Brenda is not a vengeful woman. Nor is Audrey particularly, but Fiona has other ideas. “How many years have you been married to this tosser?” She spat, chopping an onion into miniscule pieces. Under the force of her blade they shot far into distant corners. Brenda looked at Fiona and wide eyed she mumbled “twenty years I think”. “And how long has he been knocking you about like this? You have to do something. We have to do something.” Tears. “Always. I’m not crying. It’s the onions,” Brenda said. “And there was always a reason. It was my fault. It got worse after the accident. He was … he …” Brenda hesitated. “It made him angry, that I could see him … er… um … that he was slouching on the job, as it were. Not that we’d been that way for years. He’d always taken care of it himself, and now he couldn’t. And I knew, I could see. That’s when I started sleeping in the other room. To get away from him. So that he could try on his own. See if it got better. Safer.” Brenda paused, hiding in her mug of tea as she pretended to sip and mumbled. “And anyway it was never so much as to break a bone or knock me out”. Brenda glanced a shy smile in Audrey’s direction.

Fiona heard all this in horror, knife suspended above the mascerated onions. The oil was burning in the pan, and as she scraped the bits into the oil they jumped and spat, and Audrey followed their irretrievable trajectories. “Fiona, it’s none of our business. It’s past and Brenda wants to put it behind her, don’t you Brenda?” she said. Brenda was hearing her own words echoing. They belonged to another world, a prison she was escaping. But she said feebly, “I don’t know. I just don’t know. It isn’t but things are different now. It’s too late for getting my own back. What’s the point?” “Well” Fiona said tossing mushrooms into the pan, setting too with her knife on some fresh rosemary, minced in moments and soon simmering with the mushrooms and a splash of manky pinot grigio. “Well what?” said Brenda watching the steam rise to fill the space with amazing aromas. Steam was tickling at the skylights. Exasperated, Fiona said,“What are you going to do? How are we going to get this arsehole?”

Brenda had never really thought of punishment per se. She hadn’t really thought of calling him an arsehole either. She’d never had an agenda. Maybe that was the problem from the start, she was just supine. Supine but a little sly because Brenda had been content to clean the toilet with his toothbrush and face flannel. She routinely squashed dead flies and laxative pills into his gravy. She’d quite enjoyed rubbing white pepper into his pants and wiping cut fresh chillis into the armpits of his teeshirts and socks. And urine in the steam iron when he wanted his sheets pressed, that was good. Even putting a dead battery in the remote had been a pleasure, although she knew she’d cop it.

Brenda hadn’t really thought beyond those small pleasures, but she was beginning to realise they were pretty unimaginative, at least from Fiona’s perspective. Fiona’s idea of vengeance was mammoth by comparison. Brenda didn’t know about what happened in Furnace Creek, or that whatever happened to Luke might just be a dress rehearsal. “We need a plan.” Fiona declared. “I’m coming with you when you go back. We can’t let him get off that easily”. Abandoning thoughts of how Mrs Snipcock would retrieve all those onion bits Audrey finally engaged. “What would punishing Luke gain? Fiona, this is really none of your business and besides, he’s been found out. He’s going to lose everything, and Brenda is divorcing him.” This last was news to Brenda, but thinking about it, it did seem like a good idea. “Isn’t that enough?” Audrey finished. Brenda stared at Audrey and then at the floor, picking at her nails suppressing the shock. Waiting.

Fiona stirred her pasta sauce thoughtfully, dropping in grated parmesan bit by bit and watching the sauce slowly thicken. “No. There should be more. He should know what it feels like to be in so much pain.” Brenda smiled and on solid ground could say with confidence, “Fiona, pain only matters to you and me, it doesn’t matter at all to a man like Luke, quite the opposite. It appeals to his sense of macho, especially with the slouching on the job problem.” Fiona gave her sauce a spiteful poke: “ok, ok but wouldn’t it be lovely to see the man really need a wheelchair?”


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