She lit the candles carefully. Lighting the last one, she looked around to make sure the whole room glowed orange
evenly. She sat down to rearrange the white lace tablecloth neatly spread out on the floor. Making sure the edges were even, she placed the dishes she had made on the tablemats, careful to place them equidistant from each other. She was a perfectionist, or so she said.
Finally, she looked up.
Candles – check.
Flowers – check. He hated lilys, so she had to be sure none were in sight.
Food – check check. Steaming hot Italian pasta and baked vegetables slightly underdone. Perfect.
Wine – check.
Sexy dress – check.
She sat back against the leg of the sofa, inhaling the scent of the candles. The watch showed five to eight; she had exactly four minutes before he arrived. She smiled, wondering what that penchant for being one minute early was all about. She had never found out in the four years they had been together- much like everything else she did not know about him.
She wondered why they had never tried to find out more about each other. Beyond his favourite cuisine, his aversion to lilies and his obsession with black satin, she knew almost nothing about his tastes.
She sighed. She liked it this way. Non interfering. They both led independant lives, no questions asked, no explanations given – it only mattered that they were together when they both needed it. This was how she had wanted it.
The doorbell rang twice and then opened – another of his idiosyncrasies. She cocked her head to the side and smiled as he stepped into the light.
He was dressed in his usual pin striped suit with the tie slightly crooked – a sign that he had had a tiring day. Her smile widened. Tiring days meant even more tiring nights.
His forehead was creased – he seemed deep in thought. She half sat up, crossing her legs.
He looked around the room and his frown deepened. He did not place his briefcase down, but leaned against the mantelpiece. “We need to talk.”
She sat up fully. She had not heard that line before.
“What’s wrong? ” she repeated, a little loudly this time.
“This needs to end.” The words were abrupt. He was gazing at some point just above her head, firmly away from her face. “Right now.”
She was too stunned to say anything. She stared at him, willing him to speak further.
“I met someone else. Actually… I have got back someone I lost four years ago. I met her on a trip to Italy and then things didn’t work out between us. I hoped and prayed… and on my last trip there I found her again. She wants me to move there. I think we have a future.” His sentences did not make much sense. It was urgent, he only needed to say what was essential. His voice was torn between pleading and dreaminess. Between longing for someone else and pity for her.
Between the need for a future he had dreamt of for four years and the need to get rid of the present and her.
She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t talk. She just gazed helplessly at him, wondering if time had stopped.
Finally, he looked at her- for the merest fraction of a second. In that second, his eyes held every ounce of pity he was capable of. There was no remorse, no sadness. Just pity, overflowing, senseless pity. He turned around slowly, not needing a response. It was as they had begun the relationship – no questions asked, no further explanations needed. You are free to leave anytime you choose. He had told her, cupping his fingers beneath her chin as they had stood beneath the star strewn sky. I will ask no questions.
And yet, here he was, walking away first, and she had no questions she could ask.
Something rankled in her head. “Her name?” she choked.
He turned and looked at her, and she knew she was right. “Lily.”
The door swung shut behind him and she crumpled to the floor.
The door creaked open and she looked up, wondering how much time had passed, wondering if he had come back.
It was not him. It was another familiar face, looking alarmed. “What on earth?”
She gazed at her husband’s face as understanding slowly dawned on him. She watched his face crumple, felt her own head beginning to spin.
A gust of wind blew through the open door and extinguished the candles.
Darkness set in.