This time, she had decided to boil a small batch of eggs before she went out. She liked to have a boiled egg ready from time to time to have in a salad or a sandwich, but was careful not to cook it too far in advance because Frank always caused chaos when he was cooking for himself.
Only a few weeks ago, she had come home to find her egg gone. She had put it, slightly apart from the others in the fridge tray, ready for when she got back from her evening class, only to find it missing on her return. Frank had been in there.
‘Frank, did you eat my egg?’
‘Hell no!’ he replied. ‘What would I want with a cold egg? Eggs are meant to be eaten hot. When I eat eggs, they are fried or in an omelette. Only way to eat them’
‘Well there was one in the tray here that I can’t see now.’
‘Yeah, well, maybe that is because I was trying to make myself an omelette and maybe I went to crack an egg on the pan, and maybe when I did the egg smashed all over the place because it was already solid.’
They had been married over thirty years and sometimes it seemed as if every day was like this. They were like two old tug boats moored together and constantly bumping up against one another; just them in the house with a thousand tiny ways to annoy each other as they crossed paths.
She could no longer remember a time when it had been any other way. Not that Frank was a bad man – and they were used to each other, but sometimes she wondered if he understood her at all. He had become so set in his ways in the last few years, except on the occasion of her birthdays when he would venture out and make a wildly unsuccessful attempt at a present – what had it been last year? – one of those anti-theft wallets that protected your credit cards and a leather passport holder. What was she going to do with a passport holder? They never went anywhere. The last time they went out together was to the garden centre, where it was all she could do to drag him away before he bought a hideous gargoyle ornament.
She boiled the eggs before her evening class, three of them to last her a week. As she scooped them out of the water she placed them into a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking, so their centres would stay soft. This time, she thought, she would make sure they were safe – she would mark them before putting them in the fridge.
She opened the drawer and rummaged through until she found a permanent marker – that would do. But holding the nib above the fragile surface of the shell, she hesitated. Weren’t egg shells porous? She was sure she had read that somewhere – and didn’t they make coloured eggs by painting the shells with food colouring and then letting the colour seep through? She did not fancy black speckled eggs.
She had no labels – although there was some Sellotape in the drawer – maybe she could stick some tape to the egg shell, and then write on that? Carefully, she peeled a tiny strip off and laid it over the surface. It slid off immediately – the heat from the cooling egg softened the tape glue immediately so it would not stick.
Dammit, there had to be something. Opening the drawer again, she had a look though until she saw the box of Band-Aids. That might work – she could write on them. They were thick enough to project the egg from the ink and they would be able to take the heat until the eggs cooled.
Carefully, she wrapped each of the eggs in its own plaster, then criss-crossed a second across the first to make sure it had stuck. Using the black marker, she wrote a large ‘B’ for boiled on the fleshy coloured strip, then got a bowl and laid the eggs on their sides ready to put them in the fridge – safe and sound. With the eggs lying down, the Bs looked like little pairs of eyes so she added a couple of dots to give them pupils. To one of them she added eyelashes – and then put the bowl in the fridge and got ready for her class.
Frank was out in the garden when she got back, which was not like him at all. Normally, he would be in his chair watching The Weather Channel.
‘Frank?’ She called, ‘what are you doing?’
He appeared in the doorway. He seemed flustered.
‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I just got back a while ago myself. I went out. I got you something.’
‘You got me something?’
‘Yeah, I went to the garden centre. I just this minute finished setting it up – come and see.’
She followed him back out the door and followed his gaze. It was a water feature; a stone water feature, with a gargoyle face at its apex, spouting jet of water from its mouth back into the reservoir below.
‘You bought me a water feature, Frank? But why? it’s not my birthday.’
‘What? Does a man need a birthday to buy his wife a present? I thought you would like it, what with you studying Ancient Rome at night school and all. I thought you could, you know, sit and listen to the water when you wanted, you know, to relax. It even recycles the water so is good for the environment.’
‘Well I have to say I am surprised,’ she said, truthfully, ‘Frank was this expensive?’
‘You know what they say, you get what you pay for – only the best for my wife! Anyway it’s not like we have kids or anything. We can afford it.’
‘Yes, I suppose we can,’ she agreed. ‘Thank you, Frank.’
She moved towards the kitchen, ‘Have you eaten yet?’ she asked.
‘Yeah,’ he replied, ‘I grabbed something earlier.
So he had. She noticed the omelette pan draining on the sideboard where he had left it to dry as she reached into the fridge for the bowl to begin her making her salad.