The sound of her husband’s old Jeep Wrangler induced a Pavlovian response. Whatever Betty was doing: stop. Walk to the fridge, grab a beer, and head to the living room to set up his TV stand next to his armchair.
Life happens and this afternoon she had fallen asleep. Frank’s poker night yesterday and her book club meeting had taken it out of her. She had been watching Ellen and stretched out on the couch, and then… she must’ve dosed off. The bang of the door on the stopper startled her awake.
“Betty?” Frank called. “Where are you?”
“I’m in the living room hun.” She called back. She wiped the bit of drool from the side of her mouth and started over turning couch cushions. That remote was somewhere in here. Or was it on his chair? She could feel her own heart beat in her throat. And her face was hot. Too hot. In a daze she tore apart the couch. She moved the throw pillow she’d fallen asleep on and saw the white plastic corner of the univeral remote. 3-1 for ESPN.
“Whatcha doing in here?” Franks heavy steps punctuating every word. “How come dinner isn’t on?” He stopped in the doorway. He found Betty standing in the middle of the living room wiping sweat away from her brow.
“Oh nothing hun. Just finding your sports.” She said, flashing a smile.
Frank silently scanned the room making mental notes of the housework yet to be done. He was smiling, though not with his eyes. He wasn’t happy. She knew.
“What have you been up to all day hun? Looks like you still need to vaccuum.” Frank walked over towards his armchair. “Where’s my beer? Don’t tell me we’re out?” Frank’s smile began to burst out of its seems. Like an overinflated rubber ball that starts to stretch and morph in places just before it explodes.
“Er, let me get you one hun. You just make yourself comfortable and I’ll be right out.” She said. Frank grunted and sunk into his chair. Betty sighed as she walked to the kitchen. She padded her footsteps and strained to listen for any other footsteps. There were none.
“Hon,” He called. “How long do you think it’ll be until dinner? I’m starved. It was a real doozy of a day at work.”
“Er, actually I was thinking about calling in a pizza. How does that sound? We haven’t eaten out in so long. We could split a pie. You could get the bacon and pepperoni and I’ll just get cheese.” Betty said. She had decided to bring out two beers to him in his chair hoping that would quell the impending storm.
“Pizza? Sound’s nice hun. But exactly how do you plan on paying for this pizza Betty? Do you have some money put away for Pizza?” Frank said. His jaw tensed. Pop goes the rubber ball. “Or do you expect that I’ll be paying for this pizza. With my money. That I earned? Is it not enough that I put a roof over your head and allow you to stay home all day, while I fucking break my goddamn back at the plant day in and day fucking out.” He yelled now.
Betty didn’t move. She couldn’t. She couldn’t look at her husband either. She stared at the floor. She knew he would be mad. She shouldn’t have napped.
“Sorry I just thought…” She began.
“Oh you thought, “ Frank cut her off. “Look. At. Me.” Frank bristled. His teeth were bare and he snapped up from his chair. He grabbed her chin and lifted her face to look at him. He waited for her to break the silence.
“I’m sorry Frankie.” She said. She searched for a response, finding nothing that would abate him. “I…I just thought maybe you’d like a piz–” She heard the slap and tasted blood, but she didn’t feel it– yet.
At least he used an open hand this time. She hated to cover for Frankie’s anger at book club. The other women just didn’t understand how hard he worked.