90 minutes from reveal of theme word(s) to completion of piece.
Teensie picked up the notepad by the phone and noted the faint impressions left behind by too heavy of a hand on a previous page. She held it to the light and thought she read “tell her 530, lvg hr, lv nthr, div old”
A code of some sort. She checked again to make sure she’d read the letters correctly. Uncertain still, she sought a pencil and gently colored over the impressions. Yes she had it right.
Tell her what? What had her husband Paco written? What did he want to tell her?
Five thirty? Something was going to happen at five thirty? Or was it five hundred and thirty dollars? Perhaps it meant May 30. That was the current date after all. Surely that’s what it meant. Tell her on May 30th. Tell her what? What was he going to tell her? She wracked her brain. A flood of possibilities washed over her.
Loving her? Leaving hour? Leaving her? Dear God, she thought, he’s leaving me. Why? Why would he leave? Was there someone else? How had she missed the signs? Wait. He did work late last week. Two times, as a matter of fact. Perhaps that tart, Gertrude, who claimed to be his secretary, had other talents that made her so indispensable. Teensie seethed with fury. She envisioned Paco and Gertrude yucking it up in a hot tub, drinking champagne, before retiring to Gertrude’s bedroom with its tacky decor.
Love neither? Love nether? Leave neither? I’ve another? Love another? That fit the pattern. Tell her May 30th he’s leaving her because he loves another. Teensie’s heart pounded and the blood whooshed in rapid pulses in her ears. How could he do it? After nearly fifteen years of marriage, he planned to leave her for his secretary, a secretary named Gertrude who was also married and a hundred pounds overweight. She herself stayed fit as a fiddle, worked hard to keep her body lean and toned. Paco would choose a fat home-wrecker of a slob over her? It was too much, too much!
Divide old? Divest old? Divorce? Divorce the old biddy? He wanted to divorce her so he could marry fat Gertrude? It wasn’t just a fling. He actually loved her? Teensie slammed her fist against the pad. How dare he? She paced the living room fuming, reliving every hurt, every argument, every suspicion she’d ever harbored during their marriage. She muttered, “I should have seen the signs. I knew that Gertrude was a big faker. I’ll bet she’d just been waiting to seduce my Paco.”
She marched into the kitchen and armed for battle. He’d be home in another hour to drop his May 30th bombshell on her. Too bad she had a preemptive plan of her own. A cherry pie would do nicely, she thought. He’d dive right in and never notice the acrid taste of the little extra something she planned to add.
“If he thinks he can dupe me, he’s got another thing coming,” she told the can of cherries. “Thought he was so clever with his coded message,” she carped to the dough for the crust that she rolled out in thin strips. “I’m nobody’s fool, you hear me!” But the cups of sugar and cornstarch she’d dumped into the saucepan held their tongues.
When she’d assembled her deadly masterpiece, she ran through the house carrying the pie to infuse the smell throughout.
“I’m home!” Paco announced cheerfully as he entered and tossed his briefcase onto the sofa. “What smells so good?”
“Let’s eat first, shall we?” Teensie said, ushering him to the table where his favorite meal awaited. She found his devil-may-care attitude noxious beyond belief and braced herself for his soon to be revealed bombshell. But she had her own to drop. “I made a special cherry pie for dessert too.”
He smiled and dug in, smacking his lips in that disgusting way he had.
“That was good,” he said when he’d finished. He stared at her silently then began to speak again. “I have some news. I don’t know how you’ll take it but I think it’s just better to get these things out right away, don’t you?”
“Uh yes, but let me get your pie first, shall I?” Teensie jumped up, cut a generous slice and placed it in front of him. “You were saying?”
“Right. Well. Something’s come up and I need to confess.”
Teensie’s eyes widened and she gasped.
“No don’t say anything yet. Just let me say all I need to say first, confess my sins, so to speak.” He paused to chuckle. She hoped he’d take a huge bite soon.
“I did something really bad, well depending on your perspective I guess. $530 dollars worth of bad, as a matter of fact.” He pulled out two airline tickets and waved them in front of her. “The Netherlands. I know, I know, you think we can’t afford it but you know those old stocks we’ve had for eons? Turns out they’ve been paying some handsome dividends all this time that were reinvested into new shares. I’m sorry, I forgot all about them. Anyway, I got two tickets on Dutch Air. Once there a traveler can hop anywhere in Europe because there are flights leaving hourly for London, Paris, you name it.” He paused and took a huge bite of pie and chewed. “What do you think?” He took another bite and watched her.
“I…I…don’t know what to say.” She shoved his plate to the floor with a look of horror on her face, ran to the phone and began to dial 911.
Paco frowned and stood, tossed his napkin to the table. “Before you call your friends to crow, I really need to tell you the rest. I just wanted to see your face, you old biddy. Cause you’re not going. Gertrude and I are. I want a divorce because I don’t love you anymore, don’t think I ever have. You’re such a loser, Teensie. As if I’d actually take you to the Netherlands.”
Teensie hung up the phone, took a seat and waited in silence, her hands folded on the table in front of her. The Netherlands in June would be lovely. A poor grieving widow could find love again in the arms of a handsome Dutch doctor, just like in all her Betty Neels romances. She smiled when she heard the loud thud in the living room and rose to do the dishes then pack.