(Until Death is a 1250 word short story)
I fell in love with my husband when I was eighteen. Everyone said I was too young for him and he was too old for me, but we had three happy years together before I killed him.
Derek had bought me a four-wheel-drive car, more like a tractor, he claimed they were safer. It was ridiculous and had huge chunky tyres. I was nervous every time I backed it into the double garage, never really able to see where I was going. Derek insisted I back it in – so he was partly to blame. I thought I’d hit a box or table, that’s why I drove forward again. I had no idea I’d run over Derek – twice.
I was distraught, tears smearing my mascara and my hair escaping its carefully coiffed chignon. Backing a car over your husband is not something you do every day. And doubly distressing when you’ve driven forward over him too. If that wasn’t enough I broke a nail as I tried to turn him over to give him the kiss of life. I realised as soon as I saw his squished chest that there was no point.
The rest of that day and for some weeks afterwards I was inconsolable. The police accepted that it was an accident, even Derek’s mother forgave me, and she was the judgemental type. Of course, she had to stay on my good side now, as being twenty-one, I had inherited the family business along with our house and the cottage in which she lived.
She didn’t have to bite her tongue for many weeks. It was unfortunate that the sushi had been in my fridge far too long to be safe to eat. I should have warned her, especially as I knew how she loved Japanese food. She suffered a terrible case of food poisoning and died right there, fork in hand, in my kitchen. I had been away for a few days and she was taking care of my late husband’s cat, so nobody could blame me. I explained to the doctor and the police that I had intended to throw the sushi away.
I never liked that cat, a long-haired Persian monstrosity, and he never liked me. But it was a shame that he finished off the sushi, I could have found a home for him.
The cottage sold easily. I never considered letting it out. I wasn’t the landlady type. The proceeds funded a swimming pool at the rear of my house, with sliding doors and a roof that opened to the sky on sunny days. Planning permission had been tricky to obtain, but the head of the committee visited me, on several occasions. He was a pleasant man, married, and his wife didn’t understand the constant stress he was under. I had once considered a career as a masseuse and he was kind enough to let me practise my skills on him.
The family business had to go too. After all, there wasn’t going to be a family to inherit it after Derek’s death. With the proceeds I bought a rather exclusive villa on the Mediterranean coast. It was situated on the edge of a golf course and just a stroll to the beach. I didn’t play golf, had no intention of learning, but I thought I might get on with the kind of people who lived there. My immediate neighbour turned out to be a very gentle man, a widower whose only child rarely visited him. He told me one evening, at a barbecue at the clubhouse, that he regarded me as a surrogate daughter. I cuddled his arm, stretched up to give him a chaste kiss on the cheek and told him that I felt honoured and that it was a sweet thing to say.
Within two years he died of a heart attack. He had been arguing with his daughter on the telephone, his real daughter, or at least his biological daughter as he had come to refer to her. It was a huge surprise to me that he had included me in his will, rather generously, more generously than he had remembered his actual bitch of a daughter.
She made quite a fuss, tried to get me disinherited, but when several of his friends at the golf club came to my defence she reluctantly conceded defeat on advice from her lawyers.
The villa never felt the same, a younger couple bought the neighbouring property and the wife was not very friendly. I sold it, moved back to my other house and reviewed my situation. I was an independently wealthy woman, but I was still young. Although my bank account had a seven-figure balance it was going to have to last me a lifetime.
My mother always said you only have youth on your side for a short time. I decided to heed her advice and find a man to keep me in the manner to which I had so rapidly become accustomed. My mother hadn’t quite managed that herself, but she always let love influence her choices. I would never make that mistake.
On an impulse I booked a berth on a cruise to the Norwegian fjords. I knew it would be predominantly older couples, taking a trip of a lifetime, but there might be someone interesting on board, someone who would appreciate my particular talents. To my surprise I saw a face I recognised. I had only seen her before in a photograph. It was the biological daughter. She wasn’t going to ruin my trip, so I smiled sweetly and told her how well she looked.
I didn’t see her again, but I’m certain it was her hands on my ankles later that night as I cartwheeled over the railings and into the icy fjord. Miraculously I survived, but the fall fractured my spine. My recovery was slow, the compensation huge and my carer? Well, he turned out to be a very attractive and attentive young man.