The woman who opened the door wasn’t Donna. I mean it was but it wasn’t. The Donna I knew and loved only wore makeup on extremely special occasions, wore her naturally curly hair loose and wild, and favored ripped jeans with loose, flowy tops. This Donna had hair that was blown straight and hung sleekly to her waist, was stylishly dressed in a form-fitting white shift dress, makeup perfectly applied. She looked like the girls who used to make fun of us back in school.
“Are you going to a funeral?” I joked as she stepped aside to let me in. The air in her warm apartment smelled sweet, like fresh baked goods. My stomach rumbled. She must have stopped at our favorite bakery this morning.
She cocked her head at me strangely, like a puppy that had just been chastised. “Why would you ask me that, Stef?” Her expression was deathly serious, until a loud ping sounded from the kitchen. A noise so foreign in this place, it made me jump.
“My cookies are ready!” Donna exclaimed. I watched in a mixture of horror and amazement as she donned an apron, slid an oven mitt over her hand and pulled a tray of golden chocolate chip cookies from the oven. “You have to try one after they cool!”
“Come on, Donna, knock it off. We’ve got work to do.” I held up my laptop. We were co-writing a YA mystery novel about a series of disappearances at a fictional all-girls’ college in upstate New York.
I sat on the floor in front the coffee table, leaning back against the worn, dark brown couch, my usual spot, and opened my laptop to get started. “About that,” Donna began, sitting primly on the sofa instead of on the carpet next to me. “I think we should change the direction of the book.”
“Change the direction?” I was ready to pull my hair out in frustration. First some silly practical joke and now this? “Donna, we’ve been working on this for a year! We’ve already missed a deadline. They need our first draft Monday.”
“I know. And I don’t want to change too much, we can still use the college as a backdrop, but why not make it a romance?! All the girls on a quest to find their future husbands!”
“Husbands? These are 18-year-old girls?!”
“Becoming a wife is the greatest achievement any woman can hope for!”
“Donna! Enough already. This from the woman who called me a sell-out on my wedding day?”
“I’m so sorry about that, Stef. I understand now. I understand everything. Chet has helped me.”
“Chet?” Chet was Donna’s college ex-boyfriend. He’d been crazy about her, but it was clear from the time they met that their pairing would end in disaster. Donna broke things off with him senior year. He didn’t take it well. She ended up having to file a restraining order. As far as I knew, she hadn’t spoken to him in years.
“Yes, Chet. He can help you too. Like he helped me.”
I heard a noise coming from the back of the apartment. A feeling of cold dread spread through my middle. I wanted to run, but I felt stuck, unwilling to leave my friend in such a vulnerable state. My eyes slowly widened as Chet stumbled from the dark hallway, his hair mussed, his expression wild and menacing. He held a vial of a red, suspicious-looking liquid.
I stood quickly. “What have you done to her?!” I screamed my throat raw, hot tears spilling down my cheeks. He said nothing, just stood there, grimacing. I raced for the front door but Donna grabbed my arm and twisted it. I cried out in pain as something heavy smashed into the back of my head.
I woke up after I don’t know how long. My head hurt a little, but it wasn’t so bad. I turned to Donna, who was still sitting on the couch, and grinned. “I think a romance novel sounds like a great idea!”
She clapped her hands in delight. “This is going to be so much fun!”
Read Part 2 – Weapon