Every Sunday, my sisters and I descended on our childhood home to cook dinner for our parents. It became a tradition after my older sister, Lisa, moved to the other side of town for college. Maggie and I had missed her so much, and she came home every weekend to do laundry anyway, that we just decided it should be a thing. That was almost ten years ago.
This particular Sunday was about three weeks after the bridal shop ‘incident’. Once they all knew I was safe, they hadn’t pushed for more information. The last two weekends had slipped by in pleasant conversation and homemade pie without a scene.
But my mother had reached her limit.
My sisters and I were dancing around the kitchen, working together like a clunky, rusty machine, but still getting the job done. Dad was in the living room watching one of the news channels, giving them back his commentary. My mom was sitting on a stool at the kitchen island, trying to stay out of our way for fear of being trampled.
We were singing along to the radio as we worked, laughing at each other and lost in the music. Then Judy switched off the sound and slapped her hands on the marble counter.
“Okay, that’s about enough!”
Maggie nibbled at the celery she’d been chopping.
“We weren’t THAT bad, were we? I mean, Alexis was a little flat, but otherwise – “
“That’s not what I was referring to, and you know it.”
Tugging at her sleeve, Lisa steered Maggie to the far side of the kitchen. It seemed I was the only one not quite grasping the situation and I continued to root around in the fridge.
“Alexis Marie! I have been patient. I have tried to be understanding. But, by god, I deserve an explanation!”
There was complete silence following her outburst. I even heard my dad lower the volume on the television. That was kind of his thing; listening without obviously listening. Maggie and Lisa were huddled in the corner, well out of reach of our enraged mother – and me.
Well, indeed. Once again, I was faced with the task of trying to explain something I wasn’t sure I understood, myself.
“I am sorry for sneaking out on you like that. I don’t have an excuse. It was rude and selfish – ”
“And childish.” Mom gave me a glare that dared me to contradict her.
“And childish. I should have apologized a long time ago.”
That seemed to soften Judy’s resolve a bit. She raised her eyebrows, crossed her arms, and nodded.
“Thank you. We sat out there for a good hour before anyone realized you weren’t there. Poor Janice thought you had been kidnapped, or something.”
Shoving my hands in my pockets, I leaned back against the refrigerator. All I could do was stare at the floor and hope the words to make things better would materialize before me. Thankfully, my mom couldn’t stand the silence and the tension.
“Oh, sweetie. What on earth made you run away? Was it all just overwhelming?”
I shrugged. “A little. It’s just…I was looking at myself in that mirror and it was all so real all of a sudden. I guess I panicked.”
“Don’t you want to marry Jamie anymore?”
“Oh god Lisa, yes! I do want to marry him! Just not…yet.”
Maggie took the stool next to Mom and slung an arm over her shoulders.
“Can you believe this shit, Judy?”
We all snorted – all except Judy.
“Margaret! Watch your mouth! And since when don’t you call me Mom?”
“Since I am a grown, independent woman.”
“…who raids mom’s kitchen rather than go shopping for herself.” Lisa dodged her sister’s playful swat and wrapped me in a hug.
“I heard you were with Chris a couple weeks ago.”
Everyone perked up at Lisa’s statement, mouths round in shock.
I rolled my eyes.
“Oh my god, you guys! I wasn’t ‘with’ him in the Biblical sense! Is that what you think of me? We went to dinner. That is ALL.”
My dad, showing he was following along with the conversation just fine, thank you very much, piped up without turning around.
“How is old Chris, anyway? I always liked that kid.”
Turning on her stool, my mom was the one to reply.
“Jim, I’ve told you all this before. He’s divorced and lives with his little boy in the guest house on his parents’ farm. You’ve seen them.”
He waved his hand, lazily in the air. “Oh sure, sure. I remember that now.”
After a short silence, Dad hoisted himself from his armchair and wandered into the kitchen.
“Lex, what were you doing going out with Chris? Are things okay with you and Jamie?”
Well now. That WAS a question, wasn’t it?