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Drama Fiction Mystery

I like cooking, it’s therapeutic. Cooking for another person is particularly healing, especially for someone who appreciates what they have been served. My kitchen holds everything I need to prepare and cook the finest food. I just lack the motivation to do it for just myself.

Janice has always loved her food and so, when we decided to have a date-night in, I was excited and keen to show her that I have maintained my culinary skills since we’ve drifted apart. Even though we are still married, we live totally separate lives. She lives upstairs and I have the ground floor. It’s worked for some considerable time. I have to point out that our estrangement is not of my doing, it’s just Janice wanting to not be tied down; her words. As much as Janice loves food, I have loved her from the first day I set eyes on her. She was quite beautiful, I always thought, with her curly red hair and curves to match. Although, in recent years, she has become much thinner. We met at school and whenever we were in the same class we sat next to each other. She was popular then, as she is now, but we made a connection that we still maintain to this day.

 On Saturday morning I was up early, showered and off to the fresh food market to grab the best produce I could find. I knew that she would still be in bed at this hour. She was not an early riser, so the house was quiet. It was raining as I headed out but not enough to dampen my spirits as I searched amongst the goods on sale; looking for inspiration. Janice and I had been together, on and off, for thirty years so I think I know what she likes.

The previous evening I had dug out all my old recipe books, some handed down, some recently purchased. But, even though I had lots of ideas I have made no real decision as to the content of the meal, just ideas. Lots of ideas floating about my brain.

Of course, this evening is to be much more than just food. I hope it might lead to us reconciling our differences. Life without Janice had been sombre and, for want of a better word, lonely. I am not one of life’s happy to be single people. Sadly, Janice counts herself amongst that number and so has always been difficult to pin down to any sort of real commitment. As we have grown older, however, I think that maybe her wild and carefree ways may be behind her now. The pleasures of a wild youth make for good memories but can easily be looked at as foolish as you progress deep into middle age.

I grabbed what I thought I needed and headed home to my small terraced house. Emptying my shopping out onto the work surface I finally decided to make a sweet potato soup as a starter with a serving of crusty bread. Followed by the main course of bacon and chicken in a rich tomato sauce on a bed of linguini pasta. I would then offer her the choice of ice cream if she wanted it, even though I know she is not really into desserts as such. I am aiming to please as I set about preparing our food.

Once I’d done everything I could with the food and covered it or placed it in the fridge for later, I set about cleaning the kitchen, lounge and hall. I even went to the trouble of changing the bedding, well you never know, and tidying everything away. When all was sparkling and to my satisfaction, I walked down to the local wine shop and spent some time discussing the menu with the owner, who recommended suitable wines for each course. He also explained how to keep the wine; some chilled and some at room temperature. Not being a drinker myself it was good and useful information.

Returning home I then began to think about clothes. What should I wear? I opened the wardrobe and surveyed my meagre assortment of finery. Not very fine; but then I don’t go out much. I haven’t had a date for ten years, and that date was with Janice. So I’m not too sure if that even counts as a date as we are living together. I found a blue silk shirt, one I know she likes me in. Then a pair of comfortable chinos which had remained a decent fit too. The shirt was a little creased, having hung there for quite some time. I put it under the mattress to see if I could get it looking more presentable. My iron had long since given up the ghost. The trousers, I felt could also do with the crease sharpening so they went under the bed too. Then I lay back on them to add some weight to the pressing process. I closed my eyes, just for a moment, and by the time I reopened them over two hours had passed and I was now really up against the clock. I rushed from the bedroom and began cooking the food. Then I set the table with a fine, clean white table cloth, matching napkins and after cleaning and polishing the cutlery placed it equidistant on the table. A couple of years ago I had bought some new placemats so I broke them out of the wrapping and put them out too. Then I gave my water and wine glasses a sparkle and later I would put the wine on the table.

Everything was going really well but I was beginning to feel a little nervous and apprehensive about the coming evening.

Janice and I have never had the easiest of relationships with arguments commonly turning into fights but I am certain that we have always loved each other. I watched the clock as the minutes past agonisingly slowly. Seven o'clock arrived but there was no knock on the door. When it got to seven-thirty I opened the door and called her name, still, nothing happened. At eight I rang her mobile number which went straight to voicemail. I left a short message.

'Hi,' I said. 'Are you running bit late?'

I imagined her listening to the message and saying angrily.

 ‘What do you mean, late? Late for what?' She would be annoyed, I can imagine it in her tone.

'Oh, was that tonight?' She’d say after a couple of silent minutes.

I waited for her to ring back but the phone remained quiet. I decided that, even though she hated me coming up to her bedroom, I had to make sure she was okay. I mounted the stairs silently, crossed the landing and opened her bedroom door.

She lay beneath the covers, as she had done for the past ten years. Unmoving, unhearing, unseeing.

I sat on the bed beside her as we look at the radiant faces on our wedding photograph which stands on her bedside table. Always beautiful in white, I think, and she still wears that dress today.

February 19, 2021 15:20

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2 comments

The Manticore
17:44 Feb 27, 2021

Hi Steve, we're here from the critique circle! This is a lovely story with good descriptions and prose. You show the sadness and loneliness of the main character in an excellent, wistful way. The only critique I have to offer is the use more dialogue, because there are a lot of big blocky passages that are tempting to skip because there's nothing to break up. We submitted our fourth story for Contest 80 and it's old now, but we'd still love a comment or feedback on it if you happen to have time. It's about an old couple who love each other...

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Steve Cripwell
10:38 Feb 28, 2021

Thanks for reading and comments. Always grateful

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