If he shouts at her one more time, she is going to explode. All day she has been at home, cleaning and scrubbing, to make him comfortable, while he is out in the world earning the money - and a reputation as tough car dealer. Her hands are red and raw from the hot water and strong detergents she uses, because he is afraid of germs. Every fragrant corner of the house sparkles - except for her room, which is really a kind-of built-in closet and filled with everything that does not have a place anywhere else. Her crafts stuff must be in there, she is almost sure, but she hasn't had time to use any of it in months. The church committee asked her to contribute to the annual basar, but she knows she won't have the time, and so she only smiled and vaguely offered, "I will check with my husband."
"I am home! Is dinner ready?" The front door slams shut, and she hurries from the kitchen to greet him with the traditional glass of bourbon to celebrate another day well spent. Outside the home. She smiles and leans in to give him a kiss on the cheek, but he shoves her away. "You smell like toilet cleaner." He tosses his jacket on the armchair, grabs the bourbon and empties the glass with one gulp. "Another one."
Quietly, she gathers up his things and puts them in the right places. Then she hurries to get the bottle.
He is watching her, sitting in his favorite spot by the window. "You have got such a great life, my love. I wish I could stay at home and enjoy myself all day, you know." Another sip of bourbon. "Alas, I have got to go out and earn the money to make my little wife comfortable, so she doesn't have to try and stand on her own feet. That's what I promised your Dad, remember?"
Breathe, she tells herself, and smiles again. The same story, over and over again. In hindsight, she can see all the paths she did not take, all the big red EMERGENCY signs she chose to ignore. She was in love, right? And he promised her he would take care of her, keep her safe. Someone should have whacked her over the head the day she decided not to go to college. Give her a good concussion, hope for amnesia and tell her she is a man-hating career woman. That would have been perfect.
What's that smell?
OH SHIT. She hurries into the kitchen and pulls the roast from the oven. Almost perfect. A little dark on top, but most of it should be perfectly edible.
"What the hell have you done?" Of course he has followed her into the kitchen. He has a sixth sense for everything that goes wrong. "Can't you even be trusted with a simple piece of meat? That's expensive food, you moron!"
She stands in the kitchen and breathes, the smell of burnt meat and spices in her nose, heavy casserole in her hands. And suddenly breathing isn't enough.
The basar is a lively place, coats and hats dancing everywhere, but no single person will leave the place tonight without praising her delicious meat pasties. They are brown and crisp and just about perfect. She feels the looks of the other women, whose foods remain neglected, and smiles.
The preacher grabs yet another pasty and digs right in. Juice runs down his chubby chin, and he smiles. "These are divine. You should have been a chef."
"Oh, I wouldn't know of that. Of course now that my husband has run off..."
His sympathetic eyes do not match the greedy expression of his face as he finishes the pasty and tries to decide whether he can still have another one. "You're a temptress, with those pasties. By the way, what kind of meat is in there? We've got some Muslim visitors, from the store down main street, and I was wondering..."
"No pig", she assures him. Well, not scientifically speaking, anyway.
Maybe she should become a professional cook indeed.