Pumpkin Pie And Cranberry Relish
By Miranda Crites
The table is perfectly set. The house is meticulously cleaned and organized as always. Guests should arrive soon. Everything is perfect, almost. Outwardly, one would think it truly was.
Tom asks for a glass of wine. I pour it to the exact imaginary line in his favorite glass, carefully. He grabs my behind, startling me. I slosh a small amount of wine down the side of his glass, a trickle. My eyes widen as he raises his hand. I know better than to protest. But the doorbell rings, and he lowers his hand and smiles. His smiles are sometimes scarier than the hitting.
“I’ll get the door,” he says as he turns. Saved by the bell for now. I sigh to myself. I know he will make it up to me later.
I run into the guest bathroom to check my makeup one last time. I don’t think the bruises are too visible anymore, at least not the ones on my face. I wanted to wear my sleeveless dress, but the bruises on my arms are still too noticeable.
Everyone has arrived and has had a glass or two of wine. Spirits are high, and it feels nice to have friends over. I don’t have to worry about Tom for a few hours. I wish the guests could stay forever.
The turkey is done, and it smells wonderful.
“Anna, you’ve outdone yourself this time!” Tom exclaims. I smile and thank him dutifully. How I wish this could be my real life.
I bring the turkey to the table where everyone is now seated in our large dining room. Tom begins to carve the turkey, and we all take turns saying something we’re thankful for. It’s a bit cliche, but it’s always fun. Tom says he is thankful for the new electric carving knife, and everyone laughs.
The meal was almost perfect. I had forgotten to bring out the cranberry relish, and Tom only lightly reprimanded me in front of our friends. I retrieved it from the fridge quickly and apologized, but I knew I would pay later. There was also still the wine I had sloshed down the side of his glass earlier to pay for, too.
Traditional pumpkin pie is for dessert as always. I made five pies yesterday, and I’m looking forward to a slice with whipped cream on top. There needs to be plenty of leftover pie for Tom to eat over the long weekend. Sarah brought a cherry pie last year. Tom tells me he doesn’t like cherry pie, but he ate two large slices and continued to compliment Sarah on how delicious it was. Afterwards, he forced me to eat the entire contents of the leftover cranberry relish, slamming my face into the bowl when I would stop. When he let me up for air, the crimson juice flowed like blood down my face and from my mouth and nose. I nearly choked on it, but I finally finished the entire family-size bowl. I’m allergic to cranberries, thankfully it was only a mild reaction. I was covered in hives for the next week.
Tom suggests to me it’s time for his favorite part of the day, which signals he’s ready for his pumpkin pie. I go to the kitchen to start cutting the pies, and he decides to come help me serve them. He comes close and places his hand on my lower back, whispering in my ear. It looks like a friendly gesture to the guests, like he’s whispering sweet nothings into his wife’s ear. It’s not.
“I see you tried to forget the relish today. Maybe you’ve forgotten how much you love it since last year,” he whispers, smiling. “No pie for you. You’ll want to save room for the leftover relish, and it appears there’s plenty. Besides, your ass is getting fat.” He slaps me hard across the backside and makes his way back to the table with more pie for the guests. No tears from me. I’m numb. Tears only get me into more trouble, so I’m proud of myself this time. I feel disconnected. I’m not even afraid for later. I’ve never felt so brave. I pick up Tom’s plate and the extra whipped cream and turn toward the dining room. I serve him his pie, but instead of sitting and skipping dessert, I return to the kitchen and get my own pie. Surely he will kill me later for this, I think as I sit and smile at Tom as I enjoy the sweetness of the dessert. I can see he is fuming but trying to keep his cool in front of the guests.
Dinner has ended and the last guests are walking through the door, and I hug them all and thank them for coming. I’ve had the best Thanksgiving dinner I’ve had in years. I know I’m in for hell now, but I don’t care. I still feel numb; a weird calmness has come over me.
I shut the door and lock it.
I start putting away leftovers in the kitchen when Tom comes in.
“What did I tell you about dessert?” he sneers through clenched teeth. “I hope you enjoyed it. It’ll be your last. Do you not know better than to disobey me by now?”
He smacks me hard in the back of the head. I continue to ignore him, which is always the worst thing to do.
“You having trouble hearing tonight, bitch?!” he roars into my face as I turn toward him with a pumpkin pie in my hands. I didn’t use disposable aluminum pie pans this time. I slam the stoneware pan into his face and run.
He catches me by the arm in the dining room. He’s seething. Blood is running in rivulets down his head, dripping into the bowl of cranberry relish on the table. He pummels his fist into the side of my head. I know this is my last chance for survival, and I turn with the electric carving knife in my hand.
“I’m thankful for the new electric carving knife, too,” I say as I aim for his eye and squeeze the power button. It effortlessly popped his eyeball and slid into his brain, chewing it to bits and splattering the leftover turkey carcass with pink gristle and slime. “I’ll pass on the cranberry relish this year, Tom.”
Miranda Crites is a reader, book reviewer, photographer, writer, and lover of horror from the ghostly woods of rural West Virginia. Miranda has always enjoyed reading, photography, and writing. She received her first camera as a gift when she was nine years old. The writing bug bit her at a very early age. She won the young writers’ contest in first grade and never stopped writing.
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