New Tricks and Shaved Legs

A housewife's stress has been getting the best of her, but her husband has a few tricks up his sleeve.

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1. New Tricks and Shaved Legs

I can already feel the headache trying to form between my temples. Let's just say it's been a long week, and my morale has gone from bad to worse.

It seems like the world is determined to make me frazzled lately. Izzy got sick and missed her friend's birthday party, triggering a moody state she still hasn't come out of. The car needed an oil change since it kept trying to stall, which wasn't much fun to pay for. Even Izzy's school has been breathing down my neck to volunteer for the upcoming field trip. Sometimes I think the PTA is more relentless than the IRS.

I've been out getting supplies for my obligatory snack day. Some of the other moms would have a field day if I brought in anything that wasn't homemade and completely sugar free.

I sigh, climbing up the front steps. I'll probably have to clean up the kitchen before I make it a mess again tomorrow, and I still have that pile of laundry waiting in the basement. I'm starving too. With all the added pressure, the housework's seemed harder than usual. I've become more irritable. So much so that yesterday when Ben forgot to put a coaster underneath his soda, I snapped at him. I apologized of course, especially after I saw the hurt look on his face, but I still feel bad. He didn't deserve it.

Ben tries, he really does. He washes the dishes after dinner, attempts to fix things that are broken, and makes sure Izzy doesn't interrupt my cleaning schedule. He's tired when he comes home from work but does it anyway, so I appreciate him. It's just that I wish that we could switch off sometimes. If he could do the laundry or make dinner and I could do the dishes instead, I might not feel burnt out. The problem isn't that he isn't willing, but that he doesn't know how. He lived close to home in college, and his mom's always been the type to baby him. He's never done his own laundry or made anything that wasn't a grilled cheese. I don't blame him for that, but I do sometimes feel like I'm taking care of two children instead of one.

Sighing again, I open the door and close it with my shoulder. I place the groceries on the counter next to me, running a hand through my hair.

"Ben?" I call, curious as to why he's not in the living room like he usually is.

I check our bedroom, not finding him there either. He's not by Izzy either, as the little girl is peacefully snoozing away alone. Where is he?

"Ben, are you-"

I cut off when I enter the dining room, silenced by the scene before me. Ben's standing next to one of the chairs, staring anxiously at what looks to be Parmesan chicken on the table. He looks up at me, managing to muster a small smile.

"You're home," he says.

"Yeah," I reply, surprised. "What's all this?"

He glances down, seeming embarrassed.

"I, um . . . I made dinner. I know you've been out most of the day, and figured you'd be hungry when you got back."

"I see that. But how did you . . .?"

"Oh, right," he adds. "Uh, I had some help. I called your mom to make sure it was edible. It's probably not going to be as good as the things you make, but I think it turned out okay."

When I don't say anything, still almost shocked, Ben takes it upon himself to help me out of my jacket and hang it on the chair after he pulls it out for me.

"Here," he offers. "Your late dinner is served, milady."

"Ben," I finally say, coming out of it. "I can't believe you did all this. That's so sweet. Thank you."

"You've been under a lot of stress lately," he replies, shrugging. "I just wanted to help out."

I take a bite of chicken, pleasantly surprised by how good it is.

"My compliments to the chef."

Ben beams at me, obviously flattered.

We talk about each other's day over the meal, enjoying the warm, quiet atmosphere. I wish I could express to Ben just how touched I am that he asked for help to make my day a little easier.

I give another sigh as I finish my food, this time one of contentment.

"That was really lovely," I tell Ben sincerely. "But as much as I'd love to sit here with you some more, I still need to do our laundry. I'll just wash this and go, but I'll come to bed soon."

"Wait," he interjects, hurried as I start to get up. "You don't need to."

"What?"

"While you were out, I also did the laundry. Your mother really is a godsend, I have to admit it. She taught me to do that too. Not as intimidating as I thought, I have to say."

"You did what?" I ask, almost overwhelmed.

He did all of that just for me? Even after work? Even after tucking in Izzy? Even after yesterday? What if it was because of yesterday?

"I . . . did the laundry," he repeats, seeming flustered at my reaction. "I actually did it myself, don't worry. I didn't make your mom do it, she just taught me. Oh, wait. That makes it sound like I want recognition. I promise I didn't mean that because you do things all the time and nobody says anything-"

I'm across the table in an instant, wrapping my arms around his torso. It's awkward because he's still sitting, and my head is wedged between his shoulder and neck, but I don't care. My husband has just spent possibly hours doing chores for me only to be worried he's offended me.

"Idiot," I say, holding onto him tighter.

He eases up from his spot, standing to make our position more comfortable. One arm carefully winds around my waist.

"Are you crying?" he asks, astonished. "Why?"

I look up at him, surprised to find out he's right. I can feel the warmth cascade down my face. He frowns, wiping the tears away with his thumb.

"I'm sorry-" he starts.

"No," I interrupt. "Don't be sorry. At all. Geez, Ben. You're the sweetest husband in the world, and here you are doubting yourself. I . . . I'm so sorry I've been snappy this past week. You've done all this, and I can't even express what it means to me."

"Now who's being the idiot?" he replies, chuckling. "As if you being upset about a coaster once in a while is worthy of remorse. It's nothing. And you practically keep our lives from crumbling apart, yet you're this emotional and grateful when I do a few silly chores. If I didn't know better, I'd say you're getting soft."

I lay against him again, smiling as I bury my face in his shirt.

"I guess an old dog can learn new tricks, huh?" he asks, kissing the top of my head. "Next I'll be tackling hair straightening and leg shaving."

I emit a quiet laugh, letting him hold me tighter.

"Thank you, Ben," I say, soft. "Really."

"Of course," he coos. "Anytime you need me, I'll be here."

"Unless you're shaving your legs, that is. It takes time."

"I might need some instruction on that too," he teases. "I don't think your mom would appreciate me asking her. Will you help me?"

"No way," I tease back. "You're not using my razor, either."

"That's what you think."

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