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Do As I Say, Do As I Do
A man, walking promptly, and a woman three strides behind him passed the homes of happy families sitting down to a late dinner. It was seven o’clock. The woman held her small purse tightly, head bowed. Houses lining the street cast shadows in the dim summer light. She quickened her step to catch up with the man, who gave her no acknowledgement in return. Inside the restaurant, the light was low. It was quite full, almost all of the tables were occupied, yet the man led the woman to a table in the far right corner— to the only table in the room without a lit candle. The man sat and the woman followed. The man removed his coat, and the woman quietly did the same, placing it on the back of her chair. She wore the little black dress that was too tight and too uncomfortable. She knew it was his favorite. A clean, crisp white tablecloth lay between them, seeming to span endlessly. A waiter artfully poured red wine into the man’s glass. He motioned for the waiter to do the same for the woman. The man ordered ordered two pastas, and the waiter exited.
“I didn’t want pasta,” she said.
“You don’t know what you want.”
“Whatever,” the woman replied. Like usual, she ignored the irritation churning in her stomach, telling her to say more. She knew a lady never made a scene in public.
The woman turned her attention away from the man who continued to stare straight ahead. She watched the couples and families at the surrounding tables. Faces lit aglow by the candle light.
At a table halfway across the room, she saw before her two young women. Entranced in one another, they sat with their legs completely intertwined like gnarled roots. She watched. She was as enthralled by them as they were with one another. They stared into each other's eyes. Observing the girl with the long brown hair that was similar to her own, she watched her two throw her head back, laughing at something the other woman had said. As the girl leaned in for a delicate kiss, she could practically feel the soft lips meet her own. The woman stared at the two, their table illuminated compared to the rest. Her head felt dizzy but a smile danced lightly on her lips.
“Ava,” snapped the man. “What’s got you smiling like that.”
“Ah, just love that’s all.”
“What do you know about love,” he said, taking her hand and kissing it. “You’re so innocent. You’ve only ever loved me.”
Matthew always got his way. He knew nothing about love. He said those three words, eight letters with complete ease. He recited them hundreds of times like the two dimensional words he believed they were. Each time she uttered I love you too, it was a lie.
The woman chuckled to herself at how wrong Matthew was. How she wished to have effortless love, the only kind of love Matthew knew.
The two women I love you-ed. They plucked those two dimensional words and gave them shape and body. Exchanging a kiss, I love you fluttered, dancing between the female lips. The woman could watch the perfection forever.
Matthew humphed in annoyance.
She was pulled back to her own flawed company. She rested her hand on the table. Her hand was thin and soft. The man placed his hand firmly on top, enough pressure that the woman was sure her hand would sink straight through the table.
“Why do you do this to me when I’m so good to you? What is it, Ava? I care about you so much, do you know that?”
His eyes didn’t reflect care. He was an emotionless statue, his face made of cold cement.
The woman avoided his eyes. She gazed at the other couple. She watched a gentle hand tuck one of the girl’s hair behind her ear. They smiled into each others truthful eyes. She tried remembered the last time she had flashed her real smile. Her true smile. The room suddenly felt extremely hot, and she knew that she had to escape everything.
The woman looked between Matthew and the couple at the nearby table.
She tried to release her hand from Matthew’s rigid grasp but he only held on tighter.
“I can’t do this. I-I have to go to the bathroom,” said the woman, feeling hot and dizzy.
The man placed both of his feet firmly over hers beneath the table.
“Don’t. Sit.” commanded the man.
She looked fearfully into his cold eyes and sat back down.
She felt the pressure of the man’s feet, the stiffness of his hand.
“I’m sorry,” she bowed her head.
“You say that everyday. You should be.”
“Let’s go now,” the woman pleaded. “I want to leave.”
“I’m not ready.”
“You know what? You’re wrong. I know exactly what I want. I want to leave. You. I’m going alone.”
The woman rose from her chair in a fluster, her hip hitting the table. Glasses tipped. Red wine saturated the white tablecloth. It dripped down the sides of the table, onto the man’s suit pants. The woman cried out for a waiter, her hands stained dark burgundy from a desperate attempt to mop up the mess. The woman sat back down, mascara running down her face. She saw the man, across from her, his face red, fuming with anger. Pointing his finger at her. She felt the sharp blow of his strong feet on her fragile ones. The woman heard nothing. She glanced to her side. That table was now empty, and her heart sunk deeper and deeper in her chest. The chairs neatly tucked in, the tablecloth crisp and white, and the candle had been blown out.
With his arm firmly around her frail waist, Matthew led his woman out of the restaurant, out onto a bare street that lay under a dark sky.