Note: This short story was one of Mary Bostwick’s top 10 picks for the 2015 edition of The FWA Collection.
“What do you mean, you’re not making fried chicken tonight?” Rudy had just walked into Stella’s house which, this evening, lacked the usual Saturday night aroma of frying chicken. “You always do fried chicken on Saturdays.”
“Watch my lips, Rudy. I am not making fried chicken tonight. In fact, I’m not cooking tonight at all. I’m going out to eat.”
“Well, la-di-da. I suppose you think I’m buying dinner.”
“’Course not. In our thirty years of—what has it been, Rudy—courtship? Friendship? Keeping company? Doesn’t matter anyhow. Point is, in over thirty years, have I ever asked you to buy me anything?”
“I get it. You’ve been talking again to that nosy Jocelyn at work, right? The one who’s always telling you that we should get married or we’re not in a real relationship. Do you think we’re not real, Stella? You know how I feel about you. Do you think in all these years I’ve ever been interested in another woman? Hell, no one could compare to you. Didn’t we decide long ago that we don’t need a license to be real? Why do you keep listening to those damn broads who’ve got nothing to do but mind other people’s business? They need to get a life.”
Stella nodded. “You’re right, Rudy. They need to get a life. God knows, ours is one blast of excitement after another. Well, my new life starts with dinner at the café tonight. And no, I wasn’t talking to anyone at work. I just didn’t feel like making fried chicken today. I have my own money and my own car. You’re welcome to come if you want, but don’t feel obliged.”
She turned her back on the bewildered looking Rudy, picked up her pocketbook and walked toward her car.
The next Saturday evening, Rudy called ahead. “Okay if I bring a bucket of fried chicken and we eat in?”
“Sure, but we’ll have to eat fast. You’re welcome to stay and watch TV, but I’m catching the seven-fifteen movie at the Star.”
“Stella, damn. You know how crowded Saturdays are at the movie.”
“Uh-huh. I said I was going, Rudy.”
“Well, I suppose it’s a chick flick and you’re meeting the girls?”
“Uh…going with another friend?”
“I guess I’ll come with you then.”
“If you want. You don’t have to.”
The following week, Rudy called three times, rather than his usual two. “Just checking to see how everything’s going.”
“Everything’s fine,” a chipper sounding Stella said.
He called again Saturday afternoon. “Do you want to eat in or out tonight?”
“I have plans for tonight with a friend, Rudy. You do whatever you want.”
There was a moment of loud silence. “I suppose you’re going out with the girls from work.”
“Oh. Someone I know?”
“I’m pretty sure not. I have to go, Rudy, or I’ll be late. I hope you have a nice evening.” She hung up.
Stella pressed the message button on her answering machine before she climbed into bed that night.
“Hey, Stell, it’s Rudy. Call me when you get home. Please.”
He called Sunday. “Can I come over?”
“You never come on a Sunday. That’s your fishing day.”
“Today’s not good fishing weather. Anyhow, I’d rather take you to dinner…if that’s okay…if you don’t have plans. I was thinking the buffet place down by the river. Good food and good views. Unless you’d like to go someplace else?”
“I’m asking you out, Stella. Of course I’m buying. I’ve got a good job, you know.”
“Yes, I know. The river place sounds wonderful, Rudy.”
She’d never seen him look so handsome, or so nervous. Their reserved table was on the covered porch, overlooking the water. The setting sun shimmered endlessly in the rippling river, which seemed to sway in rhythm with the passing leisure boats.
An attentive Rudy waited until they finished eating before rising from his chair and bending on one knee in front of Stella. He reached in his pocket for the ring. “I want us to be real, Stella…all the way real. We should have done this long ago. Please say it isn’t too late. Say you’ll marry me.”
She smiled. “Yes, Rudy, yes. I’ll marry you.”
Clapping and cheering from fellow diners must have caused folks in the nearby sailing vessels to wonder what prompted the jubilation.
They arrived home from their honeymoon on a Saturday.
“Where would you like me to take you for dinner tonight?” Rudy asked.
Stella looked at him. “Did you forget—it’s Saturday. I always make you fried chicken on Saturdays.”
About the Author:
Faun Joyce, a retired Social Worker, lives in Port Orange with her husband and dog, Noli. Priorities are her family, faith, friends, writing, reading, walking and traveling. She has been published in three Collections and was a finalist with her first novel, First Class to America,in 2013.