“A whole deer?”
Rhonda nods sagely, offering him more of her parsley tarragon potatoes. She gives him a little smile, pleased to see the look of surprise on his face.
“I didn’t go out hunting with them, but my Dad shot it and then we butchered it together.” His dull brown eyes get just a little brighter as she says this. It’s delightful. He can’t believe it. And, more to the point, she’s actually managing to pull this one over on him.
“I never pictured you as the butchering type.”
That’s not all he hasn’t pictured, but she’s not about to get into that now. He takes more potatoes. He loves her potatoes.
“This is amazing,” he enthuses. “Seems like the meat might have been a bit stringy on its own, but I love how you’ve done it.”
“Mm-hmm. It would have been a little dry, but hey, slow cooking anything helps get over that.”
“Well, if we have an entire carcass in the garage deep freeze, I guess it’s a good thing that I like it.” They both laugh at that one.
“How did your parents like St. Lucia?”
“They loved it. Said it was a really nice break.”
“And they were only home for the weekend, then up to open the cottage?”
“Mm-hmm.” No, they didn’t. They went straight from the airport to the cottage, but she’s not going to tell him that. She’ll need to keep him away from her parents until she’s figured out what to tell them.
He smiles slyly. “So what shoes were you wearing when you were doing your butchering? Did you break out a pair of Louboutins?”
“I wore rubber boots, thank you very much. Blood is tricky to clean.”
“I was thinking you might have got a new pair for the occasion. Saw a Saks bag in the garbage.”
“You’re snooping through our garbage? Fine, I bought a couple of pairs, on sale. I’m not asking you to pay for them, I just fell in love.”
It’s insane how much they talk about her shoes. His own collection- two at a time- speaks volumes about how little he cares what’s on his feet. Hell, his entire wardrobe advertises the fact that this is someone who does not put a lot of thought into aesthetics. Which is funny, because he always likes to be involved in redecorating the house. Rhonda has never quite understood the difference.
“I’m sure they followed you home.”
She gives the perfunctory laugh. He says this every single time she buys shoes. Every time, without fail. It’s not simply that they spend a lot of time talking about her shoes, it’s that they’re having the same conversation each time. Didn’t they used to talk about more things than this? Probably. When we had things we wanted to find out about each other.
“So tell me again what happened with the beamer.”
She gives a brainless little chuckle. “I knocked into a post in the mall parking lot. Took out a headlight and left a dent. It’ll be fixed Thursday.”
“You see? Shoe shopping is dangerous.”
Again with the shoes? At least the story of her little fender bender mishap has given a new wrinkle to the conversation.
“I wasn’t shoe shopping. I was clothes shopping.”
“To go with the new shoes,” she responds with mock reluctance. “And do I make fun of you and your golf stuff?”
“It’s not golf stuff. You need to keep up because everyone expects you to play golf. It’s a business expense.”
“Or the model trains?”
“The day I have as many trains as you have shoes, you can make fun of me.”
“Your trains are more expensive than my shoes.”
“I don’t know. You’re getting up there.”
On the one hand, Rhonda would like to ask if they could just skip this whole conversation and see what happens. They’re stuck in a two hour loop. If they could finish the conversation before settling in front of the television, they might have a genuine exchange. On the other hand, Rhonda doesn’t feel like she could be relaxed and open about anything at the moment. She’s proud of herself, but she still sometimes, without meaning to, has flashes of that dark moment. She’d rather keep quiet.
“They had chanterelles in at Francisco’s this week.”
“Are those in here?” He motions to his dish.
“No. I wanted to save those for a risotto where you can really taste them.”
She wonders how hard it would be to make sausages. For a few hundred bucks she could get a sausage machine and grind them out. Of course, there would be the question of where she could do this. She’d have to take the bits out and thaw them, then grind them up. You must be able to buy casings for those things. And it’s not like he comes into the kitchen when she’s home anyway, other than to grab a snack. She wants to giggle, having some sense of how ridiculous it is that she’s even thinking these things.
“So you’re sure you didn’t scrape another car or anything?”
“At the mall. I mean, if you were distracted. I don’t want to find out some guy’s sending the police after us because you didn’t leave a number or anything.”
“Give me some credit. It was a cement support thing. I’d know if I hit a person.”
“I said a car. One would hope you’d realize if you’d hit a person.”
Rhonda chuckles and looks at her plate. She feels her lungs screaming for oxygen, exactly the same as they had before, but she doesn’t want him to see her gulping big, panicked breaths at the dinner table.
“No other car. Just me talking on my phone and not watching what I was doing.”
“Shame on you.” His chastisement is good-humoured enough. You can’t get him off his phone in the car, even though it’s technically illegal. They even bought headsets for both cars, but both of them have been too lazy or forgetful to install them. “Is there more meat?”
“Oh yes. I made enough for leftovers.”
She always does this, as if they’re suddenly going to get into the habit of packing lunches before they go to work. Part of her would love to bring some in, just to get some opinions around the office. Her own private little joke. OK, she tells herself, you’ve become sick. But who does it hurt now?
She’s lucky and she knows it. All that way home and apparently no one saw anything untoward. Shows how observant they are. And the noise! He might have been making noises for all she new. The noise reduction in the beamer is really top-notch. She’d love to write one of those testimonials for their web site with her story, just to see if they’d actually publish it. Of course not. They’d think it was a morbid joke. But she certainly didn’t hear anything, so bravo to them.
He helps himself to another serving of the meat. It thrills her a little to see how much he’s enjoying it, but it’s always thrilled her to see him enjoy her cooking. It’s like it’s the one time when he can appreciate how good she is at something. Wouldn’t she love to tell him everything now! Although she’s trying to avoid any hubris, she’s well aware of how clever she’s been, how cool under pressure. When she started seeing Dr. Samuels, she could tell he thought it was some basic failure in her coping mechanism, some weakness in her that made her incapable of dealing with the every day. Would she be able to tell Dr. Samuels about this? She makes a mental note to look that up. Someone should be able to appreciate this whole story. It’s not fair that she has to keep the whole thing to herself.
She beams at him over her glass of wine, the two of them sharing a long, pleased look. It’s almost romantic, this communion of the two of them and the food. She hopes she’ll be able to manage the same miracle with the steaks. It’s nice to feel appreciated, even if he’s not ever going to do so to the extent she deserves.
It’s funny, because the flash of the impact bothers her greatly, has even appeared in her nightmares, but the scene at home, in the garage, does no such thing. She’d gingerly stepped down from the SUV, trying to be careful not to get anything splattered on the Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes that were pinching her feet at the end of the day. She’d bent over to get a look and their eyes had met, both of them staring at the other with the curious expression of animals who suddenly find themselves in the zoo. He blinked at her, his face strangely expressionless, but somewhat pained. She’d simply looked at him, overwhelmed with a sense of anticipation; she’d wanted to know what happened next. Finally, of course, she’d realized that it was a blessing that Alan was traveling on business, so that she could simply lock the garage, go into the house, kick off her shoes and figure out what to do.
Once inside, the bizarre calm she had experienced in the garage went away and she’d needed a couple of glasses of Chardonnay to even be able to sit down for a couple of minutes. She’d been a nervous wreck that night, completely overwhelmed and trying desperately to come up with a workable solution. Two or three times, she’d gone into the garage and turned the light on to see if she weren’t imagining things. The next morning when she went in, his chest had finally stopped moving. And then it had all come to her at once, like a rush of divine inspiration. Even the added touch of washing off the beamer and taking it to the mall so that she could bump its already injured front into a column.
“The news is starting soon,” Alan mumbled. She knew perfectly well what was coming next.
“Do you want me to help you with the dishes?” he asked sheepishly.
He did this every night in that exact same tone. He hated rinsing the dishes and stacking them in the dishwasher. He wanted to make believe that he would help if she asked, but he was really requesting permission to go and relax in the TV room while she handled clean-up. And, as usual, she capitulated. There was something cute about him at those moments, something that seemed so much younger than he ever did otherwise.
As she ran the water over the dishes, the remains of dinner sliding away into the garbage disposal, something was troubling her. There were going to be some bits that she couldn’t turn into dinner and what of them?
“Baby,” she called sweetly, that voice that indicated she had a big thing on her mind.
“What do you think about us getting a dog?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I don’t want one of those little rats, I’d want a real dog. We’d have to walk it a lot and everything.”
“Well yes, but there are dog walkers and day cares that we can go to for help.”
“We can look at some breeders if you want.”
The television was on, the full sound system in all its glory trumpeting the theme music to the evening news, so she couldn’t be sure that he was even registering what she was saying. It might be a good solution, though. After all, throwing away a few bones here and there was one thing, but dumping a few pounds of useless meat at one time might come back to haunt her. Besides, they both liked dogs and it would be an excuse for them to get more exercise. She could cook for him or her.
The bad part, she knows, is that eating meat every day is not going to help Alan’s cholesterol. Sure, he has his pills now, but they’re supposed to be watching their diets, not that he wants to, and meat is one of the worst offenders. Wouldn’t that be a miserable stroke of luck, to end up giving Alan a heart attack after all this? The potential for irony makes her chuckle softly to herself before joining him in front of the television.