Author's Note: This short story is based on a scene of an old film I really like.
The snow kept falling outside, and the wind howled eerily. This winter had been merciful so far, and only a few days ago they had started to feel the bitter cold that was common in this part of the country. An hour ago it began snowing, and, as Louise looked out of the window, she thought that they would find a beautiful, white blanket covering the land the following day. As she sat at the bay window, she kept caressing her protruding middle where her baby grew. She was feeling a bit restless, and her eyes continuously darted to the bed where her husband was peacefully sleeping. When she could not keep quiet any longer, she called, "Kid!... Kid!... Kid!!!"
Kid woke up with a startle, and quickly grew concerned on seeing her out of their bed. "What is it, Lou?" he asked as he sat up. "You want me to call the doctor?"
"No...I'm fine," she said, and after a brief pause, she said warily, "Uh... Kid, I ... I have a craving."
Her husband smiled, and as he rested his head against the headboard, he replied, "Very well, honey. What is it you want? I went for provisions to Tompkins yesterday, so our larder is well stocked. Tell me, what can I bring you?"
"I don't want anything from there," Lou replied. "I already went down, and checked."
Kid got up from their cozy bed, and placed another log in the fireplace to keep the bedroom warm. "So what is it, Lou?" he asked as he held his hands above the fire.
Louise did not answer straightaway, and after a few seconds she said, "I don't know why I started to think about those days we stayed in St. Joseph after we got married. Remember we went to that fancy restaurant? I kind of feel like eating the same now."
Kid swirled around towards her, and cringed his nose in disgust as he realized what she meant. A new restaurant had opened in the city, and even though it was more than he could afford, Kid had wanted to give his bride a nice treat. They had agreed to accept their waiter's recommendation, and when the plates had been placed before each of them, Louise had quickly dug in but Kid had not even dared to touch the dish. The restaurant recommendation turned out to be clams. Kid had never seen anything similar before, but he just could not eat one of those slimy-looking things inside the shell, and seeing Lou so enthusiastically eating them had even turned his stomach.
"Lou, I'll take you back to that restaurant the first chance we get."
"But, Kid, I want clams now!" she whined.
"Where on earth do you expect me to get you clams? Do you intend me to go fishing?" Kid exclaimed, amused by her crazy request. "Come on, honey. Let's go back to sleep. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we'll have a nice dinner with all the family." Kid sat down on the bed, ready to resume his rest, but Lou did not move, and simply kept looking at him with a pout. "What, Lou?"
"Some people say that it's dangerous for the baby if the mother has an unsatisfied craving," she pointed out.
"Lou, where did you hear that?" Kid exclaimed tiredly.
"Well, I think all that is just hogwash."
Lou got irritated by the disregarding manner of her husband's words. "I hope you can live with yourself if something happens to our baby," Lou pointed out. She knew she was unreasonable, but the heavy pregnancy was making her act very odd and vent the frustration on her husband. "I'm having all this extra weight, the discomforts... I can't walk or sleep properly and I'll have to go through labor in just a couple of months... and you, Kid, you can't even try to find a little something that will make me, your wife, the mother of your child, a bit happier."
"Fine, fine!" Kid exclaimed annoyed as he started to put on his pants. "I'll bring you the damn clams even if I have to go to Saint Joseph and break into that restaurant!"
Louise smiled, and walking closer to her husband, she hugged him as she said, "It's no wonder I love you so much. You're the best husband in the world!"
"Yeah..." Kid replied as he had a look through the window, and noticed the weather outside.
"I'll be waiting for you right here," Louise replied as she slid in bed, and snuggled under the bedding.
Kid sent her a black look she did not see before walking out, moaning in a low voice. As he stepped out of the house, the cold hit him, and Kid wrapped his jacket more tightly when he ran across the yard towards the stables. This was totally insane. He thought he would simply have a ride to town, and then he would tell Lou he had not found her damn clams. Hopefully, she would be sleeping by then, and had forgotten about this stupid craving.
The ride to town was an odyssey as his body felt frozen and almost dumb because of the cold. He was sorry for having to take Katy in this weather, so as soon as he reached Rock Creek, he left the mare under the shelter of the local stables. Kid needed to get some warmth, and since the only place opened at this ungodly hour was the saloon, he headed for the place. He ordered a whisky from the bartender as he placed himself at the end of the counter next to the big fireplace. He would spend a few more minutes here, and then he would ride back home. He still did not know how he had let Lou talk him into doing this. It was insane, and she knew that he would not get what she apparently so much longed for. Why had she made him go out in the cold? Was she having fun at his expense or what?
As all these thoughts spun in his mind, he felt an arm on his back as a voice asked, "Buy a lady a drink?"
He turned to see a young woman in a skimpy red dress next to him. Her face wore heavy make-up, and her dark hair was hanging loose over her shoulders. "Sorry, Ma'am, but I can't do that." Kid suddenly coughed.
"Oh man, that doesn't sound very nice at all," the woman remarked. "You should drink some hot milk with just a bit of honey for that cough. My room is just round the corner and..."
"I told you. I don't want company."
"Well, what did you come here for in this horrible weather if you ain't looking for some nice company?"
"I think that's none of your business," Kid replied gruffly. He was very annoyed, and the last thing he wanted was to have somebody bugging him with conversation.
"Hey, hey, cowboy, are you one of those who think they're a better kind?" the lady said with a reproachful tone. "You can go, and look down on others, but not my mother's daughter!"
"I didn't mean that, Ma'am. Sorry if I offended you."
"Although you see me in this fancy attire, let me tell you that when I'm not working, I'm a girl of simple tastes. Very simple, indeed. Tonight when I get home, I'll get changed into my nice nightgown, sit in front of the fire, eat some clams, and then I'll go to bed straightaway."
Kid had been listening to this woman half-heartedly, but when she mentioned the magical word, he focused all his senses on her. "Clams? Where do you get them?"
"At Tompkins. It's a new canned specialty."
"Yeah, cans," Kid muttered to himself, and as an idea struck him, he turned to the woman, "Uh... you know? I think that hot milk wouldn't be such a bad idea after all."
The woman smiled brightly as she exclaimed, "Goodness me! What's with you men? All of you fall as soon as I mention clams." The woman cackled loudly, and hooking her arm around Kid's, she steered him out of the saloon while shouting goodnight to the bartender.
Once in the woman's rooms, Kid stood on his feet uncomfortably. A large bed lay in the middle of the bedroom, and apart from it, there was only a rackety wardrobe and a table on the other side. As soon as he bought the canned clams from this woman, he would get out of here. "Virtue!!!" the woman shouted from the adjacent room she had disappeared into as soon as they had got in here.
"What?" Kid let out clumsily.
"My name... my name's Virtue!" the woman explained. "My mother wasn't very accurate on choosing the name, considering what I am." She guffawed loudly, amused by her own words.
Kid turned around when he heard somebody clear their throat behind him. His eyes widened as he saw the lady wearing a very short, black negligee, and standing at the door in a very enticing pose. "Howdy, cowboy!"
She walked up to him, and clasped her hands around his neck. Kid awkwardly disengaged himself from her, and said, "One moment. Look. I didn't come here for this."
Virtue rolled her eyes as she crossed to another tiny room where she had a stove. "I see. I'll heat the milk."
Kid had followed her to the small kitchenette, and said, "I don't want milk."
The woman turned her confused face towards him. "You don't want female company… you don't want milk. So what the hell do you want?"
"Clams, " Kid replied. The woman creased her brow in confusion, and he explained, "My wife's pregnant, and she's having these strange cravings and..."
Virtue sighed. "And you came out in this foul weather to get her... clams?" Kid nodded, and the lady added, "You must love her very much to do something so utterly stupid." Kid shrugged his shoulders in silence. Virtue reached to open a cabinet from where she took a can, and handed it to Kid. "Just boil them in a saucepan for ten minutes, and it will be ready to eat."
"How much do I owe you?" Kid asked awkwardly.
"Don't worry. It's on the house," Virtue replied.
"Come on. Go back to your wife. She must be worried sick." Kid nodded, and walked out of the room and as the door closed behind him, Virtue sighed and exclaimed to herself, "Some women are really lucky."
About thirty minutes later Kid was back at home, and had prepared the clams as Virtue had told him to. He placed the plate on the kitchen table where Lou was sitting. "I don't understand what took you so long. I was getting bored here all by myself."
"Lou, the weather is horrible, and it wasn't easy to get these babies," Kid explained.
"I'm surprised Tompkins agreed to sell you this at this time," Lou commented as she watched the food on the plate.
Kid cleared his throat uncomfortably; he had told Lou that little fib because telling the truth would be too complicated and awkward. "I think he's actually a sentimental. But we better not mention the matter to him. He wasn't very happy." Kid noticed that Lou hadn't touched the pain-in-the-neck clams, and added, "Come on, Lou. Dig in!"
"It's that … since it took you so long to come back, the craving is kind of gone," Lou explained awkwardly.
"Oh well..." Kid let out, rolling his eyes.
"But not completely," she added. Kid stared at her in expectation, and Louise carried on after a few seconds. "As I was here on my own, my mind started to get naughty. I thought 'well, he loves you enough to leave his bed and go in the cold in search of clams, but does he love you enough to eat them?'"
Kid's eyes widened in total horror. "Lou, no!"
"I'm sorry, Kid. I don't know how this idea came but it did."
"Lou, what you heard about cravings is hogwash; the doctor will tell you so. And that thing is not even a craving! It's a stupid whim!"
"Please, Kid, just a little one. Just a little one."
"I ain't going to eat one of those disgusting things!" Kid replied with a determined gleam in his eyes.
Louise pouted exaggerated. "All right. I understand."
The tone of her voice clearly showed she did not understand, and he could even hear the words that she was not uttering. He knew that this was not the last he was going to hear about this, and, despite everything, he found himself agreeing. "All right, I'll eat one, but just one."
Lou smiled as she moved the plate from her side to the place where Kid sat down. He poured a big glass of water for him, and scanned the plate for a few minutes. Very carefully he took a small clam, and his face cringed in disgust as he brought the thing closer to his mouth. His teeth finally pull it from the shell, and after quickly chewing it, he gulped it. Suddenly, the taste left in his mouth did not seem so utterly disgusting as he thought and he said, "This is not so bad after all."
"Do you like them?" Lou asked surprised.
"I think I'm going to finish them."
Louise smiled sweetly. "Do you mind if I join you? You know, they're kind of romantic," she added. She took one of them with her thin fingers, and fed it to her husband. Her fingers purposely brushed against his lips, and her face came closer to him until their lips met. When they pulled away, Lou said, "You know tomorrow is Christmas and I think I'm going to include these on the menu… when all our guests have gone... for our private dinner."
Kid smiled brightly. "I think it's a wonderful idea, Mrs. McCloud."
"Merry Christmas, Kid."
Author's Note: Thanks to Jessica for betaing this story for me, and thanks to all the LJ girls for their constant encouragement.