My ex girlfriend came to stay.
The smell started like burning, assaulting the nose, ripping at your throat. The Monday after the smell arrived, Rose, my best friend and university sweetheart, came to live with us.
Two nights after that, my wife Ingrid and I came home to a house in blackout.
“Something’s in the kitchen,” Ingrid hissed.
I slid my palms across the wall towards the noise.
“Die from flowers!” grunted a choked Rose, very close.
I was at the kitchen now and could make out a dark lump in the far corner. I called back to Ingrid still in the hallway but only received a vague mumble.
Just then, my mobile rang out, like a desperate scream. Then, as if in answer, came a high shriek from the hall, followed by that smell of fire again, only this time stronger.
I burst back through the corridor to see my wife in flames, the look on her face terrible.
I suppose it must have been the kitchen, like pungent rotting of ten thousand shuttered mice that sent me skittering back to Rose, dazed with grief.
I shouted her name as I staggered up to the slumped shape in the corner just as it began to hover.
My phone began ringing once more, and my eyes pulsing with revulsion, watched as tendrils emerged from the screen and thwacked to the floor.
Then through the speaker came Rose’s voice, I’m doing these thing to you she said.
“You killed my wife?” I asked as her features became clearer through the dark. A bloated tongue disengorged, and rasped at the end of my nose. Revulsion further dulled my senses.
I’m---- -----back-----for-----YOUUUUUU she said and the force of her voice threw me to the floor.
I treated my ex girlfriend badly at University and now I was paying the price.
Rose pointed at a chair and I crawled onto it. She produced bindweed from her sleeve and wrapped me tight. She incanted and I lost sensation. From a pocket she produced purple hooded blooms.
“Wolfs bane,” she murmured and pounded the petals against my numbed arm. She was poisoning me.
“My unhappiness snuffed me out,” she murmured directly into my head. Out came purple flowers, segmented with yellower flecks - the poison of Foxglove.
“I never meant you harm,” I snapped. With one over puffy palm she forced my mouth open and marched those petals down my gullet.
“You left me nothing…”
There was pain in my chest and my gut, trying to reject poison. Next she produced the bell shaped Deadly Nightshade. She crushed it against me and pounded it down my throat again.
“I barely survived,” she said
“But I’ve been letting you stay in my house,” I said.
“Irrelevant,” she barked. “I was about to leave this earth. And you’re to blame…But I was saved. The light or the dark offered me a deal, a chance to return. To…make…you…pay….”
“Back from the...?” I asked, shocked.
She nodded. “And you’re too blame.”
I looked over my shoulder, back up the hallway. “But I could never have loved you- I was twenty one and very selfish.”
Rose put a finger to her lips. “Keep steady or the poison will quicken.”
I was shaking now; slick and oozing from every pore.
“Can you feel it?” she whispered.
“Ingrid was my one and only love,” I cried, feral.
My one and only love, Rose crooned.
The pain in my chest began to gorge on itself.
“You chose yourself over love for me,” Rose moaned.
I panted slowly.
And a bright light
And I faded.
I abandoned my first girlfriend and now she wants revenge.
Stiff board against my back.
When I tried to open my eyes, they were gummed. I was sitting up. Hands were resting…on wood…. table. Cup in hand.
“Is it done?” said someone, was that Ingrid?
“We tell all.” Was that Rose?
Finally my eyes opened with a painful tug. I was tied to a chair at the kitchen table.
Across from me sat Rose and…Ingrid. They were holding hands. Like twins
Ingrid smiled. “Can you guess what’s going on?” she asked.
I shook my head.
She leaned across and gave me an old album. Pointed at a creased, faded photo. One I had seen from Ingrid many times before. A mother, a father and two sisters.
Ingrid had a younger sister who died a year after failing to graduate at University. The nickname had been ‘Rosey.’
“It was never about me loving you…” my wife said.
I looked at the picture of the ‘dead’ sister once more, now I could see the resemblance.
“I’m sorry.” I said to Rose through a hurricane of sobbing, “I never meant to leave you but I wasn’t grown up.”
The sisters sat with hands twisted around each other, weighing each of my words. Rose turned towards me. “I nearly died,” she crooned before turning back to Ingrid.
I looked into the cup that I must have been grasping for hours; my fingers were stiff around the edges.
“Poisoned tea,” Rose explained, squeezing Ingrid’s hand in a show of family solidarity. “You’ve been having visions for ever such a long time.”
“But you were mine?” I asked her frantically.
She shook her head slowly. “My family and I knew who you were before I made sure I met you.”
“But you told me your family were dead…”
Ingrid shrugged. “You were never mine,” she said.
“True patience can lead to repentance,” Rose murmured, the final words she spoke to me. Her and Ingrid were now turning pages of the old stained album. I looked hard into my wife’s face.
I knew every fold, every dip, and every freckle.
Rose put an arm around her sister.
A merciful giddiness, a squirming explosion of agony sent me back into blackness.