Friday, May 4, 2012

The Anniversary

Leila covered her face with her hands and screamed out her frustration into the silence.

She squeezed her eyelids shut and quickly wiped away the hot tears that spilled onto her cheeks. Laying face up on the bed, she stared at the ceiling fan as it slowly turned in circles like a wooden, flat merry-go-round.
Happy anniversary to me, she thought.

Sobbing alone in her empty house wasn’t exactly how Leila thought she’d celebrate her first year of marriage to Rick. She looked at the clock on her bedside table.
8:34 p.m. Exactly 12 months ago at this time she and Rick were either dancing or licking champagne off one another. Twelve months ago had been the best night of her entire life.

Tonight, on the other hand, was probably the worst.
Rick had stormed out more than an hour ago after a huge fight about, of all things, where to go for their anniversary dinner. Leila knew the fight was actually about more than that – but that’s what blew everything up.

 “It’s our first. We should make it special,” she said when she called him at his office about a month ago.
“Whatever you want to do is fine with me. I already told you that.” He was rushing to get her off the phone but Leila was ignoring his impatience.

“How about we go away for the weekend?”
"You know I can’t do that. We start the trial the following Monday and I’ve still got a stack of depositions to review. We can go away another weekend.”

“Fine. Then let’s go to a fancy dinner and then out to a nightclub?”
"Sure. I gotta go now. We’ll talk about it later.”

But they never really talked about it because Rick had barely been home the last few weeks. He got in late after she was already asleep and then left while she was out on her morning run. Even still, Leila thought Rick would give her a night to remember.
But rather than the romantic scenarios she had imagined, the day began with her husband leaving the house without even a peck on the cheek or a “happy anniversary.” Later, Leila waited at work for some sign that her husband wasn't a total ass. Every time the phone rang she thought it would be him. Every time her office door opened, she thought it would be a delivery of roses.

Finally after lunch, Leila’s phone buzzed with a text message: “happ  annversry. Luv u.”
By the misspellings, she figured he’d probably texted her while driving. Her body tensed and her face warmed with fury. She thought about the card she lovingly made for him and the concert tickets she’d bought two months ago and had planned on giving to him during dinner.
He better have something big planned for tonight, Leila thought.
Unfortunately for Rick, he didn’t.

He walked through the door at 7 p.m. and asked her if she still wanted to go out. When she said she did, he then asked her where she wanted to go.
“I thought you made reservations?” Leila asked incredulously.

“Reservations where? Why would you think that?”
“Um, I don’t know. Maybe because it’s our first anniversary and I thought you’d want to go somewhere that didn’t have a drive-thru window?”

“You don’t need to get sarcastic, Leila. I’ve had a long day and I don’t appreciate your attitude.”
“Excuse me? Do you even care that maybe I wanted to go out and have a nice meal after having spent the past two weeks eating frozen dinners all by myself because you’ve been living at your office!” Leila was becoming hysterical at that point. But she didn’t care.

“I’m sorry I’ve been working so much. But you know I’ve been getting ready for this trial. It’s important.”
“More important than our marriage?” Leila yelled.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” She could tell he was irritated too. But, again, she didn’t care.
“Is this how married life is going to be from now on?” she asked. “Because this isn’t what I signed up for.”

Rick’s eyes grew big and he threw up his hands. “What are you saying? You want a divorce because of one stupid dinner?”
“Celebrating our first anniversary isn’t stupid. At least to me it isn’t.”

“You know that’s not what I meant. “ He went to reach for her arm, but she stepped back.
Rick shook his head. He turned around and headed for the front door.

“Where are you going?” Leila cried. He didn’t answer. A few minutes later she heard the garage door open and a car engine turn on. Leila ran into her bedroom, fell onto her bed and sobbed.

Eventually her sorrow became concern. When Rick still hadn’t come back by 9, Leila got off the bed and went into the kitchen in search of her phone. She was just about to text him when she heard the garage door open.
She wiped her face and brushed back her hair with her hands. Then she squared her shoulders and got ready to yell at him for making her so worried. But when she saw her husband, her heart sank. He looked tired – so very tired – as he walk toward her holding a plastic grocery bag and a brown paper sack.

“Are you still hungry?” he asked as he set the bags in front of her on the kitchen counter. She nodded and took a seat on one of the stools. He pulled three burgers out of the paper bag, along with a carton of French fries.
“Why are there three burgers?”

“Because they put onions on yours and when I drove back to get another burger without onions they told me to keep the other one. Oh, and I noticed you’re out of ginger ale so I stopped at the liquor store and got you these.” Rick pulled two small glass bottles of Leila’s favorite soda out of the plastic bag.

The he reached into his jacket pocket and put a set of keys on the counter. “I took your car. It needed gas so I filled up the tank.”

At that moment, Leila realized that Rick didn’t need to buy her an expensive dinner or a dozen roses to show her that he still loved her after 12 months of marriage. He showed it in everything he did for her every day.
Leila’s eyes watered and she felt her chin quiver. Rick looked at her with weary eyes.

“What? What did I do wrong now?”
She nearly leapt from the stool and threw her arms around his neck.

“You didn’t do anything wrong. This is perfect. Happy anniversary my love.”
*This original work of fiction is owned and copyrighted by the author **

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