“Are you sure your husband won’t mind?”
“No, Why should he? Why would he?” I asked.
He continued: “Because you’re having lunch with a strange man.”
I sighed and continued.
“First of all, you’re not a strange man. Not to me. I’ve known you for almost 3 years. It’s not my fault he only just met you that one time 2 months ago. Second, He won’t mind because he won’t care.”
“No?” He furrowed his brow at me. “I find that hard to believe.”
“Well believe it,” I muttered.
I bit into a forkful of my dessert. Key-lime pie really is the ambrosia from the gods. Overhead, the disembodied voice of Adele singing “Chasing Pavements” piped in through the speakers.
“I take it you didn’t tell him either.”
“No, I didn’t,” I confessed. “Besides, he doesn’t tell me when he’s having lunch with any of his female friends, including the ones I take issue with. The ones he has a crush on. He’s very keen to avoid telling me about those lunches.”
John stared at me like he was reprimanding one of his students. “Payback, then?” he suggested.
I played around with the dessert fork in the whipped cream longer than necessary and tried to avoid his eyes. Perhaps I did sound a little bitter, but I didn’t intend to. This wasn’t any kind of payback. Eventually, I looked up and met his stare. He just wasn’t the kind to hold back, was he?
“Nope, not payback,” I responded. I chose my words carefully as I explained. “I’ve always been very mindful of the things I did or said, because I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I would go out of my way to avoid confrontation with anyone. But I came to realize that, in my relationships, in my marriage especially, I’m the only one doing that.
“He’s said too many things to me that have left me with permanent emotional scars.To be honest, I’ve had such a psychological battering over the past few years that I think certain feelings in me have just plain died. Now I pretty much treat him the same way he treats me.”
He was still staring at me with those piercing blue eyes.
I faltered, “It’s rather difficult to explain all at once.”
I stabbed at the last piece of pie while I waited for his response. Why was I made to feel so guilty about this? I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
He slackened his stare for a bit.
“I know what you mean,” he conceded. “I’ve been in an emotionally draining relationship before and it’s a lot more complicated than what outsiders see.”
His look softened as he held my hand. “I know you try to be emotionless and brave. You pretend you have no feelings when he hurts you. But I know that underneath all that hard exterior you’re just putty inside.”
He looked me squarely in the eyes. “But next time, you tell him we’re having lunch, okay?”
He ended his reprimand with a smile.
“Yes, sir,” I conceded, and happily polished off the rest of the key-lime pie. Yes, definitely the food of the gods.