She knew that he had a particular opinion about women writers and particularly about her writing. And this was her most important piece so far. So she kept it to herself.
“Dear, dinner’s ready”. She busied herself setting out the dinner plates and wine glasses and pulled the challah out of the oven and dressed it with the cover she’d embroidered for him for their wedding. She didn’t know if he liked the cover, he never commented, but they’d been using it weekly for 3 years now and she didn’t want him to think that anything was different. Especially now. She hoped that her anticipation didn’t show.
He arrived at the table, gave her the dry kiss on the cheek she always received before lighting the candles. She wondered what it would be like to go to the service on Friday night. They were a modern couple, she knew that many modern couples attended services together. Once she’d broached the subject, but he’d just looked at her through his glasses in that way that made her feel unclean. His only interest in religion was his version of the Friday night mitzvah. She knew how he saw things. She’d seen his draft of Creation. That was what got her started. That’s why she had to write her story.
When she’d mailed his draft for him a week ago, she’d sent hers along as well. This story would pay well, plus it was an important story to write. The Editor said that generations of people would read it. She’d worked hard on hers, harder than she’d ever worked on any piece for submission. She felt it was perfect. She’d crafted every word carefully, eliminating all but the necessary. Each day was drawn exquisitely and with just enough color to retain interest. The creation of man and woman did not outshine the rest of creation. They were all equal: the day and night, the creatures great and small, the plants, animals, trees and of course man and woman. She’d done her part in crafting the story as she believed The Editor wanted it drawn. Clear and concise with minimal embellishment. The story itself, she believed, was what was important. This was plot driven, it did not require dramatization or decoration.
His was flowery and poetic. It made her laugh. And sometimes it made her cry. When they were dating he used to pretend to be flowery and poetic. Bringing her gifts and soliciting her mood with wine until she relinquished her virginity to his naive and selfish need. Without ever saying the words, he’d convinced her that fulfilling his needs would satisfy hers. Flowers and candy had camouflaged the truth. She should have seen through it. No matter how you slice it, caste is caste. She’d seen Boxing Helena with him. He thought it was true love. He tried to convince her that if she really loved him their Friday night mitzvah would be wonderful just because it pleased him. He whispered in her ear all of the things that inspired his desire never noticing the desert he created.
Friday night passed in its usual way and Saturday morning bloomed rainy and dark. His mood was bright as he rolled out of bed and proudly wagged his manhood at her. Dutifully she smiled, wondering why she bothered. He wouldn’t notice. Then he stepped into the shower to wash away remnants of the spent night. She got up and changed the sheets quickly while he whistled Enigma. She marveled at his ability to whistle the un-whistlable. Then she threw on her robe and ran downstairs to get the mail. She knew he would be looking for his response today. She found the envelope with her name on it and The Editor’s name in the return address. His was there as well. She opened hers as she heard him turn off the shower.
“I’ll be down for breakfast in a minute” he shouted. He had never even learned to turn on the coffee pot. She had to set it with the timer the night before if she wanted coffee when she came downstairs. Breakfast would have to wait a few minutes.
She skimmed the letter as the coffee began to burble.
“Thank you Mrs.” it read, “We find your story fitting and true and exactly what we have been looking for. We’d like to publish your story in our Anthology.” But there was more. They would publish a second story as well. Immediately following. They called it a doublet. They hoped she wouldn’t mind. She heard his step on the stair and put her letter on the stove under the fry pan. She turned the heat on high and cracked eggs into the pan. She didn’t turn when he walked into the room, but she heard the paper shuffle as he searched the mail.
He picked up his letter and tore it open, dropping the envelope on the floor for her to retrieve. “They’ve accepted my story!” he shouted. He slapped her behind and tossed the sheet on the counter, never taking time to read the rest of the letter. Then he grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the stair, ready to repeat last night’s mitzvah. He had won. He’d have his prize. She turned off the stove.
He presumed her tears were tears of joy.