Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hot and Cold (04/09/09)
TITLE: Midnight Meal
By Kristen Hester
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Under the saran wrap that covered his cold, waiting dinner lay a pork chop, mashed potatoes, green beans, and roll. He walked to the microwave with the plate and pressed the worn reheat dinner plate button. He returned to the table with his hot meal and cut a small piece of the meat. He chewed slowly, but the taste of guilt masked the meat’s flavor. He set his fork down and stared at his food.
“Something wrong with your dinner?”
He jumped at the sound of her voice. “I didn’t hear you come in.” She stood in the doorway wearing a long, silk robe, her dark hair loose around her shoulders. Even at 50, her beauty took his breath away.
“I didn’t mean to startle you.” She sat down at the table beside him, but didn’t say anything. That was her way. Quiet. Gentle. Lovely.
He picked up his fork and took another bite. He glanced over to offer her a thank you smile, but she was studying her nails. “Mmm, good,” he said through a closed mouth.
She smiled sweetly, but he noted that it didn’t reach her eyes. It had been a long time since her eyes had smiled, a fact that pained him. He knew he was the cause of her sadness and the regret was overwhelming.
“I’m glad you like it,” she said, then started to get up.
Before he changed his mind, he reached for her hand. “Wait.”
His touch seemed to surprise her. She quickly obliged and then looked at him with hopeful blue eyes.
“Why do you do it?”
She turned her head in question. “Do what?”
“Why do you cook dinner for me every night?”
“I don’t understand the question.” She said softly.
“Every night I come home late. Every night my dinner’s waiting.”
She was silent for a moment, but he waited and was rewarded.
“The first night we came home from our honeymoon, do you remember what happened?”
He shook his head, eager for her to continue.
“You came home and I had been so busy setting up our apartment, I hadn’t even thought about dinner. You didn’t want to say anything, but I could tell something was bothering you. It took me all night, but you finally admitted that all day you’d been looking forward to coming home to your new wife and sitting down to a hot meal.”
“But...” he looked down at the plate. “I’ve put work first. I stopped coming home in time for that hot dinner years ago.”
“It hurt when I realized your job was more important than our marriage. It happened so gradually. One day I realized we were strangers and I couldn’t really say when it began. I couldn’t compete with the power, money and adrenaline your career offered. I remembered what you’d said so long ago. I decided that I’d have a hot meal ready for you each night at dinner time. I hoped eventually you’d get tired of the cold, lonely meals and you’d come home and eat with me.”
He shook his head, amazed at her words. “I don’t deserve you.”
She playfully punched his arm. “You’re right. You don’t deserve me.” Her voice changed and she became serious. “But I don’t deserve to be stood up every night, either.”
He wiped his wet eyes. “I want to do better. I want a fresh start.”
She reached for his hand. This time when he looked at her, the smile reached her eyes. “I’d like that.”
“I don’t even know where to begin.”
“You can start by eating a hot dinner with me. It will be ready at 6.”
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