Her black miniskirt was too tight, her blond hair too big. Her hips spread wide, her breasts hung low. She had thin lips smeared with red lipstick; her nose was narrow and pinched. Where some women had smile lines around their mouth and eyes, she had frown lines – or at least she would have had them had she not indulged in copious amounts of Botox. But even the injections couldn’t erase the bitterness stamped on her features.
What stood out on Deborah, however, were her eyes: dark brown and soulless. For some, eyes are mirrors, windows, reflections of the soul; on her, they were dead. If they were to show any emotion, it would be malice, pleasure taken out of someone else’s pain.
Once upon a time, she might have been a beautiful woman. Growing up with two sisters and a verbally abusive mother, Deborah’s life was certain to be one filled with competition. She was a woman who hated other women. Although she wouldn’t deign to acknowledge these feelings, she felt threatened by the young, the beautiful, the talented. She was, in her opinion, the best, the brightest, the smartest. Perhaps if she had looked in the mirror as a struggling 21-year-old, she could have recognized her faults and become self-aware enough to adjust her attitude. But fate being what it is, she was destined for an unhappiness that was cleverly masked by an inflated ego.
Being petty and small, Deborah took out her unhappiness on those around her – particularly her colleagues. And unfortunately for Esther, a new, somewhat naïve agent at Deborah’s real estate company, she was the epitome of all that Deborah hated.
Esther was a timid, shy but highly competent worker, and she tried to stay in the background, to avoid negative attention. She came to work, quietly did her job, and went home. She was too shy to make friends easily, so she kept to herself, dreaming of a life more colorful than the one she was living. And unintentionally became the red flag that enticed Deborah to charge.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Ansel? I have the customer reviews ready for you to see.”
“Just put them on the desk, Raoul. And give me my messages.”
“Yes, ma’am. By the way, you know Esther? Small, quiet? She got the most positive reviews.” Raoul, Deborah’s assistant who lived for gossip, leaned against the door jamb and crossed his arms.
“Word around the office is that she’s thinking of going out on her own – and taking her clients with her.”
Deborah slowly put down her pen.
“Excuse me? Are you kidding me? You better be serious. I do not put with this kind of bullshit, Raoul. Now get the hell out of my office.”
Deborah rubbed her hands over her face and looked around the room. It was always the quiet ones, wasn’t it? You just couldn’t trust anyone. Well. That bitch wasn’t going to get away with this.
She slipped her feet into her spiked heels – and truth be told, she really didn’t have the coordination to pull them off – and clomped her way to Esther’s desk.
“Hello, Miss Thing. Don’t you think you’re special. Let me tell you something, you will not take my clients, my business away from me. I gave up everything for this company – my husband, my kids, my life. So you better get your tiny head screwed on straight, because if you even think of leaving, I’m going to chase you down. I will ruin you, you little bitch. What, are you going to cry? Of course you are. God, what a baby. Why don’t you just pack up your diaper bag, crawl to your stroller, and go away.”
Esther sat in her chair, paralyzed with fear. She couldn’t take her eyes off Deborah’s, drowning in the depths of black.
“And before you go, you should know one thing: You’ll never sell real estate. You just don’t have the ‘it’ factor. The customers don’t like you, your colleagues don’t like you, I don’t like you. Now get out of here.”
Deborah stomped away, yearning for a cigarette. Those little girls never learn.
And Esther gathered her belongings with shaking hands and melted away. Deborah wouldn’t hear from her until 10 years later – when Esther took over her real estate company.