The house was quiet. Too quiet.
From up in her room, Eleanor's ears were more sensitive, not to noise, but to silence. The normal sounds of the house- Clarissa practicing her singing or dancing, Thomas playing the piano or arguing with Simon, and Simon running up and down the stairs or arguing with Thomas- were nowhere to be heard.
The hot cocoa that her mother had given her this morning lay untouched on her desk, and as she tapped her feet nervously, waiting for the normal noise to resume, some of it spilled, staining the book that she was reading.
"Shit," Eleanor whispered, already mentally planning a trip to town to buy a new copy. She pulled herself up off of the bed and walked downstairs, wondering all the while what was going on with her siblings.
The trek down felt almost... longer than usual, and Eleanor couldn't shake the lingering feeling that something was horribly wrong. She walked faster, shoes tapping on the wooden stairs. By the time she got to the bottom, she was almost running. As she rounded the corner into the salon, hoping to find all of her siblings, miraculously, reading books or doing some other silent activity, she stopped in her tracks.
All three of her younger siblings were still. Clarissa was lying back on the couch, Simon was face down, having landed on top of his tin shoulders, and Thomas was slumped over on the piano bench. Hot cocoa mugs had spilled next to all three of them. Eleanor just stood there, not believing her eyes.
"Alright, you three," she said, forcing a smile to her face as she played along with their joke. "You've sufficiently frightened me. You can get up now."
No one moved. Not even Simon, who would've almost certainly popped right up and wrapped his arms around her waist, apologizing profusely for scaring his eldest sister.
"This isn't funny anymore. Clarissa! Thomas! Simon! Get up this instant!"
This would have typically stirred Thomas, who would have grumbled that Eleanor was not his mother, before returning to his piano practicing. And practical jokes were awfully out of character for Clarissa.
Unfreezing her muscles, Eleanor raced to one of her siblings after another, first shaking them violently and screaming into their ears, before taking each cold wrist in her hand and feeling for a nonexistent pulse.
Then she let out an ear piercing scream, gathered Simon's body into her arms, and yelled for her mother.
Despite her oldest child's hysterical screaming, Rose Waverly took her time. She entered the room what must have been only a minute or two after Eleanor's first scream, but to the eldest Waverly child it felt like an eternity. When she finally entered, Rose placed her hand on Eleanor's shoulder and joined her in staring down at Simon. When her daughter looked up, she noticed that there were slow tears dripping down her mother's cheeks, quite unlike the wrenching sobs and screams that were tearing their way free from Eleanor's throat.
"Eleanor, my dear," said Rose quietly and steadily. "Why didn't you drink your cocoa? Didn't you like it?"
Tearing her eyes away from Simon's little body laying in her lap, Eleanor turned her gaze to her mother.
The kitchen knife in Rose's hand clicked the pieces into place in Eleanor's mind, and she started to rise to her feet, fury and grief combining in her heart.
She didn't have time to tell her mother what they both knew was true before Rose Waverly had grabbed Eleanor's hair in one of her hands and sliced the knife across her throat with the other.
The strange feeling of blood pouring down the front of her dress registered with Eleanor before she felt the pain. She couldn't scream. She could barely even breathe.
"I'm so sorry, my darlings," Rose whispered, before dropping the knife next to her dying daughter and exiting the room.
It was a moment before Eleanor heard a shrill scream from the cellar.
She gripped Simon's cold hand in her own and everything went black.