by Yvonne P. Lang
Roy sat at his kitchen table. The radio was chiming out a cheerful tune in the background, but the words weren’t registering. The weather had acknowledged summer was here and despite the relatively early hours of the morning the sun was shining brightly. All of Roy’s carefully tended flowers were basking in the early morning rays. The bird table he had built two summers ago had a crowd of various birds jostling for prime position, with a rather domineering magpie forcing most of the smaller birds away from the selection of crusts and seeds Mary had just put out. As she did every morning. Retirement had certainly given them a routine.
Roy watched Mary walk back to the kitchen, her faded red dressing-gown knotted tightly closed. She slipped off her tatty shoes and stepped smoothly into her slippers in a well-practised motion. She did this every morning, the only variety stemming from the weather; though she was just as fluent and well-practiced at the routine in wellies and a coat. She felt the birds should have breakfast as they had breakfast. Roy usually enjoyed watching the merry assortment of birds and squirrels, but they weren’t enough to lift his mood today.
Mary began to butter the toast that had popped as she came back into the kitchen. Roy automatically slid the jam over to her side of the table. He watched his wife of 52 years as she poured her coffee and sat down opposite him.
God he despised her. He had no idea how they had tolerated each other for 52 years of marriage and 18 months of courtship. Probably because both were too stubborn to admit they had made a mistake and call it quits first. Her outspokenness and feistiness, which Roy had been so drawn to initially, had slowly either transformed, or simply been truly revealed as stubbornness, being over opinionated and argumentative. Maybe all those years as a 999 call operator had given her a thick skin, a different set of perspectives to him.
He stirred his coffee absent-mindedly as he reminisced. Mary preferred it when he didn’t talk so he didn’t have to worry about her complaining about the lack of conversation over breakfast. Maybe they had lasted so long due to her erratic working hours – it was hard to be annoyed by someone you barely saw. To compound the situation, he had always worked shifts too – both at the factory and then as a long distance HGV driver. When he came home tired he often had a secret hope he’d return to hear she’d been having an affair and run off, or that she had been in an accident, or had a heart attack. No such luck. There was no other man trying to tempt her away, and she was stronger and healthier than an Olympic athlete. She was also way too stubborn and spiteful to drop down dead and leave him to be happy.
He was way too old to start over again now, and although there was a wonderful widow at the garden centre with whom he had struck up a marvellous rapport, Mary wasn’t getting on his nerves more than usual because he wanted to be with someone else. He was just at breaking point; he wanted some peace in his retirement. Retirement was meant to be about rest, relaxation and fun. None of these occurred round Mary. His retirement had become some sort of living hell, or at the very least, purgatory.
He wanted to lie in when he felt like it, and not be told off for wasting the day. He wanted to be able to spend some of his savings on a vintage car to restore without being told it was a waste of money and a silly hobby – then forbidden from doing so. He was fed up with how she talked down to him, because he didn’t want a mobile, could sometimes be confused by the new TV’s recording features and had no clue how Skype worked. He hated her nagging. He was bored of her stories. He was infuriated by her humming.
It was time. He would concede. He would end their relationship. The conniving witch would find some way to manipulate everything and everyone during a divorce and get more than her fair share. Roy wasn’t even happy with her getting her fair share – he had paid for half the house but he had done all the work. He had created the entire garden, water feature and all, from scratch – and alone. He had re-tiled the kitchen. Mary may have dictated the carpet colour but he had ripped up the old one and laid the new one. He had used his annual leave to spend a back-breaking summer installing an entire new bathroom – all the while with her complaining about the speed of his work. No, he definitely deserved this house.
Roy sipped his still warm coffee. He had reached his limit. He had thought this through, given the idea time to percolate, not let his anger force him to rush in. He saw over his mug that Mary was smiling at him as she nursed hers.
weather dear. Do you think you’ll be gardening today?” Mary asked.
“Most likely,” Roy answered.
She had no idea the end was nigh. He’d figured out how to use that flipping internet she loved so much. Google had been most helpful; it had introduced him to alkaniocin. Slightly tricky to obtain but now disguised with all his other knick-knacks, seeds, plants and tools in his shed. Mary was going to have something extra in her supper tonight. She was clueless, she was still smiling at him. He didn’t feel any doubt though, or guilt. Over half a century of oppression would push anyone to the brink.
“I don’t think you’ll get to the garden today dear.”
Roy’s thoughts were
interrupted by Mary’s chiding voice. Oh God, did she have more chores for him?
There was something suspicious about her smile – had she ordered something
expensive online again?
“Oh no darling, why is that?” He asked with forced pleasantness.
Mary put her mug down and leant forward towards him, her eyes narrowing,
“Little advice for you dear. If you are going to search for poison on the internet, clear your browser history and think of somewhere more inventive to hide it than your shed,” she hissed, “Still at least you have helped set up a case for your own suicide. Retirement can cause depression in some people. Nice coffee dear?”
Roy looked down at the dregs of his morning drink (made by Mary as always) in horror. He felt a blinding pain shooting towards his chest before everything went black.
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