They said

Donnie took a deep breath and entered the kitchen with his best foot forward, finding Laura killing the wait with one of her magazines.

“Check it out,” he said, hoisting the bag full of burgers in the air like a ten-pound bass, scanning her expression carefully.

He knew it wasn’t much of a gesture compared to one of Laura’s epic cooking experiments – and if she ever found out how little he’d actually spent, it would seem all the more pathetic. But Donnie knew he owed her one, and more to the point, he knew how to hedge his bets; anything was better than whatever he might have tried and failed to cook without setting off the smoke alarm.

“Oh,” Laura said. “Burgers? Okay.” Then, after a beat and surely just to spare his feelings: “You shouldn’t have.”

Not great, Donnie thought, but good enough in light of what little he was literally bringing to the table. “Hey,” he said with a smile, “You’re worth it.”

The meal itself was obviously nothing special. Donnie lobbed a “How was your day?” or two in Laura’s direction, getting little back beyond polite acknowledgment. After a few awkward minutes, he reluctantly turned on the television, hoping to fill the kitchen with something other than the overbearing sense of a twelve-year-old’s first date.

Switching on the news – after making a point of poking fun at Two and a Half Men because he knew Laura hated it – Donnie felt a renewed sense of confidence and comfort. For just a few seconds, before the commercial break, he felt like he might even win this one.

But suddenly, and inevitably, there it was on the screen: two burgers, specifically these two burgers, available for $1.39.

Donnie fumbled for the remote, catching it just before it spilled over the edge of the table, and switched off the television. In a panic, hoping against hope to make Laura think the TV had somehow just shut itself off, he threw the remote toward the love seat. He missed it by several feet, and the room echoed with the sound of Japanese plastic on cheap linoleum.

Funny thing, though: as Donnie turned a reddening face toward his girlfriend, he could have sworn he caught her trying not to laugh. Maybe, just maybe, he could actually land this thing after all.

“Talking!” Donnie stammered, trying to regain control of the situation. “We, uh… We don’t talk enough.”

Laura smirked in spite of herself. “And what would we talk about?” she prodded. “What would I have in common with an idiot like you?”

Donnie let the deep breath out. He was surely no Colin Firth, or whoever it was that Laura was into lately, but at least he’d made her smile.

“Fine,” he said. “If you don’t want to talk, maybe later on, we could… you know…”

Laura rolled her eyes and turned away with disapproval, smiling a smile that Donnie could only spot in the reflection of the blank television screen.

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