First published in The Legendary Magazine.
I found the necklace at the bottom of the pool on a Saturday afternoon. George was at the park with Peter. They didn’t do much together, so I was happy that for once they were both out of the house. It was difficult to find time for myself. People say that having a family does not mean giving up your freedom, but the truth is that it does, and when you have a moment like this, when the house is empty, you treasure it.
July here is hot – perfect for lying in the sun with a book; I used these moments to try to regain a small part of the feeling I enjoyed all the time when I was younger. Sure, I could dump Peter at Cynthia’s while George was at work, and I did, but that was because I had things I needed to do. There are no perfect marriages, everybody finds a way to make their marriage work, and ours was no exception.
This particular day was one of the hottest, and after about thirty minutes in the sun, I jumped into the pool to cool off. At the bottom of the pool I opened my eyes and I saw it. A string of black pearls, it didn’t reflect much in the light of the water. I scooped it up and surfaced onto the concrete lip of the pool. I examined it closely as it dried in the heat. There was nothing exciting or different about it, apart from the fact that black pearls were rare in suburbia.
How had it come to be at the bottom of my pool? How long had it been there? Peter was only five, so the only person possibly responsible was George, my husband of nine years. Yet George wore even less jewellery than I did, and besides, it was a woman’s necklace. It looked expensive. I would ask him when he returned.
That evening, after our Saturday night dinner of pizza and TV, I still hadn’t asked him. I hadn’t forgotten about it; on the contrary, it was the only thing I thought about. But each time I looked at him, each time I tried to open my mouth, nothing came out but banalities. I developed the innocuous housewife routine years ago, when I learnt that, to stay married to my successful yet vapid husband, I would need to step out of the marriage from time to time. I became the suburban wife who never complained, never argued, never challenged his authority. He became the suburban husband: the silent breadwinner, his work life and family life separate. What he did when he left the house each day, I didn’t care. I watched him carefully all night, but he did nothing extraordinary. My husband was a predictable man.
The more I thought about the necklace, the more it consumed my attention. I had found an illicit item; the hint of a secret had revealed itself. But more than what it represented, the necklace itself was beautiful. I had always loved material objects. Everything that was beautiful, or precious, or expensive appealed to me. More than a relative desire to possess what others did not, I appreciated the work that went into creating an object of value. They say the most precious gift of all is the gift of life, but anybody with access to a uterus can perform such a miracle. Creating a beautiful necklace, or a diamond ring of beauty, takes years of training, as well as an intuitive knowledge of what a woman really wants, which is to be as beautiful as the jewellery she wears.
Of all the explanations I considered to how the necklace landed on the bottom of my pool, only one was plausible: my husband was having an affair and the woman had lost it while swimming.
The affair did not bother me, though if I had the decency not to bring men back to the marital bed, at least George could have offered the same courtesy. I was not angry, but I was surprised that he was able to please another woman. He had never been a great lover, at least to my experience.
If I sound cruel to you, it is only because you never met George. Certainly he was successful, reliable and, until recently, loyal. These are good qualities to have in a husband. But George was inept in all physical matters: kitchen, garden, bedroom – anything that required the use of his hands. His body, once the shape of an attractive man, had become soft and round. I lost interest in him shortly after we were married. For the sake of honesty, I should confess that I married George because, where I come from, that is what people do. We complete our education, we marry, we have a family. We collect things. When the collection is complete, we die. But I never felt incomplete. The wedding, our son, the house and accumulated wealth made me feel like I had too many things.
Over the next days, I observed my husband carefully. I looked back through my diary to find out when he might have been unfaithful. I was attending conferences several times a year, my own playground, so there were opportunities for him to do it. I cross-referenced those times with times that Peter was at his grandparents’. I had a problem: Peter was always at home whenever I was away.
But perhaps he was not. Perhaps George sent him to Cynthia’s. I did not want to ask Cynthia, I did not trust her. It was possible that she was the owner of the necklace. A bored housewife, just like me, she would not think twice about sleeping with her best friend’s spouse. I had considered it with Tom, her husband, but I knew we would be exposed too easily. Cynthia, on the other hand, was not intelligent enough to consider the outcomes of her actions.
One morning, after George had gone to work and I was readying Peter for school, I knelt down in front of him and I fixed his shirt, a checkered thing that we were still waiting for him to grow into. In his trouser pocket I found George’s favourite pen. Peter was at the age where he lifted things he found and carried them around until he lost them somewhere. I saved the pen. I looked closely at his features, wondering who his real father was.
“Peter, sweetie. You know the times when Mummy goes away to conferences?”
Peter nodded. It probably was George.
“Where does Daddy take you when Mummy is away?”
He was confused. He looked into the living room. I rephrased the question.
“Sweetie, when Mummy is away, do you stay here with Daddy?”
He nodded. I tried again.
“When Mummy is away, does Daddy take you out?”
He thought for a moment, and nodded again.
“Does he take you to Auntie Cynthia’s?”
Peter thought again, and shook his head.
“Tell me the truth, Peter, does he take you to Aunt Cynthia’s?”
Again he considered and slowly he nodded his head.
“Are you sure?” He nodded quickly, pleased that he gave me the right answer.
Confirming what I already believed changed nothing. Instead, my thoughts dwelled on the necklace. Confronting him on his affair meant I would have to explain the necklace, which meant I would probably have to give it back. Despite my husband’s wrongdoing the necklace still was not rightfully mine.
For the next few weeks I stayed silent while everything carried on as normal. As my birthday approached, George became more agitated. I assumed he wanted to be with his other woman. I had no conferences coming up, so I saw no reason to entertain his hobby. In the weeks between my discovery of the necklace and my birthday, I sneaked up to our bedroom and tried it on with various clothes. It went with everything! Everything was enhanced by the addition of this string of black pearls. Sometimes for up to an hour, I admired it around my neck, felt the weight of George’s dirty secret, a secret that had become my own. But secrets cannot be kept forever. It is in their nature to be revealed; once I understood that, things were clearer. I made plans, beginning with a few discreet searches on the internet, followed by a phone call.
One evening, George came to me in the bedroom. I threw my necklace under the bed, and then greeted him with a nonchalant smile. He knew something was up, but he did not know what. He wrapped his arms around my back and I succumbed to his complaisant, clumsy, suburban embrace.
“Babe, I know things have been a little strained between us this last while, don’t think I haven’t noticed.”
“What do you mean, sweetie?” I said. “Everything’s fine between us.”
“I know,” he said, “but still, I want you to know that…uh…I really appreciate you. Thing are gonna be…um…better from now on, I promise.”
He chewed the words around his mouth like a goat trying to undo a knot. I hugged him.
“George, sweetie, everything’s fine.”
I kissed his cheek and sent him out of the bedroom. The guilt of his affair was getting to him. The first time I cheated on George, I felt something that people call guilt, but it passed quickly. I felt almost sorry for him, having to go through it, but when he reached the top of the stairs he turned and looked at me gratefully and he looked pathetic. My compassion turned to contempt.
The day of my birthday arrived – this was the day I had planned for. When George came home, Peter was already at Cynthia’s for a sleep-over. I told Cynthia that George had a romantic evening organised for me. She smiled and said that George always had known how to treat a woman right. I hoped she did not know about the necklace. If it was hers, she would never get it back.
In the bedroom I put on my favourite dress, a long, red evening gown. I felt fresh and alive. Tonight, I was going to free myself and my necklace was my reward. George’s car pulled into the drive and I went to the kitchen.
When he walked in through the kitchen door, I had my back to him.
“Happy birthday, honey!” he said, cheerfully.
I turned around slowly, allowing him time to appreciate me. George looked me up and down, smiling. Even after all these years, I was still a sight to behold, especially in this dress. Affair or not, I had taken his breath away. I stepped into his arms and kissed him. It was to be our last kiss, and I tried to enjoy it. As our lips disengaged, he took a long breath and exhaled loudly.
“You look fantastic!” he said.
He fumbled in his back pocket and held out a small box.
“Happy birthday!” he said again. I took the box, slightly bigger than a watch box, and placed it on the counter top. I did not care what was inside; George had proven time and again that he could not choose a birthday present worth opening.
I directed him to the counter top, where I had already poured two glasses of wine. He took one, protesting that he should have been the one to pour for me.
“Just give me one moment,” I said, “I have to do something.”
He waited in the kitchen while I went upstairs. I needed my necklace. It justified everything.
As I returned, walking past the mirror in the hallway, the reflected light from the evening sun caught my dress and set it aglow. The colour turned crimson, my whole body was on fire, and the pearls lay around my neck like a fallen halo.
I entered the kitchen and moved delicately and deliberately, allowing George time to admire my necklace as I walked to the counter top. His eyes darted between my necklace and the box on the counter top and he looked puzzled, as I opened the knife drawer and pulled out the carving knife. He was so focused on my necklace and his present that I do not think he even saw the knife.
“But how did you–?” I slipped the knife into his side. He stood for a moment, his knees shook and he fell. I knelt down and twisted the knife handle. He gasped, but could not manage more than that. I whispered into his ear.
“It’s perfect! I can’t let you give it back to her.”
He turned his face to me, slowly. He was dying, everything was a struggle.
“What? Who?” Then, “Where did you find it?”
He lifted his hand and I saw with horror that he was trying to touch my necklace. The idea of George soiling my pearls with his dirty, bloody hands disgusted me. I swatted the hand away; it had no power to try a second time.
It took me a long time to dispose of the body, but the effort was worth it. I dragged it out to my car, smaller than George’s, but big enough. I dumped it into the boot on top of the plastic sheet and wrapped the excess over it.
I drove to the destination where the men I had hired were waiting with a van. They took out the body complete with the bag and put it in the back of the van. I paid them the money and drove home.
In the kitchen, I cleaned up the blood with rags and disposed of them into a bag. I saw the blood-stained carving knife and realised I would have to buy another one. As I threw out the wine I noticed the box from George. I lifted it, wondered briefly what was inside, and dumped it into the bag with the rags.
Copyright©2017 Bohemian Breakdancer
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