Unrelated reposted

Hi ya! As promised about a gazillion years ago, I’ve reposted Unrelated, my original short fiction piece about Maggie, her charming and tolerant husband Patrick, and her imposing mother, Judith.

Part I

Part II

Do give it a read!

 

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Unrelated – Part II

Part II, comin’ at ya…

            My plan to welcome Judith to the country with a bit of home-prepared bubble & squeak was instantly shot down. I thought I’d do all right, but Mags thought that we should ease her mother into traditional English cuisine. As Maggie’s specialty is pouring milk over a bowl of cold cereal, we thought it best to leave dinner to someone else. We decided to order pasta take away.

            Our conversation remained superficial until Judith brought up her other children. After hearing that “North Carolina is so beautiful this time of year,” and “Katie’s all moved into her lovely new apartment overlooking the Capitol,” we wondered why she was here visiting. Judith had been in our home for almost an entire day and not yet had she mentioned the oak floors, the high ceilings, or the antique end tables, as Maggie would have preferred.

*            *            *

            “You’re not even paying attention. Patrick!” she yelled. “You have to help me.” 

            I found the shirt I had been looking for in the dryer and put it on, along with my tattered blue and white scarf.

            “Mags, look, I’ll only be a while. Match is right up the street at The Lane and we’re meeting for drinks when it’s finished, anyway.”

            I kissed her forehead and she whined, “It will only get worse with you gone. She’s been holding back, you know.”

            “I’m sure she has. Maybe try a new approach and sort some of it out. Don’t forget, the Albert at half seven. I’ve got to be off or I’ll miss the start. It’s Man City this week,” I said, genuinely enthused. I was excited because Tottenham had a sporting chance to win this one.

            She grumbled, “Go Spurs. Please don’t leave me alone with her.”

            It was the last thing I heard as I shut the front door and headed up the street.

            After the drink I’d planned to have with the girls turned into a couple of pints alone, I decided to head home. My arrival was met with, “Mom! Will you stop it! You are trying to pick a fight.”

            “I’m doing no such thing. I’d simply like to know when I can expect grandchildren.”

            “And I don’t have a better answer for you! Kids just aren’t something we want right now.” Maggie inhaled deeply, and then continued in a more even tone, “Is this why you’re here? Couldn’t you have lectured me over the phone? Were you bored?”

            “Oh, Margaret, you’re getting all worked up over nothing. I simply wanted to see my daughter. I heard such lovely things from Katie about your little life here that I thought I’d see for myself. Now, maybe you think I should apologize for not visiting sooner, but you were the one who moved an ocean away. “

            Maggie didn’t attempt to conceal the epic eye roll that followed.

            From there, Judith moved from one topic to another, like she was searching for a weak spot. I am normally a quite sensitive person, but everything she brought up was so ridiculous, I only teetered on the edge of being offended. I just stood and listened. As if I wasn’t even in the room, she began to lay into me. She criticized my accent, my dress sense, my “pathetic excuse for an automobile”, and took many shots at my Irish heritage; my ability to drink, my inevitable alcoholism – all the usual stereotypes. After a while, I became upset that Maggie was not even making an effort to combat her mother. I waited for the elder woman to finish ranting, while my wife just let her carry on. I tried to interject, but was effectively “shushed” by Maggie on both attempts. Eventually I’d had enough and decided to let the two have it out. I retreated to the bedroom balcony. As I made my escape, I overheard Judith say to her daughter, “Seemed a bit too easy, don’t you think,” sounding all too pleased. During my ascent up the stairs, I couldn’t help but feel defeated and a bit angry with myself for not stepping in.

            Only at the threat of rain and after I felt I’d done a fair bit of pouting, I came inside to find Maggie sitting on the edge of the bed. She apologized in an “it’s not my fault, though” sort of way and we took turns getting ready to turn in. We slept at opposite sides of our own bed.

*            *            *

An, whammo! Just like that, I’m going to make you wait for part III. If you’ve stuck with me this long, I think you’ll find the conclusion worth the wait. Ta!

Unrelated

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…