AS FREE AS A JAILBIRD

By Sarah Moodie

 

Addison Mills sat stiffly in her “look but don’t sit sitting room” waiting for the doorbell to ring.  Scenes of her life played through her mind, like a tune playing from a piano. 

She’d been free as lark, and had sung like a bird.  A stage performer where audiences had flocked to see her – the star of the show.

She’d met the love of her life seven years ago after one of her shows – Mark Mills.  They fell in love and were married, no expenses spared.  Life was perfect.

Mark surprised her by decorating their new home, excluding her completely.  He’d said, “I want to surprise you.”  She’d been so love struck, she’d taken it for what she believed it to be.

Mark paid special attention to the kitchen, he called it “the heart of the home.”

He changed the kitchen tiles to white.  The far end of the kitchen had a bay window with a cushion seat.  All the cupboards were white Formica with marble tops.  A silver fridge and freezer unit stood between the cupboards on the left.  The counter next to it baring a silver toaster and kettle.  Next to it, a tray stood with a tea pot, sugar bowl and milk jug – all of it white. 

On the right was a double sink, and wash-up rack.  White.  Dishtowels – white.  The curtains hanging in the frosted window – white.  As white as snow, and as cold as ice.

An island in the middle of the kitchen had the stove and oven built into it.  A utensil canister and butcher’s block with knives were placed on it.

Addison had imagined the heart of her home being warm, soft and bright, she’d shivered at her first encounter of her bleak kitchen.  This was the first time it occurred to her that she and Mark might be as different as night and day.

A square table with 2 chairs stood near the bay window, where their meals would be eaten.  Mark couldn’t rationalise the use of another entire room just for two people to eat a meal in.  The dining room would be used when he deemed it appropriate.

Addison thought of their first fight, only a few weeks into their marriage.

Mark was home from work when Addison came in the door with KFC, she’d been out with friends.  He was livid.  Dinner was to be served at 7:30 sharp, his meals prepared from scratch.  He’d thrown the food in the rubbish bin, and then flung the bin across the room.  She’d been petrified.  After that he removed the microwave.

The next day Mark brought her a gift, a cockatiel. He’d been so impressed with himself, and said “She sings so sweetly.”  Addison had been annoyed, he couldn’t think that a gift could make up for his frightening behaviour the night before.

Tessie claimed prime spot in the bay window, Mark strangely allowed it.  Addison enjoyed her company, and often sang as she did her housework.  Tessie was sometimes her audience and sometimes her partner.  She smiled at the distant thought.

Within months of their marriage, Mark denied Addison the right to leave their home without permission, and in time visitors stopped visiting – her guest and dining rooms became mere structures.

My home is a prison – a bird in a cage.  How ironic.

Mark belittled her, and controlled EVERY aspect of her – laying her clothes out each morning and night.

If she tried fighting him, he’d become aggressive verbally, and physically.  It was no use.

The night she asked him for a divorce, he’d refused... leaving her in a bruised, bloody pile.

She was broken.  Her home now silent.

If she obeyed his rules, life was bearable and so she relented.

Tonight Addison had prepared Mark’s favourite meal.  She’d taken her time, and for the first time in years, hummed while she worked.  Everything was in place.

Mark arrived at 18:00.  “Addison, I’m home.”

She cringed at the normalcy of his actions.

It was Tuesday; he would have flowers.  She walked to the hall to fetch them, as he headed down the passage.

He got lilies this time – white, ALWAYS white.  She started arranging the flowers in the vase already waiting, but tonight she took her time, smelling each one savouring the aroma.  She knew exactly where she’d place them later.

She poured their wine – red tonight.

Mark had a routine, he would be in their bedroom laying out their clothes.  He’d change into something comfortable and would bring her his laundry shortly.

He breezed into the kitchen, pecked her cheek and noticed the empty cage.

“Where’s Tessie?”

“I came in earlier, and she was dead,” she lied.

“The cage is still dirty, you need to clean it,” he snapped.

“I’ve been busy preparing your favourite dinner, can I clean it tomorrow?” 

Addison passed him his wine and smiled sweetly, with that he agreed.

Routinely they went to the sitting room, Mark with his book in his chair, and Addison with her tapestry in her chair.  They made odd polite conversation until 7:20, and then Addison went to the kitchen to add the final touches to their meal.

She placed the poppadums, banana and tomato on the table.  The coconut and chutney were already there, and then dished the hot beef curry into 2 bowls.  She took the cyanide from under the sink, and carefully added 3 spoonfuls to Mark’s portion, stirring it through, and then put it away.  She was ready, and rang the bell signalling dinner.

Her hands trembled, and she felt nauseous as she placed Mark’s bowl in front of him.  Mark noticed and took her hand in his.

“Are you all right?”

Addison removed her hand, “I’m upset about Tessie.”

“I’ll get a canary tomorrow, they sing better than a cockatiel.”

They ate in silence.  Addison barely touched her food.  She cleared the dishes packing them directly into the sink, before she served apple crumble and custard.

She waited...and then she watched the cyanide work its magic, he grasped his neck.

“I can’t breathe,” he stammered.  “My heart feels like it’s going to burst.”

Addison remained calm, and went to him, as he fell from his chair, and began gagging.  His eyes rolled back in his head.

Addison grimaced and got the knife she’d sharpened earlier.  She strode back to him.

“Sit up.  Sit up,” she screamed.

Mark looked at her realising what this was.

“You bitch,” he muttered.

“Sit up you sick bastard.”

He was on his side, and couldn’t get up.  With the little energy he had, he lashed out, catching the blade of the knife. 

Addison never flinched.

His attempt useless, he resorted to, “Help.”

“Never.” 

She kicked him backwards so that he lay face up; his head banged the tiles. 

“I want you to see me do this – look at me.  I’m in control now.” 

She bent over him, and plunged the blade into his chest once, twice and one more time. 

Mark’s glazed eyes looked at her; his face expressionless.  The knife in hand, and wearing the clothes he’d laid out for her that morning, her high heels were being surrounded by the blood pooling at her feet.  It was over.

She walked away, a blonde tendril hanging down her moist forehead and dropped the knife.

“I’m free.”

She sank to her knees and collapsed, her cheek resting on the cool tiles.  She tried to breathe, deep, controlled breaths but instead her emotions overwhelmed her.  They coursed through her body, succumbing to tears; they flowed from her in desperate sobs and groans.  She allowed herself time to grieve over her lost soul and what she’d done.

Pulling herself from the floor she went to the hallway phone, and dialled the Walmer Police Station.

“Hello this is Addison Mills, at 213 River Road.  I’ve murdered my husband.”

Now she waited for the doorbell to chime, when it did she let the detectives in, she was still bloody.

Addison was arrested and taken to the police station. 

The detectives, Morgan Cade and Arnold Baxter, did a brief inspection of the house.

The main bedroom didn’t look as though anyone lived there.  The couple’s night clothes on the bed were the only items that signified life.  Their bathroom was white, right down to the soap.  The cabinets – immaculate.  This is absurd.

The guest room and bathroom hadn’t been touched.  The dining room looked like a master piece – never used. 

Cade went to the living room, which was only slightly more used than the rest of the house.  A book stood on a table and a needle-work basket near a chair. 

The kitchen was WHITE.  Frosty.

“Nothing but kitchen stuff in here, and the victim, and some trifles that only women concern themselves with.”  Baxter said as he waved his hand toward the cupboard of preserves.

Cade looked in the cupboard.  “Wow, I bet your cupboards don’t look like this.”

“Does anyone’s?”

“Baxter, look at this.  A bird cage, full of seed, newspaper and water but no bird?”

“The door is open.” 

Cade looked at the open door that was directly in front of the open window.

Baxter grunted, “What kind of people live like this?”

“Not people Baxter, person.”  She paused.  “A jailbird that’s who.  A bird in a cage.” 


Sarah Moodie is a South African author who is a mother of three and a wife living on a timber farm in the Mpumalanga area. Writing and photography are her hobbies when work (she works with her husband) and family allow.


Copyright 2014 Sarah Moodie. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!


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