Line-A-Day Short Story (November)

Prompt: A Family Attempts to Hide Their Secrets from Someone New; Thanksgiving

This one is a little different than those of September and October; I started this one with a vision of where it was going in the end. I wanted to make sure it properly arrived at the ending I envisioned, not just plopped it’s way in. I also shared a prompt with my sister, also a writer and blogger, and once she gets hers posted I will share a link here, so keep an eye out!

He cleared his throat uncomfortably.  “Now, Mother,” William started, “we’ve talked about this.”  The crackle over the telephone line was the only indication through his mother’s silence that the call was still connected.

“I do not know what you expect me to say, William,” his mother finally snapped.

“Just that you’ll agree to what we have already agreed to, Mother,” sighed William rubbing his eyes.

“But of course, darling,” his mother cooed.  The change in tone gave him whiplash.  “You know anything for you, my dearest boy.”

William rolled his eyes and stared at the ceiling of his kitchen.  “We agreed, Mother; after father… a normal life.”

“Around others,” his mother amended.  William pinched the bridge of his nose; there was no use arguing that point, he could not control her when he was there, let alone when he was not.  Reluctantly, he agreed.

After hanging up, William took a moment to steady his nerves before joining his fiancé, Elana, in the front hall.  “Everything alright?” she asked with a radiant smile.

“Just Mother being… Mother,” William said with a weary smile, kissing Elana’s cheek.

The drive to William’s mother’s country home, lovingly dubbed Grand View Manor by his mother, was a lengthy one, the last rays of sunlight had long since disappeared over the rolling hills of the countryside.  As the car crunched up the gravel driveway, William glanced nervously at Elana.  It would be her first time meeting his mother; he hoped they would get along, but that more importantly, that his mother would behave herself.  Even he had not told Elana about their differences to other families…

As William raised his hand to knock, the grand wood and iron door swung inward, revealing the grand front hall.  Smiling at Elana’s awestruck face, William looked around for his mother, only to discover her still approaching from the other end of the hall.  He cast a warning look at his mother as he quickly turned to close the door before she could.  Thankfully, Elana seemed too dazzled by the grandness of the front hall to have noticed the self-opening front door.

His mother grew near and he recognized her hands forming a familiar motion.  William’s eyes widened in alarm as the chandelier overhead and the sconces along the wall began to glow; his hand shot out to the switch, bringing them fully to life.  A flicker of confusion flashed briefly in Elana’s eyes before she was distracted by the arrival of William’s mother. 

He narrowed his eyes once more in warning at his mother, whom was being uncharacteristically warm with Elana, hugging her grandly and kissing each cheek.

“Oh, darling, do lighten up!” his mother exclaimed before looping her arm with Elana’s and escorting her off into the rest of the house. 

William glowered at his mother’s back as she and Elana disappeared towards the library, the first stop on every tour of Grand View.  He was not even surprised when the bags that had some how made their way in from the car and were resting beside him, rose into the air and began bobbing their way towards the great staircase in the center of the foyer.  He supposed he should follow them so he could avoid the question of how he had put the bags away but did not know what room his mother had put them in.

When William finally located his mother and Elana – he had thought to join them on their tour of the house – over three-quarters of an hour later, he found them in the kitchen.  He had needed to only follow the sound of enthusiastic laughter.  The pair of them were elbow-deep in puffs of flour and bread dough.  Behind them, he noticed a sink full of soaking dishes.

“Wherever have you been, darling?” his mother asked enthusiastically.  William did not miss the mischievous glimmer in her dark eyes.  She knew very well where he had been, following his luggage on a meandering path through the house – purposefully avoiding the path of their own tour – only to finally have them dumped in his old bedroom.

“The journey gave me headache, so I lied down for a bit,” he said, lying smoothly with a forced smile to his mother.  Her own lips quirked in her attempt to hide her amusement.

Elana rounded the island and lay her wrist against William’s forehead.  “Are you feeling alright?” she asked.  “That’s not like you to nap.”

William bristled and brushed her flour-covered hand away.  He was not a child; he did not nap.  “Stop that,” he said shortly, “I’m perfectly fine.”  Looking hurt, Elana retreated to the side of his mother, who rewarded him with a disapproving look, and the two continued with their dough.

Guilt crept in and William was about to apologize when he noticed a bowl rise out of the sink from behind Elana and his mother, a sponge rising to meet it.  Soap bubbles flew about before the bowl abruptly dropped into the other side of the sink full of water and emerged sparkling clean.  He shot a look at his mother only to discover her watching him astutely, before dashing toward the sink and snatching the bowl from the air.  Elana looked back at him in alarm.

“Could you two be making more of a mess?!” he exclaimed, hastily attempting to camouflage his odd behavior.  He grumbled in frustration as he continued with their dishes as they finished their bread and moved onto pies.

That night as they were getting ready for bed, Elana having declined his mother’s offer of a night cap, she was studying him quietly.  “You’ve been awfully quiet ever since we arrived,” she finally ventured.

“I just cannot believe my mother sometimes,” he grumbled without thinking.

“What on earth are you talking about, darling?  She’s positively lovely; you never said how much we have in common!”

William straightened, his arms falling to his side.  “What could you possibly have in common?” he demanded.  He heard it the moment the words were out of his mouth.  He was coming across the unbelievable one thus far.  “Never mind,” he said again, forcing a calmer tone, “I’m tired, I’d really rather not discuss it.”  He rolled over in the bed, his back to Elana.  She made a disapproving sound as she turned out the light but opted to allow the subject to drop.

The next morning, William woke to find himself alone in bed.  The sheets were cold beside him, Elana must have been up for some time.  He could smell the delicious aroma of the turkey already roasting away in the oven downstairs.  Panic filled William’s chest as he jumped from the bed, that meant Elana was alone with his mother.  Hastily he dressed; a shower would have to wait, after the spectacle his mother performed last night, who knew what was occurring in the kitchen.

Bursting into the kitchen, William found his mother and Elana seated at the breakfast nook enjoying some tea.  The oven was on and the turkey was roasting; perfectly normal.  A pot of water was boiling some potatoes on the stovetop; also, perfectly normal.  The green beans were draining in a colander in the sink; perfectly normal as well.  The stuffing sat, chopped, and awaiting to be assembled; still perfectly normal.  Everything seemed exactly as one would expect it to find things in a perfectly normal house on Thanksgiving morning.  And yet… William could not shake the sense that he had walked in on something.  The air still crackled with fresh magic.  He eyed the pair uncertainly.

“You certainly took your time coming down,” noted his mother.

“Feeling better today?” Elana asked with a leading smile.

William had no choice but to nod.  He was still suspicious of his mother’s behavior, but he was becoming acutely aware that he was ruining their visit.

“Wonderful,” his mother declared jovially, “we need the bacon fried for the green beans!”

As he was set about his task, William did his best to focus on his own work.  He chimed in on Elana’s conversations with his mother and was included in their jokes, but he made a point to keep his gaze fixed on his pan of bacon.  Everything had seemed up to snuff when he had first come down, who was to say it should change now that he was present?

            Nearly two hours later, William was tasked with bringing the bread into the dining room.  When he pushed open the swinging door that connected the kitchen to the dining room, a serving platter nearly crashed into his head.  He let out a shout of startlement, nearly dropping the bread, as he ducked out of the way of on-coming place settings.  Cursing, he snatched the dishes out of the air and set them with loud clanks upon the table. 

            “Really, dear, I had that under control,” his mother scolded him as she bustled in with the cutlery. 

            “Magic all used up, then?” he asked bitterly.  “Couldn’t just-” he made a vague fluttering gesture with his hands “-those in here?”

            “Hush.”

            As soon as his mother spoke, Elana appeared with the bowls of mashed potatoes and stuffing.  It was then that William noticed the two extra place settings, bringing them to a total of five.

            “I’m sorry, who else is coming?” he asked, forcing a smile.

            “Your aunt and uncle phoned and said they could come after all.”  His mother smiled at him, “Surely you’ll be pleased to see them.”

            “Yes.”  William was aware his voice had gone up an octave.  Now he not only had to control his mother, but her sister and her husband as well.

            “They’ll be fine, darling,” whispered his mother, “I’ve already warned them of your rule.”

            Shortly after the arrival of his aunt and uncle, the five of them took their seats at the dinner table.  The salads had been relatively uneventful, and William was beginning to allow himself to relax.  Suddenly, his mother stood up.

            “I propose a toast!” she declared, holding aloft her sparkling crystal goblet.  William stiffened in his seat.  Surely, she would not, it was all going rather well thus far.  “To my darling son, for finally bringing me a worthy daughter-in-law.  Welcome to the family, Elana!”

            Glasses all around the table clinked as they all drank, and his mother returned to her seat.  And then Boris was raising his glass again.  William glanced to his mother, who merely shrugged.

            “I propose a toast as well!” declared Boris.  “To ma-”

            “Modern science!” William shouted, thrusting his own glass into the air.  Everyone turned to him in alarm.  His uncle’s brow furrowed.  “Imagine that,” William barreled on, “putting a man on the moon.  Can you even imagine?  We must be like ants.”

            “I’d imagine a bit smaller, darling; it is space after all,” his mother pointed out, smirking as she took a drink once more.

            Boris cleared his throat.  “I was going to say a toast to Mable here,” he motioned to his sister-in-law, William’s mother, “for being so gracious as to accept our change in plans so close to dinner time.”  His mother fluttered her fingers in appreciation.

            “To William,” Elana chimed in, raising her glass, “for finally introducing me to his wonderful family.”

            “I cannot out-do my husband’s toast,” his aunt said demurely, smiling to her elder sister.  And then all eyes were turning to William expectantly. 

            “Yes, yes, to family,” he grumbled, “and this wonderful food that is getting cold because we cannot all stop making toasts.”

His mother chuckled and pointed at the bowl to his left.  “Darling, won’t you pass the potatoes?” William reached for the potatoes as the bowl was already rising into the air.  His face flushed in panic.  His mother let out a full-fledged cackle of joy and clapped her hands.

“Mother!”  William shouted, “I was getting them!”  There was no hiding the levitating bowl as it glided above the other dishes towards his mother’s outstretched hands.

“It isn’t me, darling,” his mother tutted.  He turned his furious gaze to his aunt, but much to William’s dismay, she was staring at Elana.

He looked at Elana as she gracefully flicked her fingers and wrist, setting the bowl of potatoes in his mother’s hands.  He wondered if he looked as foolish as he had felt.

“Really, William,” Elana chided, “you’re acting as though you’ve never seen magic before.”

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