By Elaine Cohen
Brian came to her home at exactly six-thirty as Marie knew he would. With Brian, you never wondered if he would show up—always, always on time. God, she loved that, that never wondering.
Good evening,” Brian said.
She smiled. “Good evening.” She was tired of the casual men who muttered, “Hey babe,” as they brushed by her. She loathed their stained t-shirts and ripped shorts and the sound of sandals flip-flopping dirt across her tile floor. She liked Brian’s formality, his coat and tie and that, on the hottest day, he never perspired.
Marie had laid out the table with her English dishes and the antique candelabra set her mother gave her. The white linen tablecloth was new and had intricate swirling designs sewn in. She thought it quietly stylish, elegant, like Brian.
She poured the wine and served the salad, hoping that Brian noticed the table. That maybe he would say something about it or the food or her hair or her dress.
But Brian talked about the Middle East and the latest peace plan. He worried it wouldn’t hold and that fighting would start. Marie nodded in agreement, but secretly reveled in the sound of his words. The long vowels and sharp consonants, his deep tone and smooth speech filled her being. She wished he would say “Marie” again and again so she could hear her name on his voice.
While Marie served the soup, a thick pumpkin spice soup that took two days to prepare, Brian talked of the economy. To her the economy was like a tornado, potentially devastating but out of her control. So why worry? Brian worried. He mentioned big companies firing people and the difficulty in finding new jobs.
Marie said, “There’s some talk at my place about layoffs, bookkeepers, auditors.” Then she lied, “Maybe even my job.” For a moment she thought she broke through. A brief wave of sympathy passed in his eyes, a microsecond of tenderness. But then Brian began spouting statistics and he never mentioned the soup.
As Marie brought out the steaks, marinated and seared to perfection, Brian told her about Sudan and the children there. Damn him. Why bring up starving children when she’s serving steak? Couldn’t Brian forget the world for one night, one meal, one course?
Maybe she should just drop Brian. There’s that guy on the third floor, Charlie something. She’d met him a few times in the laundry room. He was overweight and he sweated, but if you ignored the perspiration he seemed okay. Besides, he genuinely liked Marie. Maybe she should invite him to dinner. As Brian droned on about some Washington scandal, Marie made a promise. By God, she would do it. Tomorrow she would invite heavy, sweaty Charlie.
Now Brian was talking about a businessman who cut profits to save jobs at his factory. Screw it, she thought.
What about this dinner, Brian? Have anything to say about this dinner?”
Brian smiled. He looked right at her and smiled. A burst of warmth exploded in Marie filling her to the edge of her soul. He did care. He did.
That’s our report. I’m Brian Tobacki. Thanks for joining us. From all of us at CBR News, good night.”
And then Brian left. Marie reached for the remote and turned off the TV. Tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow she would make a fantastic dinner that Brian really liked. Maybe he would stay for dessert. He cared. She knew he cared.