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Our April 2023 Flash Contest was based on Prompt #248 (provided by Stone Soup contributor Molly Torinus, which asked that participants write a scene (in prose or verse) from a dysfunctional family gathering. With this prompt coinciding with Easter, a holiday known to often result in dysfunctional family gatherings, some participants had plenty of recent personal experience to draw on, though most submissions focused on Thanksgiving, funerals, or birthdays. Among these fabulous submissions were a story about a family of bumbling animals, a story about a shallow family clamoring for their matriarch's estate, and a story about a family that came together after an unfortunate death. As always, thank you to all you participated, and please keep submitting next month!

In particular, we congratulate our Winners and our Honorable Mentions, whose work you can appreciate below.

“Our Time" by Lauren Kim, 13
“Aunt Edith, Rest in Peace" by Evelyn Lien, 11
“A Funeral to Remember" by Zoe Pazner, 12
“The Wibblywobbles’ Topsy-Turvy Reunion" by Lucia Tang, 11
“From the Darkness" by Hailey Chua Yixin, 12

Honorable Mentions
“The Cohens" by Elijah Dais, 13
“Mischief and Misfortune" by Owen Duan, 12
“Smile!" by Iris Fink, 11
“Stop" by Ella Ka, 1o
“Miscommunications" by Peony Katira, 12

Our Time

Lauren Kim, 13


The three of us sit around the circular table, facing each other. Everyone is on their phones, including me, but only so I don’t have to be the first to speak. I just can't. We live in one house, under one roof, and people call this “family.” Family — such an undefined word. I see faces that I didn’t see for at least 3 weeks while living in the same house. I mean, it’s not fully my fault. I’m only the youngest child. They never even tried to understand me. Or was I ever understandable? I think I was. But deep inside, I know that the correct answer is that I was not. But does that make everything my fault? No — is what I want to believe, but I concluded: possibly. Should I be the first one to talk?



Everyone being on their phones makes me feel like I should be, too. I glance at Mom. She has the same expression from when she used to say that I should be the better person, the more responsible one, because I have a younger sibling. I am sick of her. I don’t hate her, who hates their parent? I just hate when she talks to me. How can she possibly not get that? I can feel that someone was answering all the questions I was throwing. It said, Maybe because all I did was ignore them? I tried to hide this voice inside me when I had to admit eventually. Maybe this whole thing would never have happened if I had said something more than “good” when my mom asked me how my day went. Maybe. Does that make me the person who should talk?



I try to hide my face, glancing at each person with my phone that I wasn’t even looking at. I look at my children, trying to remember the last time I really talked to them. I feel shameful that all I can recall are instances when I was angry at them. But who cares? I’m the one who earns every single dollar in this house — all by myself, too. I don’t have to be shameful at all. I’m not even sorry. No matter how much I repeated this to myself, though, I had to admit that I am sorry and that I do care. And mostly, that I regret. Someone said that regret is the most painful hell a person can possibly be in. Well, I guess I am living in hell. I hope I can end it… I really do. Maybe I should start the conversation. Should I?



Breaking the silence, everyone hears a voice, a very awkward one, “How was your day?”

Or was it really “a” voice?

Aunt Edith, Rest in Peace

Evelyn Lien, 11

Aunt Edith has fallen,
And so her family gathers,
To mourn her passing.
A grieving father, a crying mom.
A cheating husband, a silent son.
Saying their last goodbyes,
In a room filled with white lilies,
Aunt Edith, rest in peace.
A demanding mother, a heart-broken wife,
An absent daughter, a loving aunt.
Classical piano music,
Cannot cover the whispers.
When will this service end?
Who can have her jewelry?
Glamorous outside, festering inside.
An apple left to rot.
In a room filled with white lies,
Aunt Edith, rest in peace.

A Funeral to Remember

Zoe Pazner, 12

I would never admit this out loud but I hate funerals. I hate the silence of it, I hate the crying. I hate the obligation to go and I hate the speeches. I thought about this as I walked with my husband, Jim, his hand in mine to a funeral home for a wake. One of Jim’s many uncles passed away and we were going to pay our respects. I did not know his family very well but I promised myself to be the dignified young lady I was brought up to be and make sure I was being supportive of Jim even though I really did not want to go.

As we neared the door to the funeral home I thought about the concept of a wake. I suppose it could be appealing to some, getting to see their loved one for a last reunion but I personally think it’s a bit morbid. I want to remember the people I love as they were, not some lifeless body in a casket who got dressed up by strangers. I am pregnant with my second child and the last thing I would ever want him to see is my dead body when it is my turn to go. I lost my train of thought when my husband stopped me in front of the funeral home’s doors. He said, “Before we go in I would like to apologize for anything my family does today.” I laughed. “What could they possibly do that is so bad?” I walked up the steps pulling my husband along with me. He chuckled and said, “You’ll see.” We walked in.

I was greeted by his dead uncle laying in a coffin, his crazy hair stood straight up, not tamed even by death. Food stood piled up on white plastic tables. Cheap bottles of wine sat next to plastic cups. Aunt Dolly, the uncle's ex-wife, had pulled up a chair next to the wine and began chugging one of the bottles with no mind of the wine dripping down her dress. There were four rows of seating; this alone was depressing as most of the seats were not even filled. In the last row sat Hanna and Steward who, mind you, were both a little cuckoo. They got married after three months of dating and the only thing they seemed to have in common was their intense fear of death. I think the funeral drove them to the edge because they were arguing over who got the aisle seat as they were nervous about a fire starting and wanted to be close to the exit, just in case.

In the third row sat George, Maria, Rose, and Hunter. Hunter, a spoiled three-year old, was having a tantrum on the floor because his parents weren’t paying attention to him. Maria was unsuccessfully trying to get Rose to sleep by rocking her in her arms. George, doing his best to ignore his children, sat two seats away as he read the newspaper. The next row was unoccupied as it was reserved for Jim’s mother, Brittney, and the three other uncles, Clyde, Jared, and Jeremy, who were, as usual, late. In the first row sat an old lady who sat quietly with her eyes closed, as if trying to block out the sounds in the room. I decided I wanted to sit next to her and sat down two places away from where she sat, Jim right next to me. I wondered how the woman was related to Jim’s uncle, and was about to ask when Brittney, Clyde, Jared, and Jeremy burst into the room smelling, very pungently, of whiskey. The old woman took a deep breath of disappointment that they had shown up and opened her eyes, accepting that whatever peace she was trying to maintain was gone. Then the woman whispered to me, “Leave it to them to ruin my best friend’s funeral.” I whispered, “Best friend? That must be hard. I'm sorry for your loss.” She paused for a second, smiling to herself, “Oh that's okay, he led a difficult life, it was his time.” She paused again and then proceeded, “We seem to be some of the only sane people here.” She gestured towards Brittney, Clyde, Jared, and Jeremy with a sigh. I nodded as they woozily stumbled into their seats, the whiskey smell following them and stinging my nose. I could tell this would be one interesting funeral.

The Deacon stepped out in front of the body to begin the ceremony. Aunt Dolly sat at the snack bar shoving her face with cakes and pies only turning around when the Deacon first started the prayers. Brittney’s hand suddenly shot in the air, knocking me in the back of the head on its way up. The Deacon's head turned to the side much like a dog’s would and said, “Yes?”

Jim’s mother stood up, pointed a finger at the Deacon and said, “Are you Catholic?” She slurred on the word “Catholic” and when she went to sit back down in her chair she missed the seat completely and landed on her bottom, laughing hysterically with the uncles. The Deacon, confused by their antics, answered, “Yes Miss, I am Catholic.” By the time he had answered the question the four had regained their composure and sat back in their seats. The Deacon looked at them, waiting for a sign to proceed with the prayers. He was about to start again when another hand shot up in the air. It was Clyde, his wrist hanging loosely in the air. I giggled to myself because at that point the Deacon was starting to realize that he was not talking to normal, or at least sober, people. The Deacon said, “Yes sir?” He spoke softly through gritted teeth. Clyde asked, “Are you married?” The Deacon looked about ready to give up when he said, “I am married and have kids.” and Jared yelled out, “How can you be Catholic and have kids?!” The Deacon, desperately trying to end the conversation said, “I have done nothing wrong and would-.” Before he could finish Jeremy stood up and started chanting, “WE WANT A PRIEST, WE WANT A PRIEST!” He repeated this several times until the other uncles, Brittney, and Aunt Dolly joined in. The woman sitting next to me said, “Growing up is a life-long process but they seemed to have stopped their journey at twenty.” With that, she went to the body, hovered over it for a couple seconds and left, closing the doors behind her.

Now that the only other sane person had left the room, everything broke into chaos. When the Deacon tried to leave, Jeremy jumped forward and landed on him. Before he could land the first punch, Maria broke them up, bringing them both to their feet. Jeremy raised his fist to punch her when George tackled him into the door, making it fly open into a second, but much fancier, room for a different wake. It was like a chain reaction. The widow from the other room with a black veil over her face and smudged mascara from crying stood up and started screaming at them for ruining her dead husband's funeral. Then the rest of the room started yelling at them as well. The poor Deacon stood cowering, terrified, in a corner of the room, while Maria tended to Rose who was wailing. Maria brought her to the front of the room, bouncing her arms up and down trying to soothe her back to sleep while saying, “My poor baby!” Then out of nowhere Hunter jumped to his feet in a fit of rage and cried, “I’m your baby too!” Then he charged at Rose and at the last second Maria pulled away protecting herself and Rose. Hunter’s momentum propelled him forward, into the uncle’s dead body. The coffin, Hunter, and the body all tumbled to the floor. Hunter stood up frantically, knowing he had done something wrong. Both rooms went quiet: George’s fist remained primed in the air above Jeremy. Hanna and Steward, who had been arguing the whole time, stopped their bickering to look up. Rose stopped crying, and the mourners from next door poured in, not saying a word. The silence was broken by Jared's laughter. Clyde turned to him and yelled, “You little -” Before he could finish what he was saying, Jared grabbed him by his collar and kneed him in the stomach, propelling them both out the door. The Deacon left, most likely to write his resignation letter. The mourners from the other room receded, slamming their door behind them. George got off of Jeremy and walked furiously out the door, Rose in Maria’s arms with Hunter following closely behind. Hanna and Steward walked out the door, arguing whether they should take separate cars in case one got into a car crash so their family name could live on. When they left, Jim and I were left alone in the room. I helped him put the coffin upright again and his uncle back in it, my mouth slightly parted the whole time at the audacity of his family. Then I looked at Jim and Jim and looked at me. Our frowns quickly changed to smiles and our smiles turned into laughter. After we had finished laughing ourselves silly, Jim touched the coffin as if to say goodbye and we left, closing the door gently behind us.

The Wibblywobbles’ Topsy-Turvy Reunion

Lucia Tang, 11

Sir Wibblywobbles awoke on a bright day. He stared at the ceiling for a moment, and the mud-colored paint reminded him of something. Oh yes: his dream. What had he been dreaming about again? Oh, that’s right. He had been dreaming about beautiful mud.

Mud was Sir Wibblywobbles’s absolute favorite thing. Almost everything he owned was mud-colored. His toothbrush, his hair ties, his calendar, even his bed was that perfect shade of wet dirt (did wood count as mud-colored?). Speaking of calendars...today was the day of the big family gathering!

Careful not to make a sound, Sir Wibblywobbles got up and slipped his tiny feet into his oversized slippers. He stretched, yawned, and opened the door. As he crossed the threshold, his hoof caught on the other side. He tripped, waving his short arms to catch his balance. He steadied himself, hoping he had not woken anyone. In the room next door, he could hear his wife, Lady Wibblywobbles, breathing deeply. Good. He tiptoed through the hallway, nearly face planting a couple of times before making it to the bathroom. Closing the door behind him, he wiped a speck of drool o his piggy pink fur. Twenty minutes later, he emerged, fresh and clean for the new day.

He snuck across the hallway again, but this time he stopped in front of Lady Wibblywobbles’s door. He knocked on it a couple of times before remembering she slept with ear plugs. He slapped himself on the forehead, making a big show of clutching his head, even though no one was noticing. He kept forgetting. He sighed and threw open the door, stopping it a sheer moment before it hit the wall, and plopped onto Lady Wibblywobbles’s bed. She sat up and yawned, eying Sir Wibblywobbles questioningly.

“What time is it?” she asked drowsily.

“Eight-o-clock,” replied Sir Wibblywobbles. He eyed her messed-up fur. Even though she woke up with messed up fur, she always found a way to look stunning during the day. Cows were always pretty no matter what.

“Time to get up,” said Sir Wibblywobbles briskly. “Big day ahead!”

Lady Wibblywobbles sprinted out of bed. Sir Wibblywobbles practiced stung his nose into his face. It was his best party trick, and his children were sure to love it. In no time, Lady Wibblywobbles came out of the bathroom looking like she just returned from a beauty salon.

“The party starts at nine!” she said excitedly, batting her eyelashes.

“WHAT?!” Sir Wibblywobbles screamed. “How come I didn’t know that?”

“Don’t you worry,” said Lady Wibblywobbles. “I’ve got everything set up.”

And she did. When Sir Wibblywobbles and Lady Wibblywobbles got downstairs, Sir Wibblywobbles beamed. Pink balloons lined the doorway with a huge WELCOME banner above it. In the living room, the mud-colored walls were lined with streamers, and the chandelier had been draped with streamers as well. The dining room was clean, the oak table polished, and the usual wooden chairs had been replaced with fancy golden ones. Paper plates lay on the table, each with a party hat and fancy utensils next to it. It was as if a decorating service had transformed the place overnight.

“Woah,” said Sir Wibblywobbles. No wonder he’d heard so much noise falling asleep. His wife had been working hard decorating the house!

“The kids should be arriving soon,” said Lady Wibblywobbles.

Sir Wibblywobbles nodded and dashed upstairs. He came down straightening his best bowtie and wearing a huge party hat and holding a party popper. “How do I look?”

“Wonderful!” applauded Lady Wibblywobbles.

The doorbell rang.

Sir Wibblywobbles ran to the door and flung it open. In the doorway stood their two eldest children: Duke Squigglyspots and Prince Twigglytots. Being the oldest children, they were already attending grade school at Northern Light Boarding School. Sir Wibblywobbles didn’t understand genetics, but he was sure he and his wife weren’t supposed to have a giraffe and a donkey as their first children.

“Kids!” Sir Wibblywobbles and Lady Wibblywobbles screamed in unison. They ran over and hugged them.

In the next ten minutes, all of their kids arrived. Along with Duke Squigglyspots the giraffe and Prince Twigglytots the donkey, there was also Junior Prince Waddilywiggles the penguin, Duchess Minniemuffin the panda, Princess Chipperychonk the chicken, and Junior Princess Tsuki the bunny.

Sir Wibblywobbles and Lady Wibblywobbles escorted them to the dining room, and they each sat in their chairs calmly, waiting to be served.

They’re so different! Thought Sir Wibblywobbles. So civilized and cute. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

And so things went wrong.

Princess Chipperychonk jumped out of her chair and ew through the door, whizzing past Sir Wibblywobbles and up the stairs. He heard the TV turn on, and the infamous “Baby Shark” started to play.

“Hey!” shouted Lady Wibblywobbles.

Junior Princess Tsuki waggled her cotton ball tail as she hopped over to the living room, stealing all the party hats and stacking them on top of her little head as she went.

“Tsuki!” Sir Wibblywobbles felt anger bubbling up inside him.

Those crazy, uncivilized children! he thought. What has school even taught them?

He felt a tugging on his leg and looked down. In the confusion, Prince Twigglytots had somehow gotten hold of his shaver and was taking short little pecks at Sir Wibblywobbles’s fur. “Gahhh!” he screamed. “Twigglytots, you little donkey! Give Daddy his shaver right now!

Prince Twigglytots let out a high-pitched laugh and dashed o, his clever little hands knocking over chairs as he went.

What horrible things they’re doing! thought Sir Wibblywobbles. Then he shook his head. I need to stop staring like an idiot. Pull yourself together, Sir Wibblywobbles!

He stood up on his chair and was about to make one of his “Dad Speeches” when something caught his eye.

Duchess Minniemuffin ran around like a maniac, somehow locating the hidden bamboo stash in the pantry. Instead of eating them, she threw the stems in her mouth and shredded the leaves, throwing them around her, causing a mini bamboo tornado to whip around Junior Prince Waddilywiggles. Junior Prince Waddilywiggles didn’t seem to notice, however. He was too busy turning on all the sinks and flooding the house. Lady Wibblywobbles ran around screaming as the water level rose. Junior Prince Waddilywiggles swam around in it, giggling like a madman. Princess Chipperychonk waded down the stairs, bringing with her the electrical cable of the TV. Duke Squigglyspots had somehow taken out everything he could find in the cupboards and was teetering on the top of the stack, an egg timer in his hands.

“Six minutes!” he yelled like a referee.

Junior Princess Tsuki bounded out of the living room, surprised to see so much water. She wailed and hopped onto the kitchen chandelier, waving her party hats and yelling at the top of her lungs. The front door swung open, and a wave of water surged out, but the tap was still open, and more water kept pouring in. A bee and an owl ew through the window, each clutching a cheese bomb in their mouths. Sir Wibblywobbles recognized them as friends of Duchess Minniemuffin. They absolutely loved causing trouble. In unison, they dropped the cheese bombs into the water, then ew out of the house.

“Daddy!” screamed Princess Chipperychonk from somewhere across the room. “My tail got electrocuted!”

Sir Wibblywobbles waded over, cursing and throwing up his arms. “Chipperychonk, you dumb chicken! Why did you stick the plug into the water?”

Chipperychonk threw up her own arms. “Because we did it at school, Daddy! We put a piece of paper next to it and—”

“I get it, I get it,” said Sir Wibblywobbles. “Chipperychonk, princess, please don’t ever do that again!”

Chipperychonk squealed and dove just as Duke Squigglyspots lost his balance on his tall stack of items and toppled down. With a huge splash, he crashed down into the water, spraying Sir Wibblywobbles in the face.

Sir Wibblywobbles screeched and climbed onto the table for safety. It was time to make his speech. These kids were getting out of hand.


His children's heads turned in unison. He took a deep breath and continued. “Lady Wibblywobbles and I have decided that, since you are being so bad, we will have to lock you up in the dungeons!”

His kids gasped, grabbing each other for support.

“That’s right!” said Lady Wibblywobbles, getting the idea. “You children are being so bad, we will lock you up in the nonexis—I mean—yes, the dungeon!”

Sir Wibblywobbles smiled at their shocked faces. “We will lock you up...unless you clean the house!”

His kids bowed and curtsied. “Ok, Daddy,” they said together. “We will clean the house.”

And so the rest of the day went by in a flash. Everyone helped with the cleanup, and by mid-afternoon, the house was once again looking like a decorating crew had come by. The kids collapsed onto the couches, clutching boxes of popcorn. Sir Wibblywobbles turned on the TV and played the kids’ favorite channel. Sir Wibblywobbles let out a sigh he didn’t realize he’d been holding. This was the perfect party. The one he had been imagining.

From the Darkness

Hailey Chua Yixin, 12

The knives scraped the snowy tablecloth but did not cut, as the servants carried in the feast. A dim, pallid air blanketed the lofty bronze pillars, the immaculate friezes, and even the looming oil portrait of our family at the end of Grandfather’s hall. Not even the candled chandeliers bunched up like firefly nests on the ceiling could overcome the spectral shadows - but to those drowned in darkness, surely faint phosphorescence was all they needed. At the rectangular table of half-empty goblets and limp life-sucked camellias, sat nine people, on nine chairs.

The plates were laid down, and everyone dipped their head respectfully at Grandfather at the tail of the table, who remained like stone, as always, and I followed monotonously, as always. We started to eat.

All normal.

Daintily picking at her roast chicken, First Aunt started to open her mouth, but Mother was there first, babbling excitedly with her mouth dribbling with wine. “Goodness, did you all hear? Our beautiful Calanthe has been guaranteed a position at-” she squealed enthusiastically, exploding into a garish chuckle- “Cambridge University! How wonderful!” I tried my best not to roll my eyes. Mother, always poking her head where it didn’t belong.

First Uncle cleared his throat. “Yes, wonderful news indeed. A perfect university for her to study exceptionally. Am I right, Calanthe?” His eyes flashed to her, and the hairs on my arms stood up like thorns.

Beside me, Calanthe immediately straightened and raised her glass of champagne, delivering a straight, all-white smile to everyone at the table. “Yes, Father. I thank everyone for supporting me throughout my life’s journey, and as I mark this milestone, I wish all of you blessed times ahead as well,” she recited. My parents, like always, were the first to clap, then First Aunt and Uncle, and lastly Aunt Ellis, most meekly, while little Damon erupted into harsh, piercing giggles that rocked his chair back and forth, back and forth precariously, clamping his hands over his ears.

“It is a shame she’s chosen to study astrophysics, though, of all subjects,” First Aunt remarked dryly under her breath. Calanthe’s smile widened.

My lips wavered, as I swallowed down a chunk of tuna. A perfect memorisation, I mused. Emotionlessly, I resorted to a simple pat on my elder cousin’s carmine-cloaked wrist. It felt... strange, underneath the silks, warm and swollen. Turning her head sharply towards me, she sucked in a breath and snatched her hand back, hurriedly burrowing it under the safety of the tablecloth. We’d never been that close, but I could have sworn the distance between us had been driven back by a mile with a touch.

I swallowed, breath hitching. First Aunt and Uncle’s stares were on me, boring into my face with twisted hatred and warning. I wanted to shrink into myself. Thump. Thump. Thump. The thumping of Damon’s rocking chair was like the muffled fire of explosions, as my arms froze up and Calanthe’s parents’ expressions darkened... then melted back again into radiant, cordial simpers.

Quickly, I looked down at my fillet. The tension was released, but in my rib cage, my heart still palpitated wildly, my tensed neck afraid to lift, and questions. Calanthe. Did they...?

Thump. Thump. Damon was still rocking his chair, his eyebrows furrowing and relaxing, his eyes whizzing around like uncontrollable wings, hands still over his ears. Mutedly, Grandfather frowned at him, biting into a fruit. Taking the cue, frail Third Aunt instantaneously leapt up from her seat in a screeeeeech, hurried to her six-year-old child’s side, cradling him in her arms and whispering soothes into his ears. She was a widow who had gone against Grandfather’s will and married a commoner - and lived to regret her choice. A moment passed, then another, then finally, Damon’s head lolled back and his chair came to a stop, as he reached out and grabbed his bean-piercing fork.

Mother’s eyes roved from Calanthe, swept past me - of course they did - and to Damon and Third Aunt. “Ah, Ell, I’ve nearly forgotten. How have you been lately?” she sighed, her excitable voice shifting, now dripping with mockery. “I’m sure it must be exhausting for you to care for that... autistic child, all by yourself. When are you going to remarry?” She exchanged a knowing look with Father.

Aunt Ellis paled. “I... I...”

Her voice trembled like a leaf. Calanthe sat as tall, as stoic as an alabaster bust, which threatened to crack under the display case. Damon looked close to wails. Mother’s makeup looked all too bright, all too colourful, all too self-important, like a peacock.

I had seen all these before, every, yearly, dinner. All the time. And I had grown tired of it.

“If Aunt Ellis does not want to remarry, she doesn’t have to,” I said loudly. “I could always pop by to help babysit Damon.” Damon cooed in reply.

As expected, heads snapped towards me, but I steeled myself. “Miranda...Monica... Monita. Monita, what is the meaning of this?” Father asked me coldly.

“Aunt Ellis is not a burden, and Damon is not an ‘autistic problem’ that needs to be solved.”

The temperature went down by a notch. First Aunt maintained a tight-lipped, immaculate smile. “You are very kind, Monita, and I’m sure you’re eager to support Ellis as well. But our family has already been compassionate enough to sponsor her expenses and her ...child’s medical fees. There is really no need.”

Black dots speckled my vision. How could she talk about her sister as if she was nothing more than a stranger, a beggar? My fingers shook, but not out of fear. I knew it; they would never change. Not now, not ever - not in this endless, repetitive cycle of toxicity, of dysfunction, one that embroiled all nine of us.

“I’m not hungry,” I said quietly, standing up, and pushing my plate back. Grandfather looked up, finally, at me. Offering my hand to Calanthe, who stared at it in that cold, detached way of hers, I said, “Come on, Cal. You haven’t been touching your food at all. Will you... will you walk with me?” A question, not an invitation.

At the pet name, the veins in First Uncle’s forehead bulged, and he looked as if he would leap out and pounce at me, had First Aunt not been rapidly stroking his back.

I half-expected Calanthe to look me in the eye and wave it away, wave it all away with her bruised wrist... But she took my palm, and let me hoist her to her feet, a faint but dazzling beam glowing on her features. “Thank you.”

By now, the entire room was silent.

Heaving a squirming Damon up, the two of us strode to the ends of the dinner hall. We passed the empty portrait frames and the dark, sickly patterned wallpapers. I could feel the piercing stares on my back, but I held my head up high, and so did

Calanthe. Overhead, the intoxicatingly bitter yet sweet stench of acrid aconite blossoms wafted under my nostrils, threatening to sway my step, but I just held my breath, and I opened the door. In the pressure of this broken family, at last, I walked away.

From the fumes, there was fresh air.

From the darkness, there was light.

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