“Sorry, I’m not hungry,” she said, throwing her coat on the rack in the hallway. Her response to him saying “it’ll only be a minute” after he asked her to set the table .
She cursed herself the second she caught the look of disappointment in his eyes. He was wearing that goofy apron with the dinosaurs. Stirring in a pot that smelled of bearnaise on the verge of burning. Sipping red wine too expensive for a weeknight. He had put more effort than usual into the meal tonight, a bowl of chocolate mousse even cooling on the window sill. Her favorite.
Damn it. Why couldn’t she have kept her mouth shut? Forced herself to eat.
Too late. She couldn’t pretend now.
“I ate dinner by accident,” she blurted out. That was the best she could do. “I forgot,” although the truth, would be a cruel thing to say.
“How do you accidentally eat dinner?”
Before she could come up with a perfectly good white lie, he pushed the pot aside and turned off the gas. “Never mind. It’s ruined anyway.”
He emptied the glass of wine. Considered for a moment if he should pour himself another but decided against it. Wrestled with the cork to put it back into the bottle.
“Don’t,” she said. “Keep the bottle open. Give me a sec,” she said and slipped into the bedroom.
It took 23.
He heard the creaking of the bathroom door, and then her calling out as she shut it behind her. “Bedroom. Now!”
“Listen, I’m not up for pity sex,” he said.
She opened the bathroom door, stuck her head out. “Just go to the bedroom.”
His black suit, a white shirt and an elegant striped tie was laid out on the bed. He couldn’t remember ever seeing that tie before. Not that it meant he hadn’t had it for a while.
“Get dressed!” he heard from the other side of the door. “And for god’s sake, change your socks if you’re wearing any other color than black.”
He tossed his favorite apron on a chair. Stepped out of his jeans.
After fumbling with the tie, he was all suited up. With black socks.
He was taken aback when he opened the bedroom door. The lights were dimmed. Candles burning. She had changed into one of the dresses she usually only wore when they ate at fancy restaurants with her colleagues.
She was scrolling through her phone.
“What’s all this?” he asked. She pressed something on her phone and placed it in the loudspeaker. Soft music filled the room.
“Well, Mr. Arrogant. Are you ever going to ask me to dance or are you going to make me ask you?” She smiled. It was her opening line the evening she hit on him. They danced until the orange glow of the next day.
He reached for her hand.
She rested her head on his shoulder as they slowly moved to the music.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“Was your accidental dinner good?” he asked.
“Not really. It was just a burger and fries. And a milkshake.”
“You don’t eat meat,” he said.
“I know,” she replied. “I was feeling queasy and thought something salty might calm my stomach. I bought fries. And then one thing lead to another….”
“And you accidentally found yourself eating a hamburger.”
“And a milkshake. Vanilla.”
“I got this strange craving,” she said.
They danced silently for a while. He had definitely not taken the hint. Too subtle. He needed more obvious hints.
“What plans do you have for Christmas?” she asked.
“What plans do I have? Since when do I make plans for the holidays?”. He was puzzled. “And why are we talking about Christmas? It’s seven or eight months from now.”
“7 and a half months or 34 weeks, to be more precise. Give or take a few days. Keep Christmas open. Or rather, don’t make any plans for the week before Christmas.”
“Okay. No plans that week.”
“Better keep a couple of weeks on each side of Christmas open in your schedule, to be on the sure side,” she continued.
He hadn’t. Not until a few moments later did something ever so slightly compute in his mind.
He stopped dancing. Looked at her. She was beaming.
“We are,” she corrected him. “But before you say anything, promise me something.”
He could barely get the word out. “Anything.”
“If I ever get a craving for crappy fast food hamburgers again, don’t let med give in to it. Even if I crave a good cut of tenderloin, don’t let me. I don’t eat meat. Promise remind me,” she said.
“I promise.” He opened his mouth to say something, but she interrupted him.
“I have another craving now, though,” she said.
She was all smiles. “Chocolate mousse.”