A Woman Scorned

Hilary Middleton



What drove me to it? A combination of things, really. Anger. Humiliation. The depth of Charles's deceit and his lack of commitment to our marriage. There's only so much you can take and after twenty years I'd reached saturation point.

I was of sound mind when I carried out the assault. I wasn't drunk or stoned or acting in self-defence. I knew what I was doing and was prepared to take full responsibility for my actions. Unlike some in this place. Prisons are full of innocent people claiming to be victims of a miscarriage of justice and they use visiting time to air their grievances.

Take the girl at the next table. Stitched up by the police, apparently. She was clutching a child's painting and sobbing uncontrollably, begging a bloke with tattoos and piercings to get her out of this shit hole.

I was waiting for Jessica to arrive, wondering whether she'd decided I wasn't worth the effort. I had attacked her lover, after all. The fact that he was also my husband was neither here nor there.

Charles was a successful financier in the City. Charismatic and sexily arrogant, he was also a serial adulterer. Very discreet, I grant you, but a womaniser all the same. His affairs were usually short-lived. He was attracted to women who weren't interested in him. He relished the challenge, the thrill of the chase. Once he had them hooked, he moved on.

I always knew. The good humour, the spring in his step, the lavish gifts he rewarded me with for turning a blind eye. I never felt threatened, though. These women meant nothing. They were just conquests, passing fancies. I was his wife; the one he came home to, the one he cared about the most.

Until he met Jessica.

I was with him when his restless gaze fell upon her at a prestigious charity do. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, with a brush-stroke figure, honeyed skin and seductively messy hair - casual chic rather than vampish glamour. She also possessed the liquid movement and easy elegance of a racehorse.

Charles was captivated. Struck by a thunderbolt right there in front of me. I felt powerless. They exchanged no more than a dozen words but it was enough. Her smoky, sensuous eyes said it all. Come and get me...

Deep down, I knew then that I'd lost him. Jessica was different. She intrigued and excited him. He pursued her for weeks while I clung pathetically to the hope that the affair would run its course, that he would come to his senses and life would settle back into its familiar pattern.

My nerves were in shreds. The same thought hurtled repetitively round my mind like a bluebottle trapped in ajar. What would I do if he left me? In spite of it all, we were a team. A partnership. I worshipped Charles and did everything for him. He was the focus of my existence, especially after being told we would never have children.

He became very distant, shutting himself away in the study whenever he was at home. I had no idea what his intentions were. The uncertainty drove me crazy until eventually I was forced to confront him.

'Do you love her?' My throat felt so tight I could hardly speak.

'Yes.' Charles looked at me with contempt. 'Far more than I could ever love you.'

He left three days later with barely a backward glance. I couldn't take it in. It was unreal, like watching a video. For a while I couldn't function, even at the most basic level.

The blinkers came off when the estate agent arrived to value the house, the gloves when Charles petitioned for divorce citing irreconcilable differences. I was livid. There was no mention of adultery. He ended all contact and we communicated through our solicitors. I'd been deleted from his life.

I looked at the clock. Twenty minutes left and still no sign of Jessica. The girl at the next table made a sudden grab for her bloke and wailed, 'My baby! I want my baby!' The screws were on her in a flash and dragged her away, screaming.

I caught his eye and smiled sympathetically.

'She misses the kid,' he said with a shrug.

Children. That's what finally pushed me over the edge. I was clearing the shelves in Charles's study when a folded sheet of paper fell out of an old textbook. It was a letter from a private clinic, confirming that his vasectomy had been successful. The date swam before my eyes. March 1985. Six months before we were married.

I shook violently. Then I went numb. I'd suffered for years believing I couldn't give Charles the family he said he wanted. At times the guilt had been overwhelming. I'd tried so hard to make it up to him. No wonder he'd insisted on me seeing a particular doctor. Charles had probably bribed him to say I was infertile.

I couldn't let it lie. I needed to have it out with him but was refused entry to his office building. My phone calls and emails were blocked. His solicitor flatly refused to tell me where he was living, so I resorted to a bit of detective work.

I felt sure he was shacked up with Jessica. She was a model and had her own website, which gave details of the agency through which she could be contacted. It also listed the photographers she'd worked with. I pretended to be one, phoned the agency and in less than a minute had elicited Jessica's home address from some dopey receptionist.

It was a town house on the outskirts of the city. I parked within sight of it one evening and waited. Jessica arrived home first. She appeared to have forgotten her keys and reached behind a security light for a spare set. Charles rolled up ten minutes later.

I marched over and hammered on the door. Jessica was about to discover what a heartless bastard he was. Charles answered it, a butcher's apron slung round his waist.

I barged past him into the hall and through to the kitchen. A stir-fry was sizzling in a wok.

'Very cosy,' I said. 'You're quite the little chef. Where is she? She needs to hear what I've got to say.'

Charles laughed harshly. 'I doubt it. You're of no interest to anyone, so get out.'

I waved the letter from the clinic in front of him. 'How could you be so cruel? Letting me think I couldn't have children...'

Unmoved, he threatened to call the police and have me escorted off the premises. I told him to go ahead. It would be a couple of hours at least before they responded, if they turned up at all. I went to find Jessica. She was upstairs having a bath with the radio going full blast.

He threw me out before I could get to her, warning me that if I called again, he'd get the courts to issue a restraining order. I sat in the car for a while, too shaken up to drive. Charles had shown no remorse at all. Not a flicker. What had the last twenty years been about? Had he just been making do until the right woman came along?

Any love I had left for him died there and then.

The attack wasn't planned. It just happened. It was early afternoon and I thought the town house was empty when I let myself in with the hidden set of keys. I'd become obsessed with Jessica and wanted to know everything about her. What did Charles see in her? What set her apart from all the others?

The spare bedroom was lined with mirrors and full of clothes and accessories, as you would expect from a model. There were more than sixty pairs of shoes and several wigs. I put one on, a strawberry blonde number that reached below my shoulders.

I'd lost so much weight since Charles had left that I discovered I could squeeze into some of Jessica's outfits. There was a striking red dress with a slit up the side that looked rather good with the wig. I posed and pouted in front of the mirror. My God, I thought. I could almost be her...

A noise from the next room disturbed me. I grabbed a pair of dressmaker's scissors from the window sill, tiptoed onto the landing and slowly pushed open the bedroom door.

Charles was in bed with some woman. It wasn't Jessica. They were both asleep – Charles on his back, the woman on her side facing him with an arm flung possessively across his body. I wanted to laugh. The dirty dog was still up to his old tricks. I wondered if Jessica knew.

Without a thought for the consequences, I took the scissors in both hands and stabbed him twice in the chest. Then I stabbed the woman. He died instantly but she survived and testified in court. The guilty verdict was unanimous.

There was a huge fuss in the papers. The tabloids ran the story for days and even managed to unearth a picture of Jessica wearing the red dress.

I destroyed the frock straight away. And the wig. The scissors are lying on a river bed somewhere. The police treated me with kindness and courtesy throughout and I was only too pleased to assist with their investigation.

A bell rang, making me jump. Visiting time was over. Jessica had obviously changed her mind about seeing me. Pity. I'd been looking forward to our meeting. I stood up and pushed my chair beneath the table. Maybe next time...

I don't regret what I did or have sleepless nights. Jessica can protest all she likes about mistaken identity. It cuts no ice with me. She took my husband. That's theft in my book and thieves should be punished. Jessica had it coming and deserves to be where she is. Behind bars.

©2009 Hilary Middleton

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