Linda is cutting vegetables as she stands at the granite-topped island in the centre of the kitchen. Thirty years of marriage means order and routine for Linda. Monday means she will cook baked salmon, baked potato, and steamed vegetables for dinner. Her husband will arrive home at precisely six o’clock. She doesn't like it if he is even two minutes late. Linda likes nothing to alter her routine. She doesn't like the fact that a parcel, a parcel she wasn't expecting, a parcel he hadn't mentioned would arrive, had arrived and had been driving her mad with curiosity and frustration all day. What, she thinks, could he possibly be ordering through the postal system? He had ordered nothing to be delivered by post in all the years she had known him. She stares at it again, with narrowed eyes, through the glasses perched on the edge of her narrow nose and purses her narrow lips. The scooped neckline of her pastel-blue cashmere sweater shows the taut muscles running down each side of her narrow neck. When he gets home, she thinks, Raymond will sit at the dining table at the far end of the room and read the evening paper which she has placed there for him. He will go into the lounge when he has finished reading the front page and pour a pre-dinner cocktail for each of them. They will drink it as she sets the table, and he continues to read the latest news. She will serve the meal at precisely six-thirty. 'Why is there a parcel in my kitchen?' she asks herself for the hundredth time.
She hears the key turn in the lock and moves her narrow gaze to the kitchen door. The grandfather clock in the hall strikes the hour. One… He's putting his briefcase down. Two... He's slipping his coat off. Three... He's hooking it on to the coat stand. Four... He's looking in the mirror that hangs on the wall above the telephone, smoothing his hair. Five... He walks towards the kitchen door. Six...
'Something smells nice, dear. Salmon? Lovely.'
As usual, Raymond doesn't look at her. He sits down at the dining table and buries his head in the newspaper.
'There's a parcel.'
'Is there?' he asks, continuing to read.
'It's addressed to you.' she says, putting the vegetables into a colander and washing them under the tap.
'Must be for me then.' he replies without looking up.
'You've never had a parcel before.' she persists, placing the vegetables in a steamer that is rattling and bubbling on the hob.
'No,' he says. 'I don't think I have.'
Linda clears away her vegetable peelings and puts them in the recycle bin. She wipes down the granite top and places two dinner plates on the island. She takes a freshly made
trifle from the fridge and puts it out to stand for a while. Raymond likes his trifle at room temperature when he eats it.
'Is it for you?' she asks, staring at him first and then the parcel.
'It's a surprise.' he says, putting the paper down and walking over to the granite-topped island.
'For you, of course.' He smiles and picks up the package.
'Oh! You've never bought me a surprise before.' A flutter plays inside her chest.
'I know. First time for everything.' he says heading for the kitchen door.
'Will I like it?' she asks, a tremble in her voice.
'It's a surprise. Everyone likes surprises.' he says and closes the door as he leaves the kitchen. She feels the excitement rising and almost giggles as she waits impatiently for his return.
He returns with a cocktail in each hand and sits down at the table again as she lays out the cutlery.
'Where is it?'
'Later. Drink your cocktail.' he says.
'Oh!' The disappointment is obvious in her narrow voice. She returns to the island and dishes the meal out.
'I thought I might have a surprise before we eat.' she says as she places the meal in front of him.
'I promise...I'll give you your surprise when you've had your cocktail.' he says downing his drink in one.
'Okay.' she says, following suit.
Linda falls to the floor with a light thud.
'See! I said I'd give you a surprise.' he says tucking into the salmon.