Alibi, p.20
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       Alibi, p.20

           Teri Woods
 
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The stables where her champion stallion thoroughbreds were kept was a half-mile walk from the house. Carlos, their butler, had a golf cart. Rosa used a walkie-talkie to reach him and he was at the side door waiting to whisk Diana away to the stables. Polo, Misfit, and Rags were all retired now from racing, but they had made their owner, Diana Praeliou, a very rich woman. Misfit had won the Kentucky Derby and had taken the Triple Crown. Misfit had made Diana rich beyond her wildest dreams. Rags had won four Grade One races, including the Breeders Cup Classic at Belmont Park, and he was Horse of the Year in 2004, 2005, and 2006. He retired with a record of twelve wins, nine second-place finishes, and one third-place finish. His career earnings topped $3,453,220, no cents required. She herself would have never believed it had she not known better. Polo, until he injured his left leg, had been a prize-winning racehorse. His record far outweighed that of Misfit and Rags. He took home first place at every race, and every horse show, but after he fell and suffered a fractured leg, she never raced him again. Instead, he retired to a quiet, tranquil life with her. “We might be a little broken, hey, Polo, but we’re survivors, huh, boy,” she’d always tell him, feeling most attached to him and most grateful for all the high times he had brought her.

  It was Webster who first introduced Diana to the thrill of riding. Until then, the last creature she ever dreamed of having for a pet was a horse, but Diana loved her stallions so passionately that she cared for them personally. Even though she had stable boys to walk them, feed them, and brush them daily, she still every day was hands-on with them. For her, they were the babies she never had, and she loved each of them dearly. Some women get dogs from their husbands, Diana got thoroughbreds. Sometimes she thought she was closer to her horses than she was to her husband. All the time he spent at the hospital and at Bio One’s pharmaceutical facility took up the time he would have spent being the perfect, doting husband. But Diana understood, and she gave her husband all the mental and physical support he needed to be one of the creative, genius forces behind Bio One’s search for a cure to Alzheimer’s. It was unbelievable, and she would have never imagined twenty years ago that her life would be this rich in luxury or love, but it was, and now her husband was receiving recognition for his contributions in medicine. His discoveries were groundbreaking. The practice of medicine had led Webster all over the world to care for the sick. And over the years he had grown into the security of having a beautiful, strong, faithful wife by his side. Not only was Diana the epitome of grace and charm, but she had a feminine quality that other women seemingly could not project. She walked into a room and effortlessly illuminated it. People were attracted to her beauty and charm, and of course most of the men in their tight-knit circle of friends secretly lusted to share her bed. They were unable to take their eyes off her, even in the presence of her husband. If he hadn’t been told what a lucky man he was at least one hundred thousand times, his name wasn’t Webster Praeliou. Her every move was watched, from how she held her husband’s hand, to how she danced the waltz, to every bite she’d take of her liver pâte. And she commanded respect. Had she wished for others to bow as if in the presence of true royalty, then it would have been so. In the secret society of Scottsdale’s who’s who, Webster and Diana Praeliou were at the top of the list, invited to every event and envied by everyone who had the pleasure of being in their company. They were the social couple of the century, throwing fundraisers and donating time to raising funds for city and state officials. Diana Praeliou could throw a barbecue in her backyard and rake in more than five hundred thousand dollars for charity. She was a mover and a shaker and she made things happen. Every year Diana threw a Christmas party in their home for all Webster’s family and their friends. The guest list was over five hundred people and counting. Every name on the list was someone of great importance from the city and state politicians to the medical professionals associated with her husband’s practice and every other scientist on his team from Bio One. They were all in attendance. No doubt, Webster and Diana Praeliou had the perfect life, she was the perfect wife, and he was the perfect husband. They were two souls that had joined together as man and wife in a union truly blessed by God. And in the past twenty years, there had been no man or woman who could come between them. How many women could say they were married to a neurosurgeon, a genius, a rich, handsome genius who happened to be on the cusp of a cure for Alzheimer’s? Forget the money. They were rich beyond their wildest dreams, but then again, money meant nothing, they already had everything they wanted financially and materially, and most important, they had each other, and for the two of them, that was all that mattered.

  Diana finished her ride with Rags, patted him down, told him what a good boy he was at least one hundred times, then called for Carlos on the walkie-talkie. Once in her bedroom, she began to undress as Rosa prepared her bath and turned on the plasma flat-screen hanging on the wall above the Jacuzzi. She put on a robe and walked into the wall-to-wall marble bathroom. She handed her robe to Rosa as Rosa held her hand and helped her sit down.

  “Bien? ” Rosa asked.

  “Si, bien, Rosa, gracias.”

  The Jacuzzi sat kitty-corner under a large window with a perfect, picturesque view of the Arizona desert and Camel Back Mountain. Several large saguaros, cactuses, and palo verdes lined the yard. There were scattered patches of red fairy dusters and desert willows and a few summer poppies strategically placed around the backyard. Arizona was truly the home of mother earth and all the holistic benefits of the desert were there at Diana’s fingertips. At forty-two years old, she looked as if she could pass for her late twenties or early thirties.

  “Señora Praeliou, will you be eating downstairs today?” asked Rosa.

  “No, I’ll eat on the bedroom balcony. Bring the newspaper and the mail also,” she ordered before pressing a button and turning on the twenty-two-jet Jacuzzi.

  Diana finished her bath and dressed in a cool tan-colored sweatsuit and white tee. Her toes were perfectly manicured, and she slipped on a pair of Bonjour Fleurette slippers and made her way to the balcony. A tray containing fresh fruit, toast, preserves, and freshly squeezed orange juice was waiting on the master bedroom balcony. She sat down, glanced at the headlines in today’s Arizona Capitol Times, and then started to open the small pile of mail.

  The envelope she held in her hand was handwritten, barely legible, foreign to her. She opened it and pulled out a folded sheet of yellow tablet paper. Small and large cut-out letters that had been pasted on the page read: “I know who you are, Daisy. Does your husband? Call this number 602-555-3773 at 4:00 P.M. today or I call Webster!”

  Large letters, small letters, red letters, black letters, white letters all cut out and pasted on yellow tablet letter paper. She read it again, and again, and again as a horrible feeling of uncertainty fell on her shoulders like a heavy burden. It seemed as though someone was out there, watching her. He called Webster by name. Oh, my God, what am I going to do? She folded the note back up and put it back in the envelope.

  “What am I going to do?”

  “I so sorry, you talk to me, Señora?” asked Rosa, who was coming in to take the tray.

  “Oh, my God, you startled me,” said Diana. She had not realized Rosa was in the room behind her. “Rosa, please, some privacy for one moment.”

  “Do you need anything, Señora?”

  “No, no, just a few minutes alone.”

  “Si, Señora,” Rosa said, closing the bedroom door behind her.

  Diana began to pace across the floor of the room. What do they want? Why, why now, after all these years, why? All those years of lying, pretending, and living a life that was a lie. She thought back to when she was younger, to all the mistakes of her past. She thought she had put them to rest, skeletons in a locked closet. She had paid the price and been given another chance at life. But now, all that was turning upside down and her past was here, right here in her present. Jesus, what am I going to do? She had no options. The bottom line was Webster could never, ever find
out who she really was or any other sordid detail of her dirty, trifling life. Her secrets had to remain safe and unknown. It would ruin her marriage, ruin her life, and ruin everything. No, her secrets must never ever be exposed. She would do whatever had to be done to keep her past life a lie. She had to. She had no other choice. It was the only way to protect her husband and to protect their perfect life.

 


 

  Teri Woods, Alibi

 


 

 
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