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Price of happiness

23 minute read

‘Do you promise to cherish each other? Abide by the love you now declare to one another. Through the blessings of the rings?’ the priest asks an aging couple knelt before the alter in a glaringly lit cathedral. Samantha shudders at the religious icons positioned around her like a jury condemning her before her crime even comes to light. She is crossed on the brow by the priest and answers in a calm, resounding tone. Oscar, whose grey hair sparkles with gel beside her does not seem as engaged as she is with the ceremony. A freshly shaved beard unveils the sinking wrinkles of his worn-out face. He nods, murmuring that he does too.

 

               The congregation applauds them as they are declared faithfully reunited by reaffirming their vows. Samantha turns to face her audience radiating a golden aura. Her faintly dyed blond hair glistens as the burning white light passes through the stained-glass window of Judas betraying Christ for 30 pieces of silver.

 

              All her friends and family clap as Samantha searches for her three daughters and son watching from the first aisle. ‘Thank you,’ she mouths to them and looks at the faces of all who witnessed this incredible second chance at happiness.

 

               They all celebrate as the bells ring. Samantha looks at Oscar, then over to Adriana drying her eyes. ‘What a marvellous moment,’ Samantha’s inner voice resonates, feeling the love of everyone around her. ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ she days.

 

**************

 

 Eight months earlier.

 

The cursed divorce papers stared at Samantha, ridiculing her, telling her that her whole life was a waste. ‘I can’t believe it has come to this!’ she says in disgust.

 

               Samantha’s birthday two weeks earlier was supposed to be a sign of things to change, but now, there is no hope for her future. Sixty-four. This was supposed to be the magical age, so say the Beatles. She pushes her palms against her eyes. Nostalgia reminded her of when she shared a bed with her husband, Oscar, only seven years prior. Adriana, their third daughter, lived with them; they used to spend their days shopping, enjoying each other’s company before Simon came along. ‘Ahh, Simon!’ she exclaims. Her gut twists at the mere thought of him.

 

              Samantha was taught one thing all her life: all men were cheaters, liars, and charlatans. They cannot be trusted! She slams her fist on the rough wooden table. All of a sudden comes a man who defies her teachings and goes against her belief. ‘Simon.’

 

               Everything Samantha knew about the opposite sex she passed on to all her daughters, but none believed her more than Adriana. They both agreed that men were terrible and could not be trusted until along came Simon, who ruined everything.

 

                ‘I never trusted him,’ she says bitterly, saliva spraying across the divorce papers. All his honourable deeds and his gentleman-like attitude ridiculed Samantha. ‘Men aren’t supposed to be nice,’ she continues shaking her swollen head.

 

                She walks to the kitchen cabinet, rips out an open bottle of wine, and pours relentlessly. ‘He’s a really nice guy, Mama,’ Samantha hears Adriana say in her head. ‘We’re planning on having children later this year.’ – ‘Don’t you think it’s too soon?’ – ‘I don’t think so, Mum, we’ve been married for three years. I finish my degree this year, so I think I’m ready.’

 

                A gulp of wine froze her throat and burned a twisted storm in her chest. Clenching, forcing the wine down, Samantha spins, grabs the wine again, fills up the glass, and looks into the dark reddish substance to see her beautiful daughter’s face. ‘But I’m not ready,’ her deepened voice muffled by tears crooked her face while she stroked the glass. ‘I can’t lose you, Adriana.’

 

                Ghosts pollute her mind as she sees a memory of when she sat there with her husband, Adriana eating Chinese food together. Guilt wrenches her insides apart. She gulps a glass of wine, gasping for air as she chokes. She smashes the glass against the wall and falls to the floor. In a rage, her hard fists slam against the cold-tiled surface.

 

                ‘Why?’ she demands. A dire need for some justification for her current abandonment drove her to pick up the glass and focus on the pumping veins bulging out of her wrist.

 

                Samantha turns her hands around to see her fingertips dripping in blood. ‘I would do anything, anything to go back to the way things were,’ she mumbles, smearing her bloodied hand across her face. ‘Anything.’

 

**************

 

Like a sophisticated clinic, a white light brightens the supermarket’s aisles. Samantha lugs her heavyweight against the trolley picking up the everyday foods to feed her disowned husband and distant children.

 

                The trolley collides against a milk stand, and dizziness throws her into a vortex of chaotic sounds until she hears her name echo in the distance. ‘Samantha?’

 

                Samantha lifts her heavy head and pulls herself up to see Patricia Reynolds, an old friend from what felt like another life to her. ‘Are you all right?’ she asks, grabbing her hand to meet the trolley handle.

 

                ‘Hi, Patty,’ – Samantha coughs, dragging her head up. – ‘No. I’m not all right… I’m pretty damn far from alright.’ Patricia embraces her tightly in hopes of sharing her strength. Samantha’s white hair frizzles with static as Patricia pulls away. She studies her forced smile, which could not be sincere with her darkened eyes and loose skin, elongating wrinkles that make it appear like death.

 

                ‘Come on honey, leave your shopping. Let’s go for a coffee. You look like shit.’

 

                Patty invites Samantha to a coffee shop at the entrance to the supermarket and sits next to her with a light hand rubbing her back. Samantha initially fidgets from the sensation, but the more she feels her touch, the less burden she feels. A waiter arrives with their order of coffee and an assortment of biscuits. ‘I’ve wasted my life.’ Samantha eventually says, frozen. ‘Oscar wants a divorce.’

 

                ‘I’m so sorry to hear that,’ Patricia tells her, shifting to the table. ‘I thought you two were getting on well?’

 

                Samantha gently sways her head from side to side and wipes her dried tears with a napkin. ‘Ever since we moved to the new house, he’s just become lazy, selfish. They don’t seem to care about me. We’ve been sleeping in separate rooms for over five years.’

 

                Patty frowns and studies her coffee as if reading the future in the dark liquid. ‘So, getting a divorce isn’t such a bad idea. If you’re not getting along, don’t you think?’

 

                The older woman looks at her friend and clenches her fist under the table. ‘It’s not like that, Patty. If we got a divorce, I’d get nothing. I don’t work or have no savings. I’d be destitute. Probably end up on the street like all those other bums we see at night.’

 

                ‘Surely not,’ Patty reassures her. ‘You can start again, a fresh start, get some money from the divorce. Perhaps, set up that bakery you always wanted. It’s not the end of the world, Sam.’

 

                The idea of there being no justice in her going to work after all the years invested in her family, with no reward but being entirely abandoned. ‘It’s not just Oscar, Patty. It’s Fernanda and Theresa; they barely talk to me, only use me for one thing or another. Adriana,’ she pauses with the thought of her beloved daughter. ‘She’s planning on having children this year.’

 

                ‘That’s wonderful,’ Patty says, congratulating her.

 

                Samantha rolls her eyes. ‘Is it?’ she says. ‘You and I both know when you have children, it’s over. Adriana will be gone. I will never see her again, especially if she is with that unbearable cretin, Simon.’

 

                Another sip of their coffee lingers in the half-empty cafe as the two look away from each other into space. Patty puts her phone on the table. ‘I know what you’re going through, Sam.’ She looks for a number and shows her. ‘I must let you in on a secret. Many years ago, I felt the same as you do now. So, if you want… there is someone who can help.’

 

                Samantha smirks. ‘No one can help me, Patty. My life is over.’

 

                Patty sends her a phone number. ‘She is a– specialist,’ the old woman says. Her eyes appear to fog up and ripple as her voice lowers. ‘Someone who can fulfil anything you wish. Tell her I sent you. She won’t charge you, but I must warn you to beware of what you wish for. You never know whether that wish will come true.’

 

**************

 

Frustrated, Samantha’s hands wrung around the steering wheel. She watches the gate to her home open at a snail’s-pace, and she rushes into the garage staring at the rear-viewed mirror, looking deeply at her swollen eyes. Misery dances across her cheeks like some invisible pixie. She stretches her neck from left to right ending her self-reflection with a long deep sigh.

 

                She goes to the front door with a shopping bag and the key in the other. The automatic light switches on as she thrusts the key to unlock the front door, but it does not open. She tries again, but the interior lock is bolted.

 

                She knocks furiously. ‘Open the door! Hey- can you hear me?’ She drops the bags and knocks with both knuckles until they are sore and red. Screaming at the darkened house, she beats the door again and again.

 

                Samantha goes around the house, hitting all the windows and barking with her dogs surrounding her. She pulls out her phone and tries to call Oscar, but his phone is switched off.

 

                Samantha gets back in the car and falls forward before she receives a phone call. Half-expecting to unleash fury at Oscar, she learns it’s Adriana.

 

                In the middle of the sobs and gasps, her daughter invites her to her house. After a twelve-minute drive, Samantha dabs her makeup to hide her engorged face dribbling with tears.

 

                At the front door, she is welcomed by Adriana, who brings her into the living room. Simon comes out from the kitchen with a tray of tea and a slice of raisin cake. ‘I don’t like raisins,’ she tells him, demanding a minute with ‘My daughter!’

 

                He looks to Adriana, who nods slightly. He leaves and goes to the kitchen to finish cleaning. ‘What’s going on, Mama?’

 

                Samantha looks at her daughter’s shimmering, hazel eyes, silently envying her youth as her skin is so smooth without wrinkles, except for her brow, which creases endearingly in pity for her. ‘Your father. He locked me out of the house. Adriana, I can’t stand being with him; what will I do?’

 

                ‘That bastard. Who does he think he is locking you out? He’s so thoughtless.’ The young woman’s eyes widen, and her lips tremble. Samantha sips the tea she passed her earlier and points towards where Simon left. ‘All men are the same daughter; they don’t care about us. They enslave us. I’ve told you all your life; men cannot be trusted. You can’t depend on any of them.’

 

                ‘Well, that’s not true, Mama. What about Simon?’ Adriana turns around to see Simon in the kitchen washing the dishes. He catches her look with a wink. She turns back to Samantha, who sees their young love sourly. ‘You can’t say all men are bad.’

 

                ‘I can. And – trust me, one step out of line, and he’ll leave you. He’ll cheat on you with another woman. You will be on the street like I am.’ Adriana stands. Samantha gasps with the teacup in one hand and the plate in the other. ‘What? What did I say?’ she asks innocently.

 

                ‘You can’t act this way, Mama. Simon loves me. You must learn to trust him. You know we plan to have children this year. Why don’t you try to get along with him.’ Samantha shakes her head and puts the cup down.

 

                ‘You can’t have kids. Not until you’ve finished your studies. Get your degree first, get a decent job, build your experience, and have a family.’

 

                ‘I’ve almost finished, Mama. I need my practice with my final paper, and then I’ll have my degree.’ Adriana sat down in resignation, enchanted by her words. ‘I will get my degree and make you proud, Mama,’ she says softly.

 

                ‘I hope so, daughter. How did you get on with finding your practice?’ Samantha asks, wrapping her wrinkling hands around her soft fingers and tightening her grip.

 

                Adriana looks at her hands and sighs. ‘There still aren’t any jobs available. Especially one which I can use to get my practice to complete in time and submit my thesis.’

 

                 ‘What about that Michael chap?’ her mother suggests, remembering the young man who offered her a job in his father’s company.

 

                ‘He called me the other day.’ A look of disgust comes across her face. ‘He’s only interested in trying to sleep with me, though. He’s a repulsive man, Mama. I need to find another option.’

 

                Samantha’s eyes widen as she releases Adriana’s finger and reaches for her tea to take another sip. ‘You shouldn’t wait forever, sweetheart. All men are the same. If that’s all he wants, do it. Get the practice over with so you can get your degree finished.’

 

                Adriana tilts her face with a crooked look and shakes it off with a cynical smile. ‘Did you say what I think you did? I can’t believe what you’re suggesting, Mother. I mean… What?’ Sickened by her comments, Adriana assumes that the rage towards her father has made her temporarily insane.

 

                ‘You’re a woman, Adriana,’ Samantha continues, ignoring her gaze. ‘We must do whatever it takes to get on in this world. Simon will never find out anyway, besides,’ –

 

                ‘I know what you’re going to say,’ the young woman interrupts, looking at the clock, hoping her mother would leave. ‘All men are the same. They cannot be trusted. They will only disappoint you. Cheat you.’

 

                An uneasy silence echoes throughout the room. The clanging of cutlery from the kitchen deafens the pair until Adriana launches herself up. ‘I love Simon. He’s a good man, regardless of what you think. He will stand by me no matter what.’

 

                The thought of Patty’s offer earlier that day fills Samantha’s mind as there is no use in looking for counsel in her daughter, who has everything she ever wanted. ‘I’m sure he will, Adriana. I’m going to go.’ She passes the teacup to her and then kisses her on the cheek. She walks out without saying goodbye to Simon.

 

                Sitting back in the car, Samantha pulls out her phone. She sees the number Patty sent her. No name, just a number. She calls it. ‘Anything?’ she whispers as she hears the phone ring. ‘Hello? Hi, my name is Samantha. Patty recommended me to you.’

 

**************

 

Samantha slams her car door studying a small, abandoned cabin with a rusted carriage next to the entrance. She passes the overgrown front yard with a collection of dangling dolls around the doorway and turns around before reaching the door. It creeks open as a short old woman in a black robe with frazzled grey hair stands in the doorway. ‘May I help you?’

 

                ‘Um, yes.’ Samantha put her hands in her pockets. ‘My name is Samantha Hutchinson. We spoke on the phone?’ The short lady smiles without a word and invites her to enter a cabin laden with dirt and cobwebs. Dusty books accumulate in each corner of the dense, gloomy place. Samantha treads lightly, amazed at how anyone could live in such a run-down environment.

 

                The older lady glides as she moves rather than walks. She gestures for Samantha to sit on an old leather couch. ‘How do you know Patty?’ she asks.

 

                ‘Patty used to read my tarot many years ago. She told me you can help me make a wish come true?’ They sit a short while before Samantha continues. ‘Can you?’ The short woman looks deep into Samantha’s eyes to see the desperation beating through her presence.

 

                ‘I cannot, no.’ Samantha sighs and put her hand on the armrest, preparing to lift herself to leave. ‘but… I am in contact with someone who can. Are you familiar with the dark arts?’

 

                The very words, Dark Arts, makes Samantha feel queasy. The tension from her gut rose to her chest, and her breath shortened. ‘I am familiar with the urban myths behind the dark arts, but I’ve never,’  –

 

                ‘You must understand,’ – interrupts the woman in black. – ‘I am in league with a dangerous entity whose time cannot be taken lightly.’ She leans forward, hiding her stare in reverence, ‘If you wish for his assistance to fulfil your desires, you must not retreat. You must be serious.’ Samantha tells her she was. The old woman raises her opaque black’s eyes and tightens her gaze as she grins. ‘Come with me.’

 

                The fear of Samantha’s lost future disappears as she understands what Patty has offered her. The chance to have her dream come true but at a cost which may be too high to comprehend, but one at this moment Samantha was willing to take.

 

                The lady walks her to another door which leads to an underground basement. ‘Follow me,’ she whispers, placing her hand on the rail and walking down into the depths of the darkened staircase. Samantha trembles as the figure of the lady disappears into the shadows.

 

                No light comes from below. She feels the urge to flee and forget ever coming to this God-forsaken place, but her desperation drives her on.

 

                She follows her into the basement. The door behind Samantha creeks shuts. She jumps after the lights go out, and she stands in the dark, clutching tightly onto the handrail.

 

                ‘Hello?’ Samantha’s voice echoes in the darkness. The other woman, unseen, hushes her.

 

                A candle lights the underground room, revealing an empty cavern of clean-chiselled stone. The rock walls are covered in a dripping black oil which oozes out of cracks in the ceiling. The unholy rocks and the substance dribbling carve out something unnatural in the earth.

 

                ‘Who awakens my slumber?’ A cold breeze makes Samantha’s skin prickle. The old woman stands in the corner wearing a hooded black robe covering her face. Samantha’s frizzled, grey hair stands as if to flee her scalp. The candle in the cavern blazes into a wild green flame as a shadow on the wall takes form, drifting from side to side.

 

                ‘What more manifestation could sadness bring,’ Samantha admits in disbelief, shunning the sight of the demonic apparition in the slime-green room. ‘What the hell is going on?’

 

                ‘Samantha Hutchinson,’ a deep scornful voice hisses from the shadows.

 

                Samantha feels foolish.  ‘I have no time for this bullshit,’ she bites out to the woman in the corner. She grabs her shoulder and spins her around to reveal a blank face. No eyes or nose visible, only a plate of illuminated green flesh. Samantha shudders, taken back.

 

                An unnatural long mouth takes shape from under her chin where the hole grows with black smoke seeping out with every word: ‘You have been brought before his majesty, for he has heard your pleas.’ The voice of a thousand tormented souls screams with each syllable. The green flame leaves a growing shape of a horned bull across the wall—a serpent’s tail with a pointed tip that rattles and hisses.

 

                The horrific sight shining off the green flame sprays across the pristine, black, oily wall. Samantha buckles at the knees. A taste of sand twists her throat; each swallow of disbelief pains the rough surface with the flowing saliva sticking to her insides.

 

                The woman in black grows taller in the corner as her wrists stretch out to her. ‘He, the almighty majesty, will grant you what you wish if you henceforth declare it. Henceforth entering a covenant of eternal servitude to him in the pits of hell for his every waging war against his former master.’

 

                ‘Are you Satan?’ asks Samantha, pale white, swallowing.

 

                The smoke’s sound follows a horrendous sulphur stench filling her senses. ‘I answer to no such ludicrous claims,’ it declares. ‘I am the majesty of the realm of the night who torments. I care not for souls who walk under the eyes of my opposition. I merely seek souls who wish to do my bidding against it. Waste, not my time. Declare what you desire.’

 

                Samantha glances at each blackened wall. She wipes her brow and breaks into a fever. ‘By whatever fortune I have come before you… your majesty as one in need of assistance.’

 

                ‘Ah yes,’ the voice hisses. The shadow of a man-shaped bull snorts. ‘I’m sure you haven’t sought this assistance from my enemy.’

 

                Before arriving at the cabin, Samantha hadn’t even thought about praying to God, she knew her words would have fallen on deaf ears, but having the devil stand before her, she thought differently. ‘I have not,’ she says cold-heatedly.

 

                ‘Then pray to tell and be gone. Let one slumber,’ the demon hisses again.

 

                Hyperventilating, Samantha raises her chest with a long deep inhale. ‘All my life I have devoted to others who now wish to abandon me… I am deteriorating gradually to become,’ – The face of her family fills her mind in this hellish moment. – ‘I wish for a time of youth. Purpose, where my husband loves me,’ – she pauses again to envision her daughter. – ‘Where my daughter Adriana returns to my side until the day I die.’

 

                ‘What you wish for,’ – The voice growls. A little girl’s laughter echoes around them. – ‘will be done! At the cost of their happiness, yours shall be fulfilled, but the price is servitude in my depths for eternity. Do you hereby make such accord?’

 

                The image of having her daughter with her once again and the fear of losing her husband taunts her as she nods. ‘I shall make this accord with you… your majesty.’

 

                The green flame explodes. The room is left in darkness. An icy chill runs across her body as she stands alone in the dark. The voices of Oscar and Adriana weeping fill her mind but are suddenly silenced.

 

                Samantha finds herself in the living room she was sitting in earlier with the woman in black, but she is nowhere to be seen. Samantha rushes out of the cabin and back into her car. She hyperventilates once again, not believing what happened as she opens her handbag, taking out her medication to calm her racing heart.

 

                She looks in the mirror and hears her conscience repeat: ‘What have I done?’

 

**************

 

Adriana sings in the car with her mother, who seems more cheerful than their previous meeting the other day. ‘I love this song,’ says Samantha to the Paul McCartney song, Live, Let Die. The two arrive at Samantha’s house and take out the shopping from the back seat together.

 

                Four days have passed since Samantha’s meeting with the woman in black in the dreaded cabin. Oscar left on a business trip two days ago, and a weight lifted off Samantha’s shoulders made in Oscar’s absence.

 

                Adriana hears a ping from her mother’s bedroom as they unpack the shopping. Her father’s iPad on the bedside table lights up and unlocks as she picks it up. The crease on her forehead wrinkles. She pulls a stray hairline dangling over her face and sees his email account open. As she reads, her mouth drops, and she rushes back to the kitchen to tell her mother.

 

                Samantha takes the tablet from her and her nostrils flare. ‘I can’t believe it. This, this woman. Isn’t she his boss?’ she stutters, infuriated by Oscar’s betrayal. ‘I’m going to give her a piece of my mind.’ A series of events fall into place in her mind, and Samantha understands why her husband has become distant, more importantly, why now, he is asking for a divorce.

 

                 ‘Mama, with this email, you can get the divorce. Get everything from him,’ Adriana said. Her words diluted Samantha’s rage, unsure how to take her daughter’s advice. ‘You get the house, the car, even an income. You can even get this Sandra woman fired from their job. You know what they are like at the company for relationships in the office. This is serious.’

 

                Samantha breaths quickly, remembering the old man in the cabin asking if she was serious. ‘This is serious,’ Samantha says. ‘It’s like I always said, Adri, all men are the same. If you don’t look out for yourself, Simon will do the same.’ For the first time in a long time, her daughter didn’t disagree.

 

**************

 

Samantha waits vigilantly in the shadows of the living room, watching the entrance like an owl, waiting for her prey. The key slips into the lock. ‘Hello, Oscar,’ Samantha says in a sombre, dark tone.

 

                ‘Samantha,’ Oscar answers, putting his keys on a small table. ‘What on earth are you doing? Waiting for me in the dark like that?’

 

                She brings herself to her feet and holds out his iPad, ‘Did you forget something?’

 

                He snatches it from her. ‘What are you doing with that?’ He sees the iPad is unlocked, her fingers wrapped around the monitor. He finds it hard to make contact with her blackened eyes and grazes his damp fingers through his greasy hair. ‘It’s not what you think?’ He tries to explain, but she ignores every word as she slaps him and then hits him harder and harder in the chest. He doesn’t restrain her from accepting the inevitable.

 

                ‘Is this why you want a divorce? Forty-four years of marriage. This is how you repay me?’ Samantha slaps and kicks him, enraged by her husband’s lies and deceit. ‘You can have the divorce, but understand with this, I get everything… I’m even going to get this slut fired. You will be the one on the street. How dare you!!’ she slaps his arms and hysterically unleashes her waving hands on him.

                ‘I’m sorry,’ he shouts. ‘Listen,’ – He breathes heavily. – ‘I’m sorry. I was lonely. She treated me special. She reminded me of how things were when we were first together.’

 

                Samantha stops and looks at him in disgust. ‘You felt lonely? I was lonely. Does forty-four years mean nothing to you?’

 

                ‘It means everything to me,’ he continues. ‘It doesn’t need to be like this, Samantha… darling, I will end it with her. We can start again. Please! I’m stupid; give me another chance.’

 

                The words stab her like sharp knives to the stomach. This is how the devil will fulfil his promises. This is the sacrifice for Oscar’s happiness, and she doesn’t care. ‘I’m going to expose you,’ she says. ‘Everyone will know you as the cheating liar that you are.’

 

                ‘Please don’t,’ Oscar begs. On his knees, he pleads for her not to reveal the email to anyone. Sandra would lose her job, and she was only a few years from retirement. The scandal would also have his company pension revoked for breaking company policy. ‘I’ll do anything.’

 

                ‘Do anything?’ she says, lowering to the floor in front of him. ‘You have to do everything. Everything possible to rebuild this marriage. Do you promise to love me like you once did?’

 

                Without a second thought, he tells her: ‘Absolutely… I’m so sorry for everything.’

 

                The first part of the devil’s bargain is fulfilled.

 

**************

 

Oscar wipes the kitchen surface. Several weeks have passed since he promised her that he would do his best to be the husband she desires. Samantha walks in, and he rushes to kiss her on the cheek. She yawns. She was having difficulty sleeping in the same bed again with him after years of separate rooms. Samantha inspects the glasses and flicks one; a high-pitch chime rings out.

                She puts the kettle on the stove when she receives a call from Adriana, distraught, screaming down the phone. ‘Calm down, Adriana,’ Samantha tells her as the kettle whistles. ‘What happened?’

 

                ‘I don’t know, mum,’ Adriana blurts out. ‘Simon came home and,’ she musters up all her strength to retake control of her breath. ‘He found me in bed with Michael.’

 

                Samantha’s entire body freezes over. Her bones weigh down like stones. ‘What?’ she says with blown-up eyes, ‘Where are you?’

 

**************

 

Samantha drives over to Adriana’s house. She is sat in a dressing gown on her couch, drenched in icy tears and dried mucus. Samantha passes her a tissue from her handbag, and Adriana tells her everything she remembers. ‘Simon will come to see you. You don’t need to chase him… never give in to men, honey,’ she tells her, waving her index finger a clock’s pendulum. ‘He shouldn’t have abandoned you… who the hell does he think he is?’

 

                ‘No, Mama. It’s my fault,’ Adriana says, taking another tissue from her mother and blowing her nose. ‘All I remember was inviting him over to talk about the job practice his Dad offered me, then everything went blank. I don’t remember anything.’

 

                ‘Then that Michael must have drugged you,’ – her mother says, eyes raging and fists squeezed so tight her knuckles shone ivory white. – ‘All men are the same. They cannot be trusted. To think Simon left you like that after you were date raped. What a horrible man he turned out to be.’

 

                Adriana wipes her nose, nodding. ‘You are right… you were always right, Mama. All men are just terrible. How could Simon have left me like that?’

 

                ‘Don’t worry honey…’ Samantha wraps her arms around her, and pulls her into her chest. ‘You will always have your mother. I will take care of you.’ Samantha’s blouse dampens with the uncontrollable weeping as Adriana shivers against her bosom.

 

                The second part of the devil’s bargain is fulfilled.

 

**************

 

 Present.

 

The sun passes behind a black cloud dimming the bright cathedral slightly as the blessing of the rings' ceremony ends. Samantha and Oscar accompany everyone to the nearby restaurant where they celebrate.

 

                ‘Thank you ever so much,’ says Oscar to his brother-in-law, who prays for them and gives them a special gift he bought from his trip to Europe. They sit at a long table looking out at other round tables with all the guests laughing and smiling.

 

                Unable to fathom how everything has changed for her, Samantha reflects on what she considers a nightmare of a life which she thought was coming to an end to a complete rebirth. She lost weight and felt younger, with her hair growing longer. Walking over Adriana sat at the end of the table. She thanks her for organising everything. She dabs her tearful eye with a gleeful smile, and Samantha looks at Oscar. He changed his appearance so much, shaving his beard and dying his hair a chestnut brown. He is a new man for her.

 

                Patty walks across from the bar. ‘Congratulations,’ she tells Samantha, clinking their classes together. ‘So… everything worked out in the end?’

 

                ‘Yes, it did. Thanks for coming,’ Samantha says. They walk to the hall entrance, and they both stand outside looking at the trees of the restaurant gardens. ‘All of this is thanks to you.’

 

                ‘Yes,’ a deep, buzzing voice says. Samantha turns to Patricia’s eyes. Her nose is not visible, and her mouth widens across her face from under her chin. Black fangs with oil spur out with black vapour. ‘It is thanks to me. Never forget that. I have exchanged your husband’s and daughter’s happiness for your own. You will now live the rest of your mortal life knowing of their sacrifice, but when your time here ends, you will be my servant for eternity.’

 

                Samantha swallows the sparkling substance, which feels heavy as it sinks into her throat. ‘Yes, your majesty.’ The black teeth smile as a red forked tongue slips in and out.

 

                ‘I cannot wait.’ Samantha turns back to the party, leaving Patty behind her. She enters the restaurant and quickly forgets the devil’s warning.

 

                Samantha doesn’t care about her husband’s happiness as he sits toasting to the false love he declares for her. She turns to Adriana taking another pill for her depression, and gives her a light smile. She wants to care for her daughter, but she only cares about not being alone. This was the price she had to pay for her happiness.

 

                She holds the half-full glass of champagne up to toast to herself. ‘At this moment, I feel pretty damn good…’ she drinks the champagne and finds herself asking. ‘Okay… What now?’

 

The End.

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