This story is by Lorraine Hurley and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Human nature is a monster” thought Zoe as she read through her notes on Ella Suprani. She had long believed that everyone has the capability of unleashing the monster for he is always there hiding inside us all. It just takes a push hard enough….
Ella Suprani was an interesting case. As Zoe read her notes, she compared Ella to many of her other female patients and found that with Ella, it was not one big push but years of smaller pushes pilling over each other, until Ella couldn’t take it any longer. Zoe had been treating Ella for just a few weeks in her role of Resident Psychiatrist at the Hillsborough Correctional Facility for women. While Zoe was fairly experienced in treating homicidal patients during their stay at the facility, Ella was the only patient to ever make Zoe feel sorry for her in spite of being convicted of murdering her own husband Carl.
Carl and Ella were married for over ten years and they had two children. Ella was in a good job, hard-working and in a seemingly loving marriage. On the outside everything looked fine. Carl and Ella made love twice a week and made enough money to pay the mortgage. The kids were happy in school, Zoe reflected, as she read the notes back through. They seemed oblivious to the problems seething beneath the surface of their parent’s relationship.
Zoe paused as she read her notes. The Judge had shown leniency in this case, perhaps also feeling some sympathy for this woman. Zoe knew why she felt sorry for Ella. She even asked herself if she would have killed Carl and her answer was a shock to her….
Carl’s story was a recipe for how to slowly ensure your own demise. He was an attractive man, ruggedly handsome and solidly built and was liked by everyone he met. He had a way of smiling at you a certain way to make you feel special. He was an expert in body language and would often touch an elbow or a hand in such a way as to build trust quickly.
Ella was a beautiful sweet woman often mistaken as a girl for her tiny frame and long wavy hair which she liked to wear out to catch the wind. She would have been no more than 110 pounds fully dressed. She had a delicacy about her, timid and naturally apologetic. Carl had met her in college and was drawn to her small figure. He liked it as it made him feel even larger and he enjoyed the physical dominance he could exert over her. Ella liked how Carl made her feel. She had often been overlooked by men and with Carl he seemed to look deeply into her and made her feel like she belonged to someone. He romanced Ella, courted her and she fell truly in love with him. The attention was addictive, and Ella loved the way other woman looked at her…as if to wonder how she got a man like Carl.
As Zoe read her notes, she could imagine what the attention of such a good- looking man might make her do…. Lose all her senses she wondered?
Just then, a knock at the door broke the silence as Zoe was alerted to the imminent arrival of Ella for their session. Ella was brought in by two guards as was the protocol and had her handcuffs and leg-irons adjusted so they anchored to the chair. “She’s all yours” said one of the guards, “we’ll be back in 30 mins”.
Zoe took a moment to look at this woman as she checked the cameras were all recording. It was as if the light had gone from her eyes, deep sadness seemed to radiate from her but not remorse as such. She was so little that even Zoe could see the child-like image she must have portrayed in college. Her hair was still long and wavy but now hanging unkept over her orange jumpsuit that dwarfed her lithe body. “How are you feeling today Ella?” ventured Zoe, hoping to continue building the story of how Ella would come to be standing over her husband’s dead body. Her question was met with silence as it was most sessions. Zoe would simply talk until something agitated Ella enough to interject. It had become a pattern that was predictable. Ella was not remorseful but rather wanted for people to know that she wasn’t crazy. Her defence attorney couldn’t prove self- defence because Carl’s abuse was so carefully administered, almost 100% non- physical, even at the very end.
In the months leading up to the homicide, Carl had Ella at breaking point trying to maintain her happy outward façade. If Carl became angry at the family meal, Ella would apologise and offer to cook him something else. At her job, if she were to talk about a great idea she had, Carl would laugh and ask her who she stole it off. He would ridicule her appearance and joke that he had considered an offer to sleep with a female colleague who was far prettier than her just to watch Ella’s eyes dim. Ella had only once attempted to meet Carls attitude with one of her own but when Carl ran over to her at such speed as to take the wind from her lungs, she thought twice. He stood large and threatening over her and with a serpent like voice whispered into her ear that he would take the children from her. He would get his lawyer to back up a statement that she was abusing them. Horrified that this thought came from him, she found herself both scared for herself but now for her children. She couldn’t imagine a world where Carl had her put away as “a psycho” and that they would be alone with him. Zoe wondered “What kind of a man tells his wife that she is crazy, and no one will ever believe she isn’t, if she tried to ruin their outward harmonious image in any way?”. One night Carl was so blatant and disrespectful that he summoned Ella to cook a dinner for himself and the female work colleague he had brought home, hinting of how he’d be taking her upstairs instead later that night.
Zoe looked at this frail woman who was sad not for Carls death but for the loss of her children. Both were placed into foster care and no visitation rights were ever granted to Ella. She could re-apply in 5 years if Zoe thought it was safe for the children. “Safe for the children?” thought Zoe, “I really don’t think Ella is a harm to others in general and certainly not her kids”. Even the jury had agreed the crime was specific to Carl and unlikely to be an insight into a future pattern of crime.
“On the night you killed Carl, you told me you were relieved. Would you say you still feel that way?” asked Zoe.
“The relief is now anxiety for how long I need to stay in here” shared Ella in a soft voice.
“You know that a crime of this kind carries a severe punishment Ella” reminded Zoe with a more authoritive tone.
“So, do you wish you had not killed your husband?” prompted Zoe, mindful that this question normally would upset Ella. Zoe was yet to get an answer though and as it would help her ascertain any remorse, she continued to ask it every time they met for counselling.
After a few minutes of silence, Zoe again sized up Ella and wondered how she had done it when Carl was over 6 ft tall and more than twice Ella’s weight. On the night the police had arrived, neighbours said they had seen Carl pull the car into the driveway and walk inside. There was some shouting and then later when police arrived they found Ella covered in blood standing over Carl with her mobile phone in hand. She had called it in herself and never contested that she had murdered him. The cause of death was officially ruled as exsanguination or death from excessive loss of blood. The puncture wounds could be located but the weapon never was found.
“Did you want to tell me what you stabbed Carl with Ella?” continued Zoe.
“Are you going to ask me this every time?” queried Ella finally showing some emotion albeit frustration.
Zoe used her shoulders to indicate a positive response.
“Ice, it was ice. I didn’t put ice-cubes in his scotch when he got home so he threatened to send my boss an intimate video of us he’d filmed without telling me. So, I brought him some ice…and put it straight through his damn neck”.
At this breakthrough, Zoe again asked hoping for remorse “Given hindsight is twenty- twenty, would you kill Carl again if you could go back?”