“Jess, why are you still with that man?” Kathy said, passing Jessica a starbucks cup across the plastic table. Jessica opened the plastic lid carefully, savouring the sweet, chocolaty, coffee aroma that rose up from it. She knew it would be too hot to drink right now, but she could barely help herself. She took a sip from the cardboard cup. Just a tiny one. It seared her tongue so she barely tasted anything, but it was good enough. She hadn’t had her drink in months.
“Oh, Mark isn’t that bad,” she said, wrapping her fingers around the thin cup. The heat cut through the thin, one-size fits all pink gloves, pulling the cold out of her hands.
Kathy snorted. “Jess, everything you’ve told me about that man is bad. What was it he called you last week?”
“A fat cow,” Jess whispered, conscious of the patrons around her. “But he’s right, I haven’t been to the gym in a month and I was eating a-”
“Jess,” Kathy cut her off. “Look at yourself, you weight 110 lbs in your bra. And didn’t you tell me that you hadn’t been to the gym because he cancelled your membership?”
She didn’t know what to say to that. She sipped the triple cream mocha latte instead. It burned her mouth again, but she didn’t care. Mark would have called her stupid for drinking it so quickly. “Why can’t you ever just let it cool?” he’d told her years ago, back when they still went on dates. Now he just made comments on her eating habits when he saw her with Starbucks.
“Jess, listen to me. You have to leave that man,” Kathy was saying, her dark eyes pleading with Jess. She nodded.
It was getting dark when she finally got home. The red glowing numbers over the kitchen stove sent her into a panic in the dark home. It was nearly 7 and she hadn’t made any plans for dinner yet. Quickly, she whipped open the fridge, looking for anything useful. Last night’s pot roast stared up at her. It would have to do, she thought, quickly tossing it into a pan to reheat. A handful of leftover potatoes went into the pan beside it just as the front door opened.
“I’m home, Jessica,” Mark’s voice echoed through the hallway. “What’s for dinner, love?”
“Ahh, leftovers,” she said anxiously, peeking out of the kitchen. She saw Mark’s expression sag in the hallway.
“Oh.” The disappointment in his voice was obvious as he came into the kitchen with one arm behind his back. Jessica quickly turned back to the stove, trying to bring a little more life to the leftovers. There was some rustling on the kitchen table as she started to talk.
“Sorry, the subway was just super slow coming back and then-”
“And then you stopped off at Starbucks again and bought another expensive, fatty drink.” His voice held such certainty that she glanced back. He was staring at the garbage can in the corner, her Starbucks cup still sitting on top of the pile of trash she’d forgotten to take out before she left. She licked her lips nervously, noticing a bouquet of pink daisies sitting on the table.
“Sorry, just Kathy wanted to take me out and it’d been such awhile since we talked-”
“Yeah, I get it.” Mark’s voice dripped with disappointment. “Just I’d had a really rough day at work, and I was really looking forward to coming home to a nice, home-cooked meal from my beautiful wife. I’d even bragged to my coworkers about how lovely it would be. But instead I came home to a cold house and yesterday’s leftovers because my wife wanted to spend my money on an over-priced coffee.”
“Ah..” Jessica bit back the urge to apologize again. “I could… make something else? Maybe order in?”
“No no, it’s fine,” Mark said with a tone that said it really wasn’t. “I think we already wasted enough money today.” He gestured at the flowers on the table. “I even brought you some daisies to say thank you for being such a good wife. Seems silly now.”
Jessica bit her lip. “Thank you.”
“Yeah.” Mark got up, tossing the flowers onto the counter as he headed towards the garbage can. “Guess I’ll just go take out the garbage then. Can’t even relax when I get home.”
The rest of the night passed in steely silence as the pair watched one of Mark’s favourite movies on Jessica’s old couch. It was the last piece of furniture she had here, passed down from her grandmother. The rest of it was shiny new, stuff that Mark had brought in to replace her old stuff. Some of the old furniture had been falling to shreds before he had got his new job, effectively tripling the income Jess had brought in.
The movie passed on but Jessica barely heard it, lost in thought over Kathy’s comments. Mark really wasn’t that bad, she thought as he wrapped an arm around her. He’d brought her flowers, after all, and paid for all their new stuff. All he’d wanted was a clean house and a warm meal. If she hadn’t been out with her friend, she’d have been able to get that all done. Something exploded on the TV and Mark pulled her closer to him, snuggling up to say it was all forgiven.
She didn’t need to leave him.