Posted by: Debrah Martin | March 8, 2014

A psycho’s choice:

This is an outtake from Webs. Once I started writing in psycho mode, I went mad (pun intended), but of course you can have too much of everything! However, it’s always nice to get to know people and I thought you might like to get into his head a little before you meet him in the book itself…

“I enjoyed the memories of easy conquests at the height of my bar-crawling days, popularity at university as a rugby back, toned and hard; the buzz and excitement of the places I’d liked best, such as New York, with its teeming traffic, strings of yellow cabs touting for business, and the vibrant lights flickering all day and into the night. Julie slipped in there too.

Why then? I suppose two reason; I’d met her just after I’d returned, and secondly she’d always been good at this kind of mechanical release – until the pregnancy of course. Julie had been long before either Rebecca. Not that long after my marriage had failed actually.

I was mid-thirties then, good-looking in a brooding kind of way. I was often told so by women I met in the bars and clubs I frequented. They were always good places to pick up a bit of entertainment for the evening. Often they would extend past the evening and I would get a bed for the night – and breakfast. They were pathetic but useful. If you viewed the night clubs as battlegrounds, they were cannon fodder, but not worth any real relationship negotiations or treaty signing. The sex was good though. Generally they were drunk by the time I got them home so their inhibitions had been left in the pick-up joint. Julie was on a girl’s night out, but she was different to the usual dolled-up sluts. She was dark-haired and doe-eyed, standing at the bar with her girl-friends, all eyeing me from behind their protective barrier. Barriers didn’t bother me; I soon breached them.

I looked over at her a few times too, smiled when she was too slow looking away. Our eyes locked for a second too long. I leaned nonchalantly against the bar gave her that ‘well, shall I come and get you?’ smile I’d practised since my teens. She tried to look away but her eyes slipped back and then she couldn’t look anywhere else. I raised one eyebrow. ‘Shall we?’ One of the gaggle of girls with her distracted her momentarily and I moved into position, behind her. So only she could hear, ‘you do realise how beautiful you are, don’t you?’

She turned around. I was so close we were almost touching, our lips were almost kissing. She was transfixed: eyes staring into my car headlights, and I knew she would be my road kill for the night.

It didn’t take much to persuade her to leave her friends and go somewhere intimate for dinner, and then on for a drink. I insisted on escorting her home, always the gentleman. She tentatively asked me if I would like coffee before I went home. Well of course I didn’t go home. She was a recent divorcee, with two young children, a mundane life and a bottomless pit of unspent passion from months of little or no physical attention from anyone. Just perfect. In fact our sexual spree was one of the most imaginative of my thirties, but it had to come to an end at some stage – it was just too excessive. She let me do things to her even I thought questionable. I could tell she was starting to drag herself out of the pit of physical depravity when one night she asked me if I loved her. Shit. That took me by surprise. To think she might expect something in return was unexpected in the extreme. I managed a mealy-mouthed reply which seemed to satisfy her but I lay awake for a long time afterwards, re-assessing exactly that. What did I want from her? It actually surprised me when I clarified it. I liked her two kids. They reminded me of baby birds, small and innocent. They made me wonder what it would have been like for me to have been a child with a loving mother instead of a bitch. I watched Julie play with them, tease them, watch them running around, face full of maternal pride. The tenderness as she enveloped them in loving arms was something unique and new to me. I saw motherly love for the first time. I wanted it to encompass me too.

I started to join in their childish routines after that. I’d make an effort to get home from work in time to join them for tea, look at what they were learning at school, read them bedtime stories whilst Julie tidied the kitchen. I even sat on the edge of the bath as they splashed themselves clean, pink-cheeked and high-spirited, water covering the floor. They squirted bath toys at us and laughed as they created fantastical ‘hairstyles’ out of shampoo bubbles. The fluffy bath towels Julie wrapped them in as they clambered out, wrinkled and smelling of soap epitomised what I’d never had – rough-towelled and shivering when I’d had to scrub myself clean under Mothers beady eye. I wanted it. I would have it. I deliberately replaced Julie’s pill with vitamin C tablets and waited to see what would happen.

It was dangerous for her. She suffered from Myasthenia Gravis, an auto-immune disease. Another pregnancy for her could be deadly. It had developed after her first child and she’d been in an acute stage of its development when she fell pregnant a second time. She also suffered from asthma, so respiratory failure linked to the disease almost led to her death when Rosa was born. Her husband was Catholic, and disagreed violently with the use of birth control so their marriage floundered on the rocks of dogma and religion. Hypocritical bastard, he wouldn’t countenance birth control, but he had countenanced divorce. However, I reasoned that if she fell pregnant there were good are options around, weren’t there? And we knew what to expect this time. The end, in my eyes, would justify the means. I would have a child of my own. I would be part of a happy family at last and I could leave behind my past and my old ways. I was owed it – this boon.

It wasn’t long after that she came to me red-eyed and anxious, to tell me her news. The perfect plan had worked, but it wasn’t so perfect. I hadn’t bargained on her crippling fear. The ‘news’ was quickly followed by her proposal of how to deal with it – abortion.

‘No!’ This is my child, and I will not allow it!’

‘But haven’t you understood how ill I could be? I could die. Then what would happen to Rosa and Tommy?’ She looked pinched and ill.

‘You wouldn’t die – don’t be so ridiculous.’

She cried; soft tears of despair. I set about convincing her I was right. We discussed the morality of abortion and I pressed my advantage home. Did she want to be a murderess? I would leave if so.  That shut her up. She cried for a while and clung onto me, begging me not to go. I thought she was so desperate to keep me there she would do anything rather than lose me, as scared as she was. I took her in my arms and soothed her tears and was gentle and loving – the perfect partner, hiding my smile in her hair. I would have my way.

I went off to work the next morning whistling. I’d forgotten I could even do that. The day passed happily. No-one and nothing could dislodge my good humour. Finally it was all working out the way I wanted it. Now you, Michaela, and you, Mother, are the ones out in the cold, not me. I have a mother all of my own – and better than that, she belongs to me; a mother to me, and for me. She’ll do anything for me – even risk death or me. Ha! I sat at my desk when the office girls disappeared at lunch time, letting my mind wander. I imagined Mother stripped naked before me, imploring mercy. I surveyed her scrawny body and stepped on her, taking care to grind my heel in hard and feel the snap of her ribs.

My good humour had stayed with me for the rest of the day until I got home, but there it left me. Odd. The house was empty and in darkness. I let myself in. There was no clue to the desertion of the house inside, and I was puzzled. I went into the kitchen and found a bottle of Julie’s best claret and opened it. I’d just poured a large glass and was on my third swallow when the phone rang, dissonant in the silence. I picked it up. It was a clinic calling to ask if I was the gentleman who was picking Mrs Morgan up after her procedure.

‘What procedure?’ I asked, an icy finger creeping down the nape of my neck as I anticipated the reply.

‘I’m sorry I can’t tell you that sir, it is confidential, but no doubt Mrs Morgan will tell you, if she wishes to. Will you be collecting her soon? She has come round and has had a cup of tea. She’s fine to come home now.’

I shouted the words of abuse in my head, but remained outwardly calm and replied politely.

‘Are the children there too?’

‘Oh no, they’re with their father, of course.’

‘Of course: silly me. I will be there in about half an hour.’ I choked back rage to put the receiver down gently. A precise little click. Click for you too, Madam. I thought. Click you out of there, and out of my life. I knew exactly what that ‘procedure’ was. My mind flicked back to the shadow that had flitted across her face as I’d said goodbye to her that morning, whistling gaily. The kitchen clock ticked into the silence. Tick, tick, tick. It took just three minutes for me to go over those last words of conversation in my mind.

‘Bye, sweetie, and see you later. Make sure you put your feet up, won’t you?’

‘Bye darling. Yes, see you later,’ and then that shadow.

‘Have a good day.’

Tick, tick, tick: time to think.

The clinic was no more than a ten minute drive away so that gave me twenty minutes to think. What was I going to do? How was I going to play this? Fury raged inside; bellowing, fuming, white hot fury. I wanted to beat my fists on the counter, smash the glass in the chic glass-fronted cupboards, pulverise to a pulp the woman who’d cheated me of salvation, but I knew it could vent itself later. Revenge is a dish best served cold: ice cold. Now I needed to bury rage icily in an underground glacier, and think.

Thirty minutes later I collected her, all sympathy and solicitude. She was plainly worried about what I would say. The clock in the room ticked and I watched the hand on it swing down another minute. I patted her on the arm, helped her gently off the bed, listened to instructions, took her bag and ushered her gently out, thanking the hovering nursing staff for the care they’d taken of her. Care you’ve taken of her? Yes you’ve taken care of her alright –and my child. It doesn’t stop here – for you maybe, but not for her. Tick, tick, tick. The clock hand swung down another three minutes. We drove home in silence, broken only once by her worried voice.

‘I’m sorry, I had to – I was so scared, you see?’

‘I know. Let’s leave it for the moment, shall we, and just get you home safe.’

She seemed reassured and we completed the rest of the journey in silence. We walked out the kitchen, and she put her bag down on the kitchen counter. Tick, tick, tick: three more minutes gone. She went straight to bed, claiming exhaustion and the after-effects of the anaesthetic.

‘Will you be up soon?’ She asked timidly.

‘Don’t worry. I’ll be up to see to you shortly.’

I went straight to work downstairs, studying the site I’d identified before collecting her. Tick, tick, tick: ten ticks in my head. The procedure itself took less than ten minutes. In ten minutes, you wrecked my life and yours. Ten minutes will see it right.

By the time I went upstairs, forcing myself to climb in beside her, hold her gently, murmur words of reassurance, I knew precisely how to exacerbate her condition. She’d been told to be careful of signs that her respiratory response was being compromised – an asthma attack, for example. The combination of asthma and auto-immune response could escalate it to fatal. She was allowed home because she seemed fine and I would be there. Health care was all about what you paid for these days. If you weren’t paying, then as long as you weren’t dead, you could go home.

I removed her inhalers before I got into bed and waited. It had taken about ten minutes for the plan to be put into action: ten – tick, tick, tick – gone. In ten minutes’ time I would have had my revenge. This ‘procedure’ wouldn’t take long either. I waited until she was sound asleep then put the pillow over her face. I held it there until she began to struggle, then I removed it and let the asthma and MA do the rest. Her hand beat wildly against the bedside cabinet as she reached or her inhaler. She gasped, noisily like wind whistling through a tunnel. I could hear her words clearly even between the laboured breaths. I propped myself up on an elbow and watched. Her eyes were wide and staring, uncomprehending of why I wasn’t helping. I wondered how long it would take.

It actually took about eight minutes.

She lay silent and blue-lipped, mouth gaping as if trying to drag in one last lungful of air. I placed the inhaler in her hand and clasped it round the cylinder, squeezing my hand as I did so to make her eject two puffs into her mouth before letting her hand flop and the inhaler fall to the ground. She’d tried and failed. It was just past ten and I wouldn’t normally have gone to bed yet. I dressed, straightened my side of the bed and went back downstairs to watch TV. I sat rigid in the armchair, waiting for my trembling to subside. I wasn’t sure if it was caused by exhilaration or fear.  At about eleven thirty I ‘went to bed’ again – and of course called the ambulance as well.

No-one had suspected me at all. ‘Past help’, they said later when trying to calm my uncontrollable grief. ‘Not your fault. It was a risk she understood.’ Her face had contorted as she gasped for air – in pain, like the pain I felt for my aborted child. It still made me shudder with revulsion. I shook my head to clear the memory from it. Serves you right. You had choices – you just made the wrong one.”

Webs - front cover

Webs is due to be released summer 2014 by Pen Press. Please keep an eye on my website for news:

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  1. […] A psycho’s choice: […]

    • Thanks for reading. I’ve also read some of your blog. You write beautifully – poetic and with feeling. You should do something more with that 🙂

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