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Killer Queen

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For as long as Harry could remember, Uncle Roman had hated her. He wasn’t actually her Uncle, per se. Actually, he was a cousin of her Uncle’s. But Henry had raised Harriet to treat Roman as though he were an equal part of the family because he was. In fact, Harry had very nearly been given to Roman to raise. The court system had almost deemed Henry unfit, in which case Roman was the next of kin. She said it was a damn good thing Roman hadn’t raised her. Just having to spend the occasional night with him was hell enough. The entirety of her formative years? God, who could survive that? Other than, of course, Linda. And, she supposed, Donna. Though Donna had it lucky. As his stepdaughter, she’d gotten a decade off of her sentence in the prison that was Roman Murray. That, and Roman seemed to adore her. Donna Daggit could do nothing fucking wrong in his eyes. God, Harriet envied her. 

One might assume from this spew of hatred that Harriet did not care what Roman thought of her. This assumption would be entirely false. One thing that should be made abundantly clear about Harry is that there were not many people whose opinions concerning her she genuinely cared about. But her family’s opinions always mattered to her, no matter whether they were good people or genuine sons of bitches like Roman. She couldn’t shake it. No matter what she said to convince herself that it wasn’t important, she found herself crawling back to him. Something in her craved her approval… as though it were something she had lost and was only now regaining. She couldn’t clearly remember a time in her life where Roman has approved of anything she did, but the underlying feeling that it had happened was there. 

No, Harriet had never been spared his judgement by her memory (which was eidetic). In fact, one of her first formative memories of her as a child was his first real evaluation of her. She remembered it so vividly. No child should have to remember something so awful in such detail, but… she supposed at this point she has let it define her a little. It was perhaps the singular morning that her entire negative self-image stemmed from. She had been playing, as children do. She couldn’t have been more than five. But he’d insisted that she come over and ‘let him get a good look at her’, as adults often do. He’d looked over every inch of her. He was thorough. His eyes raked over her body and did not miss a single spot. Even at five (even if she did have more insight than your average five-year-old), she got the sense that he was looking into her. At the end of it, he smiled (though there was something in it she didn’t fully understand) and ran a hand through her curls. He uttered a phrase that had never left her. 

“Absolutely stunning- she got the best of our genes, didn’t she? It’s such a shame she isn’t mentally all there.”

The sentence that had spurred a thousand breakdowns. ‘Such a shame she wasn’t mentally all there’. What a way to word it. Since then, Harriet had found an identity in that. He was right, wasn’t he? Someone incapable of processing their own emotions was never entirely ‘there’. And they never could be. She wished she was ‘there’, wherever ‘there’ was. Perhaps there was something more to the evaluation for her. It had always struck a chord with her. In a way, it had challenged her. If there was one thing that you should never do, it is challenge a Hidgens. By nature, they are a competitive beast. Harriet was no different. Perhaps she was fighting for his approval. Perhaps she was trying to prove him wrong. Or perhaps there was a reason beyond any of the competition that it had hurt some much. Why it had driven her entire life. Perhaps she simply longed for the affection she was due. And she was due it. She had spent years working for it, and yet she still hadn’t reaped the fruits of her efforts. And she supposed, sitting across from Roman once more at the dinner table, that she wouldn’t tonight either.

“So… how is the science going?” Roman hummed between mouthfuls of dinner. “Not quite the path for a Murray woman , but I suppose if it makes you happy…”

“Things have changed, Roman. Careers in the sciences go to brilliant minds, no matter who they belong to.” Henry butted in. If there was one plus side to all of this, it was that Henry very rarely tolerated Roman’s judgement of Harriet. “Harriet’s mind is beyond brilliant. Harry, tell him what you’ve just done.”

“I’ve cured cancer- well, I’ve created the cancer cure. And it works.” Harriet blushed. 

“Mhm… haven’t scientists been working on that for years?” Roman droned, clearly more interested in his food than the conversation. 

“Yes, but Roman, she’s done it. She solved what… well, centuries of scientists couldn’t!” Henry pointed out. 

“With a foundation of plenty of research from other scientists, I’m sure.” Roman sighed. “ Male scientists. Making advances for man kind.”

“Come now, Roman!” Henry exclaimed, clearly not amused. “Your niece-”

“She’s your niece, Henry. My cousin.” Roman corrected. Harriet nearly winced in pain at that one. But he would not see her weak.

“She was raised calling you Uncle out of respect. The least you could do is acknowledge that she’s your niece as much as she is mine.” Henry stated levelly, articulating everything clearly. “Your niece was never meant to be your beloved ‘Murray Woman’, a pillar of grace in the community and a mother at home. Your concept of gender roles is quite frankly archaic ! Your niece is a genius, and she just solved one of humanity’s great mysteries. Yes, she had help. But it was she who did it. Can you at least congratulate her?”

“I’m not going to lie and give her the impression that I am proud that she is failing generations of Murrays before her.” Roman stated plainly. 

“Goddamnit, Roman, you make it very hard for me to justify to her why she has to come to these dinners.” Henry groaned in frustration. 

Roman looked Harriet in the eyes. Harriet might not have known it, but he knew it was a trigger for her. Yes, he’d known for years, and he still did it. Actually, he did it very intentionally. Because especially with Harry and her lack of comfort in eye contact, it was an assertion of dominance. Harriet held it this time though- a rare occasion. For this was not the first time she and Roman had played this game. It was simply the first time she would not lose. It seemed that for a fleeting moment shock graced his features before it dissipated. He leaned closer to her from across the table.

“Did you not want to come tonight, Harriet?” He asked. 

“I did not.” Harriet admitted. “Every time I come here I am discredited. I never do enough by your standards.”

“Wrong. You do too much , dear.” Roman corrected her. “Far too much. Regardless, I am still your family. It is exceedingly rude that you would want to avoid me.”

“It is exceedingly rude that you keep implying my sole purpose in life is to bear children.” Harriet snapped, done. Henry tried to hide how proud he was. Roman wouldn’t take well to it. “There is more to women than motherhood!”

“I agree!” Roman slammed a hand on the table aggressively. “There is beauty, grace and elegance- which I have lost all hope of for you!”

“Oh, here we go.” Henry muttered. 

“Think of all the incredible Honey Queens!” Roman pointed out. “Look at where they’ve gone! They’re successful, are they not? They don’t need science. They’re sweet, and kind, and nice! God, couldn’t you give nice a try?”

“I am plenty nice to people who show me human decency.” Harriet growled. 

“Regardless… look at Honey Queens! They don’t need science, and they go on to wonderful things.” Roman fumed. “Why can’t you just be like that?”

“Because… that’s not me!” Harry roared. 

There was silence. Roman gave Harry an astonished, outraged look. Was she proud? A little. It was rare that one could render Roman Murray speechless. But she also felt a deep sense of dread. Because his eyes burned. They burned and burned, like there was a flame alight inside of him. And like the passing of the torch, it lit a fire inside her. There was no pride. Harry burned with shame, a deep shade of red. That look, those eyes… they spoke. And what they were saying was ‘you fucked up’. The disappointment… it was yet another night without affection. Oh, she was so far from affection at this point. She cowered, sitting back in her chair. She didn’t remember when she had stood. But she no longer had that strength. She cowered. 

“Clearly.” Roman spat. Harry flinched. 

And that’s when it hit her. Why it had hit her, how it had happened, she had no idea. Perhaps it was her heart yearning for affection. That had driven her to do everything else she’d ever done. But there was more this time. No, Roman had been crafty. He’d used a challenge statement. Why can’t you just be like that? Why couldn’t she? Why in the goddamn fuck couldn’t she be a Honey Queen? Roman loved the Honey Queen. Harry was smart, so the interview portion? A piece of cake. The fact that she was an actress also helped… and the talent portion? Also a steal. Whether she sang, brought her science for a show, or… oh, aerial silks! Now those are the epitome of elegance and grace. Yes… yes, Harriet could win Honey Queen. Harriet would win. Because if there was one thing a Hidgens never did, it was back down from a challenge. 

“But it could be.” Harriet croaked out. 

“What?” Roman scoffed. She’d caught him off guard. 

“I said… it could be.” Harriet sniffed. Oh dear god, had she been crying? She really was pathetic…

“What could be?” Roman asked hesitantly. 

“It could be what I am.” Harriet told him shakily. 

“Harriet…” Henry warned. 

“You don’t seriously mean…” Roman checked, clearly on the edge of laughter. 

“I could be the Honey Queen.” Harriet nodded. 

“Ha!” Roman scoffed. “Likely story.”

“I mean it.” Harriet growled. “I can and I will.”

“Harriet, you don’t need to prove anything to him.” Henry tried to coax her. 

“I know.” Harriet lied. “But I will.”

“Well well well… look at you, coming around.” Roman taunted. “Here I was thinking I had escaped humiliation when Linda pulled through last year…”

“You won’t be humiliated.” Harriet promised. 

“I doubt that.” Roman sighed, once again unimpressed.

“I swear you won’t.” Harriet… pleaded? She really needed to work on her dignity. She got up. “I’m going to go start preparing.”

“God… fine.” Roman laughed. Harriet walked towards the door. 

“You won’t be laughing.” Harriet grumbled. 

And that was the start of a journey Harriet had never intended to go on. The next day, she started working on her silks routine. She needed it to be flawless. She knew she didn’t have the most personality. So she needed to compensate with a wow factor. Even with a perfect interview, her talent would be crucial. She needed her best tricks, with the littlest transition time. She worked herself like a dog. She barely slept choreographing, her diet completely changed so that her figure was perfect for a dress and yet strong enough for the silks… and on top of that, there was meticulous preparation for the interview. Of course, this was all done far before it needed to be. Such was the nature of Harriet Hidgens. She solidified everything she needed prior to even signing up. Because she needed to be ahead. 

A week and a half later, Harriet was lined up with about 90% of Hatchetfield’s female population to sign up for the pageant. God, she felt pathetic just being in that line. She looked around at her competition… and it was very easy to see the divide. And by ‘the divide’ she meant who she needed to worry about and who she didn’t. Some of the people in the room were genuine trailer trash. Like Pam Foster. She would be fun to watch fail. And then… there were others who were more threatening. Like Stephanie Lauter. She’d be hard to beat, if she had a talent. She was the mayor’s kid. Lord knows why she was there. And was that… oh, that bitch, Grace Chastity. This wasn’t her usual gig, though. Wasn’t she usually at Abstinence Camp? What the fuck was she thinking coming here? Everyone hated her ass. Although… She was sweet. Harriet walked up to the desk to sign up.

“Hey there, sweetie!” The sweet black lady at registration beamed. 

“Hello…” Harriet put on a small smirk. “I’m here to win Honey Queen. The name is Harriet Hidgens.”

“Oh, you’re Hidgens’ sweet niece!” The woman gushed, grinning. “He’s been talking all about you! And you’re beautiful!”

If there was one thing Harriet had noticed in all of this, it was that her uncle had grown concerned. Normally she couldn’t pick up these things. But he’d been asking her day in and day out if this was really what she wanted. She’d gotten the hint. It wasn’t subtle. But of course he supported her unconditionally. That was the way Henry was. So long as it wasn’t too extreme, he was always by her side. So while he may not be entirely behind her competing to spite Roman, he was right beside her every step of the way. He spotted her rehearsals when she needed it, and asked her just about every question in the book. He even completely re-budgeted to accommodate her diet. So even in spite of his concerns, did it surprise her that he talked about her to all the rest of the volunteers? No it did not. But did it make her smile anyways? Yes it did.

“Thank you so much! Yes, I am his niece.” Harriet played up her gratitude. “I hope you all know how lucky you are to have him. He’s the best uncle anyone could ask for.”

“I can only imagine.” The woman chuckled. “Henry’s such a sweet man. Now, I’m just gonna need you to fill out some paperwork before you go through the rest of the registration process.”

“Oh my god, Harriet!” A voice called out. 

Harriet pivoted, almost audibly groaning when she found the source of the voice. Donna. What in the actual motherloving fuck was Donna doing there? She had no reason to enter! She was a beloved pillar of the community. She was already rich and had a stable job. Her husband loved her. Her kids loved her. Roman loved her. She had nothing to prove. So why was she running the chances of the people who actually needed it? Probably for fun. That seemed like such a Donna thing. Sweet, innocent little Donna entering the beauty pageant for a good time. Well for Harriet it was more than that. Shit, she was going to have to destroy her cousin. She plastered on perhaps the most fake smile she would ever sport. 

“Donna!” Harriet grinned, extending her arms for the older woman. Donna walked right in, giving her a tight hug. 

“I can’t believe it! Daddy wasn’t joking!” Donna giggled. Harriet had half of a mind to remind Donna that Roman was her stepdad, but that wouldn’t look good on her. 

“Hahaha, no he wasn’t.” Harriet chuckled, dying a little on the inside. The audacity of that bitch to point out that this wasn’t just a thing Harriet would do. “Here I am!”

“Wow! We are going to have so much fun together!” Donna beamed. Oh god, she was perfect. Harriet wanted to crush her. Donna looked at the volunteer beside Harriet. “Donna Daggit. I’m entering the pageant this year.”

“Oh my god, Donna, that’s so fun!” The volunteer gushed. Yeah… everyone loved her. Shit. “And you two… aw this is adorable! I love it!”

“I’ll tell you one thing, I know I’m probably too old to win.” Donna teased, filling in her paperwork. She nudged Harriet playfully, causing her to make a minor error in her signature. It was taking everything in Harry not to kill a bitch on the spot. “But just knowing that I’m probably gonna watch this one get crowned is enough for me.”

“Oh, Donna… Age didn’t matter for Linda. Why should it matter for you?” Harriet giggled. She officially hated herself. What was she doing? 

“You’re so sweet!” Donna cooed. They both handed their papers in.

“Alright ladies, you’re in! Just keep on moving forward to get the information you need to enter the competition.” The volunteer smiled brightly. 

“Thank you so much.” Both ladies sighed in unison, before moving on. 

“Deep breaths, Harry.” Harriet muttered under her breath. Sometimes, talking to oneself is necessary. 

“What?” Donna asked. Shit. She wasn’t supposed to have heard the inner dialogue. Harriet put on a giddy giggle. 

“Oh, just reminding myself to take deep breaths because I’m so darned excited!” Harriet lied through her teeth. She already hated the person she was becoming for this. She needed the damned crown before she went entirely nutty.

“Alright everyone, in the V formation, Harriet beside- no, Pamela, that’s Harriet’s spot!” Henry rambled, trying to rehearse the opening number. 

“You said it were the winner’s spot.” Pamela crossed her arms. 

“Which makes it as far from being your spot as is humanly possible.” Henry rolled his eyes. “Back of the line.”

“Hey! That there sounds a lot to me like Classicism.” Pamela protested. Henry froze, processing that.

“I’ll be honest, you’ve impressed me Miss Foster.” Henry admitted. “I wouldn’t have expected you to know what that was. I mean, it’s Classism, not Classicism, but you were damn close!”

“Well all them articles online said I needed a platform, so that’s what I got because I’m broke as shit.” Pamela shrugged. 

“This isn’t an election, Miss Foster.” Henry sighed, back to moving. “So get your ass to the back of the formation, Harry on my right, Donna on my left.”

“Fuck you!” Pam fumed, taking her place. 

“I really don’t mind moving, Uncle-” Harriet tried to be sweet.

“No, Harriet, that’s quite alright love. I know that big heart of yours wants to share the spotlight, but you deserve it.” Henry gave her shoulder a pat. Harriet nodded, and Henry shot her a playful wink. He was mouthing something. ‘Well played.’

“Alright.” Harriet shrugged cutely. She picked up the slightest bit of something in Donna’s eyes- was it jealousy?

Because Donna had no right to be jealous. No one did. Oh god, were things a mess… Harry had worked hard. Of course she had. She had, however, neglected to account for the fact that other people had as well. Her silks were impressive, but so were several other acts. And there were plenty of other beautiful women with sensible head on their shoulders. Goddamn, Henry was trying to single her out but she blended here. That wasn’t good for her! The worst part? She knew it wasn’t her fault. She knew she was doing literally everything she could. Well… everything morally correct that she could. Which was where her new plan came in: blackmail. Make them drop like flies. She had her ways of getting information when she needed it… and boy oh boy did she have information. In fact… target number one was on her right. Listen, she figured no one got hurt if they played by her terms. It was all fair. 

“Hey Stephanie…” Harriet whispered, hiding the smirk that threatened to creep onto her features. “Uh… I wanted to ask you how the baby’s coming along.”

“Uh, hate to tell you hun but you’re a year too late.” Steph rolled her eyes, going through the choreo they were learning. “And it was a stupid rumour by Grace Chastity.”

“Oh, I don’t mean the stupid rumour baby. I mean the one that you texted Peter Spankoffski about last week. The positive pregnancy test?” Harriet shrugged. “You really should break news like that in person. It’s the more decent thing to do.”

“Oh my god.” Stephanie blanched, stumbling a bit in her choreography. “How did you-”

“All I’ll say, dear, is that I’m a genius.” Harriet sighed. “Drop the pageant and the photo stays safe with me.”

“But Dad wants-” Stephanie protested. 

“That photo everywhere? Tell him you want to help run the children’s fair or something noble.” Harriet rolled her eyes. 

“Fine. You have a deal.” Stephanie nodded. “I’ll drop tonight.”

“Thanks love.” Harriet giggled, playing it off as just a friendly conversation. 

“You’re sick, y’know?” Stephanie sighed shakily.

“I’m not sick. Just smart.” Harriet pouted mockingly, before hitting the end pose.

“Fuck you.” Stephanie rolled her eyes. 

That marked the beginning of a gameplan for Harriet. And boy, did it work. She eliminated over half of the competition that way. It was amazing what dirty little secrets the women of Hatchet field had to hide. Grace Chastity witnessed and never reported the murder of the beloved Girl and Boy Jer(r)(i)(y)s. A few women in a cult at the local library had sacrificed local housecats. There was an affair involving Sherman Young and one of the contestants that went better unsaid. There was a single normal thing other than Stephanie’s pregnancy on that list. One singular normal thing. Embezzlement. The rest was shady-ass shit! Which made Harry’s job so fun. But the blackmail era couldn’t last forever. She had to switch things up for her safety and sanity. Although in all honesty, saying it even remotely helped her sanity would be the overstatement of the century.

Yes, things evolved over the course of preparing for the challenge. First and foremost, she’d hired an aerialist with Cirque du Soleil to review her routine with her so that it was professional quality. But beyond that, things got… stickier. Harry and Henry’s hands got a little less clean. Because there were some people who were easier than others to eliminate with knowledge. There was some sketchy shit going on in Hatchetfield, but… not everyone partook. And some did and just genuinely didn’t give a fuck that people knew, like Pam Foster. In fact, Harry only had one more blackmail to do, and… well, she was saving it. Because the bitch had stolen her dress. Well, technically Roman had stolen the dress for her. But justice would soon be served. 

Aside from that, though… Harriet had gotten her hands dirtier than she’d initially expected. She’d wanted to do things in a way that was… painless. That did no damage. But it seemed for some people, that wasn’t enough. Luckily, being a scientist, Harriet had access to some tools that many of her competitors didn’t. Like strains of viruses that would… take players out of the running. Nothing permanent of course… unless things got really difficult. Just enough to knock some people out. Harriet had the sense not to include Henry in that. Though… she got the sense that he knew and wasn’t saying anything. Which was probably best for both of them. Let’s be real, Harry wasn’t the only one trying to eliminate her competition. In fact, Harriet had found her at the Foster’s trailer at the edge of the Witchwood about to chop Pam into bits. So she wasn’t even the worst. But she was paving her own road to the Honey Queen crown, and she was about to add the pièce de resistance to her plan. 

It was the day of the pageant. Harry stood on the step to Roman’s mansion, although this time the circumstances were different than they’d been before. She hadn’t specifically been invited. Donna had been invited and had invited her to come along. They were going to get ready for the pageant together at Roman’s place. Roman had insisted on making a fuss for Donna. Funny that no such offer had been made for Harriet, though she hadn’t expected it to be. No matter now. She was taking it for herself. She sighed. If only Donna knew what she had planned. Was it a little… what had Steph called it? Sick? Perhaps it was. But Harriet was a Hidgens, and it was practically family code to close things off with a bang. If this was to be her final elimination before the pageant, she was going to make it big. She sighed, looking over to Donna sweetly. 

“Are you sure Uncle Roman is going to be okay with this? He’s never liked me.” Harriet pouted, being as fake as possible.

“Oh no, sweetie! Don’t say that! He loves you, he can just be… prickly.” Donna tried to soothe her. Donna had been nothing if not genuine the entire competition and it drove Harriet insane. 

“No, he really does hate me.” Harriet warned her, equally as genuine. As if on cue, the door swung open. A grinning Roman was on the other side. 

“Donna, darling! Are you excited for…” Roman began gushing before his gaze fell on Harriet. “You…”

“Hey Roman!” Harriet enthused, her eyes alight with mischief already. 

“I invited Harry over!” Donna giggled in delight. “We can get ready together! Cousin bonding!”

“Darling, today was supposed to be my treat to you .” Roman articulated. “Daddy-Donna bonding.”

“Well, now it can be family bonding, Daddy!” Donna rolled her eyes, walking past him and into the house. She dragged Harriet with her. “Don’t be such a grouch!”

“I’m just- fine.” Roman sighed, giving Harriet a look that was… wary? Was he scared of her? Harriet took some smug satisfaction in that fact. “Do I get a hug?”

“Oh! Of course!” Donna chuckled, making her way over to Roman and hugging him, planting a kiss on his cheek. Roman beams at her. 

“You look ravishing.” Roman told her. He let go and turned to Harriet. “Are you going to give your Uncle a hug?”

“Funny that you’re willing to acknowledge yourself as my Uncle but not me as your niece…” Harriet mumbled, walking into the hug. She’d expected it to be tense, but this time… this time he gave her a genuine, loving hug. She furrowed her bros, confused. 

“Not in front of Donna.” Roman warned her. 

“Why shouldn’t Donna know what you think of me?” Harriet started to laugh. “Are you insecure about her finding out that you’re not a saint? I bet you’d love for her to know how many times you’ve threatened to send me to an asylum.”

“Daddy!” Donna gasped. 

“Harriet…” Roman growled. 

“That’s not Harriet’s fault, Daddy! I know you can be prickly to some people but that’s uncalled for!” Donna frowned. 

“Well…” Roman attempted to reason with her. 

“Well nothing! That’s never something that’s okay unless someone is doing truly terrible things.” Donna chided. 

“Sorry, Donna.” Roman blushed. 

“Not sorry me! I’m not the one getting hurt by that!” Donna scoffed. 

“Sorry, Harriet.” Roman grumbled, looking to his feet and letting go of her in the hug. 

“Prove yourself worthy of forgiveness, and we’ll talk.” Harriet sighed. 

“Right… well, I brought in some treats for you Donna… of course I’d only planned for one person, but I’m sure we can accommodate…” Roman sighed, leading them further into the home. 

When he said he had some ‘treats’, he meant he had a full at-home spa ready as well as a hair, makeup and nails team. They were set for the competition. They were more than capable of accomodating Harriet, despite Roman’s dramatics. And she turned out to be stunning. They kept asking her about her colour scheme, and her undying answer was that it was the same as Donna’s. That should have been the first red flag for what was to come. In fact, Roman would have to be very stupid to not predict what was going to happen now that Harriet was at his house. No one got away with stealing what rightfully belonged to a Hidgens. Especially not Roman. God, never Roman. 

The ladies had just finished with the full package. The only thing left for them to do was get into their dresses. They stood in Roman’s master bedroom, the dress that should have been Harriet’s on a mannequin before them. Donna sighed, clearly internally gushing about how pretty it was. She loved the dress. It almost made what Harriet was about to do more fun. Donna turned to Harry, as if in realization. It was go time. 

“Oh! Harriet, your dress!” Donna realized. “Is it… did you have someone send it over?”

“No need. It was already here.” Harriet sighed, looking at the dress in front of her. 

“What?” Donna quirked a brow, confused. Harriet rolled her eyes. 

“That’s my dress, Donna.” Harriet stated. 

“No… that’s my dress…” Donna furrowed her brows. 

“That’s absurd. Why would you need a dress when you’re not going to be in the pageant?” Harriet scoffed. 

“But I am.” Donna blinked. 

“No you aren’t.” Harriet sighed. “Remember what happened to Liz Cunningham last year?”

“What?” Donna’s face fell into one of horror. “How did you…”

“Donna, really, I’m family. I’ve known this from the start.” Harriet scoffed. 

“And you would use it against me?” Donna asked, horrified. 

“Only if I must.” Harriet shrugged. “I’m better than Linda. I’m not going to leak it with no warning and ruin your life. That would just be cruel, especially since you’re my cousin. No. I’m warning you. Drop out, or everyone knows and you can kiss your perfect little life goodbye. No Citizen of Clivesdale should be crowned the heart and soul of Hatchetfield.”

“I was ten when we moved! I was a child! I barely remember it!” Donna pleaded. 

“And yet you attend the yearly Cherry Festival…” Harriet hummed. 

“How did you…” Donna gasped. Harriet pulled out a picture. 

“From their website. You’re really lucky the people of Hatchetfield shun all things Clivesdale. Otherwise, they would have seen it before now.” Harriet rolled her eyes. 

“Fuck…” Donna whimpered, looking at Harriet. 

Harriet braced herself and looked into Donna’s eyes to assert dominance. The look she got in return was one of pure horror. Unfiltered, and raw. Harriet would have liked to think of herself as a saint. Someone who would experience some remorse in causing someone else pain. But especially as she got deeper and deeper into the competition… there was less and less remorse. There hadn’t even been a substantial amount of it in the first place. She was doing what she needed to win the crown. But at this point… she couldn’t help but smirk. Smirk, like a devil. She enjoyed it. It was like a checkmate against a good opponent in chess. A victory. And she had won it. 

And then she saw something from the corner of her eye that widened her smirk: her Uncle Roman, sporting a look partially of shock, partially of horror, and partially of… pride? She felt her chest swell. She’d done it. She had basically secured her win. And Roman knew it too. That was what the look meant. Of course, he was upset she had sabotaged his princess. But she’d also done it. She’d done it, against all odds. She was a Honey Queen. Albeit not officially yet, but she was one. It was basically a given. She looked past Donna, giving Roman her full attention, still sporting a smirk. 

“You might want to take her out for ice cream. It’ll lessen the sting a bit.” Harriet suggested, her tone mocking. “I heard there are some great cherry sorbets at the Cherry Festival this year- maybe those would cheer her up!”

“Fuck you…” Donna sniffed, tears streaming down her face as she ran out of the room. Roman seemed to examine her from head to toe.

“Did you find some form of satisfaction in that?” Roman asked, staring her dead in the eyes. She hated the feeling, but she wasn’t about to weaken herself.  

“Yes, plenty.” Harriet smirked back. 

“Good.” Roman nodded, before pivoting and making his way to find Donna.

And so Harriet put on her dress and made her way to the pageant. She turned heads- she was, admittedly, stunning. Her curly hair was in a beautiful braided bun, and her soft makeup reflected and complimented the gold of her sleeveless ballgown. She was by far the best-looking woman backstage. Henry’s eyes widened when he saw the dress. He knew who was supposed to be wearing it. But he didn’t dare mention that to Harriet. Harriet strutted confidently through her final rehearsal of the opening number. Now, Henry only had six contestants to worry about- all trashy, old, or otherwise undesirable. And then there was Harriet. The epitome of beauty, grace, poise and elegance. The choice was a clear one. Before long, the ladies were standing on stage for the interview portion. 

“Pamela, your question is…” Henry started, but he was distracted by her eye-line. Instead of outwards, as he’d instructed her to do, it was staring dead at the poor boy backstage writing the questions. He cleared his throat. “Is everything alright?”

“It’d better be…” She nearly growled at the kid, who audibly whimpered. 

“Right…” Henry chuckled nervously, already mentally planning on what he would do if she tried to attack the kid. “Your question is: What is most important to you?”

“Well, that’d be Perky’s Buds! We love to support a local business!” Pamela whooped. There was a whoop in response from two people in the audience- a rather haggard-looking young woman in all plaid, and the town’s favourite enby play-they, Ziggs. There were more faint cheers from other people, but they were faint by choice. 

“You have two daughters!” A spiteful voice called out. In the audience was standing an outraged Lex Foster, who had come to support her mom. Pam gave her a glare for a moment before chuckling nervously. 

“Them too…” She winked, trying to play it off before returning to glare at Lex.

“Right… thank you Pamela.” Henry chuckled. It was obvious that he would roll his eyes if he could. He smirked, approaching Harriet. “Our next contestant is Miss Harriet Hidgens. Harriet, your question is… what does being Honey Queen mean to you?”

“Well…” Harriet started. Oh, that was a good question. If that had caught her off-guard, it could have been a disaster. Luckily, she’d prepared for it. “The Honey Queen represents all of us as a whole. She is sweet, loyal, kind, and proud, as we all are! She embodies Hatchetfield and everything we stand for. She is our people’s chosen ambassador. And one might wonder about why it is we choose a pageant queen to represent us and not a diplomat, or a scholar. I used to. But it’s because Hatchetfield is about more than politics or academia. They flow through us too, but more than that, we are a community, and we choose someone who truly embodies that sense of community to be our face. You can’t find that in a conventional election and we all know that. But you can find that in each of the fine women on this stage. And that’s why the Honey Queen is so important. I just want to say I’m so honoured to be up here alongside all of you, and no matter what happens, I am proud to be from a town that truly values its heart.”

The crowd erupted in cheers. Yes, Harriet tended to be socially awkward, and she didn’t understand people most of the time. But she knew one thing about the people in that audience, and it was that they fucking loved being from Hatchetfield. So as long as she made Hatchetfield sound like the greatest place on earth, she was set. She did a quick curtsy, said some thank-yous, waved… she controlled the crowd. And God, did they love it. God did they love her. She was finally backstage taking the skirt off of her dress to turn it into her bodysuit so that she could do her aerial routine when Pamela Foster beelined towards her and shoved her. Harriet stood firmly, barely even moved. She scoffed, looking at the pathetic woman in front of her. 

“The fuck did you do to get you a question like that? Huh?” Pamela asked her aggressively. 

“Absolutely nothing. I just did a lot of preparation for the interview.” Harriet shrugged. And for once, it was the honest truth. 

“Bullshit!” Pamela fumed. 

“You know, you could have prepared too, Pamela. Be mad at yourself.” Harriet shrugged nonchalantly. “It’s your own fault if you don’t win.”

“Yeah, well maybe it would be. But I know a way to help myself out.” Pamela chuckled darkly. “They won’t love you so much with an ugly ole bruise on your face.”

With that, she threw a right hook at Harry, which she expertly dodged. She was trained in over ten styles of self-defence- fighting was a special interest of hers. One of the few times in this competition where her autism might help her out. She grabbed the woman’s wrist, shifting her body weight so that she could easily flip the woman over. Pamela yelped, attempting to bite at Harriet. Harriet rolled her eyes, kicking her shirt away. Truly, Pam was being pathetic. Harriet straddled Pam, simply trying to keep the writhing woman down. She applied light pressure to her throat, intending to choke her until she stopped. Harriet couldn’t afford the distraction. But Pamela had a size advantage over Harriet and years of fighting on the streets under her belt that Harry hadn’t taken into account. Harriet was flipped onto her back, Pamela winding up for a punch. If there was one thing that Harriet wasn’t going to let happen, it was Pamela Foster injuring her before her aerial routine. Fuck no. She flipped them over again, trying to resume where she’d left off. Except Pam flipped her again. 

The cycle continued a few times before Harriet made a realization that changed the direction of the fight: They were rolling towards the underside of her silks. She smirked, letting them continue to roll until she could pick up a small corner of her silk. She discreetly wrapped it around Pam’s throat in a noose knot. The woman was so enraged that she didn’t even notice. Then, the next time she was on top she climbed off of Pam. The woman roared, clearly too absorbed in wanting to finish their conflict to notice that Harriet was climbing onto her silk. She made a running start, the silk jerking to tighten on Pamela’s neck. She gasped, colour draining from her face. Harriet wasn’t done yet. She got some motions going in the silk so that it continued to thrash Pamela around until… snap . There. Pamela wouldn’t be bothering her anymore. She sighed, climbing her down from the silk, before noticing Henry standing right there, an expression of horror on his face. 

“Harriet Guinevere Ophelia Hidgens, what have you done?” Henry breathed. 

“Relax, would you? It was in self-defence.” Harriet scoffed, unphased. 

“You just killed her!” Henry pointed out incredulously. “You orphaned two girls!”

“You saw how that fight was going! Don’t you think she would have done the same to me?” Harriet hissed, trying to keep things quiet. “I need you to get rid of the body while I’m doing my act.”

“I-” Henry started. There was a roar of applause from the audience, which meant Henry was due back on stage to announce the next act- Harriet. He started towards Stage right, taking Harriet with him. “Fine. I’ll cover you. But Jesus Christ, Harriet! We need to have a serious discussion!”

“Fine.” Harriet sighed, waiting for her cue as Henry walked on. He plastered on a show-stopping smile, giving a phony chuckle.

“Those were the comedy stylings of Hailey Martin. Up next, with aerial acrobatics, please welcome to the stage Harriet Hidgens!” Henry introduced. Harriet walked onstage, taking her place at the base of her silks. Henry sighed, passing by her and whispering. “You’ve got this, Harriet. Go and get ‘em! It’s showtime.”

“Thank you, Uncle Henry.” She whispered back. 

As expected, her routine was nothing short of remarkable. When you put that much effort into something, and you get as much help as she had… it was stunning. She did her routine to Never Enough from The Greatest Showman, and pulled trick after trick after trick. There was no wait time between. No transition time. The tricks were swift and clean, yet beautifully choreographed. She didn’t miss a beat. The entire audience was in awe. With every trick, there were gasps and applause. At the end of her routine, the auditorium was on its feet, the applause deafening. Yes, that was the moment Harriet knew for a fact that she’d done it. She had won Honey Queen. Just look at that crowd. There was no denying it. Henry walked onstage, laying a gentle hand on Harriet’s back. 

“Well done.” He whispered, beaming proudly. He raised his voice. “Ladies, gentlemen, and those who care not for labels, that was Harriet Hidgens!”

There was another roar of applause. Harriet milked it, taking in all of their love and adoration before walking offstage. Without Pamela’s performance, there were only two other performers after her. So it wasn’t long again at all that she was back on stage. She lined up with all the other girls, back in her full dress. She could see that the entire crowd had their eyes on her, and she loved it. And then she looked back to Roman. There he was, at the judges’ panel. And on his face was a proud smirk. She had done it. She had to have done it. She’d won… and in doing so, she’d won his affection. She’d won his approval. This was the moment she had been waiting for literally her entire life. It was sort of pathetic, she thought, but also deeply impactful and meaningful for her. 

“Hey, Harry, I just wanted to say that… you’re incredible.” Hailey leaned over to her.

“Oh, Hailey! That’s so sweet!” Harriet cooed. She hated being this fake, but she was in the home stretch. “Your comedy routine was hilarious!”

“Oh, that? Thanks!” Hailey chuckled. “Congrats. We know how this is gonna end, and you earned it.”

“Aw, thanks, sweetie! But they haven’t announced the winner yet.” Harriet winked. 

“Alright Hatchetfield… at long last, it is time to crown your Honey Queen!” Henry cheered, a gold envelope in his hand. The crowd roared, clearly excited. “Your new Honey Queen is… well, that’s no surprise. Harriet Hidgens!”

Harriet gasped, hands flying to her face as if it was the last thing she had expected. God, she was a good actress. She grinned and cried tears of joy as her Uncle placed the crown on her head, waving to the audience. You couldn’t even hear your thoughts with how loud the room got. She had played them, and they had no clue. She waved, walking offstage and squealing quietly with excitement. She waited for a moment for her Uncle (Henry, that was). She felt a hand on her shoulder and pivoted. But it was not Uncle Henry’s hand that she had felt. It was Uncle Roman’s. Damn, he was quick! He looked down at her, his face full of pride. She blinked, having to take a moment to process it. That kind of look… he’d never directed it towards her before. She shifted a bit before she felt a genuine grin overtake her features. She really had earned his pride. 

“I didn’t think you had it in you, Honey Queen .” Roman grinned. He pulled her into a warm embrace, and Harriet started to cry tears of joy. She prayed that he assumed they were from the competition. But she couldn’t deny, this made her happier than she’d ever felt. This made everything worth it. He moved a hand to stroke her hair gently. “You did it…”

“I told you I wouldn’t embarrass us.” Harriet beamed. 

“You didn’t. In fact, might I say that was the most deserving win I think I’ve ever seen!” Roman hummed. He cupped her face. “Look at you… You’re beautiful.”

“Thank you.” Harriet giggled. Roman held her out to examine her. 

While Roman examined her, she examined her silks. This was the first substantial amount of time she’d had backstage since… Pamela. She thought back. In the moment, with the adrenaline, nothing had felt wrong. But now, all she could hear were her Uncle’s words in her head. You orphaned two girls. Had Pamela been a trash person? Yes. Had she deserved to die? Probably not. Had she been attacking Harriet though? Yes. So at least Harry’s response wasn’t unprovoked. But… her children… they deserved a mother. Harriet was an orphan. Her Uncle had raised her, and he had raised her well. But it didn’t erase the fact that her parents were very dead. And she had the nerve to inflict that on someone else? What had she done? Was the crown worth it?

“Yes… that dress suits you far more than Donna…” He nodded, snapping her from her thoughts. “Truly, today was remarkable. You should be so proud!”

“I am.” Harriet chuckled, now nervously. God, what if he found out?

“Come with me, love. Your fun isn’t over yet.” Roman smirked, taking her by the hand.

“What do you mean?” Harriet quirked a brow. 

“You’ll see.” Roman teased, a twinkle in his eye. She followed him without hesitation.

“And when you fell into those splits… I thought you’d fall!” Roman exclaimed. “That much take a remarkable amount of strength!”

“That’s what I’ve been telling you!” Harriet nodded. She finally felt like he understood her. 

It had been nonstop praise since he had gotten in his Rolls Royce with her. Harry was soaking it in. She had never had a conversation with him that had gone this long without a fight. Where he’d truly been happy to talk to her, and it hadn’t only been out of common courtesy. It was wonderful… and she never wanted things to go back to the way they were. God, if only he knew what she’d done for him. She’d infected about a quarter of the women in Hatchetfield. Actually, she’d probably started a mini epidemic, given that a solid half of the viruses she had used were contagious. She’d ruined people’s lives- or nearly done so. Some of those blackmail items had spread around. And… she’d killed. She’d killed for that crown. God, what was she? And what would he think if he knew.

“I’m sorry I didn’t see it.” Roman sighed. “I looked at your strength, and I didn’t see the elegance and grace that could come with it.”

“Oh, it’s fine. Now you do.” Harriet chuckled. The car rolled to a stop.

“No, I mean it… I owe you the deepest of apologies for the way I’ve looked at you all of these years. You are truly remarkable.” Roman cupped her face gently. He smirked softly. “You really did inherit the Murray ruthlessness.”

“What?” Harriet blinked. 

Harriet’s blood ran cold. Ruthlessness? Had she… she had to have been… why would he call her ruthless? Why, unless he knew that she was? Unless he knew what she’d done. He knew what she’d done. He knew, and… there was still pride in his eyes. Why? Why would he condone any of it? God, it was terrible. Even she knew that. It was so beyond anything she should have even considered doing for the crown. And she’d followed through with it in desperation. It was pathetic, in a way. Absolutely pathetic that she’d allowed her desperation to control her. But here she was. He knew. He was perfectly fine. And that was the part that most terrified her about all of this. She looked at him, terror starting to spread onto her features. 

“You inherited our ruthlessness…” Roman chuckled softly. 

“You…” Harriet breathed. Roman nodded. Harriet looked at their surroundings. She hadn’t even noticed they were in the Witchwood. Oh god, maybe he knew and he wasn’t okay. He’d lured her into a false sense of security. “Why are we here?”

“For the ceremony.” Roman assured her. 

“Ceremony?” Harriet blinked. “In the middle of the woods? That sounds… cultish.”

“We are not a cult, we’re a church!” Roman snapped defensively. He chuckled nervously. “Sorry, dear We’re a church. The Church of the Starry Children.”

“Oh god…” Harriet breathed. They were notorious lunatics.

“You see, Harriet, the Honey festival is to celebrate more than just our bountiful Honey Harvest here in Hatchetfield.” Roman explained. “It is to signify the start of the new season… the season of Nibblenephim. Nibblenephim is… a bit different from his eldritch brothers. He may Roam the earth freely for 24 hours every year if he is given a form. And when he comes… he must feast! And that is the ceremony. The Feeding of Nibbly. You know I had always hoped you’d be here.”

“Me?” Harriet asked warily. 

“Ever since you were five, I’d always wanted you to be the guest of honour one year. That’s the Honey Queen, by the way.” Roman smirked. “You were always so hungry, even back then. When I first showed you signs of disapproval… oh, did you ever mope. You pleaded, and begged, and tried your utmost to earn it. You were desperate for it. And that is what makes a good Honey Queen. Hunger. That is what Nibbly loves.”

“What does Nibbly have to do with the Honey Queen Pageant?” Harriet edged, already knowing she wasn’t going to like where this led. 

“Well, I mentioned that the Honey Festival is to celebrate the start of his season.” Roman sighed. “The Honey Queen is the guest of honour at his ceremony… and the main course. She serves as the sacrificial lamb.”

“Oh fuck no…” Harriet backed away from him, as much as she could in her car seat. The car door opened, and Harriet fell backwards. Two men in hoods picked her up, dragging her out. “No no no!”

“She who is hungriest wins the crown!” Roman chuckled. “And you were hungry, weren’t you Harriet? I’ve spent nearly two decades building your hunger. You’re more than hungry, you’re starving. So starving that you started an epidemic, nearly ruined your own sister’s life, and killed a mother of two children. Linda… now, Linda I didn’t even work for. She just happened. But this, my love, is the result of many years of hard work on my part.”

“You did this to your own daughter…” Harriet breathed in horror. So that’s why Linda hadn’t been there.

“She won the pageant, and I am bound by sacred duty.” Roman sighed. Harriet was dragged forward to a clearing in the forest, where there were at least ten other hooded men awaiting her. In the middle of it was a pile of pig corpses, partially rotting and swarmed by flies. Harriet gagged. “I never wanted to. That’s why I prepared you the way I did. So that I didn’t have to sacrifice my own family. But… rules are rules, I suppose. Not even I can bend them.”

“So it’s me and the pigs.” Harriet sighed, defeated. One person, she could handle in a fight. But thirteen? That was a stretch. 

“Oh no… it’s just you. Your hunger… it’s sweet to Nibbly. In fact, you may be our sweetest sacrifice to date.” Roman clarified. “Those pigs… those pigs are his form.”

“Oh…” Harriet crinkled her nose, disgusted. 

She struggled against the men holding her captive. She hadn’t even thought to do that before. But… she didn’t want to die. She’d done some awful things, but she didn’t deserve to die for them! Roman approached her one more time, cupping her face in his hands. He made a signal with his other hand, before grabbing her into a close hug and kissing her head tenderly. She didn’t quite know why, but she stopped struggling as hard. She felt… safe in his arms. Pathetic , she told herself. You’re still entirely his spell even after he has literally told you he is about to kill you. Still, there she stood, in perhaps the warmest embrace she’d ever gotten from him. He sighed, moving a strand of hair from her face.

“Thank you, my Honey Queen. You truly were remarkable.” Roman cooed, before grasping her shoulders firmly and throwing her to the pigs.

Harriet was disoriented and disgusted, screaming. She couldn’t even think to get up in distress. And even if she could… she was quickly surrounded by Roman and his twelve hooded men. She couldn’t run. Shey started chanting in a language Harry had never heard. She winced, waiting for some form of a sacrificial dagger to come out. But it never did. Behind her, the pig corpses seemed almost to animate, wriggling and bubbling, distorting grossly. Harriet threw up. She could stomach her experiments, but this… it was almost like they were burning, moulding together. She would never do anything this horrendous to an animal. Slowly, the pigs merged together to form a long, worm-like thing. At the head, all the teeth seemed to form into one horrendous mouth, lips soon following. Harriet screamed. 

“Hello, Harriet!” The Mouth-thing enthused. “You look delicious.

“Please no…” Harriet begged it. “Please, I have so much more I could do…”

“Yum yum yum! It’s snack time!” The Mouth licked its lips, before lunging for Harriet. 

And that was the last thing Harriet Hidgens ever saw. Teeth. And then, it was onwards to a painful demise.