He never waited for her. Not for her to sit down at the dinner table. Or for her to come out of the grocery store. Not even for her to actually come.
She called him to the table each night at suppertime, and would often return to the kitchen for this or that. She’d come back to see his face bent over a half-empty plate, usually a blob of mashed potatoes or a dribbled trail of gravy across the clean table cloth. He’d grunt an acknowledgement. He’d keep going.
She’d tell him she was just going to run in to pick up a loaf of bread or a pint of cream. She loved cream in her coffee, thick, rich, and just cooling enough it didn’t scald. He’d say “I ain’t got all day,” and light a cigarette and hang his corded forearm out the window. Invariably there’d be a line, and she’d come out knowing the car would be gone, knowing she’d have to walk home in the heels he insisted she wear because they made her ass look hot. “You sag when you don’t wear ‘em. Ain’t nobody wants to see your sad saggin’ ass, Thel.”
He initiated sex the same way each time, too. He didn’t ask. He’d grab her tit in his fist and squeeze and grunt. He never bothered to undress any more. He made her strip, then he’d climb on top and take his dick out of his waistband and shove it in, whether she was wet or not. She never was. He hadn’t made her wet in years. Been almost that long since he tried. He’d pump twice easy, then give it four or five good ones… unless he’d been drinking, then it took ten… and he’d grind his forehead painfully into her breast bone with a groan, and roll away.
He never waited. He never asked. Bobbie was all about the telling.
It was, therefore, surprising to everyone when one morning after Bobbie’d gone to work, Thelma cleaned up the breakfast dishes, wiped the grease off the stove top, put kibble in the cat’s bowl and left the house, locking the door behind her. Or it would have been surprising had anyone noticed. She carried her suitcase with the big pink daisies on it, and the matching train case. A pair of black and white canvas Keds replaced the black pumps. The taxi at the curb waited patiently, even when she paused to take mental stock of her possessions. He didn’t honk the horn. Or tell her to stop wool-gathering. Or drive away. He stood by the open trunk and waited patiently to take her bags when she finally walked down the path towards him.
“Where are we headed today, Miss?”
“The airport,” she said calmly.
“Off to see your mother?”
She pulled the seatbelt across her, and smiled sweetly at his reflection in the rear view. “Yes. Yes, I’m off to see my mother.” Mother passed years ago, worn to the bone by a man who never waited for her.
Thelma smiled again, a private smile.