The lemon came to a halt from its dash across the grocery store to find itself resting against the toe of his shiny, black shoe. He had just gotten off of work and was still wearing a suit, his tie remained taut as though, at any moment, he might rush from the store and plunge into some corporate meeting.
Linda strode toward him to retrieve the lemon. As she went she couldn’t help thinking how absurdly out of place he looked. She had hoped the list she gave him would have claimed his occupation for longer. Yet, there he was standing in front of her. She gazed at him for a moment wondering if her disgust was palpable.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yes Alec, I’m fine.” She replied curtly, bending down to retrieve the lemon. “I’m almost done, just finishing up in the produce section if you want you to go ahead and get in line at the checkout.”
“Okay.” He touched his lips to her cheek, lightly, before he walked away.
Linda waited until he was a few feet from her, staring at the back of his suit jacket as he went, before wiping the back of her palm against the cheek he’d kissed, her newly acquired ring marking a small scratch onto her skin as she did so. She glanced at the ring; it glinted in the fluorescent light of the store like a newly polished dagger. Taking it off, she slid the item into her pocket and finished up her shopping.
As she approached the checkout she dug for her ring in the fabric of her coat. She placed it back on her finger, in just enough time for Alec to see her, the band was light, but felt heavy as it returned to her left ring finger. She rolled her eyes as Alec waved her over.
They didn’t speak on the drive home. Linda pretended to be asleep against the cool glass of the passenger side window. She could feel Alec glancing at her intermittently throughout the drive. Opening his mouth to speak and then quickly deciding against it.
At home, Alec asked if she wanted help making dinner, but she declined. She was tired and wanted some time to herself, she said.
Linda riffled through the bags until she found the one with the lemons. She put them on the counter next to a pitcher of water and a bag of sugar. Making the lemonade helped her take her mind of Alec. She focused on the steps, lettering her mind go blank as she felt the skin of the lemon, the knife slicing it open, and her hands squeezing the juice out until she had exactly two cups. Once it was done Linda opened the refrigerator door and placed the pitcher inside it. She thought about tasting it, but didn’t, she had followed the recipe exactly, so it had to be perfect. The rest of the meal had been prepared in advance, Linda only needed to heat the components in the oven and wait.
As she was finishing up the last few touches Alec reappeared in the kitchen. Linda felt his presence as though he had reached out and touched her, although her back was to him. She took a deep breath and turned around.
“Welcome back” she smiled.
“Happy to be here” he replied, grabbing her waist and pulling her against him.
“Now, now, we aren’t married yet.” She scolded him playfully, pushing him off.
They ate dinner, laughing and talking effortlessly, almost as though nothing had changed in the past twenty-four hours. Yet, as they began to clean up, the familiar feeling crept back into Linda’s heart. She began to feel cold again. The ring on her finger became like a stone, strapped to her hand. She offered to finish the dishes, seemingly to be kind, but really to be alone.
The kitchen was nearly spotless before she remembered the lemonade. She chuckled to herself, a little annoyed that she’d forgotten. The cold of the fridge was like a gentle caress as she reached in to retrieve the pitcher. She poured herself a cup, anticipating the cool, refreshing taste as she brought her lips to the glass. Surprise washed over her face when she drank. The lemonade was sour. For a moment she considered consolidating the glass back into the pitcher, adding more sugar and re-stirring the batch, but she had just washed the spoon. Besides, she realized, she’d need to add more water, which would mean dirtying another pitcher or throwing some of the lemonade away. She hated to be wasteful and she didn’t want to start over. She thought all of this in a matter of seconds and decided to just drink it sour.
She brought the glass to bed with her sipping it one last time before placing it on the night stand and climbing into bed. Alec went to kiss her and she recoiled slightly.
“Hey, is everything okay?” He asked, for the second time that day
She wanted to tell him the truth, that no, everything was not “okay”. The words burned on her tongue just as the ring burned on her finger. She’d wanted to tell him yesterday; when he asked her, but the words got stuck in her throat and she couldn’t force them out. She had to do it now though. This was her last chance. If she didn’t tell him now she knew that she would marry him. She had to tell him, she resolved to tell him, she opened her mouth to tell him.
“Yes, everything’s fine.” She said, reaching over him to turn off the light. She closed her eyes and went to sleep.