Phoebe wasn’t mad; the certificate proved it. Yet this day would see her do the maddest thing possible. Her friends and family would ever-more remember her as that woman who… never mind.
She dressed carefully; presentation was everything. To pull this off she’d need to be on top of her game, instinct aided by senses on high alert.
Stepping onto the pavement, she paused. The world looked so normal, clearly oblivious to her intent. There was old Mrs R, poking about in her daughters garden with as much enthusiasm as Mr R poked about in other peoples affairs, him being the residents association chairman and the local shopkeeper, making for a lethal combination. He especially liked to get his hands on most women’s affairs if he could. How Mrs R had put up with him all these years, Phoebe didn’t know.
That rogue young lad from No 5 was late for school again, flying down the footpath with no care for the safety of others, but today, there was a difference. His flying feet skidded on a loose piece of cardboard, leaving him sprawled across No 11’s driveway. The good news is he won’t get detention for this one; there’s always a silver lining.
Old Mr A’s hanging out his wife’s washing. Such a dear. It’s a good three years since his wife passed on, but he promised her he’d continue his routines and he always kept his word. So reliable, Mr A.
The problem with getting cancer, Phoebe thought, was all the trouble it caused. Everyone fussing, like she’d already died. Then there’s all the expectations, appointments, pills. Not for her, thank you. She’d decided, and that was that. Of course, the family had tried to prove she was unfit to make the decision, but now the certificate set her free. Free to live while she could, and free to die.
So, she’d made a list. Not a bucket list; didn’t have a bucket for a start. No, an unfinished business list. She wanted to die with no regrets, no wishes left. Like all good planners, she’d read up about stuff, and learned that you don’t get to rot in jail if you’re sick, unless murder was involved, and she wasn’t going to go quite that far.
So, first up, that Mr R. Normally his hands would pounce on Phoebe as she entered his shop, crawling their way towards places no-one was allowed. Today all his wishes would come true, but of course, he should have been more careful about what he wished for, because it won’t turn out how he imagined.
Phoebe made her way past the crowd accumulating around the boy, noting that the piece of cardboard she’d dropped there earlier had been shoved out the way. It never ceased to amaze Phoebe how people materialized when something newsworthy was happening. She could hear multiple sirens approaching with speed. So pleasing that Police were attending as well as Ambulance. It’s good to live in a caring community.
Stepping into Mr R’s shop, Phoebe was pleased to see he was clearly torn between watching proceedings outside and tending her needs. Predictably, he was able to position himself so he could do both in a cake-and-eat-it-too kind of way. To his surprise, she brushed his hand with her over-lipsticked mouth, leaving a smudge. ‘Back in a moment’ she murmured, batting her eye-lashes. Mr R realized it was almost Christmas, and nodded, reaching over to change the door sign to ‘closed.’
Phoebe then ducked behind a tall shelf of canned goods. ‘How fitting’, she thought, and proceeded, with infinite care, to muss up her hair, turn her skirt half around, and, with great effort, rip open her blouse. The two buttons she’d almost cut off earlier flew off in a most satisfactory way. She kicked off one shoe, and dropped her purse, pushing it under the shelf.
Taking a deep breath, she counted down 3…2…1…blast off! She screamed, and screamed again, pulling cans off the shelves. Mr R came running, and tried to grab her flailing arms. They fought, but he was no match for her fired up energy, fueled by her need for revenge. She scrambled to the door, yelling for help. Mr R desperately tried to stop her, his hands mauling at her clothes. Words tumbled out of her mouth, unchecked. ‘Rape! Get off! Don’t touch me!’
The crowd turned, assessed the situation in a second. Mr R was pinned to the footpath by strong men, whilst Phoebe was led off whimpering, to be cossetted by caring neighbors. Someone brought her a blanket. A second ambulance was called.
As Phoebe stepped up into the ambulance, she caught a glimpse of a belligerent Mr R being bundled into a Police car. Mrs R was standing off a little, behind the crowd. Mr A stood by her side, his arm around her protectively. In that moment, a message flashed between the two women; a wink from Mrs R to the victim. ‘Thank you’. Phoebe smiled.
And that’s how it was that the boy from No 5 learned to walk to school, Phoebe came to be remembered as the heroine who escaped certain rape, and Mrs R became the second Mrs A.