“There’s nothing else to be said, I suppose.”
“Yes, I believe so.”
They shook hands and signed the obligatory paperwork.
Gregory and Lillian rose from their seats, as did their lawyers.
He was indignant. He couldn’t believe she’d do this to him. He spent the previous night tossing and turning in bed, trying to understand how she could be so careless with his feelings. He didn’t sleep at all. And her, well, she went to a friend’s house for the night. Or at least that’s where she said she’d go. It didn’t matter. Wherever she was, he knew she’d be eating pickles, despite his reservations.
In the morning, she came back to pick up her work stuff. He was a wreck from the lack of sleep and too much coconut water.
“Why are you looking like this? You’re overreacting. Go take a shower, go to work. We can work this out tonight, we can talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about. You broke the one promise you made to me.”
“Greg, I promise you stuff everyday. I promise I’ll pick up milk before coming home, I never do it. I promised I wouldn’t move the sofa again. I promised I’d stop drinking. I never did any of that. Why is this suddenly such a big issue?”
“You know what I mean.”
She sat on the sofa she moved two days ago. She held her face in her hands.
“I know what you mean. But that was such a long time ago.”
“Does that make it any less of a promise?”
“But I love pickles!”
“But you promised!”, he screamed, taking the purple glass vase and throwing it at the wall. It was her favorite and he knew it. There was too much anger pent up inside him.
She lowered her voice. “I know. And I’m sorry. But you can’t expect me to go through life like this. Can’t you just forget this and we move on?”
He was livid, he couldn’t believe how insensitive she was. “What am I supposed to do? Pretend my parents weren’t killed by a pickle jar? Suppose I should just forget it and move on, right? It’s a crazy thing, it won’t happen again.” One by one, he passed his fingers on each of her extensive collection of elephant figurines that sat on the mantle. “That’s right, it won’t happen again! I only had those parents! Who are they gonna take away from me?” he shouted. His puffy face was red and all the veins were popping up.
“I… am sorry, Gregory. I am. I won’t do it again, I love you.”
He paced up and down in silence, holding in his left hand one of the most delicate figurines, a ceramic pink elephant incrusted with rhinestone she bought during their honeymoon. She accompanied his hand’s movement. “How long has this been going on, Lillian?”
She fumbled for an answer. She didn’t seem to expect that he’d stick to the subject. “H…how long?”
“Yes, go on, tell me since when you’ve been eating pickles behind my back.”
“It’s not like that, Greg…”
“Lillian, I swear I’ll smash this freaking elephant. And I’ll do it gladly, because I always hated your obsession with elephants.”
“They’re magnificent and smart creatures…”
He lowered himself to face her. “Tell me the truth!”
Lillian jumped to her feet and stood so close they could have kissed, had they not been in the middle of a heated argument. “Alright, I’ve never stopped eating pickles! I love the fucking things, I can’t get enough of them. There! That’s what you wanted to hear, right? There’s the truth. Happy? Happy now?” she burst, crying her eyes out at the same time. There was no joy in her words, just the sad realization that she loved pickles too much for that specific relationship to move forward.
He didn’t say a word. He didn’t take his eyes from her.
“How could you? After all I’ve been through!”
“This was ten years ago, Greg. You have to learn to let go. You have to forgive and forget. The pickles I have in my bag didn’t have anything to do with your parents’ death.”
“You have pickles in your bag? You brought pickles into our home?”
He lunged towards her bag and opened it with so much anger the zipper broke. He took out a small pickle jar and trembled from the touch. He hadn’t been this close to one since the accident. His eyes went from the jar to her face.
“Will you ever let go of this crazy business, Greg?”
Gregory was pale. He held the pickle jar in one hand and the little pink elephant on another.
“How could you do this, Lillian? I thought you loved me.”
“I do, but we can’t go on with this madness. You have to let go. You have to move on with your life! With our life! This anger, this resentment, it’s killing us.”
He stood there by her torn bag. Maybe she was right, he shouldn’t blame all the pickles in the world for something they hadn’t done. Maybe it was time to let go, to be a better person, forgive pickles for what happened.
But he wasn’t a better person. Maybe one day, but not at that precise moment. He raised both arms to eye level. In one hand, the small pickle jar, on the other, the tiny elephant. Lillian shivered. She knew what would happen next.
“Greg, please, don’t…”
“You have to make a choice, Lillian.”
“Don’t make me do this…”
“You forced me into it, Lillian. I didn’t want to do this. If only you had been faithful to me. To the vow you took.”
“Greg, please, let’s be reasonable about this.”
“It’s up to you. The elephant or the pickles. You can’t have everything. Nobody can!”
She moved towards him and he took a step back and raised his hands even further, his manic eyes staring at her and her every move.
“Na-ah, don’t come any closer or I’ll smash both!”
She cried unceremoniously and looked at him with big puppy eyes, staring in turns at the elephant and the pickle jar.
“I never meant to hurt you, I just can’t resist. I’m weak. Let’s talk…”
His face betrayed no empathy.
“The time for talk is gone, Lillian.”
He flung the little pink elephant and the pickles to the floor with disdain. The splashing sound of the pickled water masked the delicate noise of the elephant bursting into hundreds of tiny pieces on the cold ceramic tile they picked together for the living room.