“Isabella, I do wish you’d call me mother. After all, it’s been ten years.” Her stepmother walked forward and stopped at the edge of the old men’s long table. She placed a basket on the wooden surface.
“What do you want?” Isabella asked warily.
“I’ve come to apologize.” Her stepmother opened the basket and carefully pulled out an apple pie. She set it in the middle of the table and then withdrew two plates and two forks. “I brought your favorite dessert, as a peace offering.”
Isabella narrowed her eyes but stepped forward, confused.
“Apologize for what?” she asked.
“Isabella, we did this for you. We wanted you to have the best education, go to the best school. We thought you would be happy.”
“Happy? Happy to go to a boarding school my senior year?”
“Well, we applied two years ago but they have a very long waiting list-”
“What do you mean ‘we’?” Isabella interrupted.
“Well, dear, this was all your father’s idea.”
Isabella’s shoulders sagged and she slumped into the nearest chair.
“It was his idea?”
“Of course, I never would have done this without him pushing for it. When Hunter came back and told me how upset you were, and that you’d run away, I was distraught.”
As Isabella tried to take in this news, her stomach rumbled.
“See dear, you’re famished. Have a piece of pie and let’s talk about this.” Her stepmother sat across from her and cut a thick slice of warm apple pie. “Are you here all by yourself?”
Isabella pulled the pie toward her and nodded. She didn’t want to tell her stepmother about Eddie.
“The owner’s at the town meeting. He should be back before too long.”
She cut the tip of the pie off with her fork and took a bite. The pie melted on her tongue in a puddle of tart butter and cinnamon. She’d been so busy serving lunch that she’d forgotten to eat any, and the pie was delicious.
She’d finished half the slice before she looked up and saw the wicked grin on her stepmother’s face.
Isabella frowned and then looked down at her plate.
Suddenly her stomach cramped violently and Isabella gasped in pain.
She lurched to her feet and overturned her chair. It clattered against the floor as Isabella clutched her stomach.
“Eddie!” she called.
Her stepmother’s head snapped up as Eddie rushed into the dining room. She dashed around the table, grabbed Isabella’s arm and began to pull her toward the door.
“Snow!” Eddie reached out and grasped her other arm just as Isabella’s stepmother stepped forward and backhanded him across the face.
“Stay out of this, boy!”
Eddie staggered back.
Isabella tried to resist but she became dizzy. She reached out to grab the edge of the table and her stepmother continued to pull. Isabella gave one final yank. Her arm pulled free of her stepmother’s grasp, but she could not keep her balance.
Isabella’s head struck the corner of the table and her world went black.