Nobody knew about Randall. He came in the night.
Rhonda listened for her husband’s deep breathing and when she heard the familiar rhythm she slipped out of bed, carefully slid open the door and crept onto the balcony.
Tonight was clear and still with air so crisp you could almost smell the stars. Randall was perched on the railing in his usual spot waiting for her and staring straight ahead with his secretive eyes.
Rhonda reached into her robe pocket and pulled out a cigarette, stuck it between her lips, lit it and inhaled suddenly like a newborn taking its first breath.
“You ought to quit,” Randall said.
“Mind your own business, you dirty owl.” Rhonda snapped. Rhonda hated it when Randall complained about her smoking. She hated a lot of things about Randall — especially the fact that he was slowly convincing her to murder her husband.
“He’s the reason you’re always having panic attacks. Having to go to the hospital. Not being able to breath.” Randall raised his wings and fluffed his white feathers loudly. “You’d be better off without him.”
“Who. That’s my line.” Randall blinked. Then focused his gaze into Rhonda’s soul. “Don’t be obtuse.”
“I can’t do it!”
“Because I’m not a murderer!”
“Sure you are. You just need to get in touch with your inner murderer. Everybody’s got one. Given a certain set of circumstances, enough rage and a fortuitous blunt instrument, that is.
“You nasty snake eater! Just looking at you makes me want to take a shower!” Rhonda flicked a long ash off the end of her cigarette and aimlessly smeared it around with the toe of her slipper. “If I listen to you, I’ll end up on death row! You’re the one I should kill.”
“Ha! What’d I tell you? See how easy it is to get in touch with your inner murderer? It won’t be long now. I’ll bet you already got a gun. Maybe you stole one.”
Rhonda drew deeply on her cigarette then coughed out a harsh, smoky laugh.“Let’s just say I was able to get in touch with my inner thief.”
Someone was jiggling the balcony door. Randall took flight just before Rhonda’s husband stepped out onto the balcony.
“What the hell is going on out here? Christ sakes! Who are you talking to?”
Rhonda kept her cool. “Just having a cigarette, Robert.” She said not as pleasantly as she could muster, but pleasantly enough considering she was, after all, planning his murder.
Robert put both his hands on the railing. “Hear that? There’s an owl out there somewhere. I hear it almost every night. Must live up in one of these trees.”
A little smile crossed Rhonda’s face as she stubbed out her cigarette and tossed it into the darkness.