“Hi, Beth,” Doctor Bryant said, greeting her with a smile and holding the door open. “Rick is here already. He ushered her into his rather cramped office and motioned to her grandson, “Rick, your grandmother is here.”

Rick, tall and thin and getting thinner every time she saw him, glanced sullenly in her direction and gave her the finger.

She stepped closer to give him a quick kiss, but he turned his head away. “Leave me alone, bitch.”

Beth sighed and took her seat. The kid had been convicted of murdering his parents, Beth’s son and his wife, and he hated her just as much as them. Maybe more. What’d she expect? Roses?

Doctor Bryant observed the interaction and made a few notes. Then he folded his hands into the shape of a church steeple, leaned forward, and smiled. “Okay, let’s begin.” He turned to Rick.

“Rick, how have you been feeling since we met last month?”

“Like shit.”

The meeting went downhill from there, but it did give Beth a chance to think about how her plan had been working out. She smiled to herself as she thought about it, because so far, it was working just fine.

Beth had lived with her son Ralph and his wife Maggie in a large, completely restored, two-and-a-half-story Victorian style house built around the turn of the 20th century. Ralph asked her to move in after her husband had died while cleaning out the septic system next to their trailer home. The tank had collapsed and he’d fallen in and drowned. Beth shuddered every time she thought about it, although sometimes she had to smile. He was a bastard of a husband, what with his cheating and drinking and violent mood swings. He really did deserve a disgusting death.

She loved the old Victorian home and didn’t have to get talked into moving in. Ralph and Maggie worked long hours at their respective jobs and that first year Beth spent a lot of time alone in the grand old place wandering through the rooms, admiring them all, from the large farm-style kitchen in back to the sitting room in front and everywhere in between. She got in the habit of having morning tea in the library and afternoon tea in the sun room. It didn’t take her long to fall in love with the beautiful home, so completely different than the cramped, single-wide trailer she’d been trapped in for so many years with her poor excuse of a husband.

In short order, she began to look at the stately Victorian as her own. She loved the wooden floors and built-in cupboards, the large pantry and sideboard, the elegant trim and cut glass windows. Everything. Within the first year of living there, she wished that the palatial home was hers and often pretended it was.

When Rick, or Ricky as they called him back then, was born, Beth happily took over caring for the little fellow, and, as a little baby he was mostly a delight, cute and precious, like a little kitten or puppy. But the older he got, the more obnoxious he became. The only time he was ever satisfied was when he got his way.

“Here, Ricky, eat your peas,” Beth would politely try to entice him during feeding time.

“No. No. No. No!” He’d angrily shake his head and smack the spoon away.

“Just give him pineapple,” Maggie would say. “Or banana. Something sweet. Anything to shut him up.”

Against her better judgment, Beth did as she was told and Ricky responded accordingly, growing from being a willful toddler to become Rick, a mean-spirited little boy who went to grade school and developed a reputation as a bully.

For Beth, parent-teacher meetings were a horror. She usually attended them because Ralph and Maggie were too busy with work, and when she did, she listened with embarrassment to the litany of misbehaviors Rick performed on a routine basis: acting out in class, disrespecting authority, and tormenting younger kids, to name but a few.

In middle school, his behavior became worse. He even started stealing from his classmates, saying, “Try and stop me. If I want it, I’ll take it.” He took pens, notebooks, pencils, and even the occasional camera. To say he was a hard kid to deal with was putting it mildly.

Beth would have to say that envy ran in the family. She and her husband were poor and did what they could for their son, but Ralph grew up wanting more than they could ever afford to give him. As an adult, he beat out over 50 applicants for a job as a salesman for a computer manufacturing company and was soon on his way to making more money than he’d ever had in his life. Then he met Maggie, who was a successful personal injury attorney and just as addicted as he was to obtaining fancy possessions. They married and began to put all of their money into buying things: expensive cars, the latest electronics, and, of course, the huge Victorian house. If it was expensive, they wanted it.

At first, Beth watched in disbelief. She wasn’t used to seeing money spent the way Ralph and Maggie spent it. Then, as the nice things piled up, Beth’s shock changed to happiness. It was fun to watch her son and his wife buy fancy clothes, the best food, big televisions and even take the family (Beth included) on trips to exotic locations, all of it meant to impress.

Ralph and Maggie became very conscious of their status. The phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” kept popping up in Beth’s mind. If a neighbor bought a new lawnmower, Ralph was out early the next morning to buy a better one. If a neighbor bought new lawn furniture, Maggie was off like a shot to buy something better.

In short, they were only happy when they were buying things to make themselves appear better than everybody else, always striving to have more. They put the “E” in envy, to Beth’s way of thinking.

Of course, they passed that character trait on to Rick. For him, it was the best clothes or electronic devices. If someone from school had the latest iPhone, Rick had to have a better one. Top-end trainers? Rick was going to do them one better.

The problem was that it led to fights with his parents, especially his dad. Ralph wanted to buy things, and things cost money, so he worked long hours to earn the money to get his possessions. Rick wanted things, too, which of course cost money, which he had to ask his dad for, which Ralph didn’t want to give up, preferring to spend his earnings on himself and Maggie and their increasing extravagant lifestyle.  Rick would get mad and then Ralph would get mad and then Maggie would get mad, so fighting became a way of life for their family.

Beth watched it all from the sidelines and kept a low profile. She was willing to go along with the constant fighting and name calling because it didn’t affect her. She’d just retreat to her peaceful room on the second floor, close the door, turn on her CD player, and listen to classical music, usually Vivaldi. After all, she had what she wanted: a comfortable lifestyle in an elegant home, so she was happy to let her son and Maggie and Rick battle it out as long as it didn’t affect her. In fact, her life had never been better.

But then it all changed.

One night, Rick stomped out of the house and slammed the front door after another screaming match with his parents, this time about taking the car out for a date. Beth missed it. She was in her bedroom listening to the Four Seasons and reading when Ralph knocked on her door.

“What is it?”

“Mom, can you open the door?”

Beth closed her book and did as she was asked. When she opened the door, she noticed her son was looking older and more haggard than ever. “What’s the matter? Are you feeling all right?”

He motioned for her to follow. “I’m fine, but can you come downstairs? Maggie and I have something we need to discuss with you.”

Downstairs they went and Ralph ushered Beth into the living room, where Maggie was waiting. Beth sat next to her daughter-in-law on the overstuffed couch while Ralph sat in an embroidered, silk-winged back chair next to them.

“What’s all this about?” Beth asked pleasantly.

The room went quiet as Maggie looked to Ralph and gave a curt nod. Ralph nodded back and said, “Mom, we’re thinking of moving.”

Beth was aghast, not to mention speechless. Move? Leave the house she’d come to not only love, but to think of as her very own? Impossible.

Maggie chimed in, “Yes, some people have called about it. We’ve talked to a realtor to get an assessment. The market is good.”

“That’s right. The house is very sellable,” Ralph added, then pointed toward the front door, “Plus, I’m thinking it might be time for a change of scenery for Rick. He’s 16 now, and getting to be more of a handful. A move might do him good.”

Beth didn’t hear much after that. Move away from her dream house? No way. Not on her life.

For the next 15 minutes, Ralph and Maggie filled her in about their plan to relocate to a smaller home, one in a different school district for Rick to attend, and all the while Beth kept thinking, No. No. No! She would never move. Never!

That’s when she got the idea to have Rick kill his parents.

In the end, it was simple, really, and elegant in its own way.

The next day, Rick came home from school and started slamming doors and making a scene. He ended up in the kitchen where he opened the refrigerator, took out a carton of milk, raised it to his lips, and started drinking. Beth, who had been in the back sunroom reading a romance novel, came in and joined him. “What’s wrong?”

Rick slammed the carton down. “Dad won’t let me use the car.”

Beth sighed. It was the same argument from the night before. She wanted to tune him out, but also wanted him to know she was on his side. She needed him for what she had in mind. He continued, “I wanted to go to the football game on Saturday night and he won’t let me. Man, he’s such a jerk.”

She went to him. Even though he was a handful, the two of them still got along pretty well and were as close as they could be, given the way Rick was. Now she could use that closeness to her advantage.

“I’m really sorry to hear that,” she said, gently caressing his back with one hand. She could feel him physically relax. After a few minutes, she asked, “What do you know about cars?

“Cars? Why?” he pulled away and looked at her, his devious mind immediately jumping to her wavelength. “What have you got in mind?”

Beth smiled and lead him to the kitchen table, where she sat him down and got out two glasses. She poured one full of milk from the carton he’d been guzzling and set it down next to him. Then she poured herself some, sat down, and said, “Let me tell you how the front breaks work.”

Rick listened to every word, and in the end, it was ridiculously easy to convince him to puncture the break lines before his mother and father went out on their weekly Saturday night dinner date. When she was done explaining, Rick smiled. “That sounds good.” Then he paused before asking, “While we’re at it, what do you know about making the accelerator stick wide open?”

“Nothing,” she said, “but I’ll bet we could find out.”

He grinned and rubbed his hands together. “Let’s do it.”

Beth sighed a sigh when Rick wasn’t looking. He really was a devious little jerk.

Afterwards, after the horrific crash that killed Ralph and Maggie, when the police questioned her, Beth easily turned the tables. “Me? Why would I want to kill my son? I love living here.” Then she shook her head, feigning sadness, and added, “It’s Rick who’s got problems. He’s the one who hated his parents. They fought all the time.”

When the police talked to Rick, no matter how much he screamed, “No, my grandmother made me do it!” the cops didn’t believe him, not with his long record of bad behavior for most of his life. The jury felt the same.

Since he was only 16, Rick was sentenced to 20 years in prison so long as he completed his mandatory counseling sessions, which is what he was doing now. Since Beth was his next of kin, she was asked to attend, something she was happy to do because it paid to keep reminding the psychiatrist just how horrible her grandson really was.

A motion out of the corner of her eye brought Beth out of her daydreams. Doctor Bryant was standing up and saying, “Okay, I guess that about does it for this session.” He reached out his hand and Beth shook it. “Good to see you again, Beth; thank you for attending.”

“Thank you having me.” Beth shook his hand politely. She turned to Rick. “Nice to see you again.”

Rick turned toward her, eyes filled with hate. Beth smiled at him. Rick coughed up some phlegm and spit at her. She turned away, wiping her face with her handkerchief. Time to leave.

That really is too bad about Rick, she thought to herself as she left the office and headed for the parking ramp, but that’s the way it goes.

She got in her car and started the engine. Then she turned on the CD player so she could listen to some peaceful classical music on the drive home; maybe some Vivaldi, some more Four Seasons. Once she got home, she’d have a peaceful evening with a quiet meal and some reading and then go to bed, just way she imagined it always would be. She was looking forward to every minute of it.

The nice old Victorian house had been left to her by her son, along with a sizeable life insurance policy. For all the yelling and screaming on Rick’s part about the role Beth played in the unfortunate death of his parents, no one believed him.

And no one ever would. Beth was sure of it. After all, she was just a kindly old grandmother. She wouldn’t hurt a fly.