The children were excited to see Disney’s Fire and Reign at the cinema. The whole fifth grade class, even the boys, had been carrying on about it for weeks. It was hard not to be possessed with want for the film. Especially if you were a ten year old girl. Extensively advertised on Nickelodeon and, of course, Disney. The soundtrack heavily rotated on the radio. It would be perfect, Bethany thought. Just perfect.
Disney’s twin princesses, a delightful story. Bethany’s own twin girls, the target audience. The movie was all the rage the Christmas of 2015. The girls were wearing black and red sweaters emblazoned with the movie’s logo beneath their white fur lined coats. Their gloves, from Walmart, held the logo too. Their light up sneakers, laces with Fire on one and Reign on the other. It just made sense that this night would be the night. A night everyone would remember.
Bethany let the children get whatever they wanted from the snack-bar. Popcorn, Twizzlers and blue raspberry ICEEs. They were tickled…pink. And Bethany’s hands were shaking. But she was smiling as she tucked them inside her winter fleece. Nerves were natural. Expected, all things considered. But she would stuff her emotions down deep inside her, once again. Deep down, in the same place all the pain he caused her lingered. Up against her spine. Heavy on her back. Dark within her soul. It would be over soon. But first, the alibi would be secured.
A mid-week movie with the children. A popular movie so they would be seen by many. At the new cineplex with the beefed up security system. The one with cameras pointed at every entrance, every exit, in front of each theater. Within the hallways. A system meant to catch an approaching madman, to lock down theater doors should he try to wreak havoc. A system that would record her every move that night just the same as if she were a potential madman. It would digitally secure her alibi.
The twins sat next to one another, Bethany sat next to a friend from the Mom’s Club. Beside her, her own three daughters, who recognized Bethany Myers right away and politely said hello. Bethany hugged them both. Remember my embrace she silently suggested with a squeeze and a pat on the back. Beyond all of them sat another Mother Bethany knew very well. In front of her, the girls’ Girl Scout Troop leader. In the row behind them, seven other Mothers from the neighborhood and their daughters. Bethany spoke to every one of them. Lively and relaxed on the outside. Ticking off alibi’s on the inside. She spilled her popcorn, made a fuss about cleaning it up. The troop leader got the attention of a staff member on Bethany’s behalf. Who fussed even more and brought Bethany a pile of napkins and new bucket of popcorn. Alibi number eleven. She was satisfied with that. Eleven would be a magical number.
The lights dimmed. Bethany sat back in her seat. A comfortable almost recliner like chair in the very center of the theater. The type of seat if she needed to leave mid-film, the entire row would be disrupted in either direction. Everyone would remember she never left her seat.
The theater lights dimmed and the advertisements rolled past everyone on the screen. And Bethany didn’t let herself look at her watch a single time during the movie though she knew it was going to happen at precisely 7:40pm. She didn’t take her eyes off the big screen – except to pass the girls on the far side of her a napkin and to sing the song they all knew so well along with the rest of the theater and her twin girls. A chorus of happy ladies.
One hundred and ten minutes later, Bethany and her twins exited the theater with a throng full of people. Everyone gathered by the bathrooms as the little girls tinkled out their ICEEs and gushed about Evan, the evil, but oh so cute! prince that stole Reign from the Moon Kingdom. He was like totally hot even if he was bad bad bad. Bethany sighed. They’ll learn that lesson the hard way she supposed. Just like she had.
Eleven years ago, Bethany met her Prince Evan – but his name was Anthony and well…he was no prince. At least not for long and never again after the girls came. He changed. That happens. But the rest – that should never never happen.
The girls loaded in to Bethany’s Toyota Sienna. And Bethany turned on the Fire and Reign soundtrack, per their request. And she drove carefully through the night streets. Admiring the sparkling holiday lights around the light poles. The twinkling wreaths on shop windows downtown. It wasn’t exceptionally chilly but Bethany cranked the heat anyway. Shaking again. She texted a few friends at red lights. There were nearly nine between the cineplex, main street and home. Each text pinging at a proper location. A roadmap. Movie Theater…WaWa for milk….Home.
The girls didn’t register the police car, sitting in front of their modest house. Bethany’s circle is resplendent with them. A little haven, in an expensive town, with cozy sixty year old homes public workers could afford. And people like Bethany – a divorcee with nothing to fall back upon. A quiet job at the library. A paycheck that was lighter than air. A rented two bedroom cottage badly in need of updating, all she could afford as well, after spending the last eleven years of her life being completely and utterly invisible.
“Go on inside…get in your jammies…” Bethany directed as they climbed out of the car and headed towards the porch stairs. She kept her eyes on the girls. Her keys still. It would be unnatural for her to look over her shoulder. It would be unnatural for her to acknowledge the police man that sat inside the car at the curb. She had to act natural.
She shut the front door behind them, turned off the porch light and climbed the stairs behind the girls to the second floor. She would act as natural as possible. She would go through the girl’s bedtime routine like nothing had happened. As far as she knew, nothing had. Naturally.