The flowers were picked wild from the field across the highway. Their presence put on a air of homely comfort – the first of many lies that would be shared with their guests. But the shadows told the truth. For it was only the middle of July, there was no reason the shadows should extend so far beyond the table before he made an appearance after work. Ashlee whirled into the house like a cool breeze at the front of a storm with Mike on her heels already popping the top of his beer bottle. “Where’s Jeff?”
“Oh! I must have forgotten to call. His meeting ran late. It will probably be another hour or so before he gets home.” The lies flowed easily now, as if a tap had been installed in her mouth. She headed toward the refrigerator, whisking a small potion bottle into her apron pocket, hoping they hadn’t noticed it out on the table. Ever since she had discovered the real use of the potion – the one not advertised on the label – she couldn’t seem to make it through an evening without a few tablespoonfuls.
As she began to arrange some vegetables on the the cutting board for chopping, she realized Ashlee had already made herself at home by rescuing a couple wine glasses from the cabinet while her dutiful husband freed the cork from the bottle. The shadow of the fruit bowl must have perfectly ensconced her secret. She focused on her thoughts, “Frankly, I don’t care if he’s out having a beer at that hole-in-the-wall bar or banging that floozy in the janitor closet. But he made this dinner date! He should have the nerve to show up on time for his own plans!” – making quick work of chopping the Romaine lettuce and starting on a cucumber before she realized Ashlee was standing next to her holding out a glass of wine and talking.
“Huh?” She turned to face Ashlee and accept the glass of wine, “I’m sorry. I haven’t been sleeping well again. My mind must have wandered. Do you mind throwing that dip in the oven and keeping an eye on it. It should be done in five to seven minutes and then we can snack while we wait for dinner to cook.”
Mike had wandered into the family room, selecting something on the TV. The two women made idle, meaningless chit-chat as they poured chips in bowls, prepped dip, and beautified the veggies on a serving platter. More guests arrived while dinner cooked. They caught up, sharing stories, laughing, and indulging on adult beverages.
As she placed the last side on the dining room table, it occurred to her this dinner was one elaborate lie. He had never intended to come. “Dig in. I’ll go grab those bottles of wine.”
She sat next to the lying flowers, attempting to call his phone, but the number was disconnected. She reached into her apron pocket. Her hands shook as she fumbled to unscrew the top. She took a giant swig from the potion. Ashlee walked in as she was pulling the bottle away from her lips. “Oh honey, I thought we were over this.”
Tears streamed from her eyes, “His phone is disconnected. I don’t know why he isn’t here. This was his idea. Why didn’t he come home from work?”
“Honey, he hasn’t come home in a month. We have to get you to stop drinking this stuff. You don’t seem to be aware of reality anymore. I don’t know how you manage to cook, clean, and go to work, but you don’t seem to remember your friends. You don’t remember that your husband left you. I really think it’s time to get you some help. Let’s eat and then Mike and I will talk with you after dinner.
**Prompt Here: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/19271780/posts/1528095664 **