Nigel and Madge had been married for 22 years. They'd started dating in high school when Nigel had romanced Madge with Twix candy bars, games of gin rummy, and Brut 33 cologne.
Neither of them had much money, so most afternoons Nigel and Madge could be found at Nigel's house, playing gin rummy and eating Twix candy bars. Nigel's mother bought them by the box. Madge would bite off a piece, separate the cookie from the layer of caramel and chocolate with her teeth and tongue, slide the biscuit to one side of her mouth, chew and swallow it, then suck the caramel and chocolate for up to several minutes. She could make a single Twix cookie last an hour.
One Friday night in November, Nigel invited Madge to dinner, along with his friend, Eddie and Eddie's girlfriend, Marina. Nigel's mother and younger brother, Michael, had eaten earlier. Michael had then gone to a sleep over and Nigel's mother was meeting some friends and wouldn't be back till late.
On his mother's advice, Nigel had served a simple menu: salad, pasta and bread from the bakery where he worked. Ice cream for dessert. Nigel crumbled up pieces of Twix into it. The only thing was, Madge arrived but Eddie and Marina never showed.
Madge was never sure whether Nigel had actually invited Eddie and Marina at all, or if the ploy had been the necessary prelude to his "big move." He and Madge had been dating now for several months and although they'd gone at it pretty hot and heavy at times, they still hadn't gone the whole enchilada. They hadn't had much opportunity. At Nigel's house, his brother was always around, or there was always the chance that his mother would switch shifts with someone at work and suddenly arrive home at 4, instead of her usual 6. Madge had three younger siblings and a father who yelled almost constantly; the situation was far worse at her house.
They ate by candlelight in the dining room. She usually slurped up spaghetti at home, sucking in individual strands and sending tomato sauce spray everywhere, but that night, she carefully twisted the noodles onto her spoon. Nigel had bought two bottles of wine, cheap reds, which they downed like grape juice. They were both drunk by the time dinner was over.
They cleared the table together, then Nigel lit a fire and they sat together in the family room in the dark, watching the flames. Before long they were making out, first on the couch, then on the floor. Nigel was wearing cologne that night, Brut 33, Madge learned later, when she lay back in the sheets of Nigel's bed and spotted the green bottle on his dresser. She snuggled into his armpit, poked her cold nose, like a dog, into his neck and breathed deeply. The smell of him mixed with the cologne stayed on her hands for hours.
This Saturday morning, Nigel and Madge, as they always did, walked the five-minute walk to The Cup & Saucer. On the way, Madge talked about what she felt like eating.
"I can't decide whether I'm in a waffle mood or a French toast mood."
"There's no option for that on the menu."
Nigel thought, That's never stopped you before.
At The Cup & Saucer Connie took Madge's order.
"Sure, hon, no problem. You want whipped cream and fruit with ‘em?"
"On the side, please."
Nigel's right eyebrow flickered ever so slightly.
Connie turned to Nigel. "Poached with rye and beans."
She didn't wait for him to reply and was turning away from the table when Nigel said, "Actually..."
A stunned Connie left the table to get their coffee and tea and Nigel turned to face an even more stunned Madge.
"Sunny side up? With bacon?"
Madge thought, Who is she?
An image of Norah flashed into Nigel's mind's. He made a mental note to pick up a bottle of Brut 33.
"Honey," he sighed, opening up the newspaper, "You're the one who's always telling me to be more adventurous."