Maintaining a stable relationship, especially a romantic one, can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but when one member of the partnership possesses . . . let’s say, unique characteristics, preserving that bond can be particularly challenging.
“Hello, darling,” Paul said, handing her a bouquet of vibrant purple and yellow flowers.
Aurora Cummins smiled, her face was bright and lively. “Thank you, sweetheart.” She took a whiff of the earthy aroma. “Daises, my favorite.”
“Sorry, I’m late.”
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “I just put the salmon in the oven. How about you pour us some wine, and I’ll grab a vase.”
Her third-floor apartment was . . . cozy, yes, that’s the appropriate word to use. Not small, but cozy. The living room furniture was an eclectic assortment of pieces from the Victorian era, the walls were burnt orange faux finished to look textured, and the lamps stained glass in a panoply of colors.
“Had a dispute with a patient.” He uncorked a bottle of Pinot Grigio and poured two glasses half full. “Twenty-seven-year-old female that most certainly has daddy issues.”
“Not again,” her voice from the kitchen.
He laughed and said, “Yep, had to clarify that I’m absolutely not her daddy.”
“It isn’t funny, Paul.” She stepped back into the living room with the daises in a crystal vase. She had never been the jealous type, but this relationship was important to her. Not because he was a prominent therapist, or because he looked like a GQ model (a five-eleven version of Tom Brady), but because she had fallen in love with him. Sure, they had their problems, but all couples had hitches. “This is our six-month anniversary, and I don’t want to talk about other women tonight.”
“Okay,” he said, handing her a glass of wine, “you’re the boss lady.”
“To a long and happy life together.” She clinked her glass against his. “And to fewer female patients.”
They both laughed and took a sip of wine.
She noticed he wrinkled his nose and was about to read his mind; however, she stopped herself after reflecting on their last conversation regarding telepathy. He had asked—no, forbidden was more accurate—her to stop reading his mind. Said it was unnerving. Creepy. That night had ended with them not speaking for almost a week. Furthermore, they hadn’t yet explored each other sexually, and she was hoping (no, yearning) tonight would be the night they . . . well, connected. So, she prudently decided to ask, “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing,” he said, “I just prefer my Pinot a bit less tepid.”
“Sorry, baby, but I forgot to chill it.” She raised her left hand, pressed her thumb against her middle finger, and was prepared to snap.
He interrupted her, “Don’t do it!”
Aurora jumped in surprise at the tone and volume of his voice, felt her cheeks burn. She batted her eyes to prevent the tears from coming but could already feel their sting. “I’m not a child.”
“You’re acting like one. Do you recall the last time?” He set his glass on the table. “You were just going to reheat my coffee, remember?” He held his left hand out for her to see. “I still have the burn marks to remind me.”
Now she observed him through watery eyes that distorted his vision. “I’m sorry, Paul. I’m not perfect.” She averted her gaze toward the floor and fiddled with the string on her peach wrap dress, searching her mind for the proper words to abate the situation. “I get carried away sometimes, that’s all.”
He took a deep breath and sat down on the couch. “I know, sweetheart. Come here.” He patted the cushion beside him. “Sit down and tell me all about it.”
Please, not the therapist, she thought. Nothing irritated her more than when he played therapist with her. It’s how she imagined Freud would have endeavored to placate a woman back in the days of yore; perhaps believing her to be a lunatic with daddy issues. What next, tell me about your mother? “Let’s forget it. I want to enjoy the evening together.”
“What’s that smell?” he asked. “It smells like—"
“Salmon,” she yelled. “The salmon is burning.” She bolted into the kitchen and yanked open the oven door. A plume of rank smoke and steam assaulted her. She waved her hand in front of her face, trying to get a better look. “Oh, no.”
The fish, or what was left of it, resembled three bricks of charcoal. She slipped an oven mitt over her hand and removed the glass dish containing the scorched remains, placing it on the counter. She took off the glove and glanced toward the living room. Then, looking back at the overcooked food, she whispered, “Not tonight.”
She snapped her fingers.
The salmon was transformed, now perfectly cooked, looking like something you’d see Bobby Flay prepare on the Food Network channel, moist with just a hint of caramelization. And the kitchen was devoid of smoke and foul odor, too.
“Perfect,” she said quietly. Then, for him, “It’s fine—dinner in five.”
Mr. GQ (a.k.a. Paul Sanders) wiped his mouth with a napkin and said, “Darling, that salmon was perfect. He placed the fingertips of a closed hand to his lips and kissed them, then opened his hand like a flower. “Delizioso.”
“I’m glad you liked it,” she said, pushing her chair back and trying not to laugh. “Why don’t you go relax on the couch while I clean up.”
“I can help you, sweetheart,” he said.
“No, I invited you over for dinner, not to perform chores.” She nodded it the direction of the living room. “I’ll bring you some coffee in a few minutes.”
Paul returned to the living room, and she made several trips from the dining nook to the kitchen, carrying plates, glasses, and serving dishes, smiling at him with each pass. And now, standing in the kitchen, looking at a counter full of dirty dishes, she pondered why life had to be so complicated. She was a respectable woman. A bit, how would you say, untraditional, yeah, that’s the word. But a good woman none the less. So why had all her past relationships ended with . . .
From the other room, “Hey, are you bringing some coffee?”
She smiled and snapped her fingers twice. The dishes vanished, the leftovers disappeared, and two cups of coffee sat on the counter, steam wafting upward from the porcelain mugs. She grabbed the cups and spun around.
“I thought we talked about this before,” he said, standing in the doorway. “You made a promise to me.”
“I can explain, Paul.” She could see that all-too-familiar look written on his face. “Please, let me explain. I know I made a promise, but—”
“Enough.” He shook his head. “I’m very disappointed with you, Aurora. But more than that, I just cannot be with you anymore. No, not if you continue using this . . . this . . .”
“Gift,” she said. “It’s a gift. And I’m lucky to have been blessed with such a talent.” Her hands began to tremble. “Can’t you see that?”
“Talent? It scares me, Aurora, and I can’t live with that.” He turned and headed for the door.
“Come back, Paul, please.” She dropped the cups, which shattered on the tile floor, hot coffee splashing her legs. “Don’t run away.” She sprinted after him.
He unlocked the deadbolt and reached for the doorknob.
“Stop!” she yelled, snapping her fingers. Paul froze. Then, similar to a scene from a B-horror movie, he spun around like a human top, eyes wide, body stiff. His lips moved in soundless gesticulations. “You listen here, Doc.” She slid closer without moving the lower half of her body, hands now clenched into fists. “I’ve put a lot of work into this relationship. And I’ll be damned if you’re going to screw it up.”
Paul’s face looked pallid, eyes darting wildly from side to side as if looking for someone to facilitate his escape. She snapped her fingers again. This time, her dress was replaced with a sexy red babydoll made of fine silk. “Tonight, you’re going to be my therapist.”
She sauntered forward and said, “And I’ve got daddy issues.”