It was 7 a.m. on Sunday morning. The house was quiet. Click clack. High-heeled shoes moved across the tile floor. Crack. Eggshells split open on a metal bowl. Crumble. Eggshells were thrusted against the bowl much harder than they needed to be. Swish slosh swish. Eggs sloshed around the bowl as a wooden spoon attempted to break the yolks. Splash splat. Egg droppings flew out of the bowl and landed on the counter; they were sloshed around too much. Grrrrrrr. A low-pitched growl projected from a frustrated woman’s throat. Clang clang clang. The spoon hit the metal bowl. Click clack. More heals entered the kitchen. Huuuh. Sighs of frustration from a younger woman. Click. A cabinet door opened. BANG. The cabinet door closed. Kerplunk. Tea leaves fall into the infuser. Drip drop. Hot tea trickles into a mug. Plop plop. Loafers enter the kitchen. Gurgle. An empty stomach longs for sustenance.
Tim disregarded his mother’s actions and grabbed a bowl of cereal.
“Tim! Don’t you see I’m making breakfast?” Her face scrunched up to match her accusatory tone.
His face was just as clueless as it always was. “But I’m hungry now, mommy.”
“Fine! Is your father up yet?”
“I think he’s in the shower.”
Sizzle. Eggs hit a hot frying pan. Scrape scrape scrape. A metal spatula stabbed a cast iron pan. GRRRRR. An even louder growl escaped the woman’s throat.
“Be back later,” John said, walking toward the front door.
“WAIT! I just finished breakfast! Where are you going anyway?”
“But, it’s Sunday, dear.” Mary rubbed her temple. She could tell it was going to be that kind of day.
John sighed. “Fine.” Reluctantly, he walked in the kitchen, grabbed a plate, and sat at the table with everyone else. It was only 7:10. Sigh. Quite a few diners were frustrated. Sip. Soothing tea was not helping. Scrape scrape. Metal forks raked across porcelain plates. Ahem. The quiet was deafening. Slurp. A longer, louder sip of tea. Urp. Giggle. A childish boy can’t be helped.
From the outside looking in, the Joneses appeared to be a wonderful family. They were gorgeous and always looked like they came straight from a Southern Living photoshoot. They appeared to be successful and loving, and the children seemed so well behaved. All of this is what Mary Jones certainly wanted everyone to believe. It was what she worked so hard to achieve every day, but she was growing tired of fighting a losing battle. Her husband and daughter had enough. They were tired of being controlled. Tim couldn’t care less about any of it.
After breakfast, John attempted to take his leave again. “May I have permission to go to work, your highness?” John and Mary tried with all their might not to be contentious around the children, but as of late, John had become the master of sarcasm and passive aggression. “I’d like to go do some research so I can get a promotion and make some decent money. You know we need it.”
She knew more than anyone that their financial situation was nothing like she purported it to be. Her family’s fall from grace haunted her every hour of every day. It was a nightmare she couldn’t wake up from. When she looked in his eyes, she felt many things. It was his fault they had to leave their stately home in Newcrest. But at the same time, it was her fault too. She could have been more sensitive and accommodating. Or, she could have been a stronger person and rejected her father’s devious plan to uphold the family name. The what-ifs haunted her too. Where would she be? Would John still be around? Would she have raised Tim on her own? Would Susie have been born? No matter who’s fault it was, she felt it was important to maintain as normal an environment as possible for the sake of the children. Moreover, she still loved John and felt he could one day love her again.
Mary took a deep breath so she could remain in character. She was always in character. “I understand, honey. But I’ve made plans for us this afternoon. Do be home by 2:00 please.”
John felt himself beginning to lose it. “Ok, my dearest, but you should have told me sooner about your plans. You can’t spring these things on me at the last minute. Now I have to change my plans.” He flashed an insincere smile to keep the anger from reaching his face.
“But, it’s Sunday,” she implied. “You don’t usually go to work on Sunday. Why would I think you had plans?”
He chuckled. “My love…certainly I’m entitled to make decisions on my own now.” He narrowed his eyes at her.
She knew what he was implying, and she didn’t appreciate it. “John, honey, as always it’s best that you run your plans past me first to ensure we don’t have any conflicting events such as this afternoon. If you would be so kind and be home by 2:00, the children and I would love it if you would join us for our outing.”
“Mom,” Susie said. “If dad needs to work, let him go. We don’t need to go to another boring place in this stupid town. Like he said, we need the money.” She was always on his side.
“Susie! You don’t need to be concerned about our financials. Leave that to us. You two on the other hand don’t need to be cooped up in this house all the time. You need to get out and see the world! Have inspiring cultural experiences! Besides…we’re a family. We need to spend time together and bond.” Mary was sincere about that. She was always sincere when it came to spending time together.
Susie looked at her mother in disbelief. “Bond? Seriously, mom? You guys, like, hate each other! Stop pretending and just get divorced or something!”
John smiled. It was a bit twisted, but he loved that his daughter could tell what was going on. She was smart, and he knew that. But, on the other hand, he didn’t want her to be burdened with their problems either. Then again, she was under the same pressure he was, and she was sick of it too. That was something they could not speak of in front of everyone. “Now, now, darling,” John said. “You know we can’t do that.”
“Whatever, dad! Who cares what grandpa thinks? You two already messed things up anyway!”
That was the moment when John realized he had given his daughter too much information about their plight.
“SUSIE,” Mary yelled. “Enough of this! Don’t talk about things you don’t know about! And you! How dare you!” Tears began to form in her eyes. “You gossip with our daughter about our private matters? You don’t think she hates me enough? What were you thinking?”
As tight a ship as Mary ran, she didn’t yell at her family much. And, as much as they all wished she would lighten up on the reigns, they knew it was never a good sign when she was mad. See, despite the pressure she placed on them, she was still their mother and his wife. Somewhere deep underneath the layers and layers of hate laid a few ounces of love for her. When she got mad, they backed off.
Clank clank. A metal fork stabbed eggs on a porcelain plate. Crunch crunch crunch. Bacon and toast are stuffed into an open mouth.
“Mary, darling, you’re going to choke if you keep eating like that.”
Her mouth was still full. “Leave me alone!”
John rolled his eyes and sighed. He didn’t like having to placate her. “What’s the matter, dear?”
The tears that previously formed broke free and began to roll down her face. “All I want to do is enjoy a nice afternoon with my family! Is that so wrong? Why can’t I do anything without everyone HATING me?”
He sighed heavily again. “We don’t hate you, Mary.”
“Yes you do! I can see it! Both of you hate me! I’m just trying to do what I can to keep us together, but the only thing you two can think about is tearing us apart! Well, if that’s what you want…GO AHEAD!”
It took everything John had not to take her up on her offer. He had to stick around for his son’s future. Having Tim was the only reason he agreed to marry Mary. Because of his sins, Mary was stripped of her inheritance and it was now going to Tim at his 18th birthday pending their marital status remaining at “married.” John had nothing before he married Mary and was perfectly fine with having nothing again. However, his son was innocent and did not deserve to have his future snuffed out because of his parents’ drama. So, John swallowed his pride and did what he always did: whatever Mary said.
“Mary…I will be home at 2:00, ok?”
“I hate this family,” Susie said under her breath.