Muriel knew the final day of the trial was approaching and that despite trying to prepare herself, she wasn’t ready. But then she didn’t have any choice did she. Judgement day would happen whether Muriel Parker was ready for it or not.
She hadn’t known she had it in her, not at the start. Cecil made all the decisions in their home. He chose where to go on holiday – one of the quiet Costas, nothing flashy – and what sort of clothes she should wear – quiet, nothing flashy. He picked their children’s schools, refused to allow pets into the house, even fairground goldfish, and only approved of Muriel visiting a small circle of girlfriends he had first vetted.
Her first little kick for freedom was at the town council election. Cecil expected Muriel to vote for his golfing buddy Malcolm Patterson, as he did himself. Malcolm was a blustery windbag who believed in treating women as Cecil did, so Muriel voted for someone else. She didn’t care who, didn’t really even know who, but it was a young chap with a nice face called Peter something. Possibly the Green candidate she thought, so he must be at least halfway decent.
Next she bought herself a cerise chiffon scarf to wear about her shoulders under her brown mac. She stuffed it in the sleeve when she took the coat off and Cecil never once thought to look there. Then she signed up for an evening class at the local library, Genealogy for Beginners, and told Cecil she wanted to trace her family tree. He agreed as long as it didn’t interfere with his supper time and he didn’t even think to check who else might be attending the classes. Muriel said she had signed up to keep Ruth company, but she knew no-one and liked it that way.
After the basic course had finished Muriel signed up for a further course, then another, all based at the library near their home. From there she and some of the other genealogists set up a small club meeting weekly in the library on Tuesday mornings. Cecil was at work all day and never asked after Muriel’s day, so she never told him. It made it easier somehow that he simply couldn’t conceive of her doing anything against his wishes or without his permission.
Then she began volunteering at the local hospice, reading to people too ill to read for themselves anymore. And she started to buy her own clothes without Cecil’s approval, only subtly different but skirts with a shorter hem, blouses with a delicate pastel stripe, something with a flower or two decorating the fabric. Muriel often wore her new purchases but with a cardigan over her blouse or a housecoat hiding her skirt. Either Cecil didn’t notice or he didn’t trust his own eyes, so he never said a thing about it.
And then, in March, the Murder happened. It was the culmination of years of frustration, a crime of passion or perhaps of dispassion. Muriel sat through the trial trying to make sense of the questions and the arguments and the legal disagreements and challenges. The summing up batted back and forth and then the jury was out, deliberating.
Now, on the final day, Judgement Day, Muriel knew it was time. The judge admitted the jury and asked whether they had a verdict. Muriel rose.
“We do your honour.”
“And is it the verdict of you all?”
“And what is the verdict of the jury.”
Muriel swallowed then said in a loud voice “Guilty,” her job as foreman of the jury finally discharged.