The decision once made formulated with surprising ease. After a decade and a half of marriage, she had imagined it would have been harder to plan her partner’s demise. Should have been harder. Yet once the idea implanted itself in her mind, it grew with ferocious tenacity, its toxic roots wrapping her in the satisfied flush of suppressed vengeance at last unleashed.
He grunted, and her single-minded focus slipped, allowing her icy, calm reserve to fracture and reveal the loathing she kept hidden when he was around. As if he noticed. Sipping her wine, she regarded the man she had once loved over the rim of her wine glass. Head lowered over his plate, bald head shining in the yellow glare of their dining room light, he shoved his food into his mouth with single minded intensity, the small grunts he made as mundane as the whole of their marriage. As mundane as the day she realized she no longer loved him.
It was a Tuesday last April. He came home from work like any other Tuesday, threw his coat onto the floor and slumped into his chair. He looked tired, and she noticed for the first time how anger and resentment had warped his once handsome face. Deep lines surrounded his eyes and mouth and he sighed, catching her staring at him.
“What are you looking at?” he had asked, his voice flat and distant. No warmth greeted her in his chocolate gaze. No smile curled his handsome mouth. He was a stranger to her. And then she knew.
“Nothing. I’m looking at nothing.”
“Then stop standing around and get me something to eat. I’ve had a long day.”
As if she hadn’t. As if she weren’t as tired as him. But it didn’t matter. It never did.
At first, she considered ending her own life, but that only ended her misery while causing him a minor inconvenience. No, he needed to suffer as she had done. She wanted to watch him as he died, to revel in the exact moment he realized his life was ending. No one would blame her. He had long since ceased to resemble the man she had married. His twisted sense of justice and fairness had taken whatever love they had once shared and warped it, choking the air from their marriage like strangle weed in a garden once full of brilliant blooms.
“You look tired,” she said, placing her wine glass on the table. “Maybe you should take a bath tonight.”
He grunted his response. Undeterred, she rose and poured the remainder of the wine into his near-empty glass. She gave him what she hoped was a coy glance from beneath her lashes. ¨I can join you.” The startled lift of his brows emboldened her to continue her role, but she feigned indifference and shrugged a shoulder. ¨If you’d like.”
She lifted her wine glass between thin bloodless fingers and sashayed up the stairs, her pounding heart almost eclipsing the hurried scraping of his chair over the wooden floor. His haste amused her, something of which she little experienced. Yet, she had to bite her tongue to stifle a giggle. Nerves, perhaps, or maybe something more. There was some sort of poetic justice her husband would die with a plan of his own creation, a plan he had suggested with arrogant flippancy in the early days of their marriage when all was starlight and moonbeams.
“If you ever want to kill me off,” he had purred in her ear, water droplets trickling down the sensitive cord of her neck, “love me in the tub like this and I’ll be so spent you could push me under with a finger.”
Of course it would take a little more than a finger to finish the job, but she had planned each moment with military precision, starting with when he had walked through the door this evening.
She glided into the bathroom and turned her head over her shoulder to gift him with a sultry smile. Despite her open invitation, he hesitated at the threshold. Loosening the belt around her green silk wrap-around dress, the slinky material slide down her shoulders, caressed her buttocks and pooled around her feet.
Turning, she unbound her hair and swung the heavy mass of thick black curls over her bare back. “What are you waiting for?” she purred.
“Nothing,” he said, pulling his shirt from his waistband and shucking his trousers with fumbled haste. “Absolutely nothing.” He closed the door with his foot and pulled her into his familiar embrace.
“I thought that might be your answer,” she said.
(C) Sara Ackerman, 2019