The maitre d’ walked Pamela and Pete to a table for two at the back of the restaurant, feeling the ominous weight of knowing that the night would not end well. It was Saturday and the busiest shift of the week. He didn’t have time to deal with challenging customers and, as he smiled and pulled out Pamela’s chair, wondered if they might leave and never come back if he ‘accidentally’ pulled the chair away from her descending backside rather than catch her in it. He wondered, but didn’t act. And he hated himself for it.
The waitress serving the back table scowled at the maitre d’ then stormed into the kitchen, slamming the two way doors against the counter where the prep cook was chopping onions.
“Hey! Relax. It’s just a door. What did it ever do to you?” he joked.
“They’re back,” Kvetoslava said though clenched teeth.
The prep cook poked his head around the corner. His shoulders and his smile dropped when he saw Pete.
“You should have called in sick,” he said.
Kvetoslava stared at the closed doors and yelled, “Oyobuk! I can’t serve him. I won’t.”
Julia arrived home from a visit with her mother thirty minutes later than she’d planned. Bobby was standing in the driveway waiting for her. She could tell he was upset by his posture—he tilted his head to his left and forced his weight onto his right leg whenever he was angry. She pretended not to notice.
“Hi, Honey! How was your day?” Julia asked, smiling and leaning forward to kiss him as he helped her out of the car.
“Fine. Until you decided to leave me wondering if you were dead or alive for the last hour,” he said, pulling his head away from her greeting.
“Sorry. You know Mom. She got on about Aunt Lilly and there was no stopping her. I tried to call to let you know I’d be late.”
As Julia stepped away from her car, Bobby stepped toward it and sat down in the driver’s seat.
“Keys,” he ordered.
Alice woke to the familiar sound of cupboards being slammed in the kitchen. Her stomach tensed and she moaned. Denzel rolled and wrapped her in his arms.
“I’ll talk to her again today, all right, Lovey?” he said.
Alice nodded and let the silent tear roll down her cheek to the corner of her mouth.
“Have you talked to Isaac?” she asked.
Her husband was silent which Alice accurately interpreted as “Yes, but he won’t hear a thing I’m saying.”
“We can’t live like this anymore. I can’t live this way.”
“We’ll fix it by the end of the month. Can you hang on until then?”
Alice sighed and pulled Denzel’s arms more tightly around her, “I’ll be counting the days, the hours.”
“Brave face, Lovey. We don’t want to lose Isaac, too.”
Alice and Denzel’s thirty-year marriage was being tested by the return home of their youngest child. In truth, they were thrilled to have him back after his two year adventure living abroad. What they weren’t thrilled about was what he’d brought home from Spain: a wife named Concepción, a woman three years older than him, and already once divorced.
Sophia wrote out the ingredient list to prepare her husband’s favourite dinner: his grandmother’s lasagna recipe, homemade bread and caesar salad made with anchovies. Between the shopping and prep time, Sophia thought she’d need three hours before the lasagna was in the oven plus ninety minutes of baking time. And since Titus insisted on having dinner on the table at six sharp every night, Sophia asked her boss if she could leave early that day.
“Have an appointment?” he asked.
“Sort of. I’d like to make Titus his favourite dinner for Valentine’s Day. His nose is still out-of-joint that I didn’t do anything special for our anniversary, so…”
Sophia’s boss shook his head, “And what did Mr. Wonderful do for your anniversary Soph? Did he cook your favourite meal? Buy you flowers? Pick up the laundry?”
Sophia laughed, “No. He didn’t really do anything either. Well, except go ballistic that I’d forgotten,” she said, still smiling.