She stared at the indistinguishable heap of steaming chicken in front of her.  She didn’t understand.  She’d followed the recipe.  Meticulously.  She’d added a half teaspoon of this a quarter cup of that, kneaded, pounded and baked; and it came out looking like something from an “Alien” movie.  As if at any moment it would spring up from the serving dish and attach itself to her face.  Tony would find her lifeless body near the sink in their one bedroom apartment and watch in horror as the alien popped out of her chest.  She laughed sardonically.  That would teach him.

He was late.  Again.  She couldn’t help but feel a twinge of resentment.  She knew he was doing everything he could to show his work ethic and impress everyone at his new job, his first real big-boy job after college but she’d already hedged and made sure the “alien” wasn’t done until 20 minutes after he should have been home; and still no Tony.  She sat the dish on the already-set table next to the salad and peas that were probably room temperature by now anyway and plopped down into one of the mismatched chairs at the old table they had bought off a garage sale in June.  She hated waiting.  And being dependent.

She wondered if her old friends were chatting at the gym or sipping a green tea at their old coffee house on 2nd street.  She imagined them sitting outside in the waning sun, gossiping about the newest fashion disaster Jeanie had arrived in that day at Brogan’s.  They all loved each other and even Jeanie knew they talked about her.  She didn’t care.

“All ya’all bitches can kiss my ass!  You wish you had the balls to try and pull this off you white-bread, bourgeoisie bitches.”

She smiled, Jeanie, Mags, Teague, the whole bunch.  She missed them.

The steam had nearly stopped wafting off the alien.  It was dying.  She couldn’t help but be a little sad.

‘What can you say about the alien’ she thought in her best eulogistic, funeral director voice.  ‘We knew him such a short time.  From the time he popped out of the oven so warm, so inviting, so wanting to suck on our face.’  She smiled and laughed inaudibly.  She was still smiling a little when she heard the elevator at the end of the hall ding.  She looked expectantly at the door and felt weird, felt guilty and had accepted it wasn’t him when their door opened and he walked in sweating, tie askew and flushed.

“Hey babe!”  He glided in on long strides toward her, cradled her chin in his perfect hand and kissed her lightly on the lips.

“What’s cookin’ hot lips?”

“Chicken, peas, salad and maybe Jello for dessert if it sets up in time.”

She still hadn’t really even figured out Jello yet.  Sometimes it took forever and sometimes it never got firm and jiggly and she felt ashamed and unworthy that somehow her Liberal Arts degree hadn’t prepared her for the vagaries of gelatin and fruit.  ‘What the hell?’

Tony yanked his tie the rest of the way undone and flung it over the couch near where he had dropped his beautiful briefcase.

“What kind of chicken is this?  It looks sort of…” he scrunched his face up in a sideways, questioning expression, as if he couldn’t quite figure out how to describe what lay on the plate before him.

“Shut up, you ass!  I was trying something new.  I followed the directions!  It’s not my fault if it came out looking like something from a horror movie.”

“I wasn’t going to say that, I thought it looked like something from the O.R.  Something we might have extracted from a patient” he giggled as he speared a breast and held it up for their examination.

“Screw you, Tony Baloney!” she said as she crossed her arms and leaned back in a pout.

“Oh, come on ‘Tish, I’m just joshin’ with you.  You know I’ve only been in the O.R. a couple of times.  Maybe the morgue!”  He laughed and jabbed her arm.

“Asshole!  You can have a lunch meat sandwich next time for all I care.”

“Hey, babe, you know I appreciate you making me dinner and I’ve told you I don’t need anything fancy, just meat and veggies.  Thanks for trying to spice things up.  Really.”

He reached over and rubbed her shoulder.

It was nice but then, she felt weird, like he had to console her.  The little wife.  Who’d created the abomination and couldn’t follow a recipe or land a job.  As if he could read her mind he picked up the thread.

“Any new leads on the job front today?”

“No, not much.  Seems like the ones where I’m most qualified are the ones that won’t call me back or even send me an email.”

“I’m sure something will turn up.  It’s only a matter of time.”

“I could always go back to part time at Brogan’s until something opens up-“

“Babe, you know we talked about that.  You need to be available to interview during business hours for something better, a career job, not just something to pay a bill or two and you can’t do that and work at that place at the same time.”

“That Place” like it was a slaughter house or a strip club or a meth lab.  She had friends at that place, friends she enjoyed, people she liked hanging out with; friends much warmer than the incessant, blinking cursor on her laptop, the one who seemed to be saying, ‘You-are-married-now.  You-need-to-get-on-with-a-big-girl-life.  Don’t-you-want-to?’  A triple ding from Tony’s phone sent him lunging for it among his discarded tie and sport coat.

He touched the screen and his face lit up from the glow of its message.

“Awesome, we got a case!  Feinelt says they have a surgical patient coming in with a history of perforation on an emergent basis and he wants me to scrub into the O.R.!  I gotta go!  This could open the door to his practice using our mesh!”

He stuffed a last bite of alien into his mouth and rose from the table headed toward the bedroom.  She sat, mouth open, the beginnings of a comment, a question or an objection (she wasn’t sure which) frozen in her brain.  Each of the non-verbalized thoughts piled toward her lips but her sensibility and understanding beat them all back.  She settled for watching him glide quickly into the next room and hearing drawers open and close, shoes slipped off and tossed into their closet and his soft gruntings as he put on casual clothes.  Sure, she understood.

Dr. Eric Feinelt was the senior partner at a group of G.I. specialists Tony had been calling on from day one when he took the job with O.A.P. the words of which she still couldn’t string together.  (She thought the last one was “Products” or something)  Feinelt taking the time to text him meant Tony had a foot in the door and the doctor was going to use Tony’s product or at least see how it worked.  With the volume of business Feinelt and the other six doctors did at his practice, if Tony could snag his account it would absolutely impress his bosses. The commissions alone would be phenomenal.  He emerged in jeans and a polo in a matter of 90 seconds or so.

“How do I look?”

He had to be nervous and excited.  Tony Balionie never asked her opinion on his clothes.

“You look lovely, my dear.  You’ll be the prettiest girl at the prom!”

“Thanks, T.  I promise not to give it up and go all the way on the first date.”

They both smiled at each other’s jokes and he was gone.  It was just her and the alien again.  Cold, lifeless and pooling a little in its own juices across the table.  She poked it with her fork.

“Are ya dead?  For sure this time?  I’ve seen this trick before.  I’ve seen all the sequels.  You think Sigourney Weaver is a badass, she’s got nothing on me.”

7:30, alone in the fading light streaming in through their west-facing windows she heard the a.c. kick on.  Alone and talking to a pile of chicken breasts.  It would have made her laugh if it were someone else.  At the moment though, she just couldn’t.  She knew it had only been three months.

Three months since the wedding.  Three months since getting their very first place together.  Three months of setting things up like she wanted, putting in contact paper in the cupboards, buying a few prints to hang on the walls, choosing a bedspread.  For cripes sake, three months of domesticity.  It had been fun for a while.  While Tony worked she’d had that purpose.  For the first time.  The unknown territory had been even a little exhilarating but there wasn’t much more that had to be done.

Sure she could continue to buy stuff for the apartment but it wasn’t a house and she wasn’t a fan of “decorating” (at least not yet and she shuddered, literally, at the possibility she might morph into one).  What was she doing and where was she headed?  And what was fading into the rearview mirror?  In the dimming light she couldn’t be sure it wasn’t her own reflection.

Every week I write about things that go on in our lives, some of them unique and some fairly common.  I hope you liked this even if it reminded you of a difficult time while you were going through some changes in your life and role in it.  If you would like to read more, just click here to go to my blog’s home page.  If you like this or what you see there I hope you’ll subscribe.  Subscribing is free and means you’ll get an email on Sundays with links to the week’s posts.  You can subscribe by clicking here or at the blog.  Please don’t worry, I never sell or share emails so you won’t get a bunch of spam.