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The Ballad of Linda Monroe/Zoey Chambers

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She climbed out of the SUV to which she’d been driven to the luxurious estate owned by her own father just thirty minutes away from her home. She was dressed as neatly as she always was, in her signature white turtleneck, her blonde hair trimmed, not a hair out of place. As for her husband and sons, they wore their appropriate suits. She shook her head as she grabbed her purse after a failed attempt at trying to tell the boys to slow down. She watched, after turning around, as the four of them ran into the open days and into the arms of their red robed, silver haired grandfather, Roman Murry. She could hear how they excitedly cheered when they saw him again, as if they didn’t see him every month or so for dinners such as the one they were attending that evening. She didn’t want to be there though she’d throw on a brave face for her sons.

She stepped into the estate and scoffed at the sight she saw when she approached her father, Gerald by her side, who was slightly behind after shutting Murry’s door for him. “Don’t give them hundred-dollar bills.” She said at once, folding her arms, unimpressed by what her father was setting her sons up to be for the future, setting their expectations rather high than what they were going to receive. Yes, Linda was rich, and she was a fine upper class lady, but that mainly came from Gerald. Of course, her father provided the money if and when, but Gerald was a doctor of cosmetology. He raked in the money while she sat at home being a full-time mother. God, was she good at her job.

Her father looked up at her, his brown eyes illuminated by his pale skin. “Linda!” He cheered with a bright smile, his teeth almost brighter than the lights in the entryway. “It’s just a bit of pocket change.”

Linda supposed she could let that slide. After all, it would help the boys with their future if they saved it wisely. Unlike Seaton. She turned to him and scoffed. “You don’t get anything. And you know why.” She said and watched as a mournful expression fell on her son’s face, Gerald stating the exact reason as to why Seaton Monroe was not receiving any cash from his grandfather.

Gerald shifted, restraining himself from throwing his hands in his blazer pockets like he often would do if he was at an event with Linda alone. He met the eyes of his bitch of a father-in-law and spoke, not caring if it was his time or place or not. “We caught him trying to buy a Playboy.”

Really?” Came Murry’s reply and he leaned in closer to his grandfather, pulling out more cash from his pockets. “Two hundred for you, Seaton.”

If she could, she’d have rolled her eyes at the terrible influence that was her father upon her sons, but she needed to remain professional. It wasn’t long before they were seated down for dinner, and they were two courses into their meal. The boys had gotten bored and were currently wrestling River like it was no tomorrow. Linda wanted to intervene, to be the superhero mother that she’d set herself up to be but that was not allowed in the lavish estate her father owned. No. The boys were meant to fight for themselves, and the girls weren’t supposed to work at all. That was how it worked there. She could see from the corner of her eye that her father was also watching her six-year-old son get strangled in a headlock, but he did nothing but sip a brandy and say ‘come on, River, defend yourself! Don’t be afraid to use your teeth!’ She rolled her eyes as he laughed, fingers curling around the edge of the table, one hand gripping her fork rather too tightly.

Roman shook his head in the direction of his study where he smiled pitifully. “I’m worried about that boy. He has no command, no swagger.” He looked to his daughter, gesturing to his grandson with his left hand. “At his age, I was hunting nighthawks and getting girlfriends. We don’t want him to end up a doughy lump like Gerald.”

She was well aware of the fact her father didn’t like Gerald. In fact, he didn’t even try to hide it, but she couldn’t fight her own father. She had to stay behind the boundary while Roman crossed it every single time. “He won’t. I’ll see to it.” She said as she began racking her brains to see how she could pay for River to become stronger. That was what was expected of her and that was what she was going to continue to do if that meant receiving the adoration from her father she’d so desperately wanted and longed for her entire life. She hadn’t noticed how perturbed Gerald was becoming from that comment and also from how her father had been talking to her in general. She never did notice. She never had been the best at reading people.

That was why it took her by slightly surprise when Gerald decided to be the one to speak up next. “You know, pops,” he’d said to rub it into Murry’s veins about how much he absolutely hated him. “I think you ought to thank Linda for all the work she’s been doing on this dinner cruise for the Honey Festival.”

For that reason and many others, she was grateful for being married to Gerald Monroe. It gave her a chance to flaunt what she’d been given – wealth and success. She laughed like an upperclassman and began to talk about her plans for the cruise. “Well, as the President of the Hatchetfield Boating Society, I wanted to do something special. Paddle boats seemed cheap. I had to tear a few new assholes, but I managed to book the S.S Valliant. One of the largest luxury yachts on the great lakes. An elegant tour round the island with fine dining and live music, it is going to be fabulous.” She set her fork down on the table as she looked towards her father, who took another sip of brandy.

Once he’d set it down, he looked to them, drawing his eyes away from his grandsons for the first time in a while. “Oh. No one told you?” He asked and judging by the silence being emitted from the Monroes, he proceeded. “The planning committee cancelled the dinner cruise.”

Linda’s face fell pale, and her knuckles returned to the bleak white that matched the colour of her hair. “What?” She asked and Roman continued as if it were nothing.

“We thought about it and figured, ‘what the hell does a dumb boat ride have to do with honey?!’” He asked rather too cheerfully, failing to recognise Linda’s crushed state. He punctuated his sentence with a laugh and began the next one with a laugh too. He looked to Linda, raising an eyebrow. “You didn’t put down a deposit, did you?”

Linda paused for a moment, setting her jaw, forcing all true feelings into the back of her mind. She forced out, “I can get it back.” Her voice tried not to crack as she listened to how her father began to talk again. Too calm. Too casual.

“Then no harm, no foul. Besides, the cruise would have conflicted with the Honey Queen Pageant. And that is priority number one!”

Now that was something she scoffed at. “Ugh. The Honey Queen. What self-respecting woman is so desperate for validation that she’ll parade around like a stripper for the pathetic ingrates of this town.”

Roman looked at her then, directly in the eye, eyebrows furrowed with anger traced along the wrinkles in his forehead. “The Honey Queen is the soul of Hatchetfield, and you will show her respect, piglet.”

There was that nickname. That godawful nickname. As soon as she started gaining confidence to discuss her own opinions, he set her back with that fucking nickname. “Don’t call me that. I hate it when you call me that.” She forced out through gritted teeth.

Roman didn’t pick up on the serious matter that he was faced upon. “What? Piglet. It’s your nickname! Ever since you were a little girl!” He continued as if he couldn’t detect the wrongness with the situation regarding his daughter and the nickname. He turned to his son in law for the first time in a while and clasped his hands together, leaning forwards on the table. “You  should have seen her, Gerald! Before her first nose job, she had the cutest little upturned snout!” He said and laughed again, before pausing. “Well, maybe not so little.” And he laughed louder. He caught a glimpse of Linda’s face, the human expression of a dazzling flame. “It’s said with love, piggy!”

He clearly hadn’t expected how she stood up and slammed her hands down, palm first, on the table, scrambling to her feet which not only bought her father to silence but her boys as well, who finally let go of River, who began nursing his throat. “I am a 36-year-old woman, not a fucking barnyard animal!” She told her father, told him directly to his face without an ounce of fear lingering in her voice.

Instead of accepting the fact that his daughter just stood up to him for one of the only times in her life, Roman smiled and began to sing. “Oink, oink said the angry little piggy. And the farmer said to market with you!”

Well. That had enough for Linda to storm out the room. Gerald looked at Roman horrified and called for the boys to head out to the car where he assumed Linda would be. Well, he was right as he usually was.

The journey back was tense among the adults and the kids were silently sleeping in the back. Gerald was holding the steering wheel tightly, his knuckles white. “I swear to god, Linda, one of these days…I’m gonna deck him?”

Linda continued leaning against the window of the car. She sighed, staring out at the scenery passing by. “Really? I’ll believe that when I see it.”

Gerald glanced over to her, shaking his head. “I don’t like the way he talks to you! Treats you like shit but, oh!” He made his voice higher, mocking someone. Anyone. “The Honey Queen! She’s God’s gift to the earth!” his voice returned normal as he glanced back over at her. “All the parades in the world for this theoretical woman, but none for his actual daughter.”

For any other person, the momentary glint in Linda’s eye wouldn’t have been caught, but it was easy for Gerald to notice. Something clicked in her mind as she smiled, a plan forming. “You’re right. He does respect The Honey Queen, doesn’t he?” She asked slightly and Gerald parked the car, hand resting on the inner part of her thigh.

“Hey, tuts. You’re my Honey Queen.”

And from that, the sentimental moment was gone. She told him to shut up and got out the car, lifting River as she did so, taking him up to bed. As she walked, she could only think of how well this plan was about to unravel. This was…going to be her hardest, yet easiest challenge she’d ever had to face. Honey Queen. What was so wrong about that?

Why, she’d have the entirety of Hatchetfield at her feet, bowing before her. Down on your knees before the Queen, our latest Honey Queen, Linda Monroe! The director would call, and she’d have a crowd of worshippers. Her father would be included in that. Her father respected the Honey Queen more than anybody she had ever met. If she got that title then she’d be respected, she’d be worshipped, and nobody could tell her otherwise. She’d be the Honey Queen. She’d rule the fucking town.

Linda Monroe, she was a popular bitch. Not necessarily for the right reasons but the reasons where there inevitably. Bleached blonde hair, miniscule, married to one of the richest guys in Hatchetfield she knew of and powerful. Well, she had everything aside from the title of Honey Queen. Which was why she found herself down at the application booth in the Hatchetfield Community Centre, where she parked the SUV and strutted inside.

She looked around the room, disgusted at what she was seeing. So many women with no self-esteem attempting to gain Hatchetfield’s most sought for title. For the past 74 years, girls would wait hours in line to become this new ruler of the island. This year wasn’t any different than the past. This year, however, there was only one obvious winner. Herself.

She was interrupted by a volunteer who had broken her from her perfect daydream bubble of peace and serenity where she was on a pedestal above Hatchetfield with a bright smile. The woman had ginger hair and she wore glasses as well as a neat blazer and shirt. She was sat behind a desk, her head tilted slightly on her shoulders. “Hi!” She chirped enthusiastically which made Linda want to die. She didn’t get optimists. There was absolutely nothing right about Hatchetfield, and there was something oddly suspicious about finding an optimist on the island. “Are you here to sign up for the pageant?”

Linda tilted her sunglasses on to the bridge of her nose and looked her in the eye. She was offended that the woman even had to ask. She was blonde, beautiful and rich. What more could be one want to be the ruler of the island? “Yes!” She scoffed and looked around. “Where do I do that?”

Kindly, the volunteer gestured to the right from her perspective, the left from Linda’s. Her smile never faded. “Right over there.”

Instead of thanking the woman for her ‘help,’ Linda sighed exasperatedly. “If I must!” She said before strutting over to the sign in desk, where she was placed in front of another volunteer, who was beginning to take her information. She drummed her fingernails on the desk, looking around, bored. “Linda Monroe, President of the Hatchetfield Boating Society born January 21st, 1982.”

The volunteer looked at her, mouth agape, having just been cut off by the woman. She cleared her throat and wrote that down. “Okay, Linda Monroe.” She skimmed her eyes over the document and looked up at her again. “And, what’s your talent?”

That question was something that Linda was not expecting in any shape or form. “My what?” She asked and the volunteer before her looked at her like she was crazy. Did every other applicant know about this talent that was needed to be able to sign up? Was she singled out?

“Your…talent. For the talent portion of the show?” The volunteer continued kindly, though by the blank look on Linda’s face, she gathered that Linda required more assistance. “Don’t you have some kind of special skill? Something you’re good at?”

At once, Linda knew the answer. “I’m a mother.” And an exceptional one at that. It took talent to be a mother as good as she was. She had four beautiful blonde boys who were well behaved…at times and were respectful. Well, River was. She didn’t know where she went wrong with Trent, Jordan and Seaton.

The volunteer didn’t have time to get a word in for her attention, like everyone else’s in the room, was captured by the woman who’d just walked in through the front doors that had burst open. All eyes fell on her, who was strutting into the room looking messy, yet somehow glamorous. In one hand, she held a bedazzled iPhone and in the other, a Starbucks cup, dark lipstick staining the lid. With complete disregard for anyone else, she ploughs past the line right up next to Linda at the sign in desk.

The brunette looked down at Linda and pursed her lips, uttering one word. A simple command used at Linda in a derogatory way, or so it felt. “Move,” she uttered. She didn’t wait for Linda to move, cutting in front of her anyway. She set her Starbucks cup down on the counter and smiled bitterly at the volunteer, clearly not caring who she was or what her job was. “Zoey Chambers. I’m here to be The Honey Queen.”

The volunteer looked up at Zoey astounded and nodded, eyes wide. She discarded Linda’s sign-up sheet to the side for the moment while she took another one. However, Linda wasn’t happy about that. She was not happy at all.

She was flabbergasted. There was no way in fucking hell she was letting some brunette win Honey Queen over her. She looked Zoey up and down and shook her head frantically, looking back to the volunteer. “No. She’s not competing. I won’t allow it.”

Zoey laughed then, slowly turning to face Linda to see what all of the fuss was about. She also looked Linda up and down, taking in the small, blonde, turtleneck wearing woman before her, who was wearing sunglasses and a hat indoors. What is the need, Zoey thought to herself, for rich motherfuckers to strut around town like it’s fucking nothing. She tilted her head and raised an eyebrow. “And…who are you, exactly?”

Following Zoey’s lead, Linda laughed, partially out of irony. How couldn’t anybody know who she was? She was Hatchetfield’s future Honey Queen! She was a rather big deal. As well as that, she had gotten her name around the island, for better or for worse. Either way, it didn’t matter to her. As long as her name was out there, people were aware of her, and the more people aware of her, the more people were afraid of her. Or so she liked to assume. “Linda Monroe, President of the Hatchetfield Boating Society. My father, Roman Murry, is senior member of the Honey Festival planning committee. He’s the head judge of the competition. So, don’t even bother.”

At that, Zoey nodded sarcastically, nose scrunching up as she did so. She was clearly unimpressed by Linda. After all, who willingly wanted to go on a boat. All boats did were bob along the water while you sat in awkward silence. If you wanted to go for a pleasant day out, go to Watcher World. The adrenaline rush when you went on one of the rickety old coasters with the knowledge that you could die was much more thrilling than almost falling in deep water. She hated that idea. She hated that idea a lot. “So that’s how you wanna play, mmkay.” She turned directly to Linda then, setting her iPhone down in her hoodie pocket. “Listen, lady. I’m the star actress of the Hatchetfield Community Players and I didn’t get there by being nice. You think your daddy’s gonna give you a leg up in the pageant?”

Linda shrugged, a look of hope, yet cluelessness gathering in her eyes. “Well, it certainly won’t hurt my chances.”

“Won’t it? Cuz, now I know there’s a judge I can seduce that you can’t.” It was so incredibly thrilling to watch the look of horror fill Linda’s eyes. It had her smiling from ear to ear out of satisfaction.

“Tramp.”

“Takes one to know one.” Zoey shot back immediately as her smile faded into something smaller. “Look, I don’t wanna fight you. Cuz, you know, you should respect your elders, but, don’t you think you’re a little old for this competition?” She asked, watching as Linda’s eyes became wider once more, if that was even possible. Now, Zoey was able to see the little red veins in the whites of Linda’s eyes.

“I’m 36.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry. If-If it makes you feel any better, you are a lot younger than you look.”

Linda’s eyes closed, but as one thing shut, another open. She couldn’t seem to control her body today. Her mouth hung open in a small ‘o’ shape as she took deep breaths to remain as calm as she possibly could. “How dare you. No one speaks to me that way!”

Zoey chuckled again. “Aww. You gonna cry, boomer?” She asked and her smile dropped completely, fierceness coating her eyes. “Don’t fuck with me, Linda Monroe. I’m your worst nightmare.”

The volunteer cleared her throat and held out Linda’s sign in sheet. “Mrs Monroe, if I can direct you down the table a few…one of my coworkers will assist you.”

“It’s fine.” Linda said and took her sheet. “I didn’t need your assistance anyway.”

And yes. Linda Monroe had everything til hiccup and hitch Zoey Chambers walked into her life and stole what was supposed to be an easy task for her.

So, Linda began working hard, trying to find her talent. After some support from Gerald, and she said some because it was hardly any at all though he did try to uplift her with an explicit joke, she decided on making her way to Honey Queen the Linda Monroe way. Nobody else was going to stop her, not even that girl who she’d sabotaged skiing. So, she waited until the full list of nominees who had applied that particular day came out on the official Honey Queen Committee Instagram page, and when it did, she noted all of the names down and began to construct her plan.

The nominations for Hatchetfield Royalty came in the simple shape and form of Honey Queen, a list of 8 names as of then. It was the 75th year the event was taking place and for Linda, Queen was her claim. But, with Zoey’s little show and everyone’s heads turned to look at her when she walked in, she knew she was up for competition even if she didn’t want it. But there was one thing Zoey didn’t know, a surface level lie that dug into her veins. She could hear her father’s voice chanting in her ear regarding the situation. “Linda,” her father would say. “I hope you don’t make a fool of yourself by applying for this position. You’d better not embarrass me.” And Linda was going to make sure that she didn’t.

For the next few days, Linda Monroe’s mind became entirely occupied with the idea of Honey Queen and what she was going to do to be able to stop her contenders from beating her at the position she so desperately needed, so desperately craved. She spent a long while thinking about what she was going to do, not to necessarily sabotage the competition but to give her an easy path. She needed to clear the blockages, and as neatly as possible, she was going to do that the Linda Monroe way.

She was just Linda. Gerald hadn’t noticed a difference and she was sure that the boys hadn’t either. She’d managed to keep her sanity intact and frankly, that was all that mattered. Especially with something as important as Hatchetfield’s most anticipated event. She needed it. She needed that title. Then she could prove to her father that she was worthy. Then he’d finally realise she wasn’t a ‘piglet’, and she wasn’t some pathetic little dumb blonde he’d taken for ever since she was a little girl. No. She was Linda Monroe, and Linda Monroe was about to storm Hatchetfield like the island had never seen her before. In fact, it had been Gerald’s idea to let her go a little bit too far. He encouraged her to cheat, and if Roman wasn’t cheating for her, then she’d have to take matters into her own hands. She was awfully good at that. She was rather good at it, indeed.

And some girls were rational in thinking about ways to get herself to the top without the need of sabotage, but Linda was not one of those girls. She stared into her reflection on her phone screen as she typed in a number that she’d received off of the internet. There were, so far, seven reasons the crown’s not good as got, and as The Honey Queen Pageant drew nearer, thus went her plot.

P: Patterson, Chloe:

Linda was sitting in the Hatchetfield Country Club opposite a salty old sea captain, who chewed on a corncob pipe. No deed was too dirty, no blow was too low. This first one was probably the weakest of the lot, but it would certainly be effective for her in the long term. She rang the number and waited until she’d picked up before feigning an overly optimistic voice, thinking of how terrible those volunteers must have it at home if they went to a low paying job just to have to be social their entire lives. She’d hate that. In fact, as President of the Hatchetfield Boating Society, she did.

“Hi! IS this Chloe Patterson? I’m with the Hatchetfield Boating Society, I’m calling to tell you you’ve won our annual giveaway!” Which coincidentally fell just in line with the Honey Queen Pageant and definitely didn’t exist elsewhere in the universe. No. This supposed annual giveaway was a fraud. Chloe didn’t need to know that. Innocent little Chloe…she’d be devastated! Well…unless she wouldn’t. “Yes, that’s right! A private, all expense paid cruise aboard the S.S Valliant. One of the largest luxury yachts on the great lakes!” She raised her eyebrows with a wide smile. “Oh! Don’t worry. You’ll be back in plenty of time for the Honey Festival.” She hung up and turned directly to the sea captain before her.  “Make sure the trip’s longer than expected.” And when the sea captain winked, it gave her time to move onto the next victim.

R: Right, Martha

The next girl was all Gerald’s doing, after all. He was the cosmetic surgeon. It wasn’t a surprise that he’d be getting a lot of calls for The Honey Queen Pageant to make girls look as beautiful as they possibly could. Unfortunately, he was deeply in love with the mastermind behind this production and he would do anything for her, including deleting his entire schedule in the days leading up to the pageant. He wasn’t about to let anyone stop his wife. He loved her too much to betray her like that. On the other end of the phone, Martha Right’s distressed voice came through slightly crackled due to some water damage that Gerald had to his speakers that he had yet to get fixed. It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford it, it was because he was fully booked for the majority of the time, and with a clear schedule now, maybe he’d be able to.

“You don’t understand, I need these collagen injections, and I need them now!”

Gerald smirked as he looked at his blank schedule, shaking his head. He leaned back in his chair, shutting his eyes, completely satisfied with how Linda’s plan was unravelling. “Well, Mrs Right, I can schedule you for the end of the month.”

“That won’t be any good! I’ll miss the pageant! Can’t you squeeze me in?”

Annoyed by Martha’s whining tone, he opened his eyes and clicked on his mouse so that it would make it appear that he was checking even though he knew that it was empty, and so did Linda. “Nah. Sorry, I’m all booked.” He hung up and looked to Linda at the doorframe, smiling. “Who’s next?”

“We’ll just have to find out.” Linda stepped forward and kissed Gerald gently. “I shall be going out to grab coffee. It helps me think, darling.”

“Alright. Love ya,” Gerald said with a smile as he turned back to his laptop to work on some other things that needed to be doing like paperwork.

Linda nodded and took that as her cue to leave. She took the SUV down to her favourite overpriced coffee shop and parked down the road. She then got out, walked past a homeless guy, scoffed, and headed to the store. She stepped inside and almost as soon as she did, she could already hear the nattering being emitted from her frenemies, Mary Judith and Heather, or, the biggest gossips in town.

O: Liz Cunningham

To no one’s surprise, Linda was soon waved over by Heather, who cooed at her slightly. “Linda! Darling!” She called with a bright smile as Linda walked over, not taking a seat like the other two.

“Oh, hello, ladies! I couldn’t help but overhear you all discussing the Honey Queen Pageant?”

“Well,” Heather started, adjusting the scarf around her neck. “Judith was just saying that she thinks Liz Cunningham should win!”

At that, Judith whistled. “She really is such a dear, and when the judges hear all about her charity work?!” Her voice lilted into a cheer.

Linda pretended to be interested, but it wasn’t long before she decided to drop the bombshell that would wreck Hatchetfield’s foundational trust. “Mmm, Liz Cunningham. Interesting.” She nodded and then her eyes lit up. “Oh, you don’t think that would cause a bit of a scandal?”

“What do you mean?” Asked Judith, turning to Linda, who politely continued.

“Well, the Honey Queen is supposed to be the soul of Hatchetfield. And Liz is from Clivesdale.”

The two ladies gasped, and Heather turned to Judith, hand pressed against her chest. “Is she now?” She whispered, and it wasn’t long later on that day that word got back round to Linda that Liz Cunningham had in fact dropped out of the competition and she was moving back to Clivesdale with her husband. Good. As she should.

M: Amber Brady

That night, Linda was sat in her silk pyjamas with the list of competitors beside her on the line with a friend of a friend, otherwise known as her private investigator, Malone. She perched the phone between her ear and her shoulder with a smile Malone wouldn’t be able to see. “And Amber’s job transfer went through?” A pause and her smile brightened. “She starts Monday? Wonderful! She’s going to love Debuke, I just know it!” After some gibberish from Malone, she cut in. “I have one more favour for you, Malone, and it involved the highest betted competitor. Zoey Chambers. I’ll send you the details.”

She hung up and crossed Amber Brady’s name off of the list, sighing softly, not a hint of sympathy bubbled up in her voice. “Goodbye, Miss Brady. I’d say, ‘go to Hell,’ but you’re already moving there!” She laughed and folded up her sheet, pressing it in her journal which she put in her bedside drawer. She collapsed against pillows, curled up under covers, switched off the light and closed her eyes, dreaming of what was going to come from the main event.


The next day, Linda’s SUV purrs at the edge of Oakley Park. The passenger door swings open, and Malone gets in. River was in the back, but it hardly mattered to Linda for he was in his own little bubble. Besides, he was six. He was hardly going to understand adult stuff anyway. Linda turned sharply to Malone and raised an eyebrow. “So, what have you got for me?” She asked rushed. Following Linda’s tone, Malone pushed the folder filled with the images of Zoey and Sam Sweetly into her hands.

He chewed on a lollipop stick, nodding in the direction of the images as he watched Linda flick through the images. “She’s no girl scout, I can tell ya that. Coupla boyfriends, one of ‘ems a married cop.”

“Officer Sam Sweetly, I’m familiar.” She hummed lowly as Malone continued.

“Your typical party girl with an attitude. But here is the kicker. Her silver haired granny? Thinks she’s an angel.”

Satisfied with what she’d found, Linda hands Malone a wad of cash in an envelope, nodding. “I can work with that. Thank you, Malone. Now get out. You smell like a urinal fucked an ashtray.” After some awkward conversation about wanting an unwrapped peppermint from between the seats of the car, he left, and after narrowly avoiding a conversation with River about why she ‘wrestled the tennis coach,’ she was able to go home feeling satisfied.

Her plan didn’t stop there. After rehearsal, she handed the photos over to Zoey Chambers who, in return, posted them on Instagram to get them trending. Zoey obviously thought it was over, and maybe in another world Linda would have pitied Zoey for becoming so optimistic over the fact that was her getting so many tips at Beanies. In another universe, maybe she’d even be proud, but because Zoey had exposed her talent was her voice and she worked in a coffee shop where if you were tipped you sung, Linda took advantage of that entirely.

By The Honey Queen Pageant, Zoey Chambers’ voice was gone and so was her grandma. Zoey’s attempt at sabotage was weak. She couldn’t prove Zoey had something to do with her ridiculously long question being ‘given the stagnation of congress, the collusion of the managerial class with corporate friendly judges, and a campaign finance system in desperate need of reform, what specific bills and policies would you implement to unrig the economy, roll back the undue influence of the military industrial complex, and address the looming inevitability of mass automation. And, how is all of this affected by climate change?’ But she just knew it was. And, as she’d said, she was ready for everything, even if that did mean funding Hidgens’ shitty musical.

Then it came down to the talent portion of the show and little did they know that she’d already been behind the scenes altering what wasn’t supposed to be altered. She was one step ahead of everyone else and they didn’t even know it. A shame, really, to others but not to her. To her, this was another win. It was always another win for her.

Q: Kayla Brown

At home, Hatchetfield Elementary teacher Miss Kayla Brown had perfected her art of making music off of the rims of wine glasses, but, when she came to attempting to perform it live, it wasn’t just the nerves that were affecting her performance. Brown’s wine glasses had been coated with a very thin layer of glue around the rims, not so noticeable that Kayla would have been able to tell. In Linda’s eyes, anyone who worked for Hatchetfield Elementary wouldn’t have been able to tell regardless, but when she performed her act and Linda got to see the glimpses of horror and frustration forming, she could only smile.

U: Ashley Robins

In the rehearsal space, Ashley Robins had perfected her juggling trick with average bowling pins. It was a shame that she’d bought some counterfeits with heavy weights at the bottom for this particular act. She’d swapped them out when Robins hadn’t been in her dressing room and the hallway had been empty. She’d given the real bowling pins to Gerald as a gift for the boys so they could play bowling instead of taking their anger out on her beloved River. She watched with satisfaction as Robins dropped pin, after pin, after pin and was eventually ushered off stage due to how bad she was.

E: Zoey Chambers Part One:

Then it was Zoey’s turn to go on. Zoey claimed to be so up to date with technology, after all, so surely, she’d realise a tea with honey wasn’t going to be the thing to save her that evening. Her vocal cords were wrecked. She should have rested. Linda stuck her bottom lip out as she watched Zoey, with her hair up in a ponytail, in an overly dramatic blue dress, walk out on to the stage of The Starlight Theatre and utter a single, pathetic whimper of a note which had her booed off stage by the audience and by Professor Henry Hidgens.

It was a shame that Zoey did have to give her talent up immediately. It meant that Linda could grab it and shape it to her own advantage. So, when it was her time to perform her talent, she bust out into a song, rap and dance that only one could pay thousands for. It paid off, of course, for she did pay thousands. And some may have called her crazy, insane for going to extreme lengths to become the Honey Queen, but wouldn’t you? If your life and relationship with your family was on the line, how far were you going to go to get exactly what you wanted?

E: The End of Zoey Chambers:

In her dressing room, after her performance, Linda was changing into her gown for the closing number, a sweet little black dress with silver jewellery when she spotted Zoey in the mirror, leaning against the doorway, clapping softly. In her hoarse voice, Zoey began to speak directly to her, lips somehow curled up into a smile.

“I gotta hand it to you, Linda. That was one hell of a performance.”

She shrugged. “Well, I paid enough for it.”

“Yeah. You fought, you won, the crown is rightfully yours.” A pregnant moment of silence. “It’s why it’s such a shame you’re dropping out.”

Linda snorted with a laugh, turning to face her competitor properly. “Am I having déjà vu? You can’t threaten me, copycat.” When Zoey laughed, she half expected her to make some sort of empowering joke about how yes, she could copy her to every extent she possibly wanted. She had not expected the words ‘I’ve got your kid’ to come out of her mouth. Linda, suddenly frozen in place, pushed out, “what?” as Zoey continued with her point.

“My boyfriend just grabbed him from the bathroom.”

“Where is he? What have you done with him?” She asked, voice becoming quick and frantic as Zoey raised her hands in surrender.

“He’s safe. It’ll stay that way if you drop out right now. So, Linda. What do you want more? Honey Queen, or your kid back?”

Linda paused, and yes it was horrible but honestly, she could do without the other kids. “Which kid?” At the same time, she began to move her fingers across the bench they were sat at, trying to grab a hold of something that’d help.

Zoey hesitated but muttered ‘hang on’, eventually looking up with an answer. “River,” she said ominously, and Linda cursed.

“How do I know it’s not Trent pretending to be River, huh? That’d be just like him. Let me see a picture.” She demanded, but when they finally received one, it was clearer than the day itself that that was River Monroe in the back of a cop car. “You’re crossing a line, Zoey. Everything I’ve done has been…deceitful and underhanded but kidnapping?! Huh, you’re never going to get away with this.”

Zoey smirked again. “That’s where you’re wrong. My boyfriend? He’s a cop. He can make your son disappear. And the rest of the forest will just look the other way. You know I’m right. So, what should I tell Sam? To let the kid go, or to throw him off the Nantucket Bridge?”

Before Zoey could tell, Linda had grabbed her baton and thrown it at Zoey. It hit her hand and sent her phone flying. While Zoey was occupied with her injured hand, Linda stood. “It hurts, doesn’t it?” She pounced on Zoey and the two tumble into the shadowy backstage of the Starlight. As Linda ducked behind the curtain, she rang Gerald and didn’t wait for him to start speaking after he picked up. She wrapped herself up in the curtain, hiding momentarily, being as quiet as she could be. “Gerald, for god’s sake, shut up and listen to me. River’s been kidnapped! Zoey’s crazy cop boyfriend has him in the back of his squad car in the parking lot, go get him!” She stayed quiet as she listened. After a while, when Gerald declared he couldn’t find River, she scoffed. “Do you have him?”

“No. I can’t find the fucking car.”

“Like you can never find your glasses? Look harder!” But as Gerald continued his distress, she realised that the car must be unmarked. So, she thought of something as a glimmer caught her eye. Zoey’s bedazzled iPhone lay under a workbench and Linda’s eyes sparkled. “Alright. The car’s about to honk. Then he’s going to get out, when he does, get him.”

She couldn’t tell if her plan had actually gone with the green light, but she didn’t have time to linger. Soon after, the workbench flipped over. Tools and paintbrushes scattered across the floor. Zoey stood there before Linda with a fire extinguisher raised about her head. She bought it crashing down. Linda dived out from its path, but Zoey’s phone wasn’t so lucky. While Zoey was temporarily distracted with her smashed iPhone, Linda climbed up the ladder that led to the catwalk.

As expected, not long after, Zoey followed, pulling herself on to the catwalk. She limps on the raised platform, the final contestants performing their talents below. Linda waited for the perfect moment and jumped down from the lighting rig above. She landed on Zoey’s back, wrapping a length of rope around her neck. To resist this, Zoey flung herself forward, flipping Linda over her and the catwalk’s handrail. Linda hung there, holding on for dear life. If she fell, it’d be certain death and that wouldn’t be okay. That wasn’t a part of the plan. Zoey, trying to construct a plan, jammed her heel down on Linda’s hand which broke three of her fingers and had her hanging on to the balcony with only one hand. Zoey placed her show above Linda’s other hand and looked down at her.

“Hey, Linda. I want you to die knowing I’m gonna be the Honey Queen. I’m getting out of this shitty town! And I’m going straight to Broadway!”

Linda looked back down and nodded. “Yes, Zoey. You are a star on the rise.” But just as Zoey was about to bring her foot down, Linda swung her free arm on to the catwalk, grabbing hold of large sandbags. She yanked them with all of her might, sending them over the edge. They hurdle towards the stage, pulling the rope they’re tied to. The very same that was wrapped around Zoey’s neck. She was flung into the air. She reaches up, trying to free herself, but it’s no use. Her neck is caught in the tangles. Her eyes bulge, then roll back. She chokes, twitches, and finally, goes limp. Zoey Chambers swayed softly in the rafters of the Starlight Theatre. Dead as a doornail. Linda, relieved, pulled herself on to the catwalk just as her phone buzzes nearby. It’s a text from GERALD. It reads: River’s safe. Everything’s okay. Linda lay back on the catwalk and breathed a sigh of relief.

Inevitably, she was crowned queen. Honey Queen. She was rather surprised when her father approached her afterwards, saying, “it’s hard for me to admit when I’m wrong, but I was wrong. I didn’t think you had what it takes to win this competition but I’m proud of you pig-“ and her awful nickname was replaced by her beautiful title. Honey Queen. “Come with me,” Roman said and Linda hesitated, thinking about Gerald and the kids, but eventually walked with him.

She was soon seated in the back of Roman Murry’s Rolls Royce as the car drifted down an empty road. They’ve left downtown far behind now. Outside, the night is pitch black. The Rolls Royce pulled off the main street and on to a dirt path. That prompted Linda to finally speak up. “Where are we going?”

“To the ceremony!” Roman cheered as he looked at her in the wingmirror. The Honey Queen is the guest of honour!”

Now she was sceptical. “A ceremony? In the woods?”

“It’s tradition. One that dates back to the very foundation of the church.” Roman insisted and Linda raised an eyebrow.

“What…church?”

“The Church of The Starry Children,” came the reply of Roman Murry as they arrived to their location. The chauffer opened the door and Linda stepped into the Witchwood. Around the car are a dozen figures who wear black robes and silver masks. For some reason, they bow down to her, and she steps back, rightfully confused.

“What the hell is this?” She asks her father, who looks at her, also getting out.

“It’s said that when the Honey Queen is crowned, she leaves Hatchetfield forever. On to bigger and better things. That’s true!...in a way. She comes here. For the offering!” As he spoke, the cloaked figures part and in front of them, lit by a ring of torches, was a mound of mutilated pig carcasses. Eyes blank. Mouths agape. Spilled intestines coated in congealed blood swarmed by flies.

Linda became alarmed, turning to her father for assistance. “God, that stinks! What the hell do you think is out here, and why would you offer it a bunch of dead pigs?!”

Roman laughed again and shook his head. “Oh, no, no, no. That’s not the offering! You are.” When Linda turned to notice his eyes, she could finally see the madness and joy through his pink irises. “Nibbly is unique amongst his brothers. For one night a year, on the eve of The Honey Festival, Nibblenephim, a Lord in Black, may walk upon the earth if he is given the flesh to inhabit and when he comes, he must feast! Linda, you didn’t win the competition because of that egregious song! I’m not a fan of rap music. You won because of everything else you were willing to do. We know about the dead girl in the rafters. That’s why you won! You wanted it the most! You were the hungriest! Nibbly is a creature of hunger! Of desire! Passion! That’s what makes you taste so sweet to him. The sweetest woman in Hatchetfield.” He watched as the figures grabbed Linda, zip tying her hands behind her back. He ignored her cries. “Linda! Don’t embarrass me! You wanted to be the Honey Queen and that comes with certain obligations!” He scolded but Linda began screaming for Gerald.

But Gerald had died, and he couldn’t help. Samuel Sweetly had died and he wasn’t going to be able to save Zoey, who was also dead in the rafters of the Starlight. No one was coming to help. No one was coming to save Linda from the god, The One Who Feasts in The Dark, 5/5 Lords in Black. He formed as internal heat caused the mound of pigs’ eyes to burst in their sockets, their skin beginning to bubble. Their bodies collapse into mush and built up into a new shape. A creature. A furry, pink nightmare. Hundreds of pig teeth coalesce at the end of it’s worm like neck to form a grotesque smile. Finally, the mouth tears open and The Lord in Black, Nibblenephim, roared into the world: “HELLO LINDA!”

While Linda tried to scream for help again, Nibbly did nothing but lick his lips. The season of Nibblenephim was upon the town of Hatchetfield and he’d just claimed his 75th victim. “YUM YUM” he screeched, grabbing hold of her, lifting her into his cruelly drooling mouth. His jaw slams shut and a pink, fuzzy, worm like God bought an N for end by finishing her himself.

N: Linda Monroe

So yes, Linda Monroe got her silver, she got her crown, but she got blood on the roses in hand. She donned the title of Honey Queen for no more than a few hours as Hatchetfield crowned her Honey Queen. She had no more than a few hours to be worshipped like she’d so badly wanted time and time again. But like with everyone, her hands were wrapped in silver and the metallic taste of Linda’s crown rested on Nibblenephim’s taste buds. He washed the spilled blood from his saliva by licking it up off the muddy floor. As Linda Monroe screamed how she was The Honey Queen, Nibblenephim showed no remorse. In his head, in his mouth, she was decaying due to the high content of acid.

But pity the dead, the Honey Queen of Hatchetfield. Pity the fucking dead.