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JUSTINA lay crunched on the floor, her back against the door, knees lifted up to her chin and cradled by her hands as wild thoughts raced through her mind.
Veronica’s muffled whines came from the bed but her frenzied mind denied the possibility of them having been responsible for Dana’s death. No, they hadn’t killed her. She must have died on her own. Something else must have killed her, not their harmless attack.
It had only been a revenge plot to teach the damned boyfriend-snatching witch a lesson. Swallowing hard, she turned to look at Veronica. The pure anguish on the other girl’s face struck at her and sent images of the last time they had both seen Dana alive tumbling into her mind like a flood of turbulent windy water.
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JUSTINA was sitting on top the ledge that was attached to the large bungalow-like building. Though Veronica was reading aloud in her usual stuttering manner, she wasn’t really listening to her. Although a word or two slipped through her subconscious mind every now and then, the conscious part of her mind swirled with rage and pain as she thought over her earlier discussion with Anthony.
She had gone to see Anthony in his bedroom and he hadn’t even pretended to be pleased at her presence. The thought of his disgust hurts her even now. And even when she’d tried to tell him Dana was no good. That she wasn’t good enough for him. He had turned her away, refusing to listen; to hear her out. Then he had pushed her out of his room before she could tell him what she knew about Dana and Cyprian.
It did not mortify Justina that she cursed Dana with that word though she knew that Sister Clara would be greatly disappointed if she had heard her vicious thought. It was what Dana was—a prostitute. She had ensnared small Cyprian into her evil act. She had thought the poor boy about sex. Had led him into committing fornication. And still Anthony would not listen to her. He still pined for Dana, forgetting her who had given her virginity to him, ignoring her who loved him with all her heart.
Fresh fury and pain gnawed through her as she sat there, seething with malice and a deep-seated desire for revenge.
“Con-se-cu-tive-ly.” Dana pronounced the word in a sneering tone.
Justina heard the voice she so hated and slowly turned on the ledge. Dana, in her usual annoying manner was swaying towards them in her, flaunting her ugly self.
“The word you are trying so hard and so unsuccessfully to pronounce is consecutively.” Dana sneered down at Veronica, her hands angled loosely on her waist.
Justina hated that while she looked like a thin, passably fine girl, Dana always looked like some pretty superstar with her fuller hips and much more ample bosom. Mammy water. “Nobody asked you what the word is, Dana.” She retorted even as Veronica’s face burned with shame. “So mind your own business and buzz off.”
Dana lifted disdainful eyes to her. “And I don’t remember speaking to you, Justina.” She said in her imperious tone. “I was talking to this stammering, ugly dunce here.” She lowered her eyes again to regard the visibly trembling Veronica contemptuously.
“I am not a dunce.” Veronica defended weakly, her eyes welling up.
“She is not a stammerer.” Justina defended hotly, springing to her feet. “And you are the ugly one.”
Dana merely laughed scornfully. “Of course she’s not. And I wasn’t calling her one either. I was only pointing out that she stammers whenever she is reading. And you are a dunce, my dear.” She said cruelly to Veronica. “That is why you are repeating J.S.2 for the second time. I don’t know how you plan to survive this world o. You are not only ugly and fat but you are so dull too… kai! I shudder to think what will become of you after you leave here.”
A tearful groan grunted out of Veronica and tears began to stream down her cheeks as she clutched the Comprehension English Textbook against her heaving chest.
“You are evil!” Justina spat. “You are a demon from the bottomless pit of hell.”
“And you are a straight-i-ugly-robot who is dying of jealousy.” Dana smirked. “You wish you have what I have. But it’s not my fault that God chose to make you unfortunate girls ugly and dull and me…” She gestured to her lilac flared cotton dress clad frame, “…slim, shapely, pretty and bright.”
She pitched out a laugh, swayed around and sashayed off singing aloud Brandy and Monica’s the boy is mine.
Justina stared after her with so much loathing she was almost tempted to rush after her, pounce on her and break that her stupid neck. But fighting was forbidden in the home.
“Why does she hate us so much?” Veronica whimpered.
Justina turned to stare at the chubby, younger girl. She was a year older than her and always felt sorry for her, because though she tried so hard, she never seemed able to quite master her subjects in school.
“She hates us because she is evil, Vero. Dana is an evil child from hell.” She dropped down on the bench beside the weeping girl. “But you shouldn’t mind her. You are not a dunce. Nobody is. God gave each one of us intellect and we can all use it.”
“But I’m not really using mine, am I?” Veronica knew she was indeed dull. She found school work so hard and no matter how hard she tried, she always came bottom five in her class.
“Of course you are.” Justina soothed her with a rub on the back. “Were you not here trying to study before that wicked witch flounced over to show off her ugly, useless self?”
Indeed she had been, Veronica thought, blinking back more tears. Each time she was studying, Dana always made fun of her whenever she came by. Last time she’d told her not to bother so much, since she was only going to fail again.
“Oh God, how I wish I could do something to make that girl pay for all the wicked things she’s been doing to me; to us all.” Veronica thought aloud, eyes rounding with hate.
“Yes, someone ought to teach her a lesson.” Justina murmured, watching Veronica.
“Yes, someone should teach her a lesson. But what can we do?” Veronica sighed sadly. “If we report her to Fr. Chrys, he will only preach forgiveness and if we tell Sister Clara, she will shout and shout as usual but nothing will happen, or change.”
“Which is why we shouldn’t tell them.” Justina said, tone quiet, eyes calculating. “We should teach her a lesson ourselves this time.”
Veronica looked at her. “How?”
Justina leaned closer and whispered into her ears.
“But how can we make her come that way?” Veronica asked, her heartbeat jumping at the plan. “You know she will never do anything with us.”
Justina pursed her lips in thought. “Don’t worry. I know how to make her come.”
And she went after Dana later in the day.
She pulled the door handle and when it wouldn’t give way, she muttered a curse under her breath. Only that witch would lock her door in broad day light. God only knew what she did inside her room alone all day.
Swallowing her annoyance, she fixed a sneering smile on her lips, lifted her hand and knocked on the door.
It took about a minute for it to open.
“Why am I not surprised?” Dana leaned against the doorframe and eyed her disdainfully. “Only you would try to open a door without first knocking. Local champion.”
Justina returned the contemptuous look. “And only you would lock your door during the day. Sneaky devil.”
“What do you want?” Dana hissed.
“Nothing.” Justina replied and gave her head a nonchalant hitch. “I just have some piece of good news and I thought I should come over and share it with you.”
“Piece of good news?” Dana eyed her from head to toe. “And what makes you think I’m interested in your good news or any other news for that matter?”
Justina leaned closer. “Because this is about Anthony.” She said in a low voice.
She saw the flicker of interest flash into Dana’s eyes and almost laughed. She knew that would be the right bait. Stupid boyfriend snatcher!
“What about Anthony?” Dana asked, trying to feign disinterest.
“Hmm, true love can never die. That’s what they say.” Justina began, smiling maliciously. “Let’s just say he called me over to his room earlier and…” she paused and sighed dramatically. “We are meeting tonight after lights out at the backyard shed.”
A flash of fury went across Dana’s face. “I don’t believe you.”
“Suit yourself.” Justina shrugged. “But seeing is believing, as they say. After lights out, Dana, and Anthony would be all mine again.” With a soft laugh, she retreated.
And that night, after lights out, Dana bit her bait.
“She’s coming.” Veronica blurted in a hoarse whisper.
“Shhh.” Justina silenced her, her index finger across her lips.
Dana’s eyes darted from right to left as she crept in almost soundless steps towards the shed. She didn’t want to be heard, Justina guessed. And possibly didn’t want to be seen.
But they were on top of the concrete roof of the generator house, hidden by the shadowy leaves of the large mango tree. From their vantage position, they could see Dana clearly but she could not see them.
Why she would believe that she and Anthony would chose such an uncomfortable spot as the shed which mostly housed firewood and other odds and ends as their meeting place, she did not know. But then again, Dana wasn’t really as bright as she liked to believe she was.
“What do we do now?” Veronica asked, her mouth pushed against Justina’s ears.
“Wait.” Justina replied a trifle impatiently.
She didn’t want them whispering or giggling. She’d explained the plan already but of course Veronica wasn’t very bright either, so she always has to ask silly questions.
Dana hesitated at the open entrance of the shed. She looked around her, craned her neck in all direction and then gingerly peered into the shed.
Justina could see her mouth moving as she pushed out of the shed. No doubt cursing her as she realised she’d been fooled. Her own mouth curved into a malicious smile, now she’ll know that she was not the only one who can play dirty games.
“She’s going.” Veronica whispered urgently as Dana turned in the direction she’d come.
“No, she won’t be yet.” Justina retorted positively and slipped her hand into the pocket of the shorts under her nightdress.
She retrieved the stone she’d put in it just before they’d climbed the rooftop, flashed it at the maddeningly grinning Veronica, then lifted her hand slightly and tossed it down.
It hit Dana right on her back just below her neck. They slammed their hands over their mouths when she cried out in pain and jumped around in fright.
Darting her eyes in all directions, she tried to peer through the dimly lit environs.
“Who’s there?” She called out in a frightened voice. “Justina?”
Justina made a shushing sound at the giggling Veronica and the picked a still live broken-off tree stem and tossed it down. That had Dana jerking her head up and twisting her neck backwards as she looked up in all directions of the generator house.
“Now!” Justina instructed sharply nudging Veronica with her elbow.
They both grabbed the small bowls in front of them and pushing their hands down the edge of the roof, overturned the contents, their own eyes tightly shut.
Dana’s cry was accompanied by a stampede of feet
“My eyes! Jesus!” She slapped at the sand and dust that poured down on her, vigorously rubbing her eyes.
Veronica was giggling into her palms. But Justina watched her with narrowed, malicious eyes as she darted about beating her hands over her face and rubbing her eyes fiercely. And just when it seemed she’d started to recover, Justina pushed her hand over the edge again and then firmly pressed the nuzzle of the cold, steel-like can in her hand.
This time Dana screeched out in pain as the intoxicating spray of the insecticide rained over her face. She slapped both hands over her face, scrubbing and moaning as she jerked around in obvious pain.
“You sprayed mosquito insecticide on her?” Veronica asked, shocked. “But we only planned to spray her with the sand and dust and scare her from up here.”
“Well, I thought she needed something more to teach her a good lesson.” Justina replied, refusing to allow the tug of guilt at Veronica’s astonished stare.
“She’s choking.” Veronica’s voice rang with alarm.
Dana was coughing and she clutched her neck and her tummy at the same time.
“You know she has asthma, Justina. Maybe we should…”
“Go.” Justina snapped the order, cutting Veronica off. She picked up the can of almost empty insecticide and edged backwards towards the ladder they’d used in climbing up.
Of course she’d known Dana might possibly choke because of the insecticide spray; who wouldn’t? And since she had her famous asthma maybe this would teach her a lesson never to play with other people’s property.
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“I think that insecticide spray must have killed her.” Veronica moaned from the bed. “She was choking and coughing when we left her. She had asthma and that spray mixed with the dust must have choked her to death.”
“No!” Justina denied the horrifying thought. “Dust and a little spray of insecticide never killed anyone.”
“How would you know?” Veronica demanded, sitting up. “Have you used sprayed insecticide into anyone’s face before?”
“Of course not!” The accusation in Veronica’s red-rimmed eyes made her flinch. “We both came up with the idea and I know…”
“No! You came up with the idea.” Veronica corrected. “And you didn’t tell me about the insecticide part. And I am sure that’s what killed her.”
“That is not what killed her!” Justina snapped, fear making her voice tremble. “And we both did that to her; not just me. We only wanted to teach her a lesson.”
That had been her only wish, hadn’t it? To teach the boyfriend-snatching witch a lesson she’d never forget, right?
“We never intended to kill her…”
“But we did.” Veronica interrupted, swiping off her tears with her hand. “I think we should confess all to Father right now.”
The note of finality told Justina she meant to do it, whether or not she agreed.
What should she do now? She pondered desperately, fear and panic surging through her. What would Fr. Chrys think of both of them? of her?