I sit in the dark living room and stare out the front window, watching for Michael’s car to pull into the driveway. He was supposed to be home an hour ago to take me out for my birthday.
Michael has been late coming home every night for the past two months. He tells me he’s working late, but Mama thinks there’s some hanky panky going on. She hears stuff at the Cut ‘n Curl, and I suwannee, she thinks everything someone says there is the gospel.
I wait another half hour before I finally get up and go back into the kitchen. I’ve been starvin’ myself all afternoon so I can enjoy the surf ‘n turf dinner at the Ritz Manor, Piney Point’s finest restaurant.
My stomach makes one of those gurgling sounds that lets me know I can’t hold off any longer, so I open the fridge and peruse the contents. There’s the meatloaf and mashed potatoes plate I fixed for Michael last night—the one he didn’t bother heatin’ up and eating. Beneath that is the bowl of spaghetti that he never touched. And on the shelf below I spot the strawberry cheesecake Mama brought over yesterday.
I grab the cheesecake that has a single slice missing and carry it over to the table. Then I head over to the cabinet to get a plate and knife, but when I return, I realize the only thing I got was a fork. I glance down at the cheesecake and figure, oh well, before sitting down and digging in.
The first bite is delicious, and the second bite even better. The third bite feels downright indulgent. By the time I scrape the last of the crumbs in the bottom of the pie plate, I feel bloated and even more irritated than ever. Michael still isn’t home.
After rinsing the dish and sticking it in the dishwasher, I hear the door opening. A few seconds later, a shadow fills the kitchen.
“Where have you been?” I ask. “I’ve been waiting for you all evenin’. It’s my birthday, Michael.”
Without even attempting a smile, Michael shakes his head. “Don’t start in on me, Trudy. You know how much I hate nagging wives.”
“So you think I’m a nagging wife?” I can’t hold back the shrillness of my voice. “What do you think about a man who breaks promises to the person he says he’ll love for the rest of his life?”
Michael flinches and closes his eyes. “Don’t. It’s not worth it.” He opens his eyes and walks over to the refrigerator, opens the door, and then looks at me over his shoulder. “Where’s that cheesecake I saw in there last night?”
My jaw tightens. I don’t say a word as I stand there and stare at him, feelin’ guilty all over.
Then he snorts, his eyes narrow, and I see the disgust on his face. “Don’t tell me you ate the whole dang thing. Trudy, the one thing worse than a nagging wife is a fat one.” He looks me up and down and shakes his head. “Speakin’ of…you’ve been packin’ on some pounds lately. Not very attractive.”
That does it. I jab my finger in his direction. “If you would come home and be a decent husband, I wouldn’t eat all the time.”
“And if you’d get yourself a job, I wouldn’t have to work so much.”
“You told me when we first got married—”
He holds up his hands to silence me. I slink back against the wall. Michael has never laid a hand on me, but his words are more painful than any physical abuse he could ever inflict. “When we got married, you were pretty, petite, and slim. Now you’re…” He eyes me up and down and shakes his head. “You’re not the woman I married.”
I stand there with my mouth hangin’ open for what seems like forever, until he sneers and walks away. Then I run to our room and throw myself across the bed. I want to sob, but I have no tears left.
“Trudy?” The voice coming from the doorway is softer, so I turn around and look at Michael.
“Are we goin’ to the class reunion? I saw the invitation on the table.”
“I’m not sure.”
“You better decide soon.” His hard edge has returned. “It’ll take you some time to get your figure back, and I won’t show up and have all my friends see how my wife let herself go.”
“What?” I shriek.
“Is that all you can say?” He snickers. “Get your lazy rear out of that bed and do something. Fix yourself up. I can’t stand lookin’ at you like this.”
I reach over and pick up the closest thing on the nightstand. As soon as it leaves my hands, I realize it’s the antique vase Mama gave us when we first got married. It shatters as it hits the wall, and I'm still fumin’ and achin’.
Now the tears fall do a free-fall down my cheeks.