A Kiss Before Dying (part 1, chapter 1)

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DOROTHY [part 1, chapter 1]

    The Room Near the Campus

April 1950

Night was coming to the town of Blue River, in the state of Iowa.

It was nearly dark in the small room near the Stoddard University campus. The two people in the room that Sunday evening were both second-year students at the college. They were looking at each other in silence.

The handsome young man was angry. His plans had been working so well. And now this news had come! But he wasn’t going to show his anger-that wouldn’t help him. He walked to the window, and for a few seconds, he looked out at the lights of the town. He looked at the yellow lights in the streets. He looked at the red light on top of the Municipal Building, the tower which was the tallest building in Blue River, a mile or two away. Then he turned, and he smiled at the young woman sitting on the bed.

«Are you sure that you’re pregnant?» he asked her gently. «Are you really sure that you’re going to have a baby?»

«Yes, I’m sure,» she replied. «The doctor told me that I’m two months pregnant.» She started to cry. «What will we do? Can we get married soon?»

«Don’t cry,» the young man said. «Everything will be OK.» He smiled again.

The young woman stopped crying and she tried to smile too. «Oh, let’s get married right away,» she said. «I’m sure that my father will like you when he meets you. We’ll be so happy!»

«Well, we could get married immediately,» the young man said. «But this isn’t what I’d planned, Dorothy — you know that. I’d planned to meet your father in New York in the summer, at the end of the college year. I wanted to ask him for permission to marry you then.

«I want your father to like me, Dorothy,» he went on quickly. «If we’re already married when I meet him, he’ll guess the reason. He’ll guess about your pregnancy. He won’t like that, he’ll be angry. He’ll stop giving you money. We’ll be poor. I’ll have to leave college and get a job in a store! And you’ll have to leave college to take care of the baby. We’ll have to live in a trailer. How will you feel about that? How will your family feel about it?»

«I love you,» the young woman replied miserably. «I don’t care about being poor. I don’t care about my family. We’ll be happy — I’m sure about that! And I don’t believe that my father will be angry. Anyway, we don’t have any choice. I’m pregnant! We’ll have to get married soon.»

The handsome young man walked over to Dorothy and put his arms around her. Tonight, he had to pretend to love her.

«We do have a choice,» he said.

«What do you mean?» the young woman whispered nervously.

«I know someone who can help us,» he replied. «You don’t have to be pregnant, Dorothy.»

The young woman pushed him away from her.

«You want me to have an abortion?» she said angrily. «No! I won’t do it!» And she started to cry again.

«Listen to me,» the young man said. «I do love you, Dorothy. You know that. But I don’t want to destroy your life. Your family is rich. You don’t know about being poor. But I know about it. You would hate it! Listen! I want to marry you next summer, with your father’s permission. Then he’ll go on giving you money. We’ll rent a little house near the campus. It will be wonderful. But you mustn’t have this baby!»

«I won’t have an abortion!» Dorothy shouted.

«You won’t need an operation,» the young man replied quietly. «You’ll only have to take some pills. I can get them from a guy in one of my classes. His uncle owns a drugstore, here in Blue River.»

He held the unhappy young woman in his arms again. For the next hour, he whispered in her ear. He told her many things that she wanted to hear. At last, he looked at his watch.

«You must go back to your dormitory,» he said. «It’s nearly ten o’clock. I’ll meet you tomorrow evening, under the tree outside the Pharmacy Laboratory. I’ll meet you at eight o’clock. I’ll bring the pills then.»

When his girlfriend had gone, the handsome young man put his hands over his face.

«Oh, God!» he said desperately.

He’d planned everything so carefully! But he’d been careless about one thing. He’d only made love with Dorothy once. He’d had to make her believe that he loved her. But he’d been careless. And now she was pregnant!

«I can’t marry her if she’s pregnant!» he told himself. «I will not live in a trailer with Dorothy and a baby.»

The young man was desperate because he wanted to marry Dorothy Kingship. He wanted to marry her because she was rich. He wanted to marry her because her father was the owner of Kingship Copper Incorporated. When the young man had found out that a young woman in his Economics and Philosophy classes was one of Leo Kingship’s daughters, his life had changed. He had begun to think of an exciting future for himself. He had thought of a future with lots of money, a beautiful house, and a good job with Kingship’s big, successful company.

Soon after meeting Dorothy, he had written to the offices of Kingship Copper and asked for some information about the company. The Kingship offices in New York City had sent him some brochures. He kept them at the bottom of a drawer in his desk. Every night, he took the brochures out and he read them. Every night, he looked at the photos of the great Kingship smelting works in Illinois, and he read about how much money the company had earned in the last year.

The handsome young man wanted a good future very much. His early life had not been easy. He had been born in the little town of Menasset, near Fall River, Massachusetts. He was an only child — he had no brothers or sisters. His parents had been poor. His mother had hated her husband because he had never had a good job. Her son had become the most important thing in her life — she was interested only in him. His father was dead now, and his mother still thought that the young man was the most important thing in her life.

By the time he was eighteen, the young man had started to believe that all women were like his mother. Lots of women had been interested in him. They liked him because he was very handsome. Usually they were older women, with plenty of money. They had enjoyed making love with him. But their interest in him had never lasted very long. Each time, another handsome young man had replaced him after a few months. Now, he hated women, but he was still happy to spend their money.

«Why did Dorothy get pregnant?» he asked himself angrily. «She’s a stupid young fool!»

The young man was twenty-four years old — five years older than Dorothy. He was older than most of the other students at Stoddard University. He had been in the U.S. Army for a few years before he came to Stoddard. He had fought in the Far East in 1945, the last year of the war. That was where he had learned that it was easy to destroy lives.

Although he was angry with Dorothy Kingship, the young man suddenly felt a little sorry for her. She was a very possessive person. And possessive people were difficult people to like! The week before, Dorothy had told him about another of her boyfriends — a Stoddard student who she’d spent a lot of time with. This student had broken up with her before Christmas because she’d become too serious and too possessive about him. «Possessive women frighten men!» the young man thought.

But he understood the reason for Dorothy’s possessiveness. Her early life had been very different from his. Dorothy was not an only child — she had two sisters. But her parents had been unhappy, like his. After the first years of her marriage, Dorothy’s mother had been in love with another man for a short time. Eight years later, Leo Kingship found out about this relationship. He had not been able to forgive his wife. He divorced her, although by then she was very ill. The three girls stayed with their father, and soon after the divorce, their mother died. Leo Kingship had never been a kind, loving father. And after her mother’s death, Dorothy was afraid of being alone. She had always tried to make people like her. She still did that.

Dorothy had told the handsome young man, «I’m sure that my father will like you when he meets you.» But she had often talked about her father. He was a hard man. He never forgave people if he thought that they had done wrong. The young man was sure that Leo Kingship would never forgive his youngest daughter for getting pregnant. And he would never forgive her if she got married without his permission.

«What will I do if she won’t have an abortion?» the young man asked himself.

There was one thing that he was happy about. He had always met Dorothy secretly. Neither of them had told any of the other students that they were meeting each other in the evenings. He didn’t think that any of them knew about the relationship. And he was sure that Dorothy hadn’t told her family about him yet.

Although Dorothy had two older sisters, she didn’t see them very often. The eldest sister, Marion, had a job in New York City, where Leo Kingship also lived. Dorothy never wrote to Marion or phoned her. Ellen, the middle sister, was at Caldwell College. Caldwell was a hundred miles from Blue River, in the state of Wisconsin. The young man knew about the sisters, because Dorothy had told him a lot about her family. And he knew that at Christmas, Dorothy had argued with Ellen. They hadn’t spoken to each other since then.

«Dorothy won’t tell anybody else about the baby,» the young man told himself. «If the pills work, everything will be OK.»

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