Ad-lib Story: Home for the Holidays

“Hey where did you go?” Steve poked his head in the bedroom door to see Jen packing their suitcase. He sighed, stepped through the door and quietly closed it behind him. “Jen, do we really need to do this now?” His voice was hushed and he cast a nervous glance to the door.

Jen paused in folding a leopard print kerchief. “I knew this was a mistake. We should have just stayed home. I can’t take any more. If you won’t go with me, then I’ll find my own way home.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“I don’t? I’ve already got it planned out, Steve. That mega church out on Highway 7? The camel caravan from their live nativity is heading out in an hour. I’m sure I can hitch a ride with them.”

He took the kerchief from her hands and gently guided her to the side of the bed to take a seat. “We spoke about this, Sweetheart. It’s once every five years. I know it’s awkward for you, but trust me, once your parents are gone, you’re going to wish you’d had more Christmas dinners with them.”

She looks doubtful. “Why are you being so reasonable? Did they pay you off or something?”

“Nothing of the sort!” Steve held up his hand to protest his innocence. “Agnes and Leonard have been nothing but wonderful. And your mother’s new chihuahua puppy is super cute to play with.”

“That’s a chihuahua? I thought it was a mongoose or something.” Jen narrowed her eyes at her husband. “But you’re usually more of a hermit than I am — why are you so eager to get me to stay?”

He glanced about the pristine guest room. “I… may have happened to see the falchion your father keeps on the wall in his study. It looks used.”

Jen smirked. “You know it’s not just my sanity I’m trying to save, right? You’ve never been subjected to my mom’s cooking. God knows what she’s making.”

He laughed, pulled her close to his side and gave her a kiss on the top of her head. “Thank you for worrying about me. But don’t forget that I was a professional dog food taster to get myself through college. I’m pretty sure I can handle whatever your mother puts on the table.” He looked down at the kerchief in his hands. “Is this even ours?”

***

Jen opened the door to the darkened bedroom, flipped the light switch, and guided a stunned Steve in the door and to the bed. “There we go. Now sit. Do you want some water?”

He turned haunted eyes to her. “Jen…” He blinked a few times. “What was that?”

“I think Mom calls that Tuna Parfait.”

“Was that really…?”

“Honey-glazed carrots in lime gelatine and topped with macaroni and tuna?  Yep.”

Steve turned as green as the dinner. “I’m sorry, Jen. I tried. I swear I tried.”

“I know, Sweetheart. I could tell you were in trouble when you spelled out ‘help me’ with your carrots. You made a valiant effort, and I love you for it.”

“I didn’t embarrass you too much, did I?”

She shrugged. “Well, it was a little awkward when you yelled ‘Dear God, what is that?!’ when Mom brought out the food, but we all had a good laugh watching you try to eat it.” She smiled. “Actually, I think this may have been the best Christmas dinner I’ve had with my parents. So thank you.”

He gave her a weak smile. “Glad I could be of service, ma’am.” He doffed an imaginary cowboy hat. “Just promise me you’ll do the rest of the cooking while we’re here?”

 

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