I’d brought the iodine with me, not with the intention of using it, but to
have it there just in case. As weeks turned to months, I thought of it less and
less often. Some days, I almost fully forgot it was there.
I dipped a measuring spoon into the powder, scooped up a heap of the
white granules, and scattered them over the flour.
It was tasteless and odorless. Anyone who consumed it wouldn’t know
until the convulsions started. I mixed four tablespoons of the iodine into the
dry ingredients before adding the milk and eggs. Four tablespoons would be
plenty for someone eating a small slice. The mixture combined beautifully. I
resisted the temptation to dip my finger in then poured the batter into a pan.
Washing up while waiting for the cake to cook gave me time to clear the
anger out of my head. I joined my doll in looking through the window
towards Marwick House. I felt better now that I had a purpose. It was the
only way to fix Ruby, even if it meant I would never see her again. The house
would go back to being quiet. Dormant. Perhaps it would stay empty for
another eight months before a new family moved in.
THE CAKE SMELT GOOD . I decorated it with icing sugar before wrapping it in a
cloth and leaving the house. Ruby still stood at the window when I passed it,
but she answered the door on the third knock.
Her face was grey and gaunt, and her eyelids red. She looked sick. Pity
twisted inside of me, and I held out the cake. “I brought you a treat.”
“Thank you.” The voice didn’t sound like hers. It was too flat. Too deep.
She turned and walked towards the kitchen. I followed, feeling as though I’d
joined a two-person procession. We went through our usual tasks with
smooth efficiency: boiling the kettle, pouring water into the cups, slicing the
cake, setting out plates. Ruby served me a piece, though I had no intention of
I felt the need to make some kind of conversation. “ Things have been
“Yes.” Her blue eyes seemed darker than normal. “Very.”
We sat at the table, one on each side, and Ruby picked up her fork. I
watched her cut a corner off the cake’s slice.
“How are the dolls?”
“They haven’t sold.” She lifted the cake to her lips. Slipped it inside.
Chewed. Swallowed. “So I won’t make any more.”
“That’s a shame.”
She didn’t ask why I wasn’t eating my cake. I watched her cut off another
forkful. Something shifted inside my mind. This is wrong.
My eyes were blurred, I realized. How long had they been like that? Why
hadn’t I noticed before? I shook my head, and dullness sloughed away from me. When I blinked my eyes open, a thousand shades saturated the room. I
was shocked to realize I hadn’t been perceiving colour over the last few days.
I looked at Ruby. She looked back, her face dull, her eyes glassy. The
implications of what was happening rushed over me, and I startled upright,
knocking my chair over.
Ruby placed the second cube into her mouth. “What is it, Jo?”
“No. No, no, no, no—” A curtain had been lifted from my eyes. I stared
about myself, horrified, unbelieving of what I’d done. Ruby returned her fork
to her cake like a machine, neatly cutting off a third cube. I lunged forward
and smacked it out of her hand.
She stared at me, but her eyes didn’t hold shock, only very mild surprise.
There was no life behind the heavy lids. Terror ripped through me. I’d
poisoned my friend. She’d eaten two bites—was that enough to kill her? The
baby? I grabbed her shoulders and shook her. “You’ve got to throw up.
Please, Ruby, I’m sorry—”
Those emotionless eyes stared back at me. The voice, which sounded less
and less like my friend with every word, released a soft, emotionless laugh.
“You’re so strange, Jo. It’s a nice cake. I would like some more.”
“No, Ruby, listen to me—it’s been poisoned. Think about your baby. You
don’t want to hurt your baby, do you?”
Her lips twitched into a smile. The voice was now unrecognizable.
“Perhaps it’s for the best.”
I slapped her as hard as I could. Her head snapped to the side, and her
eyes widened. She raised a hand to her cheek, where a splotch of pink
appeared on the pale skin, and the awful glassy sheen vanished from her eyes.
It was replaced with fury. “Don’t touch me!”