January 2020 Short Story of the Month
I stopped for a breath before cutting the turkey. I wanted to appreciate the moment. Seeing everyone there, sitting around the table, almost felt like we were a family again. But if we had been a real family, my decision wouldn’t have caused a war. I knew standing against generations would be challenging, but I thought my own family would understand. They didn’t have to agree with me, but they didn’t have to openly fight me either.
This dinner was a weird momentary truce in a cold war that I started by refusing to marry Phillip.
Two Years Ago…
I looked around the parking lot and saw my siblings’ cars already parked. I was the last to arrive – like usual. I slammed the door and anticipated all the grief I was about to get.
I glanced up as I walked. The sign over the diner had three letters out and two more were flickering. Why didn’t my mother just fix them? Sometimes I didn’t understand her.
All she had to do was blink and the lights would be working again. Did she think the broken ones added character? That would be just like her.
Just because I could, and no one was around, I made one of the broken ones come back on. My family hated when I used magic out in the open. They were terrified someone would see me. I didn’t care. Early on I realized that even when confronted with the truth of magic, most people refused to believe it was real. Their brains couldn’t handle it, so they ignored it.
I sighed audibly. I was dreading this meeting. My mother had said there was “big news.” I had a pretty good idea what it was about. Why couldn’t this wait till after Thanksgiving? It was only a few days away. The whole family would be gathered – it was one of our more pleasant traditions.
Maybe the rest of the family already knew and I was the last to know. That would be par for the course with my parents.
Opening the door, a bell tinkled over my head. Every person at the counter turned and looked in my direction. Every person was also a member of my family. My parents were both behind the counter. Both of my sisters and their husbands were sitting at the counter with coffee and pie. No one was eating their pie.
My mother pursed her lips as I approached. I sat on the only empty bar stool between my two sisters. They were both younger than me, but they often acted like I was younger than them because I was “less of an adult.” I was in my thirties, unmarried and without children. I was also guilty of not “settling down” – an apparently unforgivable sin among my family. They all lived here in town, but I liked to travel and moved almost as soon as I was done unpacking my last box every time.
It always surprised me how magic users were some of the most conservative backward fuddy-duddies.
My mother placed a piece of pie and a cup in front of me. My dad filled it with coffee and winked at me. I couldn’t help it; I grinned at him.
“Now, you two don’t start,” my mother said.
My dad turned his back and put the urn back on the warmer. I smiled as I added sugar and lots of creamer to my cup.
My mother didn’t waste any time.
She cleared her throat. “I’ve asked you all here because your father and I have an announcement to make.” She paused, and they held hands to show their solidarity.
“That’s right,” my dad added. “Big news.” He was grinning so big it stretched his mouth too far over his teeth. I didn’t like it when people smiled like that. They looked manic.
My sisters kept peeking at me in a not very subtle way. I whispered to them, “I can see you, you know.” They both sat up a little straighter.
My mother was intermittingly frowning and then forcing herself to smile. Whatever she was about to say, she didn’t want to.
“A match has been made,” she said looking directly in my eyes.
“No,” I said. I honestly wasn’t surprised. My family seemed to be under the impression that I just didn’t know how to look for a husband. What they failed to understand is that I didn’t want to find one.
Amongst magic users, one of the steadfast unwritten rules was that magic users married other magic users. By marrying and breeding together, magical lines became stronger. I’d all ready refused three matches over the last ten years; why did they think this one would be different?
My mother stared at my dad and motioned with her head that he should handle me. He and I always got along better than my mother and I. However, I didn’t like being handled.
“Hey!” my sister yelled at me. “Stop daydreaming and cut the turkey. I’m eating for two here.” She rubbed her belly and smiled at it.
I scowled at her. I didn’t care if she was pregnant. She didn’t have to be rude. I lifted the knife and simultaneously opened my mouth to say something. Before I could get a word out, my dad stepped up behind me and said, “Let me handle this.”
I sat down between my sisters and tried not to look at them. As I glanced at my dad, he winked at me.