Chapter One: Shrooms
April killed her father while Mom was at a PTA meeting.
Her teachers were probably saying great things about her. April was the kind of teenager who makes adults wish they could go back and try high school over again. She was (in order of ascending importance) intelligent, funny, athletic, beautiful and popular.
And she was also, at the moment, searching for poisonous mushrooms.
April stepped delicately over the splayed branches of a fallen tree, stopping to pull a puff mushroom out of the dark, moist innards of rotten wood. She thought about it for a second, brushing her light bangs out of her placid blue eyes. Then she dropped it on the ground and continued through the woods. Lot of people knew that “puff” mushrooms, or amanita phalloides, were poisonous, and they weren’t as easy as many poisonous mushrooms to confuse with edible ones. Just in case someone found her out, she didn’t want any doubt that this was purely accidental.
She found what she was looking for at another downed tree; its trunk had become a farm for galerina mushrooms, whose deadly toxins quickly destroy your liver. Other edible fungi were spotted throughout the bunches of little brown mushrooms. She plucked them all, dropping them into the white mixing bowl she had used throughout her childhood to collect blackberries from the woods behind their farmhouse.
Tears blurred her vision as she worked, but it didn’t matter; she wanted a mixture of safe and deadly mushrooms, so it didn’t matter which ones she twisted off the dead tree.
In the kitchen, she quickly sautéed the Italian sausage, onions and mushrooms together, then turned down the heat and left them simmering on the stove as she walked down the hall to her father’s room. She worried just leaving her toxic dish alone for a minute. It was unlikely anyone would wander into the house and taste-test, but the burden of one death was quite enough for her.
“Daddy?” she asked, sticking her head in the door. He looked up and smiled when he saw her. His face was so thin now that his smile seemed too big, oddly jarring. But April smiled back, her wide smile the mirror image of what his had been.
“Come on in, Princess,” he said, patting the bed besides him weakly. “Is dinner ready?”
April nodded as she went to adjust the covers over him, fussing with the blue-and-white quilt on the transplanted hospital bed. “It’s ready. But are you sure you want to go through with this?”
“I’m sure,” he said. “We’ve got a solid plan. I’m sure this will work.”
With the sheets and quilt straightened, she made herself sit down, even though she was buzzing with nervous energy. “Well. I must say I’m disappointed with you, Daddy. I always thought you were too much of a bastard to ever die.”
“That hardly seems fair,” he said. “I’m nothing but proud of you. You’re gorgeous, very bright – despite that one incident with the toaster – and you grew into one tough young woman, to do this for me.”
She got up, leaned to kiss him on top of the head. His thick sandy-blond hair had come out as easily as new grass, almost a year ago; it had been replaced with white puffs, dandelion seeds across his scalp.
“I’ll get your dinner,” she said.