“It’s been a while since we did the grocery store together.” Lisa said. “Thanks for driving Marshall—work was a bear today.”
“No problem, honey.” He smiled as he eased the car into the garage. They each took several bags and made one trip of it into the kitchen. Lisa put things away and Marshall hung their jackets on the hooks by the door to the attached garage. She put a casserole that she had mixed that morning into the oven, and made a cup of tea. She perched on a stool at the breakfast bar where the pad of paper, and the book waited.
“What are you reading, honey?” Marshall asked, as he opened the fridge. The beer can made a pleasing sound when he popped the top.
“Hum, sounds like I am about to be part of an experiment.” He smiled. “I love science fair experiments!” He moved to the built-in desk in the kitchen, switched on the laptop, and gathered the six envelopes that arrived in the mail. “Time to pay bills.”
“Don’t forget the donation for the school. You told your sister, Marcia, that you would donate $100 for the kid’s school.” Marshall sighed loudly. “I heard that.” Lisa said without looking up, and she continued making notes on the pad. She compelled herself to focus on the cookbook, and not on the attitude that Marshall’s sigh communicated. She adored her sister-in-law and the little girls. Now that Marcia was on her own with the girls, Lisa felt it was important to help where they could. Marcia’s breakup with her husband Philip had left Marshall in a tough spot. Philip and Marshall were friends since the third grade. Marshall thought Marcia should have forgiven Philip his indiscretions and make a go of the marriage. Lisa thought that it was slightly peculiar that Marshall did not show more loyalty to his sister.
Lisa adjusted herself on the stool in order to redirect herself to the task at hand. “You know, I want to be ready for the dinner. It’s important that you make the right impression, Marshall.”
“The dinner is going to be fine, Lisa. Don’t make it a production. It’s just dinner. I can throw a couple of rib eyes on the grill and be done with it.”
“I thought we had decided this already. The dinner needs to impress, right? Then we have to go beyond the grill.” Lisa took a sip of the tea.
“What do you mean, ‘beyond the grill?’” Marshall did not look up from the computer.
“I mean we need courses; at least three.” Lisa was weighing two different appetizers that were back to back in the book, so she was flipping the page several times. “Do you know if your boss likes artichokes? There is a wonderful warm spread here for garlic toast. It’ll taste great with coctails.”
“Lisa, do we have to discuss this now; I’m trying to pay the bills. Oh, by the way, my boss says Friday’s not good. I suggested Wednesday. He said ok.” There was a pause as he took a sip of beer. “And he told me today that his wife is visiting the grandkids this week, so he wants to bring the girlfriend.”
“The girlfriend?” Lisa got off the stool. “I am not at all sure that is a good idea” Lisa had met the young woman before and found her uninterested in any conversation. This was shaping up to be a very uncomfortable event. No doubt the boss was going to us the dinner as his cover with his wife. Lisa wondered if they would have to lie in the future about who was at the dinner. “And did I hear right, that you switched from Friday to Wednesday; two days from now?” She was on her feet, but she felt frozen to the spot. Would she be able to be ready to entertain mid-week?
“Yes, two days from now, and I don’t want to make a deal about the girlfriend coming.”
“What?” He looked up calmly, beginning to anticipate resistance.
“Wednesday is the third Wednesday—I have book club, and I’m the hostess this month! It’s on the calendar right there, on the wall to your right.” She crossed the space between them, and put a rigid index finger on the day’s square. “See!”
“Lisa, you know this dinner thing is important to me—to us.” Marshall avoided looking at the stiff finger lingering on the day square, and looked up at his wife. “You’ll just have to reschedule book club.”
“I’ll look ridiculous.” Lisa was thinking about the eight phone calls and all the persuasion she would have to muster to switch hostess responsibilities with only two days’ notice. She was a newer member to the group and now she had to call in favors she had not earned.
“Well one of us has got to look ridiculous, I guess—and it can’t be me.” Marshall’s jaw did that funny movement it always did when he decided an issue.
“It’s just not fair!” Lisa wondered why she was surprised as well as dismayed. Marshal had decided and he expected her to get in-line.
“Lisa, you’re getting upset. I never said anything about fair. When you wanted to chair that volunteer committee and you missed my birthday, I didn’t get upset over it. It took some explaining to my parents, but I wasn’t bothered at all. This dinner is contributing to our goal: My promotion to executive vice-president, and the transfer we have been hoping for. We both have been working hard to make it happen. This is the opportunity I have been waiting for to close the deal.” Marshall could feel the tension go down a bit. “Honey, help me out here, this is for us.”
“I work hard to be organized. This is not the way I like to do things, and you know it, Marsh.” Lisa was trying not to look at him, she didn’t want to see his eyes plead his case. His eyes always got to her. She kept her focus on the calendar with the book club written neatly in the square. Why couldn’t he just look, or put the dates in his phone like she did? As much as she wanted to be “right”, she knew that Marshall was about to prevail. It was logical, she told herself, but she did not feel any better. The silence was getting long now.
“Ok, I’ll switch hosting with someone in book club.” She returned to the cookbook and notes. “I need to go to the store again tomorrow, pick me up from the train okay? We’ll have an appetizer, salad, entre and dessert. I need some fresh beets, and goat cheese for the salad. Steaks might be good for the protein, it will give you a chance to speak to the boss alone out by the grill.” She looked up then to see him watching her. “So pick me up at the train; right?”
“Absolutely.” Marshall said with a smile. Lisa returned to her notes, and Marshall turned again to the bill he was paying on-line. His face held a self-satisfied smile as he contemplated closing the deal of his life.