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Sweet Caroline

by Christina Seine about a month ago in Short Story · updated about a month ago

Women who garden are much, much happier.

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) - aka wolfsbane. Such a lovely and useful little flower.

Caroline, arguing with that philandering jerk is like trying to milk a bull. It’s a waste of time, and in the end, you’re going to get hurt. And the bull gets off on it.

He denied everything, I assume. Mmm-hmmm. They all do. Told you you’re imagining things? Made you think you’re crazy?

That’s Cheating 101, Caroline. It’s called gaslighting. The point is to make you doubt yourself.

I used to doubt myself. I was in your very same position once.

The point is, he’s never going to change. They never change, these guys.

But that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?

***

Look, Caroline. If you’re going to cry and get all sentimental on me, we’re never going to get anywhere. You have to decide your old life is over. You have to be resolved. I mean, come on. Deep down you know he never loved you. He used you like a bitch.

OK that’s better. Jesus Christ, Caroline, there are more tissues in the cabinet. That’s disgusting. Burn that sweater when you get home.

Actually, burning the whole house is an idea. It’s a tried and true means of destroying evidence. The downside, of course, is that the police and insurance people will be on you like a dog in heat. It really depends on your anger level. Some of my clients find it very cathartic. There is an upcharge for that, by the way.

Caroline. If you’re going to complain about money here, perhaps I’m not the best professional for you to engage in this endeavor. There are plenty of other –

Caroline. Caroline! Jesus, stop crying. Okay, look. Oh for – there. Deep breaths. Grab another tissue.

I DO understand. No, I do, I really do. And you’re right, you’re right to expect that because I’m a woman I’d be a lot more sensitive about these kinds of things. As a matter of fact, almost all of my clients are women, and they come to me precisely because I am a woman too. And I do sympathize, Caroline, I really do. You’re the victim here. He’s a piece of shit, and you’re due some justice.

But Caroline you have to understand that this is my livelihood. I’m a single woman – a single mother, I’ll have you know – and it’s not easy getting by these days. If I charge a little more than the norm, it’s because I’m the best at what I do. I’m an artisan, Caroline. A professional.

Here’s what I suggest, because right now you are in no frame of mind to be making important decisions. Go home. Oh. Right, sorry. Go – I don’t know, go to your mother’s house and – oh. I’m sorry for your loss. Well, do you have a sister, maybe? An only child? Okay well, look here, Caroline, I’ll let you figure out the details but what I mean is, go somewhere and get a good night’s sleep before you –

Right. That is unsensitive of me. Yes, I imagine the nightmares are horrible. That’s got to be a tough image to get out of your head. And with your best friend, no less. But I mean everyone has to sleep eventually, right? Or, you know, you’re going to end up sick. Or in a mental institution somewhere. Take a Xanax or something. You’ve got something, right?

You don’t? Seriously? God. Okay, here I’ll give you one of mine. Here’s a couple. Do NOT, and I repeat, do NOT take more than one of these at a time. They’ll knock you out, I’m not kidding. So. You take one of these, you get a good night’s sleep, and you think about things. Think long and hard, Caroline, because this is a no going back kind of deal, okay? Okay.

You’re welcome.

***

I do love my garden. I find I spend quite a lot of time here, weather permitting. It’s an excellent stress reliever. Did you know that women who tend a garden live 20% longer than those who don’t? They have fewer heart attacks and are 35% less likely to take up unhealthy habits like smoking and murder.

Whoops, did I say murder? Silly me. I believe I meant to say overeating. Well.

Anyway, I am rather proud of my lilies over there. Those pink ones won the blue ribbon at our county fair two years ago. And nobody grows a fuchsia like I do. My sunflowers are the tallest on this whole street. In the fall I’ll harvest the seeds from those to feed the wild birds over the winter.

But over here, my dear. This is what I wanted you to see.

Quite a beauty, isn’t it? I will say, although quite humbly I assure you, that these particular monkshood are the deepest shade of purple I’ve ever seen. DON’T TOUCH THEM! Christ, Caroline, you are going to be the death of me. They’re exceedingly poisonous. I mean exceedingly so. If a child were to touch one its lovely blossoms, well, it’d be lights out. For good. One does not mess with monkshood.

So.

I must say, Caroline, you are looking remarkably better than you did the other day. So you’ve settled in at the Weston Suites? Very good rooms there. Top of the line breakfast buffet as well. And I am downright impressed with the new hairdo – much more modern, more YOU, if I may say so. That long braid you always wore dragged your features down. You look 10 years younger, Caroline. No, it’s true. You do.

Good for you.

Now I hate to seem crude, but I think it’s time to get down to brass tacks, as they say. Have you come to a decision? Good! Let’s go inside and we’ll talk details over a cup of tea.

***

My word, Caroline – did you color your hair? I love it! No, I do! I would never have thought red on you but I must say it looks amazing. And look at you, you went clothes shopping I see. Color me impressed. Freedom is going to look very good on you, Caroline.

Now then, did you get the supplies I requested? Good. And you’ve moved back into the home? What did that jerk say when you came crawling back? God, they really do think they’re God’s gift, don’t they? No end to their egos. I bet he WAS happy to have you back, you gorgeous thing.

He said that? Never look at another woman again, huh? Well we’ll just see how long that lasts, won’t we? Just like a man to look you right in the eye, tell you you’re the love of their life. Make you think you’re special, different. Honestly, cheating is a sport with guys like Gary.

What? No, I’ve never met your husband! What a silly question. You told me his name when we first met, remember? You’re not getting all paranoid on me, are you Caroline? I meant men in general, Caroline. I used your husband’s name because we were talking about YOUR husband.

Why are you looking at me like that?

What do you mean, how old is my daughter? Just what are you implying, Caroline? Are you implying what I think you’re implying? If so, then you can just walk right …

I should hope you’re sorry! I know are under a lot of stress right now, but really.

I forgive you.

Anyway. Let’s move past this, shall we?

So, to the supplies. It’s convenient that your husband is already a tea drinker. Nothing more suspicious than a spilled glass of tea at a crime scene where the decedent is a dyed-in-the-wool coffee drinker – or God forbid, a beer-drinking, football-watching, foul-burping good old boy. Dealt with one of those once, and by the time I was done I was so sympathetic to the poor woman I threw in evidence dispersal for free.

You purchased the loose-leaf artisanal herbal tea I recommended off Etsy, correct? Perfect. That seller, fortunately, is a slob – I’ve even had a dried beetle in one of her jars before, so no one will bat an eyelid when they find a stray purple garden flower or two in the mix.

It’s these fine details that make me the sought-after professional that I am, Caroline.

Now do it just like we talked about. Make him the tea, sweeten it well with honey and lemon to mask any lingering taste … no Caroline, I didn’t know that Gary liked his tea with honey and lemon, how would I possibly know that? Are you starting this again, Caroline? Christ, I made an assumption. Doesn’t everyone put honey and lemon in their tea? You don’t? Well, it’s a generalization, Caroline. For Pete’s sake! If this is how you -

Jesus Caroline, stop apologizing. Don’t you dare start crying. Save it for the crime scene. Let’s just get through this, alright?

So, you’ll serve him the tea … and make it strong, Caroline – we don’t want him recovering after a week in the hospital for Heaven’s sake! Do things right the first time, I always say. Rub his shoulders or something, get him to relax. Make sure he drinks the whole thing. And leave the tea strainer right out in the open – don’t act like you’ve got anything to hide. You’re just the grieving wife, remember? Really, yours is the easy part.

***

Why hello, Caroline! Didn’t expect to see you today! Look at you, you’re absolutely glowing! Yes I did see you on tv – you played your part amazingly. Did you notice I sent flowers to the gravesite? Just a little ironic touch I like to add. No charge, of course. A little chuckle on my part.

So what brings you here today? Yes, please come in – shall I take your coat and gloves? No?

Oh really, Caroline, there’s no need to thank me in person. Pride in a job well done is all I need. That and my fee, ha ha. But of course I’ll shake your hand! I’m so glad you found me as well. It was a mutually beneficial transaction.

You know though, Caroline, that’s funny. I don’t remember how you said you found me. I was so worried about your crying – oh, excuse my stomach, I’m feeling a little woozy right now. Goodness, my mouth is dry. But how did you learn about me?

Caroline, I need to sit down. My heart is racing. I’m …

Caroline, why are you smiling? I’m genuinely not feeling well right now! I think I may be having a heart attack. Caroline … Caroline! Could you please ... could you … call … 911 …I …

Caroline … what have you done?

***

Josephine, you know and I know that begging a cheating man to change is a waste of time. They’re liars who take whatever they want, whenever they want, breaking hearts along the way. It’s like milking a bull, honey - you’re just going to get hurt. And the bull gets off on it.

You go ahead and cry, dear. Please don’t apologize. I understand.

But like I said, Josephine, these men never change. And don’t get me wrong, women can be just as bad. I learned this the hard way, Josephine. My late husband was a serial cheater, and those horrible women he slept with were every bit as guilty as he was. You’d think us females would stick together, wouldn’t you.?

In fact, that’s how I got started in this business. Found a business card for my predecessor in Gary’s pants pocket while doing his laundry. She thought she had me fooled, Josephine. Denied everything, the hussy.

She’s the reason we at Caroline’s Creative Solutions offer our two-for-one special. Why not add a little revenge to the mix? Really, the overhead costs don’t change much and frankly, I find it very satisfying.

I see from your expression, Josephine, that we’re on the same page.

Come dear, let me show you my garden. Do you have gloves?

Short Story

Christina Seine

Herbalist, beekeeper, grandmother, single mother, moon child. She/her. I live in Alaska and this land is part of my soul. Dogs>people. Weeds>lawns. Words>numbers. INFP, Chaotic Good.

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Christina Seine
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