Twenty-minutes passed, he had become completely involved. Twenty minutes ago, she had lost interest. She had plans, reservations for dinner and then the theater. As soon as they walked in, she knew. Of course, she had complete faith in her husband. He had promised.
“Just dropped by to say hi,” they said. Abruptly, uninvited she wanted to believe, they entered, faces hidden behind bags of chips and beers. Standing in the center of her living room she watched as they sloshed into her home. With the grace of walruses, they sank into her couch, and grabbed the remote to watch the game.
“I swear I didn’t ask them to come,” he lied behind teeth lined with chip crumbs. “Just give me a minute to get rid of ‘em.” He loosened his tie and dramatically dragged his feet into the living room—twenty-minutes ago.
She had hoped for better.
She sat in her long black dress, waiting. Watching the minutes pass on the old grandfather clock, she wondered if she should wait much longer. She chewed at her nails, removing most of the topaz polish. She stood, walked to the bedroom, repainted them a deep pink, and resumed her position guarding the grandfather clock. The minutes passed. Her nails dried.
They were late. An hour ago he had meandered unwillingly into the other room. They would have to skip dinner to make it to the show. Kate stood and walked to the refrigerator. Nothing. Nothing when compared to the lobster and salad she had been looking forward to. Looking forward to for some quite some time. They didn’t go out much, but tonight, tonight was special.
Tonight was their anniversary. She had known this would happen. Her friends had warned her. Move your wedding to the spring. But then there was basketball. “No chance,” he said. He wanted to get married in the summer, but she was determined, autumn was her favorite season, followed by spring.
“Summer is too hot for a wedding,” she had said.
Besides, he had never done this before. That is if you forget their first Thanksgiving. They were supposed to go to her parents. A three-hour drive. Unfortunately, there had been the unexpected friends and of course the Thanksgiving Day game.
She spoke softly from the entrance of the living room. It was a den of lions she dared not disturb.
“What?” Her husband asked, having lost his jacket and tie.
“I want to leave.”
“In a minute, I can’t be rude.”
“We’ve missed dinner.”
“Dinner? That sounds good. Make me a sandwich would ya?”
She turned her back to the sweaty men who reeked of beer and grease. She returned to the refrigerator and the leftover roast beef. Kurt’s favorite: lots of mayo, cayenne pepper, one tomato slice, and iceberg, but she was starving for lobster and salad.
She entered the living room, cautiously, unwelcome in their den. She handed Kurt his sandwich, careful not to block the view. She had learned.
Learned the hard way. She thought if she could get up the courage to turn off the TV, then he would listen. She just wanted to talk. He didn’t hit her because she turned it off, but because she wouldn’t turn it back on. He was just in a bad mood, no sleep, hard day at work, his team was losing, but she understood. Beside he had promised. That was a month ago. So far he had kept his promise.
“I want to leave!”
“In a minute.”
Kate walked back into the dining room. She grabbed the day’s unopened mail and sat down across from the old grandfather clock. One was from her mother. She read it three times. They hadn’t seen each other in such a long time. Of course, he could never get away. There was always something at work. Most of the time, there were things to do with his family—who lived five hours in the opposite direction. She stared up at the old grandfather clock. The hands that ticked so slowly had counted two hours. The show had already started. They weren’t going. Time just passed, and she just waited.
It would be nice to visit her mother. She used to see her every weekend. But he had wanted to spend more “alone time.” They never did, and she rarely saw her mother or him. Kate stood to her feet and walked the short distance to their bedroom. Her dress was bothersome, a reminder of the spoiled evening.
She pulled the black satin over her head. Sitting on the bed, she rolled her knee-highs down her firm calves. She sat there for a moment in her strapless black bra and silky black panties and just stared. She lay there until the steady tick of the alarm clock drowned out all other noises, their noises.
She wanted them to leave. She knew they wouldn’t. She rolled off the bed, sitting on the floor momentarily. With a wave of determination her hand found the cold metallic handle of her suitcase under the bed. She flung it on the bed. She had packed a week ago, though he hadn’t noticed. He had called home. “Don’t wait up,” he had said. She didn’t, not past three.
She thought of taking her wedding picture, the one beside their bed, but sent it crashing to the floor instead. She put on a pair of faded blue jeans and grabbed his favorite shirt knowing he would miss it more. It swallowed her. She felt small and lost. Time had passed for too long.
Her purse swung over her shoulder, her suitcase in hand, she marched into the den. They were drunk.
“I want to leave,” she said.
“Give me the keys.” Shock flashed across his face. His friends, for once, fell silent.
“Where are you going?” Her hand extended directly in front of his mouth.
“I’m going to my mother’s. She invited me.” Kate reached for the envelope crammed in her back pocket. “See.” She extended the letter offering proof. He didn’t want it. “Keys!”
“Let’s talk about this. Kitty, you’re embarrassing me.” He grabbed her arm tightly, as he did the month before.
“No.” Kate new better. “I want to leave!” He handed her the keys. She hadn’t expected this. She didn’t want to leave, at least not without him. She just wanted his attention.
“Well go. Go!”
Hate swelled in her breast. She turned, walked out the door, slamming it hard, and left them there, mouths gaped wide—speechless.
He waited. Time passed. Days passed. He sat and stared at the old grandfather clock wondering if it would take her much longer to call. She never called. Time just passed.