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Elizabeth Evenson-Dencklau

The rocking chair moves back and forth

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The rocking chair moves back and forth, aged wood protesting as loudly as its occupant; every creak a criticism which the girl at the vanity simply chooses to ignore, intent only on the steady application of her dime-store lipstick; a slash of carmine over white marble. The girl smiles broadly at her reflection for a moment, then purses her lips over teeth which, like her eyes, she feels are too large for her face. The rocking chair continues to voice its discontent, but it is only when the girl slips on his gift to her, an expensive coat of heavy mouton, that she wonders at the nonsensical words aimed her way. Wolves with sheep's clothing? Lambs to the slaughter? The voice in the chair shifts like the tide, bitter and plaintive as though hoping to wear down the girl over time, water on stone. But the girl simply smiles and bends over the rocker to bestow a farewell kiss on a face with worry lines the texture of crushed velvet. It doesn't matter that the paths through the forest are paved now, because she has never chosen to follow them. His gray Chrysler sits idling at the end of the drive, tail lights shining red on the snow, fresh blood after a kill. The girl makes her way there, purse swinging jauntily, and because of the roar of the motor, she isn't quite sure if the last thing she heard was her grandmother's voice, or the screen door bleating, "A man like that will eat you up."

Monica wouldn't allow fairy tales in the house

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Monica wouldn't allow fairy tales in the house. "They just weren't meant for children" she said, her immaculate talons gently forming fondant into little rosettes while members of the PTA stood captivated. "Its complete filth: fathers raping their daughters, eating their sons cooked in stew; parents sending their children out into the woods to starve, it's horrifying. And Grimm's opinion of step-mothers." She'd laugh lightly at that, while her guests smile and nod their heads in agreement. Then as they were leaving they'd remark to themselves about how Monica's step-children were so polite, so industrious, how well-adjusted they were to get along so well with their father's new wife. And it was true, once her guests had all gone home Monica would put her step-children to work. On some nights they cleaned the house from top to bottom, on others they sat by the fireplace separating lentils from soot, while last week they spent three days spinning straw into gold. Some nights they would simply eat. Tonight she brought out the cake first, its rich velvety layers covered in cream cheese with flowers made of blood-colored marzipan. Then the immense gingerbread house, covered in gumdrops and miniature candy canes, its windows made of clear blown sugar. It was nights like these the children feared most, their step-mother watching as they chewed, her eyes calculating—fingers twitching, aching to measure. She hadn't asked the last task of them yet, but the children knew she would soon, so every night they would gather up pebbles and breadcrumbs. She was the wolf with a sutured belly, never noticing the grinding of stones inside of her. One day she would ask them to clean out the oven, and they can only hope that she'll be the first to bend over.

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