It was twenty degrees on a December afternoon that qualified as warm, and she still hadn't decided whether to use poison or a pillow. Both had their merits, but seemed at risk of failure. There wouldn't be much point to it if she landed in jail. She'd put in too much effort to watch her money slip away. Seven years wasted in a bed permeated by the stench of pre-death. It was an unwelcome hanger-on sticking to her whenever she tried to enjoy herself so that the tilt of her head would bring reality creeping into her nose. And for what; an allowance? Was she thirty, or thirteen?
As he shuffled past, she peered from between parted fingers. He would never die. He was going to live forever just to spite her. Eighty, a hundred, a hundred and twenty, because he knew that all she wanted was for him to give up. Because deep down, he hated her as much as she hated him, and so he'd hang on to ensure her misery. Every grin made her want to vomit, even as she returned them. They always got bad around this time of the year, laden with the joy of a Christian man who failed to see how tedious the season was. If he could smile while whistling his carols, he would be set, and she would rupture her eardrums.
When he was dead, she'd find a place where she could have isolation. She didn't know the last time she'd had the middle-of-nowhere house to herself. There was always a noise somewhere. Even when they were in opposite wings, his presence disrupted the air enough that her skin felt like a too-small sweater over her skeleton. Sure, there were errands to get her away from him. Shopping. Parties, too. But they weren't the same as solitude.
She chain-smoked while he hauled cardboard boxes from the basement with strength that should have faded a decade ago. He was going to ask her to knead his bread dough back tonight, she knew it. When he winked, she showed her teeth, then turned her attention to the brandy snifter that lay open like a lover's mouth waiting for a kiss.
The ladder screeched across the kitchen floor. Poison was obvious, but it would be beautiful. She could see him drag himself across the floor to the toilet to let his mouth ejaculate bile stew until he died with his head in the bowl. One autopsy and it would be over for her, but considering his theft of her twenties, it was almost worth it.
She had to think of the money. To give in to sadism's temptation would be to ruin everything. Suspicion was already going to be focused on her until she could cut all ties. The risk would be high no matter what. But with a will more than two years old, and an occurrence that looked natural, what could they do about it? They wouldn't manage to change a thing.
That hat with the ear-flaps was what got her refilling her snifter. Maybe she could get him to trip down the stairs. Fix that oriental monstrosity in the hall so that his foot would catch. Then...whoops. Brains all over the front hall. How brutish.
The door shut after him. She killed her cigarette. How nice it would be to flee, to focus on the stage career she'd neglected like an unlucky child since 1981. It would be marvelous. She would even cut back smoking to help her voice.
And oh, the men. Sure, there were men now, but she was tired of sneaking like a teenager tiptoeing around daddy. It was hard to enjoy them when she knew she'd have to come home to him and spend every night repulsed by his hand on her arm, let alone the sight of him naked.
Considering how she'd suffered herself to be pawed in that bed, a pillow might be appropriate. The acid green one with silver thread embroidered by his first wife. They wouldn't investigate that too hard. He was old; his heart stopped in his sleep. These things happen.
Glass left behind, she ascended the stairs. A sneer touched her lips as she passed the portrait hanging upon the wall. The dress she'd worn was flattering, accentuating all her curves. Her hair, piled upon her head in a mahogany crown. But his presence made her image impossible to appreciate. All she could see were the remains of his ashen hair, and teeth which in real life were yellow as his nicotine-stained fingers.
The world's loudest pillow sat neglected in his armchair in the corner of their bedroom. She turned it over in her hands, then pressed it to her face. Wouldn't he be able to turn his head? This sort of thing always worked in movies, but with her luck, the pressure would wake him. Then he'd have her at the end of his shotgun while the cops arrived.
She dropped the pillow, snorting. As she passed the bed, the window rattled. There he was, that grin wrinkling his face further while he waved for her attention. She headed into the bathroom without acknowledgment, intent on the orange bottle with her name on it.
She'd always heard it was ill-advised to take a barbiturate after drinking. Dealing with him, though, the risk was worth it. One ruby pill on top of a glass of liquor made it all bearable. Someday, he'd drive her to take one too many, but he'd get her to the hospital before her breathing stopped.
She froze while shaking a pill into her palm, inspiration delivering a slap to the back of her skull. The plastic of the bottle glowed as though the Holy Chalice. Lips parting, she pressed it to her breast. She could grind a few up. Put them in his drink. When he was out, she'd give the drug some assistance, and then, no, officer, she didn't realize he'd been taking her Seconal. If only she'd known.
Respiratory depression. An accident that was his fault. Amazing that she'd overlooked it for so long. Her first genuine smile in a month was the one she shared with her reflection. Three of the pills would be enough to put him out. “Baby, It's Cold Outside” crossed her lips while she returned to the kitchen, the bottle in her pocket. She didn't even mind it was one of his favorites.
One cabinet at a time, she peered over their staples. Something to cover the flavor. Liquor? Maybe. Soup didn't seem strong enough. Hot chocolate, though. He did love it. He'd come in later, cheeks splotched with cold, and she could greet him with something to warm him. Wasn't she a thoughtful wife?
As her fingers curled around the container of cocoa, there came a muted shout; she paid it no mind until the ladder screeched down the siding of the house. Astonishment sped her pulse. She rushed through the door in the leopard print slippers that would be ruined by the snow, but the sacrifice was worthwhile to observe a miracle in action. The tangle of red lights swayed in the wind like a noose, waving to the ladder upon the ground and her husband prostrate a few feet away. He cried her name, his tone urgent as an alarm clock, the two syllables hissing from his lips with little more than a pause for breath between, or a plea for help that would go unheard by anyone but her.
Her mouth opened in awe. His eyes found hers, contorting with the same pain scribbled across his brow. Again, his mouth moved in request for help, but she couldn't hear it. She couldn't hear the whistle of the wind, either, or the beat of her own heart.
Fingers tensing around the container, she assumed the showgirl's smile she'd given him when he kissed her hand the first time all those years ago. She thought about saying something. Anything. Something poetic.
But her feet were getting cold, so she headed inside to put away the cocoa and pulled the door shut behind her.
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A character study of a woman for whom murder is an acceptable business venture.
Critical feedback is always welcome; I enjoy hearing suggestions and more in-depth critiques if people are willing to give them.