All the Devil's Greed

“By trying to convince himself I was a devil by nature, my father made me a devil by nurture.”

Mary-Ann Lansfield’s outbursts cause strange happenings in their house, prayers and church visits seem to stir unbearable pain inside her, and her hunger is so insatiable she’s forced to raid the pantry every night just to keep it at bay. It’s no wonder, really, that everyone believes she’s possessed by the Devil.

The more she’s hurt and berated by those around her, the wickeder Mary-Ann feels, and the more she longs for the freedom she’s been denied all her life- the freedom to live however, love whoever, and eat whatever she chooses. Even after everything she’s been told about the evil in the world, what she really wants is to become every inch the monster she’s feared to be.


Author's note

Hello! I'd just like to stress that this book contains a lot of blood, guts, violence, abuse, and religious themes. My protagonist is extremely morally skewed and her opinions are most definitely not my own. I never killed anyone, honest! Never!

7. Lust

Gravity pulls all things of weight down to stop them from flying. The sun rises every morning and sets every evening. Everyone is sure to die. And a woman of noble birth can only hope to evade piano practise for a week at a time. These are the truths in the world I know to be eternal and unbreakable.

When I was first learning the piano, Mother asked Lula to supervise me. Lula, whenever my father could hear us, would teach me chords and history and dainty little classical tunes, patiently trying to help me organise my clumsy fingers. When Father couldn’t hear us, she taught me the rowdy songs they sang at the music-halls she used to frequent as a young woman, which I loved to play, because each had a rhythm and a memorable tune. I’m playing them now, even though everyone in the house can hear me. I’d rather get a slap across the face for my defiance than try and fail to play those boring songs.

The door opens behind me, but I’m pounding the piano keys far too hard to hear whoever opened it until they clear their throat. I spin, expecting to see my father, and see Catty instead.

The sight of her makes my heart leap. I haven’t seen her since we spoke in my parents’ room three days ago, and I have been, for whatever reason, aching for her ever since. I stare in mild amusement at the large red stain on her apron, and the droplets on her cheek.

“Soup?” I ask her. Quietly, she nods.

“Dropped the pan?”

She nods again.

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“I’m fine. I’m clumsy.” She clears her throat and bows her head again.

She doesn’t come forward, nor does she smile. She must be here on orders.

“You look like a serial killer.” I smirk a little, hoping to draw her out, but her eyes fill with fear instead. She almost seems to be signalling me, just as I did her when Father ‘introduced’ us.

She nods. “Yes, Miss. Your- your father wants to speak to you.”

My smile drops and my heart starts fluttering. Another prayer session? But it’s Friday.

“Thank you.” I say as I pass her.

“No problem, Miss.”

As I leave the room, I look around, assuming there’s somebody close by. Otherwise, why would she speak to me like she doesn’t know me?

That’s when I see my father leaning against the wall next to the door. He looks up at me and raises one eyebrow.

“Father.” I say, trying to suppress the tremble in my voice.


“What’s this about?”

“I need to talk to you.” He says. “Come on.”

“In the study?”

“No. The drawing-room.”

“Oh.” I say, surprised. I shoot a glance back at Catty, who’s standing with her head down, waiting to be dismissed. “Why come and get me myself? Why not just send her by herself?”


He smiles. “Oh, I just wanted to come and listen to your playing for a while.”

I want to growl. I know what he was doing. He was hiding, listening to us talk. He must still suspect us of knowing one another. I can’t have said anything incriminating, because Father gives Catty a curt nod, dismissing her. Then, he looks down at me.

“Come on.”

I follow him downstairs and move through the hallways till I reach the drawing-room. When I do, I find the door closed, just as Father’s study’s always is.

Before he opens the door, I turn to him. “So why the change of room?” I ask. “Decided to move the puritanical religious torture somewhere brighter for a change? I suppose it does have nicer wallpaper.”

He visibly grits his teeth. “Come. Your mother’s waiting for us.”

“Mother?” I say in surprise as he opens the door. Sure enough, Mother’s sitting on the sofa, her hands in her lap. Father goes to sit with her, taking her hand, but I hang back for a second.

“Come and sit down, Mary-Ann.” Mother says. “We want to speak with you.”

As I walk across the room and sit opposite them, Father refuses to catch my eye again. He almost looks worried.

“What’s this about?” I ask.

Mother clears her throat, and we both look at her. Maybe this conversation will be in her charge rather than Father’s. Admittedly, I never quite know who rules the other.

“Mary-Ann, we wanted to discuss the matter-”

“First, what on Earth was that about upstairs?” Father cuts across her.

My blood chills. I remember Catty.

“What was what, Father?” I ask, as calmly as I can manage.

“That dreadful noise you were making upstairs.”

I breathe out.

“Oh, hush, Henry. She was only practising.”

“She was making a horrible racket.”

“That isn’t important now.”

“And she was doing it on purpose, too.”

Father looks at me. I don’t argue- just allow a little smugness onto my face.

Mother speaks up again. “Henry, she does not perform badly for the mere sake of upsetting you. Do you, Mary-Ann?”

“Alice, I’m talking to her.” Father looks at me, a mild spark of amusement in his eyes. “What happened to your Mozart?”

“Detest it.” I spit.

I detest it.” He corrects.

He can’t stand my habit of dropping the Is and hes and shes from the beginnings of sentences.

I grin. “Yes, me too.” I say.

He smiles back,. We stare at one another for a second before Mother interrupts us.

“Mary-Ann, we called you down here for an important reason.”

When I look at her, I see she’s taken her hand out of Father’s and is now clenching both together on her lap, rolling them tightly.

“Yes.” I say drily. “I don’t doubt it.”


“What about them?”

She sighs. “Mary-Ann. You do not possess them.”

“Is that what you wanted to discuss with me?” I say, longing- for the first time in my life- to get back to the piano.

To my surprise, Mother nods. “Yes. Well, in a way, anyway- I suppose.” The way Father is looking at her tells me she’s not told me the complete truth yet. Then, she completes it. “Mary-Ann, we’re concerned about your marriage.”

I look at her in shock, my mouth slack. “You cannot be serious.”

“We are.” Mother looks at Father. “I- I- I am.”

“What? Why? Now?” I say. “Again? Mother, I’m only sixteen.”

“Nearly seventeen, yes, and very beautiful, and very rich.” Mother says. “Which is why I cannot comprehend your distaste for men. And their… and their distaste for you.”

“Their distaste for her?” Father says, leering at me. I glare at him. “Come, Alice. I’m sure any of the young men in town could write us a good-length novel on the subject of our daughter’s distastefulness.”

“Henry, don’t be so crude.”

Instead of hurting me, Father’s words amuse me. I smile at him as though the two of us are hiding a secret from Mother. We’re not. We’re merely realists, and she a fantasist.

There’s something I cannot understand about their desperation to get me married. As they said, I’m the rich one. They don’t need my husband’s money. Which is why I must conclude they’re merely embarrassed to have an unmarried daughter.

“Mother, why must I be married?” I say. “You needn’t give money away to some husband. I’d rather keep it.”

Father snorts with laughter. Mother only sighs.

“Mary-Ann, don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m not being ridiculous, Mother!” I burst out. I’m starting to panic, but I must keep the red suppressed from my face. Perhaps they’re serious about accelerating this process this time.

“Any man would be infinitely lucky to have you, Mary-Ann.”

I snort too, catching my father’s eye. “Now who’s being ridiculous?”

I privately consider how much I detest the word have. Have. He’ll have me. A piece of his property. A piggy-bank on legs, in fact. A… No. I know full well what goes on after marriage. All the sheltering on Earth couldn’t hide sex from me. I imagine standing demurely at the altar in a white dress and a veil, fear and anticipation screaming in my pretty head loudly enough to drown out the Priest’s Godly words. I imagine giving a man a ring, knowing full well I’m really giving him my body to use as he pleases. I imagine his hands on me, running all over me, worrying at the places I try to keep hidden. I know most girls my age giggle and shriek and work themselves into tizzies at the mere prospect, but the images are threatening to make me violently ill. I know my parents can force me to do whatever they want me to. What would I prefer- a lifetime of physical torment at the hands of my father, or a lifetime tied irrevocably to some lecherous, sloppy husband I only barely know? The decision is shockingly difficult.

“Mary-Ann.” Mother says. “I am sure you are aware we don’t want you to become a spinster.”

Silently, I nod. I would make a terrible spinster. I cannot spin. I can barely even stitch. But I would make a terrible wife too. The man I marry may be nice. He may be sweet, kind, respectful. He may not make me do anything I do not want to. But even so, I will still be forced to flutter my eyes and pucker my mouth and pretend to love him. Mother’s romance novels, the ones I stole from her shelf when I was younger- the same stories, in fact, that gave me the majority of my education on intimacy and other disgusting things I wouldn’t read again if a gun were held to my head, and would rather dissect myself alive with a blunt knife than commit- always speak of the weak woman. The ideal woman. Sometimes, she makes the man weak too, and sometimes he makes her stronger. But why must it always begin that way? And why must it always end with a wedding? There are other ways to end a story. More amusing ways. Nobody should know that better than my Father. His favourite book, after all, is the darkest piece of literature in existence, heavy with sex and sadism and violence.

 “Do you want to be a spinster, Mary-Ann?” Mother says. Her face and voice ring with determination. In these rare moments, when she’s steel-faced with desperation and Father is slumped like a schoolboy who wishes he were anywhere else, I’m more afraid of her than of him.

I would rather be a spinster than stuck in a loveless marriage like yours, I think, but say nothing. God permits your union, based on greed and selfish fear, but I couldn’t, say, touch another woman without tempting the Devil, even if I loved her and her me, because of the body parts I was born with. “No, Mother.”

“Good.” She says. “Mary-Ann, your father and I have been examining the options.”

I love that phrase. Examining the options. Since I am the rich one, for a fleeting moment before I’m married and the roles are reversed, he becomes my object. Still, my heart drops into my stomach. “The- the options?”

“Yes. Many of your father’s colleagues, and several of my friends, have sons of age who would make decent matches for you.”

Father interrupts: “Mr Garvey and his family are coming for dinner on Wednesday evening.”

Mother looks at him.

“Yes, Father, I know.”

I’ve known about this dinner for months, with Mr Garvey, one of the more agreeable of Father’s colleagues. He has a quiet wife, a son I barely see, and three daughters I wish I saw less of. The only thing about this dinner I’m not dreading is the fact I’m going to get a proper meal. They can’t very well starve me in front of the public.

“Cecil’s son, Elias, is twenty-one. He’s an ideal choice.”

I stare up at Father. “What?”

“His son. Elias. You know him well.”

“Not well.” I swallow. “You want me to marry him?”

“Knowing him a little is sufficient.”

“For marriage?”

“Yes, Mary-Ann.”

I hear the anger creeping into Father’s voice. Mother must hear it, too.

“Mary-Ann.” She says, placing a hand on Father’s. “We can discuss this more if you’d like. We can tell you which young men are under our consideration, and arrange for you to meet them. Get to know them a little. Weigh them up- their interests and such. Before you make your decision.”

I’m sure every man on her list, including Elias Garvey, would sell his soul to marry a Lansfield. In fact, I’m sure my parents have already extended the invitation to the lot of them.

“My decision?” I say. “Could I make the decision to marry none of them?”

She stares at me.

“No.” She says, clearly frustrated. I know she was hoping to get me at least a little excited at the thought of all these men lining up to win my heart. She wishes I was a flighty, giggly girl she could have fun talking with. But I’m not. And I don’t have the energy to indulge her today.

“Then I don’t give a damn which of them you pick.” I say miserably. “I could not presume to pick out a man any better than to run Father’s business for him. Or to learn to fly.” I look at Father. “Do you have an opinion, Father?”

I say it as a joke. But instead of looking at me, he simply states, “I will just be grateful to be rid of you.”

“Excellent.” I turn back to Mother. “See? Easy.”

She sighs, disappointed. “Are you sure? I know this upsets you, Mary-Ann, but there’s no reason for you to be like this. This could be fun.”

“What, picking men, Mother? I honestly don’t care. Just pick Elias if you want. I don’t care what he looks like, or whether he prefers hunting or painting or knitting.” Then, I find myself saying: “As long as he’s a man, I fear he’ll disgust me for as long as we’re married.”

Father looks up. I’ve piqued his interest.

“Shouldn’t she be old enough by now, Alice?” He says.

“For what?” She asks.

“For men.”

Mother clearly sees his thoughts in his eyes. “She’s just being difficult.” She says quickly.

“I’m not being difficult!” I growl. “I meant every word I just said. Father.” I focus my attention on him now- I have an opportunity to get under his skin. “I feel no attraction to men. None. I would rather marry a horse than a man.”

Father clenches his fist.

“Go on.” I say. “Hit me. It will not make me right.”

He does. He hits me, leaning forwards on the sofa and slapping me hard across the jaw. I flinch back, nursing the sting on my face. My mother exclaims, “For God’s sake!”

I look at her, pressing my lips together. She composes herself.

“Alice, she’s wrong.” Father says. I watch them as Mother slowly begins to listen, and then agree with him. “I told you she was unfit for marriage. She’s wrong of mind.”

“She’s just trying to be outrageous.”


“No.” I echo my father.

“Alice, she would never say such things. Never, unless she truly meant them. Nothing but the Devil would put such words in her mouth.”

“Henry, not again with the Devil.”

“Alice, it’s true.”

“It’s n-”

He hits her, too, and I gasp. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him strike her. But from the way she gets up from the sofa, rubbing her cheek and sighing, even though there’s anger in her eyes, I doubt it’s the first time it’s happened.

“Nobody.” Father hisses. “Nobody will presume to lecture me in my own home. You may be the woman, Alice, but I know what’s wrong with Mary-Ann. I have seen it. We have both seen it.” I blink at him. I know the same images of blood and broken mirror are filling all of our heads. “We have all seen it. She must be fixed. The evil must be driven from her.”

I don’t understand their readiness to argue in front of me. Perhaps Father wants me to see my poor weak delicate mother as an example. An example of how he can control a woman, and will do again. I wonder if Mother had evil in her when they met. I wonder if he likes to fix people. I wonder if my husband will presume to fix me.

“Try.” I say to Father. “Drive it from me. Do your best.”

I hold out my hands.

And so he does it again. He grabs my hands with his and he begins to talk to God. I find it pathetic how he speaks to the sky for guidance. I believe that God is there, somewhere. I believe that God is good. I also believe that God is never, never going to raise a finger to help a member of the Lansfield family. Perhaps Father is just too wicked to be heard. Or perhaps it’s me. Perhaps we have all been forsaken.

Mother sits, silent. Then, she offers her hands to ours and joins the prayer. She doesn’t say a word. Neither do I. Father’s words do not hurt me this time, even as he beseeches God to make me pliable, so I might be a useful tool in a man’s hand. Whether he means himself or my future husband I know not, nor do I care. I close my eyes and think. What do I think about? I think about what I want. All of the things that I want. I want revenge on my father. And on my mother, too. And on countless others. I list them in my head, my silent voice growing louder with every name. Father and Mother and the Priest and God and the Devil and Jesus and Plague-man and the ghosts and Duncan and Bernadette and Margaret and Florrie and Lula and Esther and

I’m still hungry. I’m cold from it. There are so many things that I am ravenous for, that I would sell my heart and soul and mind just for a taste of. Today’s events have stirred up so many of my cravings. All of them are wicked and wrong. To Father, at least. To God.

and Catty and




And cold.

I get out of bed as the grandfather clock strikes twice. The clock’s deafening enough to knock you off your feet if you were in the ground-floor hallway, but far enough away that the chimes come into my room as a thin, low rumble. I shudder with a bout of fear, even though I’ve been lying here, eyes wide open, since I went to bed six hours ago.

I thought I was getting better. Then, just as the clock struck midnight, the hunger hit me like a hot fever.

I hurry down the stairs, missing the two bottom steps. God, I can’t wait any longer. The kitchen corridor passes in a black-and-grey striped blur; the floorboards and the pantry door creak under me, but I don’t care.

I walk into the middle of the pantry, lean against the sink island. Wait. The room is black and empty around me- the air’s buzzing with thick layer upon thick layer of silence. The cupboards’ locks are the clearest things in my view, bright powder-blue with moonlight against the dark muddle of the rest of the room. They taunt me. Sicken me to look at. But it still feels good to be down here again, in the bowels of the house, twenty people or more sleeping above me, including my father, oblivious to my disobedience. I feel smothered by the thick, soft weight of all the terrible things I’ve done down here, and all the things I will do before this hour is up.

I lean harder against the sink. Hard porcelain bites into the heels of my hands. I don’t move. Outside, a bird calls, probably from its nest in the branches of the old oak tree beside the house. Father orders servants to chase them away when the branches are bare, but autumn is only just beginning, so they’re safe for another few months at least.

I look around at the locks. I dislike the way they look back at me. Encircle, trap, consume me. They are all I thought about for a fortnight or more. How I could twist them. Break them. Beat them. Smash them to splinters. I push myself away from the counter to once again wrap my fingers around one, confirming it is as impenetrable as ever. I move around the room, gripping each lock in turn ad fumbling inside every open drawer in search of a key. Think about running to Father’s study, but decide there’s no point- he’ll have moved it after Florrie and I found it. I, of course, find nothing. For a second, the pulling and the scrabbling consumes me- I’m alone, after all; what else is there to-

“She keeps the key in her room.”

A pulse of anguish runs through me, but all I do is freeze with my hand in the drawer. Slowly, I turn, and see a silhouette in the doorway. She pushed the door open as I fumbled, sliding a long triangle of yellow candlelight along the blue floor as she did so, but I did nothing till she saw me there. I turn to lean against the counter. My heart pounds harder and harder in my ears, sickening my throat. I knew it was her- that it was Catty- the moment she heard my voice. And now, she has caught me.

I cannot think of anything to say besides: “She… she what?”

“Margaret.” Catty walks forwards into the light. She’s wearing her nightgown, speckled with old stains and fluffy with loose thread at the edges, and her thin brown hair is braided over one shoulder. “She keeps the key in her room, Mary-Ann. In a locked drawer of its own.”

I swallow. “Yes.” My lips keep me from saying what I mean as apprehension thickens my throat. “I wonder if I could get it.”


“Or if you could.”

She stares at me. I just barely make out the blue glint on her eyes- the rest of her face is black with shadow but for a triangle of sickly light on one cheek. She walks closer, removing her hands from the doorframe.

“Mary-Ann.” She says. “I thought you had given up on these raids.”

“I have.” I say, gently. “They are over for me. It was just a passing hope. I’m sorry.”

She’s close to me now. It’s the first time she hasn’t replied to an apology of mine. The first time she hasn’t said It’s okay.

“You must be hungry. The way Margaret feeds you-”

“I’m okay.” I say. “It’s only… it’s just…” I would never dream of telling anyone the truth. Anyone but her. “It is not only hunger that used to bring me down. It was something stronger, braver, altogether stupider. It was something almost entirely irrational. I cannot explain it. But I think the food meant… symbolised… something more for me. I needed it like I needed the air- unconditionally. And endlessly. For comfort.”

“I know.” She says. “I understand what you mean.”

I swallow. “Yes.”

“There is a way to curb it.” Catty says. “It is… only a feeling, after all, whatever it may be.”

I sigh. “But Catty, my father does not believe it to be such.”

She looks at me. “Oh?”

“No. He believes me to be possessed by the Devil.”

She breathes out a shaky breath that’s pricked with both fear and laughter. “Oh.” She says eventually. I wait, wondering what else she’ll tell me. God, this girl- in just a couple of months she has managed to unravel me and spill all my secrets out.

“Well.” She says. “If that’s true, Mary-Ann, then you may be unfixable.”

I press my lips together.

“But if it is not, you cannot rely on God or the Devil to save you.”

“I… I- I know.”

“You have to do it yourself. You have to focus on something else.” Catty says. “I saw this with my father, before my mother died. There’s something I never told you about him- my father, before we moved here, was addicted to gambling. He lost all of his wealth and then a good amount of Mother’s. I saw it all. I know what addiction looks like- it is obsession to the point of being unable to stop, even when presented with no reasons why you shouldn’t and a million why you should. It’s past the point of rational thought. It’s dangerous. It nearly destroyed him. I fear that if my… if my mother had not d-died… he would never have been distracted for long enough to stop.”

I say nothing, near undone by the quiet wisdom in her voice.

“You have to find another outlet.” Catty says. “Another thing to focus on- something you enjoy, preferably. Something that can distract you from… all this.” She says. I want to reach for her hand, but I hold back. I want to hug her, but I hold back. She doesn’t. She steps closer. I know she sees the look in my eyes. I bite the inside of my cheek. My chest sours again, but before I can grasp the sensation and stretch it out, it wanes.

Catty looks at me.

“Mary-Ann, why did you ask me to come down here?”

I look into her eyes and breathe out. I did. I did ask her to come down- passed her on the landing on the way back to my room and whispered the time and the place into her ear. I didn’t think she’d come- she’s afraid of my father, even more so after he eavesdropped on us.

 “Catty.” I say, my voice wavering. “There’s a family- one of Father’s work colleagues- coming for dinner on Wednesday night.”

“Yes, I know.” She looks at me with worry. “Everyone’s going insane trying to organise everything.”

“They have a son.” I say. “M-my parents want me to marry him.”

Catty looks at me, her eyes growing wide and her mouth screwing up. “Really?”

“Yes.” I grit my teeth in anger- will not let her know I’m afraid. Will do what I came down to do. Say what I wanted to say.

“Do you know him?”

I look at her. “No.”

She breathes out, shakily. “Mary-Ann…” She says. She sounds afraid too. Afraid to lose me? God, I hope so. “I’m so sorry.”

There’s a silence.

“So, is that what you wanted to say?” She says eventually.

I could say yes. But that would be a lie.

“No. I want…” I say. “Wanted… to ask you something.”

I remember the conversation with my parents in the drawing-room. How it reminded me I had been compliant for too long. How it informed me I had to take my chances whilst I still had my freedom, and then showed me exactly what those chances should be. What I most desired- the things that I was not allowed to have.

“Yes?” Catty says. Her eyes are wide, though the rest of her face seems calm. Looking at it makes me feel hot, makes the blush rise into my face, spread across my chest. Last chance to reverse the request. Ask her to get the key, or make up some other reason. Something that wouldn’t cost my friendship and the last scraps of God’s love for me.

“I would like to kiss you.” I say instead.

To my shock, her narrow instead of widening.

“Mary-Ann, are you quite mad?” She says softly. “That’s… to do that is… It’s the most sinful thing I could imagine.”

“Yes. I know.” I think of murderers and kidnappers and wonder why I must be more evil than them, just for wanting Catty.

“Yes.” She says. She echoes me, so, for a second, I do not realise what she has said. We share a gaze.

“Yes.” She repeats. “I will permit you.”

And she closes her eyes. I take the last step to close the gap between us. I raise my arms but lower them again, deciding I have no need to touch her. Then, I lean forwards, try to configure my face around hers, and take her bottom lip in both of mine. Close my eyes only after we’re connected. Her taste is barely tangible, but nonetheless fills me up like wine. She doesn’t move. Doesn’t make a sound- that is, until I do. I sigh, as I let her mouth go, and so does she.

As I pull back, she, still blind, follows me with her face and our lips touch again for the briefest of seconds. The waverings of sour heat start to spiral down through me again. I wait, patiently, offering her my mouth and wondering when she’ll pluck up the courage to kiss me again. And again, perhaps. And to turn the brushing into something more, something hungrier, greedier, to match the way I want to kiss her.

But she does not come again.

I open my eyes. When I do, she’s already looking at me.

We stare at one another for a long time. I resist the urge to hold a hand to my chest- I feel wrong inside, fluttery, on edge. It’s barely light enough to see her face- she’s a sketch of thin yellow lines on a shapeless backdrop. She may not even really be there, I suppose. This room feels unreal, intangible. I cannot believe anything of weight could have happened here. Now. Anything so powerful and life-shattering as that.

“I…” Catty says. “I liked that.”

I’m almost alarmed at the sound of her voice. It’s softer, as though she’s suddenly more frightened of being caught. I am too, and the feeling ignites me.

Silently, and not for her sake, I smile. I doubt she can see my face at all in the dark.

“I liked it too.” I tell her.

“A lot, Mary-Ann.”

I sigh, feeling suddenly absurd. “Yes.”

And I know at that moment that the food and the cupboards and the locks and the keys are all forgotten. Love does not feel the way I had thought it would feel. I expected it to melt me from the inside out, like I were a candle and she a flame. I expected it to make me feel sweet and mellow. I did not expect it to make me feel hungry. Ravenous. Alive. Alight. Selfish. Violently and deliciously black-souled.

Imagine the look on his face. Imagine it.

He would raze this house to dust.

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