By Megan P Haskell
By Megan P Haskell
Mary opened the window in the front room. A gentle breeze ruffled the sheer curtains and washed through the house as she finished preparing dinner. The evening would be perfect. Everything was planned down to the tiniest detail.
Earlier in the day, Mary had carefully unwrapped the small frozen wedding cake, unable to believe that an entire year had passed. The sugar flowers still looked lovely. The cake now sat proudly on display as the centerpiece of the table, her grandmother’s prized silver candlesticks framing it with perfect white tapers.
Jacob was due home from work at seven. His favorite dinner was almost ready; the only thing missing was the garlic bread, which would be broiled at the last minute.
At 6:55 Mary lit the candles so that the flame would be big and beautiful, its light dancing on the lace tablecloth, and then returned to the kitchen to finish the last of the dishes before he arrived. She didn't want anything to interrupt their evening.
At 7:02 all the dishes were done. Mary stood looking out the window, hoping every pair of headlights belonged to Jacob’s big pickup truck. She was disappointed each time they passed her by.
At 7:17 Mary paced the room, her little black dress flowing gently around her. She had purchased the dress especially for this evening, spending more than she probably should have. It was a special occasion; their first in what she hoped would be many. Surely Jacob would be home soon. The flash of light sent her running to the window, but it was just the neighbor's red Nissan.
At 7:23 Mary put the bread under the broiler. A late husband was a hungry husband and she didn’t want to make Jacob wait.
At 7:26 the bread was finished, and Jacob still wasn't home. Mary nibbled a small buttery slice while it was still warm before wrapping the rest in a cloth and placing it in the basket. She set the basket on the table and sat, her knee jiggling.
At 7:38 Mary's stomach growled loudly and her arms were riddled with goosebumps. She called the main office, but no one answered. She called his cell. It rang twice, then went to his voicemail. The food was getting cold and Jacob was ignoring her calls.
At 7:51 Mary ate a small serving of the perfect homemade lasagna, but put the rest away. He was an hour late. He hadn’t called. She blew out the candles and put away the unused dishes.
At 8:28 he still wasn't home. Mary stood in the front room, staring at the empty street. Cars no longer passed; all the husbands were home. All but her own. She felt like a peeping tom watching the shadows move behind the blinds of her neighbors' houses.
At 8:39 Mary tried calling his cell phone again. There was still no answer. She decided she might as well get out of her dress. The store might let her return it since she hadn’t spilled anything. She didn’t want to - it was a beautiful dress - but she couldn’t justify the cost. There wouldn’t be another chance to wear it.
At 9:03 Mary returned to the kitchen wearing her oldest and most comfortable pair of pajamas. The beautiful cake taunted her from its seat on the table. She succumbed to the temptation and cut a slice, carrying it with her to the couch. Mary turned on the TV, flipping through the channels until she found a prime-time soap opera that wouldn’t require much thought.
At 9:07 Mary took a bite of the cake, but could barely swallow the small mouthful. It tasted like cardboard and chalk, not the decadent vanilla and sweet butter cream that she remembered. She set the plate on the coffee table, deciding to deal with the rest later.
At 9:19 Mary heard a car approaching the house. Her husband’s blue Ford was finally pulling up the drive. She watched him open the truck door and stumble out onto the cold gray cement; his slurred curses echoed against the house. Mary closed the window and went to bed, pausing only to throw the leftover cake in the trash.
I hope you liked it. Please feel free to post comments. I've also posted it up on Scribd, so if you're feeling generous and have the time, please rate it and post a comment there as well.