On the night I strangled my wife I realised that this was probably the biggest turning point in my life.
Now there was no turning back.
We’d been arguing more and more in the last few years, and the guest house on the South Coast that we ran together was becoming more and more like a war zone with every miserable day. The guests avoided us whenever they could, embarrassed at our obvious antagonism when we came anywhere near each other.
We shared the hundreds of the various day-to-day jobs, and also Elaine did most of the cooking and some of the cleaning when she wasn’t arguing with me. We ate separately, slept separately, and indeed we hardly ever spoke except to shout at each other, or for her to sneer at me in that whiny sarcastic voice that got on my nerves.
Of course it hadn’t always been that way. And as I thought back to the early years of our marriage, it was hard to remember the beautiful shy timid creature she used to be, the girl who was always ready to have a laugh. Now Elaine, in middle age, was portly, out of condition and the only expression she ever seemed to have when she was with me was one of contempt.
Of course she’d probably say the same about me: I know I’m not the raving Lothario I used to be, and as Elaine constantly reminds me, I’m overweight, I’ve lost my hair and I’ve gathered wrinkles like nobody’s business.
And now we’d almost reached the point where we hardly even argued any more. Our non-communication and silent dislike when we were together had got to such a pitch I could hardly bear to be in the same room as her. And whenever I was angry with her, my anger grew inside, festering and brewing. When I saw her glaring at me sometimes I imagined she probably felt exactly the same way about me.
It was like a horrible chain of hatred that neither of us could break.
Yet we both acknowledged to ourselves that divorcing would mean we’d lose the guest house, so neither of us would have an income, or be able to do the work we enjoyed. That was one thing we were agreed on: getting stuck in to changing the bedclothes, cleaning the bathrooms, organising the comings and goings and chatting to the guests were ploys, ways of keeping ourselves occupied, of not thinking about our situation and putting off the harsh reality that if we hadn’t been bound together by the guest house, we’d have been divorced long ago.
So when she started going to the club in town I was glad to have a bit of peace when she went out in the evenings. I could stretch out and watch telly, even have the odd natter with the guests. I took up playing the guitar again, and wondered about joining the local folk music club, but I never did.
Elaine began going to the club regularly and she seemed to be smiling now and again. It suited me just fine.
It suited me fine until I found out exactly what went on, when I followed her car on one of her ‘club’ evenings, suspicious about what Elaine was getting up to, wondering just what it was that seemed to be making her so happy.
Was it some kind of swinger’s club for sex? A happy-clappy group of Christians who sang hymns to praise the Lord all evening? A witches’ coven with them all standing around bollock naked looking at a goat?
I had no idea.
But I tell you this: I jolly soon found out!
And a couple of months later, as I knelt above her on that fateful evening, it all ran through my mind. The way I’d been so surprised and astonished when I found out what she had been doing. It had been something I’d never have imagined in my wildest dreams!
All evening my anger had been building up to this and Elaine had seemed oblivious to my mood, unaware of my anger, acting as if nothing was wrong.
I had been getting more and more frustrated.
I just wanted to put my hands around her throat and squeeze the life out of her.
So I did.
“Very good, Martin,” said our producer Jenny, as she put a hand on my shoulder. “I told you that psyching yourself up to look angry would pay dividends, didn’t I? It’s what we call ‘method acting’. But let’s take it from the top one more time. Remember we only have this one dress rehearsal, and tomorrow ‘Murder at the Manor’ goes on for real.”
“Okay Elaine?” I asked leaning down to help her up, so that we could act out the entire murder scene once more.
My wife nodded as she smiled. “You know joining this amateur dramatic club was the best decision I ever made,” she said, brushing her hair away from her neck so as to make it easier for me to strangle her next time. “I’m so glad you joined too. Getting away from work and meeting other people has made us talk at last. It’s made all the difference.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “In fact I think it’s probably saved our marriage.”