Drama Thriller Crime

This story contains sensitive content

The table was dressed with the best cloth she could find: a pastel green silk, adorned with fleur de lils. A heirloom that had belonged to her grandmother. It was draped on the table in a laissez-faire fashion, and the dishes were sprawled out like daisies in spring grass. It smelled of sweet and tart and cured meat. She sat there, waiting, as they walked in. One by one.

"Is this a special occasion?" Adrian's eyes excitedly ogled the dishes as he sat down, next to his beloved mother.

"What have we done to deserve this?" Aida's face gleamed as she grinned from ear to ear, pulling up a chair.

"Is it because of work? Did you get the job?!" Edward walked in, giddily kissing his wife on the forehead before he too, took to his seat. "I knew you could do it!"

Cecile merely shook her head, her eyes watery and her mind seemingly somewhere else.

"No...?" Edward reached for the mashed potatoes but halted.

As the three anxiously awaited the news, the silence grew louder. Adrian shrugged and reached for the glazed brussel sprouts, but his father gave him a stern look. "Perhaps we wait for what your mother has to announce before we dig in, mm?"

"It is all right. Eat! Enjoy, please." Cecile spoke, at last.

Adrian filled up his plate within minutes, and Aida, with some hesitation, helped herself to the artichoke. Edward's plate remained empty, as he held his lover's gaze.

"Darling, what is going on?"

Cecile shifted on her chair, mashing her peas. Then, as if something had taken hold of her, she recollected herself and scraped her throat.

"It was a long time ago." Aida and Adrian peered up from their meals and looked at each other, but said nothing. Edward folded his hands and looked down at his empty plate, ready to listen.

"There was a man. Not unlike any other. But he...he had done…things. Things one would rather not discuss at the dinner table. And he had done those things to...Elaine. Your aunt, your sister-in-law, but most importantly, my little sister.” She glanced across the table as she stirred the pot of mashed potatoes, its steam traveling upwards in gentle waves. The others were as quiet as they'd ever been.

"Things...?" Aida mumbled.

"You know what I mean. And you know how it goes." Cecile continued. Adrian played with his carrots as he listened intently, in that puppy-eyed way only he could.

"First she came to me. Then she went to the police." Cecile paused, her right hand clenching her spoon. "She came home even more upset. No surprise there. And Dad, Grandpa, when he found out, got angry at her for 'having gotten herself in trouble.' No surprise there either."

Edward shook his head and rubbed his temples.

"Whenever I saw… him,...in the town, at the store, in his shitty car, I couldn’t take it. That grin on his face as he looked at her. I wanted to never see it again. And one day, when I was cleaning out the garage, I found Dad’s old gun..." Cecile became quiet as Aida dropped her knife. Adrian choked on the charred asperges.

"And here is the part where I’m supposed to say I doubted. 'I was shaking when I took the gun' or something along those lines. Like a scared little girl. Sure, I was shaking, but shaking with anger…"

Adrian looked at his mother in panic and disbelief and stopped chewing.

"I didn’t doubt, not for a moment. I did what had to be done. And I’d do it again."

Suddenly, the sound of screeching tires made them all look up in distress, and two men could be heard having a muffled conversation outside. Aida ran to the window, accidentally throwing over her glass of red wine in the act.

"Shit!" She started cleaning the cloth with her napkin but stopped abruptly. "What am I doing? What does it matter?!" She sat down again, hands covering her face. All four were mute for about a minute.

Then, Cecile scraped her throat. "Still, I was smart about it, you know. That was the thing too, it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment situation. The gun just reminded me it was possible. That I could…" Leonard swiftly put a hand on his wife’s arm but looked away. "It need not be said, my love."

"Or perhaps it does. At least it needed to be done. On that smoldering hot day in June, at Parker's farm, all those years ago."

Aida mumbled "no" under her breath. "I saw it on the news this morning..."

Cecile ignored her remark and swallowed a piece of baby corn. "Of course, they looked real good into it. It was the major’s son after all. But as it turns out, those imbeciles didn’t even bother to write up a police report after Elaine came to them. They didn’t even recall her. And perhaps they couldn't imagine someone caring enough to seek vengeance for her. Especially not a woman. And especially not the quiet, shy girl from Ted and Margaret." Cecile threw down her cutlery. "They all expect us to just be a good victim and go on with our lives, if a little quieter. A little smaller. A little less."

Aida stood up and walked out of the room, gasping for air, downing the rest of her wine on her way out. The others were eerily quiet, as the doorbell rang.

"If they hadn’t decided to reopen the case based on that phone call…"

The men's voices got louder, yelling her name. Calling for her.

"I guess…this is goodbye then." Cecile stood up, averting her eyes from her family.

Adrian started crying, sobbing, screaming. Leonard just shook his head and laughed hysterically. "But this is nonsense!"

"It is over Edward. They know."

"I am not letting you take her!" Aida’s screams were echoing through the hallway as the men entered. 

Cecile walked up to her as the men in uniform quickly surrounded her. "It is ok, Aida. We can’t stop them. The law is the law."

"But it’s not fair!" Aida screamed as an officer struggled to keep her at arm's length.

"It’s not about fairness, my sweet Aida. Take care. Visit me. Be safe."

The door was thrown shut and a clicking sound of handcuffs falling into place could be heard outside. There were no sirens as the cars took off. About a dozen inquisitive neighbors gathered around the house, trying to see what ‘the fuss’ was all about. What they found was one family, or what was left of it, embracing each other, quietly mourning and weeping in the December cold.

December 15, 2023 14:54

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