“What do you want to do this evening?” I’m loading the dishwasher after our bread lunch – more room for tonight – and I’m feeling chatty. The rain ticks on the windows. It’s been that way since morning.
“Nothing really. The usual.” You continue wiping the table without looking up.
“But it’s Christmas Eve.”
“I know, but I don’t feel like doing some grand sort of thing. Maybe we can cook together and then relax in front of the fireplace? Just the two of us, like a date.” You throw the cleaning rag in the sink and wash your hands.
I laugh. “We’ve been married for more than ten years. It’s not like we need a date.”
“But we hardly spend time together without anyone else around and it’s either spent in bed or we’re each doing our own thing.” Your laugh masks a more serious undertone. I think of when we were newly-weds and we played guessing games at least one time a week. I can’t remember the last time we had so much fun together.
“You’re right,” I nod, and I peck your cheek. You turn your head and peck the corner of my mouth. “Let’s cook something nice and perhaps we could open that bottle of Spanish wine afterwards. You know which one I mean?”
“Can you get us the glasses? I’ll look for that bottle of wine.” You disappear into the storage room that’s connected to our kitchen.
I chuckle: “Okay.” You never let me near your precious wine. You wouldn’t let me cook either if you were always home on time.
I choose the crystal wine glasses that we never use. We hardly have anyone over since your parents died and our friends all have children now, so they don’t have time anymore.
When I turn back around, you groan and roll your shoulders. “What’s wrong? Did you bump into something?”
You shake your head. “My back is killing me. I shouldn’t crouch down anymore.”
I pull my brows up. “Well, you could put your wine somewhere else or let me touch them. You’re getting older after all.” I’ve never got why you insist to keep your wine bottles on the floor and not on the shelves.
“You too.” There’s no bite in your words.
“Yes, but I’m not in my forties yet.” You pull a face, but you sit down on the rug in front of the fireplace and you groan again.
“Would you like me to give you a massage?” I offer. That’s something else we used to do when we were younger: massage each other if we had had a particularly tiring day.
You start opening the bottle while I look for some paper to get the fire going. “That would be nice.” I grin. Thought so.
You fill our glasses and soon the first block of wood starts burning. The light is dim and the wine glints red and reflects the fire.
After a few sips, I take some cushions. They look a darker brown than usual. “Come, lie down. It’s the middle of your back, right?” I sit next to you. I don’t like sitting on your thighs and I don’t want to turn this into something sexual. That would defeat the purpose of quality time. Not that making love isn’t quality time, but our sex life, however routine, is good as it is.
I try loosening the knots with my thumbs and knuckles. The shadows race over my hands and in-between my fingers. Your shirt matches the burgundy of the rug.
You sigh contentedly. “I could fall asleep like this.”
“Don’t you dare. I’ll leave you here and then your back won’t be so happy tomorrow.” I pat your shoulder. You turn your head to the fireplace. Your eyes are closed. I smile because you might be in your forties, but you can still look cute. I never tell you because you’d fight me tooth and nail.
“Should I give you a shoulder massage as well?” I squeeze the junction of your neck and shoulder blade.
You groan. “I won’t say no.”
“Sit up then.” You install yourself between my legs and I knead your shoulders.
“This is nice. I should ask you more often.”
I kiss your neck. “Whatever you want.”
You turn your head and smile. “I’m lucky to be married to you.”
“I know.” I smile. “I feel lucky as well.” You steal a chaste kiss, so I steal another one from you.
After that we sit next to each other, peering at the flames. The fire crackles and devours slowly but surely the last block of wood. The craggy shadows play tag and hide-and-seek. You stretch your hand as if you want to catch the last sliver of warmth. As if you hope that the embers will jump over and dance on your fingers. Sometimes the fleeing shadows do seem to have a core of red and orange.
I glance at you. The front of my legs is hot from the fire, but so is my side where you sit. You attract warmth, absorb it, to release it where there is none, to fill voids even you didn’t know there were. That’s why a fire burns in your eyes that is bigger and warmer than the one in front of us. I tumble in it and you suck the cold out of me, till I shiver and you shiver, under a heat that absorbs us.
Outside the wind is moaning and the trees are wailing and the rain is hammering. Your fingers crawl over the tapestry and enclose my hand in yours and you smile.