I slip Leonard's jacket off of its brass hook by the back door, step into his large, heavy mudding boots, grip my walking stick tightly in one hand and find myself reluctant to put it down, even to wrap the jacket around my thin, shaking shoulders. The jacket smells like mildew; I did not hang it up outside to dry properly, did not want Leonard to suspect more than he had to. The corner of my mouth curls as I think about the silly story I told him-fell in a puddle, Leonard, it's no matter-and how readily my husband accepted it, rewrapping his worry for a later time.
Darling, I feel certain I am going mad again. I could hardly write the words; electricity had replaced my veins, thin cords of shock-and-stagger. I jolted around the house in spurts and then buckled, powerless. Useless. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. When I lashed out without reason, the rational piece of my mind screaming at the piece of my mind screaming at the piece of my mind screaming until I dissolved in the sheets, a writhing chaos, a rabid dog to put down. Leonard stroked my forehead, I could feel him, but I couldn't reach him. Demons pressed on my body and I couldn't move. I threw my inner eyes open again and again and again but my eyelids never fluttered.
I can barely lift the rock, but it fits in my husband's large pockets, bulging out. My body tips to the right as I stagger to the banks of the Ouse, peel off my house slippers, and dip in my toes.
You have given me the greatest possible happiness. Where did you do it, Virginia? No one has seen you in days. I did not tell the police of the note you left me-your script like a silent seismograph needle-why didn't you tell anyone? If anyone could have saved me it would have been you. No. I saw your teacup shake in the mornings and said nothing. Cowardly
I would have given anything to keep the peace. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been.
I jerk from your side of the bed and stand up, run into the garage. I peer around for you in corners, but they're only full of yellowing papers, empty cans. I dig in a metal chest on top of the gardening shelves and pull out two bottles-yes, two bottles, they're both here, the seals unbroken. I clutch the morphine to my chest and dry-heave sobs, wondering if you'd planned this even back then, when we talked about our suicides in the face of Nazi invasion, two outspoken Jews. We agreed to do it together, Virginia. Instead, you chose whatever voices whined in your head and convinced you that I would be better off this way. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. I can only hope that you're now free of them.
It is a larger rock this time. As I wade deeper in the river, my nightdress pulls sideways, with the current, and I know this time I will succeed. Leonard's jacket chokes me, its stiff collar cutting into my neck. I can't be dragged along until I'm deep enough, I tell myself, concentrating on putting one foot after the other on the loose sediment bottom. My chin hits the water. My thin lips. I take a deep breath through my nose and allow it to go under too. My grey hair floats above me, reaching like a starved plant for the sunlight, but I continue. The river floor dips down and I follow it, skidding down, the stone pulling now, weighing me down, telling me, no changing your mind now. Accept it. Like it. And I like it. I like the feeling of the water pressing on me-not demon weight, but the comforting press of an embrace. My neck is too weak to keep upright. I lift my knees to my chest and buoy for a moment, before the rock drags me.
I lay on my stomach at the bottom of the river with the stone just under my heart. I feel my pulse in my ears, feel my lungs starting to die-every cell in my body starting to die away. It hurts, and after another second, I lose control-my body, so much more rational, takes over. My legs kick out, float above me. My chest stays with the rock, flat against the bottom, I'm upside down-my hands claw the dirt-rocks lodge under my fingernails-I grip the sand, grip it with fists, and wait, allow my lungs to fill with water. The water is fast, faster than my heart can beat my blood, rushing in my body, filling me with delicious weight. Leonard. I shan't recover this time. He'll think it's my fault. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. The best thing to do. I begin to hear voices, I can't concentrate. They are so loud. My writing
. But these last thoughts slip away, and I fall asleep to the voice in my head whispering, Goodnight, darling. Goodnight, V.