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Queen of Swords: a novel

Chapter VI – The High Priestess

She was certainly up to something. You should have seen her getup! Lying to me only makes me more suspicious. She thinks I can’t tell when she’s lying but it’s actually pretty easy. She has a “tell” as Penn, my on again off again boyfriend gambler, would say. She widens her eyes like she’s trying to hypnotize you. Works wonders on men – if she’s appropriately suited up. Maybe not so much in granny guise.

Could this be the result of my anonymous letter? I certainly didn’t expect a reaction this extreme! I was just laying groundwork, so to speak. Trying to master my frustration.

I pretended to drive away, listening to the mix CD (title: “I Hate My StepMom”) that I made for myself. First up: Scars of Life’s Bullet With Your Name On It. Ha ha. Always makes me feel better.
Parked at the boat launch and walked back to the house up the beach. A few hours when I can be certain she won’t be home is too precious an opportunity to pass up. I love sneaking around in her house – my house – the house she bought with our money –the thrill is downright sexual. Probably something like what Penn feels when he looks at Internet porn. They expect you to look: it’s all for show. An addictive frisson composed of loneliness and unseen participation.

You can’t call it “breaking and entering” when it’s your own house. I never had difficulty with the security system. There’s one codeword – six letters, none repeated. Anyone with a brain could figure that out. She sees herself as the High Priestess of her own little tarot card, fortune-telling cult – she’s a nut about palmistry and astrology, too. She makes such a fuss about her symbol as the “Queen of Swords” She even wears a little golden dagger around her neck. (Bought with our money.) But Queen doesn’t fit and Swords has a repeat letter. Same with dagger. So what would you do if – let’s say – you were massively undereducated? I tried “SWORDZ” — worked the first time! I can’t tell you what a boost that gave my confidence. Now I know I can outthink her.

Of course she could change the word. She could install cameras. Knowing she’s overconfident, I can’t afford to make the same mistake. I have to strike fast and invisibly. I call it “spelunking”. You never know what you might find.

I look for anything different. Recent acquisitions. How has she been spending our money? I try not to touch things but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Snooping makes me need to pee and when I use her private bathroom I fantasize that the electrically warmed toilet seat is heated from her touch. She left it nice and warm – for yours truly. “Queen of Swords” – bullshit! More like queen of the wolves. Better look out, there’s always some other big mean bitch coming up behind you.

Peering through the floor to ceiling glass windows along the deck I saw the book right away. It’s so big it looks like a freakin’ briefcase. Mauve suede with gold-deckle leaves. Laid out so appetizingly on her faux-Empire writing desk – that must have cost a pretty penny – along with my father’s Art Deco desk accessories. But I couldn’t be so lucky that she would actually write anything there. It’s probably a scrapbook or some such thing. Maybe she bought it to record my anonymous letters!
In spite of a fancy vocabulary acquired from my father she’s basically illiterate. All her books are just for show; you know the kind: “Castles of Ireland”, “English Country Houses”, “Japanese Gardens”. Here I am, scrawling my every idea in a dollar-fifty steno book, because that’s the way I was raised. Planning. First draft, second draft, third draft, show! Give your ideas the best presentation possible before you send them out begging.

I wondered if that “knitting bag” of hers contained the anonymous letter. Who was she gong to consult? The police? A private detective? Someone she wanted to view her as a victim. Someone she had never seen before, obviously. Thrilling! Who knew I had so much power?

I was ready to run around front and let myself in when my cell phone went off. Office. Needs me Stat. I’d have to save Charmian’s Big Book for another time. This earning-a-living-business sucks ass.

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