General Fiction posted June 16, 2017 Chapters: 3 4 -5- 6 


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...the Banquet Hall

A chapter in the book The Letter

The Letter - Part Four

by Mustangpatty1029


In the first three parts of this story, we were introduced to Kathy, her husband Doug, and their estranged family.  W. Jane Hamlin, Kathy's mother-in-law, has had a mysterious letter sent to her with instructions to put together her Memorial Service.  A cashier's check for $100K is to be used to cover the expenses to make sure all the family is there.
 
The letter lets Kathy know that her mother-in-law loved her despite all that had happened in the past.  Based on this knowledge, Kathy uses all her organizational talents to put the service together.  Though the details of the troubles haven't been revealed, it is clear that Doug and Kathy haven't seen most of the family for over fifteen years.  Doug contacts his estranged siblings and the arrangements are made. 
 
Having survived the Memorial service, Kathy's nerves are a bit frayed.  The reception is about to begin and Kathy's work shines as they enter the banquet room.  Each sibling and their families have tables with name place cards, the open bar is ready for service, and soft music fills the room. 
 
Kathy and Doug reluctantly take their places at the short reception line to welcome the family. 
 
The family includes Doug's four siblings.  Jerry is the oldest, and Doug and Kathy have been in contact with him and his children over the years.  Sylvia, Doug's gay, oldest sister is present with her wife and daughter.  Caressa, the most vicious of the sisters is present with her husband, Bill and their children. Agnes, the youngest sister, is there with her children, and she has the most regrets about her relationship with Kathy.      
 

Kathy nervously waited for the first of the families to arrive.  She practiced the smile she had perfected in her mirror this morning.  She knew getting through this reception line would be one of the hardest things she'd ever done, but it was sure to be the last interactions with these toxic people.
 
Doug squeezed Kathy's hand as they could hear the approach of the guests.  She turned to smile at him, and turned back to see Sylvia's sneering face. 
 
"We will get caught up, won't we?" she purred into Kathy's face.  Though the look in her eye didn't match the cooing of her words, Kathy looked back at her levelly.  She refused to be intimidated. 
 
"Of course, Sylvia.  I would love to hear how you've been doing.  I'm sure it's an interesting story."
 
Sylvia looked as if she'd been slapped.  Kathy could tell she was obviously disappointed that she couldn't rattle her.  Maybe this would be fun after all.
 
She awkwardly shook hands with Sylvia's wife and hugged her niece.  As she watched them find their table, she prepared herself for the next onslaught.  Caressa's arrival would be interesting.
 
Caressa and Bill were amid an animated conversation as they walked through the door.  Caressa abruptly cut off her words as she glared at Kathy.  Hissing, she greeted her.  "Well, aren't you just the princess today?  I suppose you think Mama gave you this great honor because she missed you, don't you?  Did you ever think she knew you were the only one stupid enough to put this together?  The food better make this all worthwhile.  The only thing good about this day will be the reading of the will."
 
Kathy merely continued to smile.  "I'm sure you will enjoy the food, Caressa.  I'm glad you could make it."  Dismissing Caressa's words, Kathy turned to Bill with a smile.  "It's nice to see you again, Bill.  I think you will find your table over there."  Pointing towards their table, Kathy turned and greeted their children.
 
Why did Caressa expect the will to be read today?  No one had mentioned the will to Kathy; it wasn't in the letter anywhere.  Kathy didn't expect Jane's lawyer to show up – did Caressa know something, or was she merely spreading her own version of the day?
 
Agnes's arrival was totally unexpected.  She peered into Kathy's eyes with tears filling her own.  Her arms reached out for a hug, and Kathy reluctantly returned her embrace.
 
"Oh, Kathy.  I am so sorry for everything that happened.  Please find it in your heart to forgive me.  I know just how much you and Doug did for me.  I'm sorry I haven't tried to reach out all these years.  I just didn't know what to say," she sobbed. 
 
Her tears were too late to shake Kathy's resolve.  She was past all hopes of ever reconciling with these people.  Their actions had driven her to the lowest of lows.  As she had sat in the mental hospital all those years ago, she swore she would never have any interactions with them again.  It was only out of duty to Jane that she was allowing herself to be in the same room with them again.  They were poison to her system.
 
-------@>
 
The serving staff moved through the banquet hall quickly and soon, everyone was enjoying the sumptuous meal Kathy had planned.  There was a beautiful salmon steak accompanied by caramelized Brussel sprouts, steamed garden vegetables, and perfectly mashed potatoes.  Each table had a huge basket of different breads, fresh salted butter, and a large bowl of fresh fruit salad.  Everything was served in beautiful crystal and silver serving pieces.  The room was full of beauty and grace.  However, the ugliness of unexpressed emotions struggled to make itself known.
 
-------@>
 
Kathy could feel the furtive glances.  Some were full of curiosity, but mostly they were full of rage and pique.  She knew they were wondering why their mother had decided to lay aside their differences and ask her to plan this elaborate gathering.  She could only wonder, too.  The last time she and Jane had spoken, some harsh words were exchanged.  Kathy's mind wandered back to that day.
 
"How dare you threaten to take my grandchildren away?  It is my right to see them whenever I want."
 
"The law doesn't give you any rights.  You have overstepped your boundaries one too many times.  I will NOT have you showing up at the kids' school and picking them up without my permission.  I was parked in the parking lot, and you stole them right from the front door."
 
"I did not steal the children.  I took them out for ice cream.  We discussed our plans for the summer.  I didn't think you would have any problem with this."
 
"My problem is in the fact that you didn't ask!"
 
"I do not have to ask to spend time with my grandchildren.  I know they wanted to have ice cream with me.  I know they are looking forward to our special time this summer – they would rather spend time with me, than you."
 
"H-how on earth can you even think that? I'm their mother.  I had my own plans for how we would spend the evening of their last day of school.  I get to decide how they will spend their time this summer.  I will not have your interference in my raising of the children anymore.  You would think that after the things that came to light this past weekend, you would understand how I feel.
 
"Jane, I simply feel that I must end all ties with you and your vicious daughters.  I'm not the villain here.  The things that happened over the last few weeks are unforgivable.  You went too far.  Comparing all of us girls has gotten out of hand.  To imply that I'm crazy and my children would be better off with you is just ridiculous.  I only act crazy sometimes because it is simply too much pressure to put up with all of you."
 
"What happened was NOT my fault.  I can't help it if the girls are upset with you.  It was you that planned the perfect party.  It was you that was totally prepared for all that came.  It was you that accepted the praise.  They were angry because you showed them up, as always.  If you weren't little Miss Perfect, none of this would happen.  I maybe went too far in praising your actions, but I only wish they would listen and be more giving and courteous.  I didn't do anything wrong."

"You do EVERYTHING wrong.  You assume you have rights when it comes to my children.  You have continually compared all of us girls until the jealousy and envy has grown into an ugly thing!  Do you realize that they all hate me?  I am continually ostracized because – why?  Because I give good parties?  Because my children are well behaved?  Because I always look pulled together?  Because my house is clean?  Because after almost twenty years my husband still loves me?
 
"You created all of this hostility.  We can't all be in the same room for any family get-together without there being so much stress that everyone is tired by the end of the evening.  Not a single function has gone by without someone saying something so unkind that I dissolve into tears.  Why do you enjoy the dysfunction so much?  Is it truly because you want to be the only one loved?  Are you just that cruel?
 
"The more I talk, the more I realize what a monster you are.  I AM taking my children home, and as far as I'm concerned, you will never see them again.  You simply need to get out of my life."
 
-------@>
 
Reflecting on the last time she had seen Jane, Kathy sighed.  It was such a long time ago, and as she felt the hate in the room, she wondered if she had placed the blame in the wrong place.  Caressa was looking at her with such hate in her eyes, she feared the worst.  If only she didn't feel like she needed to use the restroom.  She knew an ambush could happen, and her heart ached.  Was she up to this?
 
-------@>
 
From inside the stall, Kathy heard the door to the ladies' room open and close a few times.  No words could be heard, but neither could steps.  Who and why were the people simply standing in place?  Kathy was sure she knew, and as she finished, she prepared herself for what waited for her on the other side of the door.
 
"So, we finally get a chance to talk," chirped Caressa.  The smile on her face was beatific and full of malice.  Her intent to hurt was palpable and Kathy felt her insides withering with fear.  These people could hurt her beyond reason.  Though the pain wouldn't be physical, she knew she may come out of this crippled.
 
"You really didn't think we would let you get away without a conversation, did you?" Sylvia quipped.  Her face, too, was drawn into a vicious smile.  The standoff was set and Kathy knew she would need to defend herself.
 
"How dare you keep our brother from us for all these years?  You know we didn't do anything worth the pain you've caused us.  We knew him way before you did.  He and our niece and nephew weren't all yours.  We are related to them by blood," Caressa's words echoed on the walls.
 
"It was just as much Doug's decision to stay away.  He wanted to protect me from the vile things you said."
 
"Really?  Just what was it that we said that was so bad?"
 
"Well, for one thing, you called me a witch.  You said no one could keep their house so clean and their weight down without help from the devil.  Next, you accused me of having an affair with Doug's best friend.  I don't even have the slightest idea where you came up with that one – it simply didn't make sense."
 
"You had to be having an affair with someone.  You were just too happy for a woman that had been married for almost twenty years.  No one can be that happy.  Not even you.
 
"On top of it all, you insisted on helping Agnes through her divorce.  It seemed as though you thought you were the only one that could help her…"
 
"Where were you?  Did you even offer to go with her to court?  Did you listen to her on the phone as she cried?  I don't think I did anything that a caring person wouldn't do.  I helped her because neither of you even tried to be there.
 
"Doug and I were and ARE happy.  I'm sorry if you can't believe in true love.  Doug makes me happy and I do the same for him.  You should both be happy that Doug has been happy all these years.  Are you so unhappy with your own lives that you want everyone to be as miserable as you?"
 
"I'm not miserable," claimed Caressa.  "Bill and I are very happy.  He is…a good husband."  She trailed off as she realized she didn't have anything else positive to say about her marriage.  She hated that Kathy was right.  She was miserable and that made her hate Kathy with every fiber in her being.  What right did she have to be happy?
 
"How happy can you really be, Kathy?  Aren't you still being treated for mental illness?  Don't you still have to take medication?  You're a nutcase and you always have been," sneered Sylvia.
 
"You know, for a mental health professional, you are certainly full of misinformation.  Yes, I still take medication, but I'm stable.  I'd venture to say I handle life a lot better than you.  I'm not bitter and full of doubt about my self-worth.  I'm truly happy."
 
Silence from both sisters met Kathy's words.  Her proclamation of happiness stunned them into their own thoughts.  It seemed there was nothing left to say.  They all left the ladies' room in unison.
 
Kathy concluded that both women were completely uncomfortable in their own skin.  Even after all these years, they wanted to attack her for…nothing.  For all her fears, the conversation had actually gone well.  She knew she had had the right to be offended by their accusations all those years ago, and she knew she was within her rights to continue to ignore them.  They were still very toxic women.
 
-------@>
 
When Kathy reentered the banquet hall, she was followed by a man pushing a wheelchair.  The figure in the chair was dressed all in black.  A dark veil covered the face, and she indicated that he should park her at the front of the room.  Kathy was a bit taken back – who was this stranger?  She didn't know who it could be, and she wondered what they wanted.
 
Suddenly, all eyes were looking at the front of the room.  A murmur could be heard as they all wondered what was going on.  Did Kathy have something special planned?  As the light dawned in Sylvia's mind, she swore to herself that Kathy knew what was coming…

 


Recognized


antique stamp from google images

Sorry this is NOT the last of the story. This part got a bit long and I simply had to stop here. The final show down is coming. As you can tell, the confrontation with the sisters was somewhat anti-climatic - for them and for Kathy. It seems that the years have melted away the sting of their words for Kathy, but she will never be able to forgive them for the malice and viciousness.

But, everyone is in for a surprise now...
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