“Headache again?” Bill asked, adjusting his bow tie in the vanity mirror.
“That girl will be the death of me.”
Bill leaned close, giving her a gentle kiss on her temple. “Take a deep breath, Edna, sixteen doesn’t last forever.”
“Thank God for that.” They both laughed, as Edna tried clearing her ear.
“I refuse!” Xero screamed, storming into her parent’s bedroom. “You can’t make me!”
“You can, and you will,” Bill said as his face readied for battle. “This party has been planned for a month. You will wear your new dress, go downstairs, greet our guests, and do it politely!”
Xero opened her mouth to protest but was quickly shut down by Bill. “DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR!”
She knew better than to argue with her step-father when he went into Marine mode. He had been out longer than in, but you would never guess it, the way he commanded the Baker household. “Fine!” Xero huffed out of the room.
Edna took more aspirin and headed down to the party with Bill.
Not too long after the party started, Xero decided it would be in her best interest to start this charade. Grinning, she looked at herself in the mirror, wearing the same dress as her mother. “They want me to play their game?” she said, adjusting her sleeve in the mirror. “Well, it’s time I changed the rules.” She looked one last time in the mirror and chuckled silently at her sinister grin. They’ll never know what hit them, she thought, picking up a miniature glass perfume bottle.
She snuck down to the ballroom, making a quick detour to the kitchen, through back stairwells and old servant routes designed for unseen travel. Sliding out from behind a tapestry and tossing the empty perfume bottle into a trash can, she joined the party, smiling as commanded.
“Lovely party, Edna,” a man behind Xero said, slapping her backside.
Xero spun around, shocking the older gentleman. “Oh, my. Sorry Xero, but you look just like your mother.”
“Exactly what I wanted to her, Uncle Peter.” Xero grinned. “Why would you slap Mom on the ass though?”
“Um,” Peter went pale. “Let’s not mention that.”
He scurried away, leaving Xero laughing but still confused. Wonder if Mom’s cheating with Bill’s brother, she thought. The next hour was spent impersonating her mother and having a laugh when their friends fell for it.
“Just what do you think you’re doing, young lady?” Edna asked, when she finally saw Zero.
“Just having fun, Mom.” Xero watched her mother’s face twitch and shift between pale and bright red. “You okay?”
“This damn wringing in my ears, is driving me bonkers.” She said, trying to clear her ear again. “You’re not helping with all this nonsense!”
“Can I leave then?” Xero asked, looking at her phone. “I’ve played your silly game and made my appearance at your party. Can I leave?”
“Will you leave me alone?”
“Yes.” Xero sighed, rolling her eyes.
“Thanks, Mom.” Xero turned to leave. “What’s going on between you and Uncle Peter?”
Edna’s face turned as red as an apple and Xero was expecting lava to erupt any moment from her eyes.
“What did you say?”
“Oh, shit! Nothing Mom.” Xero turned and jogged out of the room before her mother could call Bill over to handle the situation.
Edna visited the guest bathroom next to the kitchen and took more aspirin to get rid of the new headache caused by Zero. The cook announced the soup was ready and everyone retired to the dinning room for the feast. Edna stumbled into the door frame on her way into the dining room, but everyone just thought Xero had driven her to too much alcohol and chuckled.
It was a simple three course meal with soup starter instead of salad. Edna thought having soup was more couth salad. She began fanning herself with her napkin. By the time the smoked fish arrived, Edna was sweating as if the dining room was in the middle of a sauna.
“Are you okay?” Peter asked, watching Edna’s face get even redder as her breathing was becoming audible to others at the table.
“OF COURSE, I’M ALRIGHT, YOU IGNORANT PIG!” Edna screamed. “WHAT DO YOU THINK I AM…A TWO BIT FLOOSY THAT NEEDS YOU!”
Silence filled the room as guests looked at each other and to Bill for and support and an explanation.
“SHUT UP YOU GOOD FOR NOTHING!” Edna shouted, throwing her wine glass at Bill’s head.
Bill stood up as Enda’s body slouched out of the chair and fell to the floor. She was dead.
Detective O’Neil arrived at the house with the rest of his team and set about collecting evidence and interviewing guests. “Was there anyone else here tonight?” he asked Bill.
“Yes, my step-daughter. I’ll call her.”
Guests were beginning to complain about the heat and not feeling well when Xero arrived back home. When she saw everyone rubbing their stomachs or foreheads, she started laughing.
“Young lady,” Detective O’Neil said. “I need to ask you a few questions.
Xero’s smile faded knowing she must have been caught. After answering the cursory questions about where she had been, who with, and why she left the party, Detective O’Neil asked if she had poisoned her mother.
“WHAT!” Xero was shocked. “I wouldn’t poison anyone…it’s just a laxative!”
“Excuse me?” Detective O’Neil asked, perplexed.
“I only slipped laxative into the soup. Just to get back at mom.” As soon as she mentioned her mother, if dawned on her that she didn’t see her since coming back to the house. “Where’s my mom?”
“I’m afraid she’s dead.”
“WHAT! I DIDN’T DO THAT!”
Detective O’Neil grabbed Xero’s shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes. “I know you didn’t, Miss”
“What?” Bill asked, shocked. “Of course, she did! She admitted to putting something into the soup. She hates her mother.”
“She hated you more!” Xero screamed. “Why else would she be sleeping with Uncle Peter!”
Uncle Peter ran from the house before he could be brought any further into disclosing their five-year affair.
“Mr. Baker,” Detective O’Neil said. “I have examined all the evidence in the house. Yes, your guests will have a very busy night with the soup surprise, but that did not kill your wife.”
“Then who did?” Xero asked, thinking her step-father finally went over the edge.
“She killed herself.”
“WHAT!” the entire room including guests, catering staff, Bill, and Xero shouted.
“She poisoned herself with aspirin. We found three large empty bottles in the upstairs bathroom.”