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by Andrea Marcusa

“I’m heading to the farmer’s market. Want anything from the fish guy?” You like doing things for him, well, looking like you’re thinking of him, even when you aren’t.

“Maybe some calamari,” he says. “I’ll make a salad,” he adds, meaning I know you don’t like all the oil and olives and rubbery flesh in your mouth but you used to and I wish you would pretend you still did.

“Ok, I’ll get swordfish for myself,” you say, in a tone that conveys your distaste for calamari, and please no comments about endangered species and the worms occasionally found embedded in swordfish flesh. He knows this fish was your childhood favorite.

He settles back on his phone, scrolling emails and texts you can’t see.

“How about those potatoes you love and maybe some goat’s cheese,” you say, meaning not the kind from the neighborhood supermarket but the artisanal version that’s rich and buttery, the one that he used to suck off your fingers.

“You know I’m trying to keep my calories down,” he says, meaning why are you always trying to sabotage things I’m doing for myself? “Russets have too many carbs,” he adds like a dash of pepper. Meaning no use going back to a lifetime ago when he once sautéd small potatoes and then fed them to you one by one.

“So, we’re having seafood and greens, par usual,” you say, your voice turning cool. It’s obvious that he’s not in the mood to kindle the kind of heat that can turn a root into a succulent bite.

“Too many heavy client lunches all week,” he says, meaning, you know I’m stressed. That I don’t have an inch to breathe. That moments orchestrated in advance never work. That they need the spontaneity that arises on a summer break filled with warm muggy nights and shooting stars.

“Maybe I’ll find baby lettuces with silken leaves that melt in your mouth,” you try.

“Maybe just call a diet a diet and stop trying to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse,” he says, then goes back to his phone.

But something’s taken hold of you. “No, we should make this fun and delicious. How about cooking something totally different?” Meaning same old meal, same old togetherness isn’t enough for you this weekend.

“Sounds like a lot of work,” he says, meaning sometimes you need to sense when to back off.

“I know!” you say, ignoring his hint. “Fresh oysters! Cassandra ate fifty before going to bed. People once thought they turned women reckless.” You watch him, waiting for your words to stir something in him like a half smile or raised brow.

“Sure,” he says. “Or we can both die a violent death from eating bad ones.” Finally, he grins.

But it’s too late. “Okay, I’m heading out,” you say, meaning you’re sick of going nowhere today.

All this bantering has pooled in you, leaving a bitterness that’s hard to swallow.

Andrea Marcusa’s fiction has appeared in Cutbank, River Styx, River Teeth, Citron Review, and others. She’s received recognition in a range of competitions including Glimmer Train, Raleigh Review, New Letters, and The Southampton Review. For more information, visit andreamarcusa.com or see her on Twitter @d_marcusa.