Small Cuts (1) – James

Dinner reservation for four. The trendy new restaurant couldn’t take us till 9:00. No worries. Drinks and nibblies beforehand at their house. Genevieve and Oliver were the perfect friends. A childless couple just like us. Except that Oliver was in love with my wife.

Oliver texted Elaine to make plans. Made the excuse –although it was true– that I never responded in time. Always arranged things so that she was across from him at the table instead of me. His hugs lasted a little too long, he gathered her too close to his body for my comfort, his hands too low on her waist. His eyes lit up when she walked into the room, the way they do when you’re in love with someone. Elaine always told me I was making a mountain from a molehill. My wife was either lying to spare my feelings or truly was oblivious.

So that night, as usual, I found myself across from Genevieve, while Oliver and Elaine talked and laughed about everything and nothing at all. Her hand touched his when he made a particularly funny remark. He refilled her wineglass as soon as she had set it down, drained. Once, I tried to interject a comment into their conversation but quickly became the brunt of one of Oliver’s jokes. I laughed wryly, intending to be a good sport, but from then on kept out of it. I turned my eyes toward Genevieve as she lifted one corner of her mouth in a sad, half-smile.

She drew a deep breath and asked me about work. I absently remarked that all was well, nothing new or interesting going on and what about her work? Fine, fine, she had said. Silence descended on our half of the table. We concentrated on our food. I watched Genevieve watching them, trying to be inconspicuous.

Genevieve was so different from my wife, Elaine. Perhaps that was what attracted Oliver. Genevieve was quiet and bookish while Elaine was vivacious and outgoing. It was what had drawn me to her myself. Elaine’s dark eyes perpetually sparkled with good humor, whereas Genevieve’s were thoughtful, sometimes faraway and dreamy. I found myself unable to pull my gaze away from those blue pools. Her suffering floated just below the surface.

Genevieve made small cuts into her steak and pushed all the bits to one side of her plate. I’m not sure she had taken one bite yet. The silence between us became awkward.

“What are you reading these days, Gen?” I asked.

She looked up from her cutting, slowly. “Do you really want to know?”

I nodded. “I do.”

She placed her fork and knife on the edge of the plate –a delaying tactic– before answering. She mentioned a book by an author I’d never heard of.

I nodded again. “Ah. Are you enjoying it?”

“As much as anyone can ‘enjoy’ a book about infectious disease and poverty,” she replied.

My cheeks heated. “Ah,” I said again, feeling foolish.

She went back to dissecting her steak into small bites. Elaine and Oliver were oblivious. I stared at my own steak, appetite gone. I said, “I’m trying to read ‘Great Expectations.'”

“Really?”

“On audiobook while I run. It’s the only way I can get through some of the classics.”

Now I had her attention. Her entire demeanor changed. She asked, “What do you think of it, so far? What else have you read?”

I smiled and began telling her about it.  As I talked, she began placing the small bites into her expressive mouth and carefully chewing and swallowing. I loved watching her jaw muscles clench and unclench with each bite, her lips press together and the flash of white teeth as she opened for another morsel. I found myself dragging out my monologue just so I could keep watching her eat. But finally when I had no more to say, I shrugged and took a bite of my own. With a sideways glance toward our spouses –still laughing at some private joke– and a smile that didn’t reach her eyes, she said, “Thank you.”

I reached across the table and laid my hand over hers. She studied me soberly then slowly maneuvered her hand beneath mine until our fingers intertwined. I let my thumb slowly caress hers and I said, “No Gen, thank you.”

Continue reading here.

 

59 thoughts on “Small Cuts (1) – James

  1. Wow, leaves me wondering about the rest of their story. Well told! I feel bad for the two jilted spouses. They should make a plan to do something…I don’t know what, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s difficult. I think I’d feel like you do… leave it. I did feel that way with Secret Admirer in the beginning though… so what do I know? I also feel that way about another one I wrote (The Massage)… I still have yet to decide if I will leave that one or not…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is maybe my favorite one so far, Meg! I LOVE the intricate details and your descriptive ability is amazing. It evoked such feeling for both Gen and the narrator, but for the other two as well. Great story.💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have not! However, I have “Loving” on my ‘to read’ pile. Thank you so much. You are marvelous at creating atmosphere, oh self deprecatous one. Not sure that’s a word, actually. Tell me, will I like Green?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes Henry Green was an aristocrat and industrialist. His brother was good at everything but was an early drop out and indulged in drug-taking while hanging out in the desert. He met Crowley and became a disciple. He inherited his literary estate after Crowley’s death in a hastings boarding house with less than a pound to his name. Yorke found a stability of sorts and married and had children, but he would still spend part of the year living in a cave. Green was such an alcoholic that after the family company found out he was drinking neat gin at breakfast at work, Yorke took over the company for a while, which shows how bad things had got. Yorke went on to edit esoteric books in the 60’s, one of his boasts was that one of his bestsellers featured a tantric symbol on the cover. He was the Dalai’s emissary to the United Kingdom during the 60’s and 70’s . He features in Robert Irwin’s enjoyable psychedelic occultist romp Satan Wants Me. Irwin also wrote a novel about surrealism called Exquisite Corpse.This information is completely and utterly useless even by my recondite and obscure standards.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It speaks volumes about Yorke character that even after prolonged exposure to Crowley he lived a relatively normal life and even prospered. Crowley left a trail of suicide, insanity,drug addiction and alcoholism in his wake. He must have held some kind of dark charisma but he wrecked many, many lives. Yet Yorke walked away unscathed (apart from the cave thing, but that could just be aristocratic eccentricity) and remained devoted.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I wanted to live in a hollowed out tree when I was a child. The cave thing doesn’t sound all that weird to me. As long as it was a nice, dry cave…. Crowley however is pretty terrifying. So yes a strong character indeed!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Sigh! Just that. Sigh!
    On second thoughts, I am compelled to write more. I am tempted to think whether Elaine feels ignored by the narrator and so revels in the attention Oliver gives her. Or is she generally a vivacious person and there really is nothing there. It would be nice if they could confront the issues head on, instead of ignoring and making themselves miserable. What’s to be of the narrator and Genevieve? There may be nothing between the first couple but sometimes going through the same crisis brings people closer. Scandals up ahead! 😀 Loved reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right! Is Elaine innocently enjoying his attention? The other two are hurt by it nonetheless, so for them at least its an issue. I thought about continuing the story by telling it from the different perspectives but I kind of like the ambiguity… What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

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