"When I got home from work that day, there were more plants next to the front steps (bought with my credit card, probably). She had put in a holly bush and something with pine needles but that smelled sharp and herby when I brushed it. My driving gloves kept that smell for a long time. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not as though I don’t love her. What’s not to love?
"More often than not, when I come home, she’s dancing around the kitchen with a broom for her partner and singing. When she sees me, she drops the broom and runs to me for a kiss. It’s hard to be annoyed, even if the kitchen is a disaster, and dinner isn’t ready until 8. She’s a good cook. My co-workers said I was crazy to marry her when she is so young, and she has no family to speak of. But they don’t know her, and they’re not married. They come home to console gaming and an HBO miniseries. I come home to this girl laughing and smiling and glad to see me.
"That day, when I came home, she was sleeping on my leather couch with flour on her sleeves. The house smelled of nutmeg and sugar baking. Seeing her sleeping there and not waking made me nervous and filled me with a weird feeling of protection. We’ve only been married for a few months, but she’s so fragile. She looks like the sort of girl in the movies who has some tragic and horrible end. The kind of thing I wouldn’t be able to do anything about. She woke up when my mobile rang, but I wasn’t up for games night that time. Both my knees were aching, so I went to the kitchen to get a beer. The counters were a mess, and nothing had been put in the dishwasher. It didn’t look like she made dinner either.
"When I came back to the sitting room, she was smiling, but there was pain in her eyes. ‘Do you want to eat out?’ I asked her, trying to be kind. She nodded. ‘Why don’t you change into something nice while I get the car?’ She looked down at herself with surprise but then nodded again. Instead of our bedroom, though, she went into the kitchen and took whatever she made out of the oven. Then she came back into the sitting room and gave me a hug that made my hands shake. I followed her to the bedroom and watched her change into the dress I bought her at Macy’s.
"After dinner, she wanted to go for a walk around the park near the restaurant, even though it was getting dark, but I said okay. The ground was pretty muddy, and I guess the park rangers hadn’t raked the leaves in a while. When we were in the middle of the park and pretty far from anything, and I was getting nervous, she had another one of her cravings. Being pregnant, I guess this happens to her a lot. I try to indulge her even though it’s not my kid. This time, though, she wanted fresh cherries. I told her we could stop at the store on our way home, but she said that there might be a cherry tree in the park. ‘Baby,’ I told her, ‘it’s almost winter, and, even if there were a cherry tree here, it wouldn’t have cherries on it.’ Fresh fruit in the park in the winter, I just couldn’t provide her, no matter how much she wanted it."
"’Joe,’ I said to him, ‘look at the snow sky and the sunset. It’s like a single, high note from a choir or not the note but the sound itself. The pure, high sound that’s the grey, snow sky. I like the bitter grey and the ashy orange. I like the perfect reflections of the clouds in standing water and the way everything is cut into contrasts. There’s white, and there’s black, and everything chooses sides. It doesn’t last, though. The night paints over everything, and that scares me, but then the day comes back and gives everything its colour again. Like this: I wanted cherries in the worst way, but you said there weren’t any except fake ones because it’s winter, and we live in the city anyway.’
"But then you tripped over the curb a little, and we both looked down. It might have been blood, it was so red. You said it was someone’s Christmas decoration that fell in the gutter, and it was a little dented. But it was round and red just like a cherry. ‘See, Joe,’ I said to you, ‘See, Joseph, I have cherries at command!’ And it isn’t a cherry. It is only like a cherry. But it is a cherry also."