ItÃÂs Christmas and I hate my family.
Even after twenty-six years. People wonder why I act so ÃÂchildishÃÂ, but enduring a childhood with two arrogant, conceited people has left me with a damaged perception of family love. And no, I donÃÂt think I will change.
Ursula, or as I nicknamed her ÃÂEggulaÃÂ, is my younger sister whom IÃÂve detested since she was born. The nickname is from childhood experiences; she has always smelt like eggs and I hated them almost as much as I hated her. My mother is the other person whom I dislike, but since I moved out, she started being reasonable towards me.
IÃÂm spending Christmas with these two people, something I regret since I came inside EggulaÃÂs house. IÃÂve never liked her house. It depicted her: large pictures of tabby cats, little coffee tables everywhere, and the distinct aroma of eggs.
I hoped that over the years, our constant fighting would decrease or at least that the smell of eggs would stop burning my nose hairs.
To some extent, the former has happened, though the latter seems to be stronger than ever. My mother has changed over the years, her health declined; she is on medication, and a strict diet to keep her sugar levels stable. This amplifies her crabbiness because a chocolate-coated doughnut is no longer a midnight snack. At least I had my dad to stick up for me. But heÃÂs dead now. He was recovering from a stroke when he had lactose full milk in his morning white chocolate mocha.
Back to the present; IÃÂm helping Eggula cook dinner. She smiles a strained smile like it takes her a great deal of effort not to throw the olives at my head. It relieves me that sheÃÂs trying to be nice. Even if itÃÂs the fake sort of nice that you are to people who give you bright orange jumpers in summer and you have to pretend to like it and instead of hurting their feelings though everyone knows that you are probably going to donate it to the neighbourÃÂs rubbish bin.
My gaze follows her; she looked slightly older. Light makeup ÃÂ applied badly ÃÂ donned her face and her ebony hair was greasy. She is whisking the egg with shaky hands. I save it before it hits the ground, and she smiles that smile again. ThatÃÂs another thing I hate about her; her smile. I notice the silence and try to make a feeble attempt at chit chat.
ÃÂHowÃÂs work?ÃÂ I question accidently making it sound more like an accusation.
ÃÂHuh? Work?ÃÂ She stutters, spinning around to look confused as if she didnÃÂt understand.
ÃÂI mean, have you found a job yet?ÃÂ I say as nice I can manage.
ÃÂNo. Well yes. No, IÃÂm not sure.ÃÂ She says unconfidently.
ÃÂPardon?ÃÂ We stare at each other.
ÃÂI got a job at this computer company but I doubt theyÃÂll still have me after this week. IÃÂve already broke two computers and a printer,ÃÂ she replies.
ÃÂOh, right.ÃÂMy gaze returns to the vegetables and the silence returns in its place. I wonder how she was staying out of bankruptcy if she didnÃÂt have a job, but I felt too cowardly to ask. She has been looking for work for a while but seems to wreak havoc everywhere. I donÃÂt find the possibilities of that job to be a long-term career. I sprinkle some salt into the soup as she mixes the salad. Her beady eyes follow my every move, challenging me to confront her and disturb the silence again. I follow the dare to her annoyance.
ÃÂSo how is mum?ÃÂ I ask innocently.
ÃÂTemperamental, sleepy and inconsiderate. ItÃÂs those stupid pills,ÃÂ she replies with frustration etched on her face. Though the medicine is effective, she was struggling with the price.
She hurries to set the table, avoiding my questioning and nearly falls over the coffee table. I smile at her clumsiness and listen to our mother argue over what colour the feta cheese is.
ÃÂItÃÂs blue I tell you!ÃÂ My mother whines. Was colour blindness one of the side effects of those pills?ÃÂNo mum, itÃÂs just yellow. See?ÃÂ Eggula says calmly holding a piece of crumbling cheese.
I step into the dining room holding the soup while the wisps of steam cloud my glasses. My presence is noticed and the disagreement turns into silence with the exception of my mother grumbling.
ÃÂMatthew, sit down before you fall over like your sister,ÃÂ my mother orders me as I smirk to a blushing Ursula.
I sit down on the chair letting the scraping noises fill the unnerving silence. My sister glares at me for making another disturbance to her peace. I smirk at her side and paste a meaningful look onto my face as I look at my oblivious mother. I clasp my hands together in prayer as my mother clears her voice.
ÃÂDear God. Please listen to our prayer. May our days be filled with gratitude and our bank accounts filled with money. May this yearÃÂs festivities be joyous to anyone who seeks it and may my daughter find a job. May my son find a wife and may I find a grave. I hope this tastes good. Thank you. Amen.ÃÂWe unfold our hands and start to feast on the salad. My sister watches me eat while she eats her food. I was chewing on a piece of carrot when everything starts to move in slow motion. I swallow too soon; the piece was too big. It is stuck in my throat. I start to cough; my eyes water. I reach out for some water. I miss and grab onto the table. She runs out of her chair to my side. My head lolls sideways. She slaps me on the back and the carrot dislodges itself and goes spinning to the opposite wall. It lands with a soft splat. I drink some water.
ÃÂThank you.ÃÂShe returns to her chair surprised and strangely glad. She had saved my life. Well maybe not as drastic but she had helped me. I look up to see her smiling at me before eating again. Did that just happen? Did she just help me? Could it be that she was starting to like me? The smell of eggs must be getting to her.