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The Announcement

by songbird 

Posted: 07 February 2008
Word Count: 3445

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The Announcement

A good evening was had by all. A large quantity of empty wine bottles shimmered in the dimly lit dining room. Conversation flowed and heavy drunken laughter could be heard from behind the cigarette smoke. Marjorie sat at the head of the table, smiling sweetly, her auburn hair tickling her face when she laughed. She was the perfect hostess and all was going wonderfully well, until she made her announcement. Just a few simple words which individually were quite harmless but when strung together delivered a deadly blow, to me, ‘her old pal’.

I’d known Marjorie since we were kids. In the beginning we were best friends but over the years, familiarity bred contempt, and I developed a severe dislike for her. I had no doubt it was reciprocated but we both kept up the façade of being ‘best pals’. She married young and was widowed by the time she was thirty. Her husband was a pig so nobody missed him when he died. He was a wealthy aristocrat who would never have married her had she not been pregnant. The twins were born a couple of weeks after his death and they both looked just like him. They grew up fast and before she knew it, Marjorie was bailing her son Adam out of one gambling debt after another. As for her daughter Clara, she was a materialistic snob who only spoke to men whose wallets were fat enough to afford her.

I knew Marjorie had suffered with them over the years but she would never admit it and instead made a point of praising them to anyone who’d listen. Now as everyone sat round the table, Adam was busy telling people about the benefits of gambling, while Clara was wittering on about some shopping trip that was just ‘to die for’.

Every Christmas we all gathered round Marjorie’s for her Christmas Eve dinner party. This year she’d made it clear on the invitations that she had something special to tell us all, some exciting news. And now here we all were waiting for her big announcement. Apart from one or two, it was mostly friends we’d known from our university days. Surprisingly, we had all stayed around Nottingham and lived in the same streets which was quite convenient really. Especially when you considered just how many affairs were sat round the table. The geographic proximity made bed hopping very easy.

Sitting on my right was Freddy Spencer. Freddy was my best friend and he shared everything with me. He told me all his deepest darkest secrets. I’d met him in the most bizarre circumstances. We’d both been reaching for the last copy of one of the broadsheets in my local newsagents. I can still recall his gracious smile as he offered it to me. I think that was probably the moment I fell in love with him. He was so handsome. I thanked him and as I walked home I heard footsteps behind me. Turning round I saw him going in to his house. Without thinking I called out to him. ‘Hey, I’ll drop it round when I’ve read it if you like. I live at No 12 so it’s no trouble’. We’ve been firm friends ever since. Looking at him now, I can’t help but feel sorry for poor Freddy.

Of course that’s how Marjorie used to refer to me – ‘Poor Rita’. At university I was branded ‘the weird one’ for having tried and failed to commit suicide twice! The doctors referred to my condition as clinical paranoia but I had a much more simple explanation – I couldn’t take rejection. But all that was behind me now and life was finally dealing me a good hand. I worked for a successful magazine which earned me a six figure salary and, I was in love – really in love – with Freddy.

Freddy was recovering from the breakdown of his marriage when I met him. He didn’t talk much about his ex-wife but I gather the reason they split had something to do with his not wanting children. I was desperate to tell him how I felt about him but Marjorie insisted it would be a mistake. I can still hear her now….. “Take my advice Rita, don’t let him know how you’re feeling. I really think he sees your relationship as platonic. And let’s face it Rita, you don’t take rejection well. Remember what happened last time”.

I remembered only too well and certainly didn’t need Marjorie to remind me. The scars on my wrists took care of that. I stared at her now as she stood up to make her big announcement.

“Thank you all for coming” she began. “All my friends here together to celebrate Christmas…... And now for the news I hinted at in my invitation. It will come as a surprise to some of you, I’m sure, but perhaps others of you will have suspected it. My dear friends, Freddy and I are to be married in the New Year’. There was loud cheering and applause but Marjorie wasn’t quite finished. “and…..and….” she gushed once people had quietened down, “I’m pregnant.”

So there it was her big announcement finally out on the table, lying alongside the smelly cheese. Of course I knew Marjorie was in dire straits financially but I never suspected for a moment she’d go after Freddy. He just wasn’t her type. He was an academic and was far too serious for her. She was in to the penniless painters and the unknown novelists who ‘suffered for their art’ and were full of their own self importance. The only reason she wanted Freddy was to spite me. That, and the fact that he had money of course.

In the past, the only way I would have known to deal with this kind of heart break would have been to slit my wrists or take an overdose. But I had decided it was high time to inflict pain on someone else for a change. I made that decision when I saw Marjorie kissing Freddy in that cosy little wine bar all those months ago. I made a promise there and then that Marjorie would pay for taking Freddy from me. I’d made the same promise years earlier when she told me that I would have to “slim down” if I ever wanted a boy to notice me; but I turned on myself instead. This time I’d keep my promise.

The Italian blood in me dictated that my revenge should be served not just on Marjorie but on her whole family. I began by setting my sights on her son Adam. I invented a love of gambling and made sure he was at the tables every night. Within a week he’d lost £200,000. I pretended to act as his guarantor knowing that when the time came to pay up, I’d simply tell him that bad sex just wasn’t worth that kind of money. He’d be financially ruined unless Marjorie could bail him out. I guess that’s why she thought having rich old Freddy as a husband would be quite useful.

Marjorie was clever alright but in her rush to trap Freddy and get the whole wedding thing wrapped up, she’d forgotten to enquire about Freddy’s sexual status. I have no doubt he would have told her, as he’d told me that he did not want children. He would also have told her that while still married to his wife he’d had a vasectomy which is why she divorced him. So the baby that Marjorie was gushing on about couldn’t possibly be Freddy’s. Her little pregnancy scam had worked well first time round but now it was backfiring.

I’d known ever since she was a baby that Marjorie’s daughter Clara was a nasty piece of work. She was a spoiled precocious brat who always had to have everything her own way. She was a ruthless gold digger who always wanted to be in the limelight. She pestered me several times to do a feature on her in ‘Girl Talk’, the magazine I worked for but I always made up some excuse not to. I knew the best way to destroy Clara was to make her a social disgrace and I knew just the man who’d help me do it.

His name was Sam Fisher and he was an out of work movie producer who had to fall back on his skills in interior decoration to survive. I knew for the right money, Sam would do just about anything. I secretly arranged for him to meet Clara and he did the perfect impression of being a very wealthy business tycoon. Of course Clara fell for him and began seeing him romantically. After only a couple of weeks, she called me up and demanded that I do a feature on them. She wanted the front page and lots of glossy pictures. She even gave me the headline. “Clara Mansfield swept off her feet by big movie producer”. I was happy to seem to oblige.

I set to work on getting the cover page ready. It showed a picture of Sam and Clara and the headline read

“Gold digging socialite Clara Mansfield swept off her feet by penniless tradesman posing as wealthy movie producer……….

On the bottom of the page was a picture of Sam, with a broom and a pair of white overalls. The caption read

“Painter, Decorator Sam Fisher sure does like sweeping up the trash”.

I was very pleased with the results and knew that having this as its headline would triple our New Year’s circulation. ‘Girl Talk’ was read by millions of people all around the world and Clara Mansfield would be on everybody’s lips, except of course, Sam Fisher’s!

With Adam financially ruined and Clara a social disgrace, that only left Marjorie to take care of. As I was pondering on this, the telephone had rung. It was the receptionist at my doctor’s surgery asking if she could make an appointment for me to see Dr Phillips. I’d had some tests done and the results were back. I thought nothing of it and arranged to go along the following afternoon. As I entered the surgery the receptionist told me Dr Phillips would see me in five minutes. As I’d sat in the waiting room my thoughts had gone again to Marjorie. I enjoyed plotting her downfall. Everything always had to be about her and she wanted everything I had. Robert was my first real boyfriend in University and we’d got on really well together. But Marjorie had to have him. Then there was Brook whom I met in my final year. He was so handsome and I know he really loved me but Marjorie wanted him too.

I remembered as I entered Dr Phillips office he had a grave look on his face. “Rita” he’d said, “I’m not going to beat about the bush. You are in the advanced stages of clinical paranoia. Your scans have revealed a great deal of activity on the left side of your brain which suggests an acute form of schizophrenia may be present. I am therefore referring you to one of the best psychiatrists in Europe. His name is Dr Simmons and I have arranged for you to see him next week”.

Leaning back in his chair, Dr Phillips had continued with his diagnosis. “Rita he’d said, I’m no expert in this field but severe paranoia such as yours is usually characterised by the belief in some very strange ideas. Patients suffering from your condition usually invent very negative things in their minds in order to sustain …. well, certain scenarios. Can you relate to any of this?” he’d asked. “No doctor, not at all!” I’d insisted. “Well, in any case” he’d said ” this thought process can be very dangerous and it needs professional medical intervention. Dr Simmons is a leading expert in this field and I’m confident he can help you”.

I remembered as I’d got up to leave, Dr Phillips had gently placed his hand on my arm and said “You know Rita, very often the people you think are out to harm you are the ones who most want to help you. I am asking you as your friend to please seek help so you can begin to see that for yourself”.

As I left Dr Phillip’s office I began thinking again about Marjorie and I saw clearly what I had to do. It was time to buy a gun. A nice Smith and Wesson with a built in silencer.

I recalled that when I’d returned to the studio I found Joan, the chief editor, sitting in my office with the cover page of “Girl Talk” laid out in front of her. She looked at me strangely and asked if this was really the feature I aimed to run with for the New Year edition? She’d shrieked in alarm. “The Mansfields are your friends Rita. You’ve known Marjorie for years. How could you do this to Clara? She’ll be a laughing stock. How could you treat your friends like this?

Thinking back on that day now, I remembered feeling dizzy and everything was confused in my head. I’d felt my face contorting and a strong sultry voice emerging. It was Maddie. Beautiful, sexy Maddie. She’d take care of things. She’d teach Joan not to spy on me and tell me what I could and couldn’t do. “How dare you come into this office and go through my things”! Maddie screamed. “And how dare you spy on me and tell me how to do my job.”

I remembered Joan was suddenly very scared and began to back up towards the door. She didn’t dare challenge Maddie. Instead she cried out “You’re mad, you’re a monster”. But before she had a chance to scream for help, a bullet pierced her chest. Maddie had smiled and said that that was one less criticising bitch to worry about as she wrapped Joan’s body up in the Persian rug.

As I looked round the dining table now, I was amused to think that none of the Mansfield’s knew yet what was in store for them - but they would by the end of the evening. In anticipation, I reached into my bag and slyly looked at the New Year’s edition of “Girl Talk”. Clara’s face dominated the front page as she’d asked – no, insisted. Meanwhile, her Mother was still prattling on about her forthcoming marriage and how pleased and excited she was about being pregnant again at 40. She was saying that she knew Freddy would make the perfect father.

I watched Freddy all the time while Marjorie delivered her announcement. Of course I understood now that he could never have loved Rita. She was just too weak, too ugly, too fat, too everything. He needed someone like Maddie. Maddie was slim and beautiful. She commanded attention when she walked into a room. She was exactly Freddy’s type and she would spend the rest of her life with him once Marjorie was out of the way.

The room rang out again with applause and Marjorie took her seat. This was Maddie’s cue to take centre stage. “Do you mind if I say a few words Marj”. Rita had never called Marjorie “Marj”. And Rita had never looked or sounded so authoritarian.

“I’d just like to thank everyone for coming along this evening to hear my best pal tell you how she stole my Freddy from me. Just like old times, eh Marj? “ Marjorie paled and was visibly shocked. “Rita, what on earth’s got in to you? Why are you speaking with that strange accent? “I’m not Rita! Can’t you see I look nothing like her! I’m Maddie! Sexy beautiful confident Maddie! And this time you’re not going to take what’s mine.

Freddy rushed forward “Maddie, Maddie, listen to me I want to speak to Rita. Please, let me speak to Rita”. “I’m afraid it’s too late for that hon, Rita’s crying in a corner and feeling sorry for herself as usual. So why don’t you just relax and after I’ve dealt with Marj here, I’ll show you a real good time.”

You know what this is Marj? Maddie asked? I bought it especially for you though I have to confess it’s no longer a virgin. Yeah, that’s right Marj– a Smith and Wesson. This little baby is going to take care of you for once and for all. Oh and ah - speaking of babies, why don’t you humour us all and tell us who the Daddy really is ‘cos it sure as hell ain’t Freddy.”

Freddy edged forward again. “Maddie, you’ve got it all wrong. The baby is mine. I reversed the vasectomy as soon as I realised how much I loved Marjorie. Marjorie didn’t try to trick me and she didn’t try to trick Rita. She warned Rita off telling me how she felt about me because she knew I’d reject her advances. I love Rita as a friend but nothing more.” Maddie’s head jerked forward and back and her face slowly began to take on a softer expression. After a few moments Rita spoke quietly to Marjorie.
“But you made those boys in college reject me”.

“That’s not true Rita, those boys used you to get to me. They wanted sex and they knew they’d get it from me but never from you. They were jerks! I wasn’t a very nice person back then Rita and I know I was mean to you. But I didn’t mean it and I’ve truly wanted over the years to be your friend but you’ve always pushed me away. Freddy and I thought news of our wedding and our baby would help you to see how much we loved each other. We thought maybe you’d understand. I owe you so much Rita. I know that you’ve tried to help my children behind my back. I guess you didn’t want me to be indebted to you, but I am.

Sam told Clara he would never have met her if it wasn’t for you Rita. He said you put them together. I guess you knew Clara would fall in love with Sam and it wouldn’t matter that he wasn’t rich. You’ve helped Clara to realise that there are more important things in life than money. She loves him so much Rita and they’re getting married in the Spring. And Adam, Rita. Adam told me that you took him to the gambling tables every night. You watched him lose every night and offered to be his guarantor. You knew that if he suffered intense loss night after night he’d wake up to fact that he had a problem, and you were right. He’s asked Freddy if he can come and work with him. He’s through with gambling and we have you to thank Rita.”

The sound of sirens outside was swiftly followed by the police storming Marjorie’s house. As they entered, I stared at Marjorie in disbelief and I dropped the gun. As I was led away a police officer read me my rights. “Rita Hudson you’re under arrest for the attempted murder of Joan Hunter”….. As he cautioned me a voice inside my head began to scream furiously. “Maddie, can’t you do anything right? Didn’t you at least check to make sure she was dead before you bundled her up and stuffed her in the printing room? How could you be so stupid”? I’d never heard Ethel sound so angry.

We all spend our days now at the Correctional Centre for Women. I don’t like to think of it as an asylum; more a nice home with mostly friendly warders – apart from one or two that is.

Ethel spends a lot of her time complaining about the food and Maddie hates it because there are no nice guys to look at. As for me, I kind of like it. There’s no pressure to look good or to say the right thing all the time. And even though the other girls stare at me a lot, I know it’s not in a judgemental way. They’re just scared of new faces. And speaking of faces, I saw a copy of the New Year’s edition of “Girl Talk” in the lobby. On the front page was Clara Mansfield’s smiling face. The caption read “Could this be the next Kate Moss”?

Yeah, I think I’m really going to like it here but in time, Ethel and Maddie may have to find somewhere else to live. At least that’s what Dr Simmons says.

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