Dinner For Two

 

She jumps, imperceptibly, at the buzz from the stove timer. She scoffs at herself as she grabs the pot holders that match her floral dress. The heat from the oven blankets her face and she half closes her eyes as it washes across her. Grabbing the glass baking dish, she sets it on the waiting mat on top of the little island centered in her cozy kitchen. The sweet smell of teriyaki fills the bright room as the scent of the onion and peppers stuffed within the chicken breasts bite at her sinuses.

“Just another minute,” she calls out to the other room. 

He is waiting there, she knows. She cannot see him without moving to the other side of the island. She assumes he is perusing her bookshelf, assessing her personality from the various titles on the outward spines. She worries for a moment that she has left her mail on the tiny side table by the door. He might infer that she has lied about her name. Wendy but with an ‘i’ she had told him, and he had repeated it.

She scoffs again at herself; no need to worry about that anymore.

She dresses the chicken breasts on the plate with crushed pineapples and spoons a side of rice. She thinks of meeting him just the week before. There were a lot of loud people in that place and after several drinks, and even more dances, they exchanged numbers. They met for dinner the following day. 

It was a terrible restaurant that smelled of too much grease and tequila. They had shared jokes about the poor food, and she had gotten him to agree to call her later so she could make him a real meal. 

He had arrived the day before with flowers and a bottle of wine. Her dish had been inspired by the one the restaurant had failed so miserably at. They laughed, and enjoyed a few more drinks. While he relieved himself in the room with the pastel pink bath mat, she had slipped his phone from his coat. She removed the battery and broke the sim card and placed the pieces in the trash under the sink. 

She brings out the plates of chicken breasts and rice and pours a rich red wine into the glasses that had been standing guard at the table’s placemats. He is sitting there in the same blue and white shirt, with its starched collar, that he had been wearing when he arrived the evening before. He looks at her with his eyebrows slightly up. A bit forlorn of a look as she considers their deep brown. She takes her first bite congratulating herself on the chicken. 

She speaks light-heartedly to him while she eats. Talking about her mother and her father. She tells him about their controlling ways and how she hadn’t ventured outside her own backyard until she was nearly twelve. She explains that while he was waiting she had placed his car in the garage for him. She tells him it can stay there for now, but it too would eventually have to go. She smiles at him, the corners of her mouth moving high enough to squint her eyes; he is such a good listener.

Grabbing the last bite of chicken with her fingers she slides it around the plate, sloping up the juice from the pineapple. She licks her fingers with a smacking as she savors the final piece. She closes her eyes, feeling them flutter. I should really cook like this more often, she thinks.

She stands and picks the plates from the table, “Well, you’ve hardly touched yours. You don’t like it?” 

He looks up at her. His eyes even bigger than before, his mouth turned downward. He seems off to her. He seems so sad. But of course, she thinks, he had received some bad news when he woke up that morning. 

“I guess that could ruin anyone’s appetite,” she says and scoops up the dishes and deposits them into the porcelain sink. She makes only symbolic attempts at cleaning up. The kitchen can wait until morning, she decides. There is other work to do.

She turns, finding him standing there, his shoulders slumped and his eyes drifting to the floor. So sad, she thinks as she reaches behind her back and begins to draw the zipper of her dress down. Her bra and matching panties make contact with the cold tile floor a second after her dress. She steps free of them. He had said she was beautiful last night. She saunters her way down the short hallway to the room that holds the bed they had shared the night before. He trudges along behind. She doesn’t bother to glance back. 

She carries herself across the room, but he stops just inside the door. Her eyes find his. Her face hardens as she turns toward the bed, and then looks back at him. Her hands clenching and unclenching into fists. She sets them high on her hips to steady them.

“You see what you’ve left me to clean up! Will you look at this mess.”

She stares into his eyes and thinks he may cry, if only he could. She looks around the room. A blue and white shirt with a starch-stiffened collar lay to one side. On the other, a pair of pants, and some boxers with a strange green print to them. She doesn’t care for the boxers. On the bed, his body lay as naked and exposed as she left it. The knife was still in the sheath she had made of his chest. Hands still on her hips, she shakes her head as she gazes across the room at his vaporous form, “You only cried out once, but you were quite the bleeder.” 

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