“Push her,” her father said.
“Daaaaaad,” Emily said. “Don’t even joke about that.”
“Push her off the mountain,” her father said, without a trace of humor. Unconsciously, she drew her younger sister closer and wrapped both arms around her.
“Do what your father says, dear,” her mother said. “Your sister is only six. There’s plenty of time for us to have another.”
“Emily?” her sister asked, tipping her head back to look up at her sister.
“Dad’s just being silly, Sarah,” Emily told her, but she wasn’t able to keep the uncertainty out of her voice.
“It’ll be quick. Four, maybe five seconds. Look at those rocks down there,” her mother said.
“A little bit of terror and then nothingness. It will be a release,” her father said, in a low voice. A wind came down the peak that rose next to them and pushed the two sisters as if it was all part of the plan.
“Emily?” Sarah asked again, blubbering, face smeared with tears. Emily kissed the top of her sister’s blonde mop of hair.
“It’s just a joke, Shrimply,” Emily whispered into her ear.
“So you are going to pretend that you love her now?” her mother asked cruelly. “You were on your phone the whole ride up. You didn’t say one word to your sister or me or your father.”
Emily groaned and hunched over her sister protectively.
“Mom?” Emily whispered.
“We bought you that phone so we could contact you when we needed it, not for you to spend all your time with your face in it,” her mother said.
“Probably some boy,” her father said. “They always come sniffing around when the blood starts.”
A giant fist grabbed Emily’s stomach and squeezed. She wanted to vomit, to run, to scream. She was hugging her little sister so hard she thought she could hear the child’s bones creak. In her distraction, her mother darted forward and ripped her phone out of her hands.
“We’ll just see who is so important that you ignore your family,” her mother said, a nasty laugh bubbling up from deep within her.
“It’s lo…” Emily started and then made herself stop talking.
“Passcode?” her mother shrieked. “So you are hiding something!”
“Probably sending out pictures of herself to all them boys in her class,” her father said. “All her dirty parts on the internet.” Her father shook his head in disgust.
Sarah was crying so hard she could barely catch her breath, snot and tears running off her face to drip onto her sister’s arms. She didn’t even register the fact that Emily took two quick steps back from the edge of the cliff when their parents were poking at her phone.
“Passcode!” her father snapped.
“N-n-no,” Emily said.
“Now, or you both go over. Having an ugly kid with fucked up teeth is one thing, but I’m not letting a whore live in my house.”
“Both would be easier,” her mother said. She mimed talking on the phone, “Oh, God. I told them they were too close to the cliff. But she was trying to get a photo for her Instagram.”
“Passcode!” her father screamed.
“3-4-9-2,” Emily told him.
“Whore number,” her father muttered, jabbing the numbers into the phone.
“You’ll need my thumbprint,” Emily said, walking Sarah to them before they could object. They were three feet from the edge as she offered up her thumb and her father pressed the phone to it.
“Texts,” her mother said, looking over her father’s shoulder.
“No, pictures,” her father replied. “I want to see what she’s been sending out. What if the guys at work saw this shit? Cucked by my own daughter!”
Emily picked up Sarah and ran for the car, her shoes slapping against the ancient stone of the mountain. Sarah screamed in surprise.
“WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING, YOUNG LADY?!?” her father bellowed. It was the voice that had to be obeyed when you were a child. The “about to run out into traffic” voice, the “about to fall off the roof” voice. Her legs and feet tried to comply, tried to ignore her brain and stop running. Emily screamed and managed to keep going. She opened the driver’s side door and threw her sister in, her shoulders and back protesting and got in herself. Her parents had barely covered half the distance before she had the car locked.
“Out of that car, now!” her mother screeched.
Her father patted his pockets and then patted them again just as Emily started the car, twisting the keys he had left in the ignition.
“EMILY!” her father screamed.
She hadn’t even had her first driving lesson yet. Her father promised to take her on several occasions and always broke his word. She stepped on the brake with her left foot and shifted to drive. She was still crying, she could barely see, her parents were just screaming blobs getting closer.
“Get down there, Sarah,” she told her sister, pointing at the passenger floorboard. The girl, owl-eyed, slid down her seat bonelessly and curled into a tight ball.
“I’LL DO IT! I’LL DO IT!” Emily screamed, but her father kept coming.
She only hit him hard enough the first time to knock him down, backing up past her mother who shook with rage.
He stood, holding his ribs, his mouth red with blood. “I SHOULD HAVE STOMPED YOU OUT OF HER CUNT THE MOMENT SHE TOLD ME!’ her father shouted.
Emily felt like she was being stretched and stretched and stretched until something inside her went cold and calm.
The second time she hit him, he flew over the edge of the cliff, his rage turning to comical surprise.
Emily backed up again until she had her mother in front of the SUV. She watched her mother shake and gape her mouth open and close. There was a small part of Emily, way down deep, that was screaming, but it was easy to ignore.
“Stay here,” Emily told Sarah. She took the keys out of the ignition and locked the Aspect with the fob. She balled up the keys in her hand and walked over to her mother.
“What did you do? What did you do?” her mother asked on a loop.
“I killed him, Mom,” Emily said gently. “Right over the cliff he wanted me to throw Sarah off.” Emily felt better than she ever had.
“Maybe he…” her mother started.
“Yeah, maybe he’s alright,” Emily said. She took her mother’s trembling arm. “You want to go look?”
Her mother nodded like her head was on a spring. When she started walking toward the cliff, Emily plucked her phone from her mother’s nerveless fingers and put it in her jeans pocket.
Emily braced herself when she and her mother looked over the edge of the cliff. Her father was not alright. He landed on an upturned knife blade of rock and split in half. His head and arms and torso where further down cliff face than his legs.
“OH, GOD! OH, GOD!” her mother screamed. Emily swallowed a giggle that bubbled up her throat.
Her mother turned and grabbed her with both arms and yelled in her face, “What are we GOING TO DO?”
She didn’t have the rage and shock on her face like her husband when she fell, just a cow-like placidity and mild confusion. Emily looked over the edge of the cliff. Her mother had gone head-first into a crevasse and wedged there, her legs and feet in the air.
Emily took in the view from the cliff and thought about how beautiful the spot was. It would be a shame when they put in the signs and the railing. Or they might block it off altogether. She took a number of rapid deep breaths and dialed 911.
“My, my, my parents,” she stuttered, breathless and crying and with just the right amount of hysteria. “They were just trying to take a selfie! They fell! They fell!”
She walked back to the car, repeating the story and telling the dispatcher sort of where they were. She inspected the Aspect. It looked fine except for a nondescript dent in the front bumper and a couple of drops of blood on the hood. She licked her thumb and said, “Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh,” to the dispatcher as she wiped the blood away. She cleaned the blood off her thumb with a rock while cradling the phone to her ear with her shoulder and then threw the rock off the cliff.
“My phone battery,” she said before hanging up the phone, sounding distraught. She needed time to prep Sarah before emergency services arrived. Stupid parents die in a stupid accident. Maybe just tell Sarah to say nothing. Youngest daughter mute from shock.
The Subaru, her Subaru now, beep-blooped when she unlocked it.