The paper rustling was accompanied by low level grumbling. Ed was probably reading the letters to the editor, Nancy reasoned. Looking at him over the top of her bifocals she saw the familiar scowl. The deep vertical creases at the beginning of each eyebrow were painful to observe.
She went back to her crossword puzzle. Nine down was giving her grief.
“Ed, what’s a eight letter word for magnanimous beginning with ‘s’?”
He rattled his paper and sighed. “Selfless”.
How ironic that it came to him so quick she thought. She continued with her puzzle. A nagging thought at the back of her mind hindered her progress.
“Ed, what’s a four letter word for stealthy, third letter ‘l’?”
He gave her a look. “Wily. Damn it, Nancy, why do you do those things if you can’t finish them by yourself? You’re so annoying sometimes.”
That’s right Ed, I’m the bane of your existence and you’re my reason for living she thought. He continued his reading but she could hear him muttering under his breath. She thought back to happier days. He was so carefree and funny when they were young. The years had hardened him, and for the life of her she couldn’t make out why. They had everything they needed.
She supposed the heart attack he had had three years ago had taken some of the joy out of him but he had been becoming harder to live with even before that.
“Ed, are you taking your heart pills regular like Dr. Markus told you to?”
“Yes, Nancy. Will you please stop your nagging and leave me alone?”
She went back to her puzzle. There was nothing for it; he was unbearable. She chewed the end of her pencil as she tried her best to finish the puzzle. She did all the ones she could and considered giving the rest up as a lost cause but she really wanted to finish this one.
“Ed, what’s a ten letter word for calamitous, third letter ‘r’, fourth letter ‘n’?”
“For Christ’s sake woman, are you really this stupid? Pernicious. It’s obvious if you bother to think.”
She had tried everything she could think of to turn him around. She waited on him hand and foot. She went to his favourite restaurants. They went to movies that he wanted to see. She had bought his a gold club membership at a course she knew he really wanted to belong to, but he seldom went.
Perhaps the time had come. She’d wavered over the matter for months. Some things just shouldn’t be endured. She went back to her puzzle. Why was this one such a pain? She stared at the last clue for several minutes. She did her absolute best but she couldn’t work it out. She sensed she should know this one; perhaps she had a mental block.
“Ed, what’s a nine letter word for sinister, second letter ‘o’, eight letter ‘u’?”
“Nancy, this is beyond belief. A retarded baboon could figure that one out. You’re an imbecile, you know that? It’s poisonous. Unbelievable.”
The irony smacked her in the face with the force of hard slap. It was a sign. She was sure of it.
“Ed, would you like a cup of coffee dear?”
“Why thank you, I sure would. At last you’re good for something.”
She got up and went to the kitchen. She knew what she needed to do. She didn’t hesitate. She returned to the living room and put the cup down on the table next to his chair and kissed him on the forehead. He didn’t respond.
She sat back down and pretended to work on the finished puzzle. At last he took a sip of the coffee. He frowned and took another.
“Damn it, woman, this coffee tastes bitter, I – “
He dropped the cup and began gasping for breath. He clutched at his throat and then waved his arms in the air frantically. Seconds later he was limp and unmoving. She stared at him for several long minutes. She would report that he hadn’t been taking his heart medication as instructed. The fact that she had replaced his pills with placebos would bear that out. The poor dear had succumbed to a heart attack and that was that.
She got up and retrieved the cup and saucer, making sure to wash them carefully. Potassium cyanide residue would just never do.