She opened her mouth but then decided to say, “It’s okay for me”.
He pushed the plate in front of her. It was beautiful, she thought: the brims graced with blue paint, swirls merging and forming into branches and leaves and flowers.
And its inside was equally pretty: the perfectly squared corners, the toasted egg yolk condensed between the spinach and goat cheese veinings, of the slice of quiche resting peacefully on the white ceramic.
She looked up at his eyes, which were commanding what he said politely.
The empty room around them, her figure bending over the table, diving into her own personal cruciation. She fluctuated the full fork in the air before trapping between her hesitant lips.
The unrequested carbs and unsaturated and saturated fats and iron and potassium and Vitamin B’s and calcium descended in her stomach, and she sensed–
The welkin rang…
and rang, and rang,
But she did not pick up the phone
that time either.
“You,” she whispered with gritted teeth, but she could do nothing but clench her fists and stare at her.
And she realised she could not let her eyes meet his anymore.
His inwardness exasperated her, his disorganization made her vent in hours-long phone calls while the listener stirred on a chicken soup – i.e., her mother living in Long Island.
But every time she heard him sliding under the duvet at night, trying not to wake her up even if he still smelled like walnuts and pecans, she knew there was nothing she wouldn’t do for him.
It had never occurred to her before.
She watched her father carelessly polish the buttery crab meat from the corners of his mouth – 40% of which had remained in the shells, the wine he would try and pour in his glass only to notice it was closed and thus beckoning the assistance of Amelia just to uncork the bottle.
Her father kept moving with the same pattern she’d seen every dinner time despite the words of the magistrate, whose baritone voice much resembled her father’s:
“You should have accepted that” – to that her father kept on gulping wine and seafood, but with the trepidation, now she noticed, of someone consuming his last supper.
Her mother smacked her hand still holding the seared sea scallop. This returned into the plate violently, splashing the key lime vinaigrette onto her white blouse.
“Mom!” she protested.
“I told you to use a knife and fork” her mother uttered while skewering a fish morsel with a prong.
He glimpsed her figure from the canape side of the table. He had been stopped by the new Associate professor to discuss the lecture notes for History on Medieval Literature.
But he was looking at the red dress she was wearing. They bought it together a couple of years back in Panama, it had a deep neckline encrusted with irregular pearls. It slid slightly across her small breasts as she told a story to a gathering around her, who burst into laughter at the end of it.
She caught his sight – he stood next to the professor with his fists descending along his suite, recalling her mouth screaming, her watery eyes from earlier that afternoon.
She smiled at him. And it took a couple of seconds to him to smile back.
It was only a second’s fraction, a skin’s particle passing by within the beat of an eyelash; but yet, she longed to believe that his touch was anything but accidental.