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A Bradford Holiday Meeting
An R.L. Mathewson Chronicle
(My early Christmas gift to you)
“Enjoy,” Zoe said with flourish as she placed another platter on the coffee table in front of them. With one last smile, she walked away, leaving them sitting there, staring at an assortment of what appeared to be stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, mini éclairs, fudge, onion dip and a big bowl of potato chips. Since they were pretty sure that the chips were safe, they all reached for the bowl.
“Ow! Share, you greedy bastard!” he snapped at his father, who’d managed to swipe the large bowl of chips and hug it tightly to his chest.
“I’m starving thanks to your mother,” his father snarled, grabbing a large handful of chips and shoved it in his mouth. “She refused to feed me this morning, because she didn’t want to wreck my appetite!”
“Zoe cooked me a coffee cake, but I was too afraid to eat it,” Trevor admitted with a heavy sigh as he sat back against the couch. “She wouldn’t let me in the kitchen so I could grab something to eat. She’s banned us all from the kitchen again.”
Except for Haley and his mother, Jason noted as he sat there running everything he knew about Zoe, her cooking and the fact that the women and children in this family couldn’t seem to get enough of her cooking. At least, they couldn’t seem to get enough of Haley’s cooking today and on Thanksgiving. All the meals that she’d cooked since Thanksgiving had been met with wary glances and piss poor excuses.
He watched as his boys walked into the room, paused, grabbed the plates that Zoe had placed on the table for them and dived for the food. As he watched his sons fight over the platter of deviled eggs, he realized something very important.
This wasn’t Zoe’s cooking.
He should have realized it much sooner, would have realized it, if he hadn’t been so terrified of having a repeat experience of Easter dinner. The food looked and smelled good, and while most people would have figured it out sooner just based on that, he’d learned his lesson. With Zoe it was either hit or miss, she could make the food look good, even smell good, but it would end up tasting like dog shit mixed with dirt. He’d starved on Thanksgiving, but he wouldn’t be starving today, he decided as he waited for the kids to go back upstairs. Once they were gone, he swallowed by his fear, leaned forward and picked up a deviled egg.
“What the hell are you doing?” Trevor demanded in a hiss as he threw a nervous glance towards the kitchen door.
“Confirming my theory,” he said, taking a bite out of the egg.
He chewed it for a few seconds before his eyes slowly slid shut and a groan of appreciation tore through his throat. It was so damn good. He popped the rest in his mouth and was reaching for another before he’d even opened his eyes and found his cousin and father staring at him, looking shell-shocked.
“It’s safe,” he said, popping another egg in his mouth.
“No,” Trevor said, shaking his head in disbelief, looking tortured.
“How can that be?” his father asked, glancing at the delectable looking food surrounding them, the food that he now realized had been placed in front of them to torment them.
“Because, gentlemen,” he said, grabbing a handful of stuffed mushrooms, “our wives have been playing us.”
“You should have seen his face!” Zoe said, laughing so hard that tears were no streaming down her face.
“I can’t believe he ate cereal while the rest of you were eating leftovers,” Haley said, chuckling as she murmured, “Thank you,” to one of the caterers as they placed more stuffed mushrooms in front of them.
“It was priceless!”
“I thought Jared was going to cry,” his mother said, chuckling as she picked up her glass and took a sip of what appeared to be fresh apple cider.
“Did you indeed?” his father asked, startling the women, who at least had the decency to look guilty as they sat there surrounded by even more delectable looking treats and the living room television, the same one that they’d been denied so that they’d been forced to sit there and notice all the food they didn’t think was edible.
“I-It’s not what it looks like,” Zoe rushed to explain as she jumped to her feet.
“Really?” Jason asked, taking the lead on this one. “Because it looks like the three of you have been in here, laughing your asses off at us while having a grand ole time.”
“Well, ummm,” Zoe said, worrying her bottom lip as she sent Haley and Megan pleading looks only to discover the other two women trying to make their escape through the back door. “You betraying bitches!”
Haley shot him a nervous glance, shaking her head frantically she backed away towards the door, “I’m not taking the fall for this, Zoe. I’m sorry, but I can’t!”
“I’m sorry,” his mother whispered, turning and making a run for it, leaving Zoe to face their wrath.
“Ummm,” Zoe murmured, turning to face them. “There’s actually a really good explanation for all of this.”
“I just bet there is,” he said, glancing around the large kitchen, taking note of the caterers cooking, mixing and dicing as well as the insane amount of food covering every available surface. Once he’d taken inventory of the delectable treats that awaited them, he glanced back at the small frightened woman. “And what exactly would that be?”
“Well, you see-Pie!” she suddenly shouted, pointing past them.
When they didn’t glance away, she chuckled nervously with a shrug. “It was worth a shot.”
“I’m sure that it was,” Trevor murmured thoughtfully as he advanced on his wife.
“I-it was just a joke,” she said, glancing at the back door even as she quickly backed away.
“It was hilarious,” his father said dryly.
“Well, maybe not for you, but for us….ummm, never mind,” she said, deciding that it was probably for the best if she stopped talking right now.
“You are in so much trouble, sweetheart,” Trevor said, closing in on his wife.
When her back hit the wall, she squeezed her eyes shut, took a deep breath and practically shouted, “Arrangement!”
Trevor went completely still. Every muscle in his arm and neck went taut as he stared down in disbelief at his small wife. One second his cousin was standing there, staring down in shock at his wife and the next he was throwing her over his shoulder, shoving everyone stupid enough to get in his way and racing out of the room, leaving him to stand there with his father and all the caterers sharing nervous glances.
“Alright then,” his father said after a stunned moment of silence. With that, they were walking over to the large kitchen table covered in food and sitting down.
“So, how much is this all costing my cousin?” Jason asked, picking up a small chicken tender and dipped it in what looked like sweet and sour sauce, already deciding that he was going to pick up half the bill for this meal and for Thanksgiving.
“Just the cost of food, sir,” a middle-aged woman wearing a chef’s jacket said with a smile as she held out a tray of pumpkin pudding treats in front of him. “My boss owed Zoe a huge favor. She found some mistakes in the books that almost cost her the business so as a thank you, she agreed to cater the holiday meals for your family this year.”
“I see,” he murmured thoughtfully as he selected a delicious looking treat and handed it to his father.
“I want the bill for both meals,” his father said, popping the treat in his mouth.
“They’ve already been paid for,” she explained politely as she stepped away and returned to main section of the kitchen.
He shared a look with his father and with a silent nod of understanding they focused on the food. They’d take care of this bill and the tip, but they’d also be planning their revenge soon…..very soon.
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From my family to yours, have a Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever it is that your family celebrates this year 🙂 Stay safe, warm and loved 🙂