On the 2nd Day of Christmas Jess Moody gave to me…
Every kitchen surface is covered, and levels are rising. A failing round of Tetris, I’ve reached cascade failure. Pans, baking trays, congealing white sauce, knives nonchalantly lying blade up.
I’m about to get the meat from the larder. Approaching laughter – like clattering silverware – sends me back to prepping sprouts.
“And how is my daughter-in-law, just abandoned by us all!” Heather floats in, one arm balanced in the crook of the other, bicep flexed for the 250ml glass of pinot.
“Fine, fine, not long now” I reassure. She eyes the chaos smugly.
Deep male guffaws from the front room suggest my husband is engaged in the usual bonding rituals with his father.
A glimpse through the bedroom door, fingers tracing his jaw.
Heather perches her pleather behind next to me, and proximity seems to invite a conspiratorial tone.
“I had so hoped that Joe would stay on ‘til we arrived” She touches my shoulder to double check that the slightly doughy woman in front of her is not, in fact, her effortlessly athletic wordsmith of a brother.
His thumb stroking my husband’s cheek. Joe, catching my eye, amused.
I smile a wide flat smile.
“Well, you know how it is”. I turn and rinse away the memory in limp leaves and grit.
Heather pouts. My daughter in law, Joe Reed’s sister – how she’d introduced me for twelve years – yes, THE Joe Reed! A fortunate connection, such a daring author, and with the lifestyle…
Then the knowing nod, “Ah, no time for us little people these days!”
My husband, halfway through a sentence “‑ have to tell her eventually…”
I bustle meaningfully and Heather wanders back to her role as guest.
“One’s presence is not required apparently!” she enunciates ahead.
I fetch the meat. The oven opens with a roar.
Two hours late, the four of us clink glasses of finest Waitrose plonk, and pull eco-friendly crackers. My husband has drunk too much and wears my fixed smile from earlier. Christmas re-gifting at its finest.
His father pokes at the meat, muttering a question. Heather tsks “well who knows with these former vegetarians…” before launching onwards.
“So, what is Joe going to do with that prize money? I mean, there is money with it these days, not just the -“, she makes air quotes, “”literary accolade””.
I carefully saw through gravy covered flesh.
“He has no plans as far as I know.” Honest.
A promise “She’ll be over it by the New Year…”
My paper-crowned husband has been staring at his plate, and now begins to weep.
Heather pats her hair. The father eats furiously.
“Still” she coughs “I hope we cross paths at some point this festive season. Such a charmer.”
Joe in the guest bedroom for a week. My husband ‘working from home’. Sheets in the laundry.
I chew thoughtfully.
“I’ll be honest Heather.” I say eventually, picking strings of meat from my teeth with my fingers, “My brother isn’t really to everyone’s taste.”
Jess Moody is a Wulfrunian in London. She likes her worlds and words weird.
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