As soon as I took the first sip, I realized it was poison.
I should have known. Why was I so naive?
The acrid poison slid down my throat like acidic, burning honey—sweet revenge. Whoever said revenge tasted sweet, it did not.
My mother was right. I shouldn’t have trusted Nellie. I shouldn’t have trusted so easily. I should’ve seen it coming.
How could I have seen it, though? When, yes, I turned a blind eye to her true intentions, but I was blinded by her lies. Or maybe I believed the lies because I was adamant to ignore the fact. What fact?
Nellie was dangerous.
I used to speak to the prisoners of my kingdom, as I believed that nobody was born with a bad bone within their body and that instead, that bone formed over time. And something within my eleven-year-old mind told me that that bone could be broken, and that was my mission. To break bad bones.
So while the king and queen, my parents, were asleep, I covertly tiptoed downstairs and into the dungeons, slipping into a slight crack in the wall so as to avoid any unwanted witnesses. I hastily made my way down the long cobbled hallway lit with torches and came to a halt only when I reached cell number fourteen.
“Audra!” Nellie turned. Tears streamed down her rosy cheeks, her eyes were glistening with fear. “They…they said I have until tomorrow. They’ll kill me tomorrow,” she sobbed into her hands.
“Why the sudden change of mind?” I asked, ludicrous. “They promised they’d find your parents before they made any rash decisions! They can’t kill you without notifying them first; you’re a minor!”
Nellie shook her head back and forth. “They found them,” she said, wiping her tears, “dead.”
Without hesitation, I lifted my hands and aimed them toward the cell, ready to fire.
“Audra, no! You can’t do magic, and you can’t release me! You know your parents will—”
But it was already too late. A glistening light protruded from my hands, and the cell door opened with ease.
“Nonsense,” I whispered as I helped my friend out of the musty cell. “Friends help each other.”
“You’re the best!” She embraced me in a bear hug. “I will never forget this.”
“You better help me out one day,” I teased.
“Oh, I will,” she promised and squeezed me tighter.
༛༛ ༛ ༛༺༻༛ ༛ ༛༛
Now, five years later, her promise was kept—albeit unexpectedly.
“Mother, you can’t imprison her again!” I cried, tugging on my mother’s sleeve. “Please!”
She stroked my blonde hair, her usual go-to gesture of sympathy. “I’m sorry, Audra, but we, as leaders of Wisteria, must do all we can to protect—”
I recoiled from her grasp. “No! You should have never read my letters to her. If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have found her.” I kicked a nearby table, screeching when I stubbed my toe.
My mother opened her arms for me, but when she realized I was not going to accept the offer, she cleared her throat and said, “Audra, I am glad that I read your letters. If I hadn’t, do you know how much trouble our kingdom would be in?”
I gaped. “She stole a piece of bread from the bakery five years ago, mother to survive! She’s as much of a threat as a rabbit is.”
“I don’t care about that. You lied to me, Audra. She could have killed you.” Her expression hardened. “All this time we spent ages searching for this monster—”
“Nellie,” I hissed, my hands shaking as if cold.
“—and you let her roam free all this time,” my mother finished. She slid her hands across her face. “My own daughter betrayed me.”
“Queen Celeste, we have the girl,” said a voice.
I turned and saw her, Nellie, in the arms of two guards, one female and one male. I hadn’t seen her in years; her ginger hair that was once short was now grown out, her whole face matured.
“Thank you,” said my mother. “You can send her to the dungeons.”
I tried to reach out for my friend but was stopped by my mother who pulled me back. “To your room.” She paused before adding, “And you are not to go into the dungeons. Ever.”
I gave Nellie one last look, but her face was contorted from its usual expression. She had a lopsided grin on her face, revealing a dimple, her eyes blank.
I should have realized. Why did I not let myself realize?
Quickly, I bolted into my room and slammed the door shut, too shocked to cry. When I turned on my heels, I saw something—a small vile set on my bed.
Curious, I reached out, collecting it in my grasp. There was a tag attached that read:
It’s Nellie. Don’t ask how I got up here.
I don’t have long to write, but remember when you helped me out that one time? I’m returning the favor with this goodbye present since we’ll never see each other again. Whenever you drink it, you can see a memory of ours of your choosing. A little something I took from a potion shop.
Tears welling in my eyes from the realization that I lost all ways of contact with my best friend, I uncorked the bottle and took a sip and thought of the first time we met. But something didn’t taste right. . .
The smell of the potion was not sweet as usual, but instead emitted an order of rotting fish, and the taste scorched my throat like flames. My head throbbed and my vision blurred; I was hardly able to see a few feet in front of me.
I did see something, though. Nellie’s writing was forming on the tag.
Ps: Revenge tastes bitter, huh? You should’ve concealed those letters better. Friends help each other. . . learn their lesson.
And then I saw no more.