Luca gripped the umbilical spiral of the tea towel and twisted. The pumpkin flesh pulsed like a warm heart in his hand. Like something alive. He squeezed.
When he first met Marina she was fresh off a plane from the States, her first trip abroad, and all she could talk about was pumpkin pie. She still raved about the sugar and spice softness, melting on her tongue.
A floorboard creaked upstairs and Luca froze. He clutched the dripping fist of fabric and listened over his shoulder for the sound of Marina descending the stairs. Nothing. He shook the water off the tea towel and laid it out flat on the kitchen counter, poised his spoon to scrape the flesh free.
Dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Thick cream in a pan, leaving a sheen over his spoon. As he beat the eggs, he found a smile. The ingredients worked together in a bowl against the firm, rhythmic swell of his wrist. He watched them combine and breathed in the sweet, spicy air. As he mixed, he pulled the bowl into his arms. He waltzed the kitchen floor, cradling it like a child.
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The door slammed, and before he could stop it, the bowl slid out of his hands and hit the floor. Orange mix splattered, and the mixing bowl cracked.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Luca dropped to his knees and began to scrape the mixture back into the remnants of the bowl. He didn’t look up at Marina. He could feel her approaching: the elephantine shake of her grand thighs pounded the kitchen floor. Luca stared down at his orange hands, and flexed his tired fingers. They formed a fist.
“It’s for our anniversary,” he said in a quiet voice. “It’s pumpkin pie.”
Marina kicked the bowl away from him and he flinched as it slammed against a kitchen cupboard.
“You know I’m on a diet,” she shouted. “You never think about me, Luca. You’re thoughtless.”
He risked an upwards glance and saw her grab for the sandwich toaster which sat open on the side. For a second, he had the horrible image of her holding some part of him and forcing the lid down. What would it be? Hand? No, she’d pick somewhere less visible. Luca shuddered and rolled back on his heels to cower by the fridge.
“Marina, please. I’m sorry.”
If she heard him speak, it didn’t show. She swung the stupid appliance off the counter, a wide arc that caught him on the temple and knocked his head back against the fridge door. Luca put his hand to his forehead and felt a sticky warmth. He pulled it away, expecting blood, but found a smear of greasy fudge from the toaster. Pickled history of Marina’s countless midnight snacks coating his skin.
“You never think of me!” she screamed, raising the toaster again. Luca covered his head. The sandwich toaster slammed against his wrist and he bit down to keep from shouting at the pain.
As Marina swung again, Luca looked up at the ripple of her stomach, the pendulous movement of her uneven breasts, and he felt the pumpkin flesh pulsing under his fingers. He imagined reaching in through the mound of her, carving aside the meat to reach the warm fist of her heart. He imagined squeezing.