Daddy is a Plumber, and Mama makes the money, it's a hedge fund supposedly, but in a similar way to how most children learn about Santa, near the middle of the year upon opening a closet, Epiphany learned the truth. Unlike most children though… “Oh Pip, where’d you get that idea?” Daddy asked, little children don’t always understand things of course.
“I don’t know. She’s always hiding things.” She pointed out, she was still learning.
“Well, people sometimes do that on accident. I mean we didn’t even know about you until you were here.”
“Yep.” and that was that. At six years old she knew about her mother, and that very day her father decided, Mama ain’t a killer. Just like how six years before that he’d decided at the airport, Epiphany is a miracle, and Santa must be real.
That year they went to Siberia on purpose, and Mama stopped off at a checkpoint without dad even noticing. She supposed that it's a hedge fund if you find the money in a hedge.
Mama denies it, but she’s covering still, and Epiphany knows better than to bother mama about all that. On some level, Epiphany knows, if mama’s hiding something like this then it might be very dangerous for her to know it too.
As she grows, slim and slight, and really over-praised for her features, Epiphany knows she’s not dad’s. Looking at her hands, or at her skin, at her face or just her blood type, it’s very unlikely that she’s her father’s child. It's the kind of thing you notice when you go to an eclectic school, children mostly look like their parents.
As she watches her siblings grow, younger but still hand in hand with their parent’s as far as appearances, she grows more certain.
“Mama, why doesn’t my skin look like yours?” she asked one day, thinking about it way too often. They traveled a lot, and cops are weird about it.
Mama, for all her unmotherlyness, sensed her concern, “Coloring is decided by the interactions of many genes so it’s not that rare to see a difference between members in a family.” She points out dispelling a very real worry with very real numbers. “It's a big part of how some law enforcement agencies lose track of criminals. If your data is off then descriptions can be rendered useless.” That part is true. While the major gene groups studied for the sake of identification are considered statistically relevant, collection bias, degradation, and just plain human error made even D.N.A fallible. The thought that her appearance however different from her parents was just the result of recessive interactions was comforting at the time.
“Oh. Is that why dad never said anything?” she asked, wanting to know that her daddy believed in her even if it was a question she didn’t want to ask him specifically.
“Well, you were born in Italy.”
“I didn’t know dad was racist.”
“He isn’t. He’s just never needed to think much.” Mama points out. She loves Daddy for who he is and not anything else. “He’s still a very good father. Almost makes up for my skills. I think he would be no matter what.”
“Okay.”, but Epiphany still thought after that, mama’s a liar. They all went to Guam that year, and Epiphany wasn’t surprised at all to see that such an important man was found without his tongue while listening to the news.
She also learned she was allergic to shrimp but that was neither here nor there.
Marielle Abel, that was her birth mother’s name. Marked for death by Mariana Bellini for twice the care and keeping of a Swiss prisoner. Drowned in a bathtub, drugs in the system, recent birth redacted.
Epiphany read the report, something that should’ve been burned. “I’m adopted?”
“To a fashion. I wasn’t expecting you either way.” mama smiled, thinking back to the story of how she’d been born. “I don’t think Marielle was either, come to think of it.”
“Why are you telling me this now?”
“Because I’m getting older, your siblings. I don’t think they’ll be cut out for this life.”
“Mom, they're not even-” at that point, they were seven and eight, and very different from Epiphany at those ages.
“Besides, you’ve known for a while. Haven’t you?”
“Since I was six.”
“Your dad told me about it. He thought it was so cute, I couldn’t help agreeing. But it was a risk… or it would’ve been a risk if you weren’t also careful.” She said, holding old relief in her heart. Would mama have killed her to keep her secret? “There's a place in this world for careful children Pip.”
Epiphany could’ve chose differently, watching the waters shining blue, but she really did love their vacations.
Twice over that into a baker's dozen, Santa’s still real and Dad doesn't know a thing. Mama makes her money, and Epiphany has too, for about three years. She’s an apprentice, even if mama ain’t her mother. And Daddy ain’t her’s either.
She even takes jobs by herself. Nothing big, nothing worthless, but her age was an asset even if she weren’t slight of frame. She was unassuming if she kept her mouth shut, and if she paid attention. Well, there wasn’t much depth to such conventional lust.
And well, it was easy to kill a man when thirteen was old enough.
She isn’t even really touching the guy as the paralytic leaves him at her mercy, something barely noticeable. It’s prison pay, straight out of the U.S.A. like any first or second year killer. He’s not her first, and as his stiffy stays on his own ill-thought medication, she knows he’s not her last.
She doesn’t suffer to kiss the creep, but she plays the role well enough, “oh no, oh no. You’re not supposed to die like that! Are you alright? I’m Calling an ambulance.” she holds in her amusement, why shouldn’t she leave the guy a bit guilty as he died?
‘Look, look, even the cheap young thing would rather help than hurt!’ She ran into the bathroom, as the man, the guy who thought he’d get anything out of her, expired without her assistance.
It was that simple. Most of her kills to this point were that simple.
Mama always picked easy people. Old men with bad taste.
The kinds of people that Epiphany didn’t need to feel sorry over. She sits down for a minute, decides if she wants to clean up or just leave things as they were, the bathroom for all its blandness was spacious at least.
She opens the bathroom door again to see the man’s body, dead as a doornail and heavy on the bed. She was almost sorry for the guy who cleans the scenes up, but knowing the types who take up that kind of work, that selfish sorrow might look like plain old pity.
Epiphany didn’t like plain old pity, there were way more interesting forms to exhibit.
She looked up at the entrance, the viewer no longer central, instead replaced by dad, his worried face, and a rather tense implication of what had gone on in the hotel room before he got there.
An adult man dead on the only bed, his daughter underdressed just leaving the bathroom. Dad was an innocent person, he really really didn’t need to see this or think anything in particular. This wasn’t normal. “Dad! What are you doing here?”
“I followed you here. I didn’t manage to catch up before…” his hand landed on his forehead, and slid down over his mouth, before he really looked at her, “How long has this been going on? Do I need to take you to a clinic? Do I have to kill this guy?”
“Oh, well. He’s probably very dead already.” Epiphany says as she rushes over the bed to check his pulse in his neck, the much smaller depression she makes on the bed making her queasy.
Luckily for her, he is actually very dead. But daddy still doesn’t look very happy.
“So what? It's okay for you to kill the guy in my honor, but it’s wrong for me to just kill the guy on my own?” Epiphany asked, only a little defensive about killing the guy.
Dad looked really, really hurt then, like she’d just crushed his heart. Then he walked over to her, and rather than do the same to her, just laid his jacket on her shoulders. “No. It’s just. Did you have to touch him? He could be carrying anything.” he pointed out.
“Oh. I’ll just go wash my hands. I guess.” She said, before doing so.
Epiphany was still swimming in her dad’s jacket, her trauma blanket at the moment since dad saw her. They’d left the hotel using a back entrance, and the guy would be in to clean soon. Dad wasn’t expecting to leave that way, but she guessed he was happy to not be burying the waste of space she’d killed.
She couldn’t help being a bit ashamed walking into their hotel, dad was fetching her something decent while she waited in the hall, since she really wasn’t wearing anything proper to sleep in. He didn’t want her seen by her siblings either.
Things were nice.
But then she heard yelling, dad was angry at mom? She slammed open the door, and there mama was dressed to the nines, in a lady Santa Claus costume, red velvet and fluffy, and frankly inappropriate given the length and purpose. She was supposed to distract Dad while Epiphany was out on her mark.
Mama was apparently bad at this. “She’s adopted,” her mother says, throwing her under the bus.
“You weren’t supposed to tell!”
“Not relevant Lilian. What the hell kind of financial position are we in that our daughter is selling herself?” her father said, though she’d been blindsided at the moment hearing her mother’s name in his voice.
“Sellin’?! Dad, you think I have to put-out for this? That’s not happening!” Epiphany defended, a lot could be said of her first-time job but she’s never needed to go that far for a kill. She was half way certain that her mother hadn’t either.
“I’m not judging you honey, but money is always a factor in these things and your mother is too type-A to just let you out by yourself like this.” he said, which is fair, if her mother was anything it was that.
“You think I’m a pimp?” her mother asked quite frankly, heartbroken, despite being her handler, which given the definition of the term was scarcely a hair above it.
“I don’t know what to think anymore.” Which as a man of few thoughts must have been extraordinary. Dad left the room, ice box in hand, with all the drama of someone who was thinking of calling the cops but knew very well that it wouldn’t be worth it in this economy.
“So, how’s that Pimp-Hand mom?” Epiphany said almost the second he left the room.
“That’s just uncalled for.”
She looked over at her mom, “Hey, no need to slap an orphan.”
“Jeez, Epiphany. Is that really all you have to say right now?” her mom asked, completely serious in a much oversexed Mrs. Santa Claus outfit.
“Oh come on! It’s a little funny, we get stopped everytime we go anywhere, cause I don’t look like you, and now I’m doing illicit work for you because you're worried you're aging out.” Epiphany jokes, “It’s hilarious.”
Her mom scrunched up her face at the statement, “Wait. That’s actually accurate. I mean, I’m not that old. But we do come from a long line of killers.” she said with a nonchalance that was comparable to discussing something actually heritable. Like eye color or earwax consistency.
“Talk about Illicit work.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, tell it to the Mounties.”
“I would, where’s my birth certificate?” she asked, thinking back to the memory. It had been weird to realize how accurate their concern was, even if it was mostly down to appearances.
“In my purse.” she said, “Can’t ever leave home without it.”
“Oh.” Epiphany, didn’t have anything to say to that. Life was always gonna be trouble, “I’m sorry I got caught.”
But mom was still quiet for a moment, before saying, “I should’ve known your father was going to follow you. He never passes up a game of Santa’s Lap.”
“Oh really, so he’s more up for playing catch a predator?” Epiphany asked, still peeved, “I almost felt bad this time. He was so worried. Dad ain’t supposed to be worried.”
“It’s his job to worry about you. It was just vinegar and a spot of bad luck.” Mom defended her reasoning, “If it helps, I didn’t think the secret would last this long.”
“It would have, if I weren’t smart at seven.”
“Same difference. I should take my shower now.”
The shower set up was almost identical to the one in the adjoining room, a bit too narrow one way, a bit too spacious in the other, and the shower head was set about a mile up from where she could reach comfortably.
Epiphany would’ve loved to be statuesque or something like that, but she supposed she should be happy with her height. She was never going to be too tall for anyone.
Thankfully, she wasn’t actually grimy in any concerning way from her job, so it was more a case of degreasing her face from the glamor of it. Once she felt less like an oil slick and more like a very naked person in a bathroom she decided to dry off.
After turning off the faucet and tugging on a towel she decided to wait at the door for a minute while she dried. When she heard voices she decided to stay put.
“Pip. She’s known for a while. But you’ve been doing it for longer. Like since before you knew me?”
“I think I know why you didn’t say anything. I- people didn’t keep it to themselves what they’ve thought over the years.”
“Of course they didn’t. She didn’t either. I was always worried before, what would happen.”
“I didn’t know why you never said-” but dad was cut off.
“What kind of crazy woman comes home to her boyfriend with an adopted baby? I had to lie.” which was actually the most honest thing she’d ever heard from her mother.
“So whose is she?”
“She was a- she was a Mark’s. Marielle Abel for Twice Swiss. She was so beautiful, Greg. I couldn’t just leave her there.” Her mom finally admitted it, “She was so much of what I wanted from you.”
“You wanted a shock-birth in a bathtub?” her dad asked, once hating how guilty the story made him, then pride over how trusted he was with the results, and now a somber trust that the story was wholly accurate only to some other woman he’d never even met.
“Honestly, I just wanted you.”
But her dad had to say his piece, “My folks used to say I didn’t have to believe you. They were so crass, like you couldn’t really… I thought, every possible thing.” Dad said quietly, “I was ready to mutilate a dead man earlier tonight.”
“We have people for that.” which they did, but it was rather funny to hear her say so to her father.
“I guessed that. I was ready to implicate you if she’d been- I was so ready, but you don’t need it from me. You kill people, my daughter kills people.” he breathed, “I didn’t even suspect it.”
“No, no you wouldn’t.” Mama said happily, “You’ve always seen the best of me, overlooked everything else. Epiphany was always going to be a surprise, and I think she was always going to know.”
“I still don’t know how she can stomach it. I raised her, no matter what else.” He sighed, “I can’t imagine her being so ready to watch people die.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. She’s always been brilliant, strong willed, and sensible.” her mama said brightly, bragging even on her pride and joy, “In fact, I don’t think she’d be so certain, or good an assassin if you weren’t such a good father.”
Her dad was trying to be silent at that but she was certain she heard a hitched breath on his part, and she was scared.
“She knows good men exist, and she knows that so much better than I did at her age.” It was the second certain and honest thing she’d ever heard from her mother, and really by then, she was ready to say she was dry, and leave the bathroom.
Epiphany never thought she’d see her dad cry over something like this, over who she was, or what she’s done. She’d always sort of thought it could stay a secret if she kept it too. Outside the bathroom she had no clue what to do, and as her mother held him she wasn’t even sure she was more than a pawn to make her mother’s lie easier to bear.
“I’m still yours right?” She asked, not wanting to be right…
“Oh sweetheart, get over here.” he said, gesturing for a hug and well, it’s so hard to be sorry when everything was going to be okay.