The bottle was halfway to empty. I had hoped that I would feel less by now, but the pain continued, the numbing I had anticipated stayed out of reach, and the pain seared my heart.

The day had been long, and there was more to come. It started so well. I had eaten a healthy breakfast, avoiding the pitfalls which tempted me. I had smiled at the right times and given the correct response as often as I could. My life, in short, had been on track. I had almost been paying attention. Not enough, as it turned out. Breakfast had been the highlight of the day.

As it was Saturday, I had time to do some browsing, walking slowly through the market, laughing and choosing food for dinner, and buying the enormous metal key which for some strange reason had called to me. The market was set up on the high street, canopies over the stalls and hustle and bustle. Jimmy went to the flower stall while I was looking at the keys and bought me a bunch of mixed blooms. I should look up the names of the flowers. They lay on my kitchen table, a little crushed, but smelling wonderful. The stall holder who was selling me the key made an “ahh” face when Jimmy passed me the flowers and leaned in for a kiss. He smelled of his aftershave, breakfast, and something that was uniquely him. I smiled into his mouth. He was, I told myself, a good man. His deep brown eyes burned into mine, promising more than flowers. I had loved him for 15 years, and every year seemed better than the last. We were like swans, perfect on the surface, running so hard beneath the water in the darkness.

They poured out of the building society onto the pavement, directly where we were standing. The man cannoned into Jimmy, knocking him and me onto the ground. I was shocked, stunned. Jimmy, not so much. He was back on his feet almost before I was aware we had landed, chest out, head high. He was a lion, an alpha male, a man. He just happened to run into a man who was angry, full of adrenaline and carrying a shotgun. He took the blast straight in the chest. I watched his body crumple. Knees first, landing hard. Then down, lying next to me, his eyes open. I crawled to him, wanting to protect him, make him better. The bag that fell from the robber’s hands landed between me and Jimmy, and I covered it with my body, as I pulled myself to him. He was gone. His eyes, which had laughed down into mine so many times were empty. His mouth, which I had kissed so many times, was still. There was blood, so much blood, and screaming. It took a while before I realized it was me.

There were all sorts of things that had to happen. The police, the ambulance, I had to go to the hospital with Jimmy even though it was clear there was nothing they could do. Eventually, I was able to go home. The pain, the long, harsh unbelievable amount of pain surrounded me. I waited. I knew that he would come. I welcomed his coming. After all, I had something of his. I had stolen from them, and they had stolen from me.

I heard a noise. Nothing strange, just someone moving around near the back door. We lived far away from anyone else. More accurately, I lived far away from anyone else.

The pistol my father had brought home from the Falklands, that we had hidden for all the years since he had died, had suddenly become my best friend. The bottle of brandy was on the kitchen table. My glass was empty. The pistol, not so much. I knew how to load it. I knew where the bullets were kept. Bring it, the fuck, on.

“Do you want the money?” I shouted. I was loud. I knew that, but I was angry. The voice that came back was one thar was entirely new to me.

“All I want is the money. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Too fucking late.” I no longer cared.

I heard them—him? No idea—moving through from the conservatory towards the kitchen. I stood up. I had no business being this angry, but that is very rarely something that stops rage.

“The money is in here, with me.” I stepped away from the table and into the corner of the room, with the walls on both sides of me. “If you want it, come and get it.”

I could hear whoever it was moving through the house towards the kitchen. The lights were low. Not a problem for me. I knew the house. I knew the kitchen. I could care less if I lived or died.

I watched the barrel of his gun come into the room first. I was still. I was more still than I had ever been. The barrel was followed by the rest of the gun, then his hands. His arms. I watched them sweep the room.

“I’m here, as arranged.”

“The money’s on the table. From the bank, and the extra three. That’s what we agreed.” My hand wrapped around the gun in my pocket and made me feel safer.

“That’s great. Only one thing. The price has gone up. There needs to be another three.” He held his hands out to his sides, as though it was something out of his control.

“We had a deal.” I breathed, carefully.

“Things change.” He shrugged. “We want to keep this between us. The extra three will keep my mouth shut.”

“What guarantee do I have that you won’t come back for more?”

“You’re not buying a washing machine. It doesn’t come with a guarantee.” He smiled. I saw the light glint on his teeth, and I knew he would come back, time and again.

“Okay. Fair enough. Grab the money and I’ll take you to get the other three.” He followed me out of the door, into the darkness and the sweet smell of the garden.

“You keep your money in the garden?” His voice lifted with incredulity.

“You wouldn’t have thought of it, and you’re a thief.” I heard him shrug, his jacket shifting fabric against fabric. I knew the garden; he had never been there before, which was why he didn’t see the hole in my veggie patch until he was right on top of it.

“What the fuck?” He turned to me and I squeezed the trigger. I was surprised at how loud it was and that I had done it at all. Easy to plan it before he arrived. Easy to dig the hole. Easy to tell myself that it was my backup plan in case he tried to turn the tables on me. The bloom of the blood on his shirt was dark against the white T-shirt he wore under the open jacket. He watched me, shock written on every feature of his face. I watched him, too.

Jimmy had been unfaithful. He had told me, apologised, told me it was over. He had promised. I had believed him, and I forgave him. Really meant it. The trouble is that forgiveness means that you move past the offence, not that you go blind or deaf. I went into town to get my hair done that afternoon. Jimmy was supposed to be meeting a client. I saw them sitting outside a pub and watched quietly while my insides shrivelled and I hoped, against all sense, that I was mistaken. Following them to a hotel, cheap, not very clean, and with a bored receptionist who let me past, so that I could hear what they were doing. It was loud and heartbreaking.

Dragging the body was hard, but I talked to Jimmy the whole time. Tipping him in, I told myself that it was fair. Jimmy had speared my heart. He had killed Jimmy. I had killed him. He would grow my vegetables. I filled the hole and replanted the vegetables on top. Fuck it. Revenge was supposed to make it better. It tasted like I had been throwing up all night.

The last of the brandy was waiting for me. After I had cleaned the kitchen floor. After I had hosed the path and the grass. The sun came up and found me drinking the last of the brandy. I raised my glass to Jimmy and to the life we could have had. It would be a life on my own from now on, but there would be no lies. I would be me, no compromises.

I hung the key I bought in the market that morning above the front door in my house. A friend asked me what it unlocked. I told them, and it was the truth, I suppose; that it was the key to my heart and it belonged to me.