"Will they be much longer?" Nina asks, clutching your hand. No, not long, you reassure her, drawing her close to you, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek. Nina seems reassured. She smiles. A rare sight to all but you. Martha has not liked you at all. She has moaned at you both, unsure often whom she has scolded and whom she has not. Nina hates her. Spits in her food; dribbles into her soup.
Putting her finger on the banister, or along the shelves, looking for dust or dirt. You would bite those fingers off if you were a savage, you often thought, when she angered you. Nina moves towards the banister on the landing. You watch her go. Gaze at the slimness of her. Her dark dress almost moulded to her figure by an invisible sculptor.
You hear a door open and freeze for a few moments. Voices carry up the stairs from below. "It's them!" Nina says in a nervous whisper. Behind her back, she clutches a knife. A long, thin knife. She holds it so tightly her fingers whiten.
You move up behind her, place your hand on her shoulder to steady her. She relaxes, moves closer to you. The voices grow louder. Nina frowns and she draws herself upwards. You move passed her and along the landing to the top of the stairs.
"Where are you?" Mrs Mictim calls up. "Are you about?" You smile and nod towards Nina, who also smiles. "We need refreshments," Mabel Mictim says.
You descend the stairs slowly as Martha ascends towards you. She has that sneer about her face, that look that you hate. She says they want refreshments in that voice of hers. You nod and walk towards her. She turns on the stairs and descends. You gaze at her head below you now, the black hair, the curls, and the way she descends, that walk of hers. You hold in your hand tightly the flat iron; the one you ironed the girl's white dress with that morning. You hold it behind you, waiting for the right moment, for your opportunity. She descends slowly as if waiting for you, as if she knew, as if all was foreseen, but not believed or not understood.
"Bitch!" Nina calls down. And the girl starts to turn and you hit down hard as you can with the flat iron. She staggers for a few moments and looks at you as if waiting for some apology. You hit her again and again. She staggers backwards and hits her head on the wall behind her. Nina is beside you now and plunges with the knife into the girl's neck and out again. You watch Martha as she wants to mouth some comment, but instead she gurgles and blood dribbles from her lips. She slides along the wall and almost in slow motion descends the stairs in a rag doll impression, stair by stair.
Mrs Mictim is standing at the foot of the stairs. She watches her daughter in a bewildered fashion, as if she were not seeing what she sees. She moves backwards as Martha slumps at her feet and her eyes widen as she sees the blood on her daughter's face and neck. She bends down to touch as if her hands cold heal, and you bring down the iron as she looks up towards you. She crouches for a few seconds and you notice her lips wanting to speak, but they say nothing.
Nina plunges her knife into Mabel's back so quickly that even you are stunned momentarily. She plunges again and again. Mrs Mictim falls onto her daughter as if she wanted to protect what was already lost. You hit her repeatedly until she is motionless.
Nina stands back and smiles. You watch her, your beloved sister; you see the life come into her again. She wipes her hands on her black dress and throws the knife down onto the floor.
"Bitches!" Nina says. She kicks the body of Martha and sickening thud sounds. You watch and let her unwind after so much abuse and torment. Martha's body is half on the stairs and half off. Her face is bloodied and her white dress is ruined, now. What was it she had said to you? You remember and spit on the body.
Mrs Mictim's hand touches her daughter's arm. They lay almost lazily. No refreshments for them, Nina says, bending down and pulling at Martha's hair. The head rolls towards her. The large eyes stare vacantly. Mabel's eyes are closed, as if it were all too much for her.
"Bitches!" Nina says again. She drags Martha by the arms along the floor. You throw down the iron and then drag Mrs Mictim along behind your sister towards the first door, slowly watching the head slide along the carpet with a slight bump.
The bodies are slumped in the library. Nina is in the study searching for papers or letters that could connect you both with the Mictims. You are upstairs in the attic where you and Nina slept and spent what few you had free alone. You remember how you were sure that Martha had crept upstairs and listened at our door. Nina said she could almost smell her presence there. There were sounds, but no one was there when you looked. And what was it that fascinated the girl so much about you both? Wherever you turned she was there spying on you; her large eyes staring; her mouth and that sneer. Now there is nothing but the slumped cadaver. Even the way it is slumped seems indecent or immodest with the dress drawn upwards.
"I've got it all," Nina says behind you. "Nothing to connect us." She comes towards you and watches you pack. Soon you will be gone and all this left behind you. Nina seems happy and sits on the bed. Her eyes scan the room and her hands rest in her lap. You finish packing and place the bags on the floor. Nina smiles at you and her eyes have that colour back again. You sit beside her and kiss her. You and she have to move on to some other destination. Some other occupation must surely await, Nina tells you in a whisper. You nod and concur.
An hour has gone since the event. You are packed and sit in the library sipping tea that Nina has made. The cadavers are motionless. They are to a degree, Nina thinks, a work of art. Like sculptures. You gaze at the bodies from the chair. One of Mrs Mictim's shoes is missing. Her foot seems so fleshy, so podgy, like a small animal in hibernation, you inform Nina, who sniggers. She points at Martha's dress bloodied and drawn up to her waist making her appear indelicate and lewd and now so...Well, no longer so high and mighty.
Nina picks up the knife and iron from the floor by the stairs. They are bloody and have a slight stickiness about them. Her eyes stare at the items, then as if disinterested, she stuffs them in a bag. You are ready to leave and take one last look around the hall. Here it was that Mrs Mictim first peered at you and looked you both up and down. Here it was Martha stood and sneered at your dresses and the way you appeared to her. And down along the hall there, by the door to the kitchen, Martha had pulled Nina's hair for some slight misdemeanour. The girl had a certain way about her a degree of spitefulness which her mother did not discourage.
Nina opens the door and peers out into the daylight. Neither of you have left this house for six months. The air is so fresh, so intoxicating at she feels light-headed.
You watch her. She's almost a child again. Her body, the way she stands there, the figure almost perfect, draws you away from the hall and the memories. But you stop. Nina runs passed you and along the hall. Your eyes follow her as she runs to the library door. You watch as she goes in and disappears. Air from the outer world disturbs your clothes. Your head senses the draft and you move forward. As you walk towards the library, Nina reappears and closes the door behind her. In her hand, she holds a ring. Martha's ring. She smiles and then clutches it tightly as if it were some precious gem. You nod, but say nothing. She walks slowly along the hall towards the door where the light and air from the world await you. The ring goes into her coat pocket and she picks up her bag. You follow, take a last glimpse of the hall, pick up your bag and sniffing the air, you close the door with a soft click. It's all done. It's all done.