The sun was silently creeping into the room through the slight opening between the curtains. Rachel stared at it longingly. She could hear her husband breathing next to her as he slept. So peacefully he slept, she thought to herself; as if nothing in the world could distress him the way everything distressed her. She looked at her pale, thin hand. The ring felt tighter today. It had only been three months. She felt the inscriptions on it, reading the words in her mind; words her husband had decided on when he gave her the ring, maybe even when he proposed, maybe even before that when he thought he had fallen for her and she had fallen for him.
He was stirring in his sleep. He opened his eyes and looked longingly into hers. He smiled a loving smile and kissed her gently on her cheek. She smiled. That was how everyday started, she thought.
A while later she had given him breakfast. He had left for work. She sat quietly and waited for Martha. She knew Martha would come.
Eventually, she started to cook lunch. She decided on baked fish because he liked it. She liked to please him. While her fish baked, Rachel obediently sliced vegetables. 20 minutes later, she opened the oven door and too out her tray of fish. It smelled wonderful. As she closed the oven door, she squealed with fright and dropped the hot tray. Martha stared back at her coldly.
Rachel’s fish was all over the kitchen floor. Martha laughed at her.
‘This is wonderful! Now you can serve him fish right off the ground.’
‘I can’t do that.’
‘What will you do then? Bake more fish? There’s no time. He’ll come home soon.’
‘I’ll just tell him what happened.’
‘What happened? That you saw me and dropped the tray out of fright? He won’t believe you. Besides, you slave away in the house everyday while he’s out there living his life. For once, let him eat off the floor like a slave.’
Rachel reluctantly put the fish back in the tray.
‘No, I can’t do this. It’s wrong!’
‘Wrong? You know what is wrong? What’s wrong is you are stuck indoors, cooking three meals a day for him while he comes home hungry and eats without so much as a thank you.’
‘That’s not true. He says thank you. He likes my food. He appreciates it.’
‘You are lying to yourself. You think he loves you. That’s why you still haven’t torn you wedding dress or taken off that ring. I’m telling you it’s not worth it. Don’t you want to be free?’
‘I do. I do and I am.’
‘No, you are his slave. This beautiful house is your cage. All the beautiful things he gives you are bribes to keep you here.’
‘That’s not true. Its’ not true. It’s not true. Leave me alone!’
‘You know what you should have done, Rachel? You should have poisoned the fish.’
While Martha and Rachel were arguing, Martha had heard her husband driving into the garage and coming inside the house. She stole Rachel’s attention so that Rachel would not notice.
When Rachel had realized that her husband was home, he had already walked into the kitchen and seen her baked fish lying neatly in its tray.
‘Oh! I love your baked fish.’ He grabbed a piece and gobbled it. Rachel was hurt. She couldn’t tell him it was to be thrown away. Now she had to serve it for lunch. She could hear Martha laughing out loud inside her.
‘Your food is wonderful, you know? I love you. You are the perfect woman to be with.’ Her husband kissed her on her forehead and left the kitchen.
Rachel looked at the window above the sink. She had to set the table for lunch. Martha stared back at her with an amused, victorious expression on her face.
‘Hurry! Set the table. Why don’t you light some scented candles?’
Rachel was angry and hurt. ‘No! You will burn everything if I do that.’
‘Don’t be silly. No, I won’t!’
‘Yes, you will. Now leave me alone.’
Rachel walked up to the kitchen drawer. That’s where the candles were. She opened it slowly and listened as Martha instructed her on which one to take. She reached out for the prettiest one and placed it on the counter above the drawer.
Martha reminded her where the lighter was. Rachel was resisting. She reluctantly went for the lighter. Before, she could reach it though, her husband came into the kitchen.
‘Darling, let me set the table. Why don’t you go relax?’
Rachel heard Martha scream angrily inside her. ‘See! He’s watching your every move. He knew what we were going to do.’
‘What you were going to do. Not me’, Rachel whispered as she walked to the dining table.
Soon, Rachel was having lunch with her husband. Martha laughed as Rachel and her husband ate the fish from the ground. Rachel could see her in her fork and in her knife. She swallowed her lunch silently.
Rachel relaxed, deep in thought while her husband washed the dishes. ‘He’s so helpful’, she thought. ‘He must love me.’
‘No, he doesn’t. He’s buying your love.’