“Absolutely enchanting. You simply must have it,” Mademoiselle gushed as Daphne emerged from the changing room.
Daphne, remembering the price tag, wasn’t surprised at her enthusiasm. She stood before the mirror, smiling.
“Mademoiselle’s right, you do look good,” Marie whispered.
The dress was wonderful, suiting Daphne perfectly. Her skin looked clearer, brighter. Perhaps her body lotion was actually living up to its advertising.
Daphne looked Mademoiselle straight in the eye, explaining in a calm, soothing tone that she couldn’t afford the superb dress. Mademoiselle blinked several times before giving a generous discount.
The dress was for this year’s school reunion.
Daphne hadn’t gone last year. Memories of the teasing she’d endured from her classmates put her off. She’d still been sent an e-mail report complete with photographs though. Once you’re on the list for those things, there’s no getting off.
She saw the classroom heartthrob, losing his hair and gaining a paunch, with a beer in one hand and the ample bottom of an ex-classmate in the other. ‘Don’t tell his wife!!!’ the caption read. Another showed Marie, the only girl more taunted than Daphne. ‘Don’t tell Weight Watchers!!!’ captioned a picture showing Marie shovelling in chocolate gateaux. Daphne remembered her as the butt of every joke. Marie had desperately wanted friendship. Daphne, to her shame, had never spoken against Marie’s cruel treatment.
Daphne located her old address book, correctly guessing Marie still lived at home.
“I missed the reunion, how was it?”
“About like you’d expect.”
“Everyone claimed to have perfect lives, then bitched about everyone else?”
“Thought so. Look, I was spiteful at school, I’ve changed. What about you, haven’t you ever wanted to stop being the victim?”
Marie agreed to meet Daphne, who calmly explained her ideas.
“Everyone enjoys laughing at other people’s silly actions. For the right person, that reunion would be filled with opportunities. Not just there; work parties, wedding receptions, birthdays, graduations, all have potential. What’s required is an ability to manipulate. A little tact and charm will enable us to turn other people’s dire behaviour to our advantage. Everyone, given provocation, can be tempted to behave out of character. Plenty of fools out there are willing to get into embarrassing situations and pay for the privilege. Do you want to help me?”
At first, Marie was reluctant, but looking at Daphne’s calm face, she blinked and then agreed.
“I’ve nothing to lose, have I?”
They began immediately, training and working on their scheme. Marie provided the funds. Daphne felt no guilt over this; it was the reason she’d invited Marie to join her. Soon they’d both be making money. On Tuesdays Marie went to Weight Watchers. Daphne suggested in her calm, soothing voice that Marie could lose weight. Both Marie and the scales began to believe her.
Marie studied photography. Plenty of evidence would be vital to keep the money rolling in.
At the next school reunion, they put their new skills into action.
Daphne brushed her hair till it shone. She applied dramatic make-up to her eyes, her best feature. She slipped into the dress, knowing people would be unable to resist looking at her. Marie dressed more conservatively — nobody would be looking her way.
The reunion was fun. A girl who’d become a nightclub singer belted out some cheerful numbers. One man did stand-up as a hobby. They all laughed until it hurt. Daphne and Marie were working, confident they could generate plenty of business. They were pleased that many of their schoolmates were doing well. They would be able to pay.
Daphne danced with the men, openly flirting. As they looked deep into her eyes, she felt confident and powerful. They blinked a lot, but were eager to do whatever she wanted. She chatted to the girls too; they confided in her. She was easy to talk to. People told her things they were surprised they’d let slip when later reminded. There was a great deal of laughter, and several sheepish looks, when people realised they’d done things for the benefit of Marie’s camera they wouldn’t normally do. Others were in blissful ignorance of what would develop.
Well, they’d find out when they saw the photographs. Daphne and Marie volunteered to get them printed and distributed. A smile lit Marie’s face as she wrote the address of a girl who’d made cruel remarks about her greedy eating habits. The girl was pictured cramming chocolate éclairs in her mouth, exactly as if she believed they were the only food she’d eaten all week.
The lad who’d been the worst bully was shown dancing on a table in an improvised pink tutu. His former accomplice appeared to be terrified of a paper napkin. One snobby girl was seen trying to hide her fully clothed body with a flower arrangement, as if she imagined she was naked.
The comic had never taunted either of them; his photo showed laughing friends applauding wildly. Another photograph showed the school heartthrob kneeling, a rose between his teeth, serenading Marie.
“Thanks, Daphne, that was better than the last reunion and it will be great for bookings.”
“Good job I’ve got you to handle all the business that will flood in.”
“About that…” Marie looked away from Daphne’s penetrating gaze and began to hum gently to herself as her friend spoke.
“We can make people who’ve been cruel suffer. I can spot people’s weaknesses and humiliate them. Revenge and huge amounts of money could be ours.”
“We’re better than that, though, Daphne. We’ll just make bookings, not stoop to blackmail.”
Soon every envelope was addressed and sealed. Each contained a photograph of the victim and a business card, neatly embossed ‘Daphne Devine — Hypnotist.’
“Great job, Marie. Look at me and see how happy I am,” Daphne said in a calm and soothing tone.
Patsy Collins lives on the south coast of England. Her stories and poems have been published in a range of UK magazines including; The Lady, Woman’s Weekly and My Weekly. Her work has also been accepted by a variety of websites including Every Day Fiction and PatientUK.