Oh, mother-in-laws

Published by hiddennovelist in the blog hiddennovelist's blog. Views: 65

I don't post to this blog very often, but I stumbled across a short story I wrote a while back. It's not anything serious, just something I wrote for fun (or more accurately, partially for fun and partially to vent) and figured I would post here. Proof that I really do write! ;) Sorry about the formatting issues. I tried to fix it, but it didn't work...

Streams of warm, golden light poured in through freshly windexed, streak-free windows, but Holly, on her hands and knees furiously scrubbing her tiled kitchen floor, had no eyes for the sun’s dancing rays or the chirping birds perched cheerfully on the feeder hanging outside. Sweat ran in rivulets down her grimy face, trickling down her neck and soaking her ratty ASU t-shirt, but she didn’t even pause to wipe away the sticky streams of perspiration. There was too much work left to do, and she was running out of time.
Justin had offered to help her, and Holly’s aching back and throbbing knees almost made her wish she had accepted. But he would have done something wrong, missed something, and then—Holly shuddered at the thought and went back to the floors, scrubbing with renewed energy. That wasn’t going to happen…not again.

The dirty mop water had just been poured down the drain, the bucket stowed safely under the sink, when Holly heard an ominous rumble of thunder. Moving to peer out the window at the suddenly overcast sky, she gasped when she saw the sleek silver Toyota turning down her street.
“Justin!” Fumbling to untie the handkerchief holding her curls away from her sweaty neck and face, then using it to wipe away some of the dirt that a quick splash of cold water earlier had missed, Holly whirled and rushed toward the bedroom, tugging her filthy t-shirt off as she ran. “She’s here! Oh my god, she’s here and I’m not even dressed yet!”
“Relax, Holly, what’s the big deal?” Calmly switching the television off, Justin appeared from the living room, already dressed in slacks and a button-down black shirt. Holly glowered at him, kicking her gym shorts off and pulling a navy blue cocktail dress off its hanger.
“You know what the big deal is, Justin.” She snapped, pulling the dress on over her head and turning so he could zip the back. “I’ve been having nightmares about this for weeks.”
“But why? It’s not like the president is coming for dinner, it’s just—“ But the doorbell rang, cutting him off, and Holly finished for him with a grimace.
“My mother-in-law.”

“Can I get you some wine? I’m afraid dinner isn’t ready yet, but we’ve got some appetizers to tide everyone over until the roast is done.”
“Oh, you’re making roast?” Holly tried not to cringe at the condescending tone in her mother-in-law’s voice. “It’s such a difficult dish to prepare correctly. I hope it doesn’t turn out too dry.”
“I…” Holly trailed off helplessly and raised an eyebrow at Justin, who stepped in smoothly, taking his mother’s arm.
“Come on, Mom, I’ll show you to the living room while Holly grabs the wine.”
“And the appetizers.” Holly threw in. “I wouldn’t want you to starve waiting for dinner.”
“You know, that might not be a bad idea.” Janeen commented thoughtfully as Justin lead her out of the room. “Even terrible food tastes delicious to someone who is ravenously hungry.” Waiting until they had rounded the corner, Holly stuck her tongue out, then stalked silently into the kitchen and ripped the refrigerator door open to pull out the plates of tomato bruschetta and stuffed brie she’d made earlier that day.
“Justin?” She called, grabbing a bottle of merlot from their wine rack and taking three glasses out of the cupboard. “Can you come help me carry this, please?”
“Be right there!” He appeared just seconds later, wearing a placating expression.
“I’m sorry, Holly. I don’t think she meant that as rude as it sounded.” Holly just shook her head.
“I’m going to spit in her drink.”
“No you’re not, because then she would insult your taste in wine, too.”
“But I would know it wasn’t really the wine she was insulting.”
“Come on.” Justin tried not to laugh, taking the wine and glasses from his wife. “You can carry the appetizers.”
“Spit wasn’t the first thing I considered putting in her drink. At least I scaled it down.”
“It’s only a few more hours, babe. You can make it.”
“Carrying the wine won’t stop me, you know.”
“You’ll be in the kitchen for most of the night, anyway. And I’ll keep her in the living room so she won’t distract you while you’re cooking.”
“I think heckle is the word you were looking for.” Holly corrected. “And thank you. I wouldn’t want anyone to interfere with the making of my dry roast.”
“If it’s any consolation, I love your roast, even if it is dry.” She started to object, then caught the wicked grin on her husband’s face and scowled.
“Very funny.”
“For a second there, I thought your head might really explode.”
“Keep it up, Justin, and the couch will be too good for you.”
“Keep what up? I was just saying, I like your roast.”
“Uh huh.”
“What?” He feigned innocence. “It’s good.”
“You’re supposed to be on my side, Justin. Not pick on me with your mother.”
“I’m not picking on you, I was just teasing you a little bit.”
“Same thing.”
“No it’s not. The two are actually very different.”
“How so?”
“Picking on someone is mean.” Justin explained. “Teasing is all in fun.”
“Mmhmm…” Holly’s eyes narrowed. “Sure, Justin.”
“What?”
“Nothing…” She smiled sweetly as they neared the living room. “I just hope you enjoy sleeping on the floor.”

“Is everything going ok out here? We’re running low on that bruschetta.” Holly glanced away from the rolls she had just finished piling neatly into a small basket at the sound of her mother-in-law’s voice, and she smiled tightly.
“Everything is fine.”
“Are you sure? It’s no trouble for me to help out if it means getting that roast on the table more quickly.”
“Hey, where’s Justin?” Holly pretended she hadn’t heard her. “Wasn’t he supposed to be entertaining you?”
“Oh, he had to use the restroom, so I thought I would check on how dinner was coming along, in case you needed my help.”
“Well, I don’t. Like I said, everything is fine.”
“Are you sure? Because if you want me to take a look at that roast—“
“The roast is fine.” Holly struggled to keep her tone even. “It’s almost done, and everything else is under control.”
“You know, there’s no shame in asking for help.” Janeen edged toward the oven. “I’ve been cooking a lot longer than you have, I could give you some tips.”
“I don’t need any tips.” Holly pulled a dish of corn out of the microwave, added some salt and pepper to it, then moved it and the rolls to the dining room table, placing them next to a large bowl of mashed potatoes already waiting in the center. “If you want to help, though, you could go get Jason for me. I need him up here.”
“Why?”
“Because I’m hungry,” Sliding between her mother-in-law and the oven, Holly pulled the door open to check on the steaming roast inside. “and the sooner he gets up here, the sooner we can eat.”
“But the roast is still in the ov—“
“Not anymore.” Holly pulled the silver pan out of the oven with an impatient jerk. “Roast is done.”
“Are you sure? I can always take a look—“ Stepping around her mother-in-law once more to bringing the roast to the already full table, Holly turned and cut Joleen off firmly, smiling sincerely for the first time all night.
“Dinner is served.”
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