In the quaint, antique-ridden dining room, Greg sits at the head of the table, squirming in his chair trying to find a comfortable position. Playing with his glasses as if that could make him seem less dorky to his new family. To his right is Blanche, hair high as the sky. Done up like an ice cream cone with too many toppings, Kevin thinks. Kevin is to his father's left. Slicked back hair, feigning a toughness he heard about somewhere in an alt-right podcast. Blanche's twins are on either side of him. They stare across the table like those little girls from the shining sending a chill through Kevin's soul. And last, but not least, Mona sits in her own little corner of the table. Dressed in all black, probably contemplating some version of suicide.
However, the star of this holiday gathering is a bazaar Moosehead with buttons for eyes sitting at the center of the table. Everyone at the table is completely silent. Taking a reprieve from her extended eye roll, Mona finally breaks the ice.
"Wait," she says, pulling out her phone, "I know what this party needs."
Much to her mother's chagrin, she opens up YouTube, searches for the appropriate video, and lays her phone on the table. It starts to play the sound of crickets chirping.
"Very funny, Mona," Blanche groans, trying not to cry.
"Just eat your food."
And then comes the silence, part two. Even longer now. All that blares is the sound of cutlery -- it's like torture to Mona's ears. However, she begs for something to distract her from this horrific moment. The Penningtons and Farnsworths joined together as one in holy matrimony.
She was already sick before eating dinner, but remembering the wedding makes keeping down the already stale food even more difficult.
Her mother and Greg are making eyes at one another. Even more YUCK.
Mona wants to yank herself away from this table. She wants to find Xavier. She wants the certainty of his arms. The steady rhythm of his voice speaking strength into her ears. But she knows it's a fable. A fable made for fools with one too many stars in their eyes. That's why, shortly after eloping, she abruptly broke it off, she tells herself. Or is that another fable?
She mourns her sorrows by stabbing the mashed potatoes and taking out a scoop. At about this time she realizes that Kevin is staring at her.
"Oh yeah," she realizes, "I'm stuck with this dork."
"You'll like Kevin," her mother had said before the wedding. "The Farnsworths are a good family."
But Mona wants her old family. The way it was before. She theorizes her mother chased her father away with her crazy Methodist ways like something out of a Hawthorne novel. They say girls see their fathers in their loved ones. Mona never was bothered by that. She loved her father's strength mixed with tenderness, like a powerful rain tapping on your window.
Now, in his place is some grown-ass dork straight out of Revenge of the Nerds, a fawning teen who didn’t get the memo that he’s not cool, and whatever the hell this is staring at her in the middle of the table.
She absolutely can’t take it anymore.
"I'm sorry," Mona says, putting down her utensils, "but what the fuck is this thing sitting in the middle of the table?"
"Mona! Watch your language!" Blanche says.
"Again, sorry, but this is such a bazaar occurrence it requires me saying the word fuck."
Blanche throws down her own utensils in exasperation. Greg's hand comes to her shoulder, "No, it's fine. It's fine."
He turns his eyes to Mona in kindness, she doesn't return the look.
"It's an air loom," he explains. "Given to me by my mother who has passed away. She liked having it at the table every Thanksgiving. I just... wanted to pass the tradition on."
"Aw shit," Mona says. "Well, I feel like Chris Evans's best attribute?"
"Like a humongous d--" "
"OK, that's enough! Come with me, young lady."
Mona rolls her eyes and follows her mother to the kitchen.
"What is wrong with you? This is our first dinner together as a family and you're ruining it!"
"Why by making fun of that lame moose Greg brought? As a connoisseur of art, I consider it a requirement."
Blanche shakes her head, impatiently, "That's my Mona. Always hiding behind smart remarks. Just like you hid that little relationship of yours from me, right?"
Now, Mona lowers her head. If deflecting reality with sarcasm is her superpower, then reality is her Kryptonite.
"I will not have the neighborhood thinking my daughter is a whore. That Xavier fellow took advantage of you and left you with a child. You're lucky Kevin was willing to marry you."
Mona can still remember the words playing like a curse. "Till death do you part." The hatred of herself as she said the words, "I do."
But what was the choice? The streets? An abortion that was forbidden by her mother and expensive to get on her own? She fought her mother every day, but when all was said and done, she came back to her, no questions. Because there was nowhere else to go.
"I'll give you time to get yourself together," Blanche finally says, "and when you come out, I trust you will treat your new father-in-law with respect."
Blanche goes back to the dining room leaving her daughter alone to think.
Stuck in silence, Mona stares through the glass door leading outside, seeing her translucent reflection. Her own vacant eyes staring past herself. It is this moment she will remember every day.
The moment she says enough and chooses to run. The moment she says to hell with money, she will find -- if not Xavier -- life, hope, joy. Maybe she will pull a Madonna, roll up to New York in a taxi with thirty-five bucks to her name, and become a superstar or maybe she would die in the streets a starving artist. But at least she will die free.
She will remember this moment very well because it is at this moment she turns away from the open door and goes back in.