“It tastes okay,” he said, taking another bite under my nervous gaze. My heart leaped when he looked up. Maybe after all this time, he would say something nice. Maybe the hour spent on the recipe would yield something beautiful.
He paused and frowned, reached into his mouth and dragged out a piece of hair.
He glanced over to me with the hair hanging between his fingers. It was dark, long, strong, and smooth. The texture, best described as silky, was exactly the same as the hair that I tied into the ponytail earlier this morning.
My gaze moved from his hands to his face, the realization made my throat felt tight. He must have sensed the panic in my eyes because he opened his mouth but held back whatever he wanted to say. A gapping noise was all he managed, which was probably even worse than any insult he could put in words.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
He flushed, looked annoyed and made an elaborated move to throw the piece of hair away. The hair, my hair, even though dark and thick and long, flowing in the air like a solidified ray of sunlight. She extended herself, danced in the silent, dull air, made her last performance before finally hitting the white tile floor.
I traced her long drop from the tip of his finger, marvelous at the magical way it moved as if she had a life of her own. Even when she was separated from my body, simmered between marinara sauce, minced beef, caramelized onion, olive oil, thyme, parsley, and basil, she retained some liveliness that I wasn’t aware of.
She was a piece of me, grown from my mind and body, and she spoke to me with her last dance.
I was too absorbed in her that I failed to notice his swinging arm knocked over the water glass. The water soaked into the wine-red tablecloth and turned it into something even darker.
“This is disgusting,” he said, dropped the fork and pushed away his plate, waiting for my response. I continue to stare at the piece of hair against my flawless kitchen floor.
He stood up and left, not just the kitchen, for the front door of my apartment slammed too.
She’s free. I thought.
Jingshu Helen Yao is a creative writer based in Toronto. She studied creative writing at the University of Toronto and her international study experience inspired her to explore multicultural themes in her writings. Her short story “The River” is published in Tint Journal, and “Have You Forgiven Me” on The Roadrunner Review.