ERICA AND FRANCINE FLASHED their brightest smiles as they clinked their glasses in a New Year’s toast. The crowd milled around the ballroom of the luxurious ocean liner as conversation hummed and dancers swayed to the big band tunes. The happiness of the sisters was almost a visible thing, shimmering and effervescent, like the tiny bubbles that sparkled in the champagne flutes they held.
Everything had gone exactly according to plan and now Philip Winston, the father who had ruled their lives by his control of the purse strings was gone. Every minute that the huge vessel continued its westward path took them further from the point where he had met his watery end. The plan had gone off without a hitch: Erica had lured him out to one of the deserted decks on the pretext of asking him for some extra money to pay off yet another gambling debt, while Francine had snuck out from her hiding place behind a lifeboat and hit him on the head. The sock that they had carefully filled with sand on the afternoon’s excursion to St. Thomas had done its job without making a sound to alert anyone. Without missing a beat, the sisters had heaved the still form over the rail and then returned to the ballroom.
As they toasted an end to his tyrannical rule and a beginning to the new life they would lead with their sizable inheritance, a tiny blonde drifted up.
“Has anyone seen Philip?” she wailed, “He promised me we’d dance and I can’t find him anywhere.”
“Maybe he went back to the cabin for something,” Francine suggested.
“No I already looked there.”
The nasal whine was like nails scraping down a chalkboard to Erica and she reflected smugly that it was just as well that they had gotten rid of Philip when they did. This latest girlfriend, no older than the sisters themselves, was beginning to have a disturbing amount of influence over him. It was just possible that he could take it into his head to make the alliance permanent, jeopardizing the inheritance that rightfully belonged to Francine and her. After all, it had been their mother’s money that had purchased the first shares of stock that Philip had parlayed into the Winston fortune.
Her attention was dragged back suddenly by something that Philip’s latest, and last, girlfriend was saying.
“Oh, it’s so irritating of him to be off somewhere when we’re supposed to be celebrating,” she pouted. “Well just for that I’m going to go ahead and tell you our news now. He wanted us to surprise you tonight at dinner, but I just can’t wait anymore.” She paused coyly as she waved her left hand, and the sisters noticed with horror the light reflecting off a new and very large diamond.
“The Captain married us this afternoon. Isn’t it wonderful, girls? I’m your new stepmother.”