By Stephen Riordan
Iris washed down the Prozac tablets with a mouthful of white wine. Its bitterness lingered at the back of her throat. The gravy was bubbling behind her. She turned and stirred it to stop it from going lumpy. Deep orange light filled the kitchen as the sun was setting. Iris went over to the sink and closed her eyes against the warmth of the sun. Her light dress drifted with the breeze. She sighed as she felt the tablets and wine sweep a lightness through her.
She opened her eyes and there he was. Frank, just back from work at the office. The top button of his shirt was open, his tie loose. Gliding over to him, she wrapped her hands around his neck. She felt his arms around her and his hands on her lower back.
“I missed you,” she whispered. “Dinner’s nearly ready.” She returned to the cooking as he made his way into the sitting room. Within a few minutes, the dinner was set on the table. Roast potatoes, lamb chops, vegetables and gravy crowded the plates.
Iris went into the sitting room to fetch Frank. He was sprawled out on the couch, fast asleep. There was some ridiculous western on the TV. Sitting next to him, she ran her hand over his jaw. The light stubble tickled her fingers. His lips were parted and soft. She could feel his warm breath across her hand. “He looks just like a boy when he sleeps,” she thought.
She turned down the sound on the TV and sat down to dinner alone in the dining room. The clock’s tick echoed through the room. Once she had finished and cleaned up, she returned to the sitting room to find it empty. The TV was off. “He can eat the dinner tomorrow,” she thought as she covered his plate with cling film and put it in the fridge.
Climbing into bed, Iris felt relaxed and drowsy. Frank’s arm wrapped around her middle as he moved up behind her. His body heat lulled her to sleep. She fell asleep.
Iris awoke to the glaring morning light. Children were playing and screaming outside. Her hand slid to the other side of the bed but it was empty. Frank’s departure hadn’t aroused her. She plodded over to the wardrobe and there were all his clothes, neatly arranged. They had that familiar musk to them. A polka-dot dress caught her eye. It had looked charming on her at last year’s Fourth of July celebrations. The fabric ruffled against her skin as she closed the wardrobe, shutting him away from her. Once she had showered and dressed, she made her way downstairs.
Iris wiped the sweat beads from her forehead as she hung out the washing. “It’s a day for an iced tea,” she thought. “A long-island one,” she smiled.
There was an array of her clothing on the line: blouses, sweaters, bras, underwear. She had just finished when there came a knock on the door. She swept through the house and answered it.
“Hi Emily. How are you?” she greeted. Emily bustled into the sitting room. They sat down to lemonade and were chatting.
“You should come out for a couple of drinks tonight, Iris? The girls and I are going dancing.”
“Oh that sounds nice. I’ll just have to let Frank know first.” Emily’s face faltered as she stared at Iris. “Y-you know,” Iris continued, “I just don’t want to leave him by himself without any notice.”
“Ok that’s fine.” Emily took a sip of her tea. There was a silence and Emily looked around the room. “The place looks spotless by the way,” she suggested with a smile. “There isn’t a picture out of place or a speck of dust on anything.”
“Oh, I still have a lot more cleaning to do.”
“What? The place looks spick and span,” she laughed.
“Well, it’s nice to keep the place tidy.”
“Don’t I know it? If only my house were as clean as this.” They both laughed. A silence fell. “Well, I better be off. I’ve got to get some stuff for the dinner, and poor Jimmy’s running a fever.”
“Is he? He’s probably delighted he gets to stay home from school.”
“A little devil is what he is,” Emily arose from the chair.
“Ok, thanks for stopping by. I’ll give you a call later after I talk to Frank.” Emily’s smile fell slightly but she quickly regained her composure with a crinkled smile, her eyes squinting.
“No problem, that’s fine. I’ll see you later Iris. Bye-bye.”
Iris returned to the sitting room, shut the door and heaved a sigh. She glanced around the room. Her eyes fell upon a photo of Frank. He was smiling that wide grin, as he always had.