Chapter 1

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The List

By Melissa Yin

Published by Olo Books

In association with Windtree Press

Copyright 2011 Melissa Yuan-Innes

Photo copyright 2010 by Mocker

Dedicated to anyone who has turned life's lemons into a strawberry-lemon mojito, including my friends GP, BB, IM, JS, LM and ML.

Chapter 1

Craig didn't usually talk while we unloaded the dishwasher. In fact, normally I got stuck matching up chopsticks and re-washing crusted food off plates while he shoved the laundry in the dryer, climbed on his magnetic exercise bike, and called it division of labor.

But tonight, he popped open the dishwasher before it finished its drying cycle. "Let's do something different." Steam fogged up his glasses.  I still could make out his long, white chin and even the freckles on his nose.

I grinned at him. Somehow, he still managed to look boyish at 37. Kind of the Bill Gates/nerd rejuvenation phenomenon. "You want me to do the laundry?" Maybe this time "laundry" was code for spreading my legs on the kitchen counter.

His smile congealed. "No. Let's talk."

I paused. Craig and I had been married eighteen months and already we'd stopped talking on weekdays. Next thing you knew, we'd be changing each other's Depends. Then late-onset Alzheimer's would rob us of our ability to speak altogether and we'd lie in our nursing home beds, wondering who was the weirdo beside us.

Oops. Craig was already talking while he popped a lid back on a sandwich Tupperware container. I tuned in guiltily. It was hard to understand him because he was mumbling without making eye contact. "—and I know you like Frieda Kahlo because you made me watch that movie where Selma Hayek had big eyebrows—"

I laughed. I had no idea why he'd bring up the movie Frieda. He fell asleep before the closing credits. But I remembered the reason he stayed awake during the first half. "You got to see her breasts too, so don't pretend I made you suffer." I handed him the rack of cutlery since he was closer to that drawer. "Why? You want to see it again? We could rent it."

He slid open the drawer before he spoke. He hunched over the knives. "No. I just thought you might, um, see her as a role model."

A role model? Craig was an engineer. He was more likely to talk to me about stress analysis (as in steel, not as in psychotherapy) and video games than in mentorship.

"Or maybe you look up to other people." He clinked two forks into their slots, still not looking me in the eye. "Like Simone de Beauvoir or Edna St. Vincent Millay—"

"What about them?" I finished stacking bowls on the counter and crossed my arms. As an English teacher, I liked all of these women, but Craig was acting seriously bizarre.

He paused while clutching a silicone basting brush, the one we called the squid brush because of its malleable blue tentacles. His knuckles blanched. The overhead light bounced off his glasses, making his eyes wink in and out of view. The squid tentacles quivered in the air. Finally, he said, "They had an open marriage."

"Open marriage," I repeated. No. This couldn't be happening. No matter how bizarre my husband was acting, he couldn't mean...

"Right!" His freckled face cleared, as innocent as the boyhood pictures I'd hung in our hallway. "All these famous people had them. Even Dolly Parton!"

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