She stood at the kitchen island and watched him make his way to the deck. It was a big kitchen — 15 steps across the floor from refrigerator to the sliders — with Mexican tiles and a color scheme created to take the heat away from any summer day. He balanced a plate of raw chicken breasts in one hand and held a tall iced tea with lemon — no sweetener of course — in the other. He was handsome, she thought. Average height, lightly tanned, runner’s calves. In the 12 years they’d been together, she had seldom seen his face look tired or craggy. His coffee-colored eyes matched his hair. Even at this age, he still had his hairline, and it never looked untrimmed. He looked healthy and strong and had the casual, easy walk of a frequent golfer.
She looked at him, mesmerized, as he continued across the kitchen. As she realized he was talking, his words moved into her consciousness, “…don’t get it. You’d think they’d pay a little more attention to what is obviously a potential asset to….” It didn’t matter to what. He criticized and complained about everything. He thought it brought him credibility, but all it really got him was life with an uncaring woman.
She knew he was only talking at her and she murmured mm-m-m as he passed by the island. He looked so perfect with his just-wide-enough shoulders, tight butt, and pool-clean bare feet. He held the plate of chicken like a waiter delivering wine to drink with dinner, while the tea at 1st rib height was ready to be called upon as soon as he felt the first flash of heat on the deck.
She reached up and brought down the skillet. It was black from years of seasoning, her grandmother’s cast iron pan, but it was perfect for carmelized onions. Despite its weight, she was still able to lift it off the hook by its rim, give it a short toss, and catch it by the handle at the last second. She took pleasure in that action. It made her feel strong and coordinated and, until she became old and weak, it was a predictable success.
She caught the handle and for a moment it felt the way her tennis racquet felt so many years ago. She flipped the head back and felt it touch the groove of her shoulder blade. It came up straight and strong, and, without even a grunt of effort, she aced it at his back. It was really more like a tomahawk than a tennis racquet, she thought detachedly, as it spun toward his shirt. Over and over it looped, not quite in slow motion but each spin definable and satisfying.
His chest lurched forward and his head snapped back from the force of the handle hitting his neck, causing his arms to splay like a young gymnast beginning a routine. The chicken and the barbecue sauce and his blood all blended together with the tea and what used to be his brain stem, and she couldn’t tell which parts of the jumble were his. Thank God, she thought, cast iron simply makes a sturdy thud. It would be annoying to have to listen to clanging metal before cleaning up that mess.
She looked up from his blood and saw him — still walking, still whining. She looked toward the doorway and called to his perfect, living body, “Honey, the veggies will be ready when the chicken is done.” Her hand continued to slice onions into the skillet as her horrified brain asked Am I crazy? Damn. I love him. I know I do. Discomfort trickled through her as the hidden place in her mind whispered, “splat.”