'Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I have gathered you all here today to inform you..........I have been murdered.' She dragged out the last words, enunciating each word, drumming her long nails on the oak table.
Several of the deceased's 'feint - hearted' neighbours passed out, landing with a soft thud on the carpeted hall. A tumult of gasps resonated around the room and Adelaide sank back into her leather chair, trying to hide her smirk, while the other 'townies' offered their condolences. She drew her hand to her face, to stifle the giggles rising in her stomach, feigning sorrow.
"So let me fill you all in. Someone in this very room murdered me. Last night, at Halloween dinner, someone poisoned me. It was slipped into my wine in the wine blah blah blah. Someone held an old grudge etcetera etcetera. Today morning I found a scarlet letter lying on my pillow. It read, you have been murdered. In my Daily (envelope) I read several astonishing things. A one-line headline ran, 'Adelaide Parker Murdered, Town Meeting'. Also side-note, Beatrice hated my pasta, so screw you Beatrice." Adelaide glowered, possibly more upset about the latter.
"Yes, it appears that my death is the climax of this whole dastardly thing, but oh dear, it is just such an inconvenience right now. Really, does Emma think I have the time for murder right now? I mean, first, she turned me into some sort of cynical divorcee, with the tag 'damaged goods' trailing behind me, which really hurt you know? But then she made me join that idiotic gardening club, no offence Helen, but my God it is infuriating. All these garden parties and luncheons and whatnot, it is such utter bullshit!" Adelaide ranted on, realizing a little too late that she had all but forgotten her drawling British accent and picked up one, at best, of a tone-deaf banshee.
She backtracked, twisting her rings, dissipating her anger along with her tears, knowing she, of all people, could never play the sympathy card. Her 'friends' would scoff, and judge and everyone, absolutely everyone would secretly hate her. So, she had decided, if they were going to hate her no matter what she did, why not have a little fun with it she'd thought, when she'd read her character traits for the first time. She regretted that now. Maybe she wouldn't have died then. "Oh well. It’s all over anyway," she thought. Might as well go down as an evil villain rather than a conflicted character that the readers empathized with. For Emma at least.
Adelaide had been with Emma from the start. Her first manuscript, the first rejection letter, the cutting out and rewriting, publishing, Adelaide really believed it was she who had coaxed Emma to let go of her inhibitions, and Adelaide had inspired many many characters. But she herself had been put on the shelf, waiting for her spotlight. She was written that way. Literally programmed to desire the centre of attention, always craving to be noticed.
Armed with a shady backstory and a designer purse, she planned to take the literary world by storm. She had never shared her ambitions with anyone, because she knew if she did they would nod sincerely, then use her own words to stab her in the back, every word landing like shards of glass into her spine. But they were first-timers, what did they know. They hadn't eagerly waited in the shadows, waiting for their turn, or felt the sting when she was written out. They hadn't been created yet, out of the end of Emma's fountain pen, sprouting like saplings out of letters. Growing through words and sentences and entire paragraphs as they developed. Some of her old roommates were half translucent when she had left, about to be blown out of Emma's memories like feathers in a storm. She refused to acknowledge she was one of them, fading away before she had a chance.
But she was done. She felt hurt, betrayed. How could she do this? To weave her into the very fabric of the book only to have her ripped out again. No. Adelaide was done. She decided, right then and there, if she could be Emma’s crutch, she could be her downfall. She would do what no other had tried before. She would stop being herself. She would fight with every fiber of her being to not be written down, encaged in words. She would block the words from flowing out of her, and into her, maybe even giving herself away in the process. Emma would be frustrated, angry, annoyed that she couldn't get the words to sit perfectly right. And then, Adelaide would be deleted from the manuscript.
That was the one thing they all feared. Being written out. Evicted, with no prior notice. When Emma couldn’t write because of her, when she faced 'writer’s block', when Emma decided her character was just too much work, she would be kicked out. And she resolved to accept it. Because that was who she was wasn’t it? She mentally pictured the words written on her character sheet. Sly, petty, controlling, the villain, and most importantly, revengeful. She bit her lip to keep from smiling her signature coy smile, and felt every emotion she had ever known rising within her. And no, they were not the pretty ones.
Just as she felt she was crumbling away again, she snapped out of her painful reflections and snapped back into character. Her tongue loosened and she tried to remember how she rolled her r's just a minute ago. Everyone was staring, some silently snickering at her 'episode.' Adelaide made a small careless apology and continued as if nothing had happened.
I'm a little disappointed with Emma darling for writing yet another cliché murder mystery but nothing we can do about that. So that's how my life's going. How about you all? And do tell, who got the 'You murdered Adelaide Parker letter'?" Adelaide prattled on, while the rest of the room was recovering from the shock.
“Oh darling, I don’t think Emma’s written that far along yet. You know how it is, these things get brushed to the side, shelved until later use maybe? Hmm, Addy?” Mildred slyly commented, her words coated in sickly-sweet honey, her eyes slits in her powdered face.
There was a round of murmurs and questioning looks because no one knew Adelaide’s story other than Mildred, who revelled in her knowledge, knowing she had the upper hand.
“Quiet!” Adelaide shouted over the ruckus, “We are going to find the murderer.” She declared, as if solving her own murder was like winning the monthly bingo session.
“And pray tell, why would we do that? I mean, now that I think of it, it might be quite entertaining.” Mildred smirked, her argument winning over most of the dramatics in the group, which to be honest, was basically the whole room.
“Millie dear, I knew you wanted my chair on the Werdetz Art Foundation, but isn’t this going a little above and beyond?” Adelaide raised her eyebrows, her polite tone forcing the enraptured audience to take her side. They swerved their heads from one end of the room to the other end, waiting for the next ball to be hit, and the next smash to be served.
“Don’t you feel oppressed? Taken advantage off? Emma is a wonderful writer, but we’ve helped her along, and she keeps treating us like pawns in a game of chess. We’re being used, and it’s time to take our own selves back. Don’t you miss being the carefree high as a kite Betty, Bethany, instead of this uptight bitchy little Mrs. Wolowitz? What about you Mr. Lancaster? Don’t you miss Mrs. Lancaster, and yelling at teenagers together? No offence Lola, I know you miss Annabeth, and you’re not a gold digger. We’ve all been side-lined, forced into new outlines of ourselves, but we can break those boundaries! Let's ruin this world, so we can create a new one! Let's find my killer!” Adelaide’s voice of reason broke through to mostly everyone, and a big whoop went up. Adelaide was nothing if not an accomplished master of persuasion.
Lola burst into tears, telling anyone who would listen, “It’s true, I hate Emma for forcing me to be some trophy wife, and I had my own business with Annie! I don’t even need his money!”
Adelaide, not completely over the little things, mouthed “Game, set, match,” to Mildred, whose face contorted in muted anger.
“So here’s the deal. Me and Patricia will start interviewing y’all for the murder, Adelaide will come with us. Till then y’all can just wait in this reeeesplendent dining hall, and eat some scones. We will be with you shortly.” Rawn Junior blared, his voice like a foghorn.
"Damn Emma. She gave me this stupid Southern accent, and changed my name. I used to be like any run of the mill, gentlemen Ronald. She just HAD to make me that arsehole named Rawn didn't she?" He muttered under his breath.
"Let the interrogations begin!" someone cheered and there was a jovial spirit in the room. First came Fanny, who lasted a grand total of two minutes under Adelaide's withering stare. She aired her own dirty laundry, and ranted on about some PTA meeting for about 7 minutes before Patricia, the self - appointed Hercule Poirot of the group cut her off with an exasperated wave, and had someone usher her out of the room, "Before she strangled her," were her exact words. A hush fell upon the room, ruining the otherwise festive mood when they saw the train wreck that was Fanny. A quivering voice in the next room called, Colonel Crawford please come in.
The investigative team had made an executive decision to skip over the rest of the PTA members till... later. It was their first unanimous decision.
Mr. Crawford was a boring old bag of pirated war tales, Edith went on and on about her book club, Mr. and Mrs. Fowler refused to 'talk to the police together' which induced much eye-rolling on Adelaide's part. Separately they just provided way too many 'delighted' tidbits about their seemingly terrible marriage, excitedly mentioning details of their gruesome divorce, leaving Rawn traumatized for a while. Following them was Edgar, eager to 'talk murder'. Allen, brought a lawyer for his, in his own words, 'trial', for no reason 'the jury' could see. They plodded their way down the list of 'suspects', winding down at the end with exactly the same number of suspects they had at the beginning of the day, exactly zero. They vowed to continue the next day until they found the 'killer' and completely ruined Emma's murder mystery.
Adelaide tossed and turned throughout the night, still a little sick at the thought of her betrayal. Oh well, Adelaide thought. It happens to the best of 'em. She betrayed me a long time ago. With that thought in mind, she flipped over and sank into a dreamless sleep.
"Sooo... Whaddya think Bill? Is it my next big hit? Do you want to hammer out the details right now?" Emma excitedly proposed, her latest manuscript lying on the coffee table, the next stepping stone to her success.
Bill, Emma's agent, tried to wonder why he'd picked her original manuscript in the first place. Had it been as trashy a 'murder mystery' as this one? Because damned would he publish this over his dead body. "Not bad. Not bad at all. It just needs a little editing love. Maybe just listen to my advice okay? You need to kick this Adeline character out alright, I know she's a major one, but really, just kill another one. And like I told you for your last three books, stop trying to write her in alright? She's just a faulty one, and she just doesn't fit in."
So, that morning when Patricia and Rawn wandered into Adelaide's kitchen, all they found was a letter lying on the kitchen island. Breaking the perfect crescent-shaped wax seal they opened the letter to find in it a single sheet with two words scrawled boldly across the page.