Carrie stood at the door with an inane, overtly happy expression on her face. This was her favourite well-used mask.
She’d just finished whispering orders to her son out of the corner of her mouth, reminding him to just ‘fucking behave’ and for the love of God remember to kiss Grandma.
Her fixed, happy expression broke briefly as she looked nervously behind at her car. But before that joyful mask could slip fully the door opened.
“Oh you’re here…Finally ” said her sister, Vanessa with just the right amount of passive aggressiveness that made Carrie want to rip her sister’s fake extensions out.
Instead Carrie breathed and offered the tray of pasta bake she had made to her sister.
Vanessa eyed it with contempt before dismissively telling her to put it on the table in the garden.
Forcing that happy mask to stay on her face she smiled and made her way through the house towards the garden.
The contents of her lovingly made pasta bake nearly spilled onto the floor as her son rushed past her, knocking her arm.
“Just beha…” she began to call out before realising the futility of her instructions; opting instead to end the sentence with a mumble of “little shit.”
Carrie stood in the kitchen and looked out towards the well manicured lawn where an ensemble of guests all chatted loudly.
She knew she would not be able to avoid them. Within moments of stepping foot onto the grass she would have to endure hearing about The Collins’ latest holiday to some place she swore has never existed.
And then Julie and I went backpacking through Mordor….So exhilarating!!
Or there would be Marie proudly listing the academic accomplishments of her darling son, Oscar. Cassie would only be able to counter with the proud fact that her own son had stopped sticking his head down the toilet.
Finally, there would be her Mother. Cassie could feel her mask slipping as she imagined the glee her Mother would take in listing all of Cassie’s failures. A particular past-time that her Mother could not resist to indulge in at every opportunity.
She took a deep breath. Just relax Cassie.
Go find toothless Grandma, kiss her and congratulate her on not dying before the party. Smile then get out of here before the real problems start.
Her thoughts were interrupted by two large hands gripping her shoulders. It was Rick, her husband or how her Mother described him – another one of your mistakes.
Rick was kind and loyal but his failed get rich quick schemes had met the seething disapproval of Cassie’s Mother.
“Why couldn’t you have found a reliable successful husband like Vanessa did?”
Vanessa’s husband was an accountant and together they lived the perfect life whilst Cassie tried her best to make ends meet because Rick had lost another chunk of their savings on some Pyramid scheme.
She could feel her mask slipping further and her inner turmoil guided towards the drinks table where she poured herself a large glass of wine.
“I take it I’ll be driving” said Rick
“Not now Rick” Cassie replied
“It’s just you promised that….”
“I said NOT NOW.”
She hated snapping at Rick. None of this was his fault, the stupid dumb lug that he was. She quickly emptied her glass before filling it straight back up.
Taking another swig she looked out towards the garden and her gaze fell upon her Mother who was already glancing at her with that disapproving look.
That’s it mum. Scowl at me. Because there is so much for you to be ashamed of.
It was true. Very shortly the fact that Cassie had raised a feral child and had a loser husband would be the least of anyone’s concern.
Very soon she’d be required to explain a lot more. Like why there was a pizza boy tied up in her basement, or why her boss was lying in his office unconscious and naked. Then there was the small matter of who Melody was. That’s before she’s even got to the part about the five million pounds sitting in the boot of her car.
Cassie looked at her phone and took a final gulp of her drink.
Best go kiss Grandma. The Police will be here in a minute.