By Hillary Lyon
“So how about you come over in around an hour—I should have the brat in bed by then.” Serena giggled and twirled a strand of her hair as she listened to her boyfriend’s reply. She moved her phone to her other ear. “Nah, her folks aren’t supposed to be home until midnight. We’ll have plenty of time alone.”
“Serena!” Zoey yelled from the den. “There’s a monster in this movie! He’s coming to get you!”
Serena put her phone against her chest and shouted back, “It’s not a monster—it’s a murderer, you dope. I’ll be in there in a minute.” She put her phone back up to her ear. “What? Oh, I’ve got her watching Saturday Night Slasher; it was either that, or Behind the Music: The Downward Spiral of . . . whoever the pop music flavor-of-the-month is. Anyway, her parents—her mom, mainly—really censors what the kid watches. Seems a while back they let her watch Our American Princess, and for two weeks after that Zoey demanded they buy her designer clothes, let her wear nail polish and high heels—and call her ‘dahling’.”
Serena laughed at her boyfriend’s response. “I know, right? Can’t you just see an eight year old wearing polish on her grubby nails and stomping around the house in high heels?” Serena said as she examined her own manicure.
“Anyway, I couldn’t stand watching any more cartoons; it’d be fine with me if I never see another one. Besides, the kid’s gonna be exposed to murder and mayhem on the internet, so why not let her see it now, under adult supervision?” Serena snorted. “Of course I made her promise not to tell her parents.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Zoey standing in the kitchen doorway, holding a blank page. To her boyfriend, Serena said, “Uh, hold on a sec.”
Serena grabbed the bag of popcorn on the kitchen counter and tossed it into the microwave, slammed the little glass door shut, then quickly tapped the buttons. “See, kiddo? I just got the ‘corn started. I’ll join you in the den as soon as it’s done, okay?”
Zoey just stared at Serena. Without a word, she opened the junk drawer and grabbed tape, rubber bands, and the kitchen scissors. Probably going to make some cutesy arts and crafts thing for mom and dad to gush over when they get home, Serena thought to herself. That’s fine; they’ll think we had a wholesome, good time together. The microwave hummed and the corn began to pop.
When she was sure Zoey was back in the den, out of ear shot, Serena continued her conversation with her boyfriend. “What a freak this kid is!” She snickered. “I mean, so moody and—”
A loud crash. A muffled boom.
“Dammit! I think she broke something. Gotta go. See you soon.” Serena ended the call and put her phone on the kitchen table next to her backpack. The microwave dinged. The smell of hot popcorn filled the kitchen.
“Zoey,” Serena shouted. “What’s going on out there, kiddo?” She scurried out of the kitchen. If that brat broke something expensive, Zoey’s folks are sure to blame me. Serena worried. Will I have to pay for it? And worse, will they fire me?
The den was dark, save for the faint illumination streaming through the bay windows from the streetlight outside. Serena reached for the brass table lamp beside the sofa, but it was gone. What the hell? As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Serena could see the big screen TV was smashed. She approached it to asses the damage, and almost tripped on the table lamp laying on the floor in front of the set.
“Ah, Zoey, this is terrible! What have you done?” Serena said, quickly mentally composing her side of the story. She was not about to pay for this all damage. Zoey giggled from somewhere close by, in the dark.
Serena spun around to find the shadowy figure of Zoey, wearing a mask she’d fashioned out of white paper, tape, and rubber bands, standing on the coffee table. “It’s not what I’ve done that’s terrible,” Zoey stage-whispered behind her crude mask. She raised the kitchen scissors clutched tightly in her hand. “It’s what I’m going to do.”
Bio: With a Masters in English Lit, Hillary Lyon founded and for 20 years acted as senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Her speculative fiction and crime short stories, drabbles, and poems have appeared in numerous print and online publications. She’s also an SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet. When not writing, Hillary is the assistant art director for Black Petals.