Pete and I have lately been doing that thing that infamously happens to married couples – growing apart. It doesn’t help that we actually are apart for much of the time; following our separate interests and making friends without one another, widening the growing gulf. There were times he’d not come home at all, choosing to go hunting or fishing with pals, and to be fair, there were times I wasn’t here if he had come home, being gone on an information-gathering trip, a meeting, or visiting a friend in another place.
I resolved to make a real effort to bring us back to ‘us’ last time he was here; have a mad carnival of drink, food, and lust and rekindling those flames that had once warmed us. Why oh why do my fantasies so seldom match my realities?
Knowing his penchant for sexy underwear, I overcame my discomfort with it and donned a torturous piece called a ‘teddy’; a soft cuddly name for a garment that is hardly cuddly, being prickly with lace in places no lace ought to be.
Pete’s favourite beer was bought and put in the fridge and a full-on roast beef dinner was prepared. It was during that preparation that I realized I was out of horseradish, a condiment necessary in the consumption of cooked chunks of cow.
It must have been while I was at the grocery store, teddy hidden under a large hoodie and jeans, that Cee stopped by to leave a promised plate of her famous cranberry squares on the table in the porch. I’ve been hearing about these squares since I met her and finally, here they were – in time for a special dinner and, hopefully, a torrid and bonding evening with my sweetheart.
I ate one as soon as I was in the house; there was 10 of them on the plate after all. It was every bit as delicious as I’d heard, but I ate another one just to be certain.
A short while later I was mixing the batter for Yorkshire pudding when I was suddenly overcome with a deep interest in the way the mixture swirled around the spoon; the pattern formed drew my attention in a manner that cancelled out every other thing, every other activity, every other person, that might have attracted my notice. I was utterly focused, finding a state of bliss in the action of my hand and arm in creating the whirlpool design of the galaxies.
Colour! It needed colour, and I had a brand new package of food colouring in the cupboard, unopened and waiting for its time to participate in the creation of a new world order.
Soon every bowl in the kitchen was filled with batter of various hues. Regarding my work, I was content. I needed a walk in the woods now, to change my venue and see what fresh ideas might come to my fertile mind.
I took off the teddy and donned Pete’s old parka that he keeps hanging in the porch for the times he does winter chores.
The trees beckoned and I answered, wandering through the fresh new snow, thinking of caribou herds, and of people who belong to the SPCA but eat meat twice a day. Never before had I noticed the perfection, the poignancy, of the little dead leaves (so few!) that clung to the frozen twigs. I think I wept a little.
When I got home, Pete was there, watching TV in the living room, with a third beer in his hand (I knew it was his third because of the two empties perched oddly on the design in the rug – like a game was being played and the bottles were the players.
He had my teddy hung around his neck and was smiling a grand and foolish smile.
“Hi Baby,” he said “Want some wine?” he indicated a bottle of my favourite red wine, opened and with a glass poured, waiting for me.
I curled up beside him, still wearing the parka, and we snuggled and had a drink and then, things got peculiar.
We agreed we ought to listen to some Bjork music; the CD was duly inserted and soon the strange sounds permeated the house.
“Let’s close our eyes,” Pete suggested “and see what images the music creates in our heads. Oh wow! Bloody hell!”
“What? What? What are you getting?” I asked “I haven’t had time to get anything yet.”
“I’ve got a lobster and a porcupine, fighting to the death.” said Pete breathlessly “but I know I should change it; too violent. Interesting, though….”
I wasn’t listening; I was following the movements of a group of mermaids, all wearing spectacles that magnified their eyes, and singing in wonderful harmony from what I recognized as my cookbooks.
We danced, I recall, and then got hysterical with laughter over the burned roast of beef. After that, everything is a rosy blur until this morning when I heard Cee’s voice as she knocked briefly before coming through the porch and into the kitchen.
“Well, I see you found the squares,” she said “You know, Don and I have eaten them and I don’t think we have ever had as much fun as it seems you two did. How many did you have?”
I stared up at her, realizing Pete and I were on the floor of the kitchen, lying on Pete’s old parka. Turning my head, I saw my teddy still wound around Pete’s neck and as my eyes travelled his considerable length, I saw he was nude, and covered with swirls of coloured goo. He had a bag of frozen peas on his head; his eyes were closed, and he wore a goofy grin.
To my horror, I realized I, too, was nude and covered with dabs of goo, but at least I also had the tablecloth on, in a sort of toga style.
“What note?” I croaked, while trying to arrange some of the parka over Pete “There was no note?”
“What? I can’t hear you. I’m going to turn off the awful noise.” Cee marched to the CD player rendering the house so suddenly and eerily silent that Pete woke up, reaching for me without opening his eyes and murmuring something about “so nice to come home to.”
“Pete!” I went to nudge him with my elbow and found my wrists were bound with one of his socks and my tablecloth had gone south “Wake up! We have company; Cee is here.”
“So’s Don,” Cee told us “He’s in the truck; I told him I would just run in and see if you were up for guests. Now you are both awake, I’ll go get him. Now don’t you hurry yourselves,” she added as we struggled to get up while simultaneously sharing the tablecloth “I want him to see this.”
Not only did Don accompany his wife into the house, but he volunteered to make coffee while Cee went out to the porch to look for the vanished note and Pete and I put clothes on, feeling vaguely like we’d been busted by our parents and grateful they weren’t mad.
The note was found, under the porch table, and on it were written the words
“Eat me, and go down the rabbit hole.”
“Jeez, Cee, could you be more cryptic?” I asked her when we were all seated and drinking our coffee.
“Well, what if the cops had come to your door?” she said “You don’t want them to know, do you?”
I’d opened my mouth to respond when Pete, who was holding my hand, kissed me hard right in front of our guests and said “Baby, it’s all good.”
I think this all means he will be refreshing himself at the fount of domesticity with regularity. Somethings don’t work as planned, but they work.
Heather Bennett is a writer
who lives in Watson Lake.