Not his favorite meal, but his third favorite meal. When she first took the job at the nursing home, just down the block, she’d arranged her work schedule for early morning shifts so that she could be home in time to prepare his dinners. So tonight will be his third favorite: cordon bleu, fresh steamed asparagus and dinner rolls made with milk. She reasons that his first, or even second favorite meals might tip him off. She does not want him to know the depth of her desire. She does not want him to think she is buttering him up because she wants something. She understands she’s probably overthinking. But better safe than sorry. When it comes to The Mistake, she plays it very, very safe.
“He is not the sharpest psychopath in the shed.” That’s what her aunt said about him. Aunt Irene was the only person that she has ever told. This was years ago, not long after she made The Mistake. And before Aunt Irene had her stroke. Why did she choose to tell Aunt Irene of all people? Because she judged The Mistake told the truth when he said the police could not help her. She figured her mother would turn white and begin crying. Her women friends, although outraged and panicked, would not be able to come up with a functional plan. But Aunt Irene—she was something else again. There was something about that woman. . . Her white porcelain skin contrasted with hair so black it seemed, at times, to be blue. She filled rooms with her laughter—from the gut and a little too loud. Aunt Irene grew quiet and thoughtful when she was angry. And Aunt Irene, her godmother, her name sake, was in her corner. She’d been born knowing Aunt Irene was in her corner.
She pounds the chicken breast with her grandmother’s meat hammer. The old wooden handle was tightly jammed into the weighted aluminum head generations ago. She holds the meat with her left hand and pounds hard and fast with her right. The hammer hits precisely where she aims. As she moves her blows up and down the breast, she recalls Aunt Irene’s last words to her.
“You must fix The Mistake yourself. Do not rely on anyone else to fix it.” Irene’s pupils were pinpoint in her blue, blue eyes.
“The police cannot help you. Do not try to find another man to help you. For God’s sake don’t tell your mother. Only you can make this mistake right.”
She flips the meat and begins pounding on the other side.
“Take your time. Play the long game,” Aunt Irene said. “Confide in no one. Keep track of those who are in your corner; they might be useful one day. But do not confide in them,” Aunt Irene held on to both her hands squeezed hard. “Do not get caught,” she said. “Do not get caught.”