Paranoia

That child had always been there, since she and her husband had met, smiling brightly even as she dripped poison into her father's ear. Grace knew the moment they met that, while the teenaged daughter was going to be obviously rebellious, it was going to be the angelic looking little girl that really caused trouble.

And as she predicted, the older girl, who grew up in a bad neighborhood before they all moved in together, got bad into drugs. She would sneak out at night and meet up with her friends, and even ran away. Like a good wife, she made an effort to be worried about her husband's child.

It was even enough for her to get distracted from the little demon in disguise, so the girl could turn her own children against her.

Grace had not noticed before, but her husband's daughter had been luring her own innocent children away from the house, and probably corrupting them. So by the time the teenager moved out, it was starting all over again with her own oldest daughter. All the while the little girl watched in the background, head tilted in false confusion.

So Grace fought tooth and nail for her youngest daughter, spoiling her and doting on her so she wouldn't go the same way as her sister.

She never saw it coming.

Her youngest, at fifteen, pulled away from her, accused her of being oppressive. And came home one day, her face downcast and her hand on her stomach.

Her husband refused to raise another child under his roof, so her girl was sent to live with the boy who had gotten her into that situation.

And then there was three.

The little girl had blossomed into a polite, bright, devious young woman. Grace had no doubt that it was because of her that her own daughter had gotten pregnant. But now she could no longer even think of facing the girl head on. While she had been distracted for years by her own daughters, the girl had gotten even closer to her father, and he catered to her every whim.

Like the crafty little witch she was, the girl kept her requests simple and mostly inexpensive. Had she asked for too many extravagant things, Grace realized, her father would have caught on. So any expensive gifts she got were not outright requests, but hints dropped so subtly that her father thought all of them were his idea. He liked to 'surprise' his little girl.

Grace grew discomfited, and as those around her started drifting away, lonely. Her husband wouldn't even give her the time of day after she lost every job she could get in under a week.

But now the girl's sadistic streak had begun to show itself more obviously! Grace latched on to that, even as she began heavily drinking. The girl's placid eyes took on a predatory gleam, and her smile a sharp edge.

Her husband then bought the monster a gun, taking her to the range to practice often.

Grace became more paranoid after that. She could not be imagining the thoughtful look in the devil's eyes as they lingered on her now. Nor the way the girl would sit in one of the family rooms and clean her weapon. It was only a matter of time before she was struck down for being a nuisance, Grace thought.

She began to jump at loud noises and odd shadows, certain that her end lie in them. She no longer went downstairs at night, as that was the monster's favorite time to sit down there and read. The devil never slept, always watching. Sometimes Grace thought she saw the girl's eyes flash red. And even the sweet scent that clung to her from her many baking endeavors did not completely hide the whiff of sulfur that followed her around.

And that was how she found herself with the handful of pills. Her mind was foggy, but the prevalent thought that she would end her own life before the witch could do it.

She woke the house with her screams, and her immediate call for an ambulance.

Once she had gotten out of the hospital, she looked forward to trying to convince her husband that it was time for the devil to move out. She was old enough, and Grace would relax once she was gone.

Instead she was unceremoniously kicked out, and told to take a few days to sober up before calling by her seemingly uncaring husband. Obviously the love of her life was being manipulated by that evil witch!

So she kept coming back, cleaning little things and sending him sweet texts. All to no avail.

She finally decided to end it herself, and came when her husband wasn't home, but that devil was. Grace could almost see the monster's horns, and her teeth looked sharper than normal.

Once again it was working in the kitchen, humming a deceitfully happy tune as it pulled cookies out of the oven. She came to step behind it.

"You're in the way." The thing hissed, and Grace was shocked it had announced it's intentions so clearly as it hadn't before, obviously it no longer considered her a threat.

Grace pulled out a knife and lunged with a wordless cry. Apparently she caught the creature by surprise, because for a moment it just blinked at her. Then it quickly drew a black object from behind its back, and Grace felt pain. Some sort of demonic curse, she thought, before the blackness took her.


Confusion

Heather babbled on the phone to her father while the EMTs wheeled her step mother away on a stretcher. The woman was foaming at the mouth and shouting how she was a demon, and for the disconcerted men not to be fooled.

The teen just shook her head sadly and continued with her conversation. "Yeah, she snuck in again. I did just as you told me to, treating her as if she belonged here while I waited for the cops to show up. I just told her that she was in the way, because I was holding a tray full of cookies and she was between me and the cookie rack, when she just... she just snapped! She pulled a knife on me, daddy!" She told him tearfully.

"It's alright, honey. It's lucky that you had your gun on you. I'll be home in a few minutes, and we can just give the tapes to the cops, and that should clear it right up." He soothed.

"Yeah?" Heather sniffled, looking blearily down at the blood covered cookies on the ground.

"Yeah. Alright, I'm pulling into the neighborhood. I'll be there in a second."

She turned around and hugged herself with her other arm. "Kay." She said in a small voice, and pressed the end button.

She wished she could ask herself how it could come to this, but honestly she had seen something like this coming years ago, and had cautioned her father about it numerous times. Of course, he just shrugged her off.

He had met this woman online when Heather was only six, and married her not long after. At first it was great, but the woman began to get oddly jealous of Heather's older sister, to the point that she had convinced the girls' dad to restrict the teenager to the house. Back then he would do whatever his new wife wanted, to keep her happy. Of course, Heather's older sister rebelled at not being allowed to see a single one of her friends, and made bad decisions because of it.

And before long, the only person that protected Heather from her step mother's machinations was gone.

Heather began talking to her step sisters, drawing them outside to play more and more often in an effort to stay out from under Grace's foot.

Then her older step sister hit puberty, and stopped spending time with Heather and her younger step sister. She would act secretive, and began to get into fights with Heather's dad.

She moved out soon after that, choosing to live with relatives.

And then Grace began snubbing Heather while coddling her own daughter, and began using what Heather now realized was manipulative but subtle digs at her self esteem.

She began to grow solemn, and dress in baggy clothes, convinced that no one liked her. Until her father, who finally seemed to open his eyes, took her under his wing, where she managed to grow a bit more confident.

All the while the two sisters did not waver much in their loyalty to each other, and soon Heather's step sister was whispering about how claustrophobic she felt, and how she thought her mother was trying to live vicariously through her.

Heather tried to understand, but couldn't. So she just listened. And watched as, in her struggle for freedom, her sister got more fierce and surly. Finally she confided in Heather that she and her boyfriend were experimenting with things.

It saddened the teen to see what happened next. Her sister got pregnant with her low life boyfriend's child, and no amount of begging could convince her father to let the other girl stay.

And there was no buffer left between her and her step mother, as her father worked long hours most days while the woman remained unemployed.

That was when Heather began noticing the cracks in her step mother's psyche. Sometimes she would hear the woman whispering to herself and laughing at odd times. The teen wondered why her father didn't see the insanity in his wife's eyes, but then again, he was rarely home when the woman was sober.

Once she woke up in the middle of the night to find her step mother standing at her door, just staring.

After that Heather didn't sleep much, and asked her father for a gun. She had no plans to use it... but it would put her mind at ease. He agreed easily, as he had wanted one too. They would spend time at the gun range together, both avoiding the same person.

One very early morning, she found herself jumping from her bed where she had been quietly reading and running down stairs right behind her father to find his wife crouched to the ground, screaming piercingly while little white pills were spread around her.

At that point Heather's father had obviously had enough. He kicked his wife out of their house the day she got out of the institution, and Heather began to sleep at night again.

That is, until they would get home and things would be rearranged, and her father would get twenty blank texts a day from a number he didn't know.

They set up cameras around the house, though they both knew what was going on. Her father told her to always keep her gun on her, 'just in case'.

And all that led up to today, when Heather was alone. She had been humming the song from one of her favorite bands and had just gone to pull the pan from the oven when she heard the door open behind her. She went to turn to tell her father to help himself to the plate of already cooled confections on the counter, when she noticed it was not him, but that woman, and froze.

Swallowing heavily, she shakily closed the oven door and went for a calm tone like her father had instructed. The woman was standing in between her and the cookie rack was. "Y-you're in the way." She mumbled.

After that, it all happened so fast, the woman lunged at her, foaming at the mouth, a knife clutched in her hand, obviously out for blood. Before she could think about it, Heather's hand went to her back holster and closed around the grip of her gun. She bought it out quickly, and shot before she could think much, other than to aim non-lethally as possible.

The woman may never be able to rotate that shoulder normally again, but she would live. Heather could tell by the invectives she could still hear the woman spitting, even from inside the closed ambulance.

The teen jumped and squeaked when a large hand fell on her shoulder, and turned frightened, dazed eyes to the kind looking officer. "We know you were just protecting yourself, young lady. She should have heeded the restraining order your father put against her."

Heather nodded, her head feeling light, and almost fainted when she caught sight of her dad. She threw herself out the kitchen door and into him.

And briefly, in the sunlight, her eyes flashed red.


Constructive criticism is greatly welcomed!