Of course people whispered. My daughter snarled, “Someone ought to kick her butt.”
I responded, “I’m sure many people want to, but still, she is trying to be helpful, and she has always been praised for her artistic taste.” The last part of this sentence was prompted by Leah’s insistence that we needed a unifying motif for the party decorations.
Not only did Leah arrive uninvited, she came early to direct our last minute preparations. I’d put up ribbons and tulle to mark off the parking area and our driveway. Leah actually condescended to approve of the ribbons and tulle. Actually, she praised and flattered. She liked the ribbons so much she declared the gold ribbons to be my unifying motif. So, an hour before the other guests arrived, we ran around decorating each table with long gold ribbons pinned to the cloths.
The guests arrived and more whispering occurred. My college roommate told eager ears, “When my mother heard about her, she was shocked.”
“She shouldn’t have come, still the decorations look nice.” Another college friend declared.
“My mother told me she’s evil,” a younger relative hissed.
Even my brother had heard of her villainy, “I thought she got what she deserved. I’m surprised she’s not locked up.”
As the party got underway, Leah spoke only to her attendant and me as she sat in her wheelchair near the food table. I found her behavior typical for her. Perhaps she really is somewhat shy, and her habit of sitting in a prominent place and not speaking is part of her shyness, but she also appears to want attention.
The more I thought about Leah, the more I saw her behavior as a familiar pattern. I knew of several times when she’d manipulated others into accepting her back into their lives after she’d done horrific deeds resulting in house arrest. I'd hard how she’d cooperated with her husband’s enemies to allow her own daughter to be abducted, knowing her husband would agree to any terms to rescue his beloved daughter. This is the woman who dared to show up at my party looking frail and pitiful while making helpful suggestions for my preparations.
I'd heard how Leah had tried to kill her husband, which should have left her incarcerated despite the fact that she’d been shot leaving her a semi-cripple tied to her wheelchair. She managed to convince the judge that she wanted to devote the rest of her life to a convent in the mountains of her country as penance for her sins. Since her spinal chord had been severed in the lower back, the judge relented and granted her request to serve her life term in the convent.
The fact that she showed up at my house half a world away from the convent told me she’d used her manipulative powers to gain her freedom from her light sentencing.
My lip curled as I watched the younger man who served as her attendant lovingly adjust Leah’s shawl around her elegant shoulders. He tenderly tucked her blanket around her legs then whispered in her ear. She nodded. He turned away to prepare a plate of food for her. Knowing Leah as I do, I could see how she had the person who should be her jailor completely under her control.
I finally shook my head as I realized why I’d let Leah stay at the party. I knew I’d been manipulated. I’d thought there was really no reason to turn her away when her crimes had not been directed at me. She acted helpful and genuinely eager to congratulate me on my anniversary, yet we were practically strangers. I knew my own understanding of her limits, her reputation for artistic elegance, and her frail appearance clouded my judgment.
Leah had certainly created drama with the whispers that circled around her in the back room. Had she come to cause drama? Her ex-husband and new wife had visited earlier, but his official duties called him home before the party. Did she come thinking they’d be here? I narrowed my eyes. No. She knew they couldn’t stay. I finally decided I represented someone just close enough to her former circle of acquaintances to be useful and far enough removed to not excite the authorities by her visit.
I watched my guests. Most didn’t know about Leah’s notorious behavior and saw only a beautiful, elegant woman in a wheelchair. They spoke to her and smiled at her answers. I watched as she charmed men and women alike. Soon, she had a small collection of guests around her. I watched as people began to leave. They stopped and said goodbye to Leah wishing her well. They didn’t see the triumphant looks she gave them as they walked away.
Even some guests who knew of her treachery seemed to be caught in her spell as she humbly pulled her scarf up over her head in manner reminiscent of a nun’s habit and talked of the convent and her hours of prayer.
I watched Leah as she slid easily between being elegant, gracious, and charming to being pitiful and frail then morphing into the humble, repentant sinner. I watched her performance and realized that the beautiful, frail Leah is a dangerous master sociopath.
I will warn her ex-husband and his bodyguards that she is loose and working her way closer to those who know him. I fully believe that Leah will try to kill again. My party was just one step in her journey to find her prey.