“I just made a batch of cookies. Double chocolate chip, do you want one?”
“I’ve got a big game. I don’t eat before a big game. But thank you so so much, thank you. Next time”
“No, yeah. I completely understand. ‘Be careful with treats offered by kids of villains;”
“No, no, no.”
“No, I’m sure every kid in Auradon knows that.”
“No, no. That’s not it. No, no, no. I really do… I have…”
“No, I get it. You’re cautious. That’s smart.”
“No, that’s not… I really do have to prepare for this game. It’s a superstition thing I, uh…” Ben rubbed the back of his neck. He was fumbling his words and he knew it but something about Mal just set him off his game. He let out a breathy half laugh that came out more like a sob and cleared his throat. Mal was looking it him with her head cocked slightly to one side, the cookie still dangling from between her fingers in its plastic bag. “I’ll make you a deal. As soon as this game is over, I will take your cookie, either to celebrate or commiserate. Either way, I’m eating it.”
Mal sucked her lips in and let them go with a small popping noise. She threw the cookie and caught it in her hand, as if snatching it from the air, spinning with the momentum of the throw.
“I’ll hold you to that, Bennyboo.” With those parting words Mal sashayed away from Ben. He stood dumbfounded for a second at Mal’s locker staring at her ‘Long Live Evil’ graffiti and laughed. The whole situation was new to everyone in Auradon but he was trying to take it in his stride and so he let the encounter linger in his mind and get filed away for future reference before he went to get ready for the tourney match.
Mal let a smirk play on her lips as she heard her friends run up behind her. She didn’t turn around to greet them but instead slowed her pace to allow them to fall into step with her. She realised, vaguely, that they must have looked quite fearsome in their little group of four. They were so different from the kids in Auradon, from their clothes to the smallest of mannerisms, it was easy to tell that they were not from the same background.
“What happened?” Evie took a skipping step to be at Mal’s side as she asked the question. They had all seen that Ben hadn’t taken the cookie, but Mal wasn’t ranting so it couldn’t have been a dead loss.
“He has this dumb superstition about eating before a game.” Mal shrugged.
“And you just… let it go?” Jay raised an eyebrow in the background.
“Of course not. He’s meeting me after the game to have a cookie.” Mal said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Evie made a small ‘O’ shape with her mouth though she still had a slightly vacant expression on her face. Jay and Carlos started nudging each other with their elbows, beginning gently but becoming more and more violent as they walked away. Mal spun on her heel when their fighting got too loud and snapped her fingers as she yelled, “Guys!”.
Jay and Carlos froze in their position. Mal was staring at them half disgusted and half amused, although the latter was well hidden, she let out a sigh and waited until they untangled themselves. Once they had they stood almost to attention, like soldiers in front of an officer, and Mal just watched them for a moment, studying them. She felt like a big sister, especially to Carlos. No, she reminded herself, I am evil and rotten and ruthless and cruel. I am like my mother. Rotten to the core.
“Uh, Mal?” Carlos questioned.
“What?” Mal snapped. Her eyes flashed green as she stood a little straighter after being startled by Carlos’s voice.
“Uh, nothing.” Carlos half stammered and stepped back. “We just, Jay and I, we need to go get ready for tourney.” Despite his statement no one started to move. Mal continued staring at them. When no one moved still, she cocked her head and frowned.
“Well go! What are you waiting for?” The condescension in Mal’s tone spurred the boys into action and they nearly fell over each other in their rush to get away. Evie watched them go then turned to Mal.
“Stop scaring people, M. We’re all in this together, ok?” Evie tried to catch Mal’s eye but she kept looking away.
Ben won the tourney game and so Mal waited for him, but not purposefully so, she just lingered where she knew he couldn’t miss her. The picnic table wasn’t the most comfortable of spots, but it was obvious. So there she stayed.
Mal sat on the table rather than the bench with her arms stretched out behind her resting on her hands. Her feet were swung out in front of her so she was sat the length of the table with a cookie next to her. She had her eyes closed and her her tiled towards the sun. She was content, she had a plan and she knew she was going to do her mother proud if it was the last thing she did/ She hadn’t liked thinking about the Isle while she had been here. They were all memories surrounded by darkness and atrocities that she wished she could forget. But no, that would make her good, and how could she make Maleficent proud if she was good?
She remembered one day, when she was young, her mother had wanted to teach her something, she could’t remember what. It seemed like the world at the time but now she realised it was small and insignificant. Whatever she had been trying to learn she had got it wrong because all she remembered next was her mother screaming at her. Because she wasn’t good enough at being bad and cruel and ruthless and rotten. She wasn’t a bad girl, it wasn’t in her nature, and Maleficent was determined to knock that right out of her. She had had her time as a child, carefree and innocent, but now she needed to be taught the realities of the world they lived in. Maleficent was the Mistress of Evil and she needed to have a daughter who understood what that meant too.
Mal shuddered a little despite the heat, she knew thinking of one memory would eventually lead to thinking of more and that would not lead her to a happy place, so instead she wiped the thought from her mind and hummed to herself. It wasn’t long after that when Mal noticed the shadow move over her. Without opening her eyes she smirked and turned her head away from the shadow.
“Hi there, Bennyboo.” She chirped sarcastically. “Great game, congrats on the win.”
“Uh, thank you. I couldn’t have done it without Jay and Carlos.”
“Yeah, they’re real team players.” Mal opened her eyes and squinted up at Ben.
“Yeah, I’m, I’m getting that.” Ben knocked Mal’s feet over the side of the table, to which she replied with a mocking glare, as he jumped up to take their place. “Double chocolate cookie? I need to celebrate.”
“You’re lucky, I almost ate the last one.” Mal tossed the cookie at Ben and successfully hit his head. Ben muttered an ‘ow’ and rubbed the side of his head. He opened the plastic bag and pulled the cookie out and held it between two fingers.
“You know, I haven’t had a cookie for ages.” Ben waved it around a little to illustrate his point. “My mom used the make them for me, fresh on my birthday, until I turned thirteen and decided I was too old for birthday cookies. I regret that now.”
“I only got lectures and whatever candy I could find to steal on my birthday. Which wasn’t very much, by the way.” Mal let slip. Almost instantly she clamped her mouth shut and turned away from Ben.
“I’m sorry.” Ben started to reach out to her but pulled back.
“For what?” She asked with a laugh. “It wasn’t your fault, besides, stealing is fun. What better present could a girl ask for?”
“Right.” Ben broke and piece of the cookie off. Mal leant forward and stared as he pulled it up to his mouth but he stopped short. Mal slumped back a little and watched as Ben put his elbows on his knees. “Do you know something? Something I could never understand as a kid was what made chocolate taste so good. I mean, cookies are great, but adding the chocolate chips just takes it to a while new level. Even fruit covered in chocolate, everything just tastes better with chocolate.”
“I wouldn’t know. We didn’t have any on the island.” Mal turned away. They were facing opposite directions now, both sat on the table top. If either of them leaned back slightly they had a perfect view of the other’s face.
“I thought you said you stole candy on your birthday?” Ben asked confused.
“I use the term candy very loosely. We had… a version of it.” Mal said somewhat cryptically waving her hand on the side.
“Remind me to send a candy basket to you four when I get inside.”
“Oh please don’t, Jay and Carlos are giddy enough with the added sugar from candy.” Ben laughed at Mal’s annoyed look as she pulled a face as if she had just eaten something sour.
“I’d need some courage to go up against that, wouldn’t I?”
“We all would.”
“I could really use some courage right now.” Ben dropped his head and closed his eyes.
“And why’s that then? Surely with your parents you have all the courage you’ll ever need.” Mal seemed cynical, she didn’t mean it, but she knew it stemmed from a bitterness for a life she wished she could have had.
“I shouldn’t really talk to you about this.”
“No, go on. Now you’ve started you can’t hold out on my, Bennyboo.” Mal cocked her head to the side and leant back so she can see Ben’s face.
“Well you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head there. I’m… I’m going to break up with Audrey.”
“Yeah,” Ben nodded and threw the first piece of cookie into his mouth. Mal had to stop herself from reaching out to stop him. it was only a small piece, she told herself, not that strong. “She’s too… you know what? You don’t need to know all my girlfriend troubles.”
“I don’t know.”
“Anyway,” Ben ate another piece of the cookie. “This is really… really good.” Ben studied the cookie in his hand. Mal snatched it from him, she wasn’t sure why she did it, but it felt natural. Whether she hoped she might be able to stop the love spell working she didn’t know, and it wasn’t a thought she wanted to dwell on for too long. “Hey, I want my cookie. I want…” Ben trailed off.
“How do you feel?” Mal asked too test how the spell had worked.
“I feel… I feel like singing your name!” Mal jumped at the thought and as Ben began she muffled him with her hand.
“Maybe… maybe we don’t do that.” When Ben nodded she let her hand drop. Her plan was set.