Chapter 4

Preparing dinner was a quick affair. Melissa had a list of perfect pasta dishes for when she didn’t feel like spending a lot of time over the cooker. The one she chose to prepare that night was a favourite of Isabel’s, small chunks of chicken breast fried in a tomato sauce and then covered with cheese.

She lay David’s meal onto a tray and then poured him a glass of sparkling water just as David entered the kitchen.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his eyes roaming over the counter where his tray of food sat. “I had an online meeting, so I had to rush. I did want to suggest we order takeout.”

“Well, I’ve cooked now.”

“Yes. Thank you.” His words lacked that genuine ring that such a sentiment should have and sounded more like a rehearsed pleasantry.

Melissa took her plate of food and drink over to the kitchen table and sat down. She pulled a magazine on the table closer and flicked open the cover, feigning interest in the article on the front page. The slow pull of the chair opposite where she sat pulled her gaze up to David, who sat down.

“Oh. You’re eating here?” She asked, hoping her question didn’t sound too disappointed.

“Sure,” he said. Her tone hadn’t been lost on him as he added, “unless you don’t want me.”

Melissa felt her eyes roll as she looked back down at the magazine. It’s getting difficult keeping up with his mood swings, she almost said out loud.

There was a time when they complemented each other perfectly. The other always knew what to say or do to ease any situation that they went through. Everybody would comment on their completeness that it almost became a given for her that, no matter what, they would stand by strengthening each other’s weaknesses and soothe each other’s pain, forever. But that was so far from the truth now. It almost felt that they had been completely rewired. Whenever she’d attempted to move closer to him, he had pushed her away, and on the random and not-so-often times that he felt the need to rekindle their friendship she would be at the point where she couldn’t be bothered.

Noticing he hadn’t started his food, she looked back up at him. He was watching her, waiting for a response she assumed.

“It’s fine. Why would I mind?” she lied.

He nodded, gave a short awkward smile and then picked up his fork.

“I called Jennifer today?” he said after a few minutes of silence.

“What for?”

“To ask about taking the kids out.”

“Why would you do that? I told you I would call her,” Melissa said, the heat that was rising inside her apparent in her voice.

David lifted his hands in front of him, hoping to appease her. “It’s okay, I didn’t mean anything by it. I just wanted to get it done. I, er …” He pushed a piece of pasta around his plate as he thought for a moment, and then he continued, his eyes still focussed on his food. “I just want to make everything okay again.”

Where did that come from? And why now? Melissa thought. She didn’t respond, her eyes remained on him as he slowly lifted his gaze to meet hers. The heat that had sparked inside her erupted into full-blown anger that raced through her body. She clenched her teeth tightly to restrain the words that threatened to spit out at him. How dare he think that he can make things okay, just like that, after the way he has been behaving? The words didn’t come out, instead, she tightened her grasp on the fork she held and stabbed it into three penne pasta, one by one and then lifted them to her mouth before going back for another three.

David watched her through narrow eyes, his gaze fixed on her hand as it went back and forth from her plate to her mouth, in what may have been one of the most uncomfortable dining experiences they would ever have to sit through. After what may have been her fifth mouthful of pasta, she put her fork into the plate, took in one long, deep breath and looked back up at David.

“So, what did she say?”

“She didn’t seem opposed, which I thought she might, but she wants us to go there for dinner first, on Thursday.”

“Probably to check if you’re coping better,” she mumbled, not exactly comfortable with the idea of her husband being surveyed, despite her own feelings.

“Sorry?” he uttered.

“Nothing.” The words left her lips perhaps a little too quickly. “She was probably just being a little over-protective, that’s all.”

“Protective … from me?” Clear confusion etched itself across his brow.

“No, no. I didn’t mean anything. I was just blabbering.” In truth, that was precisely what she was thinking. After how he coped with everything, why wouldn’t she be protective? I barely feel safe around him sometimes with his mood swings and mini tantrums. And there was something else.

It was something she couldn’t seem to put her finger on, but it was clear something drastic had happened after the accident. She could see it in his eyes as he stared blankly across the table, his lips slightly parted almost in the process of forming a question, or something, but it never came. Instead, he picked up his fork and began eating. A few minutes went by. The only sound was the soft clink of the fork as it tapped against the plate, retrieving pieces of pasta.

“How have you been feeling?” he finally asked.

Melissa swallowed hard on the last gulp of drink she had just taken, taking care not to choke by the sudden, unexpected concern coming from him.

“Fine,” she said, placing the glass down on the table.

He gave a small nod. “Are you still seeing that therapist?”  

“Oh, don’t start about the therapist.” She wasn’t in the mood for yet another discussion on the practicalities of therapy and whether or not it actually worked.

“I’m just asking.”

“Why, David? Why do you want to know? So you can tell me how much of a waste of time it is?” Melissa slammed her fork into her plate, followed by the half-full glass of water.

“I wouldn’t …” he stopped just as Melissa jumped up from her chair lifting her plate with her. “Forget it,” he said, standing quickly as she passed his side of the table.

Her plate took one last slam as she put it down, roughly, at the side of the sink.

David followed her lead, picking up his plate and taking it to the sink.

“Thanks for the dinner,” he said.

His voice was too soft and steady for the atmosphere that had just built up. The atmosphere that he had created. The previous anger that had rekindled inside of Melissa stormed into a frenzy. “I’ll clear up,” he said.

Melissa’s eyes scanned the cooking area. There wasn’t much to clean up. A pot, the plates they had just used, and a chopping board and knife that was still on the worktop.

“I don’t need you acting as though I’m inadequate because I choose to see the therapist,” she shouted as she reached forward to grab hold of the knife.

Simultaneously, David turned to face her and grabbed hold of her wrist tightly, twisting it slightly until she squealed and dropped the knife. Keeping her arm in the same position he pushed her up against the cupboard.

“See the therapist all you want. You need to,” he spat, his eyes burning angrily into hers.

“Stop,” she whimpered as the pain pulsated from her wrist through to her elbow. “Please.”

David’s eyes flickered from her eyes to her wrist, his expression softening with each flick until he loosened his grip. Without saying a word, he bent to pick up the knife, threw it into the sink and then walked out of the kitchen.

What was that? Melissa whispered to herself, rubbing her arm as she went over what had just happened. Why did he react like that? She wondered.

She looked down at the knife David had thrown into the sink.

Was it when I grabbed the knife? What did he think I was going to do? Her mind ran back to the moments before she had reached out to grab it. Sure she was angry, she wanted to get him out of the kitchen.

A vision of herself slashing the knife in his direction flashed through her mind.

“No,” she said aloud and shook her head as the vision flashed through again.

I wouldn’t do something like that, he must have threatened me somehow. That’s it! He moved towards me first. Before I reached for the knife. It was simply a reaction, and due to his erratic behaviour lately, it was to be expected, wasn’t it? No wonder Jennifer wants to meet up with us before we take the children out. Maybe she’s noticed his odd behaviour and is worried about him. Maybe she’s worried about me, and my safety. I’ll have to be sure to let her know that I’m fine.

Melissa emptied the plates and washed them, then cleaned the sides and wiped down the cooker top, restoring the kitchen to how it looked before she had started cooking. It was still early and, even if she had been tired, she didn’t feel like getting into bed, not after what had just happened. She decided the best option would be to binge-watch whatever TV show she could find and fall asleep on the couch. She was a fairly light sleeper and would more than likely awake if he entered the living room.

She’d never considered David dangerous before, but lately, he had been doing a lot of things she hadn’t expected of him. A new him was slowly starting to surface.

Surely he won’t ever actually harm me? She thought as she switched the kitchen light off. But … 

She went back over to the sink, removed the knife from the dish rack and brought it into the living room with her. After a quick scan to find the best possible hiding places, she slid the knife underneath the sofa where she planned to sleep. Just in case, she thought. Just in case.

< < < Chapter 3

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