Short Story – We Need to Talk
Suzie could see herself, snapping and snarling as she wiped the tiles behind the cooker, which streamed with steaming rivulets of water. The entire back wall had to be wiped down fast, her arms carefully navigating behind hot handles, sticky bottles of oil and damp teabag boxes containing unused chamomile infusion. She could hear herself getting angry, and wanting to stop, but why could Ali not see what needed to be done? Why was he leaving her to do all this now, while he tucked into steak pie? Why had he burnt the curly kale, left the potatoes to boil to mush? She had been gone only ten minutes.
Squeezing out the heavy, hot cloth, she abandoned her scrubbing, wiping and sniping, then sat reluctantly with a heavy thump and salvaged what she could of her own meal – charred kale, cooling potatoes and hummus – while her husband and daughter carefully finished their steak pie. Maxine slipped out of the door and Ali quietly waited for the storm to pass. Suzie had to decide what to do.
“I want you to– ” she tried to explain, “And I get cross, because you never …”
Ali nodded, “Yes. That is true. I don’t.”
“And you will always be just yourself, after all.”
“And I do love you.”
“I’m sorry I left the kitchen, but I thought you knew.”
“Knew what? You never said.”
“Not to burn the kale, to add water.” At this, she was hard pressed not to cry aloud, thinking that without her to tend to this kind of thing, her husband and daughter would live on pies and bacon and eggs. Her heart heaved with sorrow at the loss of green veg. Without her there, he would manage meals in his own way, but would that include any green stuff? It was a worry, of sorts.
Then she recalled her sister, burning onions, and a small, wry smile lifted her face. Even the best cooks forget to tell each other, “The soup needs a stir in five minutes, I’m just out to the garden for a moment.” Even the best of intentions get caught up in conversations, as we stand with our backs to a pot bubbling up over the stove. Accidents happen when we have other things to do.
“I’ll tell you, next time I go out.”
“And I’ll try to watch more closely.”