Randy hadn’t slid the keys from the ignition when he said, “Oh, no.”
I unsnapped my seatbelt and glanced over at him. “What?”
“I forgot my wallet.”
I popped open the glove compartment. We had a checkbook, but neither of us had a license.
“What about an ATM?”
Then I remembered: we didn’t have a debit card.
A beat of silence.
“There’s nothing we can do, is there?”
My husband shook his head but kept staring out the windshield.
The dashboard clock read 6:30. By the time we got back to my in-laws’ it would be a quarter to seven. Take into account the driving and ordering time, it looked like our date night was over before it had even begun.
“Well, then.” I jerked my seatbelt across me and pulled the book out from beneath my seat. “I guess we’ll go home.”
My husband backed our car out in a manner that, to me, relayed his frustration. The person pulling in laid on his horn.
“Be careful!” I cried.
“I am, Honey,” he said.
“Don’t you ‘Honey’ me.”
Fifteen tense miles later, my eyes were glued to the pages of my book but I hadn’t read a word. Randy kept his hands clenched at the ten and the two as he gunned our Subaru up the steep gravel lane.
“You’re back already?” my mother-in-law said as we came through the door into the kitchen.
Randy said, “I forgot my wallet.”
I walked over to my mother-in-law who was holding my daughter Adelaide. I peered down at Adelaide's face that was scrunched in pre-fussy pose. “Is she all right?” I asked.
My mother-in-law nodded. “She just spit out some of her bottle. I don’t think the milk was warm enough.”
“I wonder if it tastes bad.”
My mother-in-law said, “Oh, I’m sure it’s fine.”
“What should we do?” my husband said while perched on a bar stool. “Go back to town?”
“What do you wanna do?”
He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter to me.”
Trying to salvage date night and not ready to go home, I said, “Maybe we could go to Wal-Mart? Get some groceries? It’d be halfway to town.”
“Sure,” he said.
After borrowing some cash from Randy’s parents like we were a pair of penniless teenagers, we went to go out the door when Adelaide started to squirm and fuss.
“Should I nurse her?” I glanced at the oven clock. If I did nurse her, we could kiss date night goodbye.
“She’ll be fine,” my mother-in-law said, shooing us toward the door. “Really. Her bottle’s almost warm.”
Back on the main road, the silence between my husband and me remained deafening.
All week long I had looked forward to this night, and now it was ruined. “I’m not mad at you for forgetting your wallet,” I said, my eyes burning. “I’m just disappointed."
Randy looked over. “I know. I am, too.”
I took his hand. He squeezed my fingers. With that simple touch the tears that had stung my eyes started streaming down.
“It’s hard.” I rested my temple against the passenger side window and swallowed. “It’s hard being a momma.”
Randy said, “I don’t doubt that. . . . It’s the hardest job in the world.”
“Some nights I’d like to just cuddle with you and go to sleep.” I held his hand even tighter. “I mean, I miss you and you’re right here.”
I mopped my face with my cardigan sleeve as we pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot. Randy and I held hands as we walked into the store. I only let go when I went to get a cart. After purchasing milk, bread, and eggs, at my suggestion we drove to China Wok across the street.
With wary eyes Randy looked at the restaurant's pea-green paint that bathed everything in a nauseous glow and at the red silk decorations splashed like blood against the back wall.
Having ordered a quart of bourbon chicken, I filled Styrofoam cups with water and we sat at a rickety table to wait for our food. Randy peered over my right shoulder into the restaurant kitchen and grimaced.
“What’re they doing back there?” I whispered.
“You don’t want to know.”
A boy quite proud of the three black hairs sprouting from his top lip placed two Styrofoam plates before us.
I waited until he went back to the kitchen to inspect the food. “Why’s the meat that color?”
Randy whispered, “Just eat it. Don’t think.”
I stabbed a piece of chicken and brought it to my mouth. I paused, looked down so hard I went cross-eyed.
Making sure Randy wasn’t watching, I pulled at a stubby piece of hair attached to the meat. It wouldn’t move.
Chickens don’t have hair, I thought.
Dumping the chicken into a to-go box for the dog, we walked out to the car.
Randy started the engine and said, “Pass me some bread or something. I need to clean out my mouth.”
I tore off hunks of the artisan loaf and passed one to him. We then gnawed and smiled as our car slid beneath the streetlights.
Thirty minutes later, our infant daughter snuggled in the backseat, I unsnapped my seatbelt and leaned across the console to give my husband a kiss.
“Thanks for the lovely date night,” I said.
And I meant it. Hairy chicken and all.