Sylvia broke the adhesive strip with the same care she would give an infant, or the Hummel figurine in her china cabinet. She shouldn’t have taken it to heart when the new guy slammed her purchase on the meat counter without a word. What could he know about tradition at his age?
She didn’t need him. As she lifted the pair of ribeyes off the wrapping paper, she repeated the words Mr. Jackson usually delivered with a wink. “Just like you and Bob. One petite, the other hardy.”
Still uncomfortable with the new bridge, she would prefer something light and easier to chew, a tuna stuffed tomato or noodles with pesto sauce maybe. But she had served soup and grilled cheese the night before. Bob deserved a full meal tonight.
Not that he would throw a fit the way his brother and James next door did when served anything other than meat and potatoes. Bob kept his temper in check at home, same as he did everywhere else. He complimented the chef and thanked her, even when she fed him quiche, or slapped cold cuts, a loaf of store-bought bread, and a jar of pickled beets on the table in front of him and called it dinner.
She had made a habit of slapped-together meals lately, but he hadn’t uttered the first complaint. A tear rolled to her chin and threatened to dive into the marinade. She caught it with her shoulder as she turned the steaks in the mixture.
How could that man still find lockets of sentiment in her heart after all these years? She sniffed, covered the meat and placed it in the refrigerator to soak, and washed her hands before ripping a paper towel off the roll to wipe her eyes.
Light-headed and unsure whether to credit blood pressure, blood sugar, or romance, she grabbed hold of the counter and waited for the room to stop spinning. As her reflection came into focus in the window over the sink, she smiled. Forget blood. Love was the only thing that took her breath and sent her head reeling so far out of control.
Likewise, Bob’s love for her must be equally zealous to see past the dry, silver mane, creases and bags around her eyes, and the sagging bosom safeguarding her committed heart. She tossed the paper towel in the garbage and stretched to full height, laughing when her breasts remained at her waist. Tonight, for no reason other than gratitude, she would wear her holiday dress for dinner and shock the pants off her husband.
Secure with her returned equilibrium, Sylvia approached the stove on youthful strides. The green beans looked as ready for Bob as she felt. She lowered the flame under them and replaced the lid, wishing she could turn a knob and reduce her heat to a simmer until he came in. Maybe she should alert Dr. Koffman to stand-by for Bob’s heart tonight.
Out of habit, on the way to the bedroom her eyes dropped to the lifeless watch she wore on her left wrist. The kids told her to replace the battery or take it off. She knew his feelings would be hurt if she stopped wearing her anniversary gift, and sooner or later, he would notice and replace the battery. Reminding him would only reinforce his fear of losing his memory. Correct time wasn’t that important.
Her heart quickened as she rummaged the closet and found the dress. Why Bob liked the dowdy thing so much was still a mystery to her. She suspected he only said that to make her feel good, same as she did him with the blue suit. Until he told her different, she wasn’t wasting his hard-earned money on anything new. She slipped the dress over her head, stepped into her black pumps, and ran back to the kitchen to put baking potatoes in the oven.
There wasn’t much she could do with her hair, other than pin it up at the neck. He would tell her it looked nice, and she would enjoy him pulling the pins out later. Her hands weren’t steady enough for mascara, and eye colors only got lost in the lines these days, so blush and lipstick completed her primping, except for the zipper. She would have to ask him for help with that when he came in. Thinking of how he’d hold the fabric at her bottom while he pulled the zipper up produced a few goose bumps.
Bob didn’t dance, possibly his only imperfection, and couldn’t half hear, so music was her choice. Elvis matched her mood tonight, deep and sexy. She put the CD in the player, the steaks on the countertop grill, set the table, and waited. Just this once, she wanted to use candles despite his paranoia about not seeing what he was eating, but decided against anything that would make this meal less than perfect for him.
She waited in the living room, same as she had when they were dating, wringing the itch out of hands that waited to touch him and prove he wasn’t a dream, and blinking the sting from anxious eyes. When anticipation wouldn’t let her sit still any longer, she jumped off the couch and rehearsed the dance he would probably never give in and dance with her no matter how many years she practiced. Still, she wasn’t ready to give up hope.
Midway through the third song, a car door slammed out front. She went empty waiting for the front door to open.
“It’s Rebecca,” her first-born called as she came through the foyer.
Sylvia muted Elvis and greeted her daughter. Rebecca breezed past and took the steaks off the grill. Sylvia followed.
With a sigh, Rebecca zipped her mother’s dress before she opened the oven door. “Dad won’t be here for dinner.”
“I know,” Sylvia said. “Would you like his steak?”
Rebecca filled their plates and sat across the table from Sylvia. “Mother -“
“I know,” Sylvia said. “You don’t have to remind me.”
“I don’t? Are you sure?”
“Don’t spoil it, Rebecca. Anticipation is often the best part. Please, leave me that much.”