By Kate Twitchin
Kate says: I love living by the sea in Cornwall with my husband and half a million seagulls. I’ve always scribbled but only really started to ‘put the hours in’ since I retired a few years ago and I’m loving every minute!
I leaned against the kitchen sink, watching his blood creeping slowly across the tiled floor towards the fridge. I was panting and sweating from the effort of the last few minutes. Standing there for what seemed like ages, waiting for my heart rate to come down, I wasn’t aware of what I was thinking but my subconscious was busy getting things straight for me. When I came round from that dreamlike state I felt incredibly calm and relaxed. I liked that feeling and didn’t want it to end.
This is what they don’t understand. One of the things. They think I should’ve been desperate to get everything sorted out. Dispose of the body, clean the kitchen, establish an alibi, get my story straight.
“You made no attempt to conceal the body.” This one, a new one, asks.
Are you asking me, or telling me? You’ve got the file, it’s all in there.
“I couldn’t be bothered,” I tell her, same as I’ve told all the others.
There was no way I could’ve carried him out to the car. I knew that any practical method of disposing of the body would have been difficult and messy, and exhausting.
Just cleaning up the pool of blood on the floor and the spatters on the cupboard doors made me think of the worst kind of dreary housework. We’d always shared the household chores, taking it in turns to vacuum and dust, clean the bathrooms and put out the rubbish. He was hopeless at ironing and I was useless around lawn mowers, drains and gutters, so those jobs were mine and his respectively. We were a good team, we complemented each other.
“Can I go back to my cell now, please?” I ask her. Sophie. Sophie Something.
“Just a little longer, if you could, I’d be grateful, I . . .”
Dear little thing, nervous as a kitten. What on earth made her choose psychology, criminal psychology, as a career?
“Had there been any violence in the relationship before that night?”
No, I told her, never. Our marriage was good, we were happy together. Buying furniture, hanging wallpaper, learning to cook, how to wire a plug; it was all good fun. We became adventurous over the years and did some ambitious DIY, working well together. We laughed when we bricked up the external door to a coal-house and knocked down the wall inside to make the kitchen bigger, joking how easy it would have been to brick up a dead body in that little room. Ha ha.
“You didn’t have children, why was that?”
None of her bloody business. None of their business, and why they keep on asking defeats me. I’ve often wondered if my human rights are being violated or something but I’ve never bothered to pursue it. My answer is always the same: we didn’t want children, we didn’t need them. We did everything together. We liked to cook; chatting as we chopped onions and stirred sauces. When he went on a twelve-month secondment, working away from home all week and separating us for the first time in our married life, I would search the recipe books for something new and delicious for the homecoming meal. I was preparing to cook on that Friday night, fillet steak and mushrooms, nothing fancy because it was the dessert that had the ‘wow’ factor. I’d put the heavy cast iron griddle pan on the hob, ready to be heated to a searing temperature when he got home.
“Tell me how you first met.”
Dear little thing. I don’t mind this one. I mean, I’d rather be back in my cell but it’s nice to take a trip down memory lane. Well, we were in the Sixth Form Common Room with its purple paint and abstract art, hessian on the walls and Led Zeppelin climbing their Stairway to Heaven. I looked up from my book to find him standing in front of me.
“Ben,” he said, and smiled.
I smiled back and thought, There you are. I had the most profound feeling that I’d found something I didn’t even know I was looking for.
“There you are,” I said aloud.
“Here I am,” he said, still smiling.
He was nearly 18, I was only just 17. We were married three weeks after my 20th birthday.
We bought our first house, a dark Victorian terrace, no heating, no washing machine and a condemned gas oven. We stripped the old woodchip wallpaper from the chimney breast and I wrote I love Ben in huge letters on the bare plaster. It was only a standard HB pencil but, boy, did it take some covering. At least four coats of Dulux, which we could ill-afford; we didn’t have much in those early days. Isn’t that a lovely story?
“What problem did killing this person, this, er, husband, your husband, er, solve for you?”
If I wasn’t a convicted murderer I’d go over and give her a hug. She’s trying so hard. I think she’s doing some sort of post-grad paper; working on stuff for her CV. Look at her, with her smart clipboard and scratchy pen, and big compassionate eyes.
I’ve been studying too. I took some books out of their library, from the rarely-visited shelf labelled Psychology & Self-help. I thought I’d do a bit of self-analysis, just to show willing, to humour them. It was quite interesting, actually. I read a load of books, did some questionnaires, and was able to confirm what I’d known all along: I acted in self-defence that Friday night.
When I heard his key in the lock I went to light the gas under the griddle pan. As he came into the kitchen, the look on his face stopped me in my tracks.
“Are you OK?”
“I’ve fallen in love with someone else,” he blurted out, “I’ve fallen in love with someone else.”
The cast iron pan caught his shoulder and he toppled forward onto his knees. As I brought my arms back, both hands around the handle because the pan was very heavy, he turned his head to look up at me. The second blow hit his temple and he slumped down to lie on his side. He was motionless when my third swipe smashed into his nose and cheekbone, and that’s when the blood started to flow. I don’t know how many times I struck him. I didn’t count. I didn’t expect to be asked.
They say that people who commit crimes of passion don’t know what they’re doing, they see red, literally see red. I saw red, the red of his blood, but I also saw the pan rising and falling, swooping through the air and crashing into his skull over and over and over. I saw everything very clearly.
Sophie Something watches me, no doubt waiting for a profound response, but I’ve forgotten the question.
She senses that she’s losing me, she’s not going to get many more answers today.
“Do you think you’re evil?” she asks.
She’ll have read the newspaper articles with their lurid headlines, about my arrest and trial. She’ll know that my barrister pleaded temporary insanity. He argued that I’d loved Ben devotedly since I was 17. He asked the jury to consider the impact on my mental state of Ben’s betrayal after 30 years of happy marriage. He said I wasn’t evil. And he was right, is right.
“No, I’m not evil.”
“Do you regret what you did?” She scribbles something on her clipboard and looks up, a little frown on her fresh face. She’s going to hear some horrible things during her career and my heart goes out to her. But I’ve had enough for today. I don’t like all this introspection; I just want to be left alone to read until it’s time to go home. I’m enjoying having time to read. I can do good behaviour.
Regret? I wish I could tell her that I regret what I did. They like that sort of thing in here. The thing is, I knew in the split second after he’d spoken that the hurt was only just beginning. There would be more to come, much more. I knew that in the days, weeks, months and years ahead I would be mentally assaulted, emotionally punched and kicked, over and over again. Selling the house and dividing up our possessions; finding myself somewhere to live; hearing that he had married her; bumping into him and his new love in the supermarket; hearing her laughter at something he said; seeing her pregnant with his child possibly. So many opportunities for him to wound me.
I knew that I would suffer; he would strike me over and over and over for the rest of my life. So, no, I don’t regret it, because he started it, he struck the first blow. I acted in self-defence.