By Nicole Jeffries.
Of all the things that lifted the fog from Lavender’s eyes, it was the silver hair she found on the morning of her thirtieth birthday that allowed her to finally see her reality. It was incredible how one simple hair caused her to see her life for what it was. The moment she yanked the hair from her scalp, it was like a dam burst open in her brain, and all the hateful thoughts she had kept locked away somewhere deep down came bursting forward.
After plucking the hair from her head, she held it over the flame of the pine scented candle that flickered in the bathroom. The candle that stated it eliminated odors in seconds — she begged to differ. As she watched the hair sizzle and smoke away the sudden realization hit her; this hair was a metaphor for her life — he was the flame and she was the hair, curling up and dying. Funny how after all the things he had done to her seeing that gray hair made her realize just how much she hated him.
He had stolen her heart at eighteen and six months later he had stolen her life. One night as they sat in his car and her thighs stuck to the cheap vinyl seats, thanks to the summer heat, he had fed her full of wine till she couldn’t see straight. The next thing she knew, as the small bulge began to grown under her dress, her mother was forcing her to marry him “because it is the right thing to do.” Her mother repeated the words to her as she shoved the too small white gown over her head and pushed her down the aisle. Later that night the seam split under her armpit.
Lavender never loved him, she never even liked him.
She lost the child they conceived in the Buick during her second trimester. “An unfortunate accident,” the doctor told her as he probed and prodded her down there while she lay on a table with a sheet half draped over her head. The smell of antiseptic burned itself into her nostrils.
She had tried in the first few years of their marriage to conceive again, but he was never that interested in her. It was, most likely, because he had found other ways to entertain himself. She rolled her eyes when she found a key from the Biltmore banging around inside the washing machine. Really? The Biltmore? She had thought he might be a bit classier, but apparently not. Along with his interest in other women his taste for alcohol grew, he wasn’t even picky anymore about what kind. Scotch, brandy, cheap beer, if it got him blind drunk he liked it. Eventually, the drinking led to him pushing her around. His unpaid debts forced them to move from their already small home to an even tinier one.
Somewhere along the line he had developed a passion for horticulture, or maybe he had always had one. She didn’t know nor did she care. An odd hobby, she thought, for a man whose hands reigned terror across her body four out of five nights. Sometimes Lavender would look out the kitchen window towards the greenhouse and watch him tend his flowers. She would stare at his hands and shiver while they caressed the vivid green leaves. He had a thing for exotic plants. He had even shipped in a Venus Flytrap, which he carefully fed fat, black flies to every few days. Once when he was at work, Lavender let herself into the greenhouse and snapped off a few flower heads. The other day she dipped a fly in weed killer and fed it to the Venus Flytrap. She laughed with joy as she watched the plant sizzle and turn brown. She had to bite down on the kitchen towel to stifle her laughter when she heard his howls erupt from the greenhouse.
That night, after she had found the gray hair, she sat across the table from him and felt her stomach churn. Food was stuck in his mustache, and the way he chewed reminded her of a pig. That’s it, she thought, that’s exactly what he is – a big, ugly pig that has ruined my life. As she munched on her casserole, she imagined what he would look like laid out on the table sitting upon a silver tray with a bright red apple stuffed in his mouth. His skin crispy and golden brown.
Hours after he had finished his dinner and left for the bar, Lavender stood in the bathroom examining her head for more gray hairs. “How am I going to get rid of him?” She asked her reflection. She imagined shaving off her hair and braiding it into a long thick rope and choking him with it while he slept. But a shaved head was too obvious, he would notice it instantly. It needed to be something inconspicuous. As she sat down on the toilet, she looked through the stack of reading he kept in there and noticed a book she had bought him on deadly plants. The book was still in its plastic wrapper; he hadn’t even bothered to look at it. Could it be that obvious? Could that be her ultimate revenge, killing him with something he loved? Peeling back the cellophane, she flipped open the book. The moment she spotted a picture of a Hemlock water drop-wort plant and the words “death in minutes” popped out at her, she knew what she was going to do.
Soon Lavender would be free. She would spend not a moment longer of her life hiding in fear, any more bruises that showed up on her skin would be because she had fallen happily dancing the night away. She ripped the page from its spine and folded it neatly in two. She yanked up her skirt and hurried off to her bed, she might as well try to avoid his wrath one last time. As she lay in bed, she practiced what she would say to him in the morning over and over to herself in the darkness until it was perfect. That night, she fell asleep with a smile on her face.
In the morning as the sun rose over the horizon and the heavy grayness was gone from her eyes, Lavender allowed herself to become excited about her future. As she went to the kitchen and got his coffee ready, she gave a small spin in the thin ray of sunshine that poked its way through the blinds. An hour later as he shuffled into the kitchen, let out a muffled fart and demanded his coffee, she bit the inside of her cheek.Keep calm. She told herself. Not long now. She set his mug on the table and stepped back. “Do you know anything about something called Hemlock water drop something er other?” she asked him. Her voice was steady and smooth, just as she had practiced. She needed to test his knowledge; she needed to know if he knew about this plant.
He snorted and shrugged his shoulders. “No, why would I? I don’t give a shit about common weeds,” he said as he grabbed his briefcase and walked out the door. She held her breath and waited until she was sure he was gone before she began to dance around her kitchen, swirling the dust motes around with her. Skipping to her room, she got dressed and grabbed the small wicker basket and the gardening gloves she had placed by the back door, ready for this moment.
She hurried down to the stream and pulled the thick glossy page from her pocket for reference. Yes. There it was. It looked perfectly lovely with its white flowered head bobbing in the breeze. It was like the plant was nodding to her saying “yes, I will set you free.” She snapped on the pink gardening gloves and began humming to herself as she yanked the plant from the damp soil. Once the basket was full, she hurried back to the house where she began to prepare dinner. She made sure every part of the plant was in everything he would eat tonight. Lavender was taking no chances. She mashed the roots of the plants into the potatoes and the stems, which looked just like celery, went into the stuffing they would have with their chicken.
Behind her she heard the front door slam, he was early but she was ready. The table was set and the food was steaming away on the dining room table. The squeak of the bathroom tap told her he was washing his hands, getting ready for his evening meal.
“Here piggy piggy,” she whispered as she dumped some salad dressing on top of the mixture of lettuce and hemlock leaves.
He said nothing to her; he didn’t even bother to look at her as he plunked himself down in the chair at the end of the table. He tucked his napkin into his collar, a habit she hated, and began jabbing his fork into the food. He pushed the salad to the side, just as she thought he would but instantly dug into the mash potatoes. He grabbed a chicken leg and tore into it, the grease shining on the side of his cheek. Lavender could hardly contain her excitement as she watched him eat and had to take a sip of her wine to stifle the excited laughter that bubbled away in the back of her throat. After a few moments, a thin sheen of sweat broke out across his forehead. Just a few more bites and her life would be hers again.
“Something wrong?” She asked before she took a sip of her wine. She winked at him over the rim of the glass. He was now sweating profusely and shaking. “Remember me asking you this morning about Water drop something er other? After you left, I went and picked some by the river. It’s in all of this food.” She ran her hand above the steaming plates in one grand, sweeping gesture for added drama. His eyes were beginning to bulge and his face was turning a bright red. “I hadn’t expected it to work this fast, it must be because you shoveled all that food into your big, fat gob so fast.” He tried to stand. “Don’t bother,” she shook her head, “soon you will be paralyzed. Your body is now rife with poison, thanks to one of the deadliest plants in the world.” He grabbed at his chest before falling over onto the floor. His body jerked and twitched while she leaned over and watched.
Lavender sat and finished her wine, waiting until his body stopped jerking before she stood up. Smoothing the creases from her skirt, she grabbed his puffy arm and dragged him towards the basement door. His body made loud, heavy thuds as it rolled down the old wood stairs.
Later that night the neighbor across the street clucked her tongue loudly in disapproval when she pulled back the curtain and stared out the window. “A chainsaw at this hour! I’ve never heard of such a ridiculous thing!”
The next morning the dust motes seemed to sparkle as they hovered through the air. Rosy pink sunshine filtered into the bedroom and outside the birds sang with joy. Lavender stretched out in bed, yawning loudly. The entire day stretched out before her, along with the entire week, month, and year. She had her whole life ahead of her and it belonged all to her. She was free, but first there was something she needed to do. Leaning over to her nightstand, she picked up the phone and dialed the number she had known all her life.
“Good morning, Mother. I was wondering if you would like to come over for supper. I’m cooking a ham. That’s right a big, fat ham.”
NICOLE JEFFRIES has had an interest in reading and writing since she was very young. She would spend her school days scribbling down short stories in the margin of her pink exercise books during math class. Needless to say her math marks reflected that. Currently she has bit the bullet and following the encouragement of her family and friends is starting the long yet exciting road to becoming a novelist.