This story is by Jamie Hansen Niebergall and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Vodka rocks, temptation that demanded immediate action. It called out to her, drowning out the whoosh of the bartender’s soda gun, the clinking of fine crystal glasses, and the indistinct conversations about trivial current events.
Was it vodka? Maybe the bar tender had specific instructions to serve her water and maybe if she looked behind the bar her picture would be taped underneath. She moved the glass to her nose, lips just grazing the rim and inhaled deeply. Nope, vodka.
Jude had a reputation and she didn’t want to deal with the judgment that came with sitting at the make shift bar in her sister’s penthouse. With a heavy sigh she got up, leaving the glass untouched.
Bored, she wandered through the house, finding herself upstairs in Teddy’s study, a solemn room lined with dark mahogany shelves filled with books and framed photos. She stopped in front of the wedding picture with a radiant Bree, flawless golden locks wound around a delicate rose crown and bright blue eyes.
A familiar knot of jealousy formed within her gut. Jude should be the one in the wedding photos, not Bree. Teddy belonged with her, someone daring and spontaneous. Forget about the wholesome, successful image that came with her sister that he claimed fit his WASP-ish mold better than she ever could.
Across the room, next to the couch, she noticed the sparkling crystal decanter filled with an alluring amber liquid and two crystal glasses next to it. Truthfully, her sobriety was a bit of a façade, she would never give up alcohol completely.
What the hell. She sauntered over to the bar, pouring herself a generous drink. This time she allowed the glorious liquid to run over her tongue and down her throat, her body responding to the unbridled wildfire coursing through her veins.
“I see you found the good stuff.”
Startled, Jude turned around, an empty glass in her hand. Teddy stood in the doorway, a grin on his chiseled face, his eyes bloodshot from drinking, and five o’clock shadow materializing on his face. The top three buttons of his shirt undone, exposing a bare muscular chest, and his tie draped around his neck.
“Oh, I um… needed a glass for water.”
“Right.” Teddy chuckled and walked over to the bar and poured himself a drink. “Another?”
She paused to consider the situation. “Sure.”
Teddy sat down on the plush leather couch, setting her glass on the coffee table across from him. She felt his eyes linger over her body. Her simple black mini dress hugged her curves in all the right places, her long chestnut hair swept up into a loose pony tail emphasizing her big blue eyes. She picked up her glass and perched herself on the edge of the desk.
“Tired of the wild party downstairs?” she asked adjusting her position so that her skirt rode up her leg a little higher, and took a long sip, draining half the glass in one gulp.
She studied Teddy’s eyes, that familiar lust building within him. She emptied the rest of her glass and set it on the desk.
“Well, I suppose I should head back downstairs.” She stood smoothing her dress and started for the door. Instinctively, Teddy moved to stop her.
“Stay. Have another drink with me.”
If Bree found out her intentions, she would be crushed, but she didn’t care. She wanted Teddy, any way she could have him. She hesitated for a moment to make the decision seem difficult, looking at him with a contemplative expression.
“C’mon Jude, it’s been a while.”
She took a step toward the door and closed it, taking his hand and leading him back to his desk and positioned herself on the edge with Teddy between her legs. In the throes of passion, a haze of brandy and ecstasy, Jude glimpsed a waft of blond hair and familiar blue eyes over Teddy’s shoulder. She ignored the horrified look on her sister’s face until she finished with her husband.
Bree stood outside on her balcony, her hands pressed on the concrete wall, looking over the edge at the soft orbs of light that glowed along the street below. Fifty-four stories was once the top of the world, tonight, however, it didn’t seem high enough.
She wiped the tears from her cheeks and allowed her mind to drift back into her memory listing all Jude’s transgressions. Another of her relationships destroyed.
Jude missed Ben’s twenty first birthday and she wanted to take him out for a late celebration, a night he would never forget. Bree had a business dinner that night and hated the idea that she wouldn’t be there to look out for Ben, but she had no choice, she had to trust her sister.
The next morning, Ben never materialized at breakfast, and knowing Jude, she assumed he needed to sleep off a massive hangover. The hours ticked by and she decided to get him up. At first, she didn’t see him, noticing that the bed was empty. Confused she scanned the room until she saw the foot concealed beneath the bed skirt. Ben lay flat on his back between the bed and floor, his dead eyes staring at the ceiling, skin ashen, covered in his own vomit.
Bree couldn’t explain why, but deep within her core, the details of what happened that night didn’t add up. She still had so many questions that “accidental overdose” didn’t answer. Fueled by her grief, she spent the past two years searching for those answers, gradually piecing together the events of that night.
“We probably should talk.” Jude shattered the memory, her hair disheveled, lipstick smeared and dress askew, she reached out for her hand, but she jerked away, in disgust.
“Please, Bree. Let me apolo…”
“I’m done with you,” she hissed, lunging forward and grabbing Jude’s arms, thrusting her backward over a glass coffee table. Jude landed hard with a groan, hitting the side of her head against the wicker couch, blood crawling down the side of her face.
“You bitch!” Jude screamed and scrambled to her feet shoving her, slamming her into the balcony wall. She felt her spine scrape against the concrete and caught herself before she collapsed, the pain rippling through her legs.
“What can you possibly say to me? I caught you!” She turned away, her chest heaving with anger.
“I don’t have an explanation for you. I did it because I wanted him, plain and simple.” Honesty escaped from Jude’s lips for the first time since she could remember. “This wasn’t the first time and it’s not the last. I can have him whenever I want him.”
“I should have known. You can never be happy on your own, always taking what I have.” She paused and took a breath, her emotions ready to boil over again. “Why do you hate me so much? You took Ben and now Teddy. You’ve taken everything from me.”
“Whoa, wait a minute. Ben? I didn’t take Ben from you?”
“Don’t play stupid. I know what happened, Jude. It took me a while, but I finally tracked down your dealer from that night.”
She watched Jude’s eyes widen, the blood drained from her face, evidence that confirmed her suspicions.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. What does that loser have to do with Ben’s death?”
“He was there. He saw YOU give Ben the lethal dose of cocaine. YOU abandoned him and left him to die,” her eyes gleamed with triumph. “Admit it! It’s YOUR fault he’s dead!”
“I did not kill Ben!” Jude hurled herself at Bree, cornering her against the wall, burrowing her fingers into her shoulders. “Why are you so desperate to pin his death on me!”
Bree forced Jude back and scaled the balcony wall, tears streaming down her face, a river of black cascading down her face.
“Wait, Bree, what are you doing?” Jude watched her sister wobble along the edge, arms stretched out, pretending to walk a tight rope.
“Why? What’s the point? I have nothing left. Nothing! I can’t go back to Teddy now, not after seeing you together. I can’t forgive you, and I can’t let you continue to hurt me, or anyone else for that matter.”
“Bree, you’re scaring me. Get down!”
Bree leaned out over the edge again and trembled. “Oh, God! Jude help me!”
Jude hurried to her sister and wrapped her hands around her forearms as Bree bent down close to her ear.
“You’re a monster and your reign of terror ends now.”
Using all her strength she heaved Jude up and pushed off the wall with her legs. Jude panicked, feeling her body lift off the ground by her sister’s inhuman strength, hoisting her up and over the edge. Screams filled the night as they plummeted toward the earth, a sickening thud announced their arrival as they landed at the foot of an elderly man walking his dog.