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Being alone, Mallory and Dwight Cook claimed a smaller section of bench than necessary at the picnic-style table. Their shoulders kissed while their eyes and ears attended to the swivel television on the counter between the dining and kitchen areas. As usual during dinner, they watched the regional TV news broadcast out of Portland, Maine, thirty minutes north of their small town of Great Wharf. Like a one-celled amoeba, Great Wharf squeezed a pseudopod, or “false foot,” into a portion of the southern Maine coastline between Ogunquit and Kennebunkport.
Five minutes into tonight’s broadcast Mallory said, “Dare we hope? It looks like no new bad news tonight. I mean, just updates on old bad news. How refreshing!”
Dwight murmured his agreement, but Mallory knew he was just biding time until he finished eating. He’d been wanting to say something ever since he got home. But she had hurried him into washing his hands and sitting down to catch the start of the news. She had, as usual, looked forward all day to seeing him. He was her anchor, always had been.
At the first commercial break, Mallory picked up her empty plate and flatware, swiveled, and swung her legs over the bench. She laid the dish and utensils on the counter by the dishwasher. Then she turned and asked,
“Ready for more wine?”
“Not yet, still nursing this one. Why’d you jump from the table so fast?”
“I didn’t jump, just got out normally.”
“Yeah, normal like a scared jackrabbit.”
“What would I have to be afraid of?”
“Mal, you telegraph your emotions in all sorts of ways, not that I’m going to give away my secret store of knowledge. But thirty-six years and three grown kids later, I’ve learned how to read you.”
Mallory harrumphed and refilled her wine glass. Turning to face Dwight again, she waved it slowly in an arc from left to right in front of her. “Did you notice the amazing cleaning job I did on this room today?”
“It always looks clean in here. Sorry. Tell me what you did.”
“I washed under the counter edges, and I dusted everything including the leaves on the fern. I even risked life and limb on the stepladder to dust the overhead light. Little did you know while you were chatting with tourists at the trolley museum that your wife was this close to a fatal fall.” She held her arms out from her sides and swayed (careful not to spill the wine).
Dwight shook his head. “You really need to get out more, Mal. I’m starting to think you’re hiding out in here, like someone in the witness protection program. Or an actual hermit.” He chanced a grin over his nearly empty plate, but a question hung in the air. Mallory gave him a lopsided smile.
So, he had raised the subject after all. She didn’t want this conversation. She grabbed the sponge and swiped it across the sparkling counter.
“Sorry, babe.” Dwight backed off. “I didn’t mean to stick a label on you. I’m just concerned.”
“Tell you what, I promise to do something out of the ordinary tomorrow.”
“Outside the house and away from the yard?”