Mary gazed up at the night sky. She shifted on the hard rock beneath her, trying to get comfortable, but these ruins were the pits. Nothing comfortable about this retched place, but at least it was remote. Not many tourists bothered to come here anymore. There were other ancient sites much more interesting than this old, abandoned village in the mountains. She sighed heavily and looked at the brilliant splattering of stars above her. Some creatures stirred in the jungle, a loud chorus of crickets and the repetitive chirp of frogs. It almost reminded Mary of the city streets in Cartagena where they spent the first few weeks in South America. The cacophony of the city buses and people were not so different from the sounds in the jungle.
She wondered how long it would take for Mary to return. Frank wasn’t going to stay under control forever. The hold Mary had on him since the terrible failure in the cabin was growing weaker. Meredith promised that this Corazon Oscuro tribe would be able to help them, but Mary was starting to grow skeptical. Meredith had learned of them years ago from no less than that ridiculous troublemaker Florence Bumble. Her mother, Mayflower, had been a truly gifted Jewel. Maybe if Mayflower had lived longer, had been around instead of her half-wit daughter, Savannah, maybe she and Meredith would have learned something valuable instead of the garbage Savannah and Florence tried to teach them. Be loving. Be kind. What you put into the world will return to you. Garbage! All of it. No one ever loved she and her sister. No one was ever kind to them. Baxter, the old caretaker tried his best, but he was flawed, too. They all were.
No matter. All that mattered now was that Meredith locate these elders and learn how to restore themselves to youth and beauty. Bumble and the girl, Tabby, tried to tell the sisters it was all their own fault. That all the pain and ruin they had put into the world had come back to them a thousand-fold, turning them from young, beautiful girls to pathetic old hags. Ridiculous! It was never Mary and Meredith’s faults. It was Tabby’s fault. And the fault of her weak mother, Elise and the trickery she’d used on Frank to make him fall in love with her. But they’d taken care of Elise—a few friendly moments and some homemade candy and cookies, poisoned, of course, was all it took. If only Tabby had been as easy to kill as Elise maybe they wouldn’t be in this mess.
They’d had such a perfect plan—all they needed was the girl’s blood to add to the potion and they would be made whole again. And it had worked! Mary had drunk the first batch and felt the glorious rebirth! She’d felt her lush blond hair return and her eyes sparkle and the pain in her bones that instantly vanished. And the girl was on the way to dying of old age—exactly as they had planned, until—Mary clenched her own palms so hard that her fingernails cut the tender skin and a trickle of blood dripped to the ancient stone beneath her feet. Until the girl—the insipid little twit and her friends had gotten free and sprayed her with that—she winced remembering the flames—ball of flame that scorched her face and hair and ruined her. Mary felt a tear well in her right eye. Ever since the burns had healed into rough troughs of lumpy skin and burned the hair from her entire left side—including her eyebrows and eyelashes—she hadn’t been able to shed a tear on that side. Not that she spent much time crying. No, she put on a patch to cover the burnt eye which was painfully dry now all the time, and she spent her time on revenge.
Before, if their plan with the ice cream, then in the cabin, had worked, Mary was prepared to let the girl, Tabitha, die in peace. She would have served her purpose and all would be well—her hold on her father’s affection would be gone and Frank would be free to dedicate all his love and devotion to Mary and Meredith. But it hadn’t worked.
The first time, the girl herself messed it up by mixing the two enchanted ice creams and getting herself stuck in the middle of infancy and old age. What an idiot! But the second time, it was the girl’s fault, yes, but it was also Bumble and those brothers and all of the girl’s friends that ruined Mary’s chance at happiness. And she would not let it pass. She would not let them go this time. She would ruin each and every one of them—exactly as they had done to her. After all, wasn’t that the golden rule?
Mary, tired of sitting on the flat rock that had once served as an altar in the village hundreds of years ago, sprung to her feet. Since the events of the cabin, she had felt so much better. Even with her burnt left side, at least her aches and pains were gone and she was strong again. Mary hopped easily over a gap in the stone and headed back to the hut on the edge of the ruins they had been holing up in with Frank. She needed to feed him another dose of potion—as weak as it was—to keep him loyal to her. To keep him from remembering his daughter and the moment in the cabin when he’d put on the amulet and returned to his true self. For that moment, Mary knew the terrible pain of losing him—the only person she’d ever truly loved. But for now, she’d keep him close and wait for Meredith to return with hope from the heart of darkness.