Tom Bradshaw’s Wife
In the wake of Nelle Bradshaw’s death, her neighbours are unsure what to believe
Leamington Grove is all grey tiles, green lawns and white plaster. If you looked through the windows of each house, you’d see the same lonely couples, the same lace curtains, and the same spare bedrooms from sons who had long since moved on to Liverpool. But today, a yellow line fluttered across the third house from the main road.
Fenella Bradshaw had lived alone with her husband.
That’s what the papers had printed, somewhat fittingly. Fenella Bradshaw, 54, has sadly passed away after suffering horrific injuries from a prolonged knife attack. Her husband,55, has been arrested pending police inquiries. That’s all she was, two lines of print in a national sensation. If anyone had bothered to ask, she would have liked to have been called Nelle. Not Fenella. Fenella was a fantasy cooked up by an aspirant mother.
Only Tom had called her Fenella
The neighbours had gossiped, of course. But this time, it was less a bonding ritual so much as an expression of innocence. No one had ever seen anything. Of course, if they had, they would have sent their Josephs or Stephens around to sort him out. But Tom had been such a nice man.
Such a nice man, our Tom
A good man, was Tom. A quiet man. Used to be a science teacher down at the grammar, back in the nineties. Kept himself to himself. Nice lawn, he had. That’s all anyone had told the journalists from The Daily Mirror, spat out with a shrug and an apologetic smile. Of course, it was awful. But what could be done? Nelle was dead.
Of course, anyone who had lived nextdoor to the Bradshaws could have told you that the lace curtains twitched more for them than at any other house along the road. There were late night rows, tears, and thumps against the walls. Occasionally, the sound of a woman crying herself to sleep. Sometimes the light came on in the lounge, but only Tom would come downstairs. Nothing to worry about, the housewives had whispered. Nice middle class family.
It’s not like he hits her
No, she must have really wound him up, she must have. The brutality of the attack had left the estate stunned. The post-mortem had revealed a total of seven stab wounds to the chest, three to the abdomen and eight to the throat. The body had been strangled and then placed on the settee. He still had her blood on his hands when he called the police.
But why would he?” Rachel Reed from №4 had inquired that Thursday, over an unnecessary cup of tea. “I just don’t see why a quiet man would snap like that. Not eighteen times.” Her sister had shrugged, going back to folding the laundry.
“She must have really upset him, Rach.”
That was the real question, of course. What terrible thing had Nell Bradshaw done to deserve that?
“Maybe she wanted to leave.” Jessica had suggested. “Maybe she had another man and he saw red.”
Rachel snorted. “No man would ever nick Nelle Bradshaw.”
“Maybe she wanted the house in a divorce.”
“You don’t stab your wife eighteen times over a bloody house.”
Jessica’s eyes flickered slightly. “Although,” she said lightly, “I did see that young tart in the car with him at Warley Grove.” Rachel sat up, peering at her sister with renewed interest.
“What did she look like?”
“Bookish,” she said, frowning. “Black hair, very young. Maybe twenty.”
The woman in question was Nancy Carriero, 24. Fenella Bradshaw had been The Wife until four days ago. A relic of the early nineties, haunting his wallet in a white dress that stuck out above her shoulders. He had showed her once, still half naked in a hotel towel, guilt staining the corners of his mouth. She wondered now if he had shown her the picture to tell her something.
No man marries the woman he makes love to in a budget hotel on the M62
They met on Tuesdays after he finished squash with Richard and before dinner with Nella. He apologised every time. She wasn’t sure whether he was apologising to her or his wife. A weak man. Maybe he liked her because her face didn’t show what she thought of him. Lying there on the cheap polyester sheets, he had found guilt, and she had found company. “I shouldn’t be here,” he’d say again and again, kissing the nape of her neck. “Oh God, I’m so sorry.”
Oh God, I’m so sorry
Maybe Nelle had found out. Maybe that’s why he did it. She wondered whether Tom could have killed her, as well. He didn’t seem capable of it, so limp and anxious, hands so deep into his pockets. But that’s what everyone says about the men who murder their women. It seemed like smothering a mewling dove in your hands, the feathers helpless and clinging to your skin. Something so monstrous, so unneccessary. We don’t want to believe that human men could be capable of it. That deed was best left to creatures of the underworld.
They were just peonies from the petrol station. Pink and red, the petals peeling in the June sun. Nancy put them by Nelle’s headstone.
In Loving Memory of Fenella Bradshaw
Taken From Us Too Soon 8th June 2018
Perhaps it was sacrilege to her to put them there. They were just peonies.