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They sat in the back in a booth and Nina ordered a burger, poutine and a coke. She said to him that it was the only way if he couldn’t divorce Christina. It was better this way, a new beginning. She had it all planned out and the details made his head hurt. They would have to kill Christina while she was at home making sure the kids were at school.

Suffocating her would be the best way, with a pillow. Richard mentioned that she took a midday nap, and Nina thought that would be a perfect time and then they would turn on the gas and let the house explode. They would assume she fell asleep, asphyxiated by the gas, and then of course the terrible explosion. It would be quick and painless and very humane. Then they would be together and would make love. She thought if they did it on Valentine's Day it would make it really special and so romantic. She kept talking, very calmly and rationally telling Richard that it was the best thing to do, and at some point he realized it was after six and he’d forgotten about the kids, and Christina was going to kill him. He left quickly and paid the bill and Nina wanted some spending money to buy new clothes, so he gave her $100. It wasn’t enough so she walked him over to an ATM and he withdrew another $100 for her and another $100 for himself. She kissed his cheek and he left.

He went to Elizabeth and Ludwig’s school, and sure enough they were the only two kids left. He apologized profusely, picked up a bucket of fried chicken, and told them not to say anything to their mother. He had to give Elizabeth $60 dollars, and told Ludwig he could have whatever model kit he wanted tomorrow.

He couldn’t concentrate at work. His secretary transferred six calls from Nina, and he let each ring through. He explained to Lisa that it was client he was trying to avoid, but he knew she knew he was having an affair. Throughout the day he looked up the numbers of temp agencies, but in the end decided not to fire her. Instead he sent her to get flowers. Two-dozen red roses, and something for herself.

Valentine's Day.

The morning was like any other. Richard got dressed in his nicest double breasted suit, and when he went downstairs to the kitchen, Christina was making pancakes for everyone. The flame from the stove disturbed him greatly. Richard gave her a dozen roses with a kiss and she was ecstatic. Elizabeth went on and on about how many Valentine cards she was going to give and how she wondered how many she would get, considering that she was so “hot.” She told Ludwig, who wondered if he would get any, that of course he would. His teacher would give him one! Ludwig said, “Yuck,” and they all laughed together. They felt like a real family for once. Christina drove the kids to school and Richard went to work by Metro. He didn’t alter one aspect of his routine, and worked straight till 1 p.m., when he told Lisa he was going home for lunch and would be back late. He arrived at his home forty-five minutes later, and when he quietly let himself in, he found Nina already waiting for inside. He almost hyperventilated. “What have you done to Christina?” he whispered. “Nothing yet. She’s asleep.” Nina wore long white gloves. Richard walked up stairs and sure enough, he could see his wife’s chest rise and fall with her breathing. He left the room and went downstairs into the kitchen where Nina stood by the element, hand ready to turn on the gas. “Ready?” she said. “I don’t think I can do this.” She chastised him. “Of course you can! Don’t ruin this for us Richard.”

Richard teared up and Nina yelled at him some more, and it was during this exchange that Christina walked in wondering what was going on. Richard, already crying, confessed everything to Nina’s horror, and then they both watched as Christina seemed like she was going to scream, clutched her chest, clenched her teeth, and died of a heart attack right there in the middle of the kitchen. Richard called 911 and the ambulance and fire trucks came. She was pronounced dead. Richard was in shock. Nina told the medical examiner that she came over when Richard phoned her after dialing 911 and that Mrs. Appleby was already dead when she arrived. She was there to take care of the kids, she was their babysitter, and just to help out Richard out in this terrible tragedy. She picked up Beth and Ludwig from school for Richard. The kids were understandably upset when she told them.

Nina, Beth and Richard put Ludwig to bed. He didn’t quite understand it and Nina suggested that they give him some alcohol in his milk to sleep. Beth wanted Nina to stay overnight, and she thought it was a wonderful idea, although for the first time Richard had reservations about it. He had forgotten to give Nina her roses, and Nina thought they were just perfect and lovely (she did pick them out). That night Nina made love to Richard and he tried not to cry the entire time. Afterwards, she slept in the spare bedroom so she wouldn’t raise suspicion. It was the most romantic day of her entire life.

Nina didn’t attend the funeral, but she did supply the flowers (white lilies). She helped Richard prepare for the wake, and explained to the many guests that came through the house that she was the children’s au pair. The roses had wilted by the end of the week.

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