Read an exerpt from 'Heart of the Maze'

Almond Cookies
By Rain Chapman

There are hundreds of ways to die. You can die while your heart still beats and the world continues to spin on around you. That happened to me. My husband had an affair. 

The private detective I hired informed me Harold has been carrying on with this girl for a little over a year. Can you picture that? A fifty-six year old, bald-headed, pot-bellied, saggy-sacked, semi-retired chemistry teacher and a perky, barely legal, red-headed, twenty-three year old college student - we have kids older than she is.

I managed a meeting with her at her favourite coffee house.   Every morning before she headed for class she stopped in at the Grabba Joe for a low-fat-Swiss-chocolate-almond-mocha and a whole wheat bagel. I managed to wriggle through the crowded shop to plunk my full-figure down at the same table she occupied every day. I placed my purse on the chair she liked to sit in to discourage others from taking the spot I knew she would be looking for as soon as she arrived.

I deserve an Oscar for my performances over the next several days.  Smiling and chatting, asking all kinds of questions as if I was truly interested in this underfed man-trap. I deliberately showed up each time looking my most matronly to put her at ease. “So tell me, a beautiful young girl like you must have someone special in her life. Who’s the lucky man?”

She looked dreamy for a moment before shaking her head to bring it back to the present. “I don’t want you to think badly of me.”

“Dear, I couldn’t think badly of you!  Don’t you know you are my favourite jump start to the day? I am too old to get out there and search for romance, let me enjoy some vicariously through you."  I smiled, trying to make myself appear as harmless and hopeful as possible.

“Well... there is someone. He’s a little older than me but he is so sweet.” She hesitated briefly to quickly scan the tables around us. “He’s married.”

Those two words echoed and rattled through my head like a gunshot in a bullet-proof box. I could not believe she had admitted to sleeping with my husband. I don’t recall the rest of our conversation clearly.  I kept a smile plastered on my lips as she waxed poetic about her special guy.  I even managed a hug when she said she had to go to class. Sitting there with my cup of coffee growing cold before me - the scent of her herbal shampoo still lingering in my nose - I decided to confront my husband about his cheating ways as soon as he returned from the college that night.  

He of course denied everything. I showed him the pictures of him entering her apartment.

“Look Deloris, you don’t understand-“

“Damn right, I don’t understand!  How could you do this with a girl younger than the twins? Have you no shame? No sense of decency or propriety? I don’t know you at all anymore!”

“Could you just listen to what I-“

“No, there is no excuse you could give me that would make this situation bearable.” I ran to our bedroom then.  Slamming the door in my haste to be away from him and what I was positive would be lies. The tears came hot and fast; choking me with their intensity. Harold tapped lightly on the door but did not try to come in.

“Honey? When you are calmer and ready to listen I will explain all about Joan to you. Everything, I promise.  You were right: I did cheat, just not like you think.” I didn’t answer him. What was left of my pride and my breaking heart would not let me.

“Deloris? I guess you’re not ready yet to hear about... I’ll be back.  I’ll give you some space but we need to talk about this - it’s important.” His footsteps clunked hollowly on the hardwood as he walked away. I cried myself to sleep. When I woke up this morning, I knew I was going to kill my husband of thirty-five years and his little harlot too.

 I met her at Joe’s and while she ran to the ladies' room I poured a good sized dollop of cyanide into her drink before I rushed out the door. Harold’s home lab was finally coming in handy. Next I called Harold and asked him to come home so we could talk. He sounded so relieved to hear me calm and wanting to listen to him; he said he would be home in a little over an hour.  So I mixed a special batch of cyanide-almond crunch cookies – they’re Harold’s favourites – and went to take a shower.

When I came into the kitchen he was seated with his head resting on the table.  Little crumbles of cookies were scattered on the shinny wooden surface near his mouth.  His arms were hanging loosely down near his shins. I let out an involuntary shout of surprise.  I had wanted to kill him but I’d wanted to be there for it too. Then I let out another yelp when he raised his head to look at me with agonized eyes.

“Why did you do this? She’s my daughter. I had the affair just after the twins were born and we were having all that trouble. She found me just over a year ago.”

“She said she was having an affair with a married man!” I could hear the hysteria creeping into my voice and was unable to do anything about it.

“She is.  A pre-med student at the college.” He released a rattling breath and fell to the floor in convulsions; spittle flying from his purpling lips, and then he was gone.

I am not sure how long I have been sitting here staring at my dead husband. My hand keeps reaching for cookie after cookie. It shouldn’t be much longer now.

published in the Wilkie Press and the Northwestern Herald




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