Pic Credit – David Clare on Flickr
It was a beautiful spring day in the Cotswolds. The little town of Chipping Campden with its limestone buildings and daffodils in full bloom, glowed as if someone had thrown a blanket of cheer over the town. Normally Nigel would have revelled in the season, but today a little gray morose cloud hung over his head.
He had swayed between dreams and nightmares all night. If he hid under the blankets, would the day go away? An imaginary fever racked his body. Every bone and muscle hurt as he stretched. The old four poster bed creaked as he got out of it, as if forbidding him to leave.
The mirror reflected the stony face of a 50-year old man with a slowly balding pate. Confusion and anxiety filled the little dark bags under his eyes. He looked exhausted, overworked at only half past noon. As he splashed his face with cool water, determination seeped back into his eyes. The day had to be faced and the deed had to be done. Today was the day Esmeralda would die. And he was going kill her.
But the day was half over. Could he get through a few more hours without thinking about her? Maybe then, she would live another day.
Dear, sweet Esmeralda. The very name set his heart aflutter. She was a poor farmer’s daughter, but she had been lucky to catch the eye of Lady Chesworth of Chesworth Manor. The grand old lady had taken her under her wing and educated her. Esmeralda excelled at painting and music as she grew up. Now at 25, with her sublime beauty, her porcelain skin, her ladylike airs and her sharp wit, she was the talk of the town. She had no dearth of suitors.
Nigel knew that at half past noon Esmeralda would be finishing lunch with Lady Chesworth. He was sure Esmeralda had a sweet tooth. He could almost see her closing her eyes and sighing in content as she shoved a little spoonful of custard into her delicate mouth. So he had made it a point to order pudding everyday at the little pub where he ate alone.
After Lady Chesworth retired to her room for a nap until tea time, Esmeralda probably painted. Brows furrowed in concentration, she would tuck that annoying loose strand of hair behind her ear and bite her lower lip as she attempted to bring those daffodils to life on canvas. Nigel had asked the charwoman to bring a bunch of daffodils to his cottage every day, much to the her surprise. Since when did the grumpy loner start liking flowers?
As evening beckoned, Nigel imagined Esmeralda playing the piano for Lady Chesworth while they waited for the butler to ring the dinner bell. She probably played some classics, Clair de Lune, perhaps, with her slender fingers, filling the grand hall with a gaiety that he yearned to be part of. Nigel had dusted his old forgotten piano and practised Debussy every day like a ritual. He had heard people talk about how well read she was. So he had bought every book he thought she would like to read.
As they read together every night, the distance between them melted. In his mind, they were together.
Esmeralda consumed him, without an inkling of his existence. Why was he mooning over her like a lovelorn teenager? Didn’t he know he was too old for her? The rapidity with which he was losing himself was scary. Did he, Nigel Banks, even like pudding?
The cliffs of insanity were looming too close for comfort now. Killing her was the only way to stop his free fall into the abyss which was Esmeralda.
His resolve was steel, but his hands shook. Sweat bathed him on that cool April evening.
Rip it off like a bandage, do it! his brain commanded.
Or you could just go to bed, his heart tried to sway him into retreating.
I’ll make it quick. You won’t feel a thing, I promise. His love deserved that little act of mercy.
He took long, decided strides towards his typewriter. His fingers were now trembling uncontrollably, but he persisted.
Adieu, my darling!
A tear rolled down his cheek as Esmeralda took her last breath in his final paragraph.