Susan read over the menu without enthusiasm. If George were here, he’d order the Lobster Meunier. He’d tempt her with a forkful and when she declined between gritted teeth (as she had for so many years), he would good-naturedly shrug his shoulder and slide it into his mouth, eyes twinkling. This smugness, this taunting, had made her seethe for years and the worst of it was, he knew it did. But he pressed onward all the same. Perhaps they could share the Chocolate Souffle? He would ask wickedly. She’d dig her nails into her palm and close her eyes, waiting for his unintentional cruelty to pass.
But now. Now that George was gone, she wondered why she hadn’t had the soufflé. It would have made him so happy to share that with her. And wasn’t that the point of love? Doing things to make the other person happy? But the pain it caused her was just too great a risk. He loved her all the same, Susan knew. He just thought she was vainly trying to keep her girlish figure for him. He never suspected the truth, the deep deception she’d been harboring for the last 4 years. Susan sighed. She wished she would have had the soufflé, just once.
The waiter moved to her to offer the wine list. In her mind, she had already assembled the perfect meal and knew the perfect wine to go with it. Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1998. After all, it was a celebration of sorts. She asked for a chilled bottle. The waiter raised his well-groomed, 20-something actor’s eyebrow when she declined a second champagne flute. No, Veuve, you handsome devil, you are all mine tonight, Susan thought.
The first course arrived – Oysters and Pearls – “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar. She gingerly poked the oysters and picked up her fork to delicately lick the end. Ah….lovely, light flavor. She did this also with the subsequent courses, from the quail’s egg to the voloute of white asparagus to the praline mousse. Just a tiny, tiny taste of each dish would do. The waiter approached cautiously, asking if she’d like to have everything wrapped up. No, she shook her head sadly. No, no, just the check please. She finished the champagne as she waited, wondering what its affects would be when she stood to leave.
Susan was pleased to learn that, tonight, the affect was one of melancholy, but not of pain. She was relieved to just escape with the melancholy. She made her way to her darkened office building on Putnam, let herself in with her time-worn key and found her way to her desk. She was glad she’d had the champagne to bolster her resolve. She switched on her computer and began to type.
Dear Mr. Tremble:
It is with great sadness that I tender my resignation to you and to the owners of the Herman Herald immediately. I will be leaving the food column as of tonight. As you know, the recent loss of my husband, George, has been a devastating blow. Also, I must tell you that I have been diagnosed with severe dyspepsia and I don’t believe I can continue to be a food critic and live up to my duties as such, when the thought of putting food into my mouth makes me want to vomit into a trashcan. I trust you will understand this ironic situation and allow me to leave gracefully and quietly. I do so appreciate your confidence in this matter.