"She stood on the stony, windswept cliff, staring west out over the great Atlantic. While her mane of chocolate-brown hair cascaded behind her, she pondered the events of the past few months...
"That's the opening of my new project, a romance novel. I've been trying to narrate my life these days like a novelist would, just to get used to the tone and flow they use. So, what do you think?" Madeline looked at the group gathered around her at the Fourth of July barbecue, most with food-laden plates or cans of soda in their hands.
"Well, it'd be better, Honey, if you were a little more precise with your geography. If she's staring out over the Atlantic, she's going to be facing east, not west," her husband helpfully noted.
"Then again, Maddie never has been too sharp in the details of life, and not just in the area of geography, but also...let's see: names, dates, places, math, science, you name it!"
Many in the group shared in Mark's laughter, but a few shifted uncomfortably on their feet. Maddie didn't laugh, either.
"Sure, I make a mistake here and there, but at least I listen to people. If you were listening, you would have heard me say that the story was set in Ireland, therefore the Atlantic would be west. But, of course, you didn't hear that, because you never listen."
"Oh, nice, Maddie. Pick a fight with me, and ruin the party for everybody. Well done."
Partygoers left and right found reasons to move across the room, or to the kitchen, or back outside into the sweltering early evening, leaving Maddie and Mark in their stand-off.
"I didn't 'pick a fight' with you. You started it by putting me down in front of other people. You know how much that hurts my feelings."
"That's it. We're going. Get your Jell-O salad, or what's left of it, and we're out of here."
Maddie's eyes and nostrils flared, and she turned almost as red as her strawberry contribution to the buffet. In a low, hissing voice, she said through her clenched teeth, "Fine. I'll go--not because you said so, but because I'm no longer in a partying mood. Get the car."
The temperature outside the vehicle hovered around 89 degrees; inside the car frost etched the air.
Once at home, Maddie headed up to their bedroom while Mark went for his office.
She splashed water over her porcelain features as she prepared to turn in for the night, still shaken by her encounter with the dark, handsome stranger. Why had he been so cruel?
Maggie stared in the mirror and tilted her head with a rueful smile. "Porcelain features" wasn't quite right, and Mark was hardly a stranger. They'd been married for eight years.
Had he been cruel? No, she decided, at least not on purpose. He simply didn't realize that his joking sometimes hit a nerve, and her tentative venture into writing was a particularly sensitive area. And, while his listening skills still failed from time to time, he was making an effort to get better at it.
Her fiery temperament was every bit a match for his brooding sarcasm, and they found themselves irresistibly drawn to each other, even during heated arguments.
Maddie laughed out loud, and felt herself relax to a degree and let go of the simmering anger.
Her hunger hadn't relaxed, though, and her stomach growled. They had made such a hasty exit that they hadn't eaten, and she headed for the kitchen...
...where she encountered Mark raiding the refrigerator. He looked over his shoulder at her and managed a sheepish grin. "Hi. I'll get out of your way real quick here, and--"
"You don't have to clear out. I'm hungry, too... I wonder why?" Her returned smile made him swivel to face her, snack postponed.
"Look, Maddie, I messed up. Forgive me?"
"Absolutely. If you'll forgive me for jumping all over you."
He advanced toward her in his immaculately tailored tuxedo and swept her into an embrace, his strong, manly arms encircling her tiny waist and pulling her to him, crushing her wine velvet gown. He stared into her crystal blue eyes, longing to dive through them into the very depths of her soul.
Or, more accurately, the guy in the Bermuda shorts and t-shirt hugged the girl in the faded nightgown and fuzzy pink slippers. With a package of bologna in his hand, he kissed her and they forgave.