Dinner for Two

She stands partially hidden by a drapery panel, pretends she is not watching the road, not waiting for him to come home. She counts off the cars as they drive past, looking for lucky combinations. Two vans and then it'll be his car. A pick-up going in the opposite direction will mean half-an-hour more to wait. She knows this is nonsense, hates herself for caring. At one time, she had wanted someone to lead her into a night of light and music, bright enough and loud enough to let her abandon herself to joy. Now that joy was as illusive as full breasts, she would settle for indifference. How did that song go? Hit the road, Jack and don't you come back no more . . . Hit the road, Gord. . .

She counts the years. Forty-two and already she can't recognize herself when she catches her image in a store mirror. Stern. When did the neck start to sag?

The patterned ring of the telephone, harsh insistent, startles her. Long distance. She bites her lower lip, counts off the seconds in her head, and reluctantly picks up the receiver. It's her mother with the speaker phone cranked up so her husband can follow the conversation.

"Well, we were a little worried, what with no one sending an e-mail or phoning, " says her mother. "Usually there's something from you."

"I sent an e-mail last week." She lies.

"We were just wondering, if everything was all right."

"Are you sure you didn't delete it by mistake?"

They discuss the unreliability of computers, electronic messages. She thanks them for the birthday card, congratulates her mother for learning how to send attachments, and promises she'll write regularly.

"Busy at work, I suppose . . ."

Accusation lingers on the line like a loose thread.

She plunges ahead. "It's been crazy. Everybody wants their projects finished yesterday." I have to stay close to home. Just in case.

"There's nothing wrong with Gordon, is there?"

"Gord's find. We're both fine, Mother." Hang up, Mother. Hang up.

"Take care, Elizabeth."

"You, too." My heart is sick, Mother. Don't go.

She lies down on the kitchen floor, solid, cool, an operating table unsheathed. She rips her heart out with her bare hands, covers her breasts with blood. When Gord comes home, they'll tear the heart into bite-size pieces, thread the pieces on metal skewers to grill over an open flame. They'll eat at a table covered with a hunter green tablecloth. He'll remove the burgundy-ginger napkins from the wine glasses and fill them with a robust red.

Copyright 2003 Louisa Howerow