"Wait, what?" Tom started to laugh at her, and she felt her face turn red. "How could you not know that? Of course all kinds of paprika come from the same plant! You are so cute sometimes!"
The other people in the restaurant were staring at their table. "Excuse me, Darling, I've got to freshen up a little."
He smiled at her, all sparkling eyes and shiny white teeth, and grabbed her hand. "Don't be mad at me, Saskia Honey. You know I love you! But that was too funny."
Without success, she tried to free her hand. "I am not mad at you. As I said, I need to freshen up. Please." Did he really have to do that? Right here, with everyone watching them? Why couldn't he help her make sure the evening went nice and smooth, a real, romantic date, without some kind of ruccus?
Reluctantly, he let go of her hand. "Okay, I'll be right here."
The light in the bathroom was harsh, the mirrors poorly polished and the faucets leaked. The rest of the restaurant was far nicer. But of course, she thought, you didn't see the bathrooms when booking a table. No need to keep them nice. Unless they wanted their guests to return.
Her face in the mirror stopped burning. A few more moments, and she would be back at her normal teint. Why did he do this? He humiliated her all the time. In public. Preferably when her friends and family were around. Some days she couldn't help it, she felt so stupid! Although she used to consider herself pretty smart, maybe even a bit above average. When confronted, he denied everything. No way would he want to hurt her! It was just... couldn't she see it was pretty funny? All her small town girl attire and naive ways of thinking... - well, no use thinking about it now. She pushed the anger back where it belonged, into the dark. Time for dessert. She forced a smile on her face, tried to open the bathroom door without touching any of it and returned to their table.
The next day was a Sunday, and they went hiking, like they did every Sunday. She would have preferred to go to church, but he mocked her for "believing in the immortal son of a carpenter who flew from his cross directly into the sky". Thus she had taken to praying at night, while he was watching TV or messing with his tools in the garage. Surely God would forgive her for making things work.
It was a new trail, somewhere they hadn't been before. The sun was shining, and the leaves on the bushes were sparkling with their dewdrop jewellery. They advanced steadily, enjoying the fresh air, huffing when climbing steeper slopes. She stayed a few steps behind him, following his guidance, and only stopped now and again for a good look of their surroundings. The view was terrific.
"What are you doing there? Don't be lazy, come on! Or is the trail too difficult for your short girl legs?"
"No, no, I'm fine. I was just..."
"We can make a break once we reach the lookout point. Now hurry, I want to be back in time to watch the soccer match!"
A few stepf further up the path, they met the beetle. It was rather large, at least for a beetle, and black with an oil-film shine to its back. Tom almost hadn't seen it, but she shouted, "Look out! Don't step on it!"
He stopped mid-motion, looked on the ground, and almost fell over with laughter. "You're such a cute little girl, you know that? You even care for these nasty little critters? I'll have to make sure we don't go to the zoo, you'll break down and cry when they feed the geckos with crickets!" He crouched down to get a better look at the beetle, who seemed unimpressed by its visitors, and grabbed it by its shell.
"Don't do that!" she pleaded.
"Why? It's not as if they feel anything, is it." He held the beetle closer to his face.
Saskia let out a sigh and took the backpack from her shoulders to have some water. She turned around to admire the view. They were pretty far up high already, and no one else was around. That was the advantage of going early on Sundays.
A breathless kind-of-shout, kind-of gargling behind her. She looked over her shoulder and saw Tom lying on the ground, obviously in a lot of pain. His face was growning redder by the second, and his eyes started to bulge. Had he said, "Help me?" No, surely not. Of course, she could have told him that this beetle was highly poisonous, and that it had strong mandibles that could bite through the skin between human fingers, and that it was very likely the poison would cause respiratory distress. She had learned all these things at college. But she had expected him to know this, as he always made clear he was so much more clever than she was.
She flopped down on the ground in a safe distance, her back on the shape on the ground. Time for a snack. The view was truly spectacular, and the annoying sound would stop in a few moments.