By Richard Bleil
The long table is adorned with nice china, the best silverware, clothe napkins and a centerpiece. She is seated as he lights the candles, sitting silently as he puts the final touches on the dinner.
“I hope you are hungry,” he says from the kitchen. “We will be having Pasta Fagioli al Forno, with a nice antipasti salad, and home-made garlic bread.”
She doesn’t respond, sitting still, staring at nothing in particular on the place setting before her. The moisture condenses on the ice water at her setting next to the empty wine glass.
He brings the hot dishes to the table one at a time. “Wine?” he asks, opening the bottle. He begins to pour before she says anything. Standing at the side of the table, he takes her salad dish and places a serving of antipasti, and puts some of the Pasta Fagioli al Forno on her plate, along with a couple of slices of bread. “Would you like some cheese?” he asks, standing ready.
She doesn’t answer. She doesn’t acknowledge him in any way, as he puts the cheese away. He begins placing his servings on his plates.
“You know, we need to start getting along,” he says to her. She doesn’t reply. “I know you’re still upset, but I’m really trying here. I would hope that would count for something.”
He sits down across the table from her. “Shall we pray?” he asks. He bows his head, and says, “Why don’t you give the blessing tonight?”
A minute of silence later, he lets out a sigh, and gives the prayer.
“I hope you enjoy it,” he says, as he picks up his utensils and takes a bite. “Mmmm, not bad,” he says. “It’s a new recipe. It could use just a touch more hot pepper, but it’s pretty good. What do you think?”
She doesn’t move, looking as if she is staring at the food, but clearly is not looking at anything in particular.
“Listen,” he says, putting down his utensils, “I know you’ve been shaken since the accident. It’s not your fault; the lug nuts let loose, and you lost your tire. You should be grateful that I was there when I was to help you out.”
Still, no response from her.
“This is ridiculous,” he says sternly. “Do you think I’m trying to poison you? I’m eating the same food! If I was some psycho that wanted you dead, you’d be dead by now. EAT!”
Slowly, she lifts a hand, and picks up her fork. Gingerly, she picks up a little piece of the antipasti and puts it in her mouth, barely chewing. He returns to his meal. She continue to eat sparsely as he finishes his dish.
The candles flicker as they burn down, moist looking wax dripping down the long slender wax bodies. Still silent, she sits quietly without moving as he clears the dishes. “I really hate wasting food,” he says as he picks up her plates. He takes the time to rinse the plates and load the dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen as she sits patiently, saying nothing. He opens the freezer, and soon re-emerges.
“SURPRISE!” he says, “Gelati!”
He places one in front of her. “This is actual home-made Gelati,” he explains. “It’s from the Italian restaurant down the road, made by the Italian owners. I hope you like it!”
He sits down and picks up his spoon, eating the frozen confectionery greedily as she sits, staring at the ice cream motionless.
His spoon clinks against the dish multiple times, as he tries to get up every last drop. He looks up at head and shakes his head. Without saying a word, he stands and clears the dishes, taking them into the kitchen, and again loading them into the dishwasher.
He returns to the table. He blows out the candles and sits down. The blue-grey smoke reaches for the sky in long smooth columns and breaking into chaos about a foot above the black burned wick. “Maybe it’s a generational difference,” he says to her. “In my day, being so quiet, saying nothing like this is just considered to be rude. I put forth a tremendous effort on tonight’s dinner, hoping to smooth things over on our relationship. If it wasn’t for me, you might have died in that car crash, and yet, you act like you owe me nothing.”
Silently she sits, refusing to even look up.
“Fine,” he says exasperated. “Come on.”
He stands and walks to her and kneels at the chair beside her. He reaches into his pocket.
He pulls out a key, slipping it into the lock on her ankle cuff. Snapping it open, he stands up grabbing her arm. Defeatedly, she stands and lets him lead her to the basement door, and down the stairs. He puts her in her room, and locks her in.
Returning to the living room, he sits in his recliner chair. He thinks of the evening, and the lack of love he is getting from the woman he rescued. He looks over at the small wooden decorative box on the table next to the chair. He opens the lid, and pulls out the lug nuts, looking at them momentarily, and returning them to the box.