Melanie Carstens

My Beloved

I murdered my husband while he slept last night. I covered his face with a pillow and waited until I was sure he breathed no more.  Afterwards, I went to my room and sunk into the icy bed, and waited for night to turn to day; fully dressed, my long grey hair plaited, as it was everyday, yesterday’s make-up and last night’s dinner dress still on.  I didn’t even bother to remove my shoes.

With morning, came his nurse and then the doctor, suddenly life again in our house. The doctor, nearly as old as my husband, and as much a part of my life, our life. I stood beside him as he examined the frail lifeless body and when he eventually spoke, his words were slow and pronounced.

He went quietly in his sleep. It was his time to go. There was nothing more we could have done for him. It’s better this way. 

He hugged me and whispered sweet words of sympathy, understanding and friendship; but didn’t stay long. I suppose he’d seen my embarrassed relief as I’d stood at the edge of my husband’s bed and remembered all that we had done to keep him alive and sick, grotesque with pain and disease. He knew what I’d done.  A knowing unsaid.

They took his body away an hour ago, and there is much for me to do now.  Instead, I’m sitting at the window in his favourite chair drinking his whiskey.  It’s early in the afternoon, too early to be drinking whiskey, but I craved the numbness that I knew it would bring. The nurse is in that room, I can hear her, as she moves.  I wish that she would leave; I can’t stand her being in there.  I’d never liked her, young, pretty, happily married, sprinkling her laughter here and there as she went about soothing my beloved with her innocent stories and caring hands.

I wonder what she’d say if she saw me sitting here drinking in the afternoon.  I want to cry, but instead I laugh.  A grieving old lady, getting drunk in the middle of the day.  Me, a teetotaler. But I am grateful for the numbness, and so I take another sip, and another until there is just the ice left in my glass.   What am I now, without my husband?  What of the children we never had, would I have had the courage to tell them of what I have done?  I feel compelled, suddenly to tell someone.  I want catharsis; I want to be free of my sin.

Just then she walks in.  Her eyes are dewy, her nose and cheeks flushed; but she smiles to mask her grief. Protecting me, I suppose. She whispers that she’s finished and that she’ll be leaving.  She asks if I need anything before she goes and I say yes, holding up my empty glass.  Her eyes move to the table at my right and I watch her expression change as she comprehends the whiskey bottle. I watch her backside, it’s large and tightly packed into her white trousers, as she waddles unquestioning, towards the kitchen.  I hate her, and I don’t know why.  I suppose it is because I hate myself.

She fetches ice and water and pours me another drink, asking me if I’d like something to eat and I tell her no, I tell her that I am full with misery and she touches my arm.  I pull away and stare at her.  A few moment of silence, and then I tell her that I killed him.  I let the words fall from me, relieved.

I killed him last night, it was me who did it, I put a pillow on his face.

She looks at me, with her wide unlined eyes and kneels in close.  I let her take the glass from my hand, as the tears finally, painfully fall from my face.  She looks at me, locks her eyes on mine, and tells me not to speak of such silly things.  Her voice is firm and reassuring.  She pulls a tissue from her pocket and wipes my sobs, and then lifts me from my chair and guides me gently to my room.  She pulls the covers back and helps me into my bed, removing my dress and my shoes and wiping my face tenderly with a warm cloth.  Sleep now, she says, and then she leaves me to the silence of my dreams where I search for salvation.

A short while later, I see my husband sitting on the edge of my bed, I am not sure if I am dreaming, but I don’t care. He takes my hand in his and raises it to the warmth of his lips.  I hear him speak, and I know it’s his voice and I don’t remember anything of what I have done. I feel his love as he holds me close, finally, and I am filled with joy. We smile at each other. I have missed him for as long as I can remember.