It's Called Deception
I felt such distress when my button popped off by the family crypt. I dove for it like a child while my husband tried to grab my waist. My daughters fell to their knees to join the game. This was not the right way to act at a funeral. A black cat sat on the stone bust of some ancestor's head and licked its exemplary paw.
At least you understand me, I said.
To avoid the scuffle we took the long way out of the graveyard, through the topiary garden and past the gnome congregation. I told the children to stop skipping and squealing but then I gave up. Let them run. Let them be feral.
At the black iron gate the gnomes asked for a donation. My pockets were empty, so I gave them my little silver button.
The limousine was covered in a white shroud. That's so everybody knows who we are, the Stepmother explained.
How can the driver see anything?, I asked, but nobody else was worried. The girls climbed, tittering, into the backseat.
It felt like we were inside a mobile cave. As we drove along I could hear clusters of people applauding.
He was very well respected, the Stepmother said.
On the way up the steps of the great house, the Stepmother's stiletto heel pierced the petals of a black rose someone had left on the welcome mat. I gasped.
The Stepmother scoffed: Those mistresses he had. They were so silly.
We walked into the chilly house. Our footsteps were embarrassingly loud as we proceeded to the drawing room to hear the will. The maid led my girls away to gorge them with chocolate.
When I saw the lawyer's grim face, panic took over.
I don't know what I was expecting. A little mercy, to be sure. After all, I am not a bad person. My husband was weeping, having saved his tears for the will.
Miniature cups of espresso were passed around. The Stepmother, however, drank from a mug that was the size of a bowl, something you might see in a French country house, where you would vacation thanks to your inheritance.
How do you like this brew?, she asked us. It's called Deception and I think it's fantastic.
She smiled and sipped as the lawyer perused a thick stack of mostly blank paper. I disappeared into the blackness of my coffee.
is the author of The Blood Trail (forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks). Her stories have recently appeared in Black Candies: The Eighties, Whiskey Paper, Atticus Review
, among other places. She is a reader for Paper Darts
. Currently living in Southern California with her husband and children, she can also be found on Twitter