“Susan, is that chilli you’re cooking?”
“Tony, you know I hate chilli so why would I be cooking it?”
“Because you know I like it? I bought a jar of that new chilli powder yesterday. The one we saw advertised last week.”
Susan continued stirring the pot that was simmering on the hotplate. He knows I despised chilli but he always insists on me cooking it.
Ever since returning from their honeymoon three months earlier, it was always what he wanted. ‘Cook this’ or ‘Bake that’. It never ended. I’ll give him chilli. She reached for the large decorative chilli jar from the shelf and read the label.
HOT CHILLI, use one tablespoon to each pound of chicken or beef.
With a wicked chuckle she removed the lid and upended the jar into the saucepan.
“Smells good. I thought you didn’t like chilli.”
“I don’t. I decided if other couples can do it, so can we. I’ll cook what you like some days. Other days I’ll cook something I like.” Like fun. I cooked two separate meals.
“That’s one of the things I love about you, Susan. You’re considerate to the needs of others and I promise in future, I’ll be more considerate to your likes and dislikes.”
Guilt brought a deep shade of red to her neck and face. It burned deep. Shame engulfed her. She took a mouthful of her meal before rising from the table to retrieve a jug of water from the kitchen.
“Wow must be good.” Tony smiled and reached for his cutlery.
Lingering out of sight, Susan took a deep breath, releasing it slowly before leaving the kitchen. Tony was quiet. Well, maybe he likes it that hot. She return to the table carrying the jug; her head hung low. Before placing the water in front of him she glanced up briefly and looked into his eyes. Anger reflected back at her or was it fear? His face was contorted and she was suddenly aware he was struggling for air.
Momentarily shocked, Susan gasped. Dropping the jug she heard it crash to the floor but didn’t see it fall.
“Tony, Tony. Breathe, Tony.”
Frantically she began to shake him.
His face went from red to purple. Bluish tinged lips pulsed as his breathing labored. He fell to the floor with a thud. With eyes wide in shock he flung his arms around before seizing his shirt collar.
“Tony” she screamed.
Gasping changed to a strangulating wheeze as Tony fought to breathe. Grabbing the hand-held telephone from the nearby bench she dialled for help.
His body became motionless; his eyes closed. Gently wiping the moisture from his brow with her sleeve she tried not to panic. God, what have I done? She knelt beside her husband’s lifeless body willing him to live.
“Come on. Come on. Answer. God, don’t let him die. Please don’t let him…”
Without waiting for the operator to speak she shouted into the phone.
“He’s dying. Help me, please.”
“Calm down and explain the problem so I can.” The woman’s voice was gentle but firm.
As quickly as she could speak through her growing terror she explained about the chilli. The operator gave immediate resuscitation instructions and asked for her address.
Tears streaked Susan’s face and mingled with the perspiration that continued to drench Tony’s brow. Placing the hand-held phone in the pocket of her blouse she tried to concentrate on the resuscitation technique the operator kept repeating. Hold the chin up. Clear the airways. Listen for his breathing. Breathe hard into his mouth. Pump the heart.
Finally two paramedics entered by the back door. Susan moved aside. One moved closer to continue the procedure. The second paramedic tried to calm her as he rapidly searched for a vein in Tony’s limp arm.
Later that night, Susan sat exhausted by the hospital bed where Tony slept peacefully. Thankfully the paramedics were able to revive him shortly after their arrival. He was given an adrenaline injection and transported to the hospital for observation. An allergic reaction, the doctor had informed her. It wasn’t the amount it was the kind she used.
“As if that makes me feel any better” she whispered to nobody in particular.
“What happened?” Tony’s voice was hoarse.
“Shhh, don’t talk now. It was the chilli. I used too much and you had a reaction. I’m sorry, Tony.” She swallowed nervously.
Susan’s voice faulted before continuing her terrible confession.
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