Two Little Magic Words

By Barbara Blann




Steffie felt someone staring at her. She gave a shiver, and looked around the bustling office. Just beside the door of the conference, room stood that new salesman, David Adams giving her a dazzling smile. She blushed deeply and turned back around to concentrate on the marketing proposal that she knew had to go out that afternoon.

Guys were always trying to come on to her, not because she was a raving beauty, but because as her mother used to say, "Baby your cup runneth over." She was painfully shy and always wondered just what it was about breast size that turned men into walking hormones. It would be really nice to have someone look her in the face instead of staring about one foot lower. Besides she had just broken up with a guy she dated since high school and the last thing she wanted to do was to get involved with anyone else.

She had only been working at Darwick Industries about six months and although she was sure that her boss, Milton Carden, liked her, she still wanted to make sure she did everything just right.

Her dad had always taught her to do her best and to never quit. "Any thing worth starting is worth sticking around to finish. Stick with it to the bloody end," he used to say. He'd had the same job he'd gotten just after he was released from the Navy following the Vietnam War and Steffie and her mother had been devastated when he had died suddenly of a heart attack just a few months before. Everyone on his sales route had loved him. All the waitresses used to tease her mother by saying that they would gladly marry Stan the Man if she ever got tired of having him around. Her mom would always respond that she could never give up her soul mate. Steffie's parents never fought and even after twenty-eight years of marriage they had obviously loved and respected each other. Since her dad's death, Steffie's mom had become almost a recluse and Steffie felt she could hardly even talk with her mom. It made Steffie even more determined to hold on to her Dad's memory. His "hang with it" philosophy had become her mantra.

Steffie realized she'd been day dreaming and with a little shiver she looked up to see David standing in front of her desk showing all of his pearly whites. "Hey, how are you? It's Steffie isn't it? You look like you need a break. Why don't you join me in the cafeteria for a cappuccino?"

"Um, no thanks. I've really got to get this proposal out today."

"Oh come on it's only one cappuccino. I promise I won't bite."

Reluctantly she agreed. They went through the line and headed for a table next to the window. He gallantly held her chair for her and kept eye contact with her the whole time. He regaled her with funny stories and compliments. For the first time in weeks, she found herself laughing.

Before she knew what was happening, David was taking her everywhere. When they weren't together, they were on the phone. Often he'd call her at odd times while he was on the road just to find out what she was doing. They could talk for hours. In fact, one night after they had gone to movie David had called her as soon as he got back to his apartment to say he missed her already. They'd talked until 6:00 a.m. He was very sweet and would even buy her flowers for no reason at all. He wanted to know who her friends were and what they talked about. He even wanted to know all about her childhood and would ask endless questions about what happened in her past. Before long, he knew her better than she knew herself. He was not all hands like most of the guys she'd gone out with. In fact, after they'd been dating about three months she finally got up the courage to ask him if he wanted to sleep with her. He gave her a shocked look and said in a slightly prim voice that he was "saving himself for his spouse." With a slight frown he added, "Aren't you?"

"Well, yes. Yes I was, but I love you so much David. I wanted to make you happy."

"The best way you can make me happy is to be my good little babydoll. We can't have any nine month surprises happening to spoil my plans now can we."

With a nervous giggle, she assured him that; "No we certainly can't have that."

Her friends told her he was overly possessive but she was sure that they just didn't know what it was like to be loved so completely. One by one, her friends seemed to drift away. In December, just before Christmas, David called and told her to put on her best dress. "I'll pick you up at 6:00" was all he would say.

He took her to the Four Flames, the nicest restaurant in Bowling Green. They had hors d'oeuvres, lobster, and wine. It must have set David back a whole week's salary. Finally, as they were being served their cherries jubilee he said, "Well, how did you like everything? Was the meal to milady's pleasure? "

"Oh, David! Everything was perfect! But you spent way too much money. And why, what's the big occasion?"

"I want you to be my wife. I want to take care of you. If you marry me you'll never have to worry your little head about another thing."

With tears in her eyes, she said, "Yes, David. Yes. I would love to be your wife."

"Now that's my good girl," he said with a contented smile on his face."Listen, I was thinking. My commissions are really starting to take off. After we're married, there's really no reason for you to continue to work.

With a slight frown Steffie said, "But David, I like my job."

"No you don't. Believe you me when we get our own place it will be a full time job just to make sure it's taken care of properly. I've got plans baby. Big plans. And to make sure things break my way we have to do things right. You like things to be done right don't you little girl?"

"Sure, I guess," she murmured. In a strange way, Steffie liked having David call her his little girl. It made her feel the loss of her father a little less keenly.

"Come on, you know I only want what's best for you."

"Sure David I know that."

"OK, then tell me that you'll love me forever and I'll show you what I have in my pocket."

"I will love you forever! Now, show me! Show me what's in your pocket David!"

"I didn't hear the magic words."

With a confused smile she said, "Magic words? What magic words?"

In a soft singsong he said, "There are two look magic words that will open any door with ease. One little word is thanks and the other little word is please."

With a giggle she said, "Please."

He brought out a marquis cut diamond solitaire that made her gasp.

Breathlessly she murmured, "Thank you."

They were married in the courthouse on the square, which was slowly sliding into genteel Southern decay. The judge who married them must have weighed three hundred pounds and belched throughout the brief ceremony. They'd had to get two of the court secretaries as witnesses because Steffie seemed to have lost all her friends after she and David became an item and her mother said she just didn't feel well enough to make the three hour trip. Steffie had regretted that at first, but David had assured her that they only needed each other.

Just after the wedding, they had purchased a small house that was on a dead end street. Only three other houses were even on the street. At first, Steffie was uncomfortable with the seclusion but after a time, she got used to it.

By the time they had been married six months their relationship had an almost parent-child aspect to it. David was picking out her clothes for her and had typed up a schedule that would allow her to clean the house more efficiently.

He had also taken pains to show her exactly how he wanted his shirts laundered. They must be washed by themselves in Tide with bleach and each spot must be scrubbed with a toothbrush soaked in Wisk. After washing them, she must then run them through the wash cycle again, but this time with only water, to make sure all the soap residue was out. After they had dried (permanent press no heat) she was to soak the collar and cuffs in liquid starch (no spray starch thank you) and press them immediately. He had a special way he like his shirts ironed too. You started with the back, moved to the front, then the upper back, then the sleeves, then the cuffs and ended with the collar. The shirts were then to be hung on wooden hangers making sure that none of them touched each other. He assured her that things were so much nicer when they were done right.

If Steffie started to feel anger at David's orders she would remember her father's advice to "stick with it" and become even more determined to make her marriage work.

As the months passed, they had a little game they played. He would periodically insist that she ask his permission to do things. She would forget to say "please" and he would say in a stern fatherly voice, "Stephanie, what are the magic words?" Then they would both sing the little song that he sang to her when he proposed. It always made her feel cared for and gave them both a good laugh.

Shortly after their first anniversary, David started having to travel more and more in his job. He began calling her at odd hours to make sure she was progressing on her list of chores. One rainy night in June David called from Sparta, Tennessee.

"Hi little girl. What Ďcha doing?"

"Oh Hi honey! Chad from down the street just helped me carry some groceries from the car so I'm making him a glass of lemonade. Are you doing OK?"

"No, I'm not doing OK," he said sarcastically. "What that bum doing in the house anyway? I think he's just in graduate school to avoid getting a job. Tell him to get the heck out of my house!"

Steffie blushed even though Chad could not hear David's part of the conversation.

"OK honey. I'll get right on that. Talk to you later."

With a gruff, " I mean it Steff get him out of my house!" David hung up.

Steffie gave a nervous laugh and said, "Gosh, I guess I better get this stuff put away and get started on that project David has for me."

Chad stood up quickly and said, "Oh sure. I didn't mean to stay so long anyway. Let me know if you need a strong back again." With a wave, he walked out the kitchen door onto the patio. Because the house was built on a hill the patio was on stilts and rose about twenty-five feet above the black topped turn around at the back of the house. Steffie yelled at Chad to be careful on the steps because they were so steep. As she started toward the kitchen counter, the phone rang insistently again.

"Hello"

"Well, has Mr. Graduate School gone yet?"

"Yes. I told him I had a lot to do and he left right away."

"You'd better be telling me the truth Steffie. You know I can call his house and verify that he's gone."

"I wouldn't lie to you David. But I don't understand why you're so upset."

"Look I drive all over trying to provide for you and all I ask is that you keep my house and keep away from other guys. I don't think that's too much to ask."

As he said, this Steffie noticed a slight slurring in his speech.

"David, have you been drinking," She asked tentatively.

"So what if I have. I didn't think I'd ever get Rantech to agree to re-order. It took a long meal and several drinks to talk the purchasing agent into giving us another shot. It's how I make a living OK?"

"I know honey. I'm sorry if I upset you. Just hurry home, OK?"

With a wicked laugh David whispered, "What's the magic word?"

With a nervous giggle Steffie whispered, "Please."

Sales seemed to be getting harder and harder for David as summer gave way to fall. The more he traveled the longer his lists for Steffie became. It was taking longer and longer for her to get everything done and he seemed to be getting harder and harder to please. Although she missed being with her friends, she realized she'd hardly have time to see them anyway. She never knew being married was such hard work. She longed for the type of marriage her parents had shared. She could hear her father say, "Anything worth starting was worth sticking round to finish." But it was becoming easier and easier to get discouraged. It seemed just as she would become the most discouraged David would sweep in, his arms filled with roses or some other gift, and she would convince herself that it was all worthwhile.

One crisp October morning Steffie woke up feeling very fuzzy headed. As she padded her way to the bathroom a wave of vertigo washed over her. "Oh, God! I can't be getting the flu," she thought. She hardly felt like doing her chores that day but decided not to mention it to David when he called. There was no use worrying him.

As fall progressed into winter, she continued to feel sick each morning. She waited until she was sure she had missed two periods before she did anything. Finally, just before Christmas, she decided to stop by the drug store early one morning and buy a pregnancy kit. By 10:00 that morning, her suspicions were confirmed. She was pregnant! David was due in from his sales trip that night. If she hurried, she'd have just enough time to prepare a special dinner for him. Surely, it would put him into a better mood to know that their love had created a new life. She spent the rest of the day shopping and cleaning house. She had just changed into her black sheath dress when she heard David's key in the door.

"Hi, Sweetheart! I'm so glad you're back," Steffie cooed as she hurried to the door.

David stumbled into the door and groused, "Why's it so dark in here? I can't see a thing!"

"It's the candlelight honey. I thought we'd have a romantic dinner to welcome you home."

"All right but get it on the table though, I'm starved," David said as he threw his bags into a corner and slumped on the couch. Steffie was sure she smelled liquor on his breath but didn't want to spoil the mood by mentioning it. It seemed like every time he came home lately he'd been drinking.

She hurried to get the food on the table. Soon they were seated amidst the warm glow of candlelight. David spent most of the meal talking about what idiots owned the companies on his sales route. "I swear I think Hoskins, "Mr. Regional Sales Director", has given me this dead route just to see me fail."

"Oh, Honey, you're a great salesman. Things will turn around soon, I'm sure of it."

"Yeah, that's easy for you to say. You get to stay home all day while I bust my humps trying to make a living for us."

"I know but tell me. Is the meal to milords pleasure?"

"What?"

"How's the meal David? Do you like it?"

"Yeah, I guess. What's all this milord crap?"

"Well, the night you proposed you called me milady. Remember?"

"Oh yeah, I remember," David said in a disgusted tone.

"I have a surprise for you."

"What?"

"Nope I can't tell you yet. You have to say the magic words first," Steffie giggled.

"Please," David said sarcastically.

"We're going to need a bigger place."

"What. What do you mean a bigger place? The way things are going we can hardly afford this one."

"Come on David, be happy with me. We're going to be parents!"

In a rush David jumped up and shouted, "YOU STUPID BITCH!! HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN?!"

As he rose from his chair he grabbed the table and gave it a flip. The edge of the heavy wooden table slammed into Steffie's stomach and her head hit the corner of the china cabinet as she flew backwards from the impact.

When Steffie awoke, she was lying in a hospital room with tubes running everywhere. Her head was bandaged and she had a dull ache in her lower abdomen. She was unable to talk because they had a tube down her throat. She could hear David and her mother talking quietly in the corner. She tried to call out but all that escaped was a low moan.

David was at her side in a flash. "Sssh honey. Don't try to talk. I've just been telling your mother how you slipped on some food and fell." David held her hand in a wrenching grip and whispered under his breath, "Keep quiet about what happened, we'll talk about it later. I love you, Steffie. Please don't say anything."

Steffie's mother rushed to her bedside and said, "Oh baby, I'm so sorry you were hurt. Thank God for David. If he hadn't been home to call the paramedics, you'd probably have bleed to death. You're lucky to have him especially now---Now that the baby----. Oh, Steffie I'm so sorry about the baby." Steffie's mom turned away in tears.

Steffie's heart froze. She thought, "The baby! My God!"

David quickly said in a quiet voice, "Steff, they had to perform an emergency C-section. You lost the baby."

Steffie was filled with anger. She thought, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN I LOST THE BABY!!!! YOU MAKE IT SOUND AS IF I MISPLACED THE BABY. I DIDN'T LOSE THE BABY! YOU TOOK IT FROM ME!! HOW DARE YOU BLAME ME! IT WAS YOU! YOU KILLED MY BABY"

Steffie tried to get up and yell at David but was only able to make painful garbled cries because of the tubes. She saw red and through the sound of her pounding heart she heard David say, "Nurse, I think you better give her a sedative. She's very upset." As the cool liquid coursed through her veins, she felt herself losing consciousness.

 

* * * * *

It was a full week before Steffie was able to come home from the hospital. During the long hours, she had lain there in that hospital bed something snapped in Stephanieís brain. The joy, which had filled her life so recently, had been replaced by a seething hatred. She decided that she would make David pay for what he had done. She didn't know exactly how just yet, but she did know that she wanted to make him pay personally. She did not want him to go to jail or to get counseling. She wanted to make him suffer. She had done everything to try to make their marriage work and he had rewarded her by killing her child. He would regret that.

At first, David had tired his best to appease Steffie. Although he kept asking her to talk to him she had refused to discuss the incident When he would try to bring up the subject she would say, "It's best if we just forget it and pretend that it never happened."

She urged him to return to traveling as soon as possible and since money was tight and the atmosphere around the house was tense it did not take a lot of convincing.

During the few times, that they made love after the accident Steffie held herself as unmoving as a corpse (as much of a corpse as her poor dead baby). They grew increasingly distant from each other and David began traveling more than ever. Before long it became evident, that David was drinking again. He told her he had to drink with the clients but she knew that was just an excuse for him to try to drown his disappointments. She finally understood what a weakling she had married.

One winter night in February Steffie fell asleep on the living room couch. She awoke to hear a faint knocking on the patio door. She padded into the kitchen and opened the door. She found David passed out on the patio. The smell of liquor permeated the air. She stood there and looked at him for a long time trying to decide what to do. If she pushed him over the edge she could she be sure that the fall to the tarmac below would kill him? If she left him passed out on the patio, could she be sure that he would actually freeze? If she tried to cover him with water to aid the hypothermia, he might wake up. She didn't think she was strong enough to drag him inside and was not sure that she even wanted to do so. He looked so innocent and vulnerable just lying there. Innocent? Just the thought of that made her laugh ruefully. David was not innocent. He was a cold-blooded murderer. He had killed her baby. He needed to be punished. Was this her chance? Would she ever have a chance this good again? The baby must be avenged. She decided the easiest way to kill him was to just push him off the edge of the patio. She could always deny any knowledge that she had known that he had even been on the patio. Yes, thatís what must be done. Let him fall helplessly as she had. Let him die as her baby had died. With an effort fueled by determination she edged David to the edge of the precipice. He didnít even stir from his drunken stupor as she edged his body closer and closer to the edge. His body fell with a sickening plop. He landed with his arms and legs at funny angles and he looked like a macabre rag doll lying there. With a vacant smile Steffie turned and walked back into the house. She slept more soundly than she had in years.

 

* * * * * *

David awoke and looked around him. He was in a bedroom. When he tried to move he realized that his arms and legs didn't respond. Vaguely he remembered waking up in an ambulance with attendants telling him that he had suffered a serious fall. Slowly memories of painful surgeries and hospitalizations flooded back into his foggy mind. He remembered Steffie always by his side always so solicitous. He remembered the nurses commenting on her devotion and her eagerness to learn all about taking care of his needs. Good thing he had such a dutiful wife. He could tell it would be some time before he was himself again. Heíd probably need physical therapy to get back to his old self. He felt like crap. Stephanie better make sure he was taken care of. If not heíd make her sorry. Very sorry. All these thoughts made him fell weak and exhausted. He must still be drugged to dull the pain. They must have released him to come home. Strangely, it did exactly look like home. As his mind processed all this, he realized that he was extremely thirsty. His eyes wandered to the bedside table where a pitcher of ice water glistened invitingly.

In a hoarse voice he yelled, "Hey Steffie, get me some water."

She came into the room and smilingly said, "David, you're awake! How are you feeling? OOPS! I guess you're not feeling much since you're a quadriplegic now," she said with a giggle.

David looked at her with a perplexed frown and started to protest but she cut him off. "You know David, since you like being taken care of so much you've finally gotten your wish. You will finally have someone to cater to you. Youíll never walk again. Never push anyone else. Never kill another unborn child "

David tried to bluff it out by saying, "Hey knock off that crap and quit being so weird. Just give me some of that water and make it snappy."

"No David, not until we get some things clear. You need to understand how things have changed."

David started to bluster nervously, "Look when the home health care nurse comes by Iíll get her to move me out of here. You canít talk to me like that. Whereís my good little girl? Come on now Steff calm down and just get me some water."

"The home health care nurse wonít be coming by. I made sure that Iíd convinced all the hospital personnel that Iíd be able to take care of you all by myself. Believe me, the insurance company was more than happy to hear that they wouldnít have to pay for outpatient care. To make sure that there was no follow up Iíve moved us and left no forwarding address. Weíre now miles from our nearest neighbor. No health care nurse, no neighbors, no one who gives a damn. So, you see David, Iím your one and only caregiver. You're totally dependent on me for every little thing. Iíve had plenty of time to think this all out. I've learned my lesson very well from you. I've decided that I like things done in certain ways. It's so much nicer when things are done right, don't you agree?" Again, she gave a slightly bemused grin. With a chill, David realized that there was madness in that grin.

 

David's eyes widened as fear began to course through his body.

Steffie continued, "You'll learn my rules soon enough. Things have really turned out much better than Iíd hoped. When I saw you there lying on the patio I realized it was my golden opportunity. At first, Iíd just wanted to kill you the way you had killed my baby. Thatís why I pushed you off the patio that night. But then when you didnít die I realized that I could prolong your suffering for as long as I wanted. For as long as it pleases me. And you do want to please me, don't you David?"

Fear contorted Davidís face as he realized there was no escape.

With a maniacal gleam in her eye Stephanie said in an offhand tone, "I'm afraid you can't have any water today. You see you didn't ask properly." She turned to leave with a smug smile on her face.

"Please, Steffie, please. I'm sorry. Please, God. I'm dying here. Please give me some water. Just a sip. Please. I'm begging you."

"Not today. Maybe tomorrow," Steffie said. She walked out of the room humming "There are two little magic words. . . "

The End

Copyright © 2002 by Barbara Blann

Barbara Blann lives in just south of Nashville, TN with her English Professor husband. She paints watercolors and porcelain and has had several short stories and poems published. She has had two other stories published in Alphelion and is currently working on a series of Southern short stories.

E-mail: Barbara.Blann@mail.house.gov

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