This Is How It Happened

By: Jo Barrett

I sit up in bed and prop a pillow behind my back, being careful to keep the sheets tucked up to my neck.

“Look, this was just a fling, okay?” I say in a strong voice. And I don’t know why I say this, but I do. I guess it’s a pride thing. Because I know this guy will never call me.

“Hey, I’m a nice guy, Madeline Piatro. So don’t go breaking my heart,” he says, flashing me his movie star smile.

I stare at this man in my bed. A hard stare. “You and I both know that this was just a one-night fling,” I say, in my most business-like tone.

He presses his finger against my lips. “You’re gonna need an army of bodyguards to keep me away from you, darlin’,” he whispers.

I remember slapping my hand over his mouth, crawling on top of him like a rodeo cowgirl. And throwing caution to the fucking wind.

And so began our romance.

Chapter 5

I bend down and peer at my poison brownies. Poke them with a fork. Steam rises from the glass pan and the smell is mouthwatering. Like warm, molten chocolate. My stomach does a painful little flip-flop. I’m hungry. Famished, really. I haven’t eaten since I had coffee with Heather. A few disappointing bites of a crusty, day-old scone. In fact, I haven’t eaten in weeks. Not a real meal, anyway. Not four squares, whatever a square is. Come to think of it, I don’t remember the last time I actually sat down and ate properly. Screw this “no carbs, Atkins, smoothie wheatgrass thing,”—someone should write a book called “The Break-Up Diet.”

I grab a beautiful knife from the wood block on my counter, and slice into the brownies. The smell is overwhelming, and when I pull the knife out, it’s covered in rich, smooth, moist, chocolate. The kind of warm chocolate that feels good against the tongue. I stare at the knife a moment too long, then race to the sink and plunge it in water.

I couldn’t find arsenic so I had to make do. Apparently, it’s been outlawed for use in rat poison, ant poison, and weed killer. I also didn’t have all the ingredients to make my lavender-scented pesticide brownies, so I’ve experimented with rosemary, sage, and furniture polish.

My brownies probably won’t kill Carlton. But hopefully, he’ll get a bad case of diarrhea. I consider the crime. It will be executed in the most elegant way. The delivery of a beautiful gift basket—anonymous of course—to Carlton’s office with a little note. “Congratulations, you’ve been selected as a finalist for the Worst Man in the World Contest, and guess what—You’ve Won!” it could read. But then Carlton would know it was me. Perhaps just the basket with the brownies. I consider wrapping each one individually with Saran Wrap. Or do I slice them in cute little squares and tuck them neatly on decorative tissue paper?

Hmm—decisions, decisions.

The only kink in my plan, the only problem, and it’s a doozy, is Carlton may end up sharing the brownies with his employees. And I know these people, because they used to be my employees, too. However, Carlton isn’t much for sharing and I can see him stashing the basket under his desk. But still, I can’t take the risk. What if someone sneaks into Carlton’s office while he’s away on his lunch break and grabs a brownie? Or worse, what if Carlton is feeling generous that day? What if he says, “Hey guys, someone sent me these brownies. Dig in!” The odds of this were small—Carlton was never one to be so chummy.

“Never get too friendly with the help,” he used to say. The “help” being the employees.

I stare down at the brownies. God, they sure smell good. They even look tasty. This furniture polish thing may work out. I poke the brownies again with a fork. My stomach growls as more chocolate steam rises from the pan.

Hmm. I wonder if he’ll taste the difference?

I cut off a tiny little chocolate edge, a sliver from the side of the pan. I hold it up to my nose and sniff. Smells like warm brownie, nothing more. I pop the sliver in my mouth. And chew.

Wow! Not bad. Not bad at all, actually.

I fork off another tiny bite, a morsel, really. Not even enough for a mouse. I let the warm chocolate melt on my tongue.

Uh-oh. I should’ve made a nonpoisonous batch for myself, I think. But what if I’d gotten the pans mixed up? Don’t put it past me to do something brilliant like get my poison brownies mixed up with my yummy brownies.

“Maddy, what are you doing?” I hear a voice in my head ask.

“I don’t know,” I answer.

“This is nuts!” the voice says.

But this voice apparently doesn’t know the power of warm chocolate brownie fresh out of the oven.

I use my fork to stab into the brownie pan and take a real bite. This time, I don’t hesitate. Look out, Rachel Ray. I’m the anti-chef.


Maybe this furniture polish isn’t as poisonous as I thought. I check the label.


I grab the pan, walk out the back door, and dump the entire mixture in the trash. I come back inside, turn the sink on full blast so water sprays on my apron, pour liquid soap into the pan, and scrub-a-dub, dub.