Theme: The present that keeps on giving...
I opened the present from David as I watched the news about a murder on TV.
“I can’t believe they’re reporting on a murder Christmas morning! Why don’t you turn this off, love?”
David just kept staring at the TV as if in a trance. “… brutal murder just five blocks from the police station. The woman, Kathy Bradley, was just 29 years old…”
Finally, he turned to me.
“What? Oh yeah… sorry!”
He picked up the remote and turned it off. I swear, I love my boyfriend, but sometimes he’s a total space cadet!
I finished unwrapping my gift. The little velvet box inside told me it was jewelry. I flipped it open and a large ruby sat on top of a platinum ring.
“Oh David…” I said, giving him an excited hug. “It’s beautiful!”
I put it on and admired the beautiful jewel on my finger.
“The best gift of all, though, is your divorce becoming final!” I said. “I finally don’t have to feel like the other woman.”
“You’re the only woman for me,” David said, giving me a soft kiss. "Merry Christmas."
We unwrapped the rest of our gifts as well, but the ring was my favorite.
I awoke with a start. I reached over and tapped my phone. Midnight. I rolled back over and was about to go back to sleep, when I noticed something.
It was a red light, shining through the covers. Was it? It couldn’t be…
I pulled my right hand out from the covers. The ruby on the ring was glowing bright crimson.
I heard a voice boom in my head.
Look in the mirror.
I lay there frozen. Terrified.
The voice boomed again, with more urgency.
LOOK IN THE MIRROR!
My heart was pounding like a rabbit’s, but I did as the voice commanded.
I threw off the sheets, sprang out of the bed, ran to the bathroom, and closed the door. I flipped on the light and looked in the mirror.
In the mirror stood the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. When I stepped closer to look, she stepped in closer. Was the ring somehow doing this? Making my reflection look like this?
I looked down to examine my actual body, shocked when my gaze landed on two perfect hemispheres, at least twice the size they had been before.
Okay, so clearly it wasn't only my reflection that had changed! I looked back toward the mirror and roamed my eyes across the flawless beauty that was apparently now mine.
My hair was full, shining, and thick. I gave it a hair-commercial shake, and it shifted in waves over my shoulders. My eyes were huge and dazzling. My breasts, as I had already seen, were full and firm.
I lifted my shirt to see sleek, sexy abs cobbling my torso. My hips flared out with feminine grace, and my significantly longer legs had become sinuous, smooth, and slender.
I looked like a goddess.
As I stared, lost in my own reflection, the voice boomed in my head again.
Your gift of beauty must be repaid with gifts of your own. To continue to receive the ring’s gift, you must take a life every night before sunrise, beginning today.
My God! This wasn’t a gift; it was a curse! I reached to take off the ring, but it seemed stuck on my finger. I couldn’t remove it.
I looked back up toward the mirror, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take it off after all. I had been pretty before, but the beauty of the woman looking back at me was stratospheric. I would give a great deal to continue to look like this.
But kill someone? Every night? Not a chance.
My thoughts turned back to the ring. David had given this to me! How had he gotten it? I tried to remember if he had mentioned where it came from. I didn’t think he had. I tried to think if I had seen a ruby ring anywhere before.
As I stared at the ring, an image formed from the haze of my memory—a picture of him and his ex-wife that I had seen on his desk at the office, before he had gotten rid of it. His wife had been wearing a ruby ring! And she had been incredibly gorgeous! I had always wondered why he left her for me.
Did he give the ring to every woman he was with? Was that how he always had the most beautiful of women on his arm?
My thoughts darkened. Did they kill for it? Did he kill for them?
Wait! The murder on TV this morning! David had been mesmerized by it. Did it have something to do with this?
What had the woman’s name been? Kathy Bradley! David’s ex’s name had been Kathy, but her last name had been his—Matthews. Maybe she had changed back to her maiden name? Of course! But what was that…? I didn’t know.
I thought back to David's words this morning. He had said, after watching the reporter announce the murder, that his divorced had just been “finalized.”
Oh. My. God.
Could it be?
Could he have killed her and given her ring to me? To make me beautiful, perhaps? Another exquisite beauty on his arm? Was this what he did?
I had to know.
I crept to the bed and picked up his phone from the nightstand. I knew his password and unlocked it. I opened his contacts. I knew that he had her as “The ex” on the phone, but I had seen it pop up with a text or a call before and knew that he had her name next to the contact as well. I just couldn’t remember what it was. I finished scrolling, arriving at “The ex” in his list of names. Beside it, in parentheses, was her name.
“The Ex (Kathy Bradley)”
Kathy Bradley. The woman in the news this morning that had been killed.
Holy shit! Holy shit. HOLY SHIT!!!
The man was a monster. He was killing for beauty. A beauty I wanted badly.
A beauty I was willing to kill for?
I wasn’t a killer, was I?
Did anyone deserve to die?
He had killed his ex-wife, right? He deserved this. A life for a life. I wrestled with the thought, trying to justify murder in my mind.
Beauty aside, the man was a monster. No court would believe what the ring could do. He would never be convicted, my ring-addled mind argued.
If I didn’t stop him, more would die. I might die!
This was self-defense!
He had to be stopped. It was up to me. Only me.
I walked back to the bathroom and dug the sheers from the drawer.
Before I could think about what I was doing, I crept into the dark bedroom and lifted the shears high, their sharp edge flashing in a beam of moonlight. I plunged their sharp point into David’s heart with all my might.
His eyes flew open and wide. He gasped at the face of his beautiful killer. He tried to speak, but he couldn’t. A pool of crimson expanded from his chest, the circled growing wider as the light in his eyes faded.
A moment later, his halting movements stopped. I stood there watching in disbelief, both hands over my mouth. Had I done this? I couldn't have. Killed? David? The world began to spin. What had come over me? Was it the ring?
As my stomach churned in horror at what I had done, I heard a ding from a phone. I glanced over at David’s phone, sitting, once again, on his nightstand. A text message lit the screen.
“The Ex (Kathy Bradley): David, call me about the parenting plan when you get a chance.”