Paula R C Readman
Merlot – served chilled
Dear Diary – Monday: I’m sorry I don’t have much to report, but it’s been one of those days. Apart from this stinking cold, which is getting me down, not a lot has happened. However, I did have a phone call today, which wasn’t PPI telling me I could have as much as three thousand pounds waiting for me if I would just press five. Wow, if only life was that easy, I would be pressing five every day. Anyway, the call was from Val – yes, Val Rider, she of the red sports car and handsome brother, Tim. I know I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know she had my number. She wanted to know if I was free at the weekend as she’s having a bit of a do, and would I like to go? Of course, I said yes. Well, if it means I’ll get Tim on his own so he can get to know the real me then of course, I’d want to go. Now just to shake off this cold, can’t have him seeing me with red eyes and snotty nose.
Dear Diary – Thursday: Two days have flown by since I last spoke to you. You’ll never guess what I’ve been up to since shaking off my cold? Ms Rider, yes, I know, I’ve been calling her Val, but yesterday she insisted I continued to address her as such, and she doesn’t want me to mention our little chat to anyone, but still I’m sure it’s all right telling you. I mean to say I tell you everything. I know, Dear Diary, I thought it was a little odd too; I didn’t think she knew I existed. I mean to say, I’ve seen her swanning around at work when she’s been in helping her father out, but it isn’t as if we were on first name terms.
Anyway, the reason for her getting in touch was that she needed my help. Can you believe that? She needed my help! She apologised for it being at such short notice, but after being let down, she’d needed someone to ring round for Halloween decorations for her brother’s surprise birthday party. Anyway, the upshot is, she invited me to stay at her place for the whole of the weekend, reassuring me it’ll be fun. Of course, I’ll be taking you too! Fab!
Dear Diary – Friday Evening: The weekend at last. Wow, what a place! It looks like something out of a Gothic novel, all dark and brooding, an ideal place to hold a Halloween Masked Ball. I can’t wait to see what the decorations I ordered look like in the ballroom. Val said I was such a great help, at such short notice too, that I’ll be making a grand entrance as the guest of honour on the night of the ball.
A bit odd, but Val requested I left my car in the woods, about a mile from the house, insisting that nothing must spoil the surprise we have so carefully planned. Entering the house, she brought me straight up to this room at the top. She thought it was the perfect room for me as I can see across the moon lit gardens to the woods at the back, while from the front I can watch everyone else’s arrival down the sweeping drive. She’s thought of everything, the suite of rooms is self-contained so I can cater for myself until tomorrow.
On the bed, spread out is a dress for me, but it doesn’t match my personality, as it will leave me in déshabillé. However, I forgive her, as she doesn’t know me at all. Without being rude, I didn’t let on that I’ve brought my own. I mean to say I’m glad I have; such a flimsy piece of material may suit some women, but not me. It would hardly cover where it touches. Dear Diary, you know how much I like to be inconspicuous.
Anyway, I wanted something extra special for Tim to see me in for the first time; something memorable. So I brought a little Victorian Gothic number with a tight-fitting black corset, long flowing blood-red velvet skirt with black lace petticoats and all important black veil and long black gloves.
I asked Val where my mask was, but she smiled and said, ‘With a face like yours Evelina, you shouldn’t hide it away.’
I wasn’t quite sure whether she was laughing at me, or not, but still I tried not to allow my emotions to get the better of me and spoil my lovely weekend.
One must always be positive about oneself. My outfit showed off my finer points, even if I say so myself, which is my height and slim waist. I’ve found that men are quite shocked to find I’m much stronger than I look which I must say I’ve put to good use and used to my advantage.
Dear Diary – Saturday: Treachery, yes, you heard right! So that’s why she was being nice to me, and I thought she liked me. I know, Dear Diary, I’ve told you before about never trusting people at face value. Yes, I know you’re right. I did question it at the time, her calling me at home, telling me not to tell anyone. It all makes sense now, knowing she’d worked in her father’s office over the summer, which meant she’d accessed his employees’ personal records.
So what happened I hear you ask? Well, I shall tell you. She’d catered well enough for me, but didn’t know I can’t drink milk so I went to see if I could find her to ask if I could have Soya instead.
Early this morning, while the dimly lit house still slumbered, I sneaked downstairs. I don’t like the word ‘sneak’, but that’s what I did. Finding myself standing in the half shadows on a large landing, there were doors either side of me, but I didn’t know which one would take me downstairs. I froze when I heard voices coming from one of the rooms. Stepping closer, I recognised Val’s voice. Her laughter echoed around the room and out onto the corridor. She was telling her friends how she’d stashed another pathetic creature in the attic like Bertha Rochester. How she detested these miserable wretches who mooned over her brother. How he looked forward to her birthday treats every year, but this time she’d excelled herself. Laughing, she said she’d a real treat for them all when the guest of honour took to the dance floor in the most hideous dress. I held my breath to stop myself from rushing in and grabbing her by her thin scrawny throat.
Turning away from the raucous laughter, I decided there and then to leave, but if I did,
then other girls would suffer the same fate as others before me. No one had seen me arrive, or knew who I was, so I would play along and the endgame would be mine.
Dear Diary – Saturday Evening: Halloween night, let the party begin. Val has been up to see me dressed in her carefully selected dress. Telling me, how lovely I looked. In the small mirror, which hung on the wall, I couldn’t see anything, but the bottom of my legs and black ankle boots. Without knowing what I looked like, I smiled and thanked her while she spewed out her lying flattery.
‘How beautiful you look my dear. You’ll be the belle of the ball putting the rest of us to shame when you take centre stage. Now remember at midnight when you hear the clock chiming twelve follow the sound through the open doors down to the ballroom.’ Smiling, she reached out to touch my glossy black hair. ‘You do understand, don’t you?’
I nodded and smiled my best smile. Oh, I understood fully.
As she went to leave, she turned back with her supercilious smile, ‘My brother will adore you. You’ll be his best birthday present ever.’
Once she’d gone. I tore off the dress, changed and headed downstairs. Passing the bedrooms the sound of the music and laugher grew louder as I went. I caught up with her just as she turned down the final flight of stairs. Hanging back, I waited until she went in. I turned to go when someone grabbed my arm, pulling me into another room away from the ball.
‘You should already be with the others?’ he whispered watching the stairs over my shoulder, ‘The silly bitch will be here soon.’
Sickened by the excitement I saw in his handsome face, I reached into my pocket.
Laughing, he said, ‘My sister is brilliant at finding the most grotesque women. We’ll have such a laugh. Lift your veil, my fair beauty the ball hasn’t yet started. Let me taste the sweetness of your lips, we’ve got time to kill.’
Shaking my head, I said, ‘No, we haven’t, you’re already dead.’
Puzzlement flickered in his blue eyes as I drove my slim knife into his cold, black heart. As he dropped to the floor, I kissed his forehead and whispered, ‘Happy Birthday, Tim,’ as I wiped the blade of my knife across his cheek.
Moving quickly, I left the same way as I had arrived, unseen. Many times before under different circumstances, but always ending the same way I’ve left other men.
Dear Diary – Monday morning: Today the police came, as I knew they would. I acted all shocked, and said I knew nothing about any Halloween party at Rider’s Manor House. They said that some of my work colleagues were there over the weekend.
‘Only the beautiful people get to go to such places,’ I laughed, touching the bright red birthmark on the left side my face.
They asked me whether I could prove I was at home over the weekend. I thought for a moment, it was normal for me to be unseen by anyone until work on Monday, but then I remembered. I’d pressed five and Payment Protection Insurance was my alibi. I smiled and said, “I’m sure the nice gentlemen called George on the phone could verify that I was at home.’
About the Author
Paula Readman lives in Essex. So far, she has been fairly successful writing short stories and recently had her short story Rat Trap published in the Bridge House Publishing Crime collection Crime After Crime, read an extract here: http://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/yourebooked/2013/01/read-an-extract-of-rat-trap-by-paula-r-c-readman/
Paula hopes 2013 will be her year for finding an agent for her dark fantasy crime novels.
Find out more about her writing: http://darkfantasy13writer.blogspot.co.uk