All the long years they had been married, and Walter's hypochondria had never been as bad as this.
He lay on his bed, pale and sweating, and the doctor had said it wouldn't take long now and there was nothing to be done. So Fran knelt next to his bed, holding his hand and looking at him, silent.
You know, Walter believed he had been cursed. By Miss Blythom, the old hag living next door. No one liked that woman. She had been enraged by Fran's cat Pirate doing his business in her garden, between rosemary and thyme. There had been several angry letters, some shouting and finally a dead cat, lying in front of their house one morning when Walter came out to pick up the newspaper.
Of course he had gone next door immediately. Fran had tried to stop him - maybe Pirate had been run over by a car, after all - but he had not been convinced. And when Mrs. Blythom opened the door, in her black morning gown neatly tied over her long white night gown, she had pointed two claw-like fingers at him, given him the "evil stare" and started laughing.
Walter had stopped dead in his tracks, the dead cat hanging from his limp arm like a forgotten purse he had tried to return to the wrong person, the blood draining from his face. He had turned around with strange staccato movements, gone home and straight to their marital bed.
That had been one week ago. He hadn't gotten up once, and the sheets were stained with sweat and urine. The doctor, of course, hadn't found anything. And now Fran watched, helplessly, as her husband died.
Fifty-three years of marriage, mostly happy, no children, all in all half a dozen cats. Of course she could have told him that magic didn't exist, and that he was imagining it all, like back when he had been convinced he suffered from tuberculosis and had prepared a room in the basement for his self-imposed quarantaine. But she knew it was useless.
She could as well have told him she knew the banning spell, from her grandmother, but she had had to promise him, when they married, that she would not dabble in these "irrational folk believes" anymore and that she would get rid of those strange symbols scattered about her room back at her mother's place. And Fran kept her promises.
Carefully, she got up and closed his eyes with trembling fingers. Then she went downstairs to prepare herself a nice cup of tea. After that, she would figure out how to pay that old hag back. No one killed her loved ones and got away.
Too bad Walter had never believed her.