The morning’s paper was already on the kitchen table when Mina, Morgan, and Marie tiptoed down to breakfast. They had barely slept that night, even after coming home with Fa and crawling into their beds silently. The sky outside had already started to glow pink. The sisters didn’t talk to each other, but they lay still in their beds, unable to fall asleep.
It was summer, and on a normal day like this they would have breakfast and run out to meet with friends or play outside, but the sisters knew that after the events of the previous night they were likely to be grounded forever. The kitchen was empty when they arrived, the only thinig to greet them was the paper.
TOWN SHOCKED AS WEDDING TURNS TO MURDER, the top headline shrieked. BRIDE IS PRIMARY SUSPECT, read another. The entire front page was dominated by articles about the previous night. Front and center was a picture of Mara, doe-eyed in the garden, her dress dripping with red. Besides the photo of Mara, the other photos were of the Hunter family. A beaming portrait of Graham started off a column titled GRAHAM HUNTER, 24, MEETS TRAGIC DEATH. At the bottom of the page was a photo of The mayor with his arm around his sobbing wife next to the heading, GRIEVING MAYOR PLEADS FOR JUSTICE.
Morgan pushed the newspaper away in disgust, turning it over so that the weather forecast was on top, when Marie snatched it from the table.
“Give me that.” Her eyes rapidly scanned the page. “His body still hasn’t been found,” she said. She folded the paper over to concentrate on the bottom article about Graham’s parents.
“Listen to this,” she said. “Despite Ms. Hunter’s initial certainty that the murderer was the deceased’s newlywed bride, the mayor urges the townsfolk not to jump to conclusions. ‘It is of utmost importance that we have a fair investigation and trial before pointing fingers,’ he says. ‘Everybody is understably shaken–my wife and I included–but we must let justice play its course.'”
“Bullshit,” Morgan said. “Does it say there that his wife was the one pointing the fingers?”
Marie raised her eyebrows. “Who knows. Maybe he’s more reasonable than his harpy of a wife. Hell, at this point we shouldn’t be alienating anyone who’s even slightly on our side.” She brought the newspaper back to her face. Mina walked around to read over her shoulder, standing on her tiptoes to reach.
“Look at this!” Mina pointed to the center of the page, a paragraph buried in the long headliner. She started to read the words out slowly, sounding out each one. “Though there is no hard proof on the matter, many residents of Ambrose have reported longstanding suspicions of supernatural activity in the Switch family. Residents fear that a normal investigation and trial will not be fruitful against the mysterious powers of the suspect and her family. Joe Hammer, a neighbor of ten years of the Switch family, explains: ‘They have always been very secretive. If it turns out they are witches, how are we supposed to prove that they are guilty? They will probably have secret magical ways of destroying evidence.’ Sarah Towne, a geometry teacher at Ambrose High, agrees. ‘The fact that no one can find a body is the first sign that something weird is going on.'”
Morgan slammed her fists on the table and grabbed the paper from Marie’s hands. “What the hell! This is supposed to be unbiased reporting?”
Marie crossed her arms. “It’s disgusting. Did anyone even think to interview us?”
“Mom probably wouldn’t let them anyways,” Morgan said.
“You’re right,” a voice behind them said. It was Fa, stepping quietly into the kitchen. Even though she was wearing her house clothes–a short white apron over her dress–and was shorter than both Morgan and Marie, her presence silenced the girls immediately. She was a small person, but she emanated an intense power.
“You must have seen the paper,” Fa said. She started to pull out pans and eggs for breakfast. Her daughters were not misled by this seemingly normal morning routine. Their mother, as a restaurant owner and Chinese mother, never let anything get in the way of everyone eating a decent meal. Their punishment would not be starvation, but rather something much much worse.
“So you must understand why what happened last night is so absolutely unacceptable. Not only unacceptable. Dangerous. Stupid. Possibly disastrous.”
The girls sat quietly at the kitchen table as their mother cracked eggs onto the frying pan and continued in her chilling, deadpan voice.
“The town is already against us. Against Mara. They have already decided she is the murderer. Smart girl, she stayed despite your idiocy. Think about what it would have looked like if she had escaped last night. Think about what the headline would say today if you fools had succeeded in your mission. Every grain of doubt about Mara being the murderer would be thrown down the drain. Only the guilty would have a reason to escape. And besides, you girls may be clever, but you are no match for Graham’s real murderer.”
Plates of fried eggs and toast were served to the girls. They looked at the plates silently, not having an appetite. Fa looked at them with squinted eyes. If anything could be worse than directly defying orders, it was not eating food that was set out in front of them. Marie looked reluctantly at her plate and picked up her fork. The others followed suit, chewing their eggs quietly.
“Of course,” Fa continued, “There will be no more leaving the house for a while. And there will be much to occupy your minds so that you’re not thinking any more stupid thoughts. But for now, eat and get dressed. We’re having a visitor.”
Morgan’s mouth dropped open, revealing the unchewed food on her tongue.
“Manners,” Fa said.
“But I thought–”
“Who is it?” Marie said.
Fa folded her arms and looked at her daughters. “The mayor is coming.” She walked towards the stairs, presumably to change herself out of her house clothes. She turned around before going up. “We must be on our best behavior.”