It was almost midnight. A Cheshire Cat moon hung above the beach, its smug smile mocking her undoing. It was a still evening. The winter wind kept people inside, out of the bleak darkness.
A body lay on a blanket spread out over the sand. Susanne stood to one side, unmoving, as the cold seeped deep into her heart. Her fingers, numb and stiff, clung to the withered sprigs of oleander. At once beautiful and deadly, the blooms burdened by their guilt in the part they played in her violence trembled in her hands.
Logan had lured her into his orbit promising her love and belonging. Through it all she believed him. In the end, she would have done anything to stay with him.
They met at the quad on campus. Susanne was weighed down by an armful of textbooks stacked so high she struggled to see her way across the courtyard. She literally ran into Logan, scattering her papers and books.
While she was gathering her things, Susanne stammered apologies, unable to make eye contact with this unbelievably handsome upperclassman. He laughed, repeatedly telling her not to worry.
Later that day, he called her. He pocketed one of her papers, and tracked her from the course and her name written in a neat, compact script. He asked her out for coffee, and every day after that until she agreed to see him again.
Over the next few months, they graduated from coffee to lunch, to dinner to intimate evenings. He invited her to parties to meet his friends, and she hosted small dinners to introduce him to her friends.
His crowd stifled condescending giggles when Susanne couldn’t measure up to their pedigree, sure that Logan was fulfilling some consequence of a lost bet. Her friends, jealous of her rise in social ranking, found fault with everything Logan did, going so far as freezing her out of their company.
Logan seemed genuinely interested in Susanne. He acted the part of a devoted paramour. Susanne, feeling desired for the first time, let her walls come down enough to consider the possibility of acceptance.
Sirens were getting closer.
Looking down at the cold body at her feet, Susanne knelt to study his face. A grimace frozen on his blue-tinged lips, eyes wide in shock. The speed of the nightshade had surprised her. Poison wasn’t as personal as a garrote or knife, but it was fascinating to watch a victim’s death throes, like a macabre melodrama.
As she reached down to caress his cheek, a hand touched her shoulder.
“We have to go,” Logan said. “Now.”
Susanne laid the dried flowers on the body’s chest, careful not to touch anything else on him. Her gloved hands tingling with the nearness of her conquest.
“This was easier than I though it would be,” she said. “When can we do this again?”
“Soon,” Logan said, helping Susanne to her feet.
They walked slowly from the scene of their crime. Susanne removed her gloves, throwing them into a trash can on the boardwalk. Logan tossed his lit cigarette in after, igniting the paper litter inside. Logan took Susanne’s bare hand, as they continued walking away, ignoring the police cars racing by them.