Brenda Roper sits alone in her family pew, her silver predator’s eyes focused on me. I feel their rage searing my heart. Each pierce, bangs in my ears as I ignore her vindictiveness. A church must give no sanctuary to a Jezebel who preys on the innocence of men.
Damn. I am condemned. As we rise to do our final duty for Alvin Bishop I respond to her sinful allure, to the Magdalene who dared to tempt our lord. I hide my shame behind the casket as we carry it to its final resting place.
She stands as we pass. The grey gauze of her sleeve darts across the coffin. A flash of steel as she snips a bud from the family spray and sticks it in my buttonhole with the familiarity of my wife. She knows my torment and smiles her acknowledgment of my disgrace. She places Bishop’s death at my door like her own in an accident I don’t remember.
I’m without blame. They brought it on themselves by their actions, not mine. He died of a heart attack, not by my hand. His wife requested I be a pallbearer when we stood by his bedside as Bishop passed. I forgave him for his presumption to tell me how to conduct my business. The old goat sought to alter my course when I was chosen by my peers to oversee the finances of the church.
People are packed around the walls; the vestibule is so crowded it is difficult for the procession to pass. Outside the sun dances off the spectacles of old fools, like Bishop, blinding me as they stand with uncovered heads while we proceed down the walk to the burial yard.
I stagger to my car when the interminable internment ceases and the crowd opens before me. She has the audacity to hide her wicked self in the backseat of my car. I can see her sitting there when I pull away as if I am her chauffeur. Her slate-colored eyes on my neck send streams of icy sweat down my back, soaking my fresh shirt.
I must get home where I’ll be protected from her provocative glare. I look straight ahead. I will not recognize this interloper from my youth who refuses to know she is not tolerated. She doesn’t blink when the damn teenager blows his horn as we cross the intersection.
My steering wheel jumps as a tire bounces in a chuckhole in my driveway. The city should make the repairs. My car could be damaged from their negligence.
I leave her sitting in the car and rush to the backdoor. The phone is ringing, but the lock will not remain in one place for me to insert the key. Mary should be here to open the door for me. I told her to oil the lock before I left to do my duty.
Her gloved hand covers mine and I shrink in disgust, but she sets the key in the cylinder. Her touch is like lifting a block of ice making my fingers tingle. I slam the door in her face and shoot the dead bolt. The phone shrills in my ear.
"Who are you?"
"I didn’t run over your dog. Don’t be a fool."
I bang down the receiver. The phone begins to ring again. To silence it I pull the cord from the wall and seek the medicine cabinet. The woman’s vulgarity has given me indigestion. I must find Mary’s Tums.
She is standing outside the window, but she can’t get to me with her evil ways. I cannot open the Tums. I need a hammer. Where does Mary keep her tools?
What am I doing on the floor? It’s dark outside. Why hasn’t Mary come home?
I get my hand on the leg of the chair to pull myself up, but my arm is numb. A vise is crimping my chest. The pain is squeezing the breath from me while my knees wobble, refusing to support my weight.
The harlot is standing by the sink. She is smiling when she hands me the phone. The dirge from Bishop’s funeral pounds in my ear as I dial 9…1…
By Penny Dreadful