Fairy tales hardly ever come true for quiet girls. But Floria had at last found her Prince Charming. Her quiet days were over. It was time to make things happen.
First she had to dispatch Baboon. Her husband. Her rich, old, beastly husband.
“Ouch! God Bless America!” Floria yelled as she ripped off the bandage. There was no one to hear her. She was alone in her dressing room. But being loud felt liberating even though yelling did nothing to lessen the pain. The patch of skin where he’d bitten her neck still burned like a vexatious cold sore. She’d slathered it last night with antibiotic cream and Vitamin E ointment. She touched it now, Baboon’s bite mark an ugly tattoo on her otherwise creamy skin.
Well, she wouldn’t hide it under a fresh bandage. A bandage would never mesh with the look of sophistication she would achieve tonight. And forget concealing the wound under makeup. He’d sniff the scent, lick it off, he would. He liked marking her, branding her like a rancher brands cows and horses.
She shuddered. That’s what she’d felt like married to the Baboon these past 13 months: living meat for Baboon to lick and bite and brand.
Floria draped her mother-in-law’s pearls around her neck. The pearls covered part of the wound. That would help. The old crone had given the pearls to Floria for her 25th birthday last month. Lent them actually. The pearls wouldn’t really belong to Floria until the crone joined Baboon’s father on the fireplace mantle.
There was plenty of room left for the crone in the Tiffany crystal bottles that held the ashes of the late, great, Bruce Wilhelmy II, oil and lumber magnate.
Floria would make that happen. Baboon first. Tonight.
Floria sat at her makeup table. She smiled at Dit-Dit. Her little bunny sat atop her jewelry box. The pink and white stuffed bunny was the only thing she had left from her life in Colombia.
She cradled it now in the palm of her hand and pressed the bunny’s belly the way her grandfather had shown her so many years ago. She pressed in different spots until the bunny squeaked. Its little mouth opened, just wide enough for her finger to squeeze through and remove a slender vial. A milky liquid filled the vial.
Batrachotoxin. Reformulated by her grandfather in his lab in Colombia to be effective orally. Harvested from the beautiful golden arrow frogs he’d caught along the western slopes of the Andes. When she’d had to be smuggled to the States as a frightened 16-year-old to escape her grandfather’s enemies, he’d given her the bunny, shown her how to remove the vial he’d hidden inside.
“Floria,” he’d said, “this substance is released by the tiny golden frogs in response to agitation, pain, or external threat from predators. It is for you to use like the golden frog. It is like a magic potion that will vanquish your enemies, or, God forbid, take you yourself beyond their reach.”
Her grandfather. Her only family. The last time she saw him, she was a sobbing 16-year-old girl, peering at him through the back window of a speeding car. He was standing in front of the only home she’d ever known, waving at her and crying, his final words to her seared in her brain.
“There is enough in your little vial to kill one thousand men.”
One thousand men. Tonight she only needed enough for one.
She returned Dit-Dit to its perch atop her jewelry box. She tucked the vial inside her bra cup. Then she slid her new gown over her head.
She studied herself in the full-length mirror. The gown was so light it felt as though she were wearing nothing at all. Her first Vera Wang, size two, $6,000. Way over her monthly allowance. When the charge appeared on their next credit card statement, Baboon would die of a heart attack.
But with any luck, any guts, long before the next credit card statement, he’d be gone: ashed and stashed inside the crystal Tiffany bottle on their fireplace mantle.
She twirled in front of the mirror, slim as a candy cane, the dress so red, her skin so white except for the nasty red bite mark on her neck. She wondered how long she had before her pregnancy started to show.