WHAT IF ???
She laid the last page on top of the others.
‘Well?’ he asked, ‘What did you think?’
‘Good, yes it’s good.’
‘But what did you think? Did you like it?’
‘Not exactly like. But it’s a good story. Clever, sort of.’
‘Hmph.’ He went back to spooning dabs of cottage cheese on the figs he had spent minutes quartering while she was reading.
The figs were from the garden; split open they looked violated, magenta flesh exposed. She looked at the manuscript face down on the dining table. The story had disturbed her, was still disturbing her. What was it? The writing was good, fluid and inventive with his usual flair for startling imagery. Then she knew – it seemed utterly real. What if it were real, not real in the past but real in the future – a plan, a blueprint for events that he thought to set in motion?
She put two figs in her bowl, covered them with cream then sprinkled sugar, enjoying the way the granules floated on the surface tingeing it a deeper yellow. She stole a sidelong glance at him. They had not been getting on well since they had moved into the old house. In spite of its dilapidation, they had both been attracted to it but for different reasons – she for its solitude, garden and glorious views, he for its elegance and period detail.
But the renovation was much more of a challenge than either had
anticipated. Now they were together all day, every day, often arguing bitterly over tiny details and she knew that he resented the time away from his writing. And his short story was about a couple doing just that, growing to hate each other as they laboured – knocking down, re-building, scraping and sanding, painting, dust and noise, discomfort and exhaustion. Was this what was happening to them? Was their whole enterprise heading for his story’s gruesome climax?
There is a blocked drain. The stink of sewage pervades the garden. It takes the two of them to lever up the heavy drain cover. He leaves the very large, very pointed screwdriver on the lip of the drain then as she bends to look in, he drops his side of the cover. It hits the tip of the screwdriver which spins violently into the air and pierces her eye. She dies a death so bizarre, so improbable, that the coroner and the police believe his story that it was an accident. But he has planned it all – blocking the drain, testing the position of the screwdriver, even dropping the lid to watch it spin in the air, and chuckling.
She stared at him. Could he? Would he? Did he hate her so? She pushed away the bowl of figs and cream and left him at the table. She went into the kitchen and sniffed. There was the faintest whiff of drains.