6 My Good Sister

1477 Words
  Everyone in the room turned to look at her and Isabel took a long sip of juice. She wanted to talk to Janet to try to figure out what had happened. It seemed safer to ask Janet about the failed escape attempt than to broach the subject with Howard, but everyone was looking at her as if she’d grown a second head.   “Fine,” Howard said. “Bring her in.”   Isabel’s stomach sank—she wanted to talk to Janet in private. She couldn’t have a proper conversation in front of Howard, and she couldn’t ask Janet the things she most wanted to know. Even worse, Janet could try to use the situation to throw her under the bus.   The door slammed open and she took a deep breath and turned to look. Two identical bodyguards held Janet’s arms and they half marched, half dragged her into the room. Janet’s dyed auburn hair, hung in limp sweaty curls around her face and she wore nothing but a stained and torn white slip. The guards shoved Janet onto the floor and stood behind her waiting for orders.   “Leave us alone,” Howard said, his voice cold and contained.   The bodyguards, servants, and Levi rushed from the dining room, shutting the heavy wooden doors behind them. As soon as the door shut, Janet lifted her head, tossing her hair behind her shoulders. Her hazel eyes glinted and narrowed and Isabel shuddered—she knew that look, it was the look Janet gave other women before publicly tearing them apart.   “Am I interrupting something?” Janet asked, looking at their half-finished breakfast on the table. “It looks like you two are quite cozy. Having fun playing house?”   Isabel swallowed hard and said, “Good morning, Janet.”   “My god, is that you Isabel?” Janet asked with exaggerated surprise. “I hardly recognized you in such a plain outfit.” Janet looked at Howard and smiled as if she was sharing an inside joke with him, “You know usually my Isabel dresses like a w***e. You should see the flashy clothes she wears and all the makeup she layers on.”   Howard’s jaw clenched but he didn’t say a word.   Janet smiled as if she’d won a small victory and continued, “Are you playing dress up for him, Izzy? Are you pretending to be a nice, innocent girl for him?”   Isabel ignored the taunt and gestured at the table, “Are you hungry Janet? Perhaps you can sit down and join us.”   “I’m fine,” Janet said, kneeling on the floor.   Isabel studied her former friend and cousin. Janet’s eyes were swollen and red and her makeup was smudged and streaky. Her bare skin was covered in bug bites and her red nail polish was horribly chipped. She was a mess.   “What happened to you?” Isabel asked. “Say all you want about my clothes, but this isn’t a good look for you Jan. And what’s with the slip? You’ve always liked to be daring, but I think the underwear as outerwear look is a bit too far, don’t you?”   “You’re one to talk,” Janet snapped.   “Well are you going to join us or stay sitting on the floor?” Isabel asked.   Janet glared up at her, “You know my hands are tied.”   “Hmm,” Isabel said. “Howard, can I untie her?”   Howard nodded slightly, his expression unreadable. Isabel grabbed a paring knife from the table and walked over to Janet. She stood over her former friend and twirled the knife in her fingers so the gleaming silver blade flashed in the morning sunlight. Janet’s eyes widened but she didn’t say a word.   Isabel smiled—she was enjoying herself. After years of suffering, she finally had a chance to take her revenge on Janet. For years, she and Janet had been closer than sisters. The two of them were inseparable. When Isabel had become engaged to Howard she’d been stubborn and miserable, but Janet had been by her side. It was Janet who came up with the escape plan, and Janet who volunteered to take her place and marry Howard. At the time, she couldn’t believe her luck to have such a generous cousin as a friend.   She shook her head at her own past foolishness. It should have been obvious all along that Janet was just trying to get Howard for herself. The signs had all been there, but Isabel had ignored them. She twirled the knife in her hands and waited.   “Don’t play with me, b***h,” Janet whispered. Then she widened her eyes and raised her voice, “Isabel, what are you doing with that knife? You’re scaring me! Isabel, I’m basically your sister! I know it didn’t work out but I tried to help you! I distracted Howard and dressed up as the bride to take your place at the wedding, and this is how you repay me?”   Isabel froze and glared at Janet. She gripped the handle of the knife and sliced through the ties around Janet’s wrists. The strings fell away and Janet rubbed the red, chafed skin beneath them.   “Speaking of the wedding, what happened to the dress?” Isabel asked. “Were you so eager to throw yourself at Howard, you stripped down to your underwear?”   Janet’s lip curled and she said, “Howard said I wasn’t allowed to wear it. He said it was made for you and you alone. His guards took it off me—and very roughly. It was shocking that they treated me in such a violent way.”   “Oh please—” Isabel began.   Janet interrupted, her voice sweet and wheedling, “Please Izzy, talk to Howard for me. Tell him I didn’t mean to insult him by wearing that lovely dress. I only did it for you. I only did it to buy you and Noah some time to escape.”   Isabel fought the urge to look over her shoulder at Howard. Though she desperately wanted to see his expression, she was terrified of his anger. As always, Janet was playing the innocent victim and Isabel didn’t know how she’d escape from the blame. She took a deep breath as her mind raced for a solution. How could she implicate Janet without making Howard angrier?   She sighed dramatically, “I want to believe you, Janet, I really do. But I’ve been thinking and somehow this doesn’t add up. Do you remember the day the wedding dress arrived?”   Janet nodded, her forehead wrinkled in confusion.   “Well, remember how I was too nervous to look at it,” Isabel continued. “The wedding was coming up so soon and it was such a big change for me—the dress made it all so real.”   “Yes,” Janet said. “You were definitely dreading the wedding.”   Isabel cleared her throat, “Well you were going on and on about how gorgeous the dress was. I remember you read the piece of paper that came with it, explaining the number of diamonds sewn into the skirt and how it was all made by hand and custom designed. You sounded so jealous, I was actually curious and looked.”   “Anyway, I remember you offered to model it for me,” Isabel continued. “I thought it was weird because we’re slightly different sizes and the dress was obviously made with my exact measurements, but you insisted. When you put it on, you got the weirdest look in your eye. I should have known then that it was jealousy, but I believed you had my best interests at heart.”   “Wait a minute,” Janet began.   Isabel cut her off, “You betrayed me. After all, we went through together, you betrayed me.”   “Oh shut up,” Janet shrieked. “You’re twisting the story around to suit you. You were in love with Noah! That’s why you didn’t want to marry Howard. You were upset when you saw the dress because it meant you had to end things with Noah. You begged me to help you.”   “I don’t love Noah,” Isabel said.   “Wow,” Janet said. “You’re a much colder woman than I thought. Who knows what miserable torture he’s suffering now while you have your cute little breakfast.”   “I’ll admit I thought Noah was charming,” she said. “But now I see that you pushed us together. You were the one to suggest elope with him. You figured out the escape routes, the tickets, everything. I was so foolish, I thought it was my idea. I thought you were just being a good friend, but you were manipulating me.”   Isabel stopped and put her hands over her mouth as if she’d said too much. She glanced over her shoulder at Howard, pretending she’d forgotten he was in the room. She turned back to Janet and winked, proud of how well she had just handled the situation.   In silence, the two women waited to see what Howard would say. Though Isabel was pleased with the way she’d handled the situation, her heart hammered in her chest. What if Howard saw through her act? What if he didn’t believe her? In Isabel’s last life, Janet’s role had been exposed but Howard had let her go unpunished. She was terrified Howard would make the same mistake again.  
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