Hi, I’m Corpse Bride Barbie
by Hannah Sandoval
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
The little shed behind Heidi’s house was basked in moonlight. A teenaged Arabella banged on the inside of the door, shaking it. “Come on, guys. This isn’t funny. It’s dark in here.”
“Scared of the dark, Four-Eyes?” Shane said, giggling and clapping her hands in front of her face, practically bouncing up and down.
Shane looked over at Jenny, and she, too, let out a small, nervous giggle. Jenny looked over at Rainie and Heidi. Rainie’s small smile was like a diamond: cold, hard, and beautiful. The strange light in Heidi’s eyes, like blue fire, made Jenny uneasy.
Heidi was panting, her ample chest heaving up and down with vicious excitement. “I’ll let you out, you little bitch,” said Heidi.
“Finally. This really isn’t funny.”
“As soon as you promise to stay away from Drew.”
“That’s what this is about?” Arabella’s derisive laugh made Jenny cringe. “I should have known. I guess I’ll just have to sleep in here then, because there’s no way in hell I’m giving you what you want, bimbo bitch.”
Oh God, Jenny thought, she’s done it now. A small voice in her head whispered, I just wanna go home. Heidi’s shriek of rage stood the hairs on Jenny’s neck on end. The gas can they’d used earlier to fill up the ATV stood by the shed. Heidi snatched it up and splashed what little was left onto the door. Real terror gripped Jenny for the first time ever.
“Heidi, what the hell?”
“Shut up, Jenny.” Heidi whirled on Jenny, her hand raised as if to slap her.
Jenny had a sudden flashback of cold toilets, prying fingers, and retching stomachs. Jenny had seen Heidi bully dozens of people, herself included. She had seen Heidi smug, excited, and angry. She had seen her pitch tantrums, but this was different. Fury had dilated her pupils, flared her nostrils, and twisted her mouth into a snarl. The sounds coming from her heaving chest sounded like a jungle cat deadly and hungry for blood.
For the first time, someone had defied her, refused to cower. Jenny shrank back. Shane had stopped giggling. Rainie’s face, usually so cool, had the slightest hint of fear betrayed by darting eyes and the disappearance of the 24-karat smile.
“This bitch is going to burn,” said Heidi, and Jenny felt like her bladder might give way.
“What?” Arabella sounded frightened now. “Jenny? Jenny, come on, help me out.”
Jenny’s heart nearly stopped. Guilt crushed her chest. This was wrong, so wrong, and getting way out of hand.
“You answer her, you join her,” said Heidi.
Jenny cowered under her gaze.
“Heidi, you’re just scaring her, right?” said Shane, her eyes darting to Jenny and Rainie for support. “You’re not really gonna...”
Jenny was shaking. Rainie was a stone, an idol erected to worship a cruel goddess.
“Watch me.” Heidi pulled out her lighter.
“What’s going on?” Arabella sounded almost frantic now. “Jenny? Jenny, please!”
Jenny was frozen. Heidi wasn’t going to do it. It wasn’t real. Couldn’t be. The lighter sparked. Heidi flicked it again. Jenny felt sick. A flame appeared in Heidi’s hand. She stood there a moment, panting with a crazy smile on her face, and then tossed the lighter into the gas-soaked grass below the door. Whoosh. The door was alight in an instant. Jenny vomited.
Heidi’s laughter was harsh and hysterical. The screams were worse.
Only when Arabella had crashed through the small shed window — hair, clothes, and skin ablaze — had Jenny moved to help, ripping off her coat to tamp out the flames.
The screams never stopped.
Jenny cried into her ugly, grey, nail-less hands. It had all been so stupid, so useless. All over a boy, an achingly handsome boy who’d chosen the odd girl in his English class over the busty blonde cheerleader used to having whatever she wanted laid at her feet.
“I’m so sorry for what Heidi did to you, Arabella. You have no idea.”
“You were the worst of them all.”
“What?” Jenny’s brow creased in anger.
“You wanted so badly to be one of them when you weren’t. You helped them get away with it.”
Now the defense will call Jenny Marsden to the stand.
“There was nothing I could do. I was a child; I was scared.”
It was awful! We had no idea there was gas on the door.
“Everyone could see they were bullies, but no one wanted to believe pretty rich girls could do something so sick. You gave them the excuse not to! You were the sweet little good girl; you wouldn’t tell a lie.” Arabella’s laughter sounded eerily like Heidi’s as she had stood watching the shed burn.
Did you know the victim?
Yes. We weren’t best friends or anything like that, but I always thought she was nice. And really smart. She’s the only other person in English who actually reads the books like I do. That’s why I invited her to the sleepover.
You invited her? Not Heidi Perkins?
Yes. I did.
Jenny felt drained. She fell to her knees, scraping them open on the gravel drive. She looked at her hands. They were turning black. A chunk of hair fell into her lap. Jenny looked up at Arabella’s blazing green eyes. Her fury was speeding up the hex.
“You testified for their lie! You told everyone it was an accident.”
I guess the gas must have gotten sloshed on the door earlier that day when we filled the ATV. Shane dropped her end of the can. Some of it got on Heidi’s shoe. She was pissed. I guess it got on the grass and the door, too. We didn’t know.
“You were just playing a silly slumber party prank.” Spittle flew from Arabella’s lush lips.
Why did you lock Miss Shade in the shed? That seems a bit cruel.
It was mean, I know, and I’m so sorry — we all are — but it was just supposed to be a prank. She was the new girl in the group; we thought it would be funny to scare her a little.
If it was not your intention to seriously harm Miss Shade, how did the blaze start?
Heidi was trying to light a cigarette, and she dropped her lighter. It all just... caught fire. Just like that.
“They believed that load of garbage because they wanted it to be true, and you let it happen.”
What happened here was a tragedy, ladies and gentlemen. A tragic accident. The lawyer who had represented the four beautiful young friends was an old, stately man with small, round spectacles. He’d glided across the floor toward the jury as he spoke:
Children can be cruel, it’s true, but what the prosecution is suggesting isn’t just cruel. It is monstrous. And it is untrue. I am not calling Miss Shade a liar. It is clear that she wholeheartedly believes that the fire was set intentionally, and she is understandably going through a very difficult time. But she has said herself that she couldn’t see anything that transpired. The window was on the side of the shed, not the front where the blaze started. What we have here is a childish prank gone terribly wrong, and to accuse these four young women of attempted murder is preposterous to say the least.
The blackness moved steadily up Jenny’s arms. A terrible stench came from her skin and her mouth, like beef gone bad. Her terror mixed with intense guilt. She broke down in sobs. It was all true, but she couldn’t take it back.
On the charge of attempted murder, how do you find the defendants? — Not guilty.
On the charge of reckless endangerment, how do you find? — Guilty.
“One year of community service each!” said Arabella, a red nail pointing right at Jenny’s heart. “One year of picking up garbage, while I spent two decades being punished for your crimes!”
“I’m sorry, Arabella,” Jenny said, struggling to speak between her sobs and missing teeth. “Please, let me make it up to you some other way.”
“Oh, you’re sorry,” said Arabella, her voice a high-pitched shriek of venomous derision. “I had to drop out of high school! I couldn’t get a job. I’ve lived with my parents my whole life until this past year when I... made my deal. I’ve endured twenty years of pain.
“Children used to scream when they saw me! I was a hideous monster on the outside, while the real monsters got to stay Barbie dolls. Shane married young and divorced rich. She didn’t have to raise a finger and she lived in a mansion!
“Rainie got to jet around the world to fashion shows and take beautiful men for lovers. Do you know how many times I opened a magazine and found Heidi’s face staring back at me, smiling and pretty, happy and adored by whatever man they’d posed her with? Do you know what that’s like? Of course you don’t! You with your perfect, connected husband and your pretty daughter and your perfect friends and your nice clothes and your nice car and your nice house.”
The decay spread to Jenny’s shoulders and began to branch out like black veins toward her chest. Speech was daunting, but she had to try.
“Arabella, you didn’t deserve what we did to you, but I don’t deserve this, either. I deserve to pay, you’re right, but not like this.” The decay crept over her breasts. Her heartbeats became irregular and sluggish. Her body shuddered with the effort to speak. “My daughter. Her name is Tessa. She’s the only good thing in my life.”
“My husband, Grayson, doesn’t give a damn about me or what I do. I’m the trophy he straps to his arm to prove he’s got everything. He’s not even home tonight. God knows who he’s with. My friends are just looking for a way to prove they’re better than me. I hear them talking about Grayson and all the other women he’s slept with. The only reason they don’t say it to my face is that they can’t prove it.”
“It’s better than you deserve,” said Arabella, but there was distress in the lines of her brow.
“I thought my daughter hated me, too,” said Jenny, “but what you’ve done to me has shown me that she doesn’t. She needs me, Arabella. She needs me to be better than I have been. You’ve shown me that. Please, let me make things right with my little girl.
“You think my life is perfect, and it isn’t. We took so much from you, and I am so sorry. But this isn’t how to make me pay. I should have stopped her. I shouldn’t have lied.”
“But you did!” There were tears in Arabella’s eyes. Her red painted lips quivered.
“Yes, I did. I failed you. You were a better person than all of us, and I knew it. I even admired you. You did something no one else could. You took something from Heidi — you took Drew without even trying — and she decided that you should pay with your life.”
“I was just a little girl,” said Arabella, tears filling her eyes while her mouth still snarled like a predator about to pounce.
“Yes, we all were. Heidi was a stone-cold sociopath,” said Jenny, the words bitter on her tongue. “The only genuine emotion she felt for anyone was hatred and anger. But we all idolized her. We all wanted to be her. We all feared her. I knew it was wrong, Arabella, but I was weak. I was a coward, and I couldn’t stand up to her. You did, though. Right up until the moment she set that fire, even afterwards. You had the guts to testify against us all.”
“And you messed it all up! Because of you, she walked free.”
Jenny nodded up at Arabella from her unsteady kneeling position on the ground, sucking in deep breaths to give herself the strength to go on. “I have no doubt Heidi is exactly where you wanted her to go. As for Rainie and Shane, I can’t say. We lost touch a long time ago. I can’t even tell you where I’ll go, but I can ask your forgiveness. Did they do that, Arabella? You came to them like you’ve come to me, didn’t you? Did they ask your forgiveness?”
“Shane groveled, if that’s what you mean,” said Arabella, “on the filthy ground by the dumpster behind that fancy restaurant. She couldn’t exactly speak with her tongue the size of a grapefruit.” There was no glee in the malice this time, and her face had lost its cool, fearsome composure. She swiped a hand across her cheek to rid it of tears, but new ones just kept falling.
“Well, I’m asking now,” said Jenny, struggling to keep her head upright and her eyes open. “Will you—”
“Stop it!” She lashed out with her hand as if she could swat the apology like a bothersome mosquito.
“Will you forgive me, Arabella?”
“You’re not supposed to do that,” said Arabella, truly sobbing now.
“Why not?” Jenny looked down at herself. Though its progress had slowed to a crawl, the blackness was still growing over her flesh like ink spilled on paper.
“Because you’re just like the others! You’re worse! You’re not supposed to do that.”
Jenny shook her head. “No, I’m not, Arabella. And you aren’t, either. At least, you didn’t use to be. But from where I’m sitting, you look a lot like Heidi right now. You’re taking me from my little girl. You even took something from yourself, something you can’t ever take back, and all the power and all the beauty are only temporary. What comes next is forever. Please, Arabella, don’t be like Heidi. You and me, we’re not like Heidi.”
Arabella’s face crumpled. “Oh God,” she whispered.
She rushed toward Jenny, wiping at the flood of tears obscuring her vision. She held her hands out, her fingertips hovering over Jenny’s chest and arms as she chanted in a strange song-like language through her sobs. Jenny opened her mouth to say thank you, and her remaining teeth fell from her blackened gums.
“No, I didn’t mean it.” Arabella’s breath was shallow and quick, her green eyes wide and dilated with adrenaline and terror. “I take it back.”
Arabella tried to pull Jenny into her lap and accidentally ripped off a blackened arm. Arabella screamed. Jenny’s chest was still. Arabella threw her head back to plead with the moon. “Please, I take it back!”
The decaying corpse fell apart in her arms.
Copyright © 2016 by Hannah Sandoval