Sunday, December 23, 5:05pm
The hands on the clock were frozen at a diabolical time. Victoria stared at the numbers and felt a tear falling from one eye. The clock had stopped when it fell one of the times Clark bounced her off the wall.
She moved her mouth around and winced. Her jaw was sore from Clark’s latest punch. The back of her head was tender when she touched it.
She didn’t miss him at all. His anger at her was more than a sick psychosis toward women in general. He had suspected her secret for some time but had only recently received proof for part of that secret. Nancy had found out about the surgery Victoria had tried to hide from everyone, and Clark had intercepted that bitch real estate agent’s blackmail attempt.
All of her “upgrades” had been done under another name. How that meddling Nancy found out her hospital pseudonym was beyond Victoria. She’d been so careful to pay for everything in cash and her plastic surgeon had been more than willing to work things out under, over and in between the table. She smiled as she remembered Dr. Winter’s handsome face tearing up when she told him she was moving away to start a new life.
Oh, she had been horrid to look at before the surgeries. Simply horrid. She shivered slightly in remembrance. She was so glad she’d buried that part of her past. Looking into a piece of her shattered bedroom mirror, she was glad she couldn’t recall exactly how she’d looked before her rebirth.
But, Nancy was a snoop and Victoria was so afraid she’d find something else, some picture or childhood friend or distant cousin who would tell her about the old Victoria.
Clark was also living under a false persona and had been from the moment she’d met him. She knew something was “off” about him, but she’d been more than willing to share his life for a chance to leave the remnants of her old self behind.
Oh, what a kettle she’d stepped into when she went off with Clark. He was abusive beyond what she’d suffered when she had been ugly and hideous. Even though she could have slammed him on his fat ass with a one-two punch, she had been afraid to fight back – she could not lose him or his security.
His latest episode brought her to the brink of terrible courage. She had been worried he had totally gone around the bend and she was afraid he’d kill her. When he admitted all of his life with her had been an act, she was terrified and infuriated. That’s when her courage tripled and she knew she would survive a pissant two-bit conman.
After he left in her car, she’d managed to untie the poorly tied ropes that bound her. Another lie—Clark had never been a Boy Scout, not with those knots. She and a heavy metal bat waited for him to come home with her food.
Victoria’s heart skipped a beat when two busybodies from the neighborhood came by right before Clark was due back. She barely had time to hide the bat and grab a long-sleeved shirt to hide the rope marks, and the entire time she was at the front door, she prayed Clark wouldn’t show until they were gone.
She brushed the do-gooders away—she absolutely did not want to be watched by the neighborhood. Victoria preferred to blend into the background here in Rubicon Ranch.
When the police arrived later in the afternoon, she was prepared. Hair in place, bruises covered with foundation and proper clothing replacing that old lady polyester blouse she’d grabbed when the neighborhood spies came knocking. She was a new woman.
Victoria cried a little as the odd pair of officers told her Clark was dead. Just enough tears to convey emotion but not enough to mess up her carefully applied mascara. She was a grieving widow now but she would never be an ugly grieving widow.
“If you have any other information, please call us at the station,” the larger officer said as he handed her a card. The younger female looked at her with a mixture of hostility and puzzlement. Victoria knew the look all too well. She seemed to get it from most women and had been mystified as to why.
Well, not that mystified but still, it was getting old. I’m not going to steal your man, she tried to telepathically message the angry female officer. He’s too big for me; I like my men small and weak, she thought after the pair left.
Now, she had all the time in the world to plan her next venture. If she could get away from this place quickly, she could reinvent herself and snag another Clark-like man before the new year.
But, she was stuck for a little while. As long as no one else in Rubicon Ranch learned her secrets, she would be safe. The only disturbing thought troubling her mind was whether that bitch Nancy had kept copies of the blackmail letter she’d sent to her.
If that surfaced, she was afraid the police would look a little too close at her past and she couldn’t have that. No one would dredge up that ugly duckling. She had buried that thing and all association with it long, long ago.
Victoria’s heart was racing when she thought about how far she’d come and how far she could fall. All the pieces of her puzzle had to fit because she knew the police would be back. Clark had been her husband, after all. The police would want to solve his murder and give his widow “closure.”
Had been her husband. Such a nice ring to the words. She was free to fly.
She walked to the bathroom and opened a box of sanitary napkins. Not that she had much use for napkins, but they were an excellent stashing place. What man would dig through them? Certainly not her husband.
The diamonds were still there. She’d found them in a bag of Clark’s when they first married. She threw the bag away and hid them in the napkin container. He had been in a panic but what could he do? Accuse his new wife of stealing something she assumed he had stolen?
Yes, she hid them from Clark’s greedy little hands and now she could bring them out into the open. They were beautiful. Victoria deserved beauty and beautiful things. She put the heavy jewels on and raised her head.
The reflection in the bathroom mirror showed a stunning woman with stunning jewels. She pursed her lips and blew herself a kiss.
She looked like a queen.