Kathleen thought she had the perfect way to murder her neighbor, but alas, she ended up killing the wrong person.
MISTLETOE AND MISHAPS
Kathleen threw the almost finished manuscript on the table and turned to pick up her grocery list. She quickly ran a finger along the items written there as her anger stirred. "Just wait, just you wait. . . . I'll show you," she muttered under her breath. She grabbed her keys and purse then briskly walked to the front door, slamming it behind her, giving an angry glance towards her neighbor's apartment. Then she went to her garage as the familiar tune of 'Jingle Bells" played in her head. She got into her car and glared at her reflection in the rearview mirror. Kathleen saw the deep lines furrowing her brow, and ran a finger across her forehead to smooth them. She found her sunglasses and slipped them on hiding the dark look in her eyes. As she backed out of the garage her frown gave way to a slight smile. "A couple more errands, four baskets, and then I'll take care of you." She muttered under her breath. Despite it being the middle of December, heat waves rose off the streets as she made her way through heavy traffic toward town. As moisture dripped down her face she reached over and flipped on the air conditioning.
"Christmas is going to be a scorcher this year," she thought as she pulled into a narrow parking space before the florist shop. Inside, she browsed the shelves of the small store, picking up some wired ribbon and some festive holiday cards. Pausing before a colorful display of poinsettia, she chose three large containers and took them to the checkout. As she stood at the counter, she asked for three bunches of mistletoe with all the berries intact. Kathleen watched the sales clerk carefully select the largest ones, and put them in a bag. She smiled as he handed them to her. She paid the clerk, then returned to her car, and placed the purchases in the trunk.
At her next stop, she parked in the only open spot before the deli. Grabbing a rickety basket she hurried in to the crowded store.
She pulled out her list and hummed a spirited Christmas carol, as she strolled along the isle picking out some macaroni salad, then picked up some fresh cranberries, strawberries, and chamomile tea. Around the corner she spotted the book isle, and began scanning the titles. One in particular jumped out at her, 'Dark Secrets of Cedar Hall'. She smiled. A gothic mystery was just what she needed right now. For years she'd dreamed of becoming a best selling author. Her anger stirred as she thought of Amanda's cruel comments after she'd shared one of her short stories with her. "You're no Arthur Golden," she had laughed. For three days Kathleen had cried over her neighbor's callous comments. Everyone in her writing group had only praise for her work. She'd show Amanda. She tossed the paperback into her cart and headed to the checkout. Outside she put her groceries in the trunk along with her other purchases.
The refreshing coolness from the store faded as she unlocked her car door. She wiped her forehead as thoughts tumbled through her mind.Here it was only four days before Christmas, and it seemed more like August. On impulse, Kathleen decided to stop off at the ice cream palace and treat herself to a chocolate sundae. As she sat enjoying the cool desert her thoughts returned to Amanda.
"In only twenty-four hours," she smiled. "I will be on my way to getting the computer I have coveted for almost a year, as well as getting rid of my disparaging neighbor."
Arriving home, she took off her glasses, dropped them on the end table, went into the kitchen and pried the lid off the container of macaroni salad. The smell was a bit ripe, but if she hurried and placed it before her neighbor's door, it would start the process of getting rid of Amanda. She put the salad in the fridge then began putting the groceries away.
The front doorbell sounded. Kathleen opened the door to find a distinguished-looking woman in her fifties, with traces of gray hair at her temple, standing on the porch.
"Hi, Rose. It's good to see you. I just got home from the store and nothing's been done yet." Kathleen frowned at Rose's punctuality.
"If you'd prefer," Rose said. "I can come back later."
"Oh no. This won't take long," Kathleen assured her. "I just need to mix up something for the baskets, but this will take only a minute."
"All right dear," Rose sat on the piano bench and riffled through the sheet music. She chose 'Silent Night' and began playing. Her vulturine soprano filled the small apartment.
Kathleen winced as she listened while excitement flared inside her. She calmed herself. Surely this old lady wouldn't suspect a thing. Turning to the countertop, she crushed the leaves of the mistletoe, mixing it with the chamomile tea and placed it in a tin. She tied a ribbon around it and placed it in a basket. Into the food processor, she blended cranberries, and mistletoe berries, and then poured the mixture into a small jar. Next she did the same with the strawberries and again added some mistletoe berries. Smiling at her cleverness, she melted some paraffin and poured it over the top of each jar. Then she arranged a plate of cookies, and placed them in a basket. This should take care of the next four days, she smiled. She took out the container of Macaroni salad and just for good measure sprinkled a tiny bit of mistletoe into it and then added it to her basket arrangement. The attached cheery holiday notes all said, 'Merry Christmas'. She chuckled as she put the finishing touches on the bows.
Kathleen had been planning this for over eight days. She'd had Rose put the baskets in front of Amanda's and her other neighbor's doors for each of the twelve days of Christmas.
She called out to Rose. "These are all Amanda's, for days nine, ten, eleven, and twelve. Just put them in front of her door, and leave. Just like all the other days." Excited, Kathleen struggled to contain herself. "She'll never guess I'm her secret Santa." She gave Rose a quick hug and showed her to the door. As the older woman left on her errand, Kathleen closed the door and peered through the peep hole. She chuckled softly, watching as Rose placed the basket before the neighbor's door.
Kathleen rubbed her hands together as she returned to the kitchen. After tossing the rest of the mistletoe mixture in the dumpster outside, Kathleen walked to the living room and began putting more ornaments on the Christmas tree. Satisfied with her efforts, she took a step back to admire her handiwork. She went into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of eggnog, where a flash of movement caught her eye. She glanced out the window, and spotted some sparrows eating from the trash. She squinted and then blinked a couple of times as the birds keeled over dead. " This is perfect," she crowed. "It is just a matter of time."Her goal was quickly becoming a reality.
She sat at her battered typewriter, inserted a fresh sheet of paper and began working on a new chapter of her novel.