2013 Summer Creative Writing Contest ~WINNER~

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by Robert L. Arend

Lydia brought her lips to those of the woman in the coffin and kissed herself. She knew her gesture of love for the deceased would not produce any outpouring of gasps from the small crowd of other mourners. In death, she was as invisible to the world as she had been in life.

Evan, her husband, shifted between pretense of sorrow, humility and laughter, dependent on the sad or the casual or indifference in the faces of those who approached him. Most were his family and friends. Lydia recognized only Janet, sister of the deceased, who sat in a chair a few feet away, gazing fondly at Evan.

Like the mesh of voices when all in a room chatter at once, the thoughts of each were difficult to isolate. Lydia had managed well enough, however, to learn from Evan’s private musings that he’d drugged her with tranquilizers nurse Janet had provided. She could forgive Janet for having helped Evan drop her—head first—to the edge of the swimming pool, then kick her into the water to drown. She pitied Janet, her sister pathetically in love with a man in love only with money. Evan would not be satisfied with his murdered wife’s fortune. He was counting on Janet’s, as well.

“It’s time to go, Lydia,” her father, also dead, said gently. “My fall down the basement steps was no accident, either. He was hiding under the steps. When I started down, he reached around and grabbed my ankle, tripping me. My death was instant when my right temple struck the cement floor.”

Enraged, Lydia ran to her husband. “You son of a bitch,” she screamed at him, but her small fists only made Evan sneeze; otherwise they passed harmlessly through him.

“It’s no use, Lydia,” her father pleaded. “He can’t see you. I wanted to kill him myself, but could do nothing.”

Defeated, Lydia shuffled back to her father. “I’m not ready, Daddy.”

Her father nodded. “I understand, but your husband decided the matter for you, just as he decided it for me. He wanted me dead so you and Janet could inherit early. Then he needed you dead so he could own your share of my estate. Soon, after he marries her, he will kill Janet to grab the rest.”

“How could Janet have helped him?” Lydia murmured. “I know she and I rarely got along, but—”

“She was the pretty one, always popular with the boys.” Her father sighed. “She had your mother’s looks, you had mine.”

“Well, I wasn’t ugly, Daddy,” Lydia rebuked.

“You weren’t wild like Janet, either. You preferred being alone in your study with your books and your computer to research and write those histories you put on the Internet. Oh, why did you marry Evan? You did not love him.”

The conversation had grown uncomfortable for Lydia. “But he said he loved me, and that he wanted me to marry him. I’d never even been asked for a date by anyone before Evan. He said we were soul mates. That intrigued me. I thought that was a possible reason why I’d never before cared for the things Janet cared about, that maybe I knew all along, if I was patient, somehow the man I was supposed to marry would find me.”

Her father scowled. “You met him on the Internet.”

Lydia felt herself wilt under the glare of her father’s disapproval. “We shared the same love for European history. He said he believed he and I were the reincarnation of King Edward I and Queen Eleanor, and that we’d always been lovers throughout our many lives.”

“Do you still believe that?”

“No. I suppose not.”

“He conned you, Lydia, and then he killed you, conning your sister into helping him make it look like an accident. You were no more to him than a fly to a spider.”

“Stop it, Daddy,” Lydia begged. She rose above the heads of the living and streaked across the parlor. Suspended above her dead body, she reentered it, desperate to be restored to life, if only for a minute, so that she could sit up, point at her husband, and tell all gathered how he’d murdered her. Instead, she was instantly driven back out by the frightful cold and energy-sapping effort to move dead flesh.

“It’s no use, Daughter.” Her father sat on the settee next to Janet. “The living cannot be dead, and the dead cannot be restored to life.”

Lydia watched Evan turn his back in such a way that nobody could see him tug the diamond engagement and wedding rings off his deceased wife’s finger. She focused on his thoughts, her rage restored when she heard him think, She won’t need these in the hole she’s going in. I can recycle them to Janet.

“You bastard!” Again Lydia tried to strike Evan, and again he only sneezed as her fists passed through him.

“It’s time to go, Daughter.”

“I can make him sneeze, Daddy,” she said, fascinated when another through the chest punch made Evan sneezed again and drop the rings.

Evan almost tripped himself in his panic to kneel and retrieve the rings from between the minister’s feet.

“To remember our love until we are reunited in Heaven,” Evan explained while pocketing the jewelry. Then he cried, and the preacher comforted him with words of scripture.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Lydia said. She tried to reach into the pocket to take back the rings, but, again, her hand only passed through and to her husband’s groin area. Startled, she quickly withdrew her hand when she saw a dark stain grow from the crotch of Evan’s pinstriped pants and spread down one leg.

“He’s pissing himself,” Lydia’s father declared from the settee. “You made him piss himself.”

Hmm, when I put my arm through his chest he sneezes, Lydia considered, so absorbed she did not notice her husband’s hasty retreat from the parlor. When my hand was inside his bladder, he peed his pants. “I thought you said there was nothing I could do to him,” she said to her father. “It’s the cold. He feels cold when I touch him.”

“Maybe you could give him pneumonia and then we can get the hell out of here,” her father grumbled. “You’re mother’s waiting for us.”

“Go on back to Mother, Daddy,” Lydia said. “I’m going to hang around here for awhile. I might be able to get back at Evan for what he did to me, after all.”

***

After her burial, Lydia followed Evan home and into her study, where Janet was rummaging through her dead sister’s books.

“How boring,” Janet said, tossing a book onto a pile of others. “No wonder she never got pregnant. I mean, she did get her nose out of her books enough to sleep with you, didn’t she?”

“Sometimes,” Evan said. “Nothing memorable, though. I think she would’ve been happier reading a book while doing it.”

“So, she was lousy in bed?”

Evan nodded and embraced Janet.

I was lousy! Lydia fumed. You thought a little lick here or there was foreplay enough before shoving it inside me. I was sore for days after our honeymoon, you bastard!

“Well, unlike my dear sister, I didn’t spend my life reading books about the lives of others,” Janet whispered in Evan’s ear. “I wanted my own life, and I got it. And now I have you, too, to share it with.”

Lydia’s killers rapidly covered a pile of books on the floor with their clothing. Janet stretched on the brocade sofa and pulled Evan down onto her. Evan started his licking routine.

Some things never change,Lydia thought.

When her sister’s face vanished between Evan’s thighs, Lydia blinked out of the room to the patio, where she more floated than walked to the edge of the swimming pool she had drowned in.

So, this was what the whole of my life was about, she mused, only to eat and breathe, no purpose other than to be allowed to drown in the swimming pool of my own backyard; to share childhood with a sister only so Evan could use her to help him end my life. I never mattered at all.

Lydia heard the rattle of the patio doors, then laughter. Janet and Evan ran through her, still naked, and dove into the pool.

The more the lovers splashed and fornicated in the water, the more intense Lydia’s resentment grew. How could they be so cruel as to play in the water where, less than a week before, they had murdered me? she pondered.

From the far end of the pool, Janet challenged Evan to a race. Evan cheated by taking the lead before Janet could complete their agreed upon count of three. To avoid the drag of paddling on the surface, Janet glided beneath the water in an effort to overcome her lover’s head start. Eyes closed to keep out the heavily chlorinated water; she was blind when she swam too close to Evan’s back-thrusting feet.

Evan felt a slight sting when his right heel collided with Janet’s chin, but he thought she was only trying to grab his foot to hold him back in order to overtake his lead. He continued to pound through the water until he arrived at the winner’s end of the pool.

“Hah!” he yelled as he climbed onto the patio. He raised his arms and did a victory dance before noticing Janet had still not come up from under the water.

She’s drowning, you idiot,Lydia thought.

“Janet?” Evan called out. “Janet!”

Lydia could hear all of Evan’s bundled thoughts: he surmising Janet was faking drowning to lure him back in for more sex; that she really was drowning and he would lose out on her money if she died before he could marry her; even of the suspicion the police might have if, after having investigated the drowning death of one sister, another investigation had to be opened for the drowning death of the other.

Evan dived into the pool.

Too late, Lydia knew, because she watched in fascination while Janet rose up from beneath the middle of the pool and hovered a few inches above the water.

“Welcome to my world, Sis,” Lydia chided.

Evan resurfaced with Janet’s limp body. He carried her to the patio, laid her on her back and frantically tried CPR.

Janet glided slowly across the pool toward her body, alerting Lydia that Evan’s efforts were working. Both sisters hovered above lifeless Janet, until she gurgled and a small fountain of water sprung from her mouth. Spirit Janet moved down to reclaim her body.

“No you don’t,” Lydia shrieked. She pushed spirit Janet away and dived into flesh Janet.

When Lydia opened her eyes, she stared up into the face of a uniformed, but handsome, stranger. She tried to sit up.

“No, no, miss. Lay still.”

She was wrapped in a sheet and strapped on a gurney, her breathing made easier by something padded and plastic over her nose and mouth.

“We’re going to move you to an ambulance and get you to a hospital,” the handsome guy said. “You’re going to be all right.”

Another face came into view that made Lydia feet lust, then restored hate.

Evan brushed his fingers through her wet hair. “Don’t worry, Janet. They said I can ride in the ambulance with you. Everything’s going to be fine.”

A policeman was having a conversation with the handsome EMT. Lydia waved at the officer until he leaned down. She lifted the oxygen mask enough to plead, “Please, don’t let Evan go with me to the hospital. He tried to drown me.”

Evan was handcuffed and pushed into the back of the squad car. Lydia was moved into the ambulance, but above the shrill sirens of both vehicles, she could hear the ghost of Janet wailing, No fair! No fair!