“I don’t mind.”
Of course not. Violet should know by now not to expect another answer.
“Do you mind about anything?”
“I want you to choose.”
Oliver likes the easy option.
“Who doesn’t want to be the one not deciding?” Violet says. “I want to not pick, just once.”
Oliver’s sigh-riddled reply, performed with well-practiced patience, only tightens her tangled insides further.
“Look. It’s only dinner. It’s Friday night.”
“I know what day it is, Oliver.”
“Well. We could stay in? Cook? Pick up a takeaway? Or we could treat ourselves to a meal out? Pop to the pub, perhaps, or try somewhere fancy?”
Violet can’t stop it; a high-pitched squawk, like being agonisingly strangled, escapes her lips. She frantically recomposes herself, trying to train her signs of stress to stay below the surface.
“That’s not a decision, Oliver. You’ve simply outlined the options. I know the options. In. Out. Take-out. Just this time, can I be the one to not mind?”
“No buts. Tell me, Oliver, what you fucking want.”
Violet sees him shiver. Oliver’s skin always bristles, like a cat under attack, when Violet lets slip a swear word.
“Fine. I’ll decide. But—please—let’s not have any fucking.”
“Fine. No fucking.”
A silence-weighted wait widens the cracks in their conversation. Finally, Oliver fills the growing gap. He has learnt not to expect Violet to give in.
“How about out? It’s Friday night, after all. We’ve spent too much time in, lately.”
“That’s a start. Out it is. Where shall we go?”
“I don’t mind.”
There it is. So instinctive, that poisonous phrase escapes Oliver’s lips before he can stop it.
“Fucking hell! Just for tonight, can’t you just try to just fucking mind! About something. Anything.”
That won’t be the evening’s final fucking. Violet knows that much by now. A sob chokes its way to the tip of her throat, although she hastily attempts to swallow it from sight. Now is not the time for tears. She and Oliver already have enough tears to last a lifetime.