My mother died when I took my first breath. Her’s was the earliest life I took in payment for the gods’ blessings. I have memories of that time given to me by the spectators of the grave moment. Chaos reigned as I struggled to free myself from the confines of my mother's body. The medical staff fought to keep us both in the world. The calm that descended as she moved on and I moved into the world. My first experience with admiration for the perfection of my physical appearance.
Father worked three jobs to buy me the latest fashions. He gave me designer clothing, dance lessons, horseback riding, salon treatments. All the best pampering money can buy. He grew in stature in business and the community to elevate my status, knowing it took more than money. You need a name for fame. So he gave me one. I rarely saw him.
Nanna sat me in front of a mirror. She brushed my hair and told me her daughter’s death was a worthy fee to pay for such a beautiful child. She pampered and preened me. She didn’t mind giving up her child for the doll she received as long as I knew the cost.
As she made my hair shine, she’d pull out a strand here and there. I understood the lesson she tried to teach me. When she guided the silk slip over my head, her hands trailed to the soft skin under my arms. She pinched me, watching to see if tears sprang to my big, blue eyes. They never did.
Someone had to foot the bill for my beauty. I vowed that someone would always be someone else.
* * *
“Ms. Tamlin,” said Jessica, as she waved to our second-grade teacher. Her voice carried over the heads of the other children on the field.
“Melissa has my bracelet and won’t give it back.”
Ms. Tamlin stood in front of us with her hands on her hips. She wanted her students to work out their arguments without her involvement. Jessica had gotten the attention of everyone on the playground, students, and teachers. Now Ms. Tamlin had to get involved.
“Melissa,” she said to me. “Do you have Jessica’s bracelet?”
“No, Ms. Tamlin.” I looked up at her through my long eyelashes.
“She does,” said Jessica. “Look. It’s in her hand.” Jessica grabbed my left wrist.
I winced, a tear sliding down my cheek.
“Jessica. We do not touch each other in this school.” Ms. Tamlin handed me a tissue. I blew my nose, wiped my eye and smiled at Ms. Tamlin. She smiled back. Jessica’s cheeks turned red.
“She has my bracelet. Make her open her hand.”
I held out my open palm to Ms. Tamlin before she could speak. A bracelet with a letter M charm lay in my hand.
“See,” said Jessica.
“This is my bracelet,” I said. “See, the letter M for Melissa.”
“I got that for my mom,” said Jessica.
“Do you have a receipt?” I asked. She had told me she had shoplifted it this past weekend.
“No.” She scowled at me.
Ms. Tomlin walked away shaking her head.
For the rest of the school year, I pinched Jessica in the soft skin of her underarms when no one was looking. She grew pale and thin. She did not return for third grade.
* * *
“You’re putting on some weight,” Nanna said to me as I licked the sugary 13 off the top of my birthday cake.
I reached for more frosting while maintaining eye contact with her. She slapped my hand.
Later that night at bedtime, I gave Nanna her tea.
“You are sweet,” she said. I handed her the cup, wrapped in a lace doily, so the heat would not burn her fingers. “Did you enjoy your birthday party?”
“You made it memorable for me,” I said. I kissed Nanna’s cheeks and went to my room to sleep.
The next morning, Nanna’s cup lay on the floor. Digoxin-laced tea soaked her quilt. I removed the cloth napkin from her stiff fingers. I used it to place her empty pill bottle next to the saucer on her side table. I tucked the linen into my pocket. I used it later to wipe the tears from my face when the police and paramedics came to take away the body.
* * *
My image splashed over screens on phones, computers, and TVs around the world. The hoi polloi acknowledged my fame. I stood accused of hiring illegals to wait on me hand and foot. One of my maids had escaped the compound and flagged down a black and white.
“Nonsense,” I said to my high-priced lawyers. I crunched on a cheese doodle. “Who’s going to believe I hurt her in any way. I saved her from death in her own country.” I wiggled my orange fingers in front of my maid’s face. She licked off the salty powder.
“Melissa,” said the larger of my two lawyers. They were new, so I didn’t remember their names. “Someone beat her.”
“I have no control over what they do to each other.” I leaned back in my white leather chair.
“She says there are dead bodies buried in the basement,” said lawyer number two. “That you killed at least two young girls when they failed to please you.” He coughed. “That you made them bury the dead bodies.” His voice squeaked. He’d have to go.
“Look at me,” I said as I rose. I spun around for the men. “Do I look like a monster to you?” I pointed at my maid. “Does she look abused in any way?” The girl whimpered. She ran from the room crying. “See how upset she is for me?”
I picked up my crystal wine goblet. The dark red liquid reflected the light of the candles placed around the room. “This will be a piece of cake,” I toasted.
In response to the prompt at terribleminds - The Danger of Undeserved Power