Matthew was in the kitchen cooking dinner, clad only in a pair of shorts. Once in a while, he would mumble a string of words, matching to the song he’s listening through his iPod. So focused into what he was doing, he didn’t even realize that his wife, Keiko, had arrived home and entered the kitchen just to step right behind him. Sending all of this military training into the grave crying, he jumped.
With a loud gasp while ripping his earphones out, he turned and his eyes widened. “Whoa! Oh! Hey, there, honey! You’re early!” Remembering what he was trying to do, he quickly added. “I mean… Yay, you’re home!”
Right. Sometimes Matthew swore that his wife had grown immune nowadays towards his overly-bright smile. It wasn’t working as it used to be. Such as now.
He knew Keiko was trying to hold her laughter bursting out loud, by the look of that wide grin. “Seriously, soldier, you let me get the jump on you?”
The color red obviously climbing to his ears, Matthew could almost feel the heat. He let his eyes follow the way his hands flew to show his handy work. “Can’t you see I’m trying to concentrate here?”
“Oh, so that’s what we’re calling it now?” Giggling in that way he had always loved, Keiko took a step back and laid both hands over her small hip.
Rolling his eyes, Matthew pivoted back to the stove, grumbling. “Oh, shut up.”
He caught the sound of her slippers on the floor before he felt Keiko leaning over his shoulder. “You playing chef tonight? What’s on the menu?”
“Chicken katsu curry over hot rice and matcha,” this time Matthew answered quietly.
Once again, Keiko made a step back, though minus the hands-on-the-hip. “Huh?”
And suddenly Matthew felt like he was a teenager again. Giddy, embarrassed, and excited; it wound inside him, wrecking havoc. For the first time in a long time, Matthew was nervous in front of his wife of five years.
Pushing out a long sigh, he turned off the burner and set the utensils he’d been holding down. Slowly he turned to face the most beautiful woman in his life. “Look… I found out that you’ve been looking a bit sad lately. Couple of days ago, I even caught you staring into pictures from our days back in Okinawa with this look of… I dunno… longing? And you’ve been switching into Japanese A LOT, too. So, I just thought that… maybe you’re homesick or something.”
Keiko just looked at her much taller husband. Then, she blinked a couple of times. “And then you decided to cook?”
Matthew shrugged, acting as it was no big feat. “Went shopping to Chinatown after calling your mother for the recipe from HQ.”
At that, Keiko almost popped her pretty little eyes out of the lids. “You called my mother? In Okinawa?”
Pointing to the refrigerator using his thumb, Matthew said again, “Bought a few cans of Japanese beer, too. Your favorite brand. Asked your brother for that one.”
“Bu–… But, you said…” Keiko was still flabbergasted. “You hate Japanese food. And you HATE my favorite beer.”
Matthew reluctantly grimaced, remembering his initial comments over some of the local cuisines he had tasted while he was stationed abroad. “I think, ‘hate’ is a bit too strong for it. Just can’t get my taste buds to get use to it, I guess.”
His raven-haired wife took another glance into the sauce pan over the stove as she tried holding back tears. “Smells good.”
“Well, it may not taste as good as your mother’s. Or any of those you’ve tasted back home.” Matthew warned, then continued in a much lower tone. “But, I do hope this’ll help a bit. You know… To cure your homesickness.”
“I don’t care if it tastes like cardboard. I mean… You cook! Matthew-san, you never cook!” Here, her voice was obviously cracking. “Moreover, you’re cooking Japanese food! All this…” She swallowed another sob. “For me.”
Batting long eyelashes as he smiled shyly, Matthew finally gave out his final confession. “That means, you’re gonna forgive me if I told you I forgot to put your mother’s special ingredient in it?”
Instead of the usual bear hug that she’d developed during her years in States, this time she move back a couple more step, crying all the way, before bowing deeply to Matthew. “Honto ni arigato gozaimashita, anata.”
*Japanese translation: “Thank you very much, my husband”
**Originally written for a writing workshop