This is a short story that turns out how you least expect.
Everything ends up reflected on the waxed hood lying outside the tinted windshield. The deep green of the thing itself colors everything that it shows me, any small groove showing black in the pure white vista and the reflections of the trees slipping across, bending and distorting to every curve and contour. The white snow hangs on the drooping branches of evergreens, immobile in the gently blowing winds. The freshly fallen snow stretches out ahead waiting for the oncoming wheels of car. The edge of the road just melts into the landscape under the white covering of snows past.
The two of us, Claire and I, reside within the confines, our means of conveyance, safely away from the cold outside. The warmth of the air resonates with the materials in easy grasp of both of us. The dark, rich woods accompanied by a trim of honed steel does nothing more than feed our senses. My hands firmly in hold of the soft leather intricately woven into the round steering wheel. The car eases through every twist, not once losing traction, until reaching our destination, my mother’s house.
We stop in the circular drive amidst a collection of four other’s such vehicles set upon this house for the same reason. I withdraw the keys and our gift from within the confines of this now sleeping car. Entering into the cutting chill from beyond these doors, my wool jacket provides a suitable battlement against the undeniably cold winds. The onslaught targets any points of weakness, hitting my face and hands with the biting cold that dominates the winter season. I move around the car admiring its quality and the fact that my black and burgundy choices are just skin deep, as the car’s looks. The belt line slopes up adding an aggressive look that means nothing more than that.
I go to Claire’s door, just a few steps from the house, and hold it open for her. Claire wears a long coat with a white scarf that keeps the warmth in. The lightest of touches shut the car doors. We proceed hand in hand up to the grand double door of beech framed by plaster columns. Mother greets us with Father not far behind. I remember her wearing the same thing last Christmas, a maroon dress with a matching scarf. Dad is in a forest green sweater with brown slacks. They seem happy to see us, if not a little relieved.
Claire attended many other occasions here in the familial home hence the memories of other, more innocent times. I rid myself of the jacket, now turned burden by the sudden warmth of inside. Claire takes off her scarf and coat revealing the comfortable but beautiful dress for this evening meal, a close resemblance to something found outside, a lily. It features two shades of the color orange, one dark and one bright, each of the two constructed into elongated/stretched out petals, making up the entire thing. The embroidered center crease from a reflective, almost metallic, light orange. The petals wrap around her body from her knees up in such a way that it just works. The upper extreme of two petals transform into the straps that lunge over her shoulders. She hides her hands inside the pockets at either side. I proffer up my hand that she then accepts. We enter into the dining room stuffed with guests and a bloated table of ornaments. I recognize everyone there to some degree, from people I know well to others I just know. Everyone is dressed for it.
The two empty seats at the other end of the table remain the only in pristine quality. We pass by every chair, not by convenience or choice, but by necessity to meet up again on the other side.
Irena, Claire’s absurdly young aunt sits in the first seat, across from her husband Gary, and next to my mother. The head of the table needs to stay empty for some reason I can’t think of. Irena models a dress inspired by rain with the embossed velvet and tear shape cutouts. A striking midnight blue almost as black as night itself highlights the embossed sections of a rich blue as processed indigo leaves. She looks happy and animated with the group conversation. Gary is in a black suit covering up a shirt, aquamarine as the shallow waters of a warm tropical sea.
I’m surprised to see Morris, Claire mysterious cousin in somber black like from a funeral party celebrating the life of someone no longer with us. Jenna, Claire’s twin sister dresses up in something strapless that I don’t even glance at. Rachael, an aunt of mine ventured here in a white suit and black shirt. I pull a chair out for Claire, and seat myself next to Morris and across from Rachael. I look down the table at everything set up in all our names. A runner of leather lines the length of table and then some. The table dresses with candlesticks of silver holding nothing more than sand. Each place setting, a bowl housed over a silver charger.
We expatiate upon something incoherent but somehow understanding that it means something good. My mother leaves to get the meal out to all the visiting people and family. Her return is accompanied by a cessation, the complete body of idle conversation taking place. The green soup is passed around from person to person, each one scooping an amount into their bowls.
The meal is underway with the consumption of this blended concoction of leeks, potato, tomato, and pepper. The pleasing taste — reminding me of even better days — lulls me into a feeling of security besides the relatives I’m trying to impress. Everything around me lurches left then suddenly right. This turns into shifts in every direction that doesn’t make sense unless this is an earthquake table, which this house clearly isn’t. I feel myself lurching forward, commands to my body useless. I can’t stop myself with my arms or even my neck. I fall, headlong into the soup bowl. Luckily my head lands sideways, rendering just one eye and nostril useless. Someone comes up behind me. They lift up my head as if saving me from this loss of control, far from the aim of drowning me in soup. Soup drowning it is. My head is completely submerged in this heavenly soup despite my struggles against it. I can’t move anything except my face and breathing. I can’t get out, better to just accept it. I do.