The Wrong Family Page 1

Author: Tarryn Fisher

Genres: Thriller , Mystery

Part One



Juno was hungry. But before she could eat, she had to make it to the fridge without cutting herself.

She eyed a safe-ish route through the largest shards of glass that led past the island. She wore only thin socks, and as she stepped gingerly from a black tile to a white, it felt like she was playing a human game of chess. She’d heard the fight, but now she was seeing it in white porcelain shards that lay like teeth across the floor. She couldn’t disturb them, and she definitely couldn’t cut herself. When she rounded the island, she saw a green wine bottle lying on its side, a U-shaped crack spilling wine in a river that flowed beneath the stove.

Juno eyed all of this with mild curiosity as she arrived at her destination. The old GE hummed as she opened it, the condiments rattling in the door. The shelves were mostly empty—clean, but empty, Juno noted, the essence of this house and everything in it. Except today, she thought, looking back at the slaughtered dinnerware. She pressed two fingers to her lips and sighed into the fridge. They hadn’t been to the market. She tried to remember the last time they’d come home with bags of groceries, Winnie’s reusable sacks sagging as badly as Juno’s tits. They’ll go soon, she told herself. They had a child to feed, Samuel, and thirteen-year-olds ate a lot. But she was still worried. She pulled the only two Tupperware containers from the shelf, holding them up to the light. Spaghetti, three days old. It looked dried out and clumpy: they’d toss it tonight. She set that one on the counter. The other contained leftover fried rice. Juno held this one longer; she had smelled it cooking last night from her bed, her stomach grumbling. She’d tried to name the ingredients just by their smell: basil, onions, garlic, the tender green pepper Winnie grew in the garden.

Prying the lid off the container, she sniffed at its contents. She could just take a little, skim off the top. She ate it cold, sitting at the tiny dinette that looked out over the back garden. They’d been fighting about the house, and then money, and then Winnie had slammed the casserole dish on something—presumably not Nigel’s head, since he was alive and well as of this morning. The wine had been knocked over seconds later.

The clock above the doorway read ten seventeen. Juno’s sigh was deep. She’d run over-schedule, and that meant no time for a shower today. She ate faster, hurrying to wash her fork and dry it, then she tiptoed around the deceased casserole dish, making a face at the mess. She’d started a book a few days ago, and she wanted to get back to it. At sixty-seven there were few pleasures in life, but Juno considered reading one of them.

She glanced back once more to check the state of the kitchen, wondering who was going to clean up the mess. She liked the checkered black-and-white floor that Nigel was eager to trade for fabricated wood. The olive green fridge would have been impressive once on the Sears sales floor, and it made her heart flutter every time she walked into the kitchen. It was a lived-in kitchen, none of that sterile modernism you typically found in subdivisions named after trees. And she was lucky to be here. Greenlake was the type of neighborhood people were willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money to live in. She knew that, and so the last thing she wanted to do was upset her standing with the Crouches. She flicked the light off and stepped into the hallway, leaving their business to themselves. That wine was going to be a mess to clean up.

To Juno’s left and down six feet of hallway were the foyer and formal living room. The foyer was a depressing little alcove with stained-glass windows looking out over the park. It used to be paneled in dark wood, but Winnie had it painted white, which only moderately improved the overall feel of it. And then there were the family photos: studio portraits of Sam through the years as his teeth jutted from his gums like Chiclets. There were a couple of Nigel and Winnie, too, doing wedding things: Nigel in black tie and Winnie in a simple slip dress that was no doubt inspired by Carolyn Bessette’s on the day she married John Kennedy Jr. But despite the desperate attempt at cheerfulness, the foyer was doomed to look like a vestry. Juno had heard Winnie commenting on the gloominess and hinting endlessly at Nigel to do something about it. “We could have that tree outside the front door cut down. That would open up the room to so much light...” But her earnest suggestions fell on a man too distracted to hear them. Winnie had settled for keeping the light above the front door on at all times. Juno quietly sided with Winnie on this issue. The entryway was gloomy. But beyond the front doors, past a smallish, unfenced yard and then a busy street, was Greenlake Park. And that was the best thing about the house. Greenlake, a neighborhood in Seattle, was urban-suburban in feel, and its center was the lake and park after which it was named. Looping around the lake was a 2.8-mile nature trail. You could be homeless or a millionaire; on that trail it didn’t matter—people came, and walked, and shared the space.

Juno trudged right instead toward the rear of the house, and the hallway opened up to the family’s dining room on one end and a great room on the other. When she’d first moved in, she’d been startled by the clash of color and pattern that jumbled across the room.

Nudging a fallen throw pillow out of her way, Juno walked slowly to the bookshelves, flinching at the pain in her hips. She was limping today, and she felt every bit of year sixty-seven. The bookshelves were just a dozen feet away, but she paused at the halfway mark, standing still and closing her eyes until the pain passed. She’d get there eventually; she always did. When the throbbing passed, she shuffled forward, her joints crying out. It was a bad day; she was having more and more of those lately. If she could just make it to the bookcase...

It had been that way for quite some time, the disease raking its way across her joints. Her symptoms had felt flu-like initially, steadfast aches hanging on to her bones in meaty tendrils. But now it didn’t just merely hurt to move, her joints were on fire—the pain often so intense Juno wanted to die. Her extremities were always swollen, her fingers tinged blue like Violet Beauregarde’s face in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. To make matters worse, she was hit with five to six dizzy spells a day, and every time she fell it hurt worse, being that there was less and less of her to cushion the fall. She didn’t have a computer of her own, so she’d used the Crouches’ computer to Google the best diet for her condition, asking the big robot in the sky what foods she should and should not be eating. The big robot said to eat things like fish, beans and to drink a lot of milk. Juno had been eating a can of beans a day since, though she could do without the fish, and when she was especially angry with Winnie, she’d drink milk straight from the carton standing at the fridge.

There was a slight incline from the living room to the book nook; it was there that Juno failed to lift her toe in time due to an untimely dizzy spell. She stumbled sideways as top became bottom and bottom became top, and her thigh slammed into the sharp edge of a side table. Clear, sharp pain flared as she opened her mouth to cry out her surprise, but the only sound she made was a strangled gurgling before she fell. The last thing she saw was the spine of the book she was reading.

Next page