Not really hungry, Freida pushed the small bits of cherry pie around her plate with the tines of her fork.
Cherry pie. It was Thursday night, and Thursday nights always meant cherry pie.
Andrew sat across from her, his Daily Times newspaper precisely folded so that the day’s crossword puzzle was displayed, fitting neatly next to his napkin and pie plate. There was a slight scowl on his face as he worked the puzzle, and he unconsciously gnawed at the nubby eraser on his pencil’s end.
He looked up at her. “I need a thirteen letter word meaning ‘one having the quality of having insight into things.’ Any ideas?”
“What letters do you already have filled in?” she asked, continuing to push the pie around her plate.
“Hmm, the word begins with a ‘p’ and ends with the letters ‘c-i-o-u-s.’”
Freida thought for several seconds. She had been Somerset County’s Spelling Bee Champion at the age of 13 and had been destined for great things, according to her teachers.
So much for destiny.
“How about ‘perspicacious’ – does that fit?”
Andrew’s face brightened. “It does!” Thanks, old girl!” he said, and then lowered his face back to the puzzle.
Old girl, she thought. Well, I like that that! He’s the one sporting a balding head and fuzzy earlobes!
Raising a piece of the pie to her mouth, she began chewing its cloying sweetness defiantly. Old girl – how that affectionate term grated. Freida didn’t feel old. She was on the right side of fifty and ready to experience life. Andrew, on the other hand, was content with Thursday night cherry pie and a daily crossword puzzle to solve.
What had happened to the two of them? She hadn’t signed up for this!
She started to take up another forkful of the pie and stopped. Why was she even eating this stuff? She didn’t particularly like pie. This was Andrew’s doing, not hers. Every Thursday, always cherry pie. Sometimes she had an almost overpowering urge to stage a rebellion, maybe serve chocolate cake – and on a Wednesday. That would fix Mr. Must Have Cherry Pie’s wagon.
She put down the fork and began to rub her temples. She was so sick of the same old routine that at times she thought she would scream.
Each night without fail, Andrew would walk through the door at 6:15 PM, slip from his shoes into his favorite slippers, scratch the cat’s ears, and settle down in front of the television until he was served dinner. And after that? The infernal crossword puzzle.
In the beginning, it was one of the things she liked about Andrew – his unfailing sense of routine. Her own upbringing had been chaotic and crazy, and she never knew which parent would be at home or out drinking until all hours. Sliding into Andrew’s predictable world had been like letting the warm water of a bathtub envelope her. Soothing. Comforting.
But sometime during the last forty years the water had become tepid, and Freida longed to step out of it and into something more bracing. She wanted to chart new territory and try new things while they still could.
A fine example was their vacation which was rapidly approaching. Each year they went to Ocean City for two weeks with his brother, George, and George’s wife, Trudy. They spent their days sitting under bright beach umbrellas that had been jammed into the sand, watching children and young adults playing in the surf. Andrew and George would fall asleep, listening to the crashing waves while she and Trudy would catch up on the people they knew while gossiping about the ones they didn’t. They went to the same old restaurants, little fish and crab shacks smelling of salt and brine, and sit at newspaper-covered tables, drinking beer from local distilleries. At night, the four of them would play cards in the beachfront condo they rented.
Freida wasn’t fond of Trudy, cards or the beach, yet year after blasted year she ended up there, stuck in a routine as irritating to her as chalk dragged across a blackboard.
“Andrew,” she said, sitting up a little taller and marshalling her strength, “let’s talk about our vacation plans this year.”
“Hmm?” His head bent close to the puzzle as he penciled in another clue, Freida’s words barely registered.
“I think we should make some plans.”
Andrew hardly stirred. “What are you talking about? We have plans – we are going to Ocean City with George and Trudy.”
“Well, I want to do something different! There’s no law that says we have to go away with your brother every year.”
Now Andrew was looking at her. “But we always spend vacations with George and Trudy.”
“I think we should do something different this year. We used to talk about driving up to Niagara Falls for a long weekend. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
“Niagara Falls?” He was staring at her in disbelief. “There’s water at the beach, for Pete’s sake! Why do you want to travel several states away to stare at even more water? And what if George and Trudy don’t want to go to Niagara Falls?”
“I hope they don’t want to go! Why do we need to go on vacation with anyone else? And Niagara Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world! Think of it, Andrew, all that crashing water! The power of it! The excitement!”
“Are you feeling alright?” he asked, studying her. He hesitated and then said softly, “Is it the ‘change?’”
Pushing aside her anger at his question, she cried, “I feel great! I feel alive! Come on, Andrew, let’s do it! Let’s live a little!”
Andrew pursed his lips and looked away. Freida always hated when he did that – it was his way of showing disapproval.
“You might have told me all this before I gave George the deposit for the condo. I doubt we can get it back. And what about George? He and Trudy are expecting us to join them. It’s pretty damned selfish of you to go and upset the applecart just a month or two from vacation. This isn’t like you, Freida, creating a big mess for no reason.”
His soft, angry snort said everything, and then he went back to his puzzle.
Freida’s face sagged with unhappiness, and her momentary excitement quickly ebbed, leaving her to wonder if Andrew wasn’t right. This wasn’t like her. She’d always gone along with whatever he wished to do. It was only lately that she’d felt any dissatisfaction with the way they lived. Could he be right? Was it the ‘change’ that was affecting her?
She didn’t think so, but had nothing else to pin her malaise on.
Andrew, having already dismissed the conversation from his mind, interrupted her thoughts. “What’s a ten letter word meaning ‘discerning’ that begins with a ‘p’ and ends with the letters ‘t-i-v-e?’”
Freida stabbed a piece of the pie with her fork and looked at it. “Perceptive,” she replied quietly.
Andrew examined the open blocks of the puzzle. “Yes! That’s a fit! You’re so good at this, old girl.”
The former Somerset County Spelling Bee Champion gave him a weary smile and raised the fork to her lips.
Cherry pie. Just like always.
© 2017 All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton, Odyssey of a Novice Writer
This story was written in response to ‘Two for Tuesday’s’ prompt (found here) to write a flash fiction using the words ‘perspicacious’ and ‘perceptive.’