The sounds and smells of the kitchen were all around him, comforting, familiar, home. He sat lazily staring at his wifes legs as she danced around him, flitting from counter to cooker, delivering pots and pans as she went. He gazed with idle appreciation as she threw a large copper bottomed pot onto the stove with one hand, while simultaneously, lighting the burner with the other. She exhibited a grace and elegance that was at odds with her heavy handed strength. He had watched her a thousand times, studied her every move, and he would watch her a thousand times more. To Hugh she was a goddess, a very domestic goddess. He settled into his seat, raised his glass and let the familiar dance unfold. It was far from ballet, he thought to himself, but it was beautiful none the less.
He stared at her strong lean frame. Her dress hung low as she worked revealing the promise of her bosom. He smiled. Was it odd to be aroused by his wife’s domesticity, he wondered. He cupped the glass of wine with his hands and felt the gentle chill caress his fingers. Slumping low into his chair, he watched as his wife continued to toil. Any moment now, he thought, Emily would remind him how much she loved that pot. She would tell him how it used to be her Grandmothers. She would say how she could remember, like it was yesterday, her grandmother teaching her how to make jam, rhubarb jam in that very pot. He, would listen attentively, smile and wait for the moment to pass.
Emily sat down across the table from him. Her unruly corkscrewed hair fell across her face as she slumped heavily into the kitchen chair. “Darling, pour me a glass of wine”, she said softly, smiling gently before adding more assertively, “ a large one please”. He smiled at the thought of him, him, ever skimping on a drink. He took the largest glass from the cabinet, the open bottle from the table and began to pour. He allowed the wine to glug noisily from the bottle. It licked the glass, unruly, like a dam burst into a crystal lake. Emily watched intently, ready to pounce should he stop pouring before she saw fit. “Never a slip twixt cup and lip”, he said smugly as he pushed the glass slowly across the table towards her.
Emily’s body relaxed as she felt the glass within her grasp. She held the base and lazily dragged her finger around the rim, teasing out the faintest of whistles. Staring intently at the rich claret liquid slowly becalmed within her glass, her eyes narrowed. “You know, a young boy gave up his seat for me on the train today”, she said, looking directly at Hugh across the table. She searched his face for a response. He stared back blankly, exhibiting a blissful disregard for her pain. She raised the glass to her lips and gulped heavily. “For Christ’s sake, she said, barely swallowing, I’m not bloody pregnant!” Her face contorted as she spoke. She shifted uneasily in her chair. “God, I feel old,” she added forlornly. “Do you think he thought I was old?” Hugh reached out across the table to take her hand. But, just as he stretched, the rice pan burst into life. It bubbled and hissed as it danced enlivened by the relentless, overbearing heat. It’s contents spewed as the gas flame licked and teased relentlessly from below. Emily leapt up, leaving his hand hanging over the herb bowl in the center of the table. “Bloody Hell,” she cried as the pan lid rattled and the liquid cascaded down onto the clean white stove. Emily flicked the gas off, turned the tap on and threw the steaming pan into the sink in one effortless move. She stood staring despondently at the mess before turning on her heels and slumping back into her chair. Hugh had not moved a muscle. His hand still hovered above the herb bowl as he stared admiringly at his wife’s elegant domestic grace. “Christ I hate cooking”, she said before reaching for her glass and gulping hard.
Hugh picked lazily at the sage lying in the herb bowl. Taking a sprig in his palm he rubbed it gently between his thumb and forefinger before lifting it idly to his nose. The pungent aroma filled his nostrils and, for the briefest of moments, the familiar smell took his subconcious to another moment, another time.
The kitchen was the same, save for a different coat of paint and a shabby looking but familiar lampshade. Everything appeared to be where it should be. Emily was at the stove cooking and Hugh was at the table drinking wine. A bottle sat in front of him and the herb bowl remained in the center of the table. The kitchen appeared the same, but something was markedly different. The air resonated with a different sound, a different beat. Gone was the distant thud of labored domesticity. In it’s place an awkward random rhythm that sounded like life, happy, unconcerned, unbridled life.
Across the table, a young girl strapped into her high chair, happily bangs her Bob the Builder plate with her Little Mermaid spoon. Her face, smothered with food, is contorted, her nose wrinkled as she concentrates on smashing her own pattern onto her bowl. Her eyes flash with intensity as she focuses fully upon the task in hand. Looking up and noticing Hugh’s interest, she spreads her arms, clenches her tiny fists and grins a broad toothless baby grin. She giggles, before in a flash her focus changes. Noticing the herb bowl is within her reach, she leans forward as far as her straps will allow. Hugh jumps forward and grabs the bowl. She is left puzzled, but now she is brandishing an unruly sprig of herbs in her tiny fist. Sensing a mood change that could slide either way, Hugh instinctively redirects her attention. He takes her hand and rubs the Thyme gently against her fingers. “That’s Thyme”, he says pushing it up towards her nose. Her face contorts, her nose wrinkles and she lets out a rasping raspberry in clear disapproval of the smell. “Phhhaaaaaa,” She says. He laughs and she, pleased by her fathers reaction, begins to giggle.
Hugh stared across the table and into the quiet, empty middle distance, his face brushed by a feint fragile smile. “I miss Lucy so, so much,” he said to nobody in particular. Emily placed her glass down on the table and reached out to him. She took his trembling hand in hers and squeezed gently. “I know you do darling, I know you do. We all miss her”. They sat for while, in quiet silence before Hugh instinctively reached for his glass. He caressed it, rocked it, gently, to and fro in his hand. His eyes fixed hard upon the liquid as it kissed then clung to the glass. “Don’t drink to much darling” Emily whispered, squeezing his hand gently as she spoke. He stared past her. It was the only thing left for them to cradle, he thought, before raising the glass to his lips.