After awkward silences and stilted conversation, Lorraine and Frederick’s dinner with Ellie was finally over, and Ellie had gone across the hall to her apartment. Lorraine silently cleared the table and began washing the dishes. She had no dishwasher, but enjoyed washing dishes. Her hands were always cold, and the hot water felt good. She insisted on doing the washing up even though Frederick always offered to pitch in. Truth be told, Frederick was clumsy and she would kill him if one of her antique dishes were chipped or worse yet, broken. Any judge in the land would call that justifiable homicide.
Frederick had settled back his seat in the living room, just steps from the kitchen and was about to pick up his book and lose himself in it. But first, Lorraine had a thing or two she wanted to tell him. “Frederick,” she began, choosing words carefully. “Do you understand now why you can’t just invite people to have dinner with us?” She was fuming.
“No. What are you talking about? I thought dinner was wonderful and Ellie is delightful.”
“Delightful? I don’t believe what I am hearing! Were you at the same table I was? Did you hear those hateful things that woman said?” Lorraine was starting to lose it.
“What hateful things? I don’t know what you are talking about either!” Frederick hated arguments and wanted to get back to his book. He also did not gossip, something about him Lorraine was determined to change.
“First of all, she called me a drunk and said our diet was ‘Alien Shit’. Then she praised the government and its daft idea of building that wall. She said we didn’t look healthy, Frederick! Unhealthy! And look at her lard ass. That’s what you get from eating fast food! How dare she criticize us that way? The only kind words she spoke were when she called me skinny. And even though that was lovely, it didn’t cancel out the mean things she said!”
“Well, since you brought it up, there’s something I have been meaning to talk with you about. Will you come over here and sit down?” He looked worried.
“What’s wrong, my dear? Are you ill?” Lorraine hurried to the armchair across from where Frederick sat. She leaned towards him solicitously. What did he want to talk about? Was he going to leave her? Go back to his previous wife? Get a boyfriend? Oh, she was so afraid. She had finally found a husband, and she just knew her luck wouldn’t hold out!
“It’s about our vegan diet.”
Lorraine breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh yes! Isn’t it grand?! We are both so healthy and I look at least ten years younger than I am because of what we eat.”
“You do look young, Lorraine. You are a beautiful woman. The most beautiful sixty year old in the world.”
Lorraine smiled and nodded. She was seventy-three, but had told him she was much younger. It had worked after all. He thought she was sixty! And by her calculations, that meant he thought she looked fifty. Well, she did take care of herself! He was so discerning.
“It’s just that you never asked me if I wanted to be vegan. I don’t. I hate tofu and could live entirely without vegetables. I’m a meat and potatoes guy! My favorite lunch is a bologna sandwich with gobs of mayo on Wonder Bread, and I am longing for a rare steak. You take such good care of me, Lorraine, so I hope I am not hurting your feelings. But can’t we eat like normal people?” He put his head in his hands and waited for her response.
Lorraine sat back in her chair as if he had slapped her face. Normal people? Bologna? White bread? Steak??? Could she have misjudged him? She thought he was health conscious and smart. “But Frederick! Don’t you want to live to a ripe old age?”
He raised his head and looked right at her. “Not if it means eating tofu into my nineties. I’d rather die young and eat steak and mashed potatoes. Will you at least consider it?” he asked.
Lorraine pretended to be offended, pouting her lips and rubbing her eyes as if crying, but the truth was that when no one was looking, she would put on dark glasses and a baseball cap pulled down low and drive through the McDonald’s near Ingles and order a Big Mac, large fries, and a Diet Coke. She would pull over to the corner of the parking lot and wolf the food down. Her absolute favorite cheat food, though, was Bojangles fried chicken. She could eat an eight piece box herself, hiding in her car.
Could she come clean about her real eating habits, or should she continue her pretense of eating only healthy foods? “I will think about it,” she said after a long pause. “This would be so hard for me. How could I force myself to swallow food I have shunned for so long? Perhaps if I had a new ring from Visions of Creation to remind me, kind of like a string tied on my finger, to buy foods that you like at the grocery store. That might help me over this huge hump.”
“Thank you so much, my dear!” Frederick gushed. He was relieved that she had agreed. So relieved he would do anything for her. “You are so kind and accommodating. I will go to Visions of Creation tomorrow and…”
Before he could finish his sentence. “Emeralds. I want emeralds.” Lorraine demanded. “And platinum.”
Frederick considered the state of his bank account. It was not good. There was always his credit card, though. Situations like this were the reason God created credit cards. Lorraine was worth it.