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Rita rang the doorbell to her house hardly catching her breath. On her very first day at work after marriage her boss had started breathing down her neck over some critical assignments. He did not even give her the concession that she was married only for two months now. It was a very tiresome day at the office for her and then the crowded train travel was a nightmare. Her husband opened the door just as she was about to impatiently hit the doorbell switch again.
'Oh you came early today?' he asked surprised.
'What do you mean early?' she snapped back throwing her bag on the sofa.'Are you saying I should stay in the office longer so that you can enjoy more 'Me' time?'
'I didn't mean that. I just meant that it was good you came home early' he said closing the door behind him.
'Of course you would be happy, won't you', she said in a tone coated with sarcasm.
'Umm...and why is that', he asked picking up the TV remote.
'Obviously, now you don't have to cook. You can watch TV while I decide what to make for supper', she shot back barging towards the kitchen .
'I am okay with even a sandwich honey, who is asking you for a three-course dinner?' he smiled and sat in the reclining chair.
Rita heaved a short sigh and came out of the kitchen with her hands on her hips. 'So you mean that I have do the cooking anyway - even if it means making just a sandwich, right?' she asked restraining her frustrated tone.
'Oh so you don't want to make the sandwich? That's still fine with me. Let's order in something. What do you want to eat'? He asked pulling one of the pizza menus lying on the table before him.
'Wait a moment, let me get this straight', said Rita pulling another of the chairs towards Dave and sitting in front of him. 'You are telling me that if I don't cook then what we can do is just order in?'
'Well... That's what I had in my mind but since you don't seem so pleased about it how about if I help you with making the sandwiches' he suggested her with a quick smile taking her hands into hers.
'Help?' Rita exclaimed and stood up from the chair. Dave stood up confused not knowing what he said to cause Rita to react that way.
'Did I say anything wrong'? He asked wondering. Rita folded her hands and pursed her lips. Seeing Dave still in wonderment, she just heaved a sigh and threw her hands in the air. 'How can you call it as 'help' Dave? she asked.
He seemed more confused and simply shrugged his shoulders. 'I still don't understand' he replied shaking his head.
'See you don't get it. Cooking is the responsibility of both a husband and a wife.'
'Yes, I definitely agree', he nodded.
Rita continued. 'But when you say you're going to help me, it means you're telling me that cooking is the whole responsibility of a wife and a husband will only "help' her. It means woman has to be the one to cook at home and a husband will only help her!" she replied raising her hands to make double quote expressions with her fingers when she mentioned help.
Dave stared her for a few seconds and then started laughing.
'What's funny', she asked with a frown.
'You are!' he replied pointing his index finger towards Rita.
Seeing her frown more, he put his arms around her shoulder and walked her to the reclining chair. Rita turned her face away as he gently made her sit on her lap.
'What's wrong with the word - help? Tell me' he asked her calmly.
'I don't know but help just makes it sound like cooking is my responsibility alone and you are there only to "help" me when necessary. It's like you have nothing to do with cooking.'
He smiled when Rita folded her arms again.
'Okay first of all I didn't mean it that way. And secondly tell me one thing, before marriage did your mother do all the household chores by herself?' he asked.
Rita thought for a moment. 'No, when I was big enough my mom didn't do all the work alone. When I returned from college I would help -'
'Ah! Gotcha - there you said it - help', Dave exclaimed mimicking the same double quotes expression like Rita did before when she mentioned help.
'No! They are different' Rita said defiantly.
'How are they different? Tell me when you said you helped your mom, are you telling me that cooking and other household chores were only your mom's responsibility and you were only helping her? Didn't your family help each other around?', he smilingly asked.
Rita thought for a while. 'I don't know but mom did all those things by herself and I used to just help her out once in a while when she couldn't do it herself or when she was sick or when she was too tired', she replied as her mind was filled with those memories.
Dave smiled and continued. 'Help is not a wrong word my dear. We are humans and we need help and there is nothing wrong with that. You help me with making office presentations, I help you when you need work related solutions, you help me with cleaning the dishes and I help you with cooking. They are just day to day activities in which we help each other out to ease one another of pain and exhaustion out of love and care for the other. You love your mother so you helped her in cooking but did you do it always -no. Same way I love you so I offer to help you in cooking when I can, like today when we both are home early. Tomorrow if you come late I would prepare something that I know or I would google up and cook something, but if I am not around you can either cook or get it from outside. But eventually you've got to understand that every job needs help - and what can be better than to have your spouse's assistance. Now tell me does it still sound so wrong to you?'
Rita thought for a few seconds and immediately shook her head. 'When you say it like that, it doesn't sound so bad you know', she laughed hugging him.
'Rita, I know you are a feminist and you're all about man and woman are equal but don't let such trivial things bother you. If you have something on your mind, just talk to me about it. Probably the way you misinterpreted the word 'help' I used, you might do on other occasions as well and this would only make you form a wrong image about me in this little head of your's' he said patting her head.
'Yeah, I'm sorry. You know I'm just learning so I will understand it but slowly' she said apologetically playing with her fingers.
'Hmm...well, in that case how about my wife helping me with cooking today', he asked offering his hand.
'Sounds like a plan to me', she replied grabbing his hand and hugging him back again.
'Wait!' Rita sat back on his lap startling Dave.
'Now what?' he asked her.
'Why didn't then you go ahead and make the sandwiches instead of ordering-in?' she asked him raising her eyebrows.
'Oh that's because I wanted us both to relax together after a long day plus I make horrible sandwiches', he replied with a wink.
'Hmm' Rita replied. As she was about to get up for the second time, she sat back again. 'Then why didn't you invite me to relax with you instead of ordering the food?' she asked eyeing him suspiciously.
'Madam, you had just arrived home and I thought you would like to freshen up and then sit beside me', he replied in a matter-of-factly tone.
'Ah like that', she replied continuing to ponder on Dave's reply. Looking at her he heaved a long sigh and then hit his forehead with his palm playfully.
'Are you irritated by my questioning?' she asked making a sad expression on her face.
'No! I am not. I am just amused to see how much you interpret every word and gesture of mine but wrongly' he said smiling and kissed her on forehead. She smiled and blushed.
Tucking her hair behind her ears she stood up with Dave standing up too. He moved towards her, cupped her face in his hands and nuzzled his lips to her right ear. 'You know you look really beautiful when you blush'. Rita shied away.
'Can I ask you something tonight?' he whispered gently.
'Yes sure', she replied adrenaline rushing down her spine as she felt his breath on her neck. 'Rita darling, I love you and I cannot live without you. Each day I come back home only to see you. You are a breath of fresh air and I just love everything about you. But -'
'But what dear?' she asked with her eyes closed enjoying every moment.
'But honey, WILL YOU JUST STOP READING TOO MUCH BETWEEN THE LINES?' he shouted into her ear while she immediately covered it with her hand. Seeing her changed reaction he laughed heartily, slung her over his shoulder and walked into the kitchen as she continued to playfully hit him bouncing around on his shoulders.
'So tell me why did you insult me at that dinner with your friends last week?' she asked him tongue-in-cheek.
'Oh Rita come on it wasn't an insult, I was only...ah, you're playing me huh' saying this he started to tickle her as Rita laughed till it hurt.
'So now will you stop reading between the lines, will you, will you?' he asked as Rita pleaded him to stop. He kissed her and they both disappeared into the kitchen with their voices fading away...