Sometimes paranoia is wishful thinking. I am not being followed.
It was Thanksgiving in one of those wannabe cities. I met the family.
There was the family drunk, Aunt Betty. I’d heard the stories. One was about how she had passed out at a gathering. The disgusted host asked another guest if they knew what Aunt Betty called a six pack. His response to the guest’s confused look was “Breakfast!” That’s when he found out that Aunt Betty liked to shut out the world around her. Eyes still shut, she informed him that she never got up before lunch.
Then there was the family entrepreneur, Uncle Bob, with his get rich quick schemes; His corner shop selling overpriced bad coffee, stale fresh doughnuts and now featuring colour photocopies; His mortgage payments coming from the cigarettes, scratch cards and cheap beer he sold to disgusting customers with nasty habits. The contempt had burned itself into his face.
And the matriarch, filling in awkward pauses with claims of the family’s superiority made by means of comparisons to the neighbours’ failings, never failing to include a thought about how much better things would be if only her dear departed husband had not died just after the birth of their third child, the son that was now excelling in the third rate college in the big city. The one I had been told had moved out at seventeen and had never been back home again. It had been two years since anyone last heard from him and they weren’t even sure he was still in college or even still in the same city.
And Sue, the eldest, was there with her brood of three and when not chasing after one of them, would complain of her deadbeat ex in a voice that made me wonder how he had even stuck around long enough to father three.
And there was grandma noisily slurping and chomping through the meal. I’d been told that she had a fortune that everyone was waiting for. I had also been told she got her investment advice from Uncle Bob.
And there was the reason I was there, Janice. Beautiful, sweet and kind. She made her mother invite me, and insisted that I accept. We had dreams of a future together; It was time to meet the family–at least once before leaving for our island paradise.
She said she would follow soon.