Thursday, December 2, 2010

Azalea, Part Eight

“Would you like some more potatoes, Caleb?”



“No, thanks.”


“I’m full.”

“I’d love some, Azalea—those are yummy.”

I slowly and deliberately rotate my body towards the offending sound, my left eyelid twitching with images of smacking Jezebel upside the head with the hot spatula currently clenched in my hand. Why is this monstrous fiend tainting my dining room table with her hideous immorality? Why is she devouring my family’s supper like it’s a complimentary Thanksgiving dinner?

“I adore your cooking, Azalea,” she tells me cheerfully as I grudgingly scoop seconds onto her plate. “Thank you so much for letting me eat with you! You didn’t have to go through all of this trouble for me.” Okay, reality check: I didn’t go through “all of this trouble” for her. I didn’t even know she was coming until she showed up at the front door thanking me for the invitation—or, rather, Warwick’s invitation. It’s a good thing I was planning for leftovers. Or maybe that’s a bad thing; there wouldn’t have been enough to accommodate her otherwise.

Oblivious to the poisonous glare I’m directing at her blindingly pink lips as they chew what was supposed to be tomorrow’s lunch, she compliments, “This is delicious. How do you cook them?”

“They’re just roasted in olive oil…and garlic…and thyme…” I mumble, scooting my fork across my half-eaten plate.

“And the chicken?”

“It’s a Greek recipe,” I answer after a moment’s hesitation. “It’s marinated in yogurt.”

“Mmm, I thought I tasted Greek yogurt.” Nodding, she continues, “What’s your secret for the green beans?”

Okay, seriously? Is my husband not enough for her? Is she trying to steal my meager culinary skills now, too?

I’m considering telling her that I boil them in donkey intestines before Warwick intercedes, “Parsley and basal, right Azalea?”

“Yup,” I affirm through clenched teeth.

There’s blissful silence for a few moments as everyone either chomps noisily or gulps down a glass of wine (I’m the latter), and I take the chance to glance at the grandfather clock in the corner. Just one more hour until we have to be at the church to mourn last night’s loss. I can survive an hour…unless, of course, the murderer decides to break into the house and kill us all like he did Pastor John.

As I’m told, John was eating his own dinner just before death arrived on his doorstep—literally. And yet somehow Warwick thought it fitting to commemorate the poor man with a nice “family” supper.

On the bright side, due to pure physical impossibility, Ophelia’s name has been cleared from her father’s daunting list of suspects. The public has miraculously realized that unless she inherited magical powers that allow her to commit crimes from behind steel bars, she’s not guilty, and contrary to popular big-city belief, we Midwesterners aren’t big on witch-hunts. That’s more of a European thing.

For a few measly seconds, I’m able to pretend that I’m not sitting next to a lying, cheating bastard on one side and his imbecilic mistress on the other, but that heavenly vision is eventually broken by piggish groans of satisfaction.

“I’m stuffed,” Jezebel announces, planting within my head a daydream of fattening her up like Hansel and Gretel and tossing her in my gingerbread oven.

Good God. I’m starting to sound like the murderer.

Patting his rounded stomach, Warwick glances at me out of the corner of his eye. “You did a good job on the chicken this time. It wasn’t as dry as last week’s.”

“Thanks.” I think my sarcasm is lost on him.

He nods as if to say, “You’re very welcome,” but instead asks, “What’s for dessert?”

My eyes nearly pop out of their sockets in an effort to strangle him with my optic nerves. I just cooked that entire dinner for him and his slut, and he has the audacity to ask for another course? Since when do we even have a family dessert, anyway? And why the heck should it be my responsibility to bake a freakin’ soufflé for his girlfriend?

I’m sure my face is white with rage as I calmly rise from my seat to return to the kitchen for vanilla ice cream and gingersnap cookies, and possibly a bottle of cyanide sauce for the other adults in the room. Why, for Christ’s sake, did the serial killer pick the pastor’s house and not City Hall?

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