A short story about a couple's dinner.
| The kitchen is filled with the aroma of cooking. Faye hums as she bustles around the kitchen, preparing for the dinner. A stew bubbles on the stove, and she can see chunks of meat and vegetable bobbing in the pot. Faye slowly upends a mortar over the stew, letting a fine white powder fall into the pot. Faye stirs the pot, making sure no residue is visible, and covers it with the lid. She settles down at the kitchen table and sips a glass of wine. And she goes over in her mind, once again, how she will kill her husband. Before he kills her first.
When she registers the key turning in the lock, Faye has set the food on the table, placed a set of burning candles, and is on her fourth glass of wine. “You’re late,” she says to Josh, who manages to looks slightly abashed.
“I bought you this,” he says, holding up a white cardboard box embroidered with golden decorations from behind his back. “Almond mille feuille, your favourite. I have just the one though. The guy in front had to have five.” He smiles, and for an instant Faye is reminded of why she fell in love with him years ago. She accepts the box wordlessly, and deposits it on the countertop behind her.
“Let’s eat,” Faye says, motioning for Josh to sit down at the table. As she lifts the lid off the pot, he widens his eyes at the stew. “This is new.” He doesn’t seem to recognize the dish. Faye can see beads of perspiration on his forehead, illuminated by the candlelight.
The serrated edge of the knife gleams as Faye slices the loaf of bread. She doles out chunks to Josh, who dips them in the stew and savors the taste. Faye watches him nervously, but his face reveals nothing. “It’s good,” he says, mouth full. She watches him eat, waiting for a chance. The timing must be perfect: not a moment early, not a moment late.
After what seems like an eternity, Faye takes a deep breath and says, “Does the stew taste strange?”
Josh stops, stares at her. “Strange?” he echoes, puzzlement evident on his face.
She forges on, “Do you recognize this dish?” He looks at her, seemingly perplexed. “You made it for me, a couple of weeks ago.”
Faye notices a glimmer of recognition in his eyes. “You didn’t eat it though, did you?” he asks. “You said you felt sick.”
“Yes.” Faye remembers the first time Josh ever cooked for her, over the five years they have known each other. She had been out for groceries, less than an hour, and when she came back Josh had made dinner. That should be no cause for concern, if he hadn’t been so insistent that she eat it, or if she hadn’t discovered by chance the box of rat poison in the trash. It had been at least half full just the day before. “I know what you did, Josh.”
“And what did I do exactly?” He is angry now: crushing the bread in his grip. Josh takes a deep breath, “Have you taken today’s pills, Faye?”
Of course. She has expected this question, expected his efforts to cast doubt on her. That was Josh’s plan all along, to make her believe she was insane and could not be trusted. “No. Of course not.”
“Jesus, Faye,” Josh exclaims, running his hands through his hair, “You should have listened to Dr. Caldwell; he must have good reason.” Psychiatrists were people too, they could be paid off just as easily as the rest of them. Faye tears off a piece of bread and chews it, almost enjoying the suspense and anger Josh radiates.
“I know how to use the Internet, Josh. Antipsychotics? Seriously?”
“We’ve been over this. You need them, to-”
“To what?” Faye’s voice comes out as a snarl, reverberating through their kitchen. Josh recoils. She sits down, not even noticing she has stood up. “I know what those pills are for. I’m supposed to be crazy, supposed to be unstable, no one is supposed to believe a word I say.”
“God,” Josh exclaims, moving over to the cupboard and opens it, withdrawing a bottle of whiskey and a shot glass. He pours a cup and downs it in a gulp, then fills the glass with another. Faye swears there is a glint of a tear in his eye. “You really are messed up.”
It has all gone wrong. Faye expected anger, confrontation, even a fight, which would make it easier for her. Instead, Josh says, “I’ll stay out of the house tonight, find a hotel. We can see Dr. Caldwell in the morning, he’ll help you.” Placing the whiskey glass on the table, he turns to leave. No. It can’t end like this.
Faye stands up silently, takes a step forward. She makes her voice sound strangled, pleading, “Josh-”
He turns around.
And Faye swings her arm up in a silver arc, flashing in the candlelight. She only registers a dull thud as the serrated blade sinks into Josh’s throat.
Josh’s face is contorted, a mixture of shock, anger, and terror. His hands fly to his throat, as he tries to keep the life within his body. Yet, blood bubbles, slipping through his fingers in a red cascade. Faye watches as Josh slumps to the ground, blood still pumping from the wound as he spasms. Slowly, the life fades from his eyes, which remain fixed on Faye, wide and unblinking.
Faye puts down the knife, and studies Josh’s body. Crouching down, she stretches out her hand and teases out a piece of paper, folded up and tucked into Josh’s shirt pocket. It is torn out from a notebook, and three words are scrawled on the lined paper.
Forgive me, Josh.
The handwriting is not unlike Faye’s own.
So that was what he was going to do. To kill her, and pretend it was a suicide. She would just have to die: drowned in the bath, her wrists slit, even too many sleeping pills; Josh would put the note beside her, and it would be suicide. She was always unstable, wasn’t she?
Faye laughs a bitter laugh. She is the victor, Josh’s plan has failed. She suddenly feels ravenous.
She tears open the embroidered cardboard box, and pulls out the almond pastry within. Faye devours the mille feuille, washing it down with Josh’s glass of whiskey. The whiskey and the almond mix in her mouth, giving a bitter aftertaste.
Faye stands up. She will go to sleep, wake up in the morning, come down, and find Josh’s corpse. Pocketing the note, she makes her way up the stairs.
At the landing, she stops. Her head feels light; her heart is pounding. Faye dashes to the bathroom and vomits. She staggers to the bedroom and falls onto the bed. The ceiling swims before her eyes. Feeling a lump in her pocket, Faye pulls the paper out and places it on the bedside table. She runs her hands over the note, feeling its rough texture.
Forgive me, Josh.
Her chest starts to hurt, and Faye closes her eyes.