This piece is in response to the Daily Post free write – the ten minute mark is at the word ‘freeway’ which I put into italics – and to the 3 words prompt, the words being time, develop and showing, which are bolded in the text.
Please check out the link and donate if you are able, to receive a copy of the Breast Cancer Research charity anthology. Thank you *smile*
Madge allowed the weight of years to settle about her thin shoulders, currently wrapped in her best mourning coat. The bench was in a draught, but it faced the funeral home and that was where she needed to be. Everything was almost ready; she just needed Jacob.
She watched the hearse reverse toward the chapel of rest, and got to her feet as a young lad took the coffin from where it had lain overnight and loaded it with slow dignity. As soon as the door shut Madge made her move. She staggered across the road, clutching at her chest and croaking her pleas for help. It worked like a charm, the young driver running to her aide. Her timing was perfect; it ought to have been considering she’d watched the funeral home for a month, taking her time to develop her knowledge of when the older men went to lunch, or were out on a job, leaving the naïve new kid on his own, as now.
He grabbed her awkwardly, unsure how to handle a seemingly frail elderly lady in the grip of a possible heart attack. Jamming an arm around her waist, his fingers digging uncomfortably into her ribs, he coaxed her into the chapel of rest. Madge refrained from looking at the beautiful coffin as they passed, keeping her mind on her work. She allowed the young man to settle her on a bench, relieved to have his hands off her, and gave a few weak gasps, clutching her thin chest hard.
“Ma’am, ma’am? Can you hear me? Are you having a heart attack?”
What did they teach kids these days? Why wasn’t he calling an ambulance? She swallowed her irritation, nodded in answer and looked beseechingly toward the office where an ancient phone hung off-kilter on a wall. He finally seemed to get the idea, but was reluctant to leave her. Madge decided faking unconsciousness was her best bet and promptly slumped onto the table, unmoving. The young man swore – she had to assume he thought her passed out or dead by his reaction – and ran to the office.
As soon as his back was to her, Madge fled. She jumped into the hearse, ignoring the squeal of pain from her arthritic hips, breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the key in the ignition and calmly drove the hearse out of the yard and away. By the time Davey, only two weeks on the job and wishing he were anywhere else but a funeral home full of dead people, returned to the bench having called emergency services, the yard was empty and Madge was sedately heading onto the freeway.
Cruising along, heading to the warehouse district, her speed suited to her mode of transport, Madge let her mind wander, her eyes occasionally flicking to the coffin topped with a wreath proclaiming ‘Beloved Husband and father’.
“But not yours, whore.” Madge muttered into the cloying air, filled with the funereal scent of lilies and the tang of fresh varnish.
Madge had fallen in love with Jacob when she was just 16, he a tall and handsome 20. She’d been so head-over-heels for that man with icy blue eyes and a shock of black hair which flopped into his eyes constantly, she’d allowed him liberties when his call-up papers had come. He’d sworn undying love – these days she knew they all did – and in her innocence, she’d believed him. She’d watched him take the bus with four other boys from their small town, waved him off with fulsome, blown kisses and shimmering eyes, and kept her promise to wait for him.
She’d waited four years, excusing his lack of letters, the fact that he used his one home leave to visit with his parents, not making time for her. It was fine; she knew his parents were old, frail. They needed him. She did too, but the ache in the pit of her stomach when she thought of him lying over her in that field, of how he’d felt inside her, of his murmured words of love, served only to remind her of all they had to look forward to when he came home. She smiled, and sighed secret sighs, and quietly prepared her bottom drawer.
Jacob had come home, but not to her. How had she never known about the girl in the city? The girl with rich parents and a law firm who would pay for Jacob, the war hero, to qualify and become a partner. The girl with shiny blonde curls, and Parisian dresses and exquisite manners who would never lay in Jacob’s bed with the same overwhelming passions Madge had known in his arms. That cold fish gave Jacob two sons and then sent him from her bed having done her wifely duty. Madge’s cousin, Tess had informed her of these things, little vignettes of life in that household where appearance was everything, and Jacob satisfied his needs at the local cathouse whilst his star rose in the legal firmament. Tess didn’t know about Jacob and Madge, no-one did, and she was too ashamed, too miserable to tell.
Over the years, there were men, even a couple Madge deemed fit to marry, but they didn’t last. They may have had blue eyes and black hair, but they weren’t Jacob. When she finally realised they never would be, that she would never have Jacob, Madge’s sorrow turned bitter and twisted, her rage directed against the golden perfection who had stolen her man. The years had passed, Madge woman enough to care, having no wish to deprive Jacob’s sons of their mother, but when they came of age, she’d known it was time.
Jessica, for that was the thieving tramp’s name, belonged to a bridge club. It had been Madge’s first time stalking anyone, and she’d found it rather pleasurable. There was something empowering about knowing everything someone did when they didn’t know you existed. On one of those bridge nights, Madge had stolen the house keys from a comatose Tess – who was a great one for the drink – and slipped into the house. She swapped Jessica’s sleeping pills for some she’d concocted in the lab where she worked. Well she’d had to fill her emptiness somehow, and she’d discovered a flair for chemicals, rising high in the research ranks of a major pharmaceutical company. She’d stolen a moment to lay on Jacob’s lonely single bed, and then left, quietly, invisibly.
The death remained unexplained, but Jacob had not sought out Madge as she had allowed herself to imagine he would. Instead, free of children and wife, he’d found solace with streetwalkers and high class ‘escorts’. Madge forgave him, of course. He’d been imprisoned by a frigid wife and the constraints of home, family and work for too many years. She could give him time to work it out of his system; she’d be there for him when he was ready.
The months had turned into years. As Jacob’s debauched life continued to spiral out of control, a whirl of drugs and sex and gambling, so Madge’s sanity had finally tipped over the edge. In a small corner of her mind she knew that, but she’d waited too long. Now she had one way out and she was going to take it.
Jacob had died ‘on the job’ as they say; a massive heart attack whilst being pleasured by three barely legal girls, showing what fools men could be as far as Madge was concerned, but it was done now, and there were just a few things left to manage before they could be together. She turned off the highway, filtered through some side roads and pulled into the lot of a row of warehouses. They were long abandoned and Madge had taken out a lease on a defunct packing plant. The conveyor belt, once used to load packed boxes onto trucks for delivery, had proved perfect for her needs. No longer young and fit, she’d needed it to transport the preacher’s body into the building and she used it again now to slowly glide Jacob’s coffin inside. She threw a tarp over the hearse and then slipped inside the warehouse, drawing the doors shut and chaining them locked.
The coffin came to a gentle halt before the small altar Madge had constructed at its end. She took some time to light candles, scatter palest pink rose petals and open the book she’d borrowed from the preacher, which lay open under the candlelight. The preacher drooped a little in his seat, his bonds not quite tight enough to keep his decaying body upright, but Madge knew you had to have a preacher at a wedding. She hadn’t meant to kill him, he’d done nothing to her, but she’d been practising with a new drug and had given him a little too much in the tea she’d served him when he’d answered her request for a house call. Still, she was sure his presence was enough. Satisfied she’d done all she could, Madge sipped behind a screen of cardboard boxes.
When she emerged she wore her wedding dress. True, it was a little yellowed with age, a touch moth-eaten in the sleeves, but she was proud that she could still fit into it after a wait of 50 years. She crossed to the coffin, and climbed up beside it. It took her a few minutes to release the coffin lid, but she caught her breath as the cover fell back and her Jacob was revealed. He was dressed in the blue suit he loved so much, his black hair still luxuriant – although she guessed it was probably dyed, forgiving him his final vanity – and she wished she could see his blue eyes one last time.
“Never mind, my love, I still see them in my mind” she murmured, caressing his face with tender, slow touches, “I could never forget.”
She nodded to the sagging preacher, indicating she was ready to begin, and then climbed into the coffin, budging Jacob over a little so she could lay beside him. She gripped his hand in hers, swallowed the deadly concoction in the small bottle she had brought and lay back, smiling, as she gave the preacher a hand, intoning the marriage ceremony she’d learned by heart from his little book.
“I do. Always and forever, Jacob.” She whispered, as her eyes closed.