Wrote this one based on stories my grandmother wove into the night over glowing coals and sleepy heads…
Hare stood behind the gas stove, vigorously wiping down the grates, albeit absently as he silently fumed. The subject of his ire, Lioness lounged lazily on the sofa in the adjacent living room, burping contently as she watched “Savannah Idol” on the 60 inch flat screen. With the Wolfe gleaming, he moved on to the marble counter top, exerting as much elbow grease his skinny arms would let him.
“Hare dear,” her voice floated lazily across the kitchen. He sucked in his cheeks, eyes flashing angrily.
“What!” he snapped as he snatched up another paper towel and moved on to the refrigerator doors. After rubbing off paw prints, he stomped into the walk-in pantry to retrieve a bucket.
“Be a sweetie and make like a barista. I need an espresso.” Lioness ordered casually, oblivious to his anger as he savagely cleaned the tiled kitchen floor. Throwing down the mop, he threw a cabinet door open, and reached for a tiny coffee cup.
“And next time, the doro wat should be spicier. You must have used some store bought berbere spice mixture. It was a bit vanilla.” she continued.
“That didn’t stop you from having five helpings!” Hare retorted as he brewed the liquid on the shiny coffee machine bought in happier times.
“Temper, temper, I’m not in the mood for you little tantrums.” she admonished him as he handed her the cup. Hare breathed in deeply counting to ten trying to regain his composure. Just then the shrill ring tone of her mobile phone blared into the room. She looked at the tiny screen, barely suppressing a smile as she bounded off the sofa and rushed into the study. Even as the French doors hissed shut behind her, he could hear her purring into phone.
“Darling, what a…”
Hare stood in disbelief, his ears twitching rapidly as the rest of the conversation cut off. His fears had been confirmed. The late nights, snide remarks and mounting unrealistic demands all pointed to one conclusion. Their seven-year marriage was drawing to a close and he was about to be left out in the cold.
As he made his way slowly up the stairs to their bedroom, his mind raced back to the fateful day in college when Lioness had casually asked to copy off his calculus midterm. He had been too tongue-tied and star-struck to even consider turning her down. He could not believe his luck that Rift Valley University’s most elite athlete was aware of his existence; and so begun their unlikely courtship, the graceful jock and her scrawny nerd.
After they graduated, it had taken him a year to work up the courage to propose to her and no one was more surprised than he was when she snatched up the ring, inspected the “diamond” and casually replied “Sure, why not.”
He had been beyond elation even as her lawyer Monkey had presented him a prenuptial agreement muttering something about brand protection and endorsements. He had signed the damn thing, what did he care about money. He was marrying Lioness for love.
He lay on the king-sized bed, his thoughts replaying their wedding at the courthouse, the early years when his research as a theoretical physicist had been so promising until the incident that had literally blown up his lab and career with it. Though he could never prove it, he was convinced that the fault lay with his research partner Tortoise.
The sudden fall from grace had changed his relationship with Lioness. As his funding dried up, so did the invitations to fancy soirees. Sure, she was a famous track and field star, but being the wife of an eccentric scientist had given them a certain cache that opened doors into Savannah’s celebrity circles. And so the deterioration of their marriage accelerated despite Hare’s determination to become the ultimate house husband. He had redecorated their villa in a tony section of the Mara estates; he took cooking lessons from master chefs even as he continued his search for another prestigious position. He was even considering applying for a teaching job at the local community college, a measure of how desperate he had become.
He could feel Lioness slipping away from him each day in spite of all his efforts. To rub salt to his wounded pride, she had insulted one of his signature dishes.
“Well, if it’s spice she wants, its spice she’ll get.” he muttered to himself as he picked up his tablet and tapped open a browser window.
A few weeks later, Hare was sitting across his wife watching her sop up the last of a chicken thigh with a piece of injera. She was red faced and sweating profusely, but that did not stop her from licking her paws in a very unladylike manner.
“Mmmmh…I’m glad you took my advice sweetie.” she said contently sitting back on her chair. Hare continued to sip his merlot without a word at the other end of the table. Lioness was pushing back from the table when she suddenly doubled over. Her face contorted in pain as she clutched at her stomach. Letting out a low rumble, she cast a worried glance over at Hare.
“Wha-wha did…” she cried as she slipped onto the floor. Hare tipped his goblet to finish his wine, pointedly ignoring his writhing wife.
“Oh darling, it’s just a dash of doom peppers in my homemade berbere spice mix, just like you suggested.” He said nonchalantly as he stood over her. Her golden eyes were terrified as she looked up to him. “Don’t be such a baby, you are not dying. You ingested just the right amount to make sure you and the toilet will be close friends for a few days.” He walked towards the foyer and picked up a rugged backpack. He opened the front door and turned towards her.
“And about Monkey, don’t bother. I filed the separation papers yesterday.” Hare slipped out into the world, shutting the door on his old life.