Middle Child

“How do you want to die?”

It was an odd question on any given day, and it certainly caught the middle daughter off guard now. It was not, at the very least, the response she’d expected to get to ‘please, pass the salt’, after her little sister had shaken a very liberal amount over her own dish. She did hope there was some left.

“I want to die in excitement, in some kind of romantic, devastatingly dramatic sort of way.” The youngest went on to answer the very question which she had asked. She examined her own gorgeous reflection in the back of her spoon as she spoke, pursing her lips and fluffing her long, luscious locks of strawberry-blonde hair. The middle daughter assumed this was the sole reason she even set her spot at the table with a spoon for herself at all, as she certainly did not need one to eat her meal of steak and potatoes.

“I want to be the heroine of a tragic love story,” she continued dreamily as she exchanged the spoon for a fork and a steely, silver knife- nearly knocking over her wine glass in the process. She began to slice into the extra-rare slab of meat. “I want to die young. I want to be remembered as beautiful, just as I am now.”

She exhaled wistfully before spearing a bit of steak with her fork. She pulled it from the silvery prongs with perfect teeth, accidentally dribbling a bit of blood onto her chin- a ruby hue that nearly matched her painted, swollen lips precisely. She quickly wiped it up with the corner of her napkin, marring the otherwise pristine, white cloth with a small smear of scarlet.

“I suspect I shall die soon,” she finished with a sigh. She then turned her attention to the woman across from her. “And what about you, dear sister?” Her golden hair shimmered in the candlelight as she cocked her lovely face to one side.

“How do you want to die?”

The eldest daughter slowly blinked her milky, pale blue eyes. She held her tea gingerly in her veiny hands as she contemplated, blowing gently over the steaming surface. The soup in front of her was also piping hot, and perhaps this was why she had yet to so much as touch her silverware. The middle daughter wondered if it was merely out of habit that she bothered to set her own place with a knife, three forks, and a spoon, for surely bone broth only required the use of one of those utensils.

“I think…” she began slowly, as she stared pensively into the contents of her porcelain cup. Her lined eyes looked benignly back at her, her wiry, gray hair a sparse frame around her wrinkled features. “…that I would like to die peacefully, in my sleep. To pass into death in a serene slumber.”

She sighed as well. “I suspect I shall die soon.”

They both fixed their gazes on the woman in the center. “And what of you, dear sister?” the eldest asked somberly.

“How do you want to die?”

The middle daughter bit her lower lip as she thought. She examined her own supper- chicken breast and boiled carrots. How very bland. And thanks to her younger sister’s need to be excess, there was not even a grain of salt left to add any flavor.

She took a tentative sip of cold water while she thought. The ice clicked softly against the glass.

“I think…” she started with her brows furrowed. She set her drink down gently, wiping the condensation on her long skirt beneath the table.

“I think… I think I do not want to die. I do not want to die at all.”

She got quite suddenly to her feet, causing the legs of her chair to screech in a disarmingly loud manner as they scraped across the wooden floor. Her sisters looked up at her in surprise.

The youngest daughter had a knife in her hand and blood on her lips. The eldest daughter had yet to taste her tea or touch her spoon.

The middle daughter left the table and never returned.

 

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