He sets his tea cup carefully in the saucer and makes a face. “I don’t like the way this cup clicks every time I put it down. It’s like a period, marking the end of every sip.”
“No, dear,” she says. She pauses over her cup, her perfect red lips poised to blow regally upon her tea. “The click is a comma. Commas indicate pauses. Periods are for endings. When your tea is gone.”
“It’s gone after one sip. These cups…what do they hold, an ounce of liquid? I would prefer a mug.” A mug with coffee. One of those giant mugs he’d seen in the bookstore the other day.
“Mugs are common. So is coffee.”
He sighs. “I’m common.”
“Every day, I try to forget that.”
“You thought I’d change?”
“I thought I could change you. Introduce you to the refinements of life. I see I failed. Mug, indeed.”
She’d picked out the china. Of course she had.
He’d wanted to pick up their new dishes at the Salvation Army. You could get half of a set for thirteen dollars. Half a set was all they needed: Her family was gone. His family never visited. Said he’d married up, too far up, so far up they had to crane their necks to see him now, so, sorry, Son, we’ll just have to part ways now.
He remembers the way his father had placed a calloused hand upon his shoulder and squeezed one last time before he picked up his cowboy cap from the back of the chair and let himself out of the front door.
How many years had it been, since he’d seen his family?
She’d picked out service for twelve, shipped in from Germany. The dinner plates alone cost nine hundred dollars. Each.
“I want to see my family for Christmas.”
“No,” she said. “Impossible.”
“When you married me, your family wanted nothing more to do with you.”
“That’s not right.”
“You’re correcting me?”
“I’d been feuding with my family for years before I met you. You…you were just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“You’re implying it’s my fault.”
“Not at all. You…you merely were the period. You put an end to my relationship with my family.”
“What were you fighting about? Certainly not tea cups.”
He stares off into space. “I really can’t remember.”
“Oh, come now. You must recall.” She signals for the servant to clear their breakfast with a snap of her fingers and gesture, something in that gesture brings forth a memory that disappears moments before it can be fully formed in his mind. He sees images. A boy. A horse. A branding iron. His mother, clutching a handkerchief in both hands.
“I’m going home for Christmas, Eileen.”
She gives a neat shrug with petite shoulders. “You won’t convince me to go.”
He stands. “I don’t plan on trying.” He picks up his tea cup and throws it against the wall before heading to his bedroom. In the back of his closet he’s hidden a pair of faded Levi’s and his favorite cowboy hat.
This was written in response to a prompt from Today’s Author: The conflict had been going on for so long that no one could remember why it had started.