This story is by Angela Largent and won the Grand Prize in our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Angela Largent decided at the age of twelve that she wanted to be a writer, but then Adult Life had its way with her. She currently lives in Wichita, Kansas, with a squirrelly cat, a cranky cat, and a happy dog.
It wasn’t my fault.
The little twit had stopped by to tell me that she was sleeping with my husband, as if I didn’t already know. We were in the kitchen, and I was smashing garlic with a butcher knife for easy peeling. The girl was telling me that she was sorry to hurt me but they were in love, so “the right thing to do” was to let him go. I turned toward her, knife still in hand, and the little drama queen gasped and jumped back. Between her ridiculously high heels and the water I had dripped on the floor while rinsing the parsley, she never stood a chance.
I had told Richard that polished concrete was an inappropriate surface for a kitchen floor, but he had insisted that this whole glass and concrete box of a house be cohesive. Taking into consideration his flooring choice and his mistress choice, it was arguably all his fault.
I watched, transfixed, as the pool of blood spread over the shiny floor. How was I going to explain this? And why did it have to happen today of all days?
My in-laws were coming tonight for my annual ingratiation dinner. Richard’s first marriage was a rebellion. His family hated the woman and he had refused to force her to sign a prenuptial agreement. He didn’t make those same mistakes with me. I worked like a dog to win over his parents. My coup de grace was recreating a meal they had eaten on their honeymoon that still made them wax poetic forty years later. Richard proposed the next day.
According to my prenuptial agreement, I will receive a mediocre settlement for each year of marriage until we hit our twentieth anniversary. Then I get twenty million dollars. After biting my tongue and turning a blind eye and all those other cliches for nineteen and a half years, the end was in sight.
But being thrown in prison would ruin everything. So now I not only had to make a crown roast with stuffing, parmesan roasted butternut squash, bacon-wrapped asparagus and a clementine tart, I also had to hide a body.
The first problem was the blood flowing onto the kitchen floor. I grabbed a stack of Irish linen tea towels from a drawer and packed them around the girl’s head. Up close, I could see that her roots needed a touch-up. And that she was barely older than Richard’s daughter.
The next problem was finding something in which to wrap the body. I didn’t have time to rummage through the garage looking for some theoretical tarp. In films they always use a shower curtain, but there weren’t any in the house. My gaze drifted to the swimming pool. Perhaps I could dump her in there and close the cover?
The patio chaise lounge cover. It was waterproof and easily accessible. I could order a new one tomorrow. Actually, I would need to order a whole new set of covers and throw out the old ones so the gardener wouldn’t be suspicious. Look at me, being a criminal mastermind. Maybe this would work out after all.
Dinner was at seven, so the roast needed to be in the oven by three. It was already past two and the meat still needed to be scored and trussed. Time to shake off my stupor and get moving.
What followed was the gruesome comedy of trying to roll a heavy, floppy body into a chaise lounge cover. All I can say is thank God for vinyasa yoga. Namaste.
I threw in the saturated towels and sealed the opening with duct tape, then gave it an experimental tug. This was going to be a workout. A generous pour from a bottle of hydrogen peroxide started the cleaning process on the smeary floor. After scrubbing my hands and arms and putting on a kitchen apron, I attacked the roast.
Once my crown was in the oven, the floor was easy enough to blot clean. I realized with the first soiled paper towel that already sealing the bundle had been a dumb move. Well, live and learn.
Dragging the re-taped bundle, I panted and sweated my way across the hall and out to the garage. When I stood upright and flexed my back, wondering how to heft the thing into my trunk without hurting myself, I saw that it was a moot point. Richard sometimes drives my car when he is low on gas and doesn’t want to stop on his way to work. And I couldn’t very well load his dead mistress into the back of his Range Rover. He would probably notice.
I started to giggle, but managed to bite it back. Maybe a drink would steady my nerves.
Liquor! My in-laws would expect a cocktail before dinner. I had noticed that we were dangerously low on gin and hadn’t ordered more yet.
I trotted back into the house and grabbed the phone. As we are good customers, and good tippers, the store promised delivery within the hour. While placing the order, I realized that the oven was still on high. I lowered the temperature and set the timer for two and a half hours. Potential disaster averted.
My hands were shaking. I took a few deep breaths and focused on the next step in my meal prep. The pastry dough needed to be made far enough in advance to chill in the refrigerator before it could be rolled.
As the stand mixer whirred, I considered my options. Our garage is lined with cabinets, neatly labeled and crammed full. There was no handy hiding spot out there. The bundle could be stowed under a bed in a guest room, but my in-laws usually bring along their Coton de Tulear, so that would be a disaster.
The only space that seemed feasible was the potting shed. My orchids and herbs provide vital splashes of color in the house, and my lovely little shed had been a refuge more times than I could count. It has a Spanish tiled floor and a greenhouse lean-to attached, and always smells of earth and growth. I hated to violate my sanctuary, but it was the only option available.
Another issue was the annual garden party benefit for the art museum. The hosting duty was coveted, and I had won it this year. The event planner was storing some supplies in my potting shed and had a habit of dropping by unannounced to take another measurement in the garden or fuss with the box of party favors.
On her voice mail, I left a message telling her that a lawn treatment was scheduled for the morning, so she should stay away until late afternoon tomorrow. That would give me a little breathing room.
How was I going to dispose of the body? The thought nearly paralyzed me, but only for a moment. That was a problem for tomorrow. Right now, I needed to start the stuffing. Wild rice takes forever to cook.
Normally I clean as I go, so the kitchen is sparkling by the time dinner is on the table. Today, the dirty dishes would need to be stashed somewhere. I pictured myself throwing the roasting pan out a window. No, the patio storage box. There would be plenty of room in there once the furniture covers were disposed of.
Feeling the hysteria start to rise within me, I concentrated on the magic number twenty. My sentence was almost over. Just six short months until my release. Failure at this point was unfathomable.
I had managed to drag the bundle as far as the patio when the door bell rang. Heart pounding, I closed the drapes covering the French doors then let the nice man from the liquor store in with my delivery. On an ordinary day we would flirt a little, but he took one look at me and beat a hasty retreat. Once he was gone, I darted back outside.
Ghoulish task finally accomplished, I powered through the rest of the cooking. That last hour was a double-time blur of sauteeing, roasting, measuring, draining, wrapping and stirring. I even managed to shower and get my hair into a simple French twist while the pastry cream was cooling.
The clementines were prepped and the apricot preserves were melting for glaze when the sound of the garage door opening carried into the kitchen. Richard walked in on me arranging cheese and grapes on a platter, the perfect picture of a trophy wife.
“It smells fantastic in here,” he said, getting tonic water and a lime from the refrigerator.
“I’m running a little behind.”
“That’s okay. You can blame that ditzy event planner. I almost ran her down when I pulled into the drive.”
I froze. “What?”
“She said she needed to grab something from the shed, since you said she couldn’t come by tomorrow.”
That’s when we heard the scream.