There was an awful lot of blood; that surprised her, as did the fulsome noise that was erupting from the flapping mouth of her husband – a sort of panting dog crossed with a cow in labour. The red jets had stopped firing quite so furiously and the blood was now doing a slow pump from the jagged hole in his throat.
Josephine looked at the splatters on the wall and ceiling. That would take some cleaning. The duvet would have to be thrown out, and the mattress too – the coagulating redness had soaked right through.
He was lying on his side – his hand stretched out towards her – pleading. She watched his mouth open and close like a landed fish. She frowned as a question formed in her mind. What is thirty-six multiplied by nine?
She was sat on the chair beside her dressing table. She had carefully placed the knife by her feet. Lying crumpled and defeated on the carpet were her husband’s over-starched shirts. By the sleeve of one of his shirts was a black boot. She knew that boot well. It had crushed small bones beneath it.
Eventually the gurgling moans began to quieten and her husband’s arm flopped wetly onto the bed. Little pink bubbles continued to froth around his mouth and his breath began to rattle. It sounded like the guttural purring of a cat and was strangely soothing.
What was thirty-six multiplied by nine? She’d never been very good at mathematics and the answer was eluding her. She could do thirty six by ten, that was easy, but that wasn’t the answer she was looking for. She looked down at the white sleeve of her jersey top; it had tiny red splotches on it. For her wedding bouquet, she had wanted white lilies tied up with little red bows. The florist had been horrified. Apparently, lilies symbolised death – and red and white flowers should never, ever be placed together. They reminded people of blood and bandages, the florist had said. So Josephine had agreed to a sensible bouquet of blue peonies. Bloodied bandages would have been more fitting.
She looked at her hand and removed the ring that had been there for fifteen years. She slowly turned around so that she could see her reflection in the mirror. She silently mouthed her question. What is thirty-six multiplied by nine? Josephine looked deeply into her own eyes and the answer came to her – three hundred and twenty-four. She smiled and admired the way her cheekbones now had angular shadows sweeping across them. She had always been a little bit fat, but not anymore. Nine months at the gym had taken away her softness and so far, at thirty-six pounds per month, it had cost her three hundred and twenty four pounds. From behind her, she heard a final wet exhalation as her husband died. She nodded at her reflection. As it turned out, despite her initial misgivings, it had been money well spent.
Donna Greenwood is an over-worked teacher by day and a furtive writer by night. She lives in the north of England with an anti-social cat and slightly more sociable daughter. She writes short stories, flash fiction and is still trying to finish that novel. Follow her on Twitter and her blog.