Mallory wipes down the long marble counter until she reaches the cash register. The clock on the iPad reads 8:03. She had closed an hour ago, but she had to stay late on days like these. A lot of people had received the special option today, so she had to make more overnight. She walks past the colorful canisters and into the back room. Each container is filled with a different sort of sweet, and each has a very specific place. It would be a terrible thing to mess up on someone’s order.
She takes a deep breath before entering the room. She can never get quite used to the smell, but it’s unavoidable. Even justice has flaws, she supposes. She gets to work right away. All she has to do is bake some belladonna pies, infuse some chocolate with arsenic, pour some cyanide into the taffy molds, and sprinkle some ricin in with the cookie mix. Each delicacy is a little bit worse than the last.
She always makes sure to sterilize the counters at least three times as well. She has never been caught before and was never planning on it. Besides, there's no way she’d be able to explain her motive to the cops. She gives the bad candy to bad people. She knows they're bad because she can read their minds, but who in their right mind would believe that?
She is jerked back to reality when she hears a kettle whistling. Sometimes she makes tea to keep herself awake while she does this. She pours herself a cup, and watches the machines mix her concoction. It's a bit too quiet for her liking, so she shuffles the music on her phone. She sits on the counter as Frank Sinatra starts to play. It's about 12:30 now. All of her normal candy has already been made, packaged, and shelved. She just has to wait for her special options to be complete. So many bad people lately! She just has to keep making more. She hasn't slept in a while.
She goes to bed around 3 and tosses and turns all night. Her alarm goes off at 6:15, and she rolls onto the floor, groaning. She gets up and rubs her eyes. Her parents are smiling in a picture frame on her nightstand. She is with them, but she isn't 24. Instead she is 4, and her smile is full of crooked teeth. Her messy blonde hair is in two messy blonde pigtails, and her chubby hands are reaching for the sky. Her heart aches inside of her chest. It aches everyday, every time she sees the picture. Sometimes the pain makes her forget why she even keeps it there.
She ignores her heartache and shimmies into her jeans. She is going to wear a tank top, but remembers the thought of a customer yesterday. Her name was Diane, and she thought the freckles on Mallory’s shoulders were positively repulsive. Mallory wishes to forget what Diane thought, and she wishes to forget what she did to her, but she can't. So she slips on a grey sweater and her black apron while tears roll silently down her cheeks. She really misses her parents.
It's an unusually routine day at the shop. Everyone seems relatively good. She only gives out one special option. A little boy named Jeffrey cheated on his math test, so she gave him a chocolate truffle with a little laxative in it. She knows that it tasted fine, and that it won't hurt him. It'll just make his day a little unpleasant, which he sort of deserves.
Everyone else gets exactly what they ask for. It's days like these that really give her faith in people. Contrary to what one might believe, she doesn't enjoy hurting people. She doesn't enjoy seeing these people in pain.
However, she does enjoy justice. People who hurt other people deserve hurt too. What goes around comes back around. That sort of thing. It's not her fault these people get what they deserve. She just has to do it in order to feel right.
She is playing around with the music in the shop at 4:26 that day. She is dancing around to Norah Jones and eating a chocolate bar when the little bell on the door jingles. She turns around to see a large man and his daughter. The contents of their brains crash into her like waves during a storm. His name is Tristan Kennedy and her name is Daisy Kennedy. They're getting sweets for her mommy’s birthday tomorrow. Mommy’s turning 40! And Daisy’s 7 and her daddy is 43. He went to Dartmouth, graduated in the class of ‘95, the same as Mallory’s parents, who had Mallory in 1993, during their sophomore year. They got married on the day they graduated. Tristan loved Mallory’s mother. He loved Lainey Thomas so goddamn much. Tristan hated Mallory’s father. Tristan hated her because she loved him.
Tristan kept himself updated on Lainey, just to know. He always knew where she lived. Always. He got a Christmas card from them the year Mallory turned 4. Lainey was laughing at her beautiful baby Mallory, and Mallory's chubby hands were reaching for her goddamn dad and goddamn it, that should've been him. He saw her in the supermarket on Boxing Day and they chatted for a little while. He asked her if she wanted to get together for New Year’s and she said no, thank you, but Adam and I will be at Lawrence’s party. So Tristan went home and he cried.
A week later showed up at Lawrence's party. Everyone was so f***ing drunk; he couldn't believe it. He found her sitting on the steps. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek. And she said let loose, Tris! You used to be so much fun! And she didn't notice him pick her up. She just laughed and laughed as he carried her up the stairs. He kicked open a bedroom door and saw Adam lying there asleep. And he threw Lainey onto the bed while she laughed and laughed. He sobbed and he punched Adam. He punched Adam so hard and so fast. He didn't know what he was doing oh God what was he doing? He punched Adam so hard he could feel flesh bending under his fist. He punched Adam too quickly for Lainey to register what was going on. And she looked at him like she didn't know him, her bright blue eyes as big as saucers, and she wept. She couldn't scream-- she was too afraid. Tristan’s knuckles started to bleed and he took a step back from the bed. He held his head in his hands and he cried and cried. Lainey was trying to get Adam to wake up. Please wake up. Adam? Baby, please wake up! but Adam never woke up. He wasn't breathing, and her delicate heart shattered to pieces in her delicate body. She kissed Adam’s cold, bloody lips and they were the worst thing she’d ever tasted. She leaned over the side of the bed and she vomited.
She dragged herself over to Tristan, who was crying on the floor. She kicked him and she screamed. Get up! Get off the f***ing ground, you son of a b****! And he shook with sobs and she kicked him again. Get up get up get up! And he roared as he stood. He smacked her across the face with his bloody hand and she crumpled to the ground. She held her face and she moaned. He picked a pillow up off of the bed next to Adam. He couldn't look at him. He put the pillow under his beautiful Lainey’s head. Shhhhhhhh, he said as he turned her over. Please, please, don't do this to me, she whispered, but she was too weak to fight back. She sobbed quietly as he pressed her face into the pillow. She couldn't breathe, she was shaking, oh, God, he couldn't bear to feel her shaking-- and she stopped. And he let his face fall onto her beautiful back, and he just cried.
He left them there. He closed the bedroom door, and walked down the steps, and he moved far away. And he never got caught. He got to find someone else and raise a beautiful little girl with that sacred blood on his hands. It hit Mallory like a truck full of bricks. It hit her so hard that she couldn't breathe. Holy s***, she couldn't breathe, holy shi--!
Excuse me, miss? Excuse me, miss, are you alright? His brown eyes look genuinely concerned. And she feels vomit rising in her throat. She swallows it. Excuse me for just a moment. She runs for the bathroom. Before she can even get the stall door shut she vomits. Is this what her mom felt like when she saw her dad dead? Is this what it felt like? She is too shocked to process what is happening. She splashes water on her face and quickly fabricates a lie.
I’m sorry, sir, I have a bit of anxiety at times. What can I get for you today? She is sweating through her clothes and she can feel every breath she takes. She hears her heart beating in her head and can feel it in her throat. Daisy says something to her, but she doesn't catch it. She shakes her head. Sorry, what? Daisy points at the chocolate chip cookies through the glass. Twelve of those, please! Tristan smiles. Good girl! And what's twelve of something called? He asks. A dozen! Daisy replies, and twirls around him. Tristan looks up at Mallory. Isn't she just something? Mallory has the strong desire to vomit again, but she just forces a smile and nods. Let me get you your cookies.
She walks to the back room, past all of the colorful canisters, past all of the normal, good, happy things. She slams the door to the back room behind her. The tears flood from her eyes and she pukes again into the garbage. She wipes her mouth on the sleeve of her sweater and finds the cookies, filled with ricin. I'm just as bad as him, she thinks, as she puts the cookies in a box with a ribbon on top. I'm going to kill them. He's going to die. His daughter will die. His wife will die…
Her face hardens, and she wipes her tears away on the back of her hands. They deserve it. It will be good for them all to die together. Daisy won't have to grow up like me. She won't ever have to live in pain, and his wife will die never knowing what he did, and he will die never being caught. But when he dies, he'll know why. He’ll know. She exhales audibly, and ties the ribbon.
She returns to her spot behind the counter, and hands Tristan his special order. Will that be all, sir? Tristan cordially replies, yes, thank you. She hands him the box. On the house, sir. Special occasion, right? He looks incredulous, but thanks her anyway. He exits, holding his daughter’s hand.
Mallory laughs to herself. I did what I had to do, she mutters to the empty shop. She flips the sign on the door from OPEN to CLOSED, and it stays there for a very long time.