John hadn’t wanted to go out at all, but he’d just gotten back from yet another mission he couldn’t tell Nancy about and he felt like he owed her something. The long missions away from home coupled with not being able to talk to Nancy when he was at home had put a strain on their marriage. More and more often it led to fights and even if he’d rather have spent tonight at home on the couch, John could at least appreciate the calm, friendly atmosphere hanging between them.
The restaurant was on the high end and John figured they had some sort of couples' night, since all the tables were occupied by two people. Nancy looked splendid in her tight, black dress and John was happy to see the happy sparkle in her eyes that had been absent for months now. Perhaps going out had been a good idea after all. The waiter asked what they wanted to drink, but didn’t offer them a menu. When John asked Nancy about it, she just smiled and said that tonight, everyone was served the same dishes. Definitely some kind of theme night then, John thought.
By the time the first course arrived, they were talking and laughing like when they first met. They left the topic of work alone, which helped to keep the talk light and amenable. Instead spent time gossiping about people they both knew and dishing up funny stories from before they met.
“Green asparagus with ginger butter,” the waiter announced as he put the plates down with a flourish. “Is there anything else I can get you?”
Nancy ordered another wine, John stuck to water. He wanted to have some wine with the main course and still had to drive back. The last thing he wanted was for the pleasant evening to end in an accident because he’d had too much to drink. The waiter disappeared again, leaving them to enjoy their meal, only interrupting briefly to set down their drinks.
The asparagus was very good, and honestly John was just happy to have something fresh on his plate. The food on missions was always edible, but also full of preservatives. Nancy seemed to be enjoying the food as well, sliding each asparagus into her mouth with a small moan. John caught her eye while she did it and smiled at her, causing a faint blush to rise on her cheeks. He let out a chuckle and turned back to his own meal.
Talk picked up again as the waiter cleared their plates. They still kept away from work-related topics, but it turned more serious as Nancy gave John updates on her family. When she started talking about her parent’s anniversary, John could see the invitation coming – and another promise to be there when he might not be able to keep it. Thankfully, before Nancy could voice the invitation, the waiter was back with their main course.
“Cornish hens with honey-ginger sauce,” he said. “Among the ingredients are honey, ginger, hot peppers, and coriander.”
That was the first clue John had that something was going on. A couples’ night with a set menu was something that he hadn’t thought twice about, but listing ingredients? He raised a questioning eyebrow Nancy, who giggled but said nothing as she started cutting her meat. John decided to let her have her fun for now and focused on the food, which was truly delicious.
After the main course, John sat back, drinking the last sips of his of his wine. Across from him, Nancy was studying him with an amused look. John knew she was having fun watching him try and figure out what was going on. He’d never been able to leave a good mystery alone and had been wracking his brain to figure out what those four ingredients had in common. From the look on Nancy’s face, she knew he hadn’t been able to figure it out yet.
“Are you going to tell me?” he asked her.
“Hmm, no, I think I’ll let you stew on it a bit more,” she said. “But I’ll give you this. Asparagus and the main ingredient of our dessert belong in the same category as the ingredients the waiter named.”
She’d timed her hint well, as just then the waiter brought their dessert. Dark chocolate mousse, meaning the main ingredient was chocolate. John started eating almost mechanically, trying to find the common factor between asparagus, honey, ginger, hot peppers, coriander, and chocolate. He couldn’t figure it out, there was absolutely nothing that those things had in common.
John looked up at Nancy, ready to admit defeat. It seemed she’d been waiting for him to look up, because the moment he did, she slid her spoon into her mouth and proceeded to lick the chocolate off it in an obscene way. It was then that it hit John. Hot peppers, chocolate, they were aphrodisiacs. He was willing to bet the other ingredients were too. That would also explain the all-couples night, Nancy’s black dress, the way she’d deliberately avoided topics that potentially could lead to an argument. This was an all-out seduction.
Right on the tails of that little revelation came another one. He was not affected at all by her blatant – when looking back, anyway – displays. He’d had fun tonight, yes, but mainly because of the lack of arguments and tension. It had been like back in the beginning, when they’d still been good friends, instead of two people living separate lives and arguing about it.
“Figured it out, did you?” Nancy asked with a grin.
John nodded, not trusting his voice just yet. He’d realized this was her way of trying to save their marriage, but he’d also realized there was nothing left to save. Maybe there never had been. He’d never been particularly interested in having sex, he’d just liked the companionship. But he mustered up a smile for her, because whatever faults he had, he wasn’t cruel. He’d give her tonight. Tomorrow, they’d probably have another fight, the day after he’d be gone on another mission. After that, he’d talk to her. But looking into her eyes, seeing the hidden desperation now that he was really looking, he thought that maybe he didn’t even have to start that conversation. Because she knew, just as he did, that their marriage was over. But for tonight, they could forget. He could give her that, if nothing else.