands over his ears. Goddamn if she wasn’t the loudest harpy he’d ever heard. He was sure his eardrums were bleeding after having spent the last twenty-six hours humping her. Her rack was beyond stupendous, but the voice . . . The voice was enough to make a man want to cut his own testicles off with a butter knife.
Cecil finished reading to complete and utter silence. He popped his neck and stared at the ceiling. I bit my lip and lowered my head. I knew if I made eye contact with Shoshanna I would lose it.
“Would you please read the next section?” I politely inquired a mortified Cecil.
“Was that a chapter?” he asked.
“Yes, we are going to do something new with the chapter system.”
Shoshanna and Cecil waited to hear exactly what we were going to do. I wondered the same thing myself . . .
“We won’t have chapters, per se. Just . . . um, vignettes, about four hundred and ninety-six or ninety-eight of them. Possibly six hundred. The table of contents will be a bit long, but whatever.” I grinned at a pale Cecil and a delighted Shoshanna. “Cecil, please continue.”
“Ooookay,” he muttered.
Laverne bitch-slapped Captain Crunchy, knocking out two of his gold teeth. She was tired of playing second fiddle to his blow-up doll Susan. He screamed like a little girl, grabbed his plastic lover, and left. What was a formerly conjoined twin to do? Life without her sister, even though she hated her, was lonely.
Laverne smoothed her wild red locks and gingerly scratched her nether regions. That bastard Long Dong Silver had definitely given her something. Long Dong was soon to be dong-less. She made a mental note to call Dr. Smee and get some antibiotics. Thank God for time travel. Meds like antibiotics hadn’t even been invented yet, but thankfully the shit-ass vampire warlock had had the forethought to get the good stuff. It would suck to die from screwing.
Why Pirate Dave had chosen her sister over her, she would never understand. Shirley’s voice was like nails on a chalkboard. Of course, Shirley was nice and had bigger tatas, but the voice . . .
Laverne paced her small stinky cabin on the ship and made new plans to off her sister and Pirate Dave. If Pirate Dave didn’t want her, he didn’t deserve to live. She felt better now. She decided to behead them on Saturday at the bingo tournament. She figured since he was a vampire, beheading would be a sure form of death. She pondered forcing him to turn her into a vampire before she decapitated him. Living for all eternity would mean she could screw hundreds of thousands of men. Hmmm.
“I will become the first female captain ever!” Laverne hissed to no one in particular since she was alone. Again.
She wondered if more people might like her if she became a captain . . . No matter, she would demand everyone like her and she would castrate anyone who defied her. She took a deep cleansing breath and congratulated herself on her outstanding scheme.
Little did she know, Calico Andy the Mind Reader was standing outside her smelly abode and knew of her dastardly plans! He’d been trying to get into Laverne’s pants for two weeks and three days, only to be shot down due to his small man-package, dirty fingernails, and halitosis. He chuckled to himself, realizing she would soon be his. Blackmail was a beautiful thing . . .
Again, my story was greeted with silence. Eerie silence.
“So Cecil, what do you think?” I crossed my arms over my chest and gave him a hard stare, daring him to insult my masterpiece.
“I think it’s um, it’s . . . uhhh—” He fumbled for words that wouldn’t induce my wrath. I almost felt sorry for him, but I kept reminding myself what a rat bastard he was.
“I think it’s thought-provoking and sexy in a realistic, somewhat unclean, fucked-up way. Definitely a hit with the twenty-five to forty-three-ish demographic,” Shoshanna chimed in, clearly trying to tamp down the hysterics threatening to explode from her little self. “It’s different from anything I’ve ever read or have ever in my life wanted to read, but hey, the way of the future is the way of the future.” She gagged on her laughter and excused herself to the bathroom.
I eyed Cecil warily. I didn’t want to go too far too quickly. I needed to ruin Evangeline, but Cecil couldn’t be in on the joke. He was on her team and I couldn’t forget that. It didn’t matter that she treated him worse than a dog . . . he was still the bad guy.
“That will be all, Cecil. My creative juices come in spurts and I’m very tired from all the action today. Thank you, you may go.”
He stood up reluctantly. I knew in my gut he wanted to say something, but he stayed silent. That was probably better for both of us. I could not under any circumstances feel anything for him.
I turned back to dismiss him again, but he was gone. I collapsed onto a hot pink poor excuse for a couch and shoved my hands into my pockets. I pulled my knees up to my chest and tried to become as small as I could. Disappearing wasn’t an option, but oh, how I wish it was. I hated my life, and I hated the bitch who now controlled it even more.
What the hell was in my pocket? I pulled out a card and my hand began to tremble. Jack . . . the man of my dreams. The cop. His card lay crumpled in my hand. There was no way I could call him. He thought I was a thief and a restraining-order-breaker. It didn’t matter that the chemistry was out of this world and that I would probably step in front of a train to save his life or that I was already half in love with him, and I couldn’t get the image of him handcuffing me to my bed out of my brain . . . it wasn’t meant to be. Ever. Crap, crap, crap.
Hell, how many lives besides my own could I ruin in one day? I would not take him down with me. There was still a fine chance I might do some bodily harm to Evangeline and get arrested again. A cop can’t date, have sex with, or marry a convicted murderer.
Out of all the things that had gone wrong today, one of my biggest regrets would be never seeing Jack again. I slowly shredded my future, ripping Jack’s card into tiny pieces. Just in case I was tempted to put it back together, I swallowed it. Of course I gagged and almost threw up again, but there was nothing left in my stomach after my earlier performance. I flopped back on the couch and proceeded to give in to the need that had been pressing on me for hours . . . I cried. Hard.
Thankfully it took Shoshanna about a half an hour in the bathroom to pull herself back together. Clearly my story had affected her deeply or she’d peed in her pants and had to let them air dry. Regardless, that reprieve gave me enough time to sob my heart out and freshen back up. I couldn’t let my little LeHump know that anything was amiss.
“Are you hungry?” Shoshanna asked upon her return, plopping herself down next to me and putting her feet up on the pink marble coffee table.
“Actually, I am,” I laughed, surprising myself. Usually when I’m distraught I can’t eat, but I suppose emptying my stomach earlier made me hungry. I placed my feet on the ugly coffee table next to my little buddy’s.
“Good. Nancy, Joanne, and Poppy Harriet will be here in about five minutes with lunch. I can’t guarantee it’s edible”—she grinned—“but it will be made with love.”
“I thought only Nancy was coming.”
“Yeah, but after I told her about the weird morning, they all decided to come and make sure you’re okay . . . Are you okay?”
“Um, yes . . . I am.”
I gave Shoshanna a smile and squeezed her hands. What I really wanted to do was curl up next to her and bawl, but there was no time for self-pity. I’d made my bed, and I would lie in it. Alone. For the rest of my life. Shit.
“Would you like to explain why the evil sow was covered in vomit and why you left alone and came back with the silicone skank and her evil henchman?”
It was going to be difficult to pull stuff over on LeHump, but since her life, mine, and several others depended on it, I had no choice.
“Yeah, but can it wait till the girls get here? I don’t want to tell this one twice.”
“No prob. Hey, that was one hell of a story you pulled out of your ass,” she said, grinning.
“Thanks. Unfortunately it’s beginning to come naturally.”
“Well, it made me pee my pants. Literally.” Shoshanna shouted gleefully, “I can’t wait for the upchuck story.”
“Yeah, me neither,” I muttered.
I still had no idea what I was going to say. All I knew for sure was that I wouldn’t be telling the truth. Hell, I was going to have to keep a notebook full of all the lies I told or I was going to be in some deep shit.
On cue the ladies arrived, bearing a scary tuna hot dish, snickerdoodles, chicken wild rice soup, and wine in a box. Nancy spread out the Minnesota-style feast on the ugly pink marble coffee table, pulled out her robin’s-egg-blue travel dishes, and we all dug in. I avoided the crumbled-cracker-covered cream of mushroom tuna concoction and stuck to the wild rice soup, snickerdoodles, and wine. Which, by the way, wasn’t half bad.
Kristy would be appalled that I drank wine from a box. She was a wine snob, but I’m sure when she found out Professor Sue liked it, it would become her new favorite thing.
I noticed all the gals, except Nancy, sniffing their food cautiously before eating it. They appeared to sniff only when Nancy wasn’t looking. What in the hell was that about? I almost laughed when Shoshanna gave Poppy Harriet and Joanne the thumbs-up, clearly the cue that the food was edible, or at least not poisonous.
“Love the plates, Nancy,” Joanne enthused with a mouthful of Tasty Tuna Surprise.
“Two twenty-five last fall at a mega yard sale,” Nancy informed our lunch bunch proudly.
“Two hundred and twenty-five dollars?” I choked out, examining the scratched blue plastic plate with shock.
“Oh, sweet holy mother of baby Jesus, no!” Nancy laughed. “Two dollars and twenty-five cents for a set of sixty.”