THE PERFECT WIFE • by Michelle Chan

Adam woke up late, putting him an hour behind his usual schedule. He put on his designated work shirt and pants, and noticed a trail of brown splatter on the collar. He shrugged. He was an art lecturer, it came with the territory.

He turned to Sarah, who was sleeping soundly on her side, facing him. Her long, golden hair lay neatly covering her ear down to the side of her arm. “I’m sorry I can’t have breakfast with you today. I’ll see you tonight,” whispered Adam as he blew her a kiss before leaving for work.

The traffic was astonishingly smooth this morning. Adam reached the art academy with ample time to prepare for his first class. As he was gathering his materials, a sense of guilt overcame him. He flumped onto his chair and brooded.

He hated missing breakfast with Sarah. They had just moved here a month ago, and she was still adjusting to the new place. Adam knew that relocating would be unnerving for her, but circumstances made it impossible for them to stay. He had made the mistake of welcoming a student into his home, which triggered an internal investigation at his previous university, putting him at risk of losing Sarah. He could never allow that.

Adam was living in inconsolable loneliness until Sarah came along. She fulfilled his every desire and never once criticised his eccentricity. When she first appeared before him, he knew she was born to love him.

She had a nice cozy corner at their old house, where she could be found reading in her favourite purple chair. Now the chair looked different under a new light. It didn’t blend well with the olive green walls in the living area, nor the saffron walls in the bedroom. He wanted to give her a new chair, but he wasn’t sure if erasing her most familiar possession would be wise. It didn’t help that Sarah was also a homebody. She never wandered out of the house. She feared the sun might dull her skin, and Adam shared her concern. He loved her glowing yellow complexion. It was a hue hard to achieve.

He sensed that she had been restless and nervous lately. Last week, she was a redhead. Yesterday, she became a blonde. Her random changes troubled him. He remembered reading somewhere that women tend to experiment with their hair when they are adapting to or desire change. He didn’t want the new environment to change his wife. Also, a Chinese woman looks ridiculous with blonde hair. Adam sighed. He must take control of the situation. He would make her change her hair back to black.

“Hey, Adam, it’s 9 o’clock. Your students are waiting,” said Connie, another art lecturer on her way to her class.

“Oh God!” exclaimed Adam as he scrambled to his feet.

“Are you okay? You look troubled,” asked Connie.

“I’m just a bit scattered today. I was running late and I missed breakfast with my wife. I’m worried she might be upset,” said Adam with sincere concern on his face.

Connie raised her eyebrows wonderingly. “Why would it upset her? She knows you have a job to go to. I’m sure she’ll understand.”

Adam didn’t respond. His face lined with increasing worry.

“Look, I think you’re over-thinking this. I doubt your wife is as fragile as you painted her to be. She’ll be fine eating one breakfast alone. Now go to class.” Connie turned and left.

Adam remained standing at his desk, pondering what his colleague had just said. Maybe she was right. Maybe he was worrying unnecessarily. But Connie didn’t know his wife. Sarah couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without him. She was totally dependent on him. He decided that he would make it up to her with a romantic dinner tonight. He would pick up a bottle of red wine and a tube of black hair dye on the way home. Feeling satisfied, he collected his things and headed to his class.

That evening, Sarah, in her favourite blue sundress and her hair tied up in a pony tail, sat perched on her usual barstool, smiling as she watched him cook. He told her about his day at work and expressed his concern for her. He apologised again for the relocation; for erasing everything she was and had at the old place, and expecting her to start anew inside these unfamiliar walls without complaint. As he continued the conversation, Sarah offered no response. She stayed in the same position as when he first entered the kitchen, never wandered away from the barstool, and her expression remained unchanged. Adam accepted her smile as her forgiveness and winked at her as he went to set the table, after removing some unfinished canvases from the dining chairs.

As Adam approached the dining area, Sarah, adorned in her finest white dress and her hair elegantly coiffed, was already there, rooted to her chair. He filled his plate with his favourite meatball pasta and poured his wine glass to the brim. The table wobbled when he sat down, so he pushed it forward, making sure the opposite end was firmly pressed against the wall, placing Sarah’s empty plate just an inch from it. He raised his glass to her and said, “To you, my perfect wife.”

Sarah’s glass was empty and remained unmoved on the table. She didn’t reply. She never replied. She couldn’t reply. She had lived a life of silence since conception. Her lips always curled into a perfect smile, made to please his eyes, not his ears. She never shed a tear. Her eyes never blinked. Not a wrinkle creased her face. She never aged. She was an immaculate beauty. She was his greatest creation, the face of the murals that graced the walls in every room of his house.

Malaysian-born Michelle Chan has tried her hand at journalism, and is now exploring the realm of fiction as an outlet for her overactive imagination. Her short stories have been published on Many Stories Matter, and Flash Fiction Magazine. She is currently writing her first novel, which she hopes will one day see the light of your bedside table.

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