While plotting how to deal with her cheating husband, Maggie’s mum discovers she’s in danger of taking the wrong step
It was a cold, bright morning when I decided to murder my husband. “Maggie! Maggie! It’s time for your milk and biscuit,” I called to my daughter. “Come downstairs please. Come on, darling, where are you?” There was no answer. Wearily, I climbed the steep winding staircase to Maggie’s bedroom and popped my head around the door. We had moved into this house, my dream home by the sea, six months ago. Originally a 16th-century cottage, the building had been extended and modernised over the years and had cost us – or rather my husband Roger – a small fortune. He hadn’t been too keen on moving, but I had insisted. He owed me that, I told him, after the way he had been behaving for the past year.
“Maggie! Come on!” I said, smiling at my daughter.
She was so intent on playing with her new doll’s house, a present for her third birthday, that she hadn’t heard me yet.
She was kneeling in front of the house, gazing into the bathroom where one of her dolls was sitting in a diminutive white china bath, the sort with two separate taps and tiny claw feet. There was a miniature basin beside the bath and a pink fluffy bath mat about one centimetre square. I had made the mat and a towel, various rugs, pictures and all the curtains in the doll’s house. This had taken many long evenings, but I knew how much fun Maggie would have playing with them and, anyway, I had to have something to do while Roger was out or I would have gone crazy.
My husband had promised me that the affair with his secretary, Wendy, was over and that we would make a fresh start in our new home.
He wanted us to work at our marriage, maybe even try for another baby, or so he said. But I knew the truth, had made it my business to find out the truth. Roger was still seeing Wendy, still infatuated with her, still cheating on me. I wasn’t going to put up with being made a fool of again. Enough was enough.
At last Maggie turned round to face me. “Mummy! Look at Jemima in the bath.
She’s all wet.”
“Good heavens, have you really filled the bath with water?” I asked, laughing. “You’d better be careful she doesn’t slip over on the soap!”
Maggie put her tongue between her teeth and frowned as she lifted Jemima out of the tiny bath. She dressed her in a blue towelling dressing gown, dabbed at her blonde hair with the towel and marched her towards the bathroom door. She manoeuvred her to the top of the stairs in the doll’s house and then let out a piercing shriek as Jemima twisted out of her grasp and fell down the narrow flight of stairs to the entrance hall. Maggie started sobbing uncontrollably and cradled the doll in her arms. Jemima looked none the worse for her accident, although her hair was a little ruffled.
“Jemima’s hurt. Mummy make her better. Poor Jemima!”
Maggie stroked the doll’s hard shiny plastic body.
“She’s hurt her legs! She’s broken her legs! Mummy make her better.”
I couldn’t bear to see Maggie so upset. “Darling, there’s nothing wrong with Jemima,” I said, picking the doll up and demonstrating how she could still walk along the floor, a curious sideways swaggering walk with her stiff hips and knees and her feet permanently arched so that she could wear high-heeled red plastic sandals.
“Look, she isn’t damaged at all. Falling down the stairs doesn’t hurt you, darling.”
Maggie looked at me in amazement.
“No really,” I said firmly. “It doesn’t hurt to fall down the stairs. You know Mummy is right, don’t you?”
“Yes,” said Maggie. Beaming with relief and joy, and scooping the doll into her arms, she ran downstairs in search of her milk and biscuit. Perhaps I should arrange for Roger to have a tumble down the stairs, I thought wryly, but that was too uncertain and I couldn’t risk a botched job. I already had the perfect solution – quick, daring and easy.
Roger rang at 6pm to say he was going to be so late that it would be more sensible if he stayed the night where he was.
“I’ve had one or two drinks, love, and you know how it is. Give Maggie a big kiss from me.”
I know what you’re up to, I thought bitterly. But it wouldn’t be for much longer.
I decided to have a nice long soak in the bath once Maggie had gone to bed and as I lay relaxed and warm in the scented water, I thought over my plan. Maggie was going out with a friend from nursery on Sunday and Roger had promised to spend the day with me, doing whatever I wanted. I was going to suggest we went for a late afternoon stroll along the clifftop.
“Darling, it’s very romantic and the sea’s so wild and magnificent,” I would plead. And he’d agree and once we were there, I’d reach out to kiss him and with one quick, fierce shove, I’d push him over the edge...
Just then, I heard the squeak of Maggie’s bedroom door opening and her soft giggles as she padded downstairs.
“Maggie wants a biscuit. Jemima wants a biscuit.”
Suddenly annoyed, I jumped out of the bath and flung my dressing gown on. Rushing to the top of the stairs I called out, “You come back here, young lady! You’re meant to be asleep.”
It was then that I lost my balance and slipped on the narrow stairs. Over and over I tumbled, hitting my head on the banisters during my fall.
After losing consciousness for some minutes, I found myself gazing up into the sweet blue eyes of my daughter.
“Phone... need the phone... Mummy’s not well...”
She gazed back at me and stroked my head and arm.
“You can’t hurt yourself falling down, Mummy, not falling down the stairs. Mummy sleep now. Night night.”
As my eyelids closed for the last time,
I could hear Maggie chatting to Jemima. “Want a biscuit? Come on, you can’t hurt yourself on the stairs, can you?”
Perhaps I should arrange for Roger to tumble down the stairs