"Well you're gonna have to unless you want to look like that forever." Adrienne waved her hand in front of her nose. "Bel, I swear I had no idea it would really work."
"I'd believe you if weren't trying not to laugh," Bel replied.
Adrienne covered her mouth with both hands, tears welling in her eyes as she stared at what she'd done to her best friend.
"I practically let you live here for free!" Bel burst out.
"I know," Adrienne said. "I just thought- Well, you're not the girl I knew."
Bel glanced at her reflection in the mirror. Just a few minutes ago, she'd woken up and then hobbled from her bed to the bathroom, thinking she'd over done it at the gym. But oh no. Her sanctimonious friend and soon-to-be ex roommate put a hex on her and Bel had woken up like this.Gray skin rotted off Bel's face and neck. Her mouth was ripped wide and through the flap of skin she could see her teeth. Her right ear was missing and scraps of her normally blonde hair stuck out of her scalp in white patches. Adding insult to injury, she stank like a piece of maggoty beef.
But now that she knew Adrienne had done this on purpose, her blood raced through her veins and she could hardly keep her breath. "I can't go to work, I can't leave the house- You have to fix this!"
Adrienne shook her head. "But-"
"Who are you to tell me what I should do? I'm not telling Melanie that I slept with her boyfriend. I told you because you've never judged me and now I-"
"The Bel I once knew and loved would never have done something like that."
"But I-" Bel's insides curdled as she remembered that night when she stumbled in the ladies room with Rick. It had been such a naughty thrill to tease and taunt him after the way Melanie treated her in the office. But the fun was all over when he hoisted her up against the wall and pulled her panties aside. Bel had gone cold through the rest of it; disconnecting herself from her body.
Bel shut her eyes, trying to block out the memory. She hadn't been with another guy since; as if her abstinence could make her clean again.
"You're going straight down a dark path, Bel. I thought that if you could see what you're becoming you'd-"
Bel looked into Adrienne's earnest, saintly brown eyes. "I don't need your voodoo mumbo jumbo crap. Just tell me what I have to do to turn back."
"I practice curandismo."
Adrienne sighed impatiently. "The spell lasts as long as you want it to."
Bel rolled her eyes. "So you don't know? What about your guru or whatever she's called?"
"I could ask Maestra Luz but she doesn't know that I did this."
Adrienne squirmed, breaking eye contact. "It's technically against the rules for a curandera to hex someone but I thought this was an emergency."
Bel's skin crackled like paper as her hands curled into fists.
"Clear your conscience with Melanie or else, I'm not sure Maestra Luz can turn you back."
Bel stood up. "You can take your altars and all that voodoo crap and get the hell out."
That Halloween morning, Bel tried everything but confess to Melanie to undo the hex. She brought Sprinkles cupcakes into work, hoping if she got the good stuff instead of the crap from the grocery store that she'd earn extra points. No one at work touched them because of the lingering dead meat stench.
Then she had to explain to Melanie that she looked like an extra from Dawn of the Dead because the make-up wouldn't wash off. Dressed like a cat with whiskers glued to her face, Melanie believed her and Bel couldn't look her in the eye.
At lunch, Bel volunteered to cover the phones so everyone, including the loser receptionist could go to the office's Halloween Costume Parade.
Bel even called her mother. But because they got into a fight when Mom roasted Bel again for not attending her grandma's rosary – hello, a senior account manager at a firm like hers didn't take off seven days to pray much less go to Tahiti – Bel's other ear fell off.
The next day - All Saints Day – Bel still looked like one of dancers from Thriller and then lost the tip of her pinky finger when she ripped her design team for the crappy work they'd done on one of her biggest accounts. For the first time, she saw the hatred in their eyes.
And then on the day after All Saints Day, Bel made an altar to her Grandma. She didn't so much as touch the cap to the bottle of Cazadores, her Grandma's favorite tequila. But Bel cried when she set out the package of Virginia Slims, remembering how her Grandma would slip her a five to get an ice cream for buying her cigs.
For that, Bel went to bed without losing any more body parts.
The next morning, Bel went into Melanie's office.
"I have to tell you something," she said, leaving the door open because the rotting body stench could suffocate them both.
"Don't you think you're taking this whole costume thing a little too seriously?" Melanie asked.
Like being forced to eat her own vomit, Bel almost couldn't do it. Maybe she should become a freelancer and work from home.
"Your boyfriend, Rick, is a cheating bastard," Bel said, deciding to lie by omission.
"I know this because I-" Some of Bel's skin fluttered to the floor like dead leaves. She sucked in a chest-full of air and then choked on the smell.
"I, uh. Well, I slept with him. In the ladies' room so we weren't really sleeping together but-"
A high-pitched yelp popped out of Melanie's mouth. She didn't leap over her desk to bash in Bel's head with her stapler. She didn't even cry. But with one look into her eyes, Bel knew she'd just yanked the rug out from under her.
"Look, I know I can't work here anymore because everyone hates me already so I'll just leave and-" Bel stood up out of her chair. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry for what I did and I hope you'll- Okay, I know you'll never forgive me but maybe you'll be better off knowing."
Later, as Bel walked out of the elevator carrying her stuff in a cardboard box, she had no idea how she'd pay the minimum monthly payment on her credit card, much less next month's rent without her job.
Adrienne had been right. She couldn't undo what she'd done with Rick. But by telling Melanie the truth, Bel didn't get that squishy feeling in her stomach when she thought about what she'd done. That must be the self-forgiveness kicking in.
An agonizing pain snatched her breath away and the box fell to the ground. Bel's knees skidded on the rough pavement. She wrapped her arms around her middle, as if to keep her insides from breaking through her skin. But then just as quick as it consumed her, the pain vanished.
Bel wasn't sure if she had the strength to stand. Her bones shaking, she placed her hands on the box and then realized the skin was normal. Frantically touching her arms, her neck, both of her ears and her face, Bel realized the monster was gone.
Relief rained over her like cold clean water.
"I knew you'd do it," Adrienne said when Bel walked through the door. "I'm really proud of you."
"You didn't move your stuff," Bel said, putting her box on the floor by the door.
"Do I have to?"
Bel shook her head. "But you'll have to pony up more money for the rent."
"Its money well spent to have you back."
© Copyright 2007 by Mary CastilloFor more Halloween chica lit...
Saturday, 10/27 Berta Platas!
Monday, 10/29 Sofia Quintero!
Tuesday, 10/30 Kathy Cano-Murillo!
Wednesday, 10/31 Caridad Pineiro!