The Christmas Song, Part 1

Michaela feels her eyelids burning—swelling—as her daughter delivers the punchline to the group. “Talk about chestnuts roasting,” says Ashley, and everyone but Michaela roars with laughter. Michaela ducks out of the living room without excusing herself. She doesn’t really need to, after all. The fact that she was even in the room, socializing, instead of washing the china—that was strange, notable. That she’s gone now, that’s just par for the course.

In the kitchen, her hands busy in the sink, she tries not to think of the joke at all. But when she cannot escape it, Michaela does what she has done so often in her life and subjects the troubling thought to scrutiny. What was it about the joke that she couldn’t bear, that drove her over the edge? That it was about an ex-boyfriend, one who treated her poorly? Well, dating shitty men was as commonplace for Ashley as hiding from conflict in the kitchen was for Michaela. So, no.

What it came down to, really, was that Ashley was joking at all. Michaela set the gravy boat in the strainer to dry and moved onto the turkey platter, nodding as she went. That was it, she decided. Her daughter, as per usual, just didn’t understand the gravity of her own situation.

To be continued…

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