A scene from Breaking Bread, Book 5 in the Bucks County Series by Margaret Sorick. Find all the excerpts here.
It was my Sunday to work, so I would have to add one more thing to ask forgiveness for. As a peace offering, I made a batch of pepper cookies at the cafe to take with me. They were Baba’s recipe and a family favorite. And I planned ahead and brought a change of clothes so that if I was running late, I wouldn’t have to show up in my uniform.
As usual, I was the last one to arrive even though I was fifteen minutes early by my calculation. It seemed impossible to ever beat anyone else to the house and I was beginning to suspect a conspiracy. Mom waited at the door for me while I unloaded the tray of cookies from the Jeep. I pasted on what I hoped was a convincing smile and headed for the front porch.
“Hi, Mom,” I said kissing her offered cheek.
“Come on in, everyone is waiting for you.”
Feeling like the sacrificial lamb being led to slaughter, I followed my mother down the hallway to the kitchen. The rest of the family was gathered around the table with the exception of Tanya’s children who were being hypnotized by the images on the television.
I waved a hello and set the tray of cookies on the counter.
“Maya has something she wants to say to you all,” my mother announced.
I reddened. Talk about drama… I cleared my throat and looked around at everyone. My Dad and Zada seemed embarrassed and sympathetic, Tanya looked smug and my Baba had the same disapproving look she always wore. Michael wouldn’t even meet my gaze. “I want to say I’m sorry for how I acted a few weeks ago. I got angry and I lashed out and I said some things I shouldn’t have. I hope you can forgive me for the outburst.”
“Dad slapped his thigh. “Well, I’m just glad we’re all back together again. That’s the important thing.”
I gave him a half smile. “Thanks, Dad.”
My mother sniffed. “I suppose that will have to do. I only hope that’s the last time we have to put up with that kind of behavior.”
I swear I literally saw red. Just as I was about to make a retort, my Zada said, “Come on sweetheart, let’s go watch the football. Split a beer with me?”
My mother said, “Papa, I need Maya to help in the kitchen.”
“Ah, that’s a load. You never let anybody help you anyway,” he said. “I missed her. She can sit and visit with me.” He gave me a wink and began his shuffle down the hall to the living room.
“I’ll clean up after,” I said, getting a beer from the fridge. “Promise.”
After pouring the beer into two glasses, I made my escape from the kitchen. Michael and my father followed close on my heels. I breathed a sigh of relief as I settled next to my grandfather on the sofa. He gave my knee a pat. “Don’t you let your mother bring you down, my girl.”
“Thanks, Zada,” I replied and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “So everything ok with you?”
“Eh, good as can be expected for an old man.” He shrugged. “Got a clean bill of health at the doctor’s last week. That’s always a relief. My arthritis is acting up now that the weather is turning colder, but other than that, I can’t complain.”
“And Baba is good?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Ornery as ever. She’s got a bee in her bonnet over your Uncle Phil.”
I snorted. “What did he do?”
“He suggested that we sell the house and move into a retirement community,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea. We can’t keep up with it the way we used to. Your grandmother thinks your uncles and your mother and all the grandkids ought to be over there helping. But everybody’s busy with their own things. Philip said something to that effect and got your Baba all riled up.” He chuckled. “I guess you can see how the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with your mother.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Don’t let her get under your skin, sweetheart. If you do, she wins.” He patted my knee again. “Trust me. How do you think I managed all these years?”
“Your a saint, Zada,” I said with a smile.
My mother called us in to the table about a half an hour later. No doubt having rehashed my horrible behavior and my insincere apology for all that time. We took our places and passed the platters of food.
“So Tanya, how are you feeling?” I asked. She was already making a production of resting her hand prominently on her belly even though she was barely showing.
“Tired. I have so much to do. The addition has the whole back half of the house torn up. I can’t keep up with the dust and mess.” She frowned at Michael. “And I’m still working three days a week.”
“We gotta pay for the new addition somehow,” he said.
“Well, I definitely don’t think I’m going to be able to stay at work as long with this baby,” she said petulantly.
“Your health and the health of the baby are more important,” my mother declared.
“Tell me about the addition,” I said. “You hired Donovan Construction, right?”
“Um, well…” she stuttered. “No.”
My jaw dropped. “You’re kidding.” I looked from Tanya to Michael and back again. Neither met my gaze. “Why not?”
My mother snorted. “Why should they hire somebody like that? Leo Donovan doesn’t need the work. Not with Olivia’s money.”
I gaped at her. “Really? That’s why?” I turned to Tanya. “Did you even get an estimate? Leo would have beaten anyone’s price for you. Because you’re my sister.”
“We, uh… just thought it would be a good idea to support a contractor who really needed the job,” Tanya said, looking to Michael for backup. He nodded obediently.
I shook my head. “Ok, whatever you say… So how is work coming along?”
She described the changes they were making to their Colonial home. They were enlarging the family room on the first floor and adding another bedroom the second. “So we’re going to need to start from scratch. I got rid of all our stuff after Christopher went to his big boy bed. I figured we’d stop at two but here we are.”
“Right, so tell me about he shower,” I said. “When and where is it?”
“We’ve rented out the senior center in Hilltown for the last Saturday in January. I have the caterer lined up…”
“Whoa, hold on,” I said raising a hand. “Why don’t you let me cater it for you? It can be my gift.”
Tanya frowned. “You don’t do catering.”
“Well, no, but I can certainly do it for your shower.”
“I already have the menu planned…”
“Tanya, I can do whatever you want, you know that…”
“No. It’s too late. We’ve already paid the deposit,” my mother said. “We’re not going back on our word.”
I was stunned. Stunned and hurt. I couldn’t believe they hadn’t even thought to ask me about providing food for the event. I swallowed hard. “Would you like a cake, at least? I could do a custom baby cake….”
“Um, we… um… already ordered a cake. From Costco,” Tanya said, looking at her hands.
“Their cakes are wonderful,” my mother stated. “I’ve never had a bad thing from their bakery department.”
“Irena,” my father muttered.
“What? It’s true.”
“Mom,” I said quietly. “Why wouldn’t you think to let me make the cake? It’s my profession.”
“Your profession?” She repeated. “That’s rich.” Then sighing heavily, she said, “You always did think an awful lot of yourself didn’t you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped.
“Tsk. I don’t know where you got the idea that you’re so much better than the rest of us.”
“When did I ever say that?” I demanded.
“You didn’t have to. You show it by your actions.” She counted off on her fingers. “State college wasn’t good enough for you, you had to go out to Pittsburgh to that fancy culinary school. And then if that wasn’t enough, you insisted on spending that semester in Paris. Well, la de da. Then when you do finally come home and get a nice stable job, even that’s not good enough. You have to open that ridiculous, pretentious-sounding cafe…”
“That’s enough!” Zada bellowed, bringing his fist down on the table. “Irena, not one more word! You have been banging that drum for too long. I, for one, have had enough of it.” he turned to me. “I am proud of you my dear. Don’t listen to this garbage.”
Tears welled up and threatened to spill over. “Thank you Zada,” I rasped. No one else would look at me. “I… I’m going to go.”
“Maya, don’t leave,” my father said, grabbing my arm. He glared at my mother, who wouldn’t meet his gaze. “Irena, say something.”
“I was told to be quiet,” she snipped. “I have nothing to say.”
“It’s ok, Daddy,” I said, tears streaming down my face. “I don’t want to hear anything she has to say, anyway.”
As I turned for the door, my mother called, “Wait!”
She strode to the counter where my tray of cookies sat waiting. “Take these with you. We don’t want them.”
I snatched the tray from her hands and dumped the cookies all over the floor. Then with my tray in hand I ran for the door.