The Wrong Response (92)

“I mean, Steven, Josephine Falcone isn’t the only one who knows how to play the game,” said Louise with a wry smile. The siblings were now seated in Steven Bains’ small kitchen, drinking depressingly warm glasses of water. “Get some ice for this, didn’t you let the tap run? Anyway, I knew the old broad did it. I know how much she loathes me, so I’m giving her a taste of her own medicine…arsenic, to be exact.”

Steven’s face twisted into a frown of uncertainty as his sister spoke. “You what?”was all he could manage to speak.

“Don’t look so disgusted! You said it yourself, she tried to kill me! Anyway, I’m not trying to kill her, just make her as uncomfortable as possible…it’s working, too. She’s been moaning and groaning around that house lately. And guess what? She trying to pull one over on me again, acting so helpless and remorseful. That’s what got me into this in the first place!”

Steven sighed and looked around the room in disbelief. “Jesus Christ, Louise! Are you hearing yourself? Arsenic doesn’t just make people sick. If they’re exposed long enough, it breaks down all the organs and they die! Their blood doesn’t run in your veins! You’re not a murderer!”

Louise gave a half-smile and shook her head. “That didn’t take long! Steven, the woman’s been out to get me since day one. I’m not letting her get away with it anymore, no matter what you say!”

“I told you, I have proof that’ll lock ’em both up. This isn’t the way to get even, Louise. How long have you been at this?”

“Two weeks,” said Louise indifferently.

“Knock it off, I mean it. It won’t look good in court. As far as we both know, this never happened.”

Louise crossed her legs and began wagging her foot, pouting.

***

The stomach pains thwarted Josephine Falcone as if an axe were being shoved in her side with every breath she drew. The already-frail woman dragged herself from her bathroom back to her bed, appearing as a thin as a shadow, and just as dim. The curtains were still drawn from the night before. She could not bear to open them. She could not bear to let the outside world see her as a fraction of what she used to be.

She paused at bookshelf near her bedside and removed a heavy, leather-bound boo– the family photo album. The pages reeked of wasted time and energy. As she flipped through the pages, she came upon a section of Michael’s wedding. “He looks so happy…” she said faintly.

Her eyes glanced around the page and fell to a snapshot of Louise laughing with Michael over cake. Stella Bains and Redmond Gardner stood smiling in the background. However, all she could focus on was herself. The photo revealed a family at one of the happiest times of life. Josephine stood in the photo with her usual scowl, looking anything but interested.

“What have I done?” shouted Josephine, as she slammed the book shut, “I’ve been wasting all these years hating her, hating her and everyone else with everything I’ve got. Now, I’m practically dead, and what’ve I got to show for it? A family that’s falling apart! Damn it!”

For the first time in a long while, tears began to fall from Josephine’s narrow, wrinkled eyes. Their warmth seemed to sear her cheeks as they rolled downward.

“I’ve done this to myself. This is His way of punishing me, I know it is. God, why didn’t I see it sooner? It’s too late now…”

The old woman fell into her afghans softly, waiting for hope that seemed farther than she could ever reach.

END

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