Are you coming to Scarborough Fair?
SHE held the coffee cup under his nose. The captivating aroma and the frothy surface foretold its exquisite taste. She made such coffee only when she felt an extraordinary affection for him. He took a sip and nodded approvingly. Then he returned to reading the newspaper. She lowered herself into the swing opposite him listlessly humming a tune under her breath. The balmy breeze gently stroked her cheeks. This patio indeed was the best part of the house.
She gazed at him for a long minute, and when she could take it no longer, she left the swing to go behind his chair, and circled his neck with her hands. He fondled her hands absentmindedly as he read. He loved not taking notice of her and feeling her warm breath on the nape of his neck.
Abruptly he announced, "Got to rush."
"Me too," she said.
Both were marriage counsellors though they worked in different organisations. In fact, it was their profession that had brought them together. During the day, they handled case after case, flushing their brains of the previous case and struggling to instantly refresh their memories of the next one. By the end of the day, the intricate complexities of each matrimonial case and the emotional expenditure their work entailed left them drained.
Hurriedly, they shut themselves in their bathrooms.
When the warm shower started caressing him, the question came back. In all his professional experience, he hadn't been particularly successful at handling this. A case of periodic, but consistent hysteria. Otherwise the woman seemed intelligent and reasonable. When one of these moods overtook her, she became unmanageable. She started to suspect everything, made outrageous allegations, and banged doors. However she seemed to calm down later and was full of remorse the next day. He seemed totally out of his depth when dealing this problem. When he got to office today, he would go through some of the more scholarly volumes before he began his next dealing with the problem.
In the shower, she too had her bugbear. In spite of her years of experience, this instance confounded her. For sure, the man was an alcoholic. His streaks of fury complicated the problem. Erudition, alcoholism, expletives and domestic violence. As successful as she was with the rest of her work, this cocktail frustrated her. When her judgement failed, she had tried an elaborate process of trial and error. To no avail. Would this intractable challenge prove her waterloo?
She was quickly distracted from her problem when she left the shower. He had already come out of his bath and was fiddling with the DVD player. "Are you coming to Scarborough Fair" soon filled the air. Off and on, he played the song, and it awakened in both of them the original romantic mood of their early meetings. The hesitant scraping of their elbows, the tender grip in which he would hold her hand when both of them could no longer stand the tingling fervour of their searching fingers, their walks through the park whose decrepitude never struck them.
"Why aren't you wearing a shirt?" she asked him.
"I was waiting to ask you what to wear. I have a couple of important meetings today."
She thought briefly. "That yellow linen shirt... "
"... we bought in Belgium," he finished helpfully. "What else would it be?"
They laughed and as if suddenly remembering the hurry he was in, he disappeared into the bedroom.
When she emerged from the dressing room, she could see he was busy making hot oats porridge the way she liked it. He had a particular art of mixing oats, milk and vanilla essence in a proprietary formula and topping it with caramelized nuts, raisins, dates and demerara sugar. One spoon of it, piping hot, took her within touching distance of a sublime ecstasy.
His wet hair was slicked back which made it appear thicker and blacker. He was in the yellow shirt that accentuated his sculpted body. After ten years of marriage, he still looked irresistibly attractive. She walked up to him, pecked him lightly on the cheek, before proceeding to the toaster.
He liked whole-wheat toast. Almost burnt. She carefully burnt the toast so it didn't become overdone. She herself liked warm, white toast. But today she would put up with whole-wheat toast. Breakfast was interrupted only by the "Scarborough Fair" instrumental that followed the vocal.
"I may be late," she announced.
"Me too. Busy day."
Opening her shoe closet, she stood meditating. When she laid her hand on her grey suedes, she could see him shaking his head in disapproval.
"Your new stilettos would go better with your trousers," he suggested.
She headed to the door while stumbling to wear her stilettos. Suddenly she stopped and whirled around. They stared at each other for a long moment.
"I still think you were drunk when you came home last night," she announced from the doorway. The fumes were in his breath; she was convinced. She was gingerly fingering the black and blue bruise under her eye that showed up as a shadow in spite of the diligent make up.
Anger caused by outrage stirred in his head. "I didn't, you paranoid slut. We have already been through this."
"I smelt it. Your breath was full of whisky, you... you lush." She was almost screeching.
"Not last night, I swear. How many times do I tell you, floozy?" he said through clenched teeth, making a menacing move towards her.
Her expression became hideous. Was she going to have her hysterical fit, he wondered? But her countenance relaxed and the look disappeared. "I don't have time for this now. Let's deal with this in the evening." She slammed the door. In a few seconds he could hear her car engine gun to life.
He didn't have time either. Where were the shoes? He noticed his hand had started trembling. Was it too early for a drink? Damn it, who is to decide what is early?
Soon the busy marriage counsellors had left the house. The world's problems had to be solved.
The author writes fiction and non-fiction. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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