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so long as you both shall live

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Click—click—click—click— Constance tapped her nails slowly on the vanity. The room was dim; only a pooling candle illuminated the rich wood paneling of its depths. She glanced in the mirror, over her shoulder at her husband sprawled across the rumpled sheets of their bed. Drunk, again. It was a scant two months since their wedding, and he couldn’t even stay sober long enough to pay her the attention she deserved. Day in and day out, he’d come home from his lucrative railway job and be insensate on the couch or in the bed in a matter of hours. 

She’d had hopes for this match. Reginald had been head-over-heels for her when they’d become engaged. He’d lavished her with gifts — jewelry, outings to the theatre, beautiful new gowns, trips abroad. She’d been proud to be displayed on his arm, a gem in the firmament of their bustling social life. But, oh, how quickly things soured once vows were made and rings exchanged. At least she had a plan. One must always have a plan, ready to put into action when things went south. 

She looked evenly at herself in the mirror. Beautiful yet. Still, she grimaced at the wrinkles she saw at the corner of her eye and pressed her finger gingerly at them. Youth was increasingly beyond her; widowed three times over, she could no longer pretend to be the innocent girl she once was. If Reginald couldn’t treat her as she deserved, well, she’d have to find someone who would. She’d had plenty of practice at that game, after all, tiptoeing the tightrope of seeming available, intriguing, but not overly forward. And the sizable sums in her poor late husband’s bank account would soften the blow of being widowed once again. His will was safe at their solicitor’s office, his new wife named as his sole inheritor, a flush bounty ripe for the taking. 

She slid open the drawer on her vanity and reached into its dusty depths. The clink of her nails against the tiny glass vial stowed away in the back corner sent an anticipatory thrill up her spine. The pharmacist hadn’t thought twice when she had purchased the arsenic, a month ago now. They never did. A sweet smile, a generic complaint of an asthmatic child — it was all one needed. 

She felt an odd detachment as she fetched a glass of water, and an aspirin for his headache. Her nerves had gone, and all that was left was the picture of a solicitous wife. It was easy as anything, to poison someone who trusted you. 

She tipped the powder into the glass. Till death do us part, indeed.