Jeremy is still in disbelief, his face full of anger and betrayal and confusion. “This entire time…you’ve been….” He’s trying to keep his voice down, but he looks like he’s about to explode into a rage. He turns and releases his anger with a fist against the door. It makes Verity flinch.
She holds up her hands. “Please, don’t hurt me. I’ll explain everything.”
“Don’t hurt you?” Jeremy spins around, taking a step forward. “You killed her, Verity.”
I can hear the anger in his voice, and it’s just over the monitor. But Verity has a front row seat to it. She tries to jump off the bed to escape him, but he doesn’t allow it. He grabs her by the leg and yanks her back onto the bed. When she starts to scream, he covers her mouth.
They struggle. She’s trying to kick him. He’s trying to hold her down.
Then his other hand forms a circle around her throat.
I run straight up to Verity’s room and stop short when I reach the doorway. Jeremy is on top of her. Her arms are trapped beneath his knees, her legs are kicking at the bed, her feet are digging into the mattress as she wheezes.
She’s trying to fight back, but he overpowers her in every way.
“Jeremy!” I rush to him and try to pull him off of her. All I can think of is Crew and Jeremy’s future and how his anger is not worth a life. His life. “Jeremy!”
He isn’t listening. He refuses to let go of her. I try to get in his face, to calm him, to talk sense into him. “You have to stop. You’re crushing her windpipe. They’ll know you killed her.”
Tears are streaming down his cheeks. “She killed our daughter, Low.” His voice is full of devastation.
I grab his face, try to pull him to me. “Think about Crew,” I say, my voice low. “Your son will not have a father if you do this.”
I see the slow change in him as my words sink in. He eventually pulls his hands from her throat. I double over, gasping for as much breath as Verity is right now. She’s sputtering, trying to inhale. She tries to speak. Or scream. Jeremy covers her mouth and looks at me. There’s a plea in his eyes, but it’s not a plea for me to call for help. It’s a plea for me to help him figure out a better way to end her.
I don’t even argue with him. There is not a single cell in her body that deserves to live after all she’s done. I step back and try to think.
If he chokes her, they’ll know. His handprints will be on her throat. If he smothers her, particles from the pillow will be in her lungs. But we have to do something. If he doesn’t, she’ll get away with it somehow because she’s manipulative. She’ll end up hurting him or Crew. She’ll kill him just like she killed her daughter. Just like she tried to kill Harper as an infant.
Just like she tried to kill Harper as an infant.
“You have to make it look like an accident,” I say, my voice quiet, yet loud enough to be heard over the noises she’s making beneath the palm of his hand. “Make her vomit. Cover her nose and mouth until she stops breathing. It’ll look like she aspirated in her sleep.”
Jeremy’s eyes are wide as he listens to me, but there’s understanding there. He pulls his hands from her mouth and then shoves his fingers down her throat. I turn my head. I can’t watch.
I hear the gagging, and then the choking, and it feels like it goes on forever. Forever.
I sink to the floor, my whole body wracked with tremors. I press my palms against my ears and attempt to ignore the sounds of Verity’s last breaths. Of her last movements. After a while, the sound of three people’s lungs turns into two.
It’s only Jeremy and me breathing right now.
“Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God...” I can’t stop whispering it over and over as the enormity of what we’ve just done begins to register.
Jeremy is quiet, other than the cautious breaths he’s releasing. I don’t want to look at her, but I need to know it’s over.
When I turn my body to face her, she’s staring at me. Only this time, I know she isn’t in there, hiding behind that vacant stare.
Jeremy is on his knees by the bed. He checks her pulse, then his head collapses between his shoulders. He sits, his back to the bed as he catches his breath. He brings both hands to his face, cradling his head. I don’t know if he’s about to cry, but I would understand it if he did. He’s been hit with the reality that his daughter’s death wasn’t an accident. That his wife—the woman he devoted so many years of his life to—was not at all the person he believed her to be. That she was manipulating him the entire time.
Every good memory he’s ever had with his wife died right along with her tonight. Her confessions ripped him apart, and I can see it in the way he’s doubled over now, attempting to process the last hour of his life. The last hour of Verity’s life.
I slap my hand over my mouth and I start to cry. I can’t believe I just helped him kill her. We just killed her.
I can’t stop looking at her.
Jeremy stands and then lifts me into his arms. My eyes are closed as he carries me out of the room and down the stairs. When he lays me on the bed, I want him to crawl in with me. Wrap his arms around me. But he doesn’t. He starts pacing the room, shaking his head, muttering under his breath.
We’re both in shock, I think. I want to reassure him, but I’m too scared to speak or move or accept that this is real.
“Fuck,” he says. And then, louder. “Fuck!”
And there it is. Every memory, every belief, everything he thought he knew about Verity is sinking in.
He looks at me and then strides over to the bed. His trembling hand pushes back my hair. “She died in her sleep,” he says, his words both quiet and rigid. “Okay?”
“In the morning…” His voice is mixed with so much breath as he tries to stay calm. “In the morning, I’ll call the police and tell them I found her when I went to wake her up. It’ll look like she aspirated in her sleep.”
I haven’t stopped nodding. He’s looking at me with concern, with empathy, with apology. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m so sorry.” He leans down and kisses me on the top of my head. “I’ll be right back, Low. I need to go straighten up the room. I need to hide the manuscript.”
He kneels down so that he’s eye to eye with me, as if he wants to make sure I’m getting it. That I understand him.
“We went to bed like normal. Both of us, around midnight. I administered her meds, and then, when I woke up at seven to get Crew ready for school, I found her unresponsive.”
“Verity died in her sleep,” he repeats. “And we’re never going to discuss this again after tonight. After this moment…right now.”
“Alright,” I whisper.
He blows out a slow breath. “Alright.”
After he leaves the room, I can hear him moving things around, walking back and forth, first to his room, then Crew’s room, then Verity’s room, then the bathroom.
He walks to the office and then the kitchen.
Now he’s back in bed with me. Holding me. He holds me tighter now than he ever has before. We don’t sleep. We only fear what the morning will bring.
Seven months later
Verity died in her sleep seven months ago.
Crew took it hard. So did Jeremy, publicly. I left the morning she died and went back to Manhattan. Jeremy had a lot to deal with that week, and I’m sure it would have been even more suspicious had I stayed in his home following the death of his wife.
My outline was approved, as well as the two subsequent outlines. I turned in the first draft of the first novel two weeks ago. I’ve requested an extension on the deadline for the next two novels. It’s going to be hard working on them with a newborn.
She hasn’t arrived yet. She’s not due for another two and a half months. But I’m confident, with Jeremy’s help, I’ll be able to catch up on any work I fall behind on. He’s great with Crew, and he was great with the girls, so I know he’ll be great with our baby girl when she arrives.
We were shocked at first, although not surprised. Things like this happen when you aren’t careful. I worried how Jeremy would take it, becoming a father again after losing two children so close together. But I realized after seeing his excitement that Verity was wrong. Losing one child, or even two, doesn’t mean you’ve lost them all. Jeremy’s grief over the deaths of his daughters is separate from his joy over the impending birth of a new one.