Kathy picked out what to wear a night in advance. She smiled at the red dress, smoothed out and laid on the ottoman at the foot of the bed. The pearls were elegant—guaranteed to start a conversation. Or else she would. She laid out Andrew’s clothes too, suitable enough for the affair without upstaging her own appearance. She attended this task with great care for the sake of her reputation. She was determined that they would leave saying “what a perfect life.”
At 11 AM on the day of, Kathy had a meltdown in the great room. Andrew’s laundry was the cause. It lay strewn about the couch, which she also despised. It was his couch. His couch that he insisted on bringing with him when they moved in, cracked black leather, offensive odor and all. It was unsightly but by his account it was homey and charming. He gave up and moved the laundry. Kathy placed the fine throw pillows on the couch, careful to hide the tags. They would be going back tomorrow. Over the back of the couch she draped a long throw and she sprayed the leather with fabric freshener until it smelled of lilacs and springtime. Andrew noted that it had lost some of its charm. Kathy ignored him. When they left, they would remark “what a perfect life.”
At noontime, they went to pick out the greens for the salad. Andrew put four heads of lettuce in the shopping cart. Kathy promptly put them back, complaining about the brown spots, the wilted leaves. Andrew rolled his eyes and kept quiet. Kathy found a manager and demanded fresher produce from the back. It took a half hour. Andrew commented on the absurd wait. Kathy barely heard him. They would eat the meal she served, and they would all think “what a perfect life.”
At 2:30 PM, Kathy lamented about Andrew’s unwillingness to help, so busy was he watching the game and putting his feet all over the nice throw pillows. Andrew sighed loudly, turned the volume up on the television until Kathy unplugged it from the wall. When he finally offered to help slice, she lamented his inability to make an even cut and shooed him from her kitchen. She put the roast in the oven and the house smelled of her cooking. When they walked in and smelled it, they would all marvel at her perfect life.
At 4 PM, Kathy nearly wept at the sight of her dining room, her bathroom, her living room, her foyer. They were unsightly. They were not fit for presenting. Andrew shrugged. Kathy attacked everything with a feather duster, a vacuum, a mop. Andrew was deeply grieved when she threw away the stack of magazines in the bathroom, wondering aloud how he would finish them now. She retorted that he hadn’t felt it important to read them when they came. Andrew knew better than to protest when the MLB bobble-heads on the living room shelf went in the trash, along with the CD cases and the bowling trophy he had been cleaning on the dining table. They were juvenile. They would not think her life perfect with such trinkets lying about the house.
At 5 PM, Kathy went into a panic with only an hour and a half remaining. She sent Andrew to buy flowers for the centerpiece, but was horrified at the arrangement he brought back. She went to the florist to purchase a new one, one that would compliment her china. The table would be beautiful and they would think her life perfect.
At 5:30 PM, Kathy plated the salads. Andrew retrieved the ranch dressing, but she would not hear of it. The vinaigrette was more refined, she insisted, and so it was drizzled sparingly onto the greens. Andrew sighed and questioned why such cuisine was necessary, certain that they would enjoy a pizza just as much. Kathy clicked her tongue and pointed out that there was nothing extraordinary about pizza. They would see this spread and believe she ate like this every night. They would all consider her life as perfect.
At 5:45 PM, Kathy noticed that the painting in the foyer was slightly off-kilter. It was Andrew’s fault. It had to be. He sighed with apathy and fixed the painting, adjusting and readjusting until she was satisfied. Everything had to be in order. Everything had to be perfect.
At 5:50 PM, Kathy panicked upon realizing she had a mere half hour to get ready. She shed her jeans and her blouse and dove into the shower. Her hair was attacked with a curling iron, her makeup done and redone until not a single imperfection remained. She fussed over the dress, the heels, the pearls, and then turned on Andrew who remained in his loungewear. He sighed, questioning what the big deal was. Casual wear should be fine, but Kathy wasn’t listening. He put on the stiff clothing she had chosen for him but refused to shave until tears began welling in her eyes. They would see her outfit, see her husband, and they would think that her life was perfect.
At 6:30 PM, the first guests arrived and Kathy invited them in with great flourish. They marveled at the orderly foyer, the upscale living room, the tasteful decorations. Andrew bit out a grin and spoke little. Kathy broke out the first bottle of wine and was determined that they think her manners perfect.
By 7:15 PM, all of the guests had arrived. Kathy showed them the renovations to the home, describing in great detail the planning and cost of each miniscule detail. They all sipped the red wine and ooh’ed and ahh’ed and thought her house was perfect.
At 7:30 PM, Kathy invited everyone into the dining room. With deliberate politeness, she requested Andrew’s assistance in serving the salads. He obliged her. When the salads had all been served, everyone complimented the floral arrangement and the china. The appetizer was exquisite, the vinaigrette a fine touch and the lettuce crisp and fresh. Kathy sent a brief, smug glance to her husband and smiled at the attention. The meal began perfectly.
At 8 PM, Kathy brought out the roast and expertly carved it before her guests. They were dazzled and complimented the appearance of the meat. She served the meal and soaked in the pleasantries, proceeding to regale the audience with stories of her honeymoon. Andrew knew better than to correct her exaggerations or to point out the fact that no one had asked about the vacation. Kathy was sure that they thought her marriage, her talent, and her life was perfect.
At 9 PM, Kathy brought out coffee, loudly announcing its country of origin and emphasizing its rarity. Out came another bottle of wine and two fine cakes. Everyone was wowed by the dessert and Kathy drank in their compliments as they commented on the evening, her spectacular home, her cooking. She continuously heard the word “perfect.”
At 10 PM, after final pleasantries were exchanged, coats were retrieved and guests lingered at the door to the great house. They all thanked her abundantly for the evening, paid due compliment to Andrew and to her family as a whole. She accepted the praise with great modesty, dazzling smile plastered to her face. They thought she was perfect.
At the end of the night, after everyone had filed out the door, Kathy took off her dress, her pearls, her cheerful face, and her agreeable disposition. Andrew went to sleep on his couch in the great room, still fully dressed from the affair and just as indifferent as he was at the start of the night.