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The Pupil

by  Chestersmummy

Posted: Thursday, August 10, 2017
Word Count: 989
Summary: For the 'food' challenge

The Pupil
In another part of the house, a cistern flushed and I waited for sounds that were all too familiar.   The creak of floorboards, the slam of a door.   My mind filled in the blanks and through the layers of brick and plaster I imagined the sure, quick tapping of his fingertips on the keyboard.   There would be no hesitation.   The brain driving those fingers didn’t struggle; it spewed fantasies that boiled like rivers in spate, gathering momentum as they raced across the page.
I left my study and walked downstairs to the morning room.   My husband was crouched in front of his computer like a spider about to devour its prey.
            ‘Morning Garry’.   My lips brushed the back of his head.
            As he turned his glasses reflected the sunlight making his eyes unreadable.
            ‘I’ve finished, Margot!’   He pressed ‘print’ and with a staccato rattle pages rolled into sight.   
            ‘Well done.  Look forward to reading it later.’
            All that day Garry had the jitters.   He settled to nothing but walked about whistling tunelessly through his teeth, a habit he had when nervous and which drove me to distraction.  
            ‘Garry!’  I said.  ‘Go for a walk. Leave me in peace and I’ll read your story.’
            After I had finished, I sat for a long time watching the dusk slide across the lawn.     Eventually, I stirred myself and automatically picked up my coffee staring at its wrinkled surface in surprise.   I glanced at my watch.   The hours had flown by.   Garry’s manuscript was magnificent.  The others were good and I was sure one or two would be best-sellers but this one was different.  It swallowed the reader whole, spat him out and left him gasping for more.     
            I was smiling as I entered his room.  
            ‘This is good.’  I said.   ‘By far the best thing you’ve written so far.’
I opened a drawer and slipped it in to join its fellows.   The pile of manuscripts that I secretly thought of as my pension pot.
            Garry looked incredulous
            ‘Aren’t you going to send it to your Agent?’
            ‘You’re not quite ready Garry.   Trust me.’
            His pasty face flushed brick red as he stood up.
            ‘Margot, I’ve sweated blood over this.  I’m ready, I know I am.  And, I’m not the only one who thinks so…’
            His voiced trailed away but it was too late, the echo remained.
I stared at the muscle that had started to dance at the corner of his mouth.
            ‘Have you shown this to anyone Garry?’ 
            His features sharpened and suddenly he looked crafty.   Then, his chin came up and his shoulders squared.
            ‘Look Margot, I’m sorry but I think we’ve made a terrible mistake.’
            ‘A mistake?’
             ‘Our marriage.’   He flung out his arms and looked miserable.
            The tick of the clock sounded very loud as we stared at each other. There was another woman.   There must be but who?  And when did they meet?   Garry rarely left the house.   Then, I remembered the fat girl gazing at him in adoration.   Of course!   Wednesday evenings, when I was teaching.   She no longer attended and neither did Garry.
   At last, I remembered to breathe.
            ‘It’s been a long day Garry and you’ve been overworking.  Go to bed now and sleep on it.     We’ll discuss it over supper tomorrow.’
              Of course, I was never stupid enough to believe that Garry had ever truly loved me.   When we met, he had been a driven loner, starved of human companionship.   I had realized the potential of his writing and he had become infatuated with his tutor, taking advantage of this, we were married but now, it seemed that it was over.   I felt sick when I thought about the possible consequences, then I took a deep breath.    I thought of all the months I had spent coaching Garry and how far he had progressed and I clenched my teeth until my jaw ached.   There was no way that I would walk away and leave another woman to reap the benefit of all my hard work.    And so, all through that endless night I paced the floor.
            It was just after dawn when I left the house.   Garry was particularly fond of wild mushrooms and they were best gathered early.   The Summer had been a disaster; for much of the time the sky had hidden behind purple clouds that swelled and burst like ripe plums.  Now, as so often happens in early Autumn, the sky was a cloudless blue above a fleece of mist thrown over the fields.  Carving footsteps into the dew, I walked towards the woods, a basket on my arm.   The wet summer had produced a bumper crop of mushrooms and soon my basket was full.  But I was looking for something special and as I walked between ragged trees I kicked up sparks of leaves until at last I saw it.   The glimmer of palest green like a piece of the moon fallen to earth.   As I looked closer I saw there were two of them, huddled together in a sinister conspiracy.   Pulling on rubber gloves, I picked them and a faint aroma of rose petals drifted towards me. 
Amanita Phalloides.
            Many years earlier I’d had an affair with nature;  I’d forgotten most of what I learned but I’d never forgotten Death Cap.   For twenty-four hours, there are no symptoms, then agonizing stomach cramps begin accompanied by diarrhoea and vomiting.   You’ll wish you were dead.   Then, you seem to recover but deadly toxins have invaded your body, destroying both liver and kidneys and a few days later, you get your wish.
              Flavoured with garlic, cream and a dash of brandy, Garry never suspected the extra ingredient added to his portion.   Anyway, he gobbled his food; just one of his habits I had grown to detest.
I watched him eat, triumph beginning to stir in the pit of my stomach thinking of his will, drafted while still infatuated.