Aaaand, they’re back… I’ve revised my tale of Maggie, Patrick and the unfortunate mother-in-law. Enjoy and please provide notes!

The following is an original work of fiction. Please be kind. I’d just like to see where this goes, in case I decide to post more under this genre. Enjoy!

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

            After calling her name twice from the foyer, I kicked the door shut and quickly set down my rucksack and dropped the post on the desk. She stood paralyzed, staring at the answering machine. I wondered if she was waiting for it to do something, like a somersault or some other sort of trick, but her expression made me panic. I reached across her and played the message for myself. Upon hearing the woman’s voice on the other end, a chill came over me, and at that point, I too stood frozen and instantly understood my wife’s trepidation.

*       *       *

            The rest of our evening was spent traipsing around London neighborhoods far beyond our own in search of some incredibly snooty grocery items. Maggie thought that if we stocked the larder in just such a way, it would leave her mother no room for commentary. As we left the 4th or 5th Marks and Spencer’s, it’s possible that I may have used the word “mental” to describe her behavior, at which she reacted immediately.

            “We have to be ready, Patrick. I don’t want to give her any room.” Her voice sounded hurried. “Oh, and we both know she’ll find it, and she’ll judge and she’ll argue, and she’ll pour on the guilt.  C’mon, sweetie. There’s a reason I moved here, and it wasn’t for the pleasant weather or your precious footie,” she said, now grinning.

            “For my dashing smile, then?” I ventured, trying to lighten the mood.

            Maggie stopped before dropping the single bag into the boot and flung her arms around me. After a tender moment, she said curtly, “Awww, no.” I frowned playfully and we both got in the car and drove off for Knightsbridge.           

            As the night drew on, we dropped our perishables at home and I convinced Maggie to have a walk with me. She reluctantly changed into a pair of Wellies and met me on the landing in front of our flat. While locking the door she cursed and stomped at having forgotten a jacket. About to head back inside, I tapped her on the shoulder and extended my arm in her direction. She abruptly swallowed her next words as I handed over her grey toggle jumper. Furrowed brow still firmly in place, she put it on and we walked in silence up Pembury Road toward the park.

            Having not seen her mother in over two years I’m sure only contributed to Maggie’s anxiety. I still don’t fully understand the issue the two have with each other. From what I can work out, Mags has always been a bit too unusual, a bit too “against the grain” for her mother’s liking. Other than that, she had no recent conversations to draw from that would made her think her mum was only coming to nag and harp on her life choices, which might have been part of the problem; the two just never talked. Nevertheless, Maggie’s heart had beaten a little faster ever since that last phone call and she hadn’t let me forget it.      

            Her head was likely loaded with questions. Why now? What had happened that would cause her to fly 4,000 miles, uninvited, for a visit? Why had she booked an open-ended ticket? Why would she choose to visit Maggie over one of her siblings, both of whom actually liked spending time with this woman, both of whom lived in the States, in perfectly lovely houses with proper guest rooms?

            Eventually, my curiosity once again got the better of me and I decided to pry.

            “If I could ask one more time, Darling, just what is so off-putting about your mum?”

            “Oh, I wish I knew. I really wish I knew.” Maggie huffed. “I’ve been trying to put my finger on it since I was in high school. We just don’t get along.”

            “Is there not a chance she’ll be,” I began.

            “She’s bitter. She’s always been a bitter woman.” she interrupted, tossing her arms in the air. “It’s gotten worse since Dad died, but that was almost 10 years ago, and she’s never treated Kate and Caleb like she does me. You know how she is with them. Which, gotta say, is really irritating because Caleb treats her like crap and takes advantage of her money any chance he gets. Whatever. I’m over it.”

            “Babe, if I may. You’re certainly not ‘over it.’”

            “Patrick, that’s just it, I don’t know what there is to mend. I used to think she thought I was a daddy’s girl and maybe that bothered her, but I really wasn’t. I mean, he and I got along better, but I’ve just been the odd duck. I’m not complaining, Babe, I’ve just given up trying to figure her out. So, now, when she calls, or when I visit, I just know I’ll be walking on egg shells until it’s over.”

            “But she’s never visited you before,” I pressed.

            “Yeah, that is a bit odd,” she agreed.

            Save for why her mother was making the trek to the UK, it turned out, she didn’t have the many looming questions I assumed she would. We walked well into the night and I had successfully been able to take her mind off the days ahead as we fell into our usual banter.

            The flat was spotless. All that was left to finish was the pile of clean laundry Mags had dumped onto the sofa that sat in the middle of the living room. As the pile between us diminished, the stacks of folded linens, socks and, shirts grew around us; on the arms of chairs and on the shelves of the large entertainment unit that took up much of the far wall.

            Glancing out the front window, I noticed a taxi drive away and before I could process my next thought, I heard, “Margaret Marie Hudson, what have you done to your hair?”

            Maggie looked up at me from the towel she had been folding. My mother-in-law stood in my line of vision, so I greeted her first. 

            “Judith! How wonderful to see you,” I said. Maggie turned as slowly as she could without seeming rude.

            “Hi, Mom.” She approached her and the two hugged awkwardly, then Maggie added, “It’s O’Malley now. Has been for three years.” Judith seemed to ignore the correction.

            Not letting go of her daughter, Judith grabbed a chunk of her hair and said, “Margaret, you’re blonde,” as if she’d contracted a rare disease.

            “Yes, well it’s more of a honey –” but Maggie was again interrupted.

            “You know you only look washed out with light hair and your roots have never taken to color well.”

            Maggie just let that last comment linger, and the silence seemed to drag on until I chimed in with, “I love it, Judith. Really suits her.” Blonde, honey, molasses, I really did love it. Her hair looked quite sophisticated, I thought, and no matter what the colour is called, the lighter shade really accented her piercing hazel eyes. Judith was clearly just going in for a dig, and although I didn’t let on, I was irritated that the woman was already living up to her reputation.

            “Yes, mmm,” was all that Judith could manage.

            “Well, help me with these, where will I be staying?” she asked, gesturing to her two frightfully large suitcases.

            “We were just working that out when you walked…” Maggie began.

            “You’ve known I would be coming since Friday and you’re just now working out my sleeping arrangements. Yes, well, I didn’t know I’d be so unwelcome.”

            “Of course not, we actually had things worked out days ago. Except, well, I thought we’d turn the living room into something of a bedroom for you, but Mags wouldn’t have it. We’ve decided you should take our room and we’ll have the office,” I said, rather eloquently for thinking so quickly. I loathed the futon and fought back a cringe after the words escaped me.

            As we directed Judith up the stairs, I hugged Maggie and reminded her to breathe.

*       *       *

Until next time…


One Response to Unrelated

  1. Love it! It’s comforting to know the whole mom visiting and “what happened to your hair?” thing is universal. I thought it was just me and my mom. Can’t’ wait to read more.

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