Suicide no. 24: The Embittered Housewife
–by Derek Alan Wilkinson
The two hadn’t seen each other in twenty years or more. Good reason likely lie behind this, as aged grudges seem not only difficult to bury, but, in this case, very unlikely even possible. In their fifties now, these women shared little in common. Charlotte seemed proud of her little craft shop—where she sold necklaces, wind chimes, and remade furniture: with enough success, aided by social prowess to have survived doing it for so long, now.
She’d even talked about opening up a separate furniture outlet in Winston-Salem.
Nancy, on the other hand? She was an auditor for the North Carolina State Tax Department. The second job she ever had, and she’d been working since she was fifteen. Charlotte started out doing odd jobs, waited tables, and usually kept adrift—moving from place to place, usually with a few good and bad stories in between. Once, she made her way into being a flight attendant—a steady job that paid well—until she decided that, after merely two months, she just “wanted to do something else.”
The two personalities did share one thing in common: John Graley.
Nancy became John’s widow shortly after he’d gotten drafted into the Army; while Nancy was out doing everything she could to “support the troops,” Charlotte was out picketing against the war. Normally, the faithful husband and father of two wouldn’t have had much in common with someone like Charlotte. In fact, John had barely spoken to Charlotte in person. The two were introduced when John came to pick Nancy up from the book club meeting that both her and Charlotte were members of back in those days.
The one thing that John did have in common with both Nancy and Charlotte is that he’d slept with them both.
He ran into Charlotte in a run-down excuse for a bar right after a fight he’d had with Nancy. Even if he were alive today, Nancy would swear that neither of them could’ve remembered what that fight was about. It was enough, though, to drive someone who was set to leave for basic training off to break his marriage vows with a woman like Charlotte. The whole thing happened, and was over, so fast.
John never had the chance to talk about it with Nancy before he left to die in the fields of Vietnam. In the end, it was Charlotte who finally came up with the will to confess everything to Nancy—a woman who, while she did hold a grudge for many years thereafter, she knew also how to hold her temperament.
Temperaments, though, like all things buried, tend to have their ways of resurfacing.
So, here they were. In part, because they’d ran into each other at the deli, and also in part because they both felt trapped in a world where there wasn’t anyone to talk to about their shared history. Even if it was bad history, at least the two had something in common. It may as well had been anything—anything at all.
So, there they sat in Nancy’s dining room, drinking something that Charlotte drudged up as tea—which was her own mixture of hand-grown and hand-picked herbs from the garden she grew on the window ledges of her third-floor apartment. That was where she lived, alone; a woman as recklessly abandoned as Charlotte would never have need of a thing like marriage. Nancy provided the meal, of course—she kept up with her experience as a cook all those years—the one who fed two hungry mouths, and provided a roof and clean clothing for her children, in John’s absence. She did it all alone, too: never remarrying after John.
John was the “one.”
So, they both ate roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and collard greens, and talked about the way things used to be in their lives. They talked, laughed, reminisced about John—a strange, but comforting, experience for them both. For a brief moment, the two of them felt alive; having common ground, someone to talk to, someone to confide in.
But Nancy knew it would all be over soon, and not nearly soon enough. She’d prepared the last meal that she knew she’d ever make. She added the one key item to the spices of the meals she provided that she knew was the only thing that could mend a twenty-year-old grudge:
When the meal was over, the two aging women ended up face-down on the table cloth. The postal carrier would be the one who discovered the two bodies, and the police, aided by the coroner’s office, were the ones who discovered that secret ingredient—that poison—that helped mend old wounds and to finally help Nancy bury the hatchet.
Inspired by The Daily Post’s daily prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/daily-prompt-ingredients/