It was early Saturday evening. My girlfriend, Joanne, and I were out to dinner at The Branding Iron, the fanciest steakhouse in town. The dining room was dimly lit, with tall candles flickering atop the tables. Wood paneling covered the walls, and soft classical music played from the speakers overhead.
Joanne reached across the table and took my hand. The gold from her bracelet sparkled in the murky light.
“Peter,” she said, gazing into my eyes, “we’ve been dating for quite a while now, haven’t we?”
I nodded. “A little over a year, yeah.”
“Well,” she said, casting her gaze to the table, “I was just wondering … do you ever think about the M-word?”
“Money?” I asked. “Sure I do — all the time. I keep hoping that someday I’ll get a job where I can use my college degree, and I won’t have to mow lawns anymore. I don’t want to live on minimum wage forever. I just have to work up the nerve to ask the company owner, Benito, for a raise. The old bastard’s so cheap, though, he won’t even buy us new tools. We have a broom in the trailer with a wooden handle that snapped apart, and he made us duct-tape it back together.”
“I didn’t mean money, Peter,” Joanne said, squeezing my hand. “I meant, you know — the M-word.”
I frowned. “The M-word?”
“Yes,” she said, peering into my eyes. “The M-word.”
I squinted. “You mean ‘murder’? Cripes, hon! I’d never hurt anybody. I mean, I hate Crew Leader Carl’s guts, but I’d never murder him. Besides, with the amount that guy drinks and smokes, I doubt he’ll make it to fifty, anyway.”
“No, Peter.” Joanne sighed. “You’re not getting it. I’m talking about the M-word!”
I thought for a moment, and then my eyes widened. “Oh my god. You don’t mean ‘motherhood,’ do you? Please tell me you’re not pregnant. Please!”
“You know what? Never mind.” Joanne wadded her cloth napkin and tossed it on the table. Then she shoved her chair back and stood up.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“To the B-word,” she said, storming off.
I sat there, blinking.
“What in the world was she talking about?” I wondered aloud. “Music? Mayhem? Marbles? Why do women always have to speak in riddles?”
I shrugged, sipping my drink. “Oh, well. When it comes to Joanne, the only M-word that leaps to mind is ‘moody.’”