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Drama

CW: cursing and murder


Theodore looks disheveled. There is no other way to describe a man who walks to the glass front door of our office, throws out his left hand which grasps desperately at the metal handle before flopping to his side, before hopelessly shuffling in. She hurt him last night. Again. I could kill her. But I can’t, because they’ll blame Theo, I remind myself.


I desperately attempt to quiet the butterflies, screaming in my stomach, as I murmur a good morning. Theodore walks on. As he passes by, I sniff the air, like a dog tracking a scent. No cologne. Just the hint of body odor and I grimace before turning back to my work. I email out the confirmation to Eliza, my fingers hovering over the mouse as her name and email address auto populate. I wonder if she knows about my feelings for Theodore. I clear my throat and send out the info before neatly writing a little, red check on my notebook with my left hand. 


The phone rings. It’s Theodore’s extension. My heart begins to pound and my palms begin to sweat as I say as calmly as possible, “Reception, Betty speaking.” 


“Hey, Bet, how are you?” asks the deep, honey coated voice on the other end. 


I twirl the gray phone cord around one, red polished index finger as I say, “Very well. How are you?”


“Fine. Listen, I need you to send out some checks. I’ve written them out with the addresses on sticky notes, can you come get them?” he says.


Can I come to your office? Step into your world? Of course. My mind is spinning, “Of course. I need to finish a couple things down here first, but I’ll be there soon.” 


“Of course. Thanks,” says Theodore and the line goes dead. I refresh my email to find a reply from Eliza which reads: Received. Thank you. I glance at the clock and open my notebook where I write Send Checks on a fresh line, leaving space for a future little red check mark. It’s 9am. Me. Jacobson will be needing his coffee. 


The office of Jacobson and Sons Marketing is relatively small. There’s my reception room with two ficuses in corners under big, open windows and my desk. My desk curves into a crescent shape which leads to the main room of the office. There is a small kitchenette nestled in the back which I head over to, passing by the sales desks with their colorful St. Patty’s decorations, the design room which is an open glass walled fishbowl, and the conference room that boasts a long, oak table and TV. In the back corner is a set of stairs which leads to the executive offices, another conference room, and accounting. My heart longs for that staircase. 


I smile and wave good morning to everyone before pushing open the white door to the kitchen and grimace at the coffee cups in the sink covered in crusty oatmeal and remnants of curdling milk mixed with tea or coffee. Not my problem, I think while opening the cabinet for a mug. Ok, so it is my problem, I realize when I find a bare shelf. 


I turn on the faucet, allowing the water to warm as I reach for the sponge wand. I frown when I see that it has two drops of dish soap in the handle. My charm bracelet rattles against the white cabinets above the sink as my fingers blindly grasp for the large container the dish soap. My annoyance blocks the sound of the kitchen door opening and the presence of a man standing next to me. 


“Here, allow me,” says Theodore. I gasp and bring my hands to the edge of my magenta blouse, tugging at the shiny silken fabric as I realize he may have seen my stomach. 


“Thank you,” I blush vividly and begin filling the wand. I am vaguely aware that Theodore has reached for the coffee pot; it sizzles as he lifts it and places it back. The scent of sweet roasted beans fills the room. I have placed the soap on the counter and I smile when Theodore lifts it back into its home. I examine him since he is standing so close. I notice the wrinkles in his gray suit and that half his white collar is popped, the other half is neatly pressed down. 


“So, you’re busy?” teases Theodore, skepticism drips from his voice. 


“Well, I wouldn’t be if more people bothered to read the sign,” I say. I feel Theodore’s eyes drifting to the laminated sign I so carefully hung above the silver sink which reads: PLEASE CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF. I am rinsing out the first mug. The water is hot against my hands as I wet the sponge and commence scrubbing. 


“Hey, I wash my cups,” he replies. He takes a sip of coffee as I finish rinsing out the first mug and slam it down onto the plastic drying rack. 


“It’s the thought that counts,” I say. Then, over-correct the biting tone in my voice asking, “Did you have a good weekend?” 


I feel that Theodore is considering his answer as I listen to the sound of him sipping. “It was fine,” he answers and sets his mug on the counter. He is rolling up his sleeves. Theodore is reaching for a drying rack, stored in one of the little white drawers. Theodore begins drying the first mug, then pops it into its home up in the cabinets. He dries the second mug and the vanity in me wonders if he is watching my cleavage jiggle as I scrub out some stubborn oatmeal. Our fingertips brush in the last pass off. 


“Hey, Theodore, can I ask you something?” I focus my eyes on the green dinosaur mug in my hands. 


“Hmmm,” he replies. 


“Why do you call me Bet?” My voice is soft and childlike. I don’t have the courage to meet his gaze.


“Cause, you’re a good bet,” he says.


“What?” the question is out before I can filter the incredulous tone. 


“I mean, I was at your interview, remember?” he explains, and I nod. “And I just knew you were the right gal for the job. You were reliable, you came on time, and,” I look up at him, just listening to the sound of the water running for no reason, “You were the only one who didn’t wear jeans.” He winks at me and I let out a giggle. “Anything you want, you have the power to get.”


Even you? I wonder as I stare down at the charm in the shape of the letter, “E,” in the bottom of the sink. It must have fallen off when I was opening the cabinet. I quickly tuck it in a fist. 


We finish our task and I follow Theodore out the door and up the stairs. My eyes linger on Theodore’s ass, carved and perfectly accentuated by our climb up the stairs. We pass our boss, Peter Jacobson, who waves at me to enter his office expectantly. But Theodore takes priority over his coffee so I pretend not to notice. We weave through the desks of the accountants on Theodore’s team and wander into his office. I admire the view of the city, splayed out like the feathers on a peacock's tail, full of color and mystery. 


“Bet,” Theodore’s voice interrupts my fantasy of us dancing into one of the Michelin Star restaurants down below for our anniversary dinner. 


More blush fills my cheeks and I kick myself. I turn to face him, “Sorry.” Theodore waves me off and extends three envelopes out to me. Each one has an address carefully written on them. 


“Thanks, Bet, you’re the best,” he says and I think I catch a smile. But it fades as quickly as it comes. 


I clear my throat, “Um, Theooooodore.” He looks up at me, eyebrow raised. You can’t call him Theo yet, but he’ll be yours soon. “Your collar,” I point for a moment and pull my hand back. I approach his desk cautiously as I see confusion fill his face. “May I?” I extend a hand and he nods. I run my fingers along his collar, warm from his neck. Up close, I realize he smells of stale cigarettes and alcohol. I lay the rebellious side down and notice a spot of red lipstick. It’s Eliza’s color and makes me press my own pink lip gloss colored lips together in a bid to fight the tears pricking my eyes. 


Theodore clears his throat as I make my exit. My feet feel clumsy and foolish in my red high heels, two sizes too big for me. 


I burst back into the kitchen, shake two packets of sugar into a mug, and add my secret ingredient. The hot coffee streams like a waterfall. Adrenaline courses through my veins when I deliver it and watch Mr. Jacobson takes a sip. He smiles. She’ll never appreciate you. In another world, you’d be the perfect man. What a shame. I pretend to stumble out the door and drop the charm in his ficus in the corner of his office. 


I flick on the radio. I begin working on Theodore’s checks. I admire the swirled tails of his Ys, the large bellied Bs, the little Es, and the bold crosses of his Ts. My fingers slowly type out his name and a smile sneaks its way onto my face as my email auto populates his address. My finger hovers over it and a part of me begins to imagine my name: Elizabeth Sanchez. Out of habit, I almost throw his sticky notes away. Almost. 


Then, because I am a woman possessed by true love, I reach for my top drawer and remove my notebook. My heart rate has once again doubled as I take a pencil and begin tracing the letters needed to write my name. I trace them carefully, then write them a few times on the notebook paper. At the bottom of the first sheet I have reserved a few lines. Once I feel confident with the letters I write out my name, in “his” handwriting. My heart is filled with sheer bliss and I sit back, humming along to the lovesong playing softly. I also add a perfect check by Theodore’s task in my notebook. 


“What time are you going to lunch?” demands Eliza. She stands like an elegant, intimidating, giraffe in her black patent leather stilettos at my desk. She begins drumming her manicured nails on the desk and her huge ring set glistens in the sunlight. They’re red talons, just like mine. 


Her green eyes bore into me as I stutter out, “Um, 1pm, if that’s ok.” She huffs off and returns to her lair. The time reads 12:30 and I sit up straighter, just as Theodore passes by my desk. “Thanks for your help,” he calls. 


“Ditto!” I say, which causes him to pause. He turns back to face me.


“Ditto?” he asks.


“Um, for the dishes. The drying. The dishes. The kitchen,” I wildly indicate behind me. A light bulb turns on and he smiles before nodding at me briskly. 


At exactly 1pm Eliza stands back at my desk. We negotiate the changing of the guard awkwardly. The hour is up all too soon and I return to an empty desk. I set my phone down on my desk and walk over to Eliza’s office. 


The wooden door is closed, but I can hear voices inside. “There’s nothing you can do about it now,” she says. I press my ear to the door. 


“That’s just not true, Lizzie. Divorce exists,” protests Theodore. My heart is in my throat. There’s something innately affectionate in a nickname. 


“No, no. It is true,” she says followed by silence. “You know better than that,” she chastises. I can hear her loud steps approaching the door and I scurry like a mouse to my desk. 


I pick up my phone’s receiver and say, “Yes, sir. We help design business cards. We have lots of options on our website.” I glance up to see a flushed Eliza smacking down her messy blonde curls. I watch Theodore retreat. I pause, purposefully pretending that the prospective client is replying to me, “Yes, thank you, sir.” I hang up the phone and look at Eliza expectantly. Her green eyes are glassy like a doll’s. 


“Make sure you tidy that up next time,” she demands and waves her hand at my desk littered with sticky notes and my notebook. I bite my lip and wait for her to leave. I could swear she teeters slightly in her shoes. The postman arrives in his powder blue shirt and shorts. I am delighted at the two white envelopes addressed to AP which I place delicately on the counter before sweeping the junk mail into my black trash can tucked beside my rolling chair. “Are these for Theodore?” Eliza’s voice startles me and I bonk my head against my desk. 


“Yes, but I can take them up,” I say.


“That’s not necessary,” she says and sweeps up my opportunity like a venus fly trap. I watch her march away before grabbing the bottle full of alcohol based cleaning solution from the cabinet behind my desk. But she presented another one, instead. I stand and march over to Eliza’s office. Her door is closed. Even though I know she’s gone, I knock three times, pause, and then open the door. Her office is designer tailored with just the right amount of personal-a single wedding photo of her and Mr. Jacobson. 


Instead of spinning around in her chair, I lift the black bag from her mini trash can and delicately place the plastic baggy with the remnants of my secret ingredient at the bottom of her bag. I also slide my charm bracelet off a clammy wrist and tuck it beneath the desk. The blood pounds like race cars on the track in my ears as I arrange her trash neatly and spray the bag along with the bracelet.  


Back at my desk, I take out my pink makeup bag. I unzip it and remove the makeup wipes and the refreshing spray before plucking four tissues from the box set on my desk. When she returns, she slams her door shut. I decide to memorize the gold plaque on her door reading in beautiful calligraphy: Eliza Jacobson-Office Manager. My knock this time is purposeful and singular. I enter without her consent. The woman slumped over the beautiful, big desk doesn’t look like my office manager. Her white blouse is half untucked from her black skirt. Her hair resembles a rat’s nest. When she raises her head, I see tell tale streaked makeup and red blotches on her face. 


“What?” demands Eliza and I stutter out my problem. I present my offering to the raging dragon and am shocked at the smile which passes onto her lips. Silently, I take my exit.


At 4:30pm on Monday, March 15th, Eliza returns my spray and wipes which I tuck away. She has refreshed her face and I realize she must have her own arsenal. Her cupid’s bow lips are back to being cherry red. She waves goodbye and I begin to clean my desk. I walk briskly to the kitchen to grab the broom. Endorphins pump through me at the sight of Theodore’s broad back as I enter. “Did you have a good day, Bet?'' he asks me without turning from his task. He is washing out his mug. 


“Yes, yes I did. Thank you,” I say.


“Bet,” he turns to face me. “Bet, I…” he drifts off. “Thank you for all you do…” he sweeps his arm around the room, “I mean...Around the office.” I memorize this moment-the five o’clock shadow around his perfect jaw, his stutter, his deep brown eyes and perfect voice. 


“Thank you for noticing. And for cleaning Mr. Jacobson’s coffee mug,” I say, indicating it in the drying rack.  


“Oh, I didn’t. Eliza did,” he replies. 


Perfect. How absolutely perfect. 


He begins drying his mug with extra aggression and mumbles, “You know, she should really be the one getting him coffee, since she’s his wife.”


I laugh and counter with, “Well, she does cook for him, clean for him, etc. So I imagine she’s got plenty of time to poison him if she wanted to.” My laughter is forced, but Theodore doesn’t catch on. 


Instead, he says the worst thing he could possibly say as he places his mug in the cabinet and holds the door open for me, “Bet, I wish she would sometimes. I wish she would.” 


I imagine he is watching my ass this time.



MARKETING MOGUL’S DYNASTY ENDS IN MURDER


“The body of Peter Jacobson of Jacobson and Sons Marketing was discovered in his home. Police have now declared his death a possible homicide. They have also informed Channel 31 of two suspects: Eliza Jacobson, Peter’s wife, is the primary suspect. Her accomplice is believed to be Theodore Sanchez who is the CFO of Jacobson and Sons Marketing. It is believed that the pair may have begun an affair which culminated in a pregnancy and the murder. The police are also willing to release a clue-the killer, it has been determined, had to have been left handed. If there is anyone who has any information regarding the whereabouts of these two individuals, they need to call the Metro Police…”


I set down my coffee mug on my counter top as the news cuts to a press conference. Beside me, my phone begins to ring. 


Theodore’s voice cracks as panic has set in, “Bet…I need your help…please come…” I open my notebook to write down the address. Then, I return to my to do list and draw a perfect red check next to the words: Frame Eliza. 

April 07, 2023 18:28

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12 comments

08:58 Sep 05, 2023

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Graham Kinross
23:46 Jul 13, 2023

Nice set up with a great pay off at the end. She’s not one to mess with, that’s for sure.

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Michał Przywara
20:44 May 05, 2023

Ha, that's a good twist :) The narrator was definitely presented as a woman in love with a man she couldn't have, but hoped for - but other than that, mostly harmless. Little did we know that Bet was a perfectly fitting name, and she can indeed get everything she sets her mind to. When she initially mentioned adding her secret ingredient, I assumed it was cinnamon or something, because the whole thing seemed so harmless. Great setup, definitely fell for it, so it's believable her coworkers did too. "Not my problem, I think while opening ...

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Julie Grenness
21:12 Apr 19, 2023

So well done. This tale conveys an intriguing story, great characterization of a love triangle, and the unrequited. Your choice of language and imagery built an evocative conclusion. I hope you keep on writing.

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Laurel Hanson
11:39 Apr 16, 2023

Excellent story. You've developed a really distinct character and engage the reader immediately as they try to figure out what she is up to. I have to go back and check because I am not getting the charms but maybe it's too early in the morning for me. Either way, I was pulled along and am very impressed. Crime stories don't usually fit really well in the short story format; you've done it masterfully.

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Marty B
23:54 Apr 15, 2023

A crime thriller! She was a good 'Bet', she got what she wanted!

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Delbert Griffith
11:51 Apr 15, 2023

Wow. This is an excellent murder/frame/crazy-woman tale, Amanda. The clues were all there, and they were placed discreetly and in appropriate spots. The internal dialogue really showed us who Bet really was. One of the reasons I liked this so much was that Bet wanted a flawed man; he wasn't perfect, but she was fixated. Mr. Jacobson, the victim, was a good man, but he had to die so that Bet could get what she wanted. This made for messy morals and allowed us to properly despise Bet. Solid, solid, solid. Great piece, Amanda. These types o...

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Michelle Oliver
00:24 Apr 14, 2023

This was very well written. I had to re-read to get all the clues and I’m still not sure I picked them all up! I suspected from the very beginning that she was a little unhinged. -“I could kill her. But I can’t, because they’ll blame Theo, I remind myself.” For some people, I could kill… is a throw away line to express emotion, not to be taken literally eg I could kill for a coffee, but when I read the opening sequence here, I knew it was not metaphorical. The second reading had this line stand out, “Anything you want, you have the power to...

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Viga Boland
14:18 Apr 12, 2023

A very well-constructed tale with one off-kilter protagonist. Nicely done. Thoroughly enjoyed it. And I love the use of the present tense. Not easy to pull off for a lot of writers.

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RJ Holmquist
02:48 Apr 12, 2023

I got a sense that she might be a little off right away, which made me curious, then when I figured out what she might be doing, I was hooked to see if it would work or not. The ending is just right, she did the hard part, but we aren't sure if it totally worked or not. Very engaging read!

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Darryl Roberts
01:18 Apr 12, 2023

Great read, I don’t normally like the current tense writing style but after the first couple of paragraphs I didn’t notice it. True love isn’t always benevolent.

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Mary Bendickson
00:01 Apr 12, 2023

Sneaky,sneaky! Think I need to read through again to catch it all but pretty sneaky!

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