“Are you really going to wear that?”
I smiled when Amanda’s shoulders slumped and she hung her head in shame. She actually looked good in the dress, but I couldn’t let her know that. Oh no, she had to wear what I told her and only what I told her. You had to keep your woman under control. Dad had taught me that, and it had served him and mom well for fifty years.
“I’ll go change,” Amanda whispered. “I’m sorry.”
“Hurry up,” I ordered. “I can’t afford to be late for this dinner.” When she didn’t leave fast enough, I added, “Not that you care about the promotion anyway. Not with the way you keep spending money.”
Amanda hardly ever bought anything for herself, but she had bought new school clothes for the children last week. I knew she would think of that and be ashamed. She ran to the bedroom to change while I sat on the couch and read the paper.
After ten years, it was easy to push her buttons. I used to wonder why she didn’t leave, but then I figured it out. She actually believed she was stupid and couldn’t survive on her own. I guess after hearing her father say it all through her childhood and me say it during our marriage, she took it for fact.
She was back in ten minutes, but I acted as if it had taken hours. “It’s about time! What took you so long?”
“I’m sorry, Tony, I tried to hurry.”
“Well you didn’t try hard enough. If we’re late you can bet your sweet ass they’ll know why.”
I knew we wouldn’t be late, but Amanda didn’t. I had never allowed her to learn to drive. She had to take a cab to the store whenever she went, which of course I complained about if it was more than once a week because of the money.
We had plenty of money. I had socked it away for years, but she had no idea. I gave her an allowance and that was all she got.
We made it to the dinner on time. Not that I didn’t belittle Amanda because we were the last ones there. To her credit, she sucked back the tears and held her head high while meeting all my associates. I had trained her well.
When we were first married, she broke down in the middle of a party. After I was through with her lesson, she never made that mistake again. From then on, I could count on her to hold herself together no matter what I said. Her self-control was actually astounding under the circumstances.
Dinner went well. Amanda never missed a step. I had made her watch etiquette demonstration videos for two days straight during our first year of marriage so she would never embarrass me when we were out. I even made her stick to all the rules at home when it was just the family.
Not that I was going to tell her how well things went.
“Well that was just great, Amanda,” I snapped as soon as we got in the car.
“I’m sorry,” she replied, even though she had no idea what I was talking about. “I’ll do better next time.”
“Damn right you will. I think it’s time you dug those etiquette videos back out and watched them again.”
“Yes, Tony, I’ll watch them tonight when we get home.”
“I’ll be lucky if I get the promotion now,” I added and sulked the rest of the way home.
Sometimes, I got tired of the charade, but if I didn’t keep up my end, Amanda might start thinking for herself and we couldn’t have that. I needed her by my side. Nobody made partner at Sterns and Benfield who wasn’t married.
I smiled when we walked in the door and Amanda headed straight to the hall closet to fetch the videos. I stood in the doorway, watched until she started the show, and sat down, and then I went to bed. I would quiz her in the morning.
It was late and I was tired.