By the time Dan tumbleweeded through the front door and into the dining room with my Lady, Auggie and Bess had pushed their chairs back from the table in healthy respect of keeping a certain distance from the remaining rubble of pie. Auggie and Bess looked Dan up and down while Dan looked the tumult of plates up and down, and before fifteen minutes of interesting conversational tidbits had criss-crossed the dining table, Auggie turned squarely to face his wife and said, “Well, honey, we really need to get going.”
“What?!?” Madeline said, nearly before the words were fully out of his mouth. “Really?!?”
“Really. Come on, babe.” And with an incredible efficiency of movement, he grabbed Bess’ hand, pulled her up from her chair, and led her towards the front door while both of them exclaimed the virtues of the food and the wine and the company, until the door shut behind them and their continued words drifted into the evening air.
On the other side of the door, the entire atmosphere inside the house shifted by the time Madeline took the twenty or so steps back to sit at the dining room table, side by side with Dan. He gave a faint chuckle. “Nice folks.”
“The best.” Madeline said.
They sat facing the table laden with the evening’s detritus. As if he had read the crusted plates like so many tea leaves, Dan said, “This house is so you. You are everywhere.”
“Really?” Madeline retorted, more than a tad skeptically, as he had arrives less than a half hour before and seen only two rooms. “How’s that?”
“It’s so clear what this house is. It’s the place that you created, and have worked hard to protect – a haven to encircle all of the people you love.”
“Geez,” Madeline thought to herself. “Just how much longer do I have to wait to fuck this guy?” But what she said aloud was, “Huh.”
“There is love everywhere,” Dan said, still looking down at the plates.
“Maybe not quite yet,” she considered. “But soon. Very, very soon.” The thought exhilarated her, thrilled her, yet also filled her with a quiet apprehension. She said in a pitch that was decidedly tauter and higher than usual. “Would you like a house tour? Want to see the rest of the Haven of Love?”