By Yong Takahashi
When they moved into their house, Brenda’s husband told her she could decorate however she saw fit. She was elated as he had never given her free reign before. For weeks, she collected catalogues and printed out pages from furniture showrooms.
He seemed to be content with the new couches when they arrived and even seemed to smile when he sat on them. He patted the dining room table when Brenda served their first meal there. She held her breath while he spun around in his chair then pulled himself closer to the table.
“It’s a little dark in here, don’t you think?” he asked.
“I’ve been looking at chandeliers.” Brenda handed him a piece of paper. She decided on a quirky, one-of-a-kind chandelier she coveted on Etsy.
“Not this one,” he said. He shook his famous disapproving finger at her and proceeded to order another one from a discount site. Soon, her choices were no longer welcomed and his decisions took up all the space in the house.
Every morning, Brenda glared at the hideous fixture over the dining room table. Practical, economical, and gloomy, it hung like a thundercloud lording over her digestion. It cast a shadow not only over the food Brenda lovingly prepared but over the love she tried to share with her husband.
One day, a bulb in his beloved chandelier burned out. Brenda pried it out and twisted in a new one. The new bulb sparked, fizzled, and died. She wondered if it was the same kind of spark she felt when she met her husband. Did she fall in love with the real him or the man she wanted him to be?
She wanted to call an electrician to repair the chandelier, but her husband thought it was too costly. In his opinion, she should have known how to screw in a simple bulb. He questioned what she did all day. Surely, she could surf the internet and buy the parts she needed at Home Depot or Lowe’s instead of wasting his hard-earned money on a skilled laborer.
In time, other bulbs blew out one by one. Neither one of them were able to repair the problem. Their meals and life became dimmer. Each look, each bite, turned darker and more rancid between them.
On their sixteenth anniversary, he splattered spaghetti sauce on her mother’s lace tablecloth. Her eyes fixated on the tiny specks as his voice became louder.
“You’re incompetent,” he repeated as he pounded his fists on the dining room table. “Look at me. Stop staring at the table.
“My grandmother gave me this…”
“I don’t care. It’s so ugly. I improved it, if you ask me.”
Brenda dabbed at a red stain with her napkin.
“It’s your fault. Who serves spaghetti on a white tablecloth?”
“She brought it over from Italy.”
“Who cares?” He intentionally slurped his noodles and more sauce sprayed on the white lace.
“But it’s the only thing I have left of her.” Brenda sat back in her chair.
“Just throw it away,” he said.
Brenda’s tears stopped, her posture straightened, and her mind stilled. For the first time in years, she truly breathed. Deep inhale, relieved exhale – pushing out all fear and sorrow through her mouth.
“The sauce is shit,” he said. “You sure your ancestors are from Italy?”
Brenda got up, took off her apron, and hung it on the back of her chair. She wanted to avoid a confrontation.
“You had all day to make this and it’s still not better than dog food,” he yelled. “Did you use the wine I bought or did you drink it?” ”
Brenda was done praying an invisible dagger would land square in his gut and put them both out of their misery. She was done squinting at the cracks in the foundation. She was done dodging hate from the shadows.
“Do you hear me?” he screamed.
The last light in the chandelier sputtered above her husband. As Brenda walked out the front door, she heard a crash. She stopped for a moment but she didn’t hear him say anything. Perhaps he was stunned or perhaps the chandelier crushed him. She didn’t care anymore.
Brenda looked up at the sky and soaked up the sun.
Yong Takahashi is the author of Rising and The Escape to Candyland. She was a finalist in The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Southern Fried Karma Novel Contest, Gemini Magazine Short Story Contest, and Georgia Writers Association Flash Fiction Contest. She was awarded Best Pitch at the Atlanta Writers Club Conference. To learn more about Yong, visit: https://linktr.ee/yctwriter