Hi, I’m Corpse Bride Barbie
by Hannah Sandoval
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
“Where is your father?” Jenny looked at the clock and then at Tessa, who was sitting with her feet propped on the kitchen table, idly flipping through a magazine.
“Why do you always ask me that like I’m actually going to know the answer?”
Jenny returned her attention to the peppers on the cutting board, cutting rhythmically with no real thought. Her barely-contained panic began to ooze out as she stared at the peppers bleeding juice, chopping dangerously fast. Sharp pain ran up her forearm. She looked down, expecting to see a small cut through her shirtsleeve and blood on her knife. There was no tear in the sleeve. She rolled it up.
Her airways closed when she saw the pristine T sliced into her skin. A new line was already appearing, her skin parting beneath an invisible blade. She dropped the knife, sending bits of red and yellow peppers over the counter and floor, and ran to the bathroom.
She clutched the sink. Gasps of shock and hisses of pain echoed off the tile as she watched the message take shape on her inner forearms. Time to pay on the left. Bitches on the right. Blood dripped from the tips of the letters, splashing on the floor. Jenny looked in the mirror and felt revulsion for the face looking back.
“Time to pay, bitches,” she said.
A familiar, odd sensation ran through her fingertips. All of her remaining nails hit the floor with barely audible clicks. Jenny looked down at them, and whatever had kept her calm finally snapped. Her scream was wild, inhuman. Teeth fell from her open mouth in a shower. Some slipped down her throat, making her double over the sink, coughing and sputtering.
She looked in the mirror again, unable to help herself, needing to see the damage. Her skin turned gray and sagged as she watched and screamed. She looked down at her aching forearms and saw that the skin around the message had died and turned black like a venomous spider bite. She fainted.
Tessa’s screams brought her back.
“Mom? What the hell?” she said, pulling at her hair like mourning women in the Bible. Jenny turned away from Tessa and frantically rolled down her sleeves, concealing the message on her arms. “Your teeth, Mom! Are those nails? Oh God, I’m gonna puke.” Tessa’s tears fell on Jenny’s face. “Mom, we have to go to the hospital.”
“Won’t do any good,” said Jenny, slowly getting up from the floor. She felt terribly weak. Her words were slurred. Her tongue was not used to having so few places for purchase. She counted her remaining teeth with her tongue. Ten. Six on top, four on bottom.
“What? You clearly have some crazy disease. We have to go to the hospital, now.” Tessa looked confused and helpless and frightened. Jenny’s heart hurt, and she felt another guilty stab for all the bad things she had secretly thought about her daughter. She sighed, exhausted.
“Tessa, sweetie, the truth is I’ve already been to the doctor.” As she watched Tessa’s face change, she knew the lie was the right choice. She had to give Tessa an explanation she could understand. It was a grim explanation but, at least, a sane one.
“I thought you just went to the dentist.”
“I did, but the dentist sent me to a hospital. Honey, I have cancer. It’s... well, it’s really bad.”
“Oh my God, Mom. Why didn’t you just tell me?” Tessa’s tears were flowing faster now, her words mixed with sobs. “I’m so sorry, Mom. Are you gonna do chemo? Or is that what made your teeth fall out? I’ve heard that could happen, just... not so fast.”
“I haven’t done chemo yet. They still aren’t sure what kind of cancer it is.”
Tessa threw herself against her mother in an urgent hug. Jenny, beginning to cry, hugged her daughter for the first time in ages, feeling her comfort.
“Oh, Mommy, I’m so sorry.”
* * *
Jenny lay in bed staring at the clock across the empty space where Grayson should have been. He hadn’t bothered to call or answer any of Tessa’s calls. He would likely show up well after midnight smelling of booze, cigarettes, and privilege. Her arms were bandaged with gauze. She had done it secretly, locking herself in the bathroom.
Tessa hadn’t made it easy to conceal the wounds. She had hovered around Jenny, a frightened child seeking comfort while also trying to give it. Tears came to Jenny’s eyes. She had thought she’d lost her daughter long ago. Now she wasn’t so sure, and the thought that she would die soon, after wasting years viewing her teenaged daughter first with aching loss and then disdain, was unbearable.
She’d left the window open. The night breeze felt good on her sagging, clammy skin. The sound of the breeze flapping the curtains and crickets chirping was starting to lull her to sleep despite her anxieties. The terror of the day had exhausted her.
A musical laugh like that of a triumphant, evil queen in a fairytale made Jenny’s drooping eyelids fly open. It was her. She had no doubt. She’d figured it out as soon as the message had appeared, maybe even before.
The night air was chilly without the cover of blankets, and Jenny wished she’d put on slippers before venturing out onto the front steps.
There she was, Arabella Shade, standing in the street by Jenny’s mailbox. The two women walked toward each other, Jenny hobbling, weak and shivering, Arabella upright and sensual. She’d finally grown into her legs. She wasn’t lanky anymore, but modelesque. Her green eyes were catlike, no longer magnified to owl-like proportions behind thick, discount glasses.
Jenny stopped when she realized the burn scars all over Arabella’s arms, chest, and face were gone. The scars that had been fresh at the trial. Arabella had still been wearing bandages in some places when she made her slow, stilted way to the stand. She passed in front of the horrifying display of pictures, which had been taken at the hospital, of her blackened skin and oozing sores.
There really is no question of the pain and suffering my client has endured at the hands of the defendants. Arabella’s lawyer had been a hawk-like woman with her chestnut hair clipped back in a severe knot. What I seek to prove today is that the damage was inflicted with intention and malice.
“How is that possible?” Jenny asked Arabella, drowning out the echo of the lawyer.
“What? Me being here, or the fact that your handiwork isn’t there anymore?”
Guilt gripped Jenny. It had become a familiar friend.
“The scars. You must have found one hell of a plastic surgeon.”
“Ha! No, no, Jenny. It’s much better than that. Sorry to disappoint you. I’m sure you’re desperate for a good plastic surgeon right about now.”
“How are you doing this to me?” said Jenny, clenching her hands into fists.
The model smile vanished and was replaced with a lidded, snarling look. “What does it matter? No price was too high.”
Jenny tilted her head to one side, pity momentarily displayed in the downward pull of her mouth. “Where are you going when this is all over, Arabella? How long do you have?”
Arabella’s words escaped on a single breath from between tight lips. “You’ll be there long before me.”
“Maybe,” said Jenny, her pulse pounding in her neck, hot and furious with mounting anger, “but how can you be so sure? You only have one soul to sell. The others you have to take. How do you know where they’ll end up? Is it really worth it?”
Arabella’s hands curled into claws at her sides and her voice grew shrill. “What does it matter what I sacrificed, what I bargained? No more burn scars. No more damaged nerves. No more agony, sleepless nights, or crippling disfigurement. And power.” She spoke the word with wet, dripping lust. “I have power you can’t even imagine.” Her lips pulled up in a smirk. “Or, maybe, now you can?”
Tears warmed Jenny’s cheeks. “How could you?” she screamed, the strength required to vent the anger making her whole decaying body ache.
“How could I?” said Arabella. “How could you? I did nothing to you! Nothing! And you nearly killed me. You all got away with it. I won’t let you get away with it!”
The force of the memory was startling, and Jenny thought perhaps Arabella was using some sort of magic to force her to relive what she’d done.
* * *
Copyright © 2016 by Hannah Sandoval