I sat down at the dining table in my apartment, chugging down some coffee while my husband Julian flipped through the newspaper.
“So have you had any nibbles on the apartment you’re trying to sell?” I asked.
His attention remained focused on the newspaper. “No. I’m not sure anything will happen with that place.”
I furrowed an eyebrow. “You know, you could at least look up at me.”
He lifted his gaze off the table. “I’m sorry! Would you like to talk about the weather?”
“I can’t keep doing this.” I finished the rest of my coffee a moment later. I got up and put the mug in the sink.
He cackled. The sound of his voice pierced the air. “You and me both.”
I folded my arms together, pressing them against my chest. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing! It wasn’t important.”
My eyes widened. “If you have something to say, you should just say it.”
“What’s the point?” Julian asked. “It’s not like you would listen to me.”
I pursed my lips. “Is this because I didn’t go to the store yesterday and get the milk?”
Julian remained silent.
“Look, I’m sorry I didn’t get the milk, but I was busy with the foundation yesterday,” I continued. “Besides, you know I like cream in my coffee, not milk.”
“Whatever you say. It’s not like you ever had to work a day in your life. You’re nothing but a trust fund brat.” He shoved the last piece of toast into his mouth.
A vein came to surface on my head, almost popping. “In case you’ve forgotten, the foundation does real work. I can’t even begin to count the number of battered women we’ve helped. And as for the second thing, you don’t seem to mind the benefits of my wealth.”
“Can you blame me? No offense, but you have no idea what it’s like to be a realtor.”
I sniggered. “You know what I think? I think you’re jealous you weren’t born into a wealthy family and you expect everyone else to have a hard life just because you did.”
“I don’t have time for this.” Julian got up, grabbing his briefcase. He rushed to the front door without another word.
The door slammed, echoing behind him.
Julian wouldn’t be winning husband of the year anytime soon. He could have gone to the store himself if he wanted.
It was kind of aggravating he always expected me to buy groceries. This wasn’t the 1950’s. I didn’t have to follow his every command. He could say frog all he wanted, but I wouldn’t jump.
I guess we shouldn’t have gotten married because we didn’t have anything better going on in our lives…
At least I could leave him anytime I wanted. It was one of the benefits of making him sign a prenup. It was genius.
I didn’t go to the foundation today since it was Wednesday, which meant I had the day off.
A ringing sound pierced the air. I cocked my head, realizing it was the phone.
“Hello. Whom may I ask is there?” I said, turning up the volume on the phone since it was always impossible to hear. It was one of the problems of having an old phone.
“I’m Chelsea. Is Julian there?”
I sat back down at the breakfast table. “No. This is his wife Rene. He went to work already. If you give me a name and number, I’d be happy to take a message.”
“Never mind. I’ll try him later. Sorry to bother you.”
The other end of the line went dead. Whatever! I didn’t have time to debate the rudeness of the woman’s behavior.
I put the phone back in the cradle before searching one of the kitchen drawers, attempting to find my iPhone charger. Unfortunately for me, something else popped out at me. I grabbed a piece of paper from the drawer. My eyes scanned it, realizing it was a life insurance policy, which was dated one month ago. The paper had Julian’s and mine’s signature, which was odd because I never recalled signing the piece of paper. He must have forged my signature. There was no doubt about it.
My heart thumped inside my chest, getting louder with each passing minute. It didn’t make any sense. There was no reason for Julian to take a life insurance policy out on me. We were both healthy and in our late twenties.
The woman on the phone earlier in the day wasn’t one of Julian’s business acquaintances.
She was his lover. He must have been having an affair.
Julian was going to kill me and take the money from the life insurance policy and run off with his mistress. It was the only logical explanation.
Staying ahead of Julian was my only option if I wanted to live…
I met my friend Jessica at Starbucks later in the day. There was no point in breaking our plans just because I found out my husband wanted to kill me.
She flashed a smile. “So what’s new with you Rene?”
I sipped my Frappuccino. “I think Julian is going to kill me.”
Her eyebrows made half circles above her eyes. “Okay, then…”
“I’m serious,” I said. “A woman called the apartment earlier and it wasn’t anyone from his family or a coworker. And I also discovered he took a life insurance policy out on me and forged my signature on the document.”
“Yeah, I guess I can see how that might not look good.”
I pushed my elbows up the table. “This isn’t a joke. I’m serious.”
“Can you go to the police?” She brushed her blazer, dusting it off.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Jessica was always one to be a perfectionist.
I shook my head at her. “No. I can’t go to the police on a hunch. They’ll have me committed.”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. “Well you have proof he forged your signature. That’s something.”
“You think I’m crazy, don’t you?” I gulped down some more of my beverage even if there weren’t enough Starbucks products in the world to calm me down.
Jessica leaned in a little while she started to whisper. “You aren’t afraid for your safety, are you?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know. Maybe. He has been a little resentful lately. But I could be overacting. Just because he’s cheating on me and took out a life insurance policy doesn’t mean he’s going to kill me.”
She twirled a strand of her hair. “Unless he’s going to leave you for his mistress.”
I shot her a dirty look. “This isn’t funny Jessica. I know he’s cheating on me.”
Laughter fell from her mouth. “You could always use his plan against him and frame him for your murder.”
I returned home hours later, discovering a thick layer of black cloaked my apartment. My eyes shifted towards the dining table while the illuminating candlelight stood out to me.
The lights flicked on.
I clapped my hand over my mouth, realizing it wasn’t just a candle on the dining table. There were also two plates of food and a bottle of wine.
My pupils dilated, coming to the surface of my eyelids. “What the hell is going on?”
He forced a polite expression. “I wanted to make things up to you. I know I’ve been a jerk. And you deserve better. But just so you know you, I really am sorry; even if you don’t believe me.”
I bit my lip. “I don’t know what to say.”
I crossed my arms. “To what exactly? It doesn’t require a big leap of faith to eat a meal together.”
A smirk formed on his mouth. “No, you’re mistaken. I have more than dinner planned. I want to go to the lake house this weekend and reconnect.”
My attention returned to the food because I could only begin to wonder if he poisoned the meal.
I took a cue from his playbook, faking a grin. “Sure. I’d like that.”
“Good. You have no idea how happy you’ve made me.”
I ate the meal with him. Although I’d be lying if I said I weren’t having heart palpitations the entire evening…
Friday came in no time.
Julian and I were en route to the lake house while each landscape molded into the next. The collage of red, orange, yellow, and brown leaves screamed out at me because there was nothing like the crisp scent of fall in the air.
I went through his duffle bag while he took a shower when we arrived at the lake house. For some reason, I couldn’t shake the burning sensation from my stomach that something was wrong.
My breathing picked up, getting louder with each passing second. He had a gun in his duffle bag.
A female phone call, a life insurance policy, and a gun? If wasn’t clear before, it was clear now. He was going to kill me.
The bathroom door burst open while I continued holding the gun.
“The shower was refreshing. It was too bad you didn’t join me.” He titled his head in my direction. “You went through my stuff?”
I waived the gun at him. “Why do you have this?”
He forced a gulp of air into his lungs. “Look, I can explain. It’s not what it looks like.”
“I know about Chelsea and the life insurance policy. You don’t want to be here to work on our marriage. You want to kill me.”
“Give it back!” He slashed over to me, trying to grab the gun.
I gripped the gun, refusing to let go. “Admit it! You never loved me. You just like my money.”
“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” He pulled harder, digging his feet into the carpet.
I ripped the gun away from him in one swift motion before placing my hands on the trigger. “Step any closer and I’ll blow your brains out.”
“You don’t want to do this. Just give it back and we can talk about things.” He lunged forward.
BAM! BAM! I pulled the trigger without any hesitation.
“What have you done?” Julian made a thumping sound when he landed on the floor.
“The first smart thing since I met you,” I said, keeping my fingers on the trigger.
Blood oozed out of his chest without any indication of stopping. He took his hand to the spot, staining his fingers red. “You’re right. I cheated on you. But what you don’t know was I wasn’t going to kill you! I got the life insurance policy to prove to my commitment to you. I broke up with Chelsea after she gave me an ultimatum and I chose you, but she didn’t take it well.”
“Then why do you have the gun?”
He choked on a gasp of air. “I was going to meet up with Chelsea after you went to bed. I planned on killing her.”
Tears came to my eyes, rolling down my face a moment later. “Oh. I didn’t realize that…”
The blood vanished from his cheeks, turning them pale. “Of course you didn’t.”
I wasn’t going to be by his side on the floor while he was dying even if I shed a few tears. Julian could call his mistress if he needed deathbed support. He made a fool of me and got what he deserved.
I grabbed my iPhone from my jacket pocket. “Hi Jessica, it’s me. I need your help. There’s been an accident…”
Chris Bedell's previous publishing credits include essays on the
online magazine Thought Catalog and the YA short story "Surface
Tension" on the online literary magazine: Crab Fat LIterary Magazine
in August of 2014.