“Come now”, she laughed, “it’s your special day!”
Ruskin muttered something inaudible and stared at the eggs sizzling in the pan.
“Let’s plan your birthday, just the way you would want to spend it”, Natasha said brightly.
“It’s just another day for me”, Ruskin said quietly.
“Is it?”, she asked teasingly.
Natasha got up from the kitchen chair where she had been sitting and gently took the pan handle.
“I’ll look to the eggs. Why don’t you reach into the ‘fridge to see the surprise?”
She looked over her shoulder smilingly as Ruskin took out the cake, examining it silently as if wondering what to say. As he put the cake down on the table, Natasha handed him a knife. “Let us cut it and sing Happy Birthday”, she suggested cheekily.
For a moment, the eggs sizzled in the pan and the coffee maker hummed. The pop of the toaster was loud. With a decisive motion, Ruskin got up and spooned the cake into two bowls. Sitting down, he began to eat with deliberate slowness. Natasha looked on puzzled, at the knife on the table.
” Natasha”, he said in a heavy voice, “I got a call from Margaret in the morning”. His lined face caught the sun from the kitchen window and Natasha could not read the expression in his eyes. “Wishing me Happy Birthday”, he added, looking at her searchingly.
White faced, she held onto the back of the chair for support and whispered, “She’s back?”
“Yes, she’s back and wants to move in”.
Getting up, he rinsed his bowl in the sink and turning around, folded his arms across his chest. Natasha broke down and sobbed hysterically. “You, I… All this time I have held you up, protecting you from your loss.. From the loss of your only child. And now you go running back into the arms of the woman who mistreated Charlotte and perhaps was the cause of her suicide”.
She stepped back, blindly into the table, upsetting the bowl which held a harshly scooped piece of cake. She looked at it and said brokenly, “I only tried to heal you with my love…”
He glared at her without remorse and said icily, “Pack your things and take the cake with you when you leave”