‘Eating meat this year, Jen?’
‘Your sister’s name is Jenny,’ Mum said, wiping palms down her apron, following Dad’s swagger from the kitchen carrying the prize turkey.
Jenny’s fingertips traced the delicate outline of the crocheted threads in Grandma’s lacework spread across the food-laden table. A silent witness to another annual passing parade of corrupt cousins, divorced aunts, and derelict uncles.
‘I’ll answer to both, even bitch,’ Jenny said with a grin.
Dad’s exaggerated knife blade to steel swipes stopped. ‘No swearing, young lady.’
‘Talking about age, Jenny, I’m not seeing any grandchildren or husband seated beside you. Not like your brother with his family.’
Jenny side-glanced at her bully brother, the suppressed sister-in-law and their puppet perfect children. Yes, TV lands happy families existed – and they were PC, paper-cut-out, boring. ‘I’ll eat white meat, thanks. Looks great.’
‘You’re always avoiding my question.’
‘Didn’t I answer the food question?’
‘She did,’ said Dad, dishing out slabs of hacked turkey. ‘Still with Charlie?’
Mum’s head swivelled like an owl. ‘Is this the same Charlie you mentioned last year?’
Jenny nodded, forking her food, avoiding eye contact.
‘That’s a year,’ Mum’s said with eyelids narrowing. ‘Do you think Charlie will marry you?’
Another nod. A shrug. ‘We’d like to.’ Shovelling another mouthful.
‘Slow down – don’t you get fed upstate? Or you’re going for the plate clearing record, sis.’
‘Who’s Charlie,’ demanded Mum, ‘and when will we meet him?’
‘You won’t meet him.’ Jenny sipped her water because wine for women was disallowed at her mother’s table.
‘Because Charlie’s a female.’ Jenny stood up as cutlery dropped onto everyone else’s plates. She wiped her chin on the napkin, folded it up and grinned. ‘Thanks for dinner, might see ya next year.’ And left them all to digest.