A Weekend of Omissions, by Diane Arrelle
“God, what is this pain?” Henrietta asked and rubbed at her belly. She felt bloated from drinking all that stuff during the lab tests and she hurt. She suspected appendicitis but her insurance, thanks to that cheap policy Henry opted for, wouldn’t pay for anything without endless referrals and out-patient testing. “A person could die before they find out what’s wrong.” She moaned.
Henry sighed. “There you go again, Dear, always exaggerating. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong. I mean, don’t blame my insurance. If you weren’t always having a heart attack or a brain aneurism, or an exploding appendix, we could afford a company with better coverage. Henni, I can hardly afford you!”
Henrietta grimaced, half in pain and half from hearing that sickening term of endearment. Why does he persist on calling me that cutsie name, she thought and ground her teeth. In her own mind, she hadn’t been his little Henni for the past 20 years, and she wasn’t too sure about the 10 years before that either. “Look Henry, I’m not in the mood. I’m in pain, but if the tests come out normal, well, then I’m going hiking in the mountains with the girls.”
“Ah yes,” Henry said and sighed again, a gesture that Henrietta was starting to hate even more than she hated him. “The girls. Don’t you think well-passed-middle-aged women should stop referring to themselves as girls. And hiking in the mountains? Last year was dumb enough when you all went skydiving. Seriously, how could a hypochondriac such as yourself and your old, and I do stress old here, friends do all those extreme sports. If you have a death wish, my dear, why don’t you just stop having all these medical tests and allow yourself a fatal disease.”
The pain in her gut flared. She clutched herself and got out of the easy chair. She had to get away before she said all the things she longed to say, drop dead being foremost on her mind.
She walked into the kitchen to grab antacid tablets and noticed his pill bottle on the shelf. She stared at it for a while chewing her lip. Should I, she wondered. Could I? It would teach the son of a bitch a lesson.
Grinning at her private little joke, she emptied the pills from the amber vial into the junk drawer and refilled the container with aspirin, which just happened to match the discarded meds in both size and shape.
Yep, teach him a lesson, hell two days wasn’t going to kill him. A week or two would, but she’d only be gone two days. She’d switch them back once he started to feel sick. Ok, not just sick, but really sick. Then she’d switch them back. Of course she would. After all, she didn’t really want him to drop dead did she?
She quickly skirted away from the thought of blissful widowhood. Nope, they had agreed on better and worse and they had discovered way too late it was mostly worse. Sure they hated each other, had for thirty years, but she’d be lost without him.
She stayed home raised the kids, couldn’t really use the computer except to surf the net and send email. She was a dinosaur, a woman on the edge of extinction. Was that why she and her friends flirted with death every August? To fight extinction, because every moment she felt really alive kept her going the rest of the time.
Ignoring the pain, she packed for the weekend until the shrill ring of the phone interrupted her. As she walked back to the living room she heard Henry saying, “Thank you Doctor, I’ll be sure to tell her right away.”
“Who was it?” she asked wondering if he’d tell her or let her wallow in fear and agony.
“It was the doctor at the lab, He said everything is fine, probably just a bug or something.”
“Oh,” she said fighting relief and disappointment. “That’s good |I guess.”
“Yep,” he agreed. “You got a clear bill of health. Again.”
Grabbing her bag, she left the house to join her friends. During the four hour drive she was annoyed that she still hurt so much but smiled every time she thought about the pills in the junk drawer.
About three hours into the hike the pain got worse. And then got worse some more. Suddenly, she couldn’t stand, fire sliced through her and she doubled up. Agony ripped her and she felt herself stumble, lose her footing and tumble down a ravine.
She heard them screaming her name but she hurt too much to answer. Hell, she hurt too much to care. She tried to take deep breathes, trying to remember the pain of childbirth trying to assure herself that if she could survive that twice then she could survive anything.
Henrietta started to feel calm, so calm in fact that she didn’t really feel the pain as much. She couldn’t hear her friends anymore and she really didn’t care. She thought of her children and felt for her cell phone. She flipped it open, wondering who to call when she saw the missed call. Her fingers were cold, numb but she pushed the message button and heard, “This is Doctor Singer, you are suffering from acute appendicitis. Get to the hospital right away! I will call your home number as well. Get to the hospital ASAP.”
She stared at the phone, watching it blur into darkness. “Six hours from civilization,” she muttered, tears on her cheeks as she realized that she wasn’t a hypochondriac at all. No, she was an as-good-as-dead ex-hypochondriac.
She chuckled and sobbed as she clung to her consciousness like a life preserver, knowing that when she let go it would all be over. She thought about the call Henry had answered and softly chuckled. “You killed me, you sonofabitch!”
Then she remembered the pills and chuckled. “Well Henry, that makes us even,” she mumbled and smiled a sad little smile as darkness swallowed her.
Diane Arrelle, the pen name of South Jersey writer Dina Leacock, has been writing for more than 20 years and has sold almost 200 short stories. She has two published books, Just A Drop In The Cup, a collection of short-short stories and Elements Of The Short Story, How to Write a Selling Story. She is proud to be one of the founding members as well as the second president of the Garden State Horror Writers and is also a past president of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. She has just retired from being director of a municipal senior citizen center and lives with her husband, sometimes her son and of course her cat on the edge of the Pine Barrens in Southern New Jersey (home of the Jersey Devil).
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Tags: break ups, Diane Arrelle, murder, relationships