Freeze! by Shoshana Edwards

A Short Story of Friendship

By Shoshana Edwards

Copyright 2012 Shoshana Edwards

Smashwords Edition

Jeanie put down the blue hat and scrutinized the outfit once again.


“Kitty would never have worn that blue hat,” she thought. “She was more a purple sort of person. But she did love that red coat, and purple would just be wrong. Maybe no hat.”


She walked into the kitchen and poured herself another cup of coffee. The daylight was fading, and she knew she had little time to finish before Frank returned home. But the “going out” clothes were so important. She returned to the day room and carefully examined Kitty once again. The red coat did look good and went a long way to helping add color.


“She really looks washed out. But at least her hair is ok,” she thought.


She laughed out loud.


Jeanie sipped her coffee, staring out the window at the darkening back patio, waiting for the evening lights to come on. She was deathly afraid of someone crossing their backyard at night and drowning in their pool. Life was strange that way, our fears catching up with us in the most unexpected manner. She turned again to her task, this time passing on the hat and instead choosing a white lace scarf. It wrapped nicely around Kitty’s neck and over her soft blond hair. It was perfect. Much better than a hat.


A horn startled her reverie, and she realized with a fright that it was nearly time for Frank to come back home. Swiftly she pushed Kitty’s chair out the back door, locking it after her. She crossed the patio, and went through the gate to her now empty greenhouse. The winter panels were in place, so nothing could be seen from outside. She made sure Kitty and her chair were securely locked in place, covered her carefully with the blue and grey plaid blanket, and then swiftly locked the door and slipped back into her own kitchen. 


The casserole Jeanie had prepared for Ken and the boys was done, as was the smaller one she had prepared for Frank. He still refused invitations to dinner, preferring to eat alone. Jeanie would send Ken over with the small offering. Perhaps the two men would at least share a beer or a few words to break Frank’s seemingly endless despair.


She picked up the phone and punched in the number for her best friend, Katie. 


“I didn’t get much done today,” she said, without preamble when Katie answered. “I’m probably just being way too picky. But I want to get this right.”

“What did you work on?” asked Katie.


“An outdoor ensemble. Something for her to wear when we get her into the car.”


“Oh my god, Jeannie!  We’re going to take her out in the car?”


“Well, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t. Kitty always loved going for rides. Of course, she loved shopping too, but that is out of the question, I guess.”


Jeanie giggled at the thought., and Ssoon she and Katie were both laughing and making jokes about shopping with Kitty. It was a relief to laugh. Every day that Jeanie had to spend getting Kitty ready was a drag, emotionally and physically. She was glad it would soon be over.


During dinner, Ken and the two boys fought genially about who had the best football team, who would catch the biggest fish on their upcoming weekend camping trip, and other male bonding stuff. Now that Ray and Stevie were teenagers, Jeanie found herself left out of most mealtime conversations. Sometimes it seemed like they didn’t even notice what they were eating. 


“Hell,” she thought, “I could parade Kitty through here in full makeup, and they would never notice.”


She quickly quelled that thought. No one could ever know. No one except Katie, Marge, and Nan, that is.


The street lights were coming on outside. Mannock Lane was a typical suburban community, with rows of houses fronted by neatly manicured lawns and carefully chosen shrubs. Most of the homes were white, with an occasional light blue or green some mavericks had managed to get approved by the Homeowner’s Commission. Kitty despised the commission members:;  they were mostly old biddies or soured middle age hussies with little taste and less common sense. She and Ken had installed the greenhouse when the commission ruled against their petition to have a garden in their side yard. Since there was no rule against a small structure in their backyard, she was counting on no fights over the greenhouse.


Of course, Kitty’s current residence there might alter things a bit. Jeanie smothered a giggle, and quickly turned it into a poorly disguised cough when Ken and the boys eyed her quizzically. They returned to their discussion of the latest sports-related drug scandal.


Jeanie was a tall woman, about 5’10” in her stocking feet, and had retained her college figure. At 145 pounds she was just this side of too thin, and she kept a her closet was full of the latest fashions. Her makeup was always impeccable, and her straight brown hair had just a few hints of red highlights. No one knew that those, and the absence of grey, were the result of bi-monthly sessions with Clarence across town at the Welcome In Spa. She had her nails and her pedicures with the rest of the girls at Clarice’s Lovely Woman Salon, but her hair was her best kept secret and she intended to keep it that way. She knew she was vain, but after forty she thought any woman was entitled to a little vanity if she looked as good as she herself , Jeanie, did. Kitty had been that way too, which, of course, was why Jeanie was taking such extended measures to make her look good. She felt a small sob forming at the back of her throat. She couldn’t imagine no longer shopping with Kitty and the rest of the group, the five of them trying on clothing much too young for them and giggling at the result. They even bought makeup together, got wrapped in cellophane to reduce cellulite, and when Clarice suggested Brazillians they almost succumbed. Thank goodness Marge had talked them out of that one. The truth was they were all five vain and shallow, but they didn’t care. It was a good life, and they enjoyed it immensely. Now it was all going to change.


Katie and Marge thought that Jeanie was going too far, while Nan simply stared blindly out the window whenever the girls started discussing Kitty and their latest ideas on expanding her horizons. Jeanie wondered if Nan was losing some of her mental faculties; she thought for a while about how that might pose a risk to all of them. The more they planned and plotted, the more withdrawn and silent Nan became.


“I’ll discuss it tomorrow with Katie,” she thought, as she trudged up to bed. It had been a long day and she still had to wash her face, apply the creams and oils, and try to find a way to fend off Ken’s increasingly unwelcome advances. 


To herself she thought, “Tomorrow. We’ll take Kitty out tomorrow. If anyone tries to talk to her we can tell them she… oh bother. I’ll think of something tomorrow.”


******************************************************************************


The four friends gathered at Jeanie’s kitchen table for their morning coffee. They used to be the Fab Five, had been since high school. Now they felt Kitty’s loss keenly. Jeanie didn’t want to talk about Kitty and what she had done to prepare her. She was worried about Nan even more today. The poor woman looked positively ghastly, like she hadn’t slept for days.


“Nan, whatever is the matter with you?” Jeanie asked.  “You look like something the cat drug in.”


“I keep dreaming about it. Every night, in vivid color. I hear the scream over and over again.,”” Nan replied.


Nan suddenly slumped in her chair, her head falling onto her folded arms on the table, and her body began shaking with sobs. Marge patted her shoulder helplessly, while Jeanie and Katie sat staring, open-mouthed. 


Finally, Katie spoke up. “Why on earth are you dreaming about it like that?  It was an accident!.”


“I know,” sobbed Nan, “but we didn’t DO anything.”


Marge sat back in her chair.  “What were we supposed to do?  She was the one who insisted on running after the stupid cat. And it was her hose that got left on the pool deck.”


The images came flooding back for all of them. It had been just two weeks ago. Despite it being early April, the weather had been unseasonably warm and pleasant. They had gathered at Kitty’s house early that morning for coffee and, as well as to try Kitty’s new croissant recipe. The pool was full and clean, so they were enjoying the reflections of the sun dancing on the water. The daffodils and tulips had just started to bloom,; the crocuses were still flowering,; and the big magnolia tree in Kitty’s back yard was showing promise of the best blooming season yet.


All five agreed that the croissant recipe was a keeper, and they engaginged in an animated discussion about fillings. Nan thought chocolate hazelnut, while Marge and Katie held out for lemon curd. Jeanie and Kitty were purists, declaring they would never desecrate a good croissant with flavors. The coffee was rich and dark with just a hint of chicory, and they laughed and giggled with the ease of old friends who were quite comfortable with one another.

Suddenly, Kitty jumped to her feet, screaming “I’ll get that dirty little bastard this time!” as she and rushed out the door. The others jumped up to follow, seeing Kitty grab the leaf rake that was leaning next to the patio door and charge across the yard toward a huge yellow cat. He was digging industriously in her prize tulip bed, studiously ignoring the screaming banshee headed his way. All five women hated cats, and this one was their worst enemy. No one seemed to own him, but they knew old Mr. Hankins was feeding him. Their hatred of cats bordered on the irrational,; all that hair everywhere, theand muss with litter boxes, and the clawing. It was just too much. The battered tom seemed to understand their special hatred for his kind., and Further, it appeared he delighted in digging up their flower beds, scratching his claws on their wood outdoor furniture, and generally making himself a nuisance. They cheered Kitty on as she descended upon the cat, brandishing the rake.


Kitty had run headlong across the pool deck, and didn’t not noticinge the hose that had been left unrolled and snaking across her path. Her stiletto heel caught inon the hose, and she fell toward the edge of the pool. The girls watched as Kitty’s head inexorably headed right for the concrete edge, a thin, dreadful scream coming from her mouth. Just as it seemed that she would be spared and only suffer the embarrassing outrage of a good soaking, they heard the sickening thump as her head struck the edge of the pool. Her body slowly sank into the water, a thin red line snaking out from her head. The cat wandered over, looked at Kitty, and ambled off toward Jeanie’s yard.


For a moment, no one moved. Then, as one, the four women rushed to the edge of the pool and stared in horror and shock at Kitty, now spread-eagled in the water, her hair fanning out as more blood poured from the gash just above her ear where she her head had struck the concrete. Marge was first to recover, and slowly reached down and grasped Kitty’s leg. She began to pull, and the others emerged enough from their shock to assist her. They laid Kitty out on the deck and although they knew it was useless, they checked her pulse anyway. She was truly and utterly dead.


******************************************************************************


These five women had been together since grade school. In high school they had dominated the social crowd. In college, they joined the same sorority, dated only group-approved men, married in a group ceremony that had been the talk of four counties, and had even had their children at approximately the same time. Only Nan had suffered the loss of her husband, a victim of a hit- and -run drunk on the interstate two years earlier. The others bore the same long -suffering attitude toward their husbands, granting the obligatory once- a- week sex, cooking meals, and occasionally entertaining. But most of their time, energy, and love had gone into each other. They were the Fab Five — arbiters of dress, home decor, music, food, and all things social in their little town of Framburg, their little town, and most especially on the street where they lived, Mannock Lane. If the Fab Five didn’t approve of you, you might as well count on having no social status. 


And now, one of them was gone. Dead. It was unthinkable. Even as they stared at Kitty’s lifeless body, they couldn’t quite grasp that she was gone. They all sat down on deck chairs surrounding poor Kitty, still staring in shock, still not speaking.


“What are we going to do,” asked Marge, after a while. “What are we going to do?”


“I guess we should call the police,” said Jeanie. “Or at least 9-1-1.”


“But we can’t,” wailed Katie. “I mean, if we do, they will take her away, and we won’t be the Fab Five anymore.”


The four of them absorbed that for a while, not one of them doubting that the most important thing in their lives was their membership in the Fab Five. 

“If only we could, well,  preserve her,” said Nan.


Katie looked up hopefully. “Well, my new freezer just came yesterday, and they hooked it up right away.”


The others stared at her in shock.


“It’s self-defrosting,” she said defiantly.


“So what?  We can’t keep her frozen indefinitely,” said Jeanie. “And aAny way, we wouldn’t still have her with us, now would we.”


“Well,” said Katie. “According to the instruction manual, the Below Zero Self -Defrosting Freezer works by sucking out all the moisture. They specifically said don’t put things in unwrapped or they will freeze dry.” She stared at the others, daring them to contradict her.


Marge broke the silence first. “She would look awful. It would reduce her skin down to her bones.”


“But what if you got some of that silicone that Harry uses to plump up his patients?,” asked Nan.


Harry was Marge’s husband, and widely considered to be the best plastic surgeon in the state. Marge had once bragged that she had watched him inject it silicone and botox so often she could do it herself.


“I suppose that would work,” said Marge slowly. “I don’t think that silicone has water. And Plus, if something did go wrong, we could just put her in the freezer again.”


“Let’s do it now,” said Jeanie, jumping up from her chair. “If we think about it too much, it will be too late. Let’s just do it.”


“What about your girls, Katie,” asked Marge. “What if they open the freezer, or if Don does for that matter.”


“Oh, I’m not worried,.” Katie responded. “They are never interested in anything having to do with cooking, and all the stuff like their Hot Pockets are in the house freezer. It’ll be ok.”


They women hastily grabbed the a nearby garden wagon and rolled poor Kitty into it. Then they trooped through the side fence to Katie’s house which was next door, opened the garage, and rolled her in next to the gleaming new freezer. They opened it and found that the temperature had dropped below zero. Luckily Kitty was a small woman and fit handily inside. Reluctantly they removed her clothes before squeezing her body into the main freezer, standing the shelves next to her. For modesty’s sake they draped her clothing to conceal as much of her body as possible, and then shut the door tightly. For good measure, Katie quickly made a sign with a piece of cardboard and a laundry pen.


DO NOT OPEN. FREEZER IS COOLING.


“That should keep them out,” she said sounding doubtfully. “We will just have to hope for the best.”


“How long do you think it will take?,” asked Jeanie. 


“Two days,” said Katie. “If she hasn’t dried out in two days then we will just have to take her body somewhere where it can get undried and found. Maybe the lake house.”


“What will we tell Frank?,” asked Nan. “He will want to know where she is.”


“We tell him the truth,” said Jeanie. “She left him. That’s as much truth as he can handle anyway. They fight all the time, so he shouldn’t be too shocked that she left him.”


In truth, Frank had been devastated, something all four of them found surprising but strangely comforting.


Now as they sat in the cool April sun coming through Jeanie’s kitchen windows, the memory of what they had done was slowly fading into the excitement of still having Kitty with them. Only Nan seemed reluctant to enter into the spirit of adventure. She fretted about the pool, wondering if they had drained and cleanedrinsed it thoroughly enough. The others began to ply her with chocolate, the universal tranquilizer.


Jeanie gave them all an update. It had been two weeks since Kitty’s unfortunate accident. The freeze drying had worked better than they expected, especially since Kitty’s long blonde hair seemed to have been unaffected by the process. Marge had injected silicone into her cheeks and forehead and everything looked quite natural. Of course, they would have to hide her hands, but it was cool enough out to justify a warm coat, gloves, scarf, and head covering. 


They had all agreed that anything more than one last fling as the Fab Five would be gruesome. Their plan was to take Kitty for a drive past all their favorite haunts. They would wave at friends, visit all the right places, and enjoy one last happy day as the five of them. Then they would take Kitty to the lake house she owned with Frank and dump her into the water. They had already smeared some of her blood, gathered before they freeze dried her, and liberally applied it to a large piece of concrete they hauled to the lake. It had been a difficult job getting the hunk of cement to the end of the pier, but the positioning seemed plausible, and they planned to drop Kitty off the end, into the lake, where she would rehydrate and be found when they went up to visit her. They had planned their story well. Kitty was thinking of leaving Frank and wanted time alone to consider her options. When she hadn’t returned from the lake house her friends became concerned and went to check on her, at which time they found her body tangled around some rope attached to the pier.


After much coffee, and a lot of chocolate, Nan was sufficiently calmed down that the others no longer worried about her ability to carry things through. They all went out back to Jeanie’s greenhouse, where they surveyed the work she and Marge had done to prepare Kitty for her farewell tour.

“She looks quite well,” said Nan falteringly. “Almost alive.”


“She’d better look quite alive,” Marge replied tartly, “or we are going to be in some kind of trouble if anyone gets close to the car.”


“I’ll sneeze and blow a lot,” said Katie. “That should deter any of the snoops.”


“Okay, then. Tomorrow. Kitty’s last ride, and the end of the Fab Five.”  Jeanie laughed shakily. “Sounds like a bad pop song, doesn’t it?.”


******************************************************************************


Someone was  pounding on Jeanie’s door, loudly. She rolled over in bed and glanced at the clock. It was already 8:00, but they weren’t supposed to leave until 10:00. 


“All right, all right,” she grumbled. “Give me a minute,” she hollered, grabbing at her robe and slipper pumps.


She hurried to the front door, flung it open, and was immediately taken hold of firmly by two uniformed police women. There was a rather large group of people gathering in her front yard, including most of her neighbors, as well as and the local TV outlet camera crew and newswoman woman. She looked around frantically for Marge, Katie, or Nan, but they were not anywhere to be seen.

“What’s going on?” she demanded.


“You have the right to remain silent,” said one of the policewomen, who ignored her protests and continued to read her entire Miranda rights. “Do you understand these rights?”


“Yes, yes, of course,” said Jeanie. “Now what is going on and why are you reading me my rights?.”


A man in a shiny suit came forward out of the crowd.


“Joe Gimble,” said Jeanie. “What are you doing here?”


“I’m afraid I’ve come in my official capacity,” said the man. “As the District Attorney I am charging you as a co-conspirator in the murder of Kitty Markham. You’ve been read your rights.”


“Murderr?,” gasped Jeanie.


DA Gimble motioned to the policewomen, who led Jeanie around the side of her house to her backyard. There stood a hearse, the cCoroner’s truck, and her three friends, all handcuffed and in tears. Jeanie was placed in handcuffs also, and the four were instructed to sit in the patio chairs next to the greenhouse. Jeanie noticed when she sat that the seat was somewhat damp.


“You shoulda looked at your greenhouse roof, Jeanie,” said Gimble. “It rained last night, and there was a rather large crack in one of the glass panels, right above the victim.”


Oh bugger,” thought Jeanie. She pressed her fingers to her temples, fighting back the sudden pain.


“Frank went out to the lake house yesterday,” continued Gimble, “looking for Kitty so he could talk to her, try to get her to come back. Instead, he found a large piece of concrete covered in blood. He called me, and we spent most of the evening and into the night diving in the lake. Didn’t find anything of course. Then this morning, Frank went to your greenhouse to get the push broom to get the water off his pool deck, and that’s when he found poor Kitty’s remains. Might not have found her if it hadn’t been for the stink. Guess you gals thought you could get away with it, though Lord knows how.”


“It was an accident. She fell into the pool,” cried Nan. “We didn’t hurt her. We just couldn’t bear to lose her.”


“We thought you might say that,” said Gimble, “so we are testing the pool water. Gotta tell you; so far we aren’t finding any blood.”


The women stared at each other in despair, remembering how thoroughly they had drained and cleanedrinsed the pool before refilling it. 


“Old Ms. Carey from the Association Board tells me you gals had a right fight with Kitty when she refused to fight the board over her tulip beds in front of the house. Says you were screechin’ at each other like a bunch of hell cats. I’m afraid you are all going to have to come with me now. Your husbands can try to get you bail later. You’ll each get a phone call.”


As they were led away, Jeanie saw a flash of orange out of the corner of her eye. The big old Tom had finished digging in Kitty’s tulip beds and was now hanging on a branch of the oak tree over Jeanie’s greenhouse, watching the acorns he batted as they struck the glass panels of the greenhouse. She could have sworn she saw him smile.

Copyright 2023 Shoshana Edwards