No themes. No word count. Open prompt. The Flash Fiction Fridays Free-for-All is running through September. Today, we have a wonderful piece by Jennifer Orozco. Enjoy.
By Jennifer Orozco
He will be home soon.
She is standing at the sink, washing the dishes. The bubbled, hot water is a shock. Her hands are red and stinging, but she scrubs the inside of the glass anyway, making a circle within. She’s always wished for a kitchen window, but their townhome looks out to an alleyway overgrown with honeysuckle and scattered with dead, wet leaves. It is fall, but nothing hinders the thick, brown vines from proudly announcing their presence.
She wonders if he will see it in her face. He has always been able to read her when her eyes flit away from his, or when she overcompensates by searching his face, meeting his stare steadily. It is disconcerting what he can see when he is looking.
She has made king ranch casserole and the aroma of the bell peppers, onion, tomato and cream of mushroom meld together and mingle in her nostrils. Cornbread bakes in the oven. She has also cooked a green-bean casserole and wonders if he will read anything into it.
It smells like someone’s home. It smells like one would imagine a happy home to be.
She hopes this is enough.
She wonders when her heart turned into a clenched fist. She feels it pounding within, resolute and proud, not ready to cede an inch. She will take what she can get. Where she can get it. And since she can’t get it from him, there will be others. There will be days like today again. She will learn how to lie, to survive. She will excel at the recipes and façade of docility.
She looks down at her hands now. Covered in suds, she can’t decide whether it feels like they are burning or freezing. She towels them off and checks the time. The cornbread is ready.
She sighs and looks at the clock. It is half past six.
Her eyes travel over the wall, the horrendous paint job she initiated six weeks earlier.
She wanted a marigold color, and he brought her a lemon yellow. The walls looked like a sickly, sweet confection that unsettled and vaguely nauseated her. She’s since repainted the walls again, but the white paint she’d chosen was bluish and it jarred against the white cream of the ceiling.
She’d never had an eye for detail.
“Daddy! Daddy!” she hears the girls shriek excitedly. Daddy coming home was the equivalent to a rock star gracing them with his presence. He was a loving, affectionate father, holding them tightly and then swinging them into the air, their eyes shining with something that looked like too much gaiety. As if even they were trying to play a role they couldn’t quite pull off.
She snapped her fingers and said it was time to eat.
“It smells good in here! What’s for dinner?”
“Daddy! Mommy made your favorite!”
“Oh yeah?” he said….”She must want something…” he said swatting their two year old on the behind.
“Everyone wash your hands, and I’ll serve you. Just gimme a sec.” She feigned careless spontaneity.
She walked to the bathroom and closed the door. She flipped the toilet seat down and cradled her face in her open palms. Slivers of this afternoon came back to her. The unfamiliar face. The blue eyes. His wedding ring on the nightstand. His carefully folded clothes on the hotel’s armchair, because he would have to back to work after they were finished. The long not quite passionate kiss they shared, “in case I never see you again.” he said.
And she wouldn’t see him again.
There would be another in the future, she knew.
She inhaled sharply, stood up, wiped her hands down her jeans and walked out into the hall.
Jennifer Orozco is an avid reader and reluctant writer at Lit Endeavors: Notes of a Bibliomaniac and Scribbler. She is working on her first novel, Anatomy of a Marriage, because she's now 32, and if not now--when? Her mother's not-so-well-hidden disappointment also ignites the fire under her ass that is jolting her from pervasive complacence. Besides reading and writing, Jennifer enjoys lecturing her not-so-feminist daughters on why they should never define themselves by the opinion of a man. Many an eye roll takes place during these soliloquies.