George wrapped the potatoes in foil and put it in the microwave. He set the timer and waited for Susanne to return home. It was Tuesday and he had his day off at work. Susanne on the other hand would be running late today.
George decided to prepare dinner as he waited for his wife.
It was Susanne who had taught him to cook. The first time he tried cooking, he had nearly blown off the kitchen. She had to clean all the mess.
The second time the kitchen was fine. But the food wasn’t. Still when he gave it to her to taste, she didn’t complain. She had a bite and said it was the best food she ever had.
When George tasted his own food, he found out how miserable a cook he was. When he asked her how could she find it tasty, Susanne said-
“Because it’s filled with your love. It has you hard work in it. How can it not be tasty for me?”
George couldn’t say anything.
He had been both a terrible cook and a terrible student. But Susanne never complained.
He strolled around the house while waiting for the timer to beep. While looking around he found the corners of the house needed some cleaning. There was a snapshot of their graduation on the wall just opposite the kitchen. “She’s the most perfect woman I have ever met in my life”, he thought.
They first met during an academic conference in college. And the first time he saw her he was dumbstruck by her beauty. She was blonde with shiny golden brown hair cut short. The sky blue sweater vest and black skirt she wore defined her curves well. Her black silhouettes made her more graceful. George couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“Hi I am George Williams”, he stretched out his hand.
“Susanne, Susanne Arquette”, she took his hand.
At that moment, somewhere in his heart, George knew this was the woman he was meant to be with. There was a pleasant smile on her face, one that would take all your tensions and worries away. Her voice was filled with melody.
Within a month they started dating. On their first date, George was late by an hour. When he reached, there she was waiting with a smile on her face. George was surprised. He was scared that when he reached she would freak out and start shouting at him. But Susanne didn’t complain.
As days passed, George knew that she was a good listener, compassionate about her work, and the perfect woman he had ever met.
At work also, she had the best ideas, made the best presentation, met the deadlines on time and within six months of joining, she was promoted to the post of vice president of the house.
Within a year they were married.
The timer beeped. George went to take out the potatoes. He decided to make some salad. The doctor had told Susanne to have more vegetables after the accident. He knew it was his fault. It was his fault that even after six years of their marriage they are childless. It was his fault that there was no one to throw light in the house that both of them had decorated with so much love. But Susanne never complained about that.
They had been trying to conceive from the second year of their marriage. After a year, the fertility test had showed that his sperms had low motility. It was all his fault, George knew.
Two years after the fertility test, he got Susanne pregnant. Their happiness knew no bounds. He still remembers Susanne’s face that night. That was the first time he saw true happiness in her eyes. There it was, something more than that simple pleasant smile. George just stared at her face in awe.
Last September, it was Kelvin and Kathy’s marriage- their best friends from college. Susanne found it hard to find a dress that would go with her bulging stomach. She was eight months pregnant. But she was the perfect woman. She found out a blue satin dress which made her look thinner and put on her best make-up. George looked at her with pleasure. She was looking as beautiful as she looked on the first day he met her. They had a lot of fun that evening. Susanne had also proposed a toast to the happily married couple.
While returning back home, Susanne had proposed to drive as he was a bit drunk. But George assured her that it would be okay. He can take care of his wife and child. She believed him.
The next morning, at the hospital, George knew that it was all over. He had lost his child. The doctor also told him that the accident had a terrible impact on her and so she can never conceive again.
George broke down in tears and cursed himself. Susanne was lying on a bed, asleep and calm, in a private room with barely enough space to stand beside her in a secluded wing of the hospital where they don’t visit for expectant patients.
Before the ultra-scan Susanne told the doctor that they didn’t want to know the sex of the child. But now George knew it was a boy. He had held his son close to his heart long enough before the nurse came and took it from him. He wasn’t sure whether to tell that to her or not.
When Susanne woke up she sat with her eyes closed, her head in his arms. She never said anything to him. But George knew that she will never be able to forgive him.
George found there was nothing left except for a few carrots. “Strange!” he thought.
There refrigerator was always stuffed with food. Whenever she went for shopping, she bought extra bottles of oil, milk, juices, beer and wine; zippered bags of pasta, vegetables, fruits and yam. Whenever he looked at the refrigerator, he was both surprised and satisfied.
It never went waste. When friends dropped by, Susanne would prepare the best meals. She would go through different cookbooks and serve George a new dish every Sunday evening. The date when they first had a new dish would be marked by the recipe in the book.
After their marriage, George knew Susanne was the perfect wife. Their house was always clean. She would keep the shoes in the closet, coats on the hanger by the door. She would pay the bills as soon as they came.
Every morning Susanne would wake up early, go out for jogging, come back and prepare breakfast for herself and her husband, run her errands and then go to work. She was never late.
But now it no longer mattered her. She would keep her sneakers by the door when she got home, her coat on the sofa. She no longer seemed to be disturbed by the fact that the sofa didn’t go with the new Turkish carpet they got last summer.
George no longer looked forward to the weekends when they would sit together in the morning solving crossword puzzles or mow the lawn together.
He decided to put some candles on the table. He began to open the drawers one by one. He tried to locate a candle among the scissors, the eggbeaters and whisks, spoons and forks. He found a packet of left-over birthday candles in the cabinet above the sink.
On his last birthday, Susanne had thrown him a big surprise party. One hundred guests had come- neighbours, family, his friends from school, college and work. She had prepared him a heart shaped pine-apple cake to show how much she loved him. It was his favourite. The room was decorated with white and pink balloons and there was wine kept in a tumbler full of ice. She had done this all herself alone.
Since last September, they only had Susanne’s mother as their guest. The home had become lifeless. Felicia came and lived for two months with them after Susanne returned from the hospital. She cooked dinner every evening, did the cleaning and laundry and drove herself to the market every Saturday. She was a religious woman. She took care of all the household chores. She was polite to George without being friendly. She knitted sweaters for him but gave them to him in the most unceremonious manner. Though she never said anything, her eyes always accused her, “you are the reason behind her misery.”
It has been three months since that all stopped. Susanne has become more silent. She now didn’t care about how she looked or the surrounding. Mostly they would have their breakfast and dinner in silence.
She now took up more assignments, worked overtime to run away from the pain her home gave her.
It had started raining outside.
“She didn’t get a raincoat”, George suddenly remembered.
George decided to grate the carrots and make some macaroni. He started washing the carrots.
The doorbell rang.
It was Susanne. The rain had nearly washed all her make-up. There was a thin line of lipstick on the outer edges of her lips. The eyeliner she wore left patches of charcoal beneath her eyes. She looked like this on mornings after late parties when she had been too lazy to wash her face, too eager to drop in his arms.
She was standing there, in a grey coat and blue denim over her white sneakers. There was a calm smile on her face.
But her smile was no longer soothing.
“It’s my fault”, George knew.
But she never complained.