Drama Fiction

I gave Jerry a pained expression when the doorbell rang.

“Here we go.” I could almost smell Paula’s perfume drenched clothes from here.

“Now, come on…” Jerry admonished, “You promised to be civil to my mother.” He placed a light kiss on my cheek before turning to get the door.

“I will if she will.” I murmured.

Paula breezed in, perfume in tow, and swept me into a big hug.

“Mia, darling! So good to see you!”

“Thanks Paula. Good to see you too! It’s been a long time.” I smiled back at her while she looked me up and down.

“And don’t you just look gorgeous in that dress. I can never wear pink myself, it clashes too much you see, but it really suits you.”

My smile froze. Behind her, I saw Jerry’s cheeks redden as a sheepish expression crossed his face. He cleared his throat before I could say something I might regret. Something like ‘A bit like how your perfume clashes, then’.

“Ok mum, why don’t we go in the living room?” Jerry led the way, and we all filed in behind him. 

The cream and burgundy colour scheme had been my idea, and Jerry had helped with ideas for the rest of the décor. I always sensed that Paula had a sore spot as she didn’t have the drivers seat in those decisions, and now I could almost see her critiquing our taste as she scanned the room. She placed herself on an armchair by the window.

“I’ll just make the tea. Paula, how do you like yours again? Do you take any sugar?” Paula smiled in response.

“Oh, no sugar for me dear, thank you. I’m sweet enough.” I politely laughed with her before excusing myself.

Once in the kitchen, I breathed a sigh of relief. Jerry could keep her entertained while I could enjoy a few minutes of peace here. Something about Paula just got under my skin. Still, my husband was fond of his mother, and I’m never one to unnecessarily cause a scene. I picked up the kettle and walked over to the sink, relishing how the sunlight cast a warm glow over the countertops. As the kettle sparked to life, I got three cups ready with teabags. Then a strong waft of perfume drifted in from the hallway, and inside I cringed.

“I just came to give you a hand, darling.” Paula beamed a smile at me. I scowled at the word ‘darling’. She rarely addressed people by their name, and to me it came off as pretentious.

“Oh, thanks, but honestly I’m okay here. Why don’t you head back in to the living room? I’ll be there in a few minutes.” I said, keeping my tone even. Paula tutted and fussed.

“Don’t be silly! It’s no trouble at all. I’ll get some plates out for some cake.” I tried not to bristle at her boldness of helping herself to our cupboards as she bustled over. I heard chinking as she selected a plate for the cake – of course checking to ensure the one she selected was not chipped or marked. Paula had a reputation for having impeccable china in her house. Seeming satisfied, she pulled a lemon cake out of the cupboard while I began pouring water into cups.

“Oh, is that how you make it?” Paula’s voice startled me, and I looked up.

“Well, yes. Generally that’s how you make tea isn’t it? Pour water into cups along with milk and sugar.” Paula shook her head, ignoring my sarcasm.

“No, no, dear. You could crack the cups that way pouring boiling water straight into them.” She walked behind me and grabbed the milk out of the fridge.

“Milk always goes first with the teabag,” She rebuked, “then sugar if you like, and water in the cups last.” She placed the milk bottle next to me, and I rolled my eyes while she wasn’t looking.

“I really don’t think it matters, Paula. I’m quite capable of making tea.”

“Of course you are dear. I’m just trying to help, that’s all.” Even a stuffed bear could tell her smile was disingenuous.

My blood was beginning to boil. If it wasn’t for the fact I wanted this afternoon to go well for Jerry’s sake, I would have given her a piece of my mind right there and then. As it was, I managed a firm but civil reply.

“Thanks, but I’d rather do it my own way. Did you want to take the cake through while I carry these?”

She looked taken aback.

“You can’t carry those cups by yourself; I’m happy to wait and I can help carry the tea through.”

“Fine.” I growled through gritted teeth and started pouring milk into the cups.

“Oh, dear, I only have a drop of milk in mine, that looks a little too weak” I placed the milk down more forcefully than I intended to.

“Okay, well I’ll put a teabag back in it then to let it stew a bit and make it stronger.”

Paula grimaced. “Oh, no need to do that. It’s fine honestly. Just something to remember for next time.” I lost my temper and threw my hands up in exasperation.

“Well, have it your way then. Can you just take the cake through? I don’t need you looking over my shoulder telling me how to make tea!”

Paula was looking at me with raised eyebrows. She liked things done her way but frankly, I had had enough of her sticking her two-penny worth in all the time. She stood looking at me, uncharacteristically quiet. Great. A side order of guilt to go along with the frustration.

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap, but it’s just frustrating. Im fine here with this. I’ll follow you through to the other room in a minute.”

Finally, the spell over Paula seemed to break, and she shot me an unimpressed look.

“I was only trying to help dear. You shouldn’t take it so personally. You might learn something.” With that, she turned on her heel and flounced back to the living room, leaving me to pick my jaw up from the floor. Was she really trying to insinuate she could teach me how to make a stupid cup of tea? As if her way is somehow better? The nerve of it! Well, I wasn’t having any of that.

With firm resolution in my mind, I chucked the tea down the drain and cleaned out the cups. Then I boiled more water, and got my tea set out from the top cupboard. I usually use this for guests but not when Paula comes over, as I know she hates it. She told me once that she thinks teapots are too “old fashioned” and make her feel her age more. I set up the tray with a milk jug, a small dish with sugar, the cups, and lastly poured the boiled water in the teapot.

Feeling satisfied, I carefully carried the tray to the living room, the china clinking away. As I set everything down on the coffee table, I nearly laughed at Paula’s expression. Jerry looked as though he wasn’t sure whether to be horrified or amused.  He knew as well as I did her dislike of tea sets.

“What’s this? Where’s the tea you just made?” She exclaimed. I gave her my best apologetic smile, all the while feeling triumphant.

“Oh, I’m sorry I thought this would be better. I would feel awful with you drinking something you don’t like with that milky tea I made. This way, you can make the tea just the way you like it. After all, your tea is always somehow so much better, isn’t it? I might learn something.” Like learning not to take any nonsense from her.

Jerry gave me a quizzical look, but didn’t say anything. Sitting down next to me, he poured water into his cup and paused, glancing at Paula. She settled back in her seat and nodded, apparently subdued for the time being. Maybe this afternoon wouldn’t be so bad, after all.  

January 09, 2022 13:00

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Heather Z
16:33 Jan 19, 2022

Ahhhhh…..in-laws. Gotta love them. I loved this story! You totally nailed the frustration and irritation felt by Mia. Nice writing!


Hannah Barrick
20:07 Jan 20, 2022

Thank you for your kind words! Im so pleased you liked the story.


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Charlie Murphy
22:11 Jan 15, 2022

Great conflict! I think it's refreshing to read a wife not get along with her husband's parents.


Hannah Barrick
20:08 Jan 20, 2022

Thank you so much!


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