Whatever is burning up inside of me, I know I’m partly to blame. I’ve been fanning the flames by imagining Mrs. Hamilton poisoning Scottie ever since Jake planted the idea in my head. I even asked Rod, on the ride home (and yes, he was more than ticked off at waiting so long), if he thought the cook who has worked for us for the last two years could be capable of such a thing. He’s never met this one, but he said sure, and that people are always capable of stupid acts of grotesque horror when acting in their own selfish interests. That wasn’t really what I was looking for, but it told me his frame of mind was no more reliable than mine. So I just shut up, petted sweet Scottie, and let the flames within grow.
There’s a really cool thing about our front door. It’s hugely heavy—super tall, nearly double-wide and at least triple thick compared to most. When you slam it, the whole freakin house shakes. It is impossible to do on accident, so if it’s slammed, you know someone meant to slam it. Fortunately, in my house, you are allowed such shows of utter infuriation, or at least my dad is. I only get away with it when used sparingly.
I step inside and give the door the biggest shove I can. It make even me jump, and I knew it was coming. I then follow it with my very best “DAAAAD!”
“Upstairs,” he yells down. The way he says it, like he’s already only half-listening, only makes the flames of fury intensify.
I can tell he’s in the sports room from the blare of the game. The upstairs room is smaller than the theatre downstairs, and has space for only one big screen and two plush chairs, while the downstairs has three wide screens and seats 16. You’d think his being in the smaller one would be a good thing, but in truth it is even harder to get his attention. It’s like the screen is so close, it’s magnetized or air-suctioned or something. Imagining how hard I’ll have to fight to get his attention—after all, what could a teenager possibly have to get so worked up about?—throws kerosene on my internal flames.
I storm the steps three at a time, and by the time I reach him, Sydney, a.k.a. Wife Four, has poked her head out of her “office” and started to pad her way down the hallway to see what is up.
Lovely. Just lovely.
”Dad, you have to fire Mrs. Hamilton!” I insist, stomping from the doorway. If that doesn’t get him, I can always step in front of his line of view. But that’s a drastic measure, and to be saved only for a last ditch effort.
“Why?” he says, not looking up.
“Dad!” I stomp.
Now, he looks. “What? Why?”
“Mrs. Hamilton is poisoning Scottie. That why she’s been so sick. I want her fired.”
“I hired her!” Sydney interjects, her eyes flown wide and her voice all whiney like it would be if she had said: “I called the front seat first.”
No mention of how terrible for Scottie, mind you.
“Wait, wait,” Dad says, standing as if he is only now realizing what—and who—he’s in the middle of. “That’s a strong accusation, sweetheart.”
It would be a really good time to be smart. To say; “Yes, father, I am your sweetheart, and I completely understand it is a strong accusation. But you see a witch-like hag across the river told me of this great horror, or rather her great grandson who is the last in line to learn her magic did, and I feel such a kinship to them and the land they live on I’m sure they are right.”
Actually, that would be really dumb, now that I think it through. But it doesn’t matter. Because that magic that took root in my feet and traveled to my gut is has become some kind of wild tornado. It is all I can do to not bust a gasket.
“Fire her!” I insist.
“Julie!” Dad insists back, his own voice a perfect match to my own.
“I mean it. Fire her. She has been trying to slowly kill Scottie. And I will not live in the same house with someone…”
“I want her to stay,” Sydney whines. “She’s the only cook who understands my dietary needs.”
I am speechless as I stare at this woman not even twice my age, but far less than half Dad’s. I mean…Diets? Hello? Mrs. Hamilton is killing my cat and all she can say is that she needs a cook that understands her?
“Julie,” Dad says in a calmer tone, the kind that means he’s taking a different tack, “I can sure understand how you’d feel like this IF something like that were true, but…”
“It’s true,” I spit out.
He ponders me, and for good reason. As teens go, I’m pretty reasonable to be around. Usually. To some of my friend’s parents, this would be a non-event. But to Dad, well, this must seem pretty over the top.
“Do you have any proof?” Dad finally asks.
My answer comes to me quickly, and sort of just spills out. “I can’t reveal my source. But it is a reliable source. And that source got Scottie well. She’s well, Dad. And I don’t want her sick again.”
I’d swear Sydney looks disappointed at the news of Scottie’s recovery. I’m telling you, if she has anything to do with….
And of course, as expected, Dad’s cell rings right in the middle of all this. If he answers, I will know, surely, I am not a loved child. I am a whimsy of his extra-curricular time, a mistake he made sure to never make twice, and I’m nothing more than someone he is obliged to fit in around what is truly important to him. My heels are nearly rocking in patient fury as I watch him contemplate.
He takes it. Of course he takes it.
“Excuse me a moment, Helene,” he says into the phone.
Helene? “Who are you talking to?” I ask.
“Helene Bayless, Julie, I have to take it,” he says.
“Who?” I demand, mostly because it won’t fully compute.
“My silent business partner?” he says, his hand over the mouthpiece. He looks at me like I should know this. But when have I ever paid attention to who he does silent business with?
Yet I can almost hear the dominoes clicking in my head as one nugget of understanding topples into another. “Won’t you please pay a little extra attention to Mrs. Bayless?” I recall him saying before I began to take Anna for walks. Something else, too, about her daughter being important to the business….
The next domino crashes as I recall Bea saying Anna can turn lead to gold, and buy people… I hate to think my dad could be bought, but honestly, I really don’t know.
“Dad!” I say one more time, though he has turned away. Sydney is just looking at me like I got what I deserved.
Without waiting for a reply that I know will not come, I bound down the stairs, through the main kitchen, down another set of stairs into the pantry kitchen to come face to face with Mrs. Hamilton. I don’t know if it’s my imagination, or some kind of vision like Jake said, but I can see her spooning something from a strange box into Scottie’s canned food. Again I get a metallic taste in my mouth, just like I did when I was contemplating what was wrong with Scottie on the beach, before I even heard Jake’s accusation.
I do recall what Bea said about the next time I get angry, and having the power to blast someone. Seems like a fine time to try it out to me.
I enter Mrs. Hamilton’s personal space so fast, she doesn’t know what to do with me. There’s a feeling between us, like I could shove her, just with the power in my belly. I’m pretty sure she’s aware of it, and more than a little surprised. Thing is, I don’t know what to do now.
“Do you know that we have hidden cameras throughout the house?” I demand, part with my voice and part with my belly. It’s a lie, at least for the kitchen areas. But I’m desperate, and anyway, it seemed to come up and out of me from nowhere. “Did you know that I can see what you feed Scottie?”
Mrs. Hamilton is speechless, backing herself into a corner. Or maybe I’m the one backing her into it, because I will not let up. I look into her eyes. She knows exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe I wasn’t sure before, but this is not my imagination. I’m 99 percent sure of it.
“Julie!” Dad bellows from behind me. Well of course he’d show up now.
I turn on my heels. “I know what she’s doing,” I say. “I know it.”
“Are you on drugs?” Dad asks, looking like I really have baffled him.
My mouth hangs open in disbelief for a moment while I gather my thoughts. “No Dad, I’m not on drugs. I don’t even smoke cigarettes. I have never had alcohol, not once. And while we are having this ever-so-private heart-to-heart, I’m happy to report I’ve never had sex either. But I am not going to be a good girl and pretend I don’t know something I do when someone has been hurting my cat!”
“Mrs. Hamilton,” Dad turns, ever the businessman, “is there anything you can imagine you have fed Scottie that might have led to this misunderstanding?”
I’d love to say Mrs. Hamilton turned to look at Sydney, and their locked eyes confirmed a long planned and utterly devious plot. But they don’t. And with all that energy spent, I’m cooling down fast. And starting to wonder if Jake was right.
“No Sir,” Mrs. Hamilton says, “but if you have cameras on me, I’m not sure I want to work here.”
“We don’t have cameras in the kitchen,” Dad assures.
“Because I don’t like being spied on,” she warns.
“Of course not,” Dad says.
So, well, there you have it. It is obvious how this is going to go. I feel the power continue to drain out of my gut, and even out of my feet, right here onto the kitchen floor. My head starts to bang.
“Okay, folks, here’s the deal,” I lay out. “You are all going to make this about my going off the deep end, so why don’t we just chalk this up to me being a hormonal teenager, I’ll apologize to Mrs. Hamilton, and everyone can go back to their business like nothing happened?”
“I think that’s a start,” Dad says.
“BUT…from here on out nobody feeds, nobody pets, nobody even looks at Scottie but me.”
I look to each of them, and each one looks relieved for his or her own reasons. It seems like they think it’s a fair deal, if only to have the whole incident put behind us.
I take a deep breath, feeling like I need to sit down, but not willing to give them the satisfaction. I turn and leave with a huff, promising myself that I will not let this go so easily. I’ll just take some time to rest, think it through, and ask Anna about it, too.
But this I know: If there is such a thing as magic that lets you see things, and if Jake was right about Mrs. Hamilton and I did see what it seemed like I saw, and if this power can be put to other uses… Well, then, this whole thing will be so very, very far from over.