by Alicia Evans
Charles is already on the front lawn when Michelle arrives. He hands her the noise maker that they use during their New Year’s celebration. At exactly seven o’clock they join their neighbors in screaming, clapping, and blowing those noise makers. It had become their way of saying “Thank You” to all the first responders that have been on the front line of this pandemic. When it is over, Charles reaches for her hand, slowly Michelle takes his hand and looks up into his eyes, and it is that moment her heart warms for the love they share. As they walk back into their home she is grateful their love survived quarantine.
She scrolls over the “End Meeting” icon. Clicks and clicks again, drops her head, relaxes her shoulders, and breathes a sigh of relief. It has been a long five months of zoom meetings and virtual meetups. In the beginning, it was confusing but now she is a pro, navigating through the virtual world. Monday thru Friday, nine in the morning she is in her home office. Most evenings she emerges after six, but on Fridays the work week ends at five.
Michelle Anderson, wife of Charles Anderson, stepmother to Mikela, and a sister-friend to many, is the owner and chief operator of MA Skin Care Line. “You are worthy. You are worthy. Y-O-U A-R-E W-O-R-T-H-Y.” She laughs as she repeats her own personal mantra. Her ten seconds is up. She pushes the chair back and stands up.
Crash, a shattering sound can be heard throughout the house.
“What the hell?” With a tight fist and her eyes shut she counts to ten. A trick she learned during her “How to Cope in Quarantine” virtual meetings. She fixes a grin on her face and heads straight to the kitchen.
Charles turns when he hears her enter, “Sorry babe, it’s like she knows exactly when your meetings are over.” He says as he kneels to scoop up what looks like the remainder of Mikela’s dinner. “No problem love,” Michelle says as she grabs a towel to clean Mikela. “Does she behave the same when I’m in my office?” Michelle looks up at his pleading eyes. I know what he wants me to say, but should I tell him the truth? Which would be “No!” Michelle turns her head away from him and tells him what he wants to hear. “Of course, she does.”
Their Friday evenings have become a sweet routine now. Charles orders take-out from a local Italian Restaurant. He has the wine chilling and Netflix set, for them to continue watching “Virgin River” a romance drama series. Michelle is surprised Charles enjoys watching this love story with her. She is a little skeptical but at least he is trying. It shows her that he is consciously making an effort to please her. Even now when Michelle seems happy, she cannot help but remember many Friday nights that were not so pleasant before COVID. After working a full day and picking up Mikela from the sitter, she would then prepare dinner that would go untouched. The red wine bottle was left on the table unopened. An empty bottle of Moscato in the recycling bin outside. When he finally crawled into bed before the sun comes up, all she would get is, “Sorry babe, meeting ran late.”
While Michelle struggled with the transition of working from home, she notices Charles was able to adapt easily to the change. It was then Charles informs her that in January of 2019 his company implemented work from home Fridays for upper management. Michelle could not believe her ears. She wondered where he went on Fridays but then realized she didn’t care.
“Everything smells delicious,” Michelle says as she returns to the kitchen, grabs the glass of Moscato, Charles has already poured. Charles continues to unpack the food and when he opens the box with the fried calamari, she grabs one and stuffs it in her mouth. “Hot! Hot!” she says while fanning her mouth. Laughing, Charles shakes his head, “That’s what you get for being sneaky.” For a moment they are laughing and having fun. It feels like they are transported back in time. Back to a time before all the lying. Before all the unanswered phone calls, the ignored text messages, and before the many lonely nights.
With their stomachs full and wine bottles half empty, Charles puts away the leftovers and cleans the dishes. Michelle moves into the living room to get comfortable and ready to watch season 2 of “Virgin River.”
“Hey, don’t you get too comfortable, we have five minutes to get outside,” he screams from the kitchen. Hearing his excitement, she is reminded of their early days.
In the beginning Charles was the one who initiated all of their date nights. Each date would begin with a delivery of an exquisite bouquet of flowers. Followed by his bubbly voice leaving her a message with specific pre-date instructions. He picked her up and his excitement was evident when she looked in his beaming face. He was encouraging and supportive of her entrepreneurial drive. And she did whatever it took to push and help him advance in his career. Their relationship was what fairytales were made of. When things changed Michelle was ready to walk away and close the book on what was once their fairytale.
Then the Corona Virus pandemic happened. New York went into full lockdown quarantine. Neither one of them were essential workers so they were mandated to work from home. At first navigating around the house with Charles in it was strange. Days were spent with them barely talking. The tension you could cut with a knife. They were not sleeping together. Him falling asleep on the sofa in his man cave, while she would fall asleep in Mikela’s room. This is what their love had become while in quarantine. Then one day while cooking dinner, Michelle overheard him on his phone saying, “Are you crazy? We are in a pandemic! I cannot get away. I have my wife and daughter to think about.” Michelle had no idea who he was talking to but soon after he changed. First with us eating dinner together. Second, watching the news and having normal conversations. Charles pitched in with Mikela more. He began paying attention to Michelle’s feelings. Even suggesting a happy hour Saturday zoom with her girlfriends. Her loving, caring husband was back.
Alicia Evans is the Co-Founder and President of Sugar & Spice Book Club. Founder of Wind Beneath My Wings Empowerment. Alicia is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature at Queens College. Alicia is a graduate of The New York Restaurant School and LaGuardia Community College. Her short story “Whatever Will Be Will Be” is published in LaGuardia’s The Lit 2021 edition. She is an award-winning author for her short story “The Bay Window”. Alicia finds joy in writing, cooking and entertaining for her family & friends. She lives in Hollis, N.Y with her soulmate and best friend.
Image credit: “Merrill Weber, Showstopper,” PA Trails of History. Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.