He was staring at her with that stupid eyebrow cocked at a funny angle. She knew any reply would be better than silence, but nothing came. She felt the self-righteousness pulsating from his face, slightly pink with frustration.
“Well?” he barked, nose squeaking. Mark had a tendency to squeak when things weren’t going his way. It was either from his sinusitis, or an Asperger’s tic. She winced at the familiarity. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
Her mind raced in slow motion, like when you’re trying to run in a nightmare. She could pull out her default, which went something like, “Okay, sorry. I should have ran it past you. I didn’t think you’d mind. I’m sorry.” Then perhaps a conciliatory hug, maybe even a peck on the cheek, and he’d be back to studying his crossword puzzle with his feet up on the coffee table in an hour or so. She’d take a long bath after dinner, stare into the steamy mirror at the lines trekking painstakingly across her face, and wonder at what point in her 36 years had her life derailed into such tedium.
Or, she could screw the norm, take a deep breath, and retort, “What do you mean ‘well?’ Are you a complete moron, or just pretending to be? Who cares if the curtains aren’t exactly periwinkle? What kind of guy says ‘periwinkle’ anyway? Why don’t you shove that Panda Express up your ass and get the hell out of my house. Yes, my house. Don’t forget, I paid for this goddamn place.”
She bit her lip, undecided. Mark wasn’t a bad guy after all. Just, dense. A bit frayed for forty. Completely OCD. And apparently obsessed with interior decorating. But he wasn’t the worst guy she’d been with. At least he didn’t lie to her face or sleep with her sister. Yes, that did happen. She shuddered, remembering.
“Emily, are you going to say anything, or are we just going to stand here while the food gets cold?” he demanded. “Dinner was $15.80 by the way. You can’t get anything decent without shelling out at least 15 bucks these days.”
She instinctively reached for her purse on the counter, then hesitated. Her hand hovered for a second, before pulling out the counter stool. She scooched onto the seat, legs dangling before finding the footrest. Mark’s face contorted impatiently.
“Mark, I think you should go.” The words sounded foreign. Exes usually left her long before she even realized those words needed to be said.
“What did you say?”
She gripped the edge of the counter to steady her resolve. “Mark, you need to leave. This isn’t working out anymore.” Oh, the cliché.
He glared at her for a good three seconds, slammed the take-out bag on the counter, and furiously removed what must have been her half of the dinner. He paused expectantly.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said under her breath as she rummaged through her bag, counted out eight dollars, and shoved them across the countertop.
“Fine. Thanks.” He hesitated. “You’re gonna regret this, Em. You keep thinking you’re going to find someone better but you won’t. Women like you never do.” He emphasized the “you” by throwing his laptop bag a bit too brusquely over his shoulder.
She didn’t respond until he’d slammed the door behind him.
“You may just be right,” she whispered, smiling to herself.
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