But instead, it had been her other mother, Maria.
It was rare for Eula to see her birth mother, and every time she saw Maria, she couldn’t help marveling at how her mother looked so beautiful and mysterious…like a witch.
The thought always made her shiver, and in her dream, Eula shivered in fear, too.
Falling deeper into the terrifying rabbit hole of her nightmare, Eula’s worst day in her life continued. Maria had started to speak, her Italian uttered in a voice so coldly, beautifully mysterious that it also reminded the little girl of a witch.
Your papa and his new wife had visited me, Eula. They told me that they wanted to have another baby but they were afraid you would hurt it.
The words had left Eula confused, and she had asked Maria why would she ever want to hurt the baby?
Because you’ll be jealous, of course! It’s a new baby, Eula. They’ll love the baby more than they’ll love you, and that’s why they’ve decided to give you to me. I’ll be taking care of you soon, and you need to prove to me that you’re a good girl. If you always do everything I ask, I’ll tell your papa that you won’t hurt the baby and you can return to them.
Maria had then wagged a finger at Eula warningly. Don’t talk about this to your Papa or his new wife. If you tell them, they’ll realize you’re already jealous. They’ll think you’re a bad girl and they’ll give you away.
Eula’s nightmare version of Maria started to transform, and the little girl began to hyperventilate.
The contortions continued, turning Maria into something so hideous that in the end Eula could see nothing of her mother anymore.
All she saw was the most horrible-looking witch.
A witch who ate bad girls whose parents didn’t love them.
Bad girls like her.
Eula’s tears tracked down her sleeping face.
The witch in her dream started to laugh, taunting her, playing with her.
Your papa doesn’t love you.
Vivi doesn’t love you.
No one loves you.
Eula woke up screaming and sobbing, and the first thing she saw was her father.
Luca hugged his daughter tightly to him. “E solo un sogno, principesa.” It’s only a dream, princess.
She shook her head, whispering, “It was real.”
“What did you dream about?”
The witch’s words blazed in the little girl’s mind.
Don’t talk about this to your Papa or his new wife. If you tell them, they’ll realize you’re already jealous. They’ll think you’re a bad girl and they’ll give you away.
And so Eula whispered her first great lie to her father. “Non mi ricordo.” I don’t remember.
This was such a bad idea, Vivian thought.
It was already three in the morning, and all she wanted was to go home and sleep. Her head was pounding, and her feet were killing her because of the stupid five-inch heels that she had forced herself to wear.
If not for impulsively telling her husband she was going to have fun, Vivian wouldn’t have agreed to come here at all. The beachside villa Donald’s frat had rented for the night was amazing – boasting of a viewing deck and an infinity pool – but there was no way to appreciate it, with every inch crammed with college students gyrating against each other, and the air reeking strongly of alcohol and nicotine.
It left her feeling nauseated and claustrophobic but wherever she looked, everyone else appeared to be having fun. They were either drinking or dancing, making out or throwing up—-
Either I’m too old for this, Vivian thought, or I’m just heartbroken.
Kay and Donald had assured her that this was one of the hottest parties of the year, and so far that was all she had been feeling: hot. The sticky, irritating kind, caused largely by Florida’s warm air and the constant need to defend her space.
She glanced at her watch and almost groaned, seeing that only five minutes had passed since the last time she checked. Maybe it was time to look for Kay and Donald—-
“What’s up, Vivi?” a slurred voice yelled from behind.
Vivian pasted a smile on her face before turning to Donald, yelling back, “I’m good!” Even now, it still felt rude and weird having to shout every word, but it wasn’t as if she had a choice. Speakers seemed to have been installed everywhere, and all of them were designed to burst people’s eardrums.
She took several steps back from Donald, hoping that it would politely end the conversation but instead Kay’s boyfriend followed suit. He half-swaggered, half-danced his way towards her, shaking his arms and hips like he was Ricky Martin’s long-lost brother. Even worse was his clothes, a black wife-beater that was skimpier than most and exposed his nipples.
Vivi was torn between laughing out loud and grimacing.
Did the younger man seriously think he was being sexy?
When he tried to kiss her on the cheek in greeting, Vivian pretended to check her phone at the same time.