anthology

The Midnight Feast by Irene Buckler

“You want a fairy tale?” she snarls through their locked bedroom door. “Here you go. Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after. Now, shut up and go to sleep – or else.”

Of course, we know much better than to ask our stepmother for anything, let alone for a bedtime story. We want our Papa, but he is safely out of earshot and she silences us in her usual spiteful way. “Or else” means we will get no breakfast and because we’ve had no lunch or dinner, either, the very mention of food sets our empty stomachs rumbling.

From our darkened bedroom, we can hear our stepmother cooing in Papa’s ear and the smell of the delicious supper they’re sharing drives us mad with longing. Afterwards they drink too much wine and as they laugh themselves silly, our resolve hardens. By the time their slack-jawed snores signal they are in bed, we are decided. We climb out of our bedroom window and in through theirs.

Every wicked stepmother deserves wicked stepchildren and it is a simple matter to smother one drunkard with her pillow while the other sleeps on beside her, undisturbed.

Papa will mourn our stepmother for a short time, but he is fickle and she will be quickly replaced. As we tuck in to our midnight feast, we wonder whether we will like the next one any better.

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