"How's your food, honey?" Mark asked his wife.
"It's delicious!" Isabelle exclaimed. Her voice was muffled due to the mixture of meat, gravy, and mashed potatoes that had been unceremoniously shoved into the gaping black hole of her mouth. Mark watched her as she let a mixture of muddy brown gravy and crimson blood trickle out the corner of her mouth. Mark often wondered why he wasted his culinary skills on this woman. He knew that she would only retreat to the bathroom half an hour later and vomit all of his hard work into the toilet. But he didn't mind tonight. Oh, no. Because tonight she wasn't going to force herself to puke. No, tonight she would keep this scrumptious meal in her stomach. Every single bite.
"I cooked it just the way you liked it." Mark said, a fake smile splitting his cheeks from ear to ear. "Medium-rare."
"I noticed." Isabelle said, soiling a white linen napkin as she dabbed the corner of her mouth. "Thank you so much, darling." She laid down her knife and fork and stretched her arms toward Mark, beckoning him forward. Mark continued to smile as he walked around the table slipped into her arms. Isabelle's thin, pale limbs snaked around his abdomen. Her touch made him want to burn his t-shirt and skin himself just to get rid of that horrible feeling.
Knowing that she couldn't see him, Mark allowed his face to twist in disgust. Oh, how he hated her. Mark painted the smile back on his face and pulled out of Isabelle's embrace. Her thin hands slid off his biceps as he stepped back beyond her reach.
"Do you really like it?" Mark asked her. Isabelle nodded furiously, shoving more of the seasoned meat into her mouth. She swallowed and spoke:
"Of course I do! Why wouldn't I?" Mark shrugged.
"I was just afraid that you wouldn't like it as much as the steak you had at The Williamsburg last Friday."
Isabelle's body instantly turned to stone. Her fork hung in the air with a lump of mashed potatoes still hanging from the tines. Her hand trembled slightly. Mark wouldn't have noticed it if he hadn't been watching her intently, studying her body language for the slightest reaction. Oh yeah. He'd caught her. Caught her red handed.
Isabelle's petrification only lasted for a few moments. The floating mashed potatoes finished their journey to her mouth and disappeared inside. She silently chewed the food and stared at her dinner plate.
"I don't know what you're talking about, dear. We haven't been there in months." Isabelle said. She laid down her knife and fork and picked up her napkin. She began to wipe down her hands, as though she was trying wipe away her guilt.
"You're right." Mark said. "We haven't been there in months. But you were there last Friday with that handsome young friend of yours."
Isabelle's face contorted in guilt. Her hands began to tremble so fiercely that the napkin slipped from her fingers. The soft linen fell to the hardwood floor. Mark bent down and picked up the napkin. He noticed that a drop of gravy had been left behind. He used a clean corner to wipe up the spot, then returned the napkin to the table. Isabelle was still trembling in her chair.
"Yes, he was quite a handsome man." Mark said. "What was his name again? I'm thinking it was Jeremy, but I'm not sure." Isabelle's head snapped upwards towards Mark. Her jaw hung open so wide that he could see traces of that food she had eaten caked on her teeth. She was obviously wondering how he knew the boy's name. Mark's plastic smile turned genuine as the tears started to well up in Isabelle's eyes. This is exactly the kind of reaction he was hoping for. That "I can't believe I got caught" expression that every unfaithful wife or husband wore when they had been found out. Mark wanted to laugh at how absurdly cliché the expression was, but he didn't want to lose his cool just yet. He turned around walked to his seat at the other end of the table. He felt the weight of Isabelle's guilty eyes on his back as he rounded the corner of the ornate dinning table and sat down in his chair.
"M-M-Mark . . ." Isabelle's stammered. "I-I-It was only once. I s-s-s-swear w-w-we only met once. We only-"
"No you didn't." Mark cut her off. He picked up his knife and fork and began cutting up the slab of meat on his plate. "You've met with young Jeremy fourteen times in the past two months. Once, I believe, you two even had a little get together while I was working in the back yard. I really must applaud your boy-toy's boldness, my dear. Not many men would be brave enough to screw another man's wife while he just beyond the door." Mark tenderly placed a sliver of meat inside his mouth and chewed slowly. He saw Isabelle's face twist in anger. He was toying with her and she knew it.
"Mark-!" she began, but he cut her off again.
"He was married you know." Mark watched her face don a mask of shock once again.
"What?" Isabelle exclaimed.
"That's right. Here's his wedding ring." Mark stabbed at his plate with his fork. The utensil rose again with a gold wedding band hanging from the tines. The polished surface's only flaw was a small smudge of blood on the outside of the band. Isabelle's trembling became so forceful that the chair legs rattled against the floor.
"Mark . . ." she whimpered. "Please tell me that blood is from the steak." Mark only smiled and tipped the end of his fork towards the table, allowing the gold band to slip off the tines and clatter against the polished wood. He silently speared another piece of meat and placed it inside his mouth.
"Mark . . ." Isabelle pleaded.
"You know . . ." Mark said, stabbing another chunk of meat. "Even though he was a cheating son-of-a-bitch, that handsome young Jeremy sure does make a fine steak." He placed the meat in his mouth, a wicked smile spreading across his face as he chewed. Isabelle's hand flew up to her mouth. Her eyes kept darting between the bloody meat on her plate.
"You . . . you can't be serious." she whined. Mark could barely contain his laughter. Tears started pour down Isabelle's cheeks. Her body racked with sobs. She jumped up from her chair and tried to run (Mark figured she was on her way to the bathroom), but she stumbled and fell to the floor. He knees rapped against the hardwood, sending a jolt of pain up her thighs. Tears rolled down her face with the semblance of waterfall. Salty tears mixed with caked on eyeliner, and the twin waterfalls turned an oily black. Isabelle shoved the fingers of her right hand between her lips, trying to reach the back of her throat. Meanwhile, Mark finally lost it and started laughing manically. He sat doubled over in his chair with tears of absolute joy streaming down his face.
"You're sick, you bastard!" Isabelle shrieked. "You monster! I can't believe you would . . . oh my God." Isabelle shook her head in disbelief. "Damn you, Mark! Damn you!" She was trying desperately to make herself vomit. Unfortunately for her, the intense trembling of her hand prevented her from accomplishing that particular goal.
"What's the matter, Isabelle?" Mark said between his bursts of howling laughter. "Can't you take a joke." Isabelle froze once again. The sobs instantly ceased, and her throat suddenly tightened as though God had tied a huge knot in her wind pipe. Her head stiffly swiveled around to see Mark cleaning off the wedding band. He laid down the napkin and held the ring up to his eye with his left hand. At that moment, Isabelle noticed that Mark wasn't wearing his wedding ring.
Still laughing, Mark stood up and dropped the ring on the floor in front of her.
"You can keep that." he said. "I'm sure you'll need to sell it, since you no longer have any money or a place to live." Isabelle stared at the gold band with a blank canvas of a face. Anger, guilt, sorrow, shame, and shock and threatened to make vomit without the help of a few probing fingers. The sobs began again, and the ring disappeared as Isabelle fell forward onto her stomach. She just laid there, sobbing and allowing the cold metal of the ring to press into her breast. Mark didn't see this, however, for he had gone to front hall of the house. He opened the coat closet, listening to Isabelle's annoying sobs. Stupid slut. He thought. You'd think that a person would recognize the taste of good old fashioned beef.
"If you're still here when I come back I'm going to call the cops! This house is in my name! I can have you thrown out real easily!" Mark shouted over the noise. He reached for a black leather jacket and pulled it off the hanger. He'd always hated this jacket. The only reason he wore it was because Isabelle thought he looked sexy in it. But then again, who cares what Isabelle thinks anymore.
Mark threw the jacket over his shoulder and dug around in the bottom of the closet. He emerged with a faded denim jacket, the only piece of clothing left from his old wardrobe. The wardrobe Isabelle made him throw away because she thought they looked too low class. I can't be seen with people who look like they've just come out of the coal mines. She had said. It would ruin my reputation. Mark slipped into the jacket, feeling comforted by it's embrace.
"Hey there, baby." he said, adjusting the jacket on his shoulders. He took his keys off the hand carved key rack and went to the door.
"Now if you'll excuse me, Isabelle." Mark called back to the kitchen. "I think I'll go out to eat."