As continued from Part 12
FOUR YEARS EARLIER
Monday, July 23, 2012
Surprisingly the food was marvelous. It was my first time to eat ribs that taste and smell that great. I found myself acting exactly like Leon when he was young; I pushed the veggies aside and devoured the meat. I even put the fork and knife away and used my hands – they were delaying me. The meat was so good, like the spices were mixed with honey.
Across the table for two, Elijah laughed. I stopped chewing and smiled. “What?” I asked with a full mouth.
He said, “The fork is wasting your time?”
I laughed. But the meat in my mouth choked me. I coughed and swallowed it already seeing mom laughing at me in my head. He would laugh at me for getting consequences of bad table manners when she taught me all the good ones.
“Sorry. You okay?” Elijah said.
I coughed whilst nodding. “How did you know this place? I have never eaten ribs like this. I wonder how they grill them. Soft, tender. The spicing is also perfect. And it has this sweetish taste.”
“I googled. I also didn’t know the place,” Elijah said.
“Yeah they are so good,” I sipped the mango and orange juice, staring at Elijah’s face. “Again, thanks, sweety. I feel so special. You really got me on this one – I never saw even one sign you were preparing a surprise.”
“You talk like the other surprises were not perfectly…”
I giggled. “Let me confess, baby”
Elijah smiled. “Confess?”
“The last surprise wasn’t a surprise. I knew you were preparing something. I was kind-of expecting.”
Elijah’s forehead shrunk whilst he shook his head. “So you have a job waiting for you in Hollywood.”
I laughed staring at his eyes.
“But I was sure you were surprised. When I told you, you almost jumped – you hugged – you kissed me. It looked real.”
“How was your day? You know I had a horrible, horrible day,” I said, trying to change the subject. I could sense I made a mistake. Faking being surprised could be a big issue with Elijah. Such a petty thing could graduate to serious talk about other things I faked. He was such a man of truth and detail in a way that astonished me sometimes. He was just a machine like the computers he programmed. And it’s not like he enforced it on other people only, but he was also truthful to God and himself. One time he discovered that a Price Chopper cashier gave him a dollar extra in his change and he went via the shop the following day and returned the dollar. So I had to make him forget the surprise faking thing. I couldn’t understand why I told him in the first place. It must had been the ribs that overstretched my feelings and I talked things I shouldn’t have.
I slapped the table. Elijah jumped a bit. “Come back. Where are you?”
“Oh sorry. There is a minor thing I’m trying to process.”
I knew he was processing the surprise faking thing. “Come back to the party, baby.”
He stared at my eyes. “You said you had a horrible day.”
“Oh yes, sweety. I made a fool of myself today. Please don’t laugh like the people at the bus stop.”
Elijah started laughing even before I mentioned the scene I made. I also laughed, “But you are laughing already.”
“I’m laughing at the way you say it, not what you will tell me. Here you are telling me you’re going to tell me something that’s very funny, but you request me not to laugh at this funny thing you are about to tell me. Babe, laughing is a reflex…” He laughed again.
“You laugh I kill you.”
“Ok deal. So if I don’t laugh I kill you.”
“No. I’m the only one who must kill you if you laugh. Baby, I chased the bus today. I arrived late at the bus stop and he drove off.”
He looked like a swelling yeast bun. “Weren’t you in high heels in the morning?”
“That was the problem. I was, baby.”
He broke and laughed hysterically. I grabbed his arm and pinched it. He pulled it away. I joined in and laughed. I was surprised I was having great fun with my man. It was a lovely night even though when we arrived I was angry that he brought me to such a cheap restaurant. But the taste of the food changed many things, including my attitude. And I enjoyed the night-out he arranged for the two of us – no kids, cat or dog – just the two of us.
He stopped laughing, “Did the driver see you?”
“No. He drove on until some people in the bus and next to the road shouted. Then he saw me and stopped.”
“But on a serious note, I also don’t like the way things are. As your husband, I wish we had at least one small car. Just a cheap Honda Civic.”
I stared at his face. “When will that day come, Elijah? It’s been ten years now. You have been saying the same thing over and over again, but no results. You made me take a huge loan that I have to pay for the next five, six years. It’s not even a mortgage, but money which your company ate up and reported a loss in the end. A loss, Elijah.”
He gazed at my eyes looking like he had been slapped hard on his face. “How can you say ‘your company, your company’? Isn’t it our company?”
A big part of me regretted I had spoiled a great, great night. But I had no option now, I had to plough on. I had to spill the beans as Mila stressed. “Elijah, do you know how it feels to wear cheap clothes, cheap shoes, cheap perfume if you are a woman? Do you know how it feels like to have your husband called a good-for-nothing brother by gossiping girls at work? You feel worthless and empty. Even secretaries drive to work. Even gardeners, Elijah. Gardeners. But me, Mrs. Turner, the software designer, I board a bus. My kid is in public school. Do you know how I feel about all these things?”
Unfortunately my tone had risen. I discovered when I saw people staring at us. I felt awful I acted way out of my character. Elijah stared at me, calm like nothing happened. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe me. I couldn’t believe him. How could he remain ever so calm? Like I was a lunatic.
After an uncomfortable stretch of silence Elijah said, “So you are saying we have to run our life like your workmates. You are saying I’m not capable of running my house. I have to consult your colleagues for direction and wisdom, because I am a fool. I have no mind of my own. Why did you marry a foolish and incapable man? Why don’t you go to those women’s husbands and ask to be their second wife.”
“Don’t make me a fool. You heard what I said. I said forget about that pathetic company of yours and get a real job.”
A male waiter hastened to our table and asked us to lower our voices. Again, I was not aware it had risen again.
Elijah stared at me still looking calm like nothing happened. That irked me so deeply. I felt insulted. I was clearly the only one who had lost her mind. Even the people in the restaurant saw it that way. I sweated. I wished he could also burst and talk from his lungs. I hated I was failing to get through to him. He had some sort of an invisible shield surrounding his heart and mind. “My God.”
He leaned forward and placed both arms on the table. Then he laughed – laughter of a serial killer. My stomach turned twice for his face was so close. I even smelled the ribs in his breath. “Grace. Tell me the truth on this one. When was the last time you talked to Mila about us?”
My eyes bulged. I almost withdrew my stare to his eyes. “It wasn’t about us. It was about me. Just girl’s stuff.”
His unwavering gaze into my eyeballs made my stomach turn again.
He took the restaurant bill holder and put the money inside. Then he stood up, took his cell phone and left.
I thought I was going to collapse and die. People glanced and stared at me. Some laughed after some guy in the left corner of the restaurant said “Ouch!” Only one lady at my back whispered, “Sorry.”
I felt small and useless. Extremely undesired. I couldn’t believe he left me sitting alone like a dumped cheap girlfriend. How could he dare forget I was his wife? His wife.
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