"A Good Home-Cooked Meal" by Alexandria Villegas
She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. William watched as Sue Anderson wandered through the aisles of Sammy’s Grocery Mart from his place behind the counter. As he worked, he couldn’t help but glance at Sue every now and then. She was enthralling. Everything about her beckoned to be recognized, her ability to captivate and command attention was but one of her many powers. A picturesque vision of silken-blonde hair and fair skin, she had dark-blue eyes and a voice like the melody of the birds in the early-morning light. She was almost ethereal.
The Andersons had moved into town nine years ago, and, from what was said amongst the townsfolk, they were good people. A quiet, humble family, they were hardworking and devout, yet incredibly private. No one saw much of them except for the occasional trek into town for supplies, though when Sue’s parents died just after her eighteenth birthday, she started visiting the store on a regular basis, where she was usually surrounded by potential suitors. Yet at each advance she’d brush them off with dignity and grace, ever so gently rejecting their feelings so as not to fully discourage or hurt their delicate sensibilities. And, at the end of each day, she would walk alone down the same dirt road back to her family’s house on the outskirts of town.
William stared dumbfounded as Sue approached the counter of the checkout line.
“Hey, Will,” Sue said. She reached into the pocket of her blue, gingham dress as William forced himself to think straight. “How are you?”
“Oh,” he said. “I’m doin’ mighty fine, Miss Sue. Just workin’.” He cleared his throat. “How about you?”
“I’m doin’ alright,” she shrugged. She gave him the money from her pocket and put a large sack of potatoes, five cans of cream-of-mushroom soup, and several onions on the counter.
“You havin’ company over? That’s enough food to feed an army.”
“As a matter of fact I am, but we could use one more, if you have the time.”
“Really, Miss Sue, I’m flattered, but . . .” He was going to say he had to work but changed his mind. “Ya know what?” He took off his apron. “It just wouldn’t be right to let you carry all this back by yourself. Mr. Sam’ll understand.” William grabbed the bag of potatoes off the counter and rushed to hold the door for her.
“Alrighty, then.” Her ruby-red lips smiled to reveal gleaming white teeth.
Sue was certainly glad that Will was joining her as the two left the store and headed down the dirt road toward her home. She’d always had an eye for William, who was tall, with short golden hair and deep brown eyes. “Man,” she thought, as the bright afternoon sun illuminated his features and her own hair like the sunlight falling on fields of wheat, “he looks good enough to eat. We must look positively radiant together.” But being a lady, she kept that thought to herself. Before long, they turned at the crossroads that led straight to Sue’s house.
“Did you hear about Joshua?” William asked.
“His family hasn’t seen him in weeks. No one knows where he is, and his mother’s been lookin’ everywhere.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’s okay.” Sue fixed the collar of her dress. “It’s been some time since I last saw him, but he was just fine.”
“When was that?”
“Why, we hung out at Mae’s a few weeks ago. Do you really think he’s in trouble?”
“I dunno. But I’m worried. He’s the second one missing this month.”
Sue and Will approached the quaint little house nestled between a clutter of maple trees. They walked up the porch steps, and Will stepped aside so Sue could open the door.
“Oh, Will. You know Mr. Johnson had been dying to leave this town.”
“But it wasn’t like him to just up and leave. Not without Liz and the kids.”
“Some people are just weird like that. I know a fellow that’s plenty peculiar. When I first met him, I thought he was a real monster—”
They stepped inside the house and made for the kitchen. Sue took the cotton tablecloth off the dining table, and Will set down the groceries. He got to work on washing the potatoes, as Sue grabbed an apron from the hook next to the stove.
“—but he’s not a monster at all. He’s just always hungry. He keeps saying, ‘My darlin’ Sue, can you please give me some food?’” She peeled the potatoes. “So I offered to make him my Momma’s famous meat and potato casserole, but he said he wasn’t interested. Which I thought was just rude, refusing my generous hospitality. Like my Momma always used ta say, people outside the South just don’t get it. But of course my Mamma taught me right, so I went to the store to get the food anyway. I figured if I make him the casserole, he’s gonna have to change his mind.”
“Well, I don’t think he’s worth your time.”
“Probably. But he’s my guest, and I’m not one to fib. I did invite him over after all. Ummm . . .Will, can you be a dear and get my big pot from the top shelf? I’m almost done.”
“Use the chair right there. But, be careful, it’s a bit rickety.”
Will grabbed the chair and brought it up to the countertop. Stepping on the chair, he reached for the top cupboard when he slipped and fell off, hitting his head on the sink and knocking the potatoes to the floor.
“Oh, dear. Look at this mess.” Sue reached over to check on Will. “Oh, darn.”
Sue heaved Will onto the chair, then gathered up the potatoes scattered on the floor. By the time Will came to, she had just cut them and put them on the stove.
“Aww, there you are. You hit your head when you fell. But don’t worry, you didn’t miss dinner. I just put the potatoes on.” Her teeth glared from behind her red mouth as she smiled at Will, who was gagged and tied to the kitchen chair.
“Oh, hush now. You know it’s not proper to try and talk with your mouth full, and it’s definitely not flattering.” She examined the knife in her hand. “Ya know, you just made it too easy. I told you that chair was crooked.”
“He’s a sweetheart, my friend. But he just keeps ranting, ‘It’s not right, Miss Sue. Eating people’s just nasty.’ But I’m just tryin’ a get him to improve his diet.”
Sue went back to the stove to check on the potatoes.
“So I figured, I’d make him the casserole, and he’ll try it and see it’s delicious. Now I’m not a picky eater, but I get that some folks are, and I’m definitely one to cater to ‘um. Like I could just straight up eat you, but I guess he can’t. So no biggie, just a little casserole, and he’ll be eatin’ in no time.”
“What are you doing, Miss Sue?” said a thin, pale figure with beady eyes and a ghastly black mouth.
“Awww, there you are, darlin’. I was just makin’ supper. Meat and potato casserole, just as I promised.”
“I told you not to make it,” the thing said, with a voice like gravel.
“But it’s gonna be delicious,” Sue said with a frown.
“I’m sure it will be. But, Sue—”
“Look, I don’t wanna argue. So just go kill him, so I can make supper.”
The creature made its way over to her and placed its razor-sharp fingers on her shoulders.
“No, Sue. I don’t want to eat it if he’s the main ingredient.”
“I can find someone else—”
“No, Sue. You’re missing the point. I don’t want to eat anybody, and I don’t want to kill him.”
“Really? What kind of monster are you, anyway?” Sue threw the creature’s arms off her shoulders. Her hair, the color of decaying bones, fell behind her in a dull heap that brought out the black in her eyes as her features darkened, contorting into something truly wicked.
“This is wrong, Miss Sue.”
“You are nothing ! I wouldn't've summoned you if I’d known you’d just be a waste of space! You’re here because of me. I brought you here, and I can send you right back.”
“I’m not going to help you hurt people.”
“You’re nothing. Absolutely nothing.” She turned her back away from the creature.
The creature went to take a step towards her, but stopped.
“I may look frightening, Sue.” There was a long pause, as the creature chose his words. “But you’re the real monster.”
Alexandria Villegas is majoring in Film at Woodbury University. When not on campus, she lives in Bellflower, California, with her family. She has always loved to read and write, and she has undertaken a minor in Professional Writing to enhance her skills. In her free time, she enjoys reading, drawing, listening to music, or playing video games.