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What I Love About Poison
I’m treading carefully here. Testing the water. Turning my wrist so lightly, so slightly, that there’s almost no movement at all. In the loose grasp of my hand the glass bottle slips, so I hold it tighter, praying under my breath in a broken voice. Making my movements bolder, I tip the liquid into a cup. It pools in the bottom, cloudy. With a steadier hand now I make tea as if I were oblivious, but keep it in the pot. Indecision keeps me from pouring the tea into the cup, but within seconds I‘ve made up my mind. I tip the contents of the cup into the pot instead, stirring it with a bread knife that’s far too long for the job. I look at the knife and consider, fleetingly, but keep on mixing. My hands are shaking now, and some of the tea is lost. Over the edge and onto the counter where I wipe it with a rag as quickly as possible. I won’t leave a trace.
I don’t want anyone to know what I‘m going to do. I’ve been through the plan many a time, the comforting plan, and thought through every possibility. No matter what the conclusion though, and no matter what the consequences, so long as I succeed I’ll be happy. I can handle any punishment but this, I think. A broken heart leads the mind and soul to feel so numb, that I hardly think I’ll notice. And it’s not like I can go on any longer living as I do now. If I don’t do this, I’ll always watch the people around me with suspicion. And I might never know if I’m right about the betrayal, but at least I’m doing something to stop it. I’m certain enough to do that.
Lydia is startled when she sees me in her quarters- she thinks I’m here to tell her off. Before she has a chance to ask, I shake my head numbly and point dumbly in the general direction of the drawing room. Her nervous eyes follow my quivering hand and flicker back to my face, where she nods in return. She turns on her heel and hurries upstairs to fetch the others. I wonder if she’s running because she’s scared or if she’s rushing to get home for Mother’s Day. It could be the former- animals will flee from danger- why shouldn’t my servants have the same instincts?
I know they pity me, really. And I know they’re afraid of me at least a little. With smooth, measured steps I head into the drawing room, where the tray of tea awaits. Each china cup stands squarely in the centre of it’s saucer, and each cup is arranged around the teapot carefully. With a lingering glance, I admire my work. Then I turn to the three girls lined up beside the table and nod my head once, pointing to the cups. Lydia is boldest and she stutters that she wouldn’t like to, couldn’t. But I smile politely, stretch my lips into a grimace. When she doesn’t move I close the distance between us and steer her towards the table by the shoulder, the other girls scattering. She sits down with some encouragement. With downcast eyes and a fearful, twitching mouth, she drinks from the first cup. She sets it down and turns to other girls, smiling. She is relieved- I see that.
They sit down beside her and I take a place at the table myself- their equal for a moment. They each take cups and drink wordlessly, then stand up to leave. I pour them another cup, though, and they sit back down, exchanging glances. They’ve barely finished their second round before I’m pouring another, and then the pot is empty. I leave them then, sitting around the table together. I’m not sure what will happen, but I know what should happen. That is enough for me- it will ease the guilt for me if I leave some room for chance, and never find out. But I can feel satisfied knowing that I’ve probably succeeded. Peace forever, guaranteed. I’m very happy, and I feel relaxed in a way I haven’t been for weeks. I take the stairs two at a time, and slip into my room. I climb onto the bed without undressing. It doesn’t matter much to me at the moment. I’m too calm.
And it’s almost night when I wake up. There’s shouting downstairs, a man shouting, and for a moment I’m very disorientated. Then I recognise the room and the voice and know I’m home still. Nothing to worry about. The shouting goes on.
The there’s a pounding on the stairs- the door to my room flies open at tremendous speed. Wakened from what feels like a state of dreaming, I grasp reality and sit up. My husband strides into the room, finds me, and bends down on one knee. I’m sat up on my bed in my clothes and he’s watching me, at eye level. I look away.
“What is this, Rebecka?” he asks. And then he sighs. He’s curious, I know. But I can’t tell him what he wants to hear, because my mind is foggy and hard to navigate. Have I done something? What have I done?
Feeling nervous, I look back at him. There’s definitely concern in his eyes, and pity too. Just like Lydia and Susan and Avis so many hours ago. That much I can remember. With uneasy thoughts, I wonder. Why does everyone pity me so? They shouldn’t pity me… I’m happy… I’m so happy… but he’s so sad. He fits his palm along the line of my jaw, holding my face in his hand. I release my head, and he falters with the added weight for a second before he releases me. My chin hits my chest before I can think to stop it, and then he’s putting pressure on my shoulders, guiding me into a position where I’m lying down. I’m grateful, because I feel so tired again all of a sudden. I’m lost… sailing into the storm with no anchor, blindfolded. Hopeless.
“Stay there.” he whispers, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. The gesture is loving, and it makes me feel good. I touch his hand as he pulls away and he looks at me in a strange, confused way. He glances towards the door and back at me, then leaves, closing the door behind him quietly. He’s treating me like I’m made of glass, and I’m frightened all over again. What in God’s name have I done?
For a long time I drift between sleep and consciousness. I don’t feel rested no matter how long I lie, though. I just think, and sift through my memories. I hear the hushed sound of my husband whispering into the phone, then the doorbell. Feet on the stairs. My husband in my room again, with another man.
I get to my feet, but the movement pains me. My joints are stiff and I’m slow as I walk towards the door, but movement comes back to me. The men block my path, though.
“Excuse me, please.” I say politely, my voice rasping. They don’t move.
My husband looks sheepish- his attention is focused on his shoes.
“I’m sorry.” he mumbles. But his friend is less caring.
“You went too far now, didn’t you Rebecka?” He looks at me, his gaze probing. I don’t like him- I really want him to leave. I don’t even realise I’m speaking until he fits a hand over my mouth, so calloused and scarred a hand. Very different to my husband’s soft skin. I bite down hard on it, only partly through instinct. He doesn’t flinch, but something cruel flashes in his eyes. His free hand grips my arm, hurting me, as my husband watches from a little way off.
“John?” I reach our for him, but he shrinks even further away. He looks disgusted, no longer guilty.
“You’re right, Doctor.” He says, and they’re both looking at me. It’s uncomfortable. “She’s not sane.”
“What?” I fight against the strange man’s hold now, shocked. “John, I didn’t do it. Help me!”
But his face is blank, so composed now. He comes a little closer and I stop struggling, barely breathing. He spits at my feet, then backs away again.
“Murderer.” He hisses, and then I’m dragged away from him before I can react.