I enter our apartment and the aromas of peach and lime glazed, roasted hen, fresh doughy dinner rolls, buttery, red potatoes and steamed yellow butter squash and carrots engulf my nose. I wish I were feeling better because on any other given day I would enjoy this; it is the delicious scent of my favorite meal. Chris used to work in the kitchen for the dining halls in Groundling District 14. The halls feed orphans and homeless Groundlings. Dining Hall Cook doesn’t bring to mind culinary genius, but my husband is one. Like my lunch, the wonderful dinner Chris made us makes me want to puke. Yet, my stomach growls and pangs from hunger. I skipped lunch and just drank a lot of water. I sucked on a few lemons. I nibbled a bit on the peels, but if I ate that Rueben from Harper’s Deli I know I would have thrown up.
Chris emerges from the hallway into the foyer and greets me with peck on the lips and a swift embrace. He lifts me off the ground in his arms and twirls me in a gentle circle. As we kiss again, he sets me down. Taking my hand, we head down the hallway and into the dining room.
The dining area is lit dimly; the atmosphere is filled with candlelight. The glamorous inner city shines like stars through the showcase windows as the twilight falls into night. Our dining table can sit eight. Apparently, he knows a secret I don’t know because he managed to shrink the table to fit four in a tight space. The place settings are adjacent to each other, not across− the closer the better for Chris.
Guiding me by hand, he pulls out the seat that has the best glimpse of the view for me, and sets me in the chair. Then he takes his seat beside me. Every food I smelled is on the table. He talks me through all the foods of our meal tonight. I breathe through my mouth to minimize the fragrance of the food, but my sense of smell is impeccable. I can still smell everything well as if there’s no difference between my nose and mouth.
The only food that resonates as appetizing in my mind is a lemon bar from Ned’s Diner. Wow, I’m really digging lemons lately. Why, Sophia?
“This all looks…,” I say, pausing to force the urge to gag back and then finishing my thought, I try to convince him to change tonight’s plans, “Great. But I’m actually hungry for Ned’s, we haven’t been in so long.”
That’s true. We went all the time when we dated, but after we got married and he moved in he insists on cooking all the time. Not that I don’t enjoy home cooked food, but engaging with the outside world would be a treat waiting to be thoroughly enjoyed by me.
Tittering, and focusing on keeping a cool and collected demeanor, Chris defends his well thought out dinner.
“You don’t wear jewelry, or designer clothing. Giving you your favorite meal, prepared by me, is my anniversary gift to you.”
His pouty attitude pisses me off. The desire to scream my defense rises in my heart, but logic takes a hold of me. Screaming would be stupid and would ruin the entire night. I take his hand nearest to me and look into his dark brown eyes, “Thank you. I love the gesture of your gift, but you spoil me all the time. Let me spoil you and treat you to Ned’s.”
At his smile, the tension defuses in the room and he agrees to dine at Ned’s.
“I’ll make hash for breakfast and soup for lunch out of the leftovers,” He decides.
On the monorail, we sit perfectly wrapped up in each other. I rest in the fold of his embrace, and my hands hold his as I lean my head against his shoulder. These are my favorite moments together. The way we snuggle… It’s the cure to the over-workings of my analytical mind. In his arms, I only think about us… normally. Today isn’t quite the same.
Stigmo usually never calls, but that’s because I never miss report deadlines, until yesterday I guess. If the doctor gives me a clean bill of health, I’m toast. Then again I’m not totally healthy. Work and the guilt of lying to Chris every day has me on edge.
For the past couple months, we’ve apprehended escapees proud to be in cahoots with Public Enemy Number One: Thatcher Tate. The makings of a revolution are all in place. A few more moves and checkmate, Utopia Revolution− or is it the Unity Revolution?− begins. That’s all the escapees talk about. Finding refuge in Unity or Utopia, but they don’t know where it is. They rely on Pathfinders to lead the way. We have yet to catch a single Pathfinder.
My knotted stomach nauseates me. I’m tired all the time and my mind fogs up to replace naps I feel I should take but don’t since I’m at work. The poor appetite just began.
“I feel bad I haven’t gotten you a real gift,” Chris complains.
Kissing his hand, I say, “Being with you is the only gift I need.”
“Sweet of you to say so, but since you rejected my dinner, there has to be something I can give you.” He says.
This is my chance. I can request a snippet of the content of his nightmares. If he wasn’t born in the dome, he could only come from one other place− the wasteland. If Savages were around when he was born, I can understand the nightmares.
Looking up at him, his gaze connects to mine, and straining to speak because of the angle of my head and the pressure on my throat, I softly elicit my request, hoping he will answer my longing questions.
“Tell me about your dreams.”
I break eye contact and adjust my head back to normal.
“About your nightmares,” I add.
I hear Chris gulp and coyly smack his lips before he draws a breath. His body tightens with his hesitation. Patiently, I wait. The moment ticks on seemingly forever. I finally convince myself he’s not going to tell me, no matter how much he loves me, and I’m about to change the subject when he surprises me. He says something.
“Blackness… I wake up in a cold sweat gasping to catch my breath. Terrified beyond any measure of fear, I awaken, and the need to grab a hold of what’s dearest to me in the entire world plagues me. I try to remember… but when I don’t draw a blank, I see blackness and a void shouts from within me.”
He caringly squeezes me firmly and kisses me on the head. I doubt he reached my scalp. A mouthful of my volume of curls probably met his kiss. Now I can feel him rest the side of his head on my poofy hair like a pillow.
Quietly, he adds, “That’s why I never tell you… because I can’t remember. You matter most to me in this life. I can’t lose you.”
*Edited by Aly Fry