Thursday, December 2, 2010

the red dress club - Prompt #1

I recently joined this site called the red dress club that hosts writing challenges. I’d seen a few other bloggers participate and I couldn’t resist. For this week’s challenge we had two prompts to choose from and write a fictional story between 100 – 2,000 words. I managed to complete it in 1,968 words barely missing the maximum limit. So yeah, it is long ;)

The prompt I’ve chosen is the last line of this story that’s written in italics. Let me know what you guys think! :)

Disclaimer: All characters in this short story are purely fictitious and any resemblance to any person living or dead in my immediate family, extended family or future family is unintentional and purely coincidental.

Family Dinners on New Year’s Eve have been a tradition for as long as I can remember. I have so many great memories. I was really looking forward to that dinner last year because they were always so much fun. The joke was almost always on me, but since I was one of those who could laugh at themselves, I managed to have fun.

I wore a nice and long purple dress with white diamond studded shoes, matching earrings and necklace.  I was very excited as I drove along the highway looking at the twilight sky through my windscreen. It was barely six thirty so there wasn’t any traffic out on the road yet. My mother insisted that we be there by seven thirty so that we could avoid the general crowd that loves to get drunk and party all night long. Also, getting there early meant we didn’t have to get right to dinner; we could all actually talk, play games – be a family.

Yes, there were games. They’re fun when you’re a kid. Not so much when you’re old enough to have kids. I didn’t have kids. I didn’t even have a husband. Or a boyfriend. I’m sure it was going to be rubbed in my face when both my younger sisters and my brother came in with at least one child each; and in some cases, three. But I didn’t care. Dinner was going to be fun, like it always was; in spite of me getting picked on.

I was always the first one to get there. ‘Try getting kids dressed and then into the car without ruining anything they’ve worn while you get dressed, and then we’ll talk,’ everyone told me; everyone, but my mother. It was my mother that answered the door and she greeted me with a warm hug which seemed to last forever. She gently ran her hand around the edge of my face and kissed my forehead. Maybe this was the only thing I looked forward to.

“I have to rush back to the kitchen to check on something. Why don’t you sit with your father?” she told me as she hurried back. I looked at him sitting across the living room on his chair that he seemed to be glued to. The only time I had ever seen him away from it was when he was eating or sleeping. He looked up from the book that he was reading for a brief moment and raised his eyebrows when he saw me. He acknowledged my presence by smiling for a few seconds and then went back to reading.

I went and sat on the chair right in front of him and talked to him, in my head. I’m sure he was just pretending to read. He was listening to what I was saying and responding, in his head. That’s how we’d always had our conversations. He was the most loving father one could have. He never yelled or disagreed. I was the luckiest girl.

Barely two minutes later, the bell rang and I rushed to open the door. It was my aunt Marie. “Oh! Look at you! You’ve become so chubby!!” she said as she greeted me. I had lost fifteen pounds since I had last met her, but yes, I was chubby. It was because I was single and apparently, eating was the only thing I loved. Or maybe it was because my aunt Marie weighed two hundred pounds till she was forty and lost about a hundred when my uncle Carl died. Since then, we were all ‘chubby’ to her. Well, at least I was if not my precious sisters.

“Here dear, I bought this for you. I hope you like it. It wasn’t on sale or anything. I paid full price,” she said as she wrapped a lovely brown and golden threaded Kashmiri shawl around my shoulders. Well, at least she was thoughtful enough to get something. And then she said, “I wasn’t sure if I could pick the right size in a dress. So I bought something that I knew would definitely fit.”

“Oh! Thanks Aunt Marie. That’s alright. I’m so sorry I didn’t get anything for you,” I told her.

“That’s alright sweetheart. I have everything I could ever need.”

That’s right. When my uncle died, he also left her a shit load of money. She wouldn’t let us forget it even if we wanted to.

Aunt Marie went into the kitchen to check if my mom needed any help. And the bell rang again. I rushed to open it once again to see my younger sister, her husband, my two nephews and niece standing in front of me with varied looks on their faces. Oh boy! I hope no one tells them that they took too long unless they’re prepared to get an earful. I gave my sister a huge hug and immediately held my eleven month old niece in my arms and gave the little boys high fives.

I had hoped that having a baby in my arms would help me escape the tight body touching hug that my brother-in-law always gave me, but it didn’t work. He grabbed my butt instead. I wondered how my sister was oblivious to all of this. Love is blind, I must say. “You look lovely,” he said to me.

“Thanks,” I said giving him an awkward smile and went away to catch up with my sister. She was busy running after the boys and I was trying to dodge her husband. He was a wonderful person at heart, but his hands were the problem. They always tried to get somewhere and it bugged me.

The bell rang again and I was thankful to be acting as doorkeeper for a while. I greeted my brother, his wife and son. I have him a big smile when I saw him. My little brother was married and had a baby boy. I couldn’t believe it. I was about to go in for a hug when his wife said, “Honey, can you keep my coat in our room upstairs?”

“Sweetheart, we don’t have our own room here. There are so many people. I’m not sure who’s staying where exactly. Why don’t we keep it with the rest of the coats?” he told her. She looked at him for a moment and nodded as if she had made a huge sacrifice.

By then our moment had passed.  They both said a courteous hello to me and went on inside to greet the others. I stood there in the doorway thinking how my brother, the kid in the family had changed after he got married. I wondered if my sisters did that to their husbands. Then I noticed my brother-in-law staring at my legs and realised, maybe not.

There was only one person who wasn’t there yet – my youngest sister; and I was glad they were the last ones to come. I couldn’t eliminate the awkwardness that was created when she married the guy I was in love with for a major part of my adult life, but the longer it could be delayed the better.

I should have seen this coming knowing that she was always jealous of me. I had caught her ruining my fifteenth birthday dress with a pair of scissors. So I should’ve known nothing was impossible for her. If it wasn’t for her, Steve would’ve married me. That’s what we had both wanted for as long as I could remember. Well, I couldn’t blame her alone. He was the one who decided to not marry me, not her.

Just as I was walking away from the door way, the bell rang again. I wished someone else would volunteer to come open the door but they all seemed to be busy running the country. They say things usually get a lot worse before they get better. In that hope, I turned around and went to open the door. Oh! She looked so pretty in her blue silk dress. As for Steve, it was all I could do to not burst into tears that very moment. It had been four years since they were married and I had still not gotten over it. I held my own and smiled at the two of them and their two year old daughter as I said hello.

She locked her arms with him when she saw it was me and they both returned my hello with smile that was just as forced as mine. Steve just glanced at me once. I’m sure it was weird for him too.

My little niece was the only one who was genuinely affectionate. They walked in without saying another word. I looked at them as she pulled him closer towards herself. Now that the worst was over, I couldn’t wait for things to get better.

In the living room, I could now see all the kids huddled together talking, playing, and having fun. My mother was out of the kitchen and talking to everyone whereas my father continued to sit on that chair, only without the book. He appeared to be just as lost as I was, but then that’s how he was always. My siblings, their spouses and Aunt Marie were hugging and greeting each other whereas I continued to stand in one corner wishing I was one of the kids.

My mother saw me and beckoned me to come join the fun. The time was around seven forty five and everyone had arrived. We all sat around the cosy fireplace talking about regular stuff till dinner was served. The laughing and the jokes continued.  A few minutes later dinner was served. Everything went off smoothly.

In spite of the fact that my father ignored me, my formerly fat aunt called me ‘chubby,’ my brother-in-law kind of violated me with his hands and eyes and I’m sure that given the opportunity would feel me up, my sister-in-law did not let my brother out of her sight, my sister and Steve didn’t care, I still managed to have fun. So far so good.

We usually played games while dessert was being served. My sister’s eight year old boy suggested we play ‘Truth or Dare’ as starters. They decided that since I was the eldest among my siblings, I would get the first question.

“Aunt Lily, why aren’t you married yet?” asked my nephew.

Wow! That was direct. How do I explain the complexities of adult relationships to an eight year old? I wished someone would help me out.

“Honey, you can’t ask someone that! Ask another question,” his mother told him. I gave her a grateful smile.

“But mom, all of you are younger and you’re all married. How come Aunt Lily isn’t?”

“She hasn’t met someone special yet, dear,” she told him.

“Well, the chubby fat is turning men away,” Aunt Marie added.

“Or she’s just too cold,” my brother-in-law said as if he knew what he was talking about.

“Maybe she just needs to learn how to hang on to her men,” my youngest sister added. To this my brother’s wife laughed hard as Steve tried to look away. Obviously she knew the story. My brother looked sorry but didn’t ask her to shut up. My dad pretended he didn’t even know what was going on.

Only my mother came to my rescue. “Hey, give my little girl a break. She’s only thirty five. Now if she’s forty and still single, then we have a problem.”

That was when I snapped. At that moment, I thought about what I could do. I was sure I loved them all, and I truly enjoyed spending time with them. I just had to decide which of them I would kill; just for the sake of my sanity.

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