The worst thing about murdering someone is the fear of them coming back to haunt you. After I killed my husband, Brian, the knowledge I had gleaned from books and films regarding the nasty ways in which a malevolent spirit can harm a person preyed on my mind to the point where I became frantic, wondering what terrors he would wreak upon me. So I moved away, as far as I could afford to go, in the hope of losing myself in a busy city neither of us had visited before.
It was in the autumn of my second year there that I saw him for the first time. I had just finished work at the library and was hurrying for the number 26 bus that would drop me outside Sainsbury’s. I wanted to purchase a flat lettuce, a tomato, and a nice piece of Caerphilly to eat with the bread I had made that morning. I have always been an early riser, and I cannot abide shop-bought bread.
He was standing in the queue at the bus stop, his back towards me, hands in his pockets, and his collar up around his neck, just as he always wore it when it rained. And he was standing in THAT position, the stance I have always loathed, his feet pointing outwards at 45 degrees. The penguin stance. My flesh crawled… it was typical of him not to have corrected his posture, even after two years of being dead. I turned around and ran quickly back to the library where I telephoned for a taxi to take me home, foregoing my dinner of cheese and lettuce and the tomatoes I had so been looking forward to.
The second time I saw him was on the following Saturday afternoon. I was taking a stroll through the gardens of the city park when I spotted him bending over to look at the ornamental fuschias. He was wearing that old, green wax jacket that I had repeatedly told him to put into the charity bag every time our church held a jumble sale. But would he part with it? Oh, no. Not even when I bought him a new one, his flimsy excuse being that it was too stiff to wear and would take more years than he had left to get that ‘lived in’ feeling. Little did he know how right he was.
I did not approach him that day, but upon my next sighting of him, at the library on Monday morning, I knew I must pluck up the courage to speak to him. I had to find out if he intended to continue his haunting of me.
The day started well. My bread rose to just the right height and the bus into town arrived precisely on the dot. The first hour or so at the library was never busy, but once the clock struck ten the trickle of visitors expanded into a stream.
I was putting away a trolley full of returns when I saw him sitting in the far corner of the reading room, his elbows on the table, his chin resting on his hands, and his back hunched over in exactly the same way it had been when I stuck the bread knife into it.
I marched across, pushing the trolley in front of me for protection, and said, in a whisper,
He raised his head from the book he was reading and, God love us and save us, that evil, evil spirit had changed his haunting tactics and possessed the body of an old man. I saw exactly the same thing in the film ‘The Exorcist’, and I was fully aware of how difficult it is to get rid of an entity like Brian once it has taken hold, so I picked up the heaviest book on the trolley, which happened to be ‘The Times Atlas Of World History’, and whacked him and whacked him and whacked him over the head until he slumped from his chair to the floor. And what a very good feeling it was to have successfully beaten Brian out of that poor old man.
I thought he had finally learnt his lesson and would let me be, but today I saw him again. The new nurse who brought my lunch to me placed the tray on my table in exactly the same way as Brian placed his seedling trays onto the shelf in the greenhouse.
I know he is in the poor girl. Next week, when they allow me to lunch with the others, I shall apply myself to seeking out the best way of helping her to be free of him.
For the moment though, I shall concentrate on my meal. They serve such very tasty stews in here.