The stark, white-tiled bathroom almost hurt Alex’s eyes as he surveyed the room. He stood clutching the door frame to steady himself. The light bounced off the hard surfaces as he became aware of a faint chemical smell. Tears had welled up into his eyes. He glanced down into the bath again where his wife’s dead body lay. Mila Jones was fully dressed, awkwardly slouched against the cold porcelain. There were no apparent signs of a struggle, no blood nor injury. Her sheer white blouse innocently clung to her breasts and was tucked into the waist of her jeans. Her feet were naked, her shoes neatly positioned on the bathmat.
Somehow the sight of her two beautiful bare feet stabbed him with pain. Something was haunting and isolated about her lying there. She would never walk beside him again. He would never sit on the sofa, gently rubbing her feet as they watched television together while she drifted into a relaxed sleep. He gasped out loud. The sharp loss cut into his very soul. Moments earlier he had tried unsuccessfully to lift her, but in his panic soon realized he needed to call the police. Once his address was established the response was unmistakable.
‘Don’t touch anything!’ The female emergency responder said into his muffled ear. Was it his voice or had sobs and screams already escaped into the room? The painful noise in his head was overwhelming. He couldn’t think. He didn’t know how to explain or what to say. She repeated herself and reassured him the police would soon arrive. He dropped the receiver and strode back to the bathroom. Hoping against cold reality that he had somehow misunderstood. Mila couldn’t be dead. He carefully walked towards her again, her mouth, slack-jawed, a gas mask shoved half over her head. He had pulled it from her face and pushed it back over her long dark hair which straddled the rim of the bath. He felt her neck for a pulse again, his fingers concentrating their efforts to pick up a heartbeat. Nothing. A gas canister and rubber hose lay slumped on the tiled floor. Suddenly the full realization of her death slammed into his consciousness.