Andy chose a dark restaurant. Because of course he would. It made Elizabeth surer than ever that she’d made the right choice.
She waited until they’d been served their main course before she dropped the bomb on him. “Andy, I think we need to start seeing other people.”
Andy put down his knife and fork, and folded his gloved hands. “I can’t say I saw this coming.”
“That’s part of the problem, Andy. You are oblivious to what’s right in front of your nose.”
“That’s part of ninjutsu, Elizabeth. The training. I’ve told you. We pay attention to things that others don’t, but then we sometimes miss other things. Things you may think are obvious.”
She cut her meat while trying to frame her words in the least harsh way. “Maybe you don’t see it, maybe you choose not to. It feels like that’s how you answer every one of my concerns. ‘It’s part of our training.’ If that’s true, then maybe the training isn’t good for you. Maybe you should stop.”
“How will I ever advance without ninjutsu? That’s, like, so backward.”
“It’s like you’re not even there anymore.”
“See? It works! Why are you holding my progress against me?”
Elizabeth thought back to the first time she’d met Andy, when he appeared out of nowhere to help her into her apartment when she’d forgotten her keys. He’d seemed so alluring, so adventurous. He’d say, “A ninja is all I want to be,” like a little boy. There was a spark of mischief in his eye, but that spark had died long ago, replaced by the dull sheen of someone thwarted in his ambitions. In the time since, he had let himself go, gotten thick around the middle. She’d begun to suspect he wore black less to become one with the shadows and more because it was slimming.
“Andy, listen. It’s just becoming too much. And on top of it, I don’t want to turn into a ‘ninja wife.’ It sounds worse than being an Army wife. All anonymity and no day-drinking.”
“It’s not that bad.”
Elizabeth objected, “Really? How many ninja wives have you even met?”
He paused thoughtfully, then was proud to remember, “Two. Although they were also sorceresses, so they had their own thing going on. But I don’t see that for us.”
“What do you see for us?” she asked accusingly, putting a bite of steak in her mouth.
“Well,” he stammered, as he tried to gather his misty thoughts together, “I see us with an apartment downtown for a while. I’d sneak out for work in the morning while you showered, sneak back home for a nice night in, with carry- out food and Netflix. We save up and buy a house with a yard, and I sneak out every morning to drive downtown with all the other breadwinners. On our vacations, we can go sneak around the Appalachian Trail together . . . ”
In frustration, she swallowed too much wine and choked a bit. “See, that’s one big problem right there, Andy. All the sneaking. What do we tell the neighbors? ‘Oh, this is Andy, he’s invisible for a living.’”
He got defensive at this. “Don’t scoff at my work. What about the assassinations?”
“I guess that makes it better. ‘He’s invisible and assassinates people.’ And tell me, when was the last time you lined up an assassination?”
“That’s not how it works. We don’t have some tally board. This isn’t Glengarry Glen Ross. You just have to be ready when your shogun calls.”
“Andy, we live in Cincinnati. There’s not a lot of demand for assassinations around here, now, is there?”
“But you don’t just walk right in to top management! You have to pay your dues in the regional dojo. Ancient hierarchy? Hello? I thought you understood that.”
Andy leaned his head down and pinched the bridge of his nose. Andy had many good traits, she knew, and he was wonderful at hiding little gifts around the apartment. But other questions never left Elizabeth’s mind: how could she take him to meet her parents? What about kids? How long could she deal with him freaking out the cat?
He was taking it hard, but she knew this was the right thing to do. She touched his hand and told him to remember the good times, that someone new will sneak around—all the standard lines. Finally he said, “I’m not ready to give up on us, Elizabeth. How do you know I won’t come around in the night, just to see how you’re doing?”
She stiffened and inhaled sharply. “Number one: Ewww. Number two: I’d call the cops, even though you always brag about how easy they are to avoid. Number three: I’d play K-pop at low volume all the time, just to mess with your ‘super sensitive’ hearing.”
He took a deep breath and wiped his eyes. “I guess you’ve made up your mind, then. This is really heartbreaking, though. I want you to know that. Aw jeez, I have to go to the bathroom a minute, to get myself together.”
He pushed himself away from the table and walked to the back. Elizabeth was hurting through this, too, but somebody had to do what was right. She finished her meal and signaled the server for the check. Finally, Elizabeth smiled, at peace that it was over, knowing she could always count on Andy to do one thing:
Sneak out on the bill.