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Dinner's Ready
Jae Levine Weiss

She had gotten really good at predicting how the evening would go by the sound of his car as he pulled up into the driveway. She heard the squeal of his breaks taking the corner turn too fast and too tight. She felt her stomach muscles involuntarily contract. She could hear the rhythmic drum beat of her pulse pounding in her ears. The abrupt ceasing of the gravel's crunch beneath the wheels as he came to a rapid halt, followed by the slamming of the car door, let her know it would probably be a bad night.
As the stomping of his shoes echoed through the concrete walkway, she quickly scanned the house. Everything seemed to be in place. The television had been snapped off moments before in anticipation of his arrival. The fan over the oven whirred, drawing up the pungent odor of the broiling steaks she was making for dinner. The salad was on the table. The wine was chilling in the refrigerator. Steam rose from potatoes boiling in a pot on the stove. Everything looked perfect. She smoothed a few stray hairs out of her face. Relax, she told herself. You have nothing to worry about. Everything is fine. Just as she heard the metal click of his key in the lock, she noticed the bloodied Styrofoam meat tray peeking out above the half filled trashcan.
She had forgotten to empty the garbage! Quickly, she grabbed the liner from the can and shoved the plastic bag behind the laundry detergent under the sink. She slammed the cabinet shut just as the front door flew open. "Hi honey!" she called out cheerfully, "How was your day?"
"Lousy," he grumbled, his voice rising as he slammed the front door. "You know what that place is like on Fridays. It's days like this, I'm tempted to tell Parson's where to stick his damned job, but somebody's got to pay the bills around here."
He entered the kitchen, pulling off his tie and unbuttoning the top button of his shirt as he approached her. He kissed her quickly on the cheek. "Smells good," he said appreciatively, his tone becoming more relaxed. "What's cooking?"
"Steak," she answered. She turned her back on him to check the broiling meat.
"Great," he said. "Make sure mine's well done."
"I know," she answered.
"I don't mean to nag you honey," he said sweetly. "It's just that I really can't stand raw meat. You know that sometimes when you are not careful it comes out too pink and our whole meal is disrupted. I'm just trying to help you."
"I know you are," she said, controlling the edginess on her voice. The muscle along the left side of her neck began to knot up. She bent her head to the left toward the pinched nerve and rubbed the tightened area with her right hand.
"Neck ache, sweetie?" he asked gently. Without waiting for her to answer, he began to rub her shoulders, kneading the muscles with his hands. The sensation was soothing and painful at the same time.
"Ouch. Careful." She jumped as his fingers dug into the nerve.
"It's got to hurt a little to loosen you up," he murmured, firmly massaging the tight place between her shoulder blades. She relaxed just a little as he rubbed her upper back. Maybe it was going to be all right tonight, she thought. Ever since the last time she had been anticipating the worst. Maybe the memories were exaggerated. Surely he was not capable of the things she remembered.
"Mmm. You smell good," he breathed into her hair. His hands caressed her slender throat, playing the tiny bones along her neck like piano keys. Through her thin cotton dress, she could feel him growing hard. Her heart began to race, not with excitement, but with fear. His fingers closed in around her neck.
The sputtering sounds coming from the pot on the stove as the boiling water overflowed onto the burner gave her a reason to break free of his grip. "Dinner's going to burn." She pulled away abruptly.
"Just turn it all off," he said. "We'll eat later." His voice was impatient.
"These are almost done," she answered, piercing a quartered potato with a fork. The tines slid into the center with little resistance. "Iíve just got to mash them. Everything else is ready." She tried not to reveal her mounting fear.
"I said, turn it off!" he demanded. "We can eat later. After." He pressed himself hard against her from behind, pushing her up against the hot oven.
Her body was telling her to run, but she remained motionless. He was her husband.
"Let me set the table," she pleaded. "Why don't you uncork the wine? It will be so much nicer after dinner. We can really relax."
"Dinner can wait. Come here."
"The steaks are going to burn," she whispered, but it was useless to pull away from his tightened grasp.
"I want you now." He insisted, turning her roughly towards him.
"Honey, please! Please don't," she begged but it was too late.
"Why do you always act like this? Why do you always give me such a bad time? I'm your husband damn it!" He pressed down hard on both of her shoulders until she was forced to her knees on the kitchen floor.
Unzipping his slacks with one hand, he pulled her head firmly toward him with the other. Choking, trembling, she gasped for breath, fighting back her tears.
Billows of black smoke rose from the steaks burning in the broiler, to be sucked up by the humming fan.

Excerpt from Finding Our Voices: Speaking Out Against the Violence
Copyright ©1991 Finding Our Voices/ The Journal Workshop Press


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