The Penthouse Treasure
Dedicated to those of us who have found our treasure and to those who are still seeking theirs.
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The Loss of a Treasure
Tears seeped out of Charisse’s eyes as one of the doctors walked out of the hospital room. In an instant she knew why he stopped dead in his tracks then spun around, and with compassion in the eyes stepped up to her with open arms. The warm embrace was the signal that the suffering was over. Seeping tears turned to weeping.
As the doctor whispered words of sympathy Charisse caught a glimpse of a man and woman walking out of the hospital room with Aunt Anna. Although a cloud of darkness hung thick in the atmosphere of the white and sterile hallway she was able to see Anna softly sobbing. Just the sight of such sent pangs of ache through an already worn and tattered heart and reaffirmed that the suffering was over, that Anna had witnessed her sister’s final breath.
The doctor stepped away. Hoping that this was just a nightmare that had plagued her sleep for the past few months, Charisse staggered towards the room to see her mother’s vibrant blue eyes tell her with just a stare that everything was fine, but caught a glimpse of something more saddening instead. Right before the nurse covered the face up with a sheet a smile was seen. Visions of the sweet, angelic expression flooded the mind and an intense pain in her heart began anew a flood of tears and brought to memory the last time she saw her mother genuinely happy.
That moment was frozen in a photograph taken in the auditorium of her elementary school. There, sitting beside Aunt Anna, she saw just how thrilled and excited and joyful she was to watch her daughter play a goofy daffodil in a fifth grade play. As Charisse remembered, Aunt Anna had taken the photograph away weeks later never to be seen again. But even through the agonizing heartache she mustered up the clarity to see that this time the smile was the final message from mother to daughter, a smile that said “my suffocating misery has ended my sweet and precious girl. My cold and wicked husband can hurt me no longer.”
Charisse’s knees shook and just about buckled as she took a step towards the bed. A trembling hand reached out and pulled the sheet off her mother’s face. She stared at the pale and thin face, the once long and lustrous red hair having thinned and turned mostly gray due to battling cancer for the past year, but she could still see the beautiful woman she was. With drops of tears splashing on top of a bony cheek, soft but quivering lips offered a tender goodbye to the lifeless body. A flood of tears was released as she buried her face into the lifeless bosom. She repeatedly cried out for the nightmare to end but it would not.
“I’m so sorry Miss,” said a voice, “but just know that your mother is in a much better place now.”
Charisse heard the words as all sorts of strange noises erupted in the room. But if the sentiment was supposed to bring about any comfort no such comfort was felt. Worse, the offering brought about blubbering and an unbearable weight on an already crushed heart.
“Sweetheart,” a voice whispered, “we must let them do their job.”
Charisse looked and barely perceived the presence of two men standing by a shiny metal gurney.
“Come sweetie,” she heard Aunt Anna whisper as hands took hold of the shoulders.
Clear and vivid thoughts of vengeance started to seep into Charisse’s mind as she was led out to the hallway. With the death of her mother she quickly realized the pact with Aunt Anna had been fulfilled. Now was the time for the information to be revealed.
“Who is…who is he...where is he?” stuttered Charisse through heavy sobs.
“Please my dear,” Aunt Anna sobbed, “what good would it do now? It’s over. Just forget that he even exists.”
“You must tell me,” cried Charisse as she fought to break Aunt Anna’s grip. “We had a deal.”
Aunt Anna tried to lead her further away from the room but Charisse refused to budge. She looked back into the room and stared intently at the men placing the lifeless body onto a gurney. Just then the screams of her best friend were heard in the mind. The plan for vengeance that was spoken about and slowly put together through the years now occupied the thoughts with a fiery heat that dried up the stream of tears. She clearly understood that the pact between her and Aunt Anna was meant to avoid adding additional agony to her mother’s already fragile state of mind while she lived, but now removed by death there was no barrier holding back a wave of hate that was about to sweep over the man that was her evil father.
“Once again, who is he and where is he?”
The soft sobs stopped. Suddenly silence filled the hallway. Aunt Anna cast her eyes to the cold, sterile floor.
“Please I beg—”
“Please, nothing good will come of it,” cried Aunt Anna.
The voice of her best friend was screaming “didn’t we talk about this, didn’t we agree how to get the information; beat it out of her and beat it out of her now!”
Charisse broke the grip of Aunt Anna’s hands off the shoulders and swung around. She reached out and grabbed her by the throat. “Who is he?”
Aunt Anna broke the choke hold, gasped, coughed, then screamed, “Please don’t do this.”
“We had an agreement,” shouted Charisse.
She saw the two men look at her as they wheeled the gurney out into the hall, but neither intervened. Looking back into the room the nurse appeared startled yet took no action to put an end to the angry episode.
Charisse coldly whispered, “Who is he?”
“Who?” she screamed.
“Connelly O’Brien is his name…Connelly O’Brien.”
Vengeance on a Thief
Below a crystal blue sky a cool and stiff breeze made its presence known in the graveyard. Its touch was that of a cold hand but Charisse found that the chill was somewhat remedied by beams of the brilliant sun caressing the skin with fingers of warmth. But the cool breeze could not match Charisse’s icy stare. The cold and calculating mood was focused on the moist dirt of the burial plot.
Charisse was well aware that Aunt Anna had been waiting for hours at the limousine, but was soundly resolved not to budge an inch until every bit of information of the vengeance scheme was completely understood. The plan of her best friend and confidant, a woman so clever at the art of deception and a master at inflicting pain, was simple yet complicated. And because it was the exact recipe for such a sweet revenge attention to detail was most important.
As the plan was mulled over Charisse had a certain amount of doubt over whether she had the ability to carry it out. Then again she felt if left to her devices the methods of cruelty would be too quick to inflict festering emotional and psychological wounds that were sought.
Then, as she stood in front of the grave, it became quite apparent while her best friend had the means and ways of delivering the very kind of hurt sought, she indeed had the desire and motivation in both mind and heart to inflict such deep emotional pain. Beyond that Charisse could not escape the fact that since childhood she had looked to her best friend for advice and comfort through many a troubled time.
Over time she learned her friend shared the same hurt and pain caused by a wicked father and that she was a friend that too hated and intimately understood the heartfelt ache caused by neglect, insensitivity, divorce, and abandonment. And through that commonality Charisse found understanding and friendship through their shared misery with each having the empathy to provide comfort to ease the unrelenting personal hardship. And for that Charisse felt an unbreakable bond that existed between them. But when exactly did her friend begin to talk about revenge she had trouble remembering.
Charisse looked back to Aunt Anna leaning against the limousine and began to pace. As far as she could remember the talk of vengeance started about the time they entered high school, a time when Aunt Anna believed that boys would start appearing rather appealing and not the annoying little pests they were known to be. A chuckle accompanied the somewhat logical, albeit overdramatic sentiments of her friend believing that high school was a time when the sweet and sour lessons of love and relationships would be explored and experienced. For Charisse, however, such possibilities were never possible. The very thought of such experiences had been destroyed by her absent father. The very idea that any boy or any man might be thought of as anything but a despicable human being could not be seriously considered. Just the thought of the suffering endured by her mother at the hands of a cruel husband was more than enough to stay away from any contact with such vile creatures. But for her friend the course of action was different.
Her friend spent countless hours talking to her about the dates she had with many a boy. Charisse could hear the intense pleasure her friend took in hurting any boy that believed that affection was sincere. In fact, as she clearly remembered, her friend loved to start an innocent relationship just to humiliate the boy in the end with an endless barrage of lies and insults. But one thing Charisse had no problem understanding the reason for such hateful acts was in essence retaliation for what her father had done to her. And just like that she remembered out of that hatred vengeance was born.