The Island was known for its five hour Happy Hours, so naturally Bonnie and Deborah spent each Thursday afternoons there religiously. The kids were gone and out in the world now, and all they had to worry about was how to order the Uber home (which was more of a challenge after Happy Hour than it might seem). Sometimes, they would see their limit and stay sober enough to have the hard conversations – where the best dresses were on sale at the moment, what lipsticks matched those dresses, etc. But today was a day of celebration – all limits were thrown out the window.
Bonnie ordered her third jumbo strawberry margarita after Deborah egged her on –
“Honey, you deserve it! And don’t even worry about getting that damn purse out today. It’s all my treat.”
Most days, Bonnie would argue about her friend’s merciless acts of charity; just because Bonnie was struggling financially didn’t mean she forgot what budgeting was. And Happy Hour Thursdays were top of her list. But today, Bonnie knew there was no arguing. Instead, she threw her head back in gratitude, the alcohol already drifting to the deepest parts of her brain.
“I should publish books more often!”
Deborah’s hand flew up in correction, “You should publish good books more often! That last one was trash and you know it. What was it called? Something about flowers…”
“Sunrise in the Sunflower Sky.”
“Right, that.” Deborah’s face seemed to be searching to recall a distant past. “What the hell was that about again?”
The waiter came back with Bonnie’s margarita. “I could not tell you,” Bonnie replied, leaving the margarita on the table as she leaned back in her chair. “All I know is, I was not meant for romance writing.”
“Well I blame that pig of a husband you had,” Deborah scowled, and her delicate eyelashes batted their agreement. She lifted her drink to her painted lips, closing out her fourth wine of the day. She wasn’t normally this quick, but she was using her friend’s big day as her excuse to speed things up a bit.
Bonnie nodded her giant beehive in agreement, the brown baby hairs that weren’t sprayed down flying in the breeze. She said nothing in response, but felt her silence said it all. Tom was a dick and everyone knew it. She just did what was right.
Deborah just continued, not sensing that the silence meant to move away from the topic: “The day you called and asked to move in, I screamed ‘HALLELUJAH!’ Really, I did. You know what I said to myself? I said, ‘Bonnie’s just made the best decision of her entire fucking life.’ And you know what else? Who cares if you’re alone. Who cares? You’re going to find yourself a regular Kennedy someday, but right now, anything is better than living with that man.”
“Maybe that’s why the romance novel flopped.”
And that was the funniest thing that either woman had ever heard – they laughed so hard that they cried some of their mascara off, and attracted the attention of the entire restaurant. A waiter came over to ask them to quiet down, but the ladies knew that it was just protocol; he had developed somewhat of a crush on Bonnie since the first day the pair stepped their heels into The Island. It was no surprise to her, either - Bonnie, at the age of forty-five, still looked like she had just graduated college.
They slowed to a stop as the conversation turned back to the reason for celebration: “Bonnie darling, what made you go from romance to a murder mystery? I mean truly, I was on the edge of my seat! You’re truly gifted! But why murder? It’s so…depressing”
“Let’s get you another drink before I tell you that one,” Bonnie started, already waving down the waiter she had in the palm of her hand. He was back with the drink before she could blink twice, and she had a feeling it wouldn’t be on the check at the end of the afternoon. The waiter handed it to Bonnie, who passed the glass along to Deborah. “I think it starts with romance, really. They say that’s one of the real motives behind murder, you know – love. Love and hate…the feelings are very connected.”
Deborah jumped to life at that – “Well that’s why I thought it was the wife all along! It’s always the spouse that does it. Have you watched the ID network recently? They’re always looking at the wife first, and nine out of ten times, it ends up that she did it.”
Bonnie sat and nodded, her energy seeming to diminish as Deborah drove her point home: “And they do it so secretly. I mean, really, how can someone hide that they killed their husbands years after it happened?”
“You’d be surprised.”
“But the guilt of it all, doesn’t it just…eat you up?” Her words were getting slurred beyond the point of recognition.
Bonnie’s eyes stayed glued to the margarita in front of her, spinning the straw around in one hand while the other’s long, lilac colored nails tapped the table. She was choosing her words carefully, trying not to scare her friend with what she knew of crime now: “I had to do a lot of research for the book, you know. Reading true crime novels. Listening to podcasts. Watching a lot of news…”
The words took longer for Deborah to process than usual – the drinks were hitting her all at once. “The newsisall just aaaawful nowadays…” Her elbows both landed ungracefully on the table, her chin now requiring both hands to stay upright.
“Well, you have to remember that these are people with histories, Deb. They’ve been abused. They’ve been neglected. They’ve been turned down more times than they can count…”
“No, my dear – the killers. They’re human.”
Deborah’s perception of the noise she was making was gone now – she stretched out both arms to slam her hands into the table – “They’re mooonsters, Bon. How…how can you say that?” Whatever tone she had wanted to portray with that statement quickly got lost in the hiccup that followed it.
Bonnie still was refraining from making eye contact with her friend, knowing the weight of her words was being felt more furiously because of the alcohol, but that the moment would be forgotten tomorrow. “The only way you can write real people is by thinking of them as real people,” she stated, as if she had used the phrase as a mantra often before. And she had, really. Murderers were her new specialty, and making them her friends had turned into a game at this point; she felt closer to Mary Elizabeth Wilson than even Deborah at this point.
But Deborah – poor, poor Deborah – was sinking away now, into a haze unlike any she had before experienced. To the waiters, though, that saw her every week, this was nothing more than a typical Thursday. They knew Deborah, but usually (at the discretion of Bonnie) poured a little lighter into her glasses, for her own sake. Bonnie had said nothing of the sort today, though – it was a different kind of Thursday.
“Bonbon, tellll me…what…what was the craziest story you heard?” Her guard was down. She leaned closer to Bonnie as middle school girls do when they gather to reveal their crushes. Her eyelids were sinking, along with the rest of her body, but her eyes were both on Bonnie now.
For a moment, Bonnie tried to think of a story that was less dramatic, but decided that Deborah wouldn’t remember anything in the morning anyway. She started to tell one that hit a little closer to home – “Well, there was one that truly knocked my socks off – the kind that stops you from falling asleep at night, you know?
“It was in this small town in the middle of nowhere…about ten or so years ago. A town full of no-name’s that was barely a blip on the map. New York, somewhere.”
Deborah’s eyes lit with momentary recognition: “Was it near here?” The last two words sounded more like neer-ear at this point.
Bonnie pretended not to hear the question and kept going, looking off into the distance to recall the memories: “It was this gorgeous family…little girls that wore bows and matching shirts…stay-at-home mom that they looked just like…and this big, handsome man that could wrap his arms around all four of them and carry them off.
“So the husband works for a big construction company. Not too many friends, keeps to himself mostly. But when he came home at night…that was when things went south. He would hit the wife, abuse the girls…all that jazz. And the wife was too scared to say anything, which is how it always goes.”
“Does he killim?” Deborah managed to interject before her head hit the table.
“Shh, darling…you’re using up your energy. Have a rest while I pay the bill,” Bonnie hummed, gracefully calling the waiter over while pulling Deborah’s credit card out of her purse. It almost felt like a dance – doing everything from then on with such precision and delicacy that it was an artform. She rose from the table, Deborah leaning on her shoulder, as she whispered, “We’ll finish the story in my car.”
Had she been more cognizant, Deborah would have wondered why Bonnie’s car was there, when they always walked and rode Ubers home. But today was different. All she knew was that Bonnie was telling her a story, and that she was aching to sit down. Sitting down in the front seat was a true blessing, for the moment.
Bonnie took her place at the driver’s seat, taking a moment to turn around and look at the piles and piles of books in the back. They were all hers – all the words in them were her own, and although her own name was not on the front (she had used a pseudonym), she felt the gravity of her ownership just as powerfully. She stared at them for the moment, and at the illustration of the coldblooded woman on the cover, before turning her attention back to her friend. She had little time to tell the tale now.
“One day, while the husband was at work, the wife decided that she was done. Her beautiful girls were not going to live with this monster anymore.” Bonnie turned the car on. “She dropped them off at the neighbor’s house, put on her best dress, and welcomed him in that night to a homecooked dinner. It was his drink, though, that had the secret.”
As Bonnie drove, she glanced at her friend. Deborah was staring straight forward, the words of Bonnie barely audible now. A hint of a smile crept on Bonnie’s face, and she continued (after all, Bonnie was a storyteller, regardless of who was listening):
“It sedated him enough that he didn’t even react when she began stabbing him. It took a while, of course, but eventually his skin was burning in the fireplace, and the rest of him was simmering in the pot on the stove. She had gotten the idea from a novel she read, you know. And when she fed her beautiful girls meatloaf for the next week and a half, they couldn’t tell the difference. She was truly gifted…”
This time when she looked, Deborah was slumped over, the drink having taken its full effect. But Bonnie wasn’t finished telling the story, and after all, this was a good one…
“She told everyone that she had kicked him out, and everyone that knew the family wasn’t surprised. They just didn’t think she had the balls to do it. But she did. And because of that, her whole family lived happily ever after. But, my dear Deborah, that wasn’t the end of the story…”
Bonnie pulled onto the highway, the sun eventually fading into the horizon. The night was exactly the way Bonnie had envisioned – cloudy, the moon nowhere in sight. All she could think about was getting the feeling back – the rush she had known only once before, but had sank its way into her heart so unexpectedly that she pushed it away at first. Eventually, though, she gave into the feeling, because keeping it in her heart is what made her feel the most alive…
As she pulled up to the spot – the spot that she had researched and visited time and time again before this night – she decided it was time for the grand finale: “Deborah, that woman changed. She became herself that night, and every night after that, she wondered what it would be like to do it again…to get away with something like that just one more time.”
Bonnie put the car in park. This was a special day. She was ready now.