By Joseph Logsdon
Liza was celebrating her fortieth birthday. She had lived longer than expected, all things considered. She had always been a cold, bitter woman. Money was the only thing she had, the only thing that mattered to her. That being said, people were constantly trying to swindle Liza out of what was rightfully hers. She was paranoid, and given everything that had happened, she had every right to be.
Her brother, Mike, had decided to join her for dinner. Mike also had a girlfriend, who was anything but virtuous. She was beautiful, in a trashy sort of way. As she walked through the door, Liza already knew what was on her mind. They were there to murder her, the pair of them. They would talk to her, try to win her heart, and after a few drinks, they would do the sinful deed.
Mike smiled, overjoyed to see his sister. Liza knew better, however. Mike shook her hand, thoughts of murder in his head. Liza knew him, inside and out. He had always been the bad one in the family. Everything he was, she wasn't.
They followed her into the kitchen, where the table had already been set. Mike glared at the fancy wallpaper, envious of what she had. There was money, the house, everything he had ever wanted. It was all right there, just waiting for him to take it.
"How long has it been, three years?" Mike asked.
"Four years, double what I anticipated. You've been keeping busy, I have no doubt," Liza stated, taking a seat at the table.
"That's an understatement. I've been going at such a rate, there's hardly been time for anything else," he remarked.
"And who's your girlfriend?"
Liza smiled as she glared at the whore her brother had brought through the door. Already rivals, they didn't have time to play nice. Their eyes were full of an intense hatred, powered by jealousy and fear.
"I'm Cara," she stated.
"You're blonde, too blonde to be natural," Liza commented.
"That little bottle has done a lot for me. Have you ever used a bottle?"
"Of a different variety," Liza replied.
Cara smirked as she took a seat across from her enemy. Between the two of them, there was an odd attraction. It was subtle, barely noticeable.
"You seem nervous, Liza," Mike stated, joining them at the table.
"Nervous? Why should I, the wealthiest woman in the county, be nervous?"
"I don't know, maybe because it's your birthday. How old are you, forty?"
"Why did you come here, to make fun of me? That's all you do, make fun of me. You've got some nerve, coming here after all these years. And to think, I was going to leave everything to you," she hissed.
"You mean, you're not?"
"Oh boy, you don't have a clue, do you?"
Silence filled the room. All of them, to some variation, were trying to outdo the other. Cara licked her lips, excited by the growing tension.
"Well, are we going to eat, or are we going to starve?" Mike asked.
"Why am I serving you on my birthday? It's usually the other way around, I recall," Liza stated.
"This was your idea, not ours," Cara hissed.
"So, Cara, what do you do for a living?"
"I don't work, to be perfectly honest. I did go to beauty school, before I met Mike. He's been making all this money, I really don't have to work. It's a blessing, having him as a boyfriend," she remarked, kissing him on the cheek.
Liza noticed the way they looked at each other. They were fools, as far as she was concerned. She hated the way they touched, breathed, kissed. It was jealousy, pure jealousy.
"Any fool can see, you're not really in love," Liza hissed.
"What does that mean?" Mike asked.
"Must I spell it out for you? You're only pretending, the way you always pretended. You were always getting into trouble. Why do you think they left everything to me, their only daughter? It was because you didn't deserve it, and you still don't!"
Mike started to perspire. He rose from the table, troubled by what she had said to him. He staggered, drunk with bitterness. In all those years, the resentment hadn't left him.
"Why did you invite us here? I was perfectly happy with my life; more than happy. What do you want me to say, that I'm sorry? You got the money, the house, everything you ever wanted. If anyone should be angry, it's me," he exclaimed.
"You're right, I suppose. Now, how about some cake?"
Mike had a look of confusion on his face as Liza briefly left the room. He looked at Cara, who appeared just as confused. When Liza returned, the cake was securely in her hands. It was chocolate, just like their grandmother used to make. Liza sat it on the table, happy with what she had made.
"I want to say that I'm sorry, to both of you. As your host, I should've been more gracious. I made this cake especially for you," she stated, returning to her seat.
Mike trembled as Liza cut the cake. He felt warm, unnaturally warm. As he bit into his share of the cake, he felt a taste of bitterness. Cara picked at her plate, before finally deciding to eat something. Liza watched them, analyzed them very closely. They were worried, beyond what would be considered normal.
"How does it taste?"
"Uh, good, for what it's worth," Cara chuckled.
"Are you insulting me?"
"You could put it that way, I reckon," Cara replied.
Mike clenched his stomach. He gasped, nauseated and out of breath. He grabbed the table, helplessly clinging to life. Highly religious, Mike started to pray as he collapsed on the floor. Foaming at the mouth, he hardly had time to repent for his many sins.
"Cara, help me," he pleaded.
Due to fear, Cara did nothing to help her boyfriend. She watched him die, slowly and painfully. In a matter of seconds, he had stopped moving. Liza remained silent, thrilled by the sight of his dead corpse.
"You killed him," Cara cried, rising from the table.
"Me? Now, why should I do such a thing? It's like he said, I have all the money," she remarked.
"You killed him, just the same. You wanted him dead, undoubtedly because you thought he was going to kill you. I'm right, aren't I?"
"That's outrageous, every word of it," Liza replied.
Cara screamed and shouted. Unhinged by what she had seen, Cara didn't hesitate to attack the table with all her strength. She kicked, cried, roared. There was something phony about the way she screamed. It had to be an act, designed to look real and believable.
"How does it feel, to have just killed your boyfriend?"
"I didn't kill him, you did," she responded.
"According to a court of law, you would have far more to gain than me. Just a few moments ago, you told me that you didn't work. Mike was supporting you, I believe. At first, you didn't mind, until you realized what you were signing up for. You were his girl, and when I say that, I mean it in every sense of the word. You couldn't take it, so naturally, with all you stood to gain, you decided to knock him off. Go ahead, prove I'm wrong," she huffed.
"You're forgetting something: he died eating your cake. That right there, is enough to convict you for life," Cara hissed, heading towards the door.
"And where are you going?"
"To the police," she answered.
"It's your story against mine," Liza stated.
Hesitant to leave the room, Cara paused for a brief moment. She weighed all of her options. Liza stared, awkwardly waiting for a reply. The idea of going to the police, made them sick. Cara turned towards Liza, with a defeated look in her eye.
"We could hide his body, pretend like it never happened. No one needs to go to jail. So, what's it going to be, is it a deal?"
"That's what birthdays are all about, celebrating the past," Liza remarked.