Miss Lizzie’s Tea Party
by Dawn Pisturino
Illustration by Ken Lamug
I never wanted to attend Miss Lizzie’s tea party, but mama insisted I go.
“Miss Borden is a kind and gentle lady,” she scolded. “I don’t want to hear anymore nonsense about those grisly axe murders! Rich young ladies like Miss Borden don’t go around chopping up people’s heads.”
“But Mama,” I protested. “Miss Lizzie and the maid were the only ones at home. Who else could have chopped off her father’s nose and split his eyeball in two?”
“That’s enough, Olivia,” Mama warned. “You’re going to the party, and that’s final.”
* * *
I had often seen Miss Lizzie sitting in an upstairs window, beckoning the neighborhood children inside for homemade cookies.
Every time she waved at me, my body quivered like gelatin fresh out of the mold. After all, this was the woman accused of hacking up her father and stepmother with a hatchet!
And even though the jury found Miss Lizzie innocent way back in 1893, folks ’round these parts never forget.
But I always reluctantly waved back, as Mama had taught me, and hurried home.
Then the invitation came. Miss Lizzie was hosting an afternoon tea party for all the children in the neighborhood.
Mama was so thrilled, she cleaned and pressed my prettiest, frilliest party dress and bought me a shiny new pair of shoes. “Papa’s law practice has been falling off lately,” she explained. “He needs a wealthy client like Miss Borden to get going again.”
Annie, the housemaid, curled my hair. “You can’t go, Miss Olivia, you just can’t. My mama told me never to go inside that house. I mean, never! And she should know. Bridget Sullivan, the Borden’s housemaid, told her there was blood and brains splattered everywhere. They found Abby Borden’s hair braid lying on the rug, sliced clean from her head!”
Tears welled up in my eyes. “I have to go, Annie. Mama will whip me with Papa’s razor strap if I don’t.”
“Well, don’t eat anything. She never admitted it, but Miss Lizzie tried to buy poison from Smith’s Drug Store right before the murders.”
* * *
Miss Lizzie opened the front door with a wide, toothy grin.
Every muscle in my body screamed, Run! Now! While you can!
But mama’s voice kept ringing in my ears. Miss Borden is a kind and gentle lady . . .
So I followed Miss Lizzie down the hall to an elegantly furnished drawing room — an empty drawing room. None of the other children had come. Cowards!
And then I saw it, gleaming by the fireplace, a shiny new axe!
Gold paint glittered along the sharp edge, marred by dark stains that looked like blood. I clenched my fists, trying hard to ease the queasiness in my stomach.
“You’re admiring my new axe,” Miss Lizzie said. She stepped closer, her pale blue eyes foggy with distant memories. “My father was quite skilled with an axe. One afternoon, I went into the barn and found my beloved pigeons lying on the ground with their heads chopped off. My father was standing over them, holding a bloody axe. I screamed and ran into the house.
“That night, Bridget served pie for dinner. Pigeon pie!” she said as her lips twisted into a smile.
The drawing room door opened then and a fat cook with a red face entered carrying a large pie in her hands. “Sit yourself down, my dear. The pie is ready to eat! I got lucky, Miss Lizzie. I found our special ingredient at Smith’s Drug Store.”
Smith’s Drug Store! I grabbed my reeling head, ready to faint at any moment. Pie! Poisoned pigeon pie!
Screaming, I lunged for the axe and swung it around, knocking the pie out of the cook’s hands, slicing off her forefinger. She howled in pain as blood spurted from the wound. I swung the axe around again, nicking Miss Lizzie’s ear. Fluffy brown curls fluttered to the floor, sliced neatly from her head.
Miss Lizzie tackled me to the ground and held me there while the cook bound her bloody hand with a towel and telephoned the police. My chest heaved with great, gulping sobs as Miss Lizzie’s face drew closer and closer until her lips brushed against my ear.
“You see how easy it is,” she whispered.
Published in the February 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.
Copyright 2012-2016 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! MAKE IT SCARY!