There was no way in hell Marie Connelly was going to bake one kind of cookie. Tonight she was going to host her first ever cookie exchange party and she was almost incoherent with glee having being given the opportunity to finally display her inherent baking talents to the world. Yes, she loved sugar cookies but she loved them more when they were shaped into Christmas trees with red and green frosting and edged in white with sprinkles covering them. But the presupposition that she was just going to bake sugar cookies tonight was as farfetched as finding a man hiding in her bathroom. Roving eyes would flood her house tonight, invading and infringing on her property but she would make sure that their ocular abilities would not be disappointed as well as their abilities to taste.
Gingerbread cookies, meringue cookies, strawberry shortbread cookies, butter cookies with a light dusting of sugar and chewy cherry cookies all covered the old dining room table that she had decorated with red and white linen cloths laid diagonally on its wooden surface and christened in tiny stars and festive candies and other emblems of the season. Marie spent the day steeped in cookie batter and frosting and thought to herself, who could resist Marie Connelly's homemade baking? Her prerogative for a lonely existence came across as peculiar to the people in town, especially as she filled the so called void with her heedless production of baked goods. Mingling with the neighbors was cumbersome for Marie and was deemed a dead requirement to her for belonging to a circle of people who held knives to your back, the minute you turned it.
She once got wind of a rumor circling around town that she was a witch because she liked baking so much and with the mention of 'Hansel and Gretel' she knew what they meant. They passed it off as a joke but the damage had already been done. Marie was in the kitchen that day, baking as usual and recalled the staggering mess that was made as the flour spilled over the bowl and splashed on to the floor as she rubbed the butter into it. The egg and sugar batter splattered the walls of the kitchen as she beat them in her brand new cake mixer because she turned up the speed a little too high due to the unprecedented anxiety pulverizing her. She was believed to be a good person but untapped stress made it impossible for her to maneuver her emotions down a steady path. Under these conditions, her feelings took on a life of their own, morphing and changing design depending on the extent of the toxicity of the gossip fueling it. It was like opening a secret hole in the ground that had been locked up for years, you never know what's inside or how it's going to affect your existence but one thing's for sure, is that nothing good is going to come out of it.
Marie's mind had turned and now took on the look of storm clouds, dark with energy and it would take days for it to return to it's normal inclination. Someone must pay for the tarnishing of her reputation and for making a fool of her just because they had the capability of speech and she knew just who it was. Tonight she must play the role of the spider and hide in the shadows, crouching and positioning herself to pounce on her hapless victim at the right time.
Claudia would be here tonight and accompanying her would be her ardent hypocrisy and pretentiousness. With her husband being the town's pharmacist, she felt as if she was a cut above the rest and just like in high school, she didn't need a reason to make someone's life miserable. She was pretty and middle aged like Marie and was known to be a staunch busy body. Many marriages in town were short lived due to her idle input and the misuse of her tongue. Once there was a young girl in town, who walked around with a stain on her reputation as big as the state of Texas. Claudia started a rumor that she had an affair with the mayor of the town and although it was proven to be untrue, since the mayor was the girl's uncle. She was staying with him because she had just moved into the area and had no where else to go. She saw to it that her precious words were not in vain when she started another lie that the girl had an abortion to end an illegitimate pregnancy, which never happened but the talk caught on and before she knew it, according to Claudia, she was 'guilty of the sin' of living with her uncle and had gotten pregnant for him. She was forced to move out of town. But calling Marie a witch and watching it catch on and thereby almost ruining her hard earned title as the town's baker, she had to pay.
The Victorian era house left to her by her maternal grandmother was filled to capacity with people from town. Claudia came as was expected and brought chewy, chocolate chip cookies. She would never miss an opportunity to pry, especially inside Marie Connelly's house, but tonight she was in for a rude awakening. Everything inside the house was immaculate from housekeeping to interior decorating, and so there was no room for criticism from the slack tongued Claudia. The sheriff's wife came and brought raspberry shortbread cookies. She was a slight woman, soft spoken but had a straying tongue like Claudia. The deputy's wife also came and she brought coconut clumps which Marie decided to keep for herself. Soon her house was overflowing with people and cookies and before she knew it she was being complimented for her success in holding the cookie exchange party. Gradually everyone left with their assortment of cookies. Some of the guests were seeking out Claudia to say goodbye to her, but somebody said that she left early and someone else confirmed it and they left it like that.
Marie put away her assortment of cookies in their individual, appropriate storage containers and meticulously washed her dishes and placed some in the dishwasher. She swept the floors and removed the decoration from the old dinning table and placed her vase of yellow roses back where they belonged. She smile at them and then went back to the kitchen and made a cup of herbal tea and cut a sliver of apple pie she had in the refrigerator and put them on a small platter. Taking the platter with her, she hummed a tune as she switched off the kitchen lights and closed the door behind her. Still humming her tune, she pulled out a bunch of keys from her apron pocket and opened the door to the basement and switched on the lights. Gingerly she made her way down the steep steps.
"Here you go, Claudia. From what I hear, you are watching your figure, so I made you some herbal tea and just thin slice of apple pie that I hear you love." Marie said, sliding the tray under the thin space between the steel bars and the basement floors. Claudia was sitting on the floor inside a cage with her hands tied and her mouth gagged and was making frantic muffled sounds. Marie cut the tie straps from her wrists and Claudia wasted no time in pulling off the duct tape from over her mouth.
"You will never get away with this.........oh my god you can't do this to me you, you witch!"
"Maybe I am, but you will never see the light of day again to tell anyone the truth."
Claudia started to scream but was coldly ignored by her captor as she quietly made her way up the basement stairs and took off the light.