Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GRATE (11/19/15)
TITLE: Christmas Crunch
By Jody Day
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“Just follow the recipe. It can’t be that hard.” Rob planted a kiss on her cheek as he zipped up his denim jacket. “I’m going for ice and more rolls.”
“Easy for you to say. I’d hoped for a more romantic first Christmas together than stressing over cooking for your whole family.” Up all night, and she still didn’t have a handle on this dinner. Not smart, since she’d just been to the doctor for chronic fatigue.
“You volunteered,” he said, blew her a kiss and whooshed out the back door.
He had to remind her. His mother, Ruby, was the Martha Stewart of the town. What was she thinking? Oh yeah, she thought if she hosted and cooked dinner, her mother-in-law might let up about their not having kids yet. At least they were finally in a house after Ruby practically nagged them to death about their apartment.
The oven mocked her, daring her to put the turkey in. Fully cover with foil or just tent it? Vicky’s last nerve frayed across barbed wire thoughts.
“In you go, bird, don’t fail me.” She closed the oven door and surveyed the mess she’d made. Maybe just a small nap, while Rob shopped, would put her back together.
Four hours later she jolted awake to the sound of people talking and laughing. How would she face them all, dinner not ready and her hair looking like minced spaghetti?
“Darling!” Ruby greeted her with a hug. “Why didn’t you just tell us you weren’t feeling well? I could have done all the cooking with my hands tied behind my back.”
“I bet you could,” Vicky said, looking daggers at Rob. Why hadn’t he awakened her?
Ruby’s comment rubbed her every kind of wrong way. Her head throbbed like chalk assaulting a blackboard, like heavy metal turned up all the way.
“Now, you just get comfy on the couch and I’ll take care of everything. And don’t be mad at Rob. I told him to leave everything to me.” Ruby said.
Don, Rob’s dad, his brother Mark and his wife Shelia, plus their three kids descended on her with hugs and cheerful kisses on the cheek.
Ruby chopped, minced, sautéed, and garnished with the same flourish and expertise as a cooking show pro. Vicky may as well just embrace the embarrassment and let her do it. At least Ruby couldn’t start her usual questioning about grandchildren until after she’d pulled off the Christmas Dinner of the Century.
Not one to hold back a compliment, Vicky praised her mother-in-law for the dinner. No one said a word about the turkey, and how could they? It was still in the oven, not quite done.
Gift time arrived and Ruby sat an elegantly wrapped gift in Vicky’s lap. She lowered herself to her knees in front of Vicky, clapping her hands like a child. Vicky opened it, hoping the sweater she’d chosen for Ruby didn’t pale in comparison.
She lifted the cream colored confection from its tissue paper bed. “A christening dress?” Vicky’s heart scraped across tree bark. Would this woman never let up? She let the delicate, lacy cloud of sweetness drop into her lap.
Somewhere in the midst of Christmas chaos, her cell phone rang. She’d left it on the kitchen counter where Rob stood loading the dishwasher. He grabbed a dishtowel as he looked down at the phone.
“I’ll get it,” he said. A moment later he motioned Vicky into the kitchen. “Dr. Carson called about your test results.” One of the children came into the kitchen, so Rob whispered into her ear.
Hand in hand they returned to the living room. “Can I have your attention, please? We’ve just had a call from Vicky’s doctor,” Rob said. “It looks like we’ve got more than a turkey in the oven!”
“I knew it!” Ruby screamed. “I knew the day Rob said you were so tired. I saw this gown in the baby store and, well, I was right.” She led the family in hugs and tears.
They ate the turkey the next day. Ruby whispered to Vicky as everyone was bustling out the door. “You’ll be a fantastic mother. Can I have the recipe for that brine you used on the turkey? Oh, and one more thing.”
“You need a bigger house. Leave everything to me.”
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