What a tangled web we weave.
Veronica Hadfield adjusted the uncomfortable straps of her skin-tight, amaranth-coloured dress and critically analysed herself in the full-length mirror. She groaned. This wasn’t who she was. Sexy, cool, casual, funny Veronica wasn’t her. She felt much more comfortable with her blonde hair pinned back into a tight ponytail, sleek trousers, and a blouse, whilst explaining an analysis of Romeo and Juliet to her class of year 7s. erahJust then the door of her bedroom flung open to reveal her stunning best friend, Olivia Kingsley in her sequined gold dress that glinted in the dull lights of her apartment. “Wow, you are a vision!” she squealed, as she joined Veronica’s side at the mirror. “I don’t know Liv. This dress really isn’t me. I think this would be better,” argued Veronica, opening her closet to reveal the dress she had originally chosen to wear before Olivia had sternly told her no. “You look sensational! There is no way, I am allowing you to take this dress off. That would be a federal fashion offence to you to allow you to change into that old lady’s dress!” declared Olivia as she scooped up her diamond-encrusted clutch and shoved it into Veronica’s hands before Veronica had a chance to argue again. Veronica glanced at herself once more, with her hair in a half up half down do, a face coated in makeup, and a dress that showcased all her curves. She barely recognized herself. “Come along, babe. It’s time to go and rock this party!” exclaimed Olivia as she looped her arm into Veronica and the two headed to their high school reunion party.
As the pair of girls pulled up outside of Lidgebrick Catholic College, they sighed in nostalgia and began to discuss the times that the girls shared just in this carpark. “Here is where I got my first kiss. Bradley Cook. Hottest guy in grade eight. Right under this very sign.” sighed Olivia reminiscing, as she lent dreamily on the large sign outside the entrance of Lidgebrick Catholic College. “Still remember our first kiss, ah?” said a snicker from behind. “Bradley!” squealed Olivia as she rushed up to him, as fast as her stilettos would allow her, and wrapped her arms around his neck. Bradley and Olivia went way back. They were together for at least two years so they had a lot of history. “Hey Liv,” he said with a smile. Veronica felt an unusual heat crept into her cheeks, she nervously played with her hair, an unconscious habit that happened every time she was nervous. Once Olivia and Bradley had stopped their seemingly never-ending embrace, Bradley took a second to observe Veronica. Veronica self-consciously pulled down the hem of her dress. “Well, well Veronica. Don’t you pull up alright when you actually try,” snickered Bradley. “Well hello to you too Bradley. So typical of you, only focused on a girl’s looks,” said Veronica, smugly. Bradley shrugged as he strode into the open gates of the school. Veronica watched his retreating figure and grimaced. It was true, she had had feelings for Bradley Cook from the moment she had met him in the sandpit in grade 1 and they made sandcastles together but Olivia always got everything Veronica wanted. “Coming?” asked Olivia, looking over her shoulder. “Um yeah, of course,” Veronica replied with a smile as she followed Olivia into the party.
As soon as we entered, the bright lights of disco lights shone, some religious pop music played, people mingling, dancing, and drinking ‘punch’ that was secretly alcoholic. Veronica took a red plastic cup and filled it to the brim, drinking it in moments. This night, this dress, her makeup. It all felt uncomfortable and wrong. High school wasn’t a happy place for Veronica. In high school, Veronica was the tight-laced, never been kissed, straight-A student who was endlessly teased and boys avoided like the plague as if the idea of a girl never been kissed was a contagious disease they might catch. She didn’t even want to come tonight but Olivia persuaded her into it and pleaded with guilt that the two hadn’t seen each other in sooooooo long. Veronica lent against the wood walls of the auditorium and observed the people that mingled around her. She could see Olivia and Bradley dancing, their bodies sliding to the music.
The night went on and Veronica felt more alone by the moment. Speeches were said, memorials too for a student that passed just before graduation, Jane Hedgewick, and catch-ups continued. Finally, pulling Bradley in tow, Olivia came to see Veronica who had stood in the corner for what felt like an eternity. “Hey babe!” cried Olivia, flinging her arms around Veronica’s neck. “Hey, Liv. I think I’m going to head off now. I’m kind of tired and I’ve got work in the morning,” said Veronica, yawning. “Well, well miss little straight lace Veronica hasn’t changed one bit. You might break your curfew, Ronnie, huh?” sneered Bradley. “That’s not it Bradley. I’ve actually got a job, instead of just been a playboy like you, Brad” replied Veronica, holding her clutch purse close to her chest. “Anyway, this party blows so a few of us are going to mine for the after-party. I assume you don’t want to come, Cinderella?” asked Bradley. “Of course I’ll come!” replied Veronica, aggressively.
Veronica rolled into the long driveway that lead to Bradley Cook’s mansion. “Come on Ron, I’ve seen old ladies drive faster than this!” urged Olivia, her words slurring. “Come on Liv, I hate that name. And it is a driveway, I can’t drive faster.” Replied Veronica. “Your such a bore Ron. I mean Ronnie!” cooed Olivia, throwing her head against the seat of Veronica’s small hatchback as it pulled up. The two girls made their way inside to find pumping music, two kegs in the yard, and heaps of fancy alcohol. Bradley and Olivia rushed off along with some of the other old-school friends to the lounge. Veronica joined them, after hanging up her coat. She found all her fellow schoolmates slung over an oversized chaise lounge. Veronica found a empty seat on the edge. Aaron, one of Bradley’s old football buddies, spoke up, taking a swig from his beer bottle. “How about a game of truth or dare?” he hollowed. Everyone whooped in response. Veronica scoffed. “Is that too immature for ya princess?” asked one of Bradley’s other mates and one of Olivia’s exes, Matt. “Isn’t it a little immature for everyone? I mean I haven’t played that since, well, I was in high school,” said Veronica. “Well, maybe you should go back to the reunion and hang with the nuns. I mean you are a nun, practically!” he snickered in response and then laughed mad. “Hey that’s enough Aaron,” said Olivia, leaning back in her chair. “Let’s just play the game,” said Olivia. “Bradley, truth or dare?” asked Olivia, sexily. “Dare,” he replied with a sly smile. “I dare you to… kiss me!” said Olivia. “Gladly” he replied and lent forward, the first kiss since high school. Typical thought Veronica. “Alright, get a room you two! Don’t you have a wife Bradley?” asked Aaron. “Not anymore. She left like a year ago,” replied Bradley. “Oh sorry, bro,” said Aaron, sliding down in his seat. The game continued, with crazy dares soaring and truths that made faces turn the colour of tomatoes. Finally, it was Veronica’s turn. “Do you want a turn or are you too good to play with us lower life?” said Matt. “I choose truth,” said Veronica in response with a resentful smile.
Matt settled back in the chair, draping his arm around Hayley, his hands tickling her forearms. “Hmm, Ron, what is the scariest, most exciting thing that has ever happened to you?” he asked, with a sly smile. “Getting my degree at university. Or…or maybe landing my first teaching role!” said Veronica, dreamily. “Oh Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie. You haven’t changed one bit, have you? You are honestly telling me, that is the most exciting thing that’s happened to you?” Matt reassessed. At that moment, Veronica relived the past of her adolescent life, the constant snickers around corners, the teasing that the boys gave her, the abandonment she felt some days when Olivia chose to eat lunch with Bradley in the canteen and Veronica was stuck, by herself in the bleachers of the oval as she was not ‘cool enough" to be invited to Bradley’s table. In that moment, she felt a repulsion to suddenly seem ‘cool enough’ for these people so she didn’t play by the rules. She told a lie to a truth. “Actually, the scariest thing that has ever happened to me is when I was haunted,” said Veronica with a mischievous look in her eyes.
For the first time ever, Veronica felt accepted. Felt ‘cool enough’. All her peers lent forward, eager to hear more. “How come you never told me about this?” asked Olivia. Veronica spluttered. “Well as you said Liv, we haven’t seen each other in soooooooooo long so I suppose it hasn’t really come up!” retorted Veronica. Olivia settled back in her chair, feeling unsatisfied with the answer of her ‘best friend’. Veronica continued to smile and answer questions about her haunting. With every answer she gave, a lie fell from her lips but what would it matter? People lie all the time. She pushed her guilt down, as she was the sort of girl who never lied when she could. She wasn’t sure why she even lied. Just to fit in? She shrugged off her roll of thoughts and her stabbing feelings of guilt. It might have just been because Veronica had never ‘lied’ in twenty-eight years, she was so desperate to keep her reputation because maybe her streak of truthfulness was just that, a reputation to uphold at any cost. But there was something that felt so wrong about this lie. Her internal organs felt twisted up, her heartbeat like a marching band and her palms felt like oceans. “So Olivia, truth or dare?” asked Veronica, trying to push down her bubbling thoughts.
Veronica arrived home, her head thumping and foggy with alcohol, her anxiety and guilt still soaring high, and the tiredness drowning her like an ocean wave. She collapsed into her sea of pillows and blankets that lay strewn on her bed and fell into a deep slumber.
Veronica stirred awake, her eyes opening groggily. She looked down to see herself still in her party dress, her high heels and lights still on. She groaned. She hadn’t even done this in high school. Probably because she was never invited to parties. Her head thumped and her mind raced. As she checked the time on her phone, she heard a noise. A noise that made her heart stop beating, her hands shake, and a thumping noise in her ears. She placed her phone down slowly and turned to the entrance of her door. But nothing. Nothing, not a glimpse. Not a shadow. Not a figure. Just emptiness. She stood slowly to her feet and crept towards her door, peeking around the corner of her door and into her lit hallway. She glanced towards the kitchen and snuck forward, the clip of her heels heard on the wood floor. She slipped her heels off quietly and tip-toed to the kitchen, grabbing herself a weapon in the form of a sharp blade of a knife. She crept about her house, desperate to find the culprit of the noise. Nothing. This noise, it had to come from somewhere. It sounded like voices that called her name. A chilling noise that whispered shallowly. After securing the locks of all her doors and inspecting all the nooks and crannies of her home, she retreated to her bedroom and tried to sleep but with the security of a knife under the pillow opposite her but little did she know that a knife could not save her. Not this time.
The next day at work, Veronica could barely function as she explained the importance of World War One to a bunch of ungrateful year nines. She couldn’t stop her mind from racing, from thinking of the strange voice that penetrated her every thought. Was she crazy? Schizophrenic? She couldn’t even share her thoughts, for fear of sounding crazy so she worked to push down her thoughts that felt strangling. As her day came to a conclusion, she slid into her car and turned on the ignition, the roar of her car’s engine starting making her jump. As she began to reverse out of the parking bay and onto the road, she soon found herself hastily stopping for the figure that walked in front of her car. Her car was just moments away from hitting this person but they seemed unaware and just stared at her, standing in the middle of the road. Cars piled up behind her but Veronica pulled on the handbrake and jumped out, seeing if this person was alright. The car behind her followed her movements and someone joined her side. “What the hell lady?” said the man in his aggressive Italian accent. “There was this girl. She stepped in front of my car. But she’s gone. Gone!” explained Veronica frantically. “Crazy lady! There was no fricking person there! Go back to the nuthouse you belong and get a move on. I have somewhere to be!” he yelled, his hands flying about to mirror his emotions. Veronica unsteadily walked back to her car and drove forward, in a haze. “What just happened?” she mouthed like a chant. The funny thing is that she knew that person who stood in front of her car.
Jane Hedgewick was one of the most popular girls in school back in Veronica’s day. Best at everything. Played in every competition; musical, educational, or sport. Aced every test. Answered every question in class. But also stunningly gorgeous and had more boyfriends than Veronica had had showers. Therefore Veronica was quite envious of Jane. They competed in every way and whilst Veronica was up to Jane’s level in most things, beauty and the whole boyfriend thing was an area she sadly failed in. So the day that Jane Hedgewick was declared dead one average Tuesday morning, while everyone was saddened, crying, and in mourning, Veronica felt no remorse. No sadness. But that was just because the two girls were rivals and quite frankly hated each other, or was it more?
That day, Veronica returned home to her empty apartment. She felt so hazed, had run at least five red lights, and drove straight through a school zone at high speeds without even thinking. Why the hell had she just seen Jane Hedgewick walk in front of her car outside of the place she worked? Jane was dead. She remembered the funeral. The memorabilia at her locker is in her memory. So why was she just in front of her car? Veronica poured herself a cup of coffee and began marking a stack of year 7 English exams. As she enjoyed the last of the afternoon sun in her window seat, she nearly dropped her coffee cup when she saw a reflection in the window. She flicked her head around to find no one there. She buried her face into her hands and then decided to ring Olivia. Discuss it with her, someone who wouldn’t judge. “Hey, girl. Last night was crazy, huh?” asked Olivia, still sounding tipsy. “Yeah you wouldn’t believe the night I had!” exclaimed Veronica as she explained all the goings-on. “But why is so weird? I mean you said you had been haunted anyway” said Olivia. “I just made that up Liv” returned Veronica, feeling embarrassed. Olivia howled. “May I ask why?” she questioned. “I don’t know. Just trying to fix my high school self-esteem I guess” replied Veronica. “Do you think I’m crazy? I mean these figures, Jane in front of my car?” asked Veronica, rubbing her forehead. “No, not at all babe. You're so not crazy. It’s just your mind playing tricks. I think you should see someone to help you relax. A nice massage?” suggested Olivia.
Veronica went to bed soon after her dinner. She switched her light off, set her alarm and slipped into her bed, and snuggled down. As she began to close her eyes, she heard the noise yet again. She flung her eyes open and groped around for her knife but she couldn’t find it. Suddenly she saw a figure. It floated above her like a floating balloon. She screamed but the sounds were muffled. “Jane?” she mouthed wordlessly. “Payback bitch. You know what William Shakespeare said, oh what a tangled web we weave when it is first we first deceive. It is so very true, my friend. You might have played the role of the innocent, perfect, straight-A student but you should have known that one day your lies would catch up to you, even the little ones.” said this strange figure that laid above her. In the next moment, Veronica couldn’t see anything at all. She fell into a pit of endless darkness.
In the last moments of Veronica’s dull existence, she relieved the moment that she had spent years trying to forget. The moment that she saw Jane Hedgewick crumple, her chest stop rising and her heart stops beating. The blood that poured out of her chest as the knife that Veronica held dripped with thick, red liquid. Drip. Drip. Drip. She knew in her last breath that karma had come, as she felt tightening around her neck, her gasps for air that she couldn’t get, the fight as she kicked and screamed but of course it didn’t work. As I said before a knife couldn’t save her. Not this time. Lies can kill