7 Short Stories by Edna Curry by Edna Curry - Read Online

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7 Short Stories - Edna Curry

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Candlelight and Silverware

by Edna Curry

Ow! Carol exclaimed, pulling her hand back quickly from the spitting grease in the frying pan where she basted her husband's eggs. She turned down the gas flame to low where it should have been if she’d been paying attention to her cooking instead of stewing about their argument.

Burn it? asked Tom, looking up from the toast he was buttering. He jumped up and held her hand under cold water at the sink. Better?

Yes. It's nothing serious. I'm just nervous this morning. She frowned at the angry red mark on her hand, sighed, and served the eggs.

Oh, yeah, I forgot. The Jamisons are coming to dinner tonight.

Yes. Carol turned away to get his coffee, pursing her full lips. Forgot! After that big fight the other night when he had casually told her he had invited them to dinner? Fat chance he'd forgotten! They'd hardly spoken a loving word since.

The Jamisons were Tom's latest important clients at his advertising firm. And Tom had known Carol felt terribly inadequate beside Lori Jamison, yet he'd gone right ahead and invited them to dinner without consulting her. So inconsiderate of him.

True, he often invited clients home to dinner on short notice, but not someone like her. Lori always looked like she'd just stepped off a fashion magazine cover.

Aw, honey, don't let it upset you. They're nice people, just like you and me, Tom pleaded, running a large hand through his dark curly hair.

All Carol's anger flashed back as she poured his coffee, then her own and sat to eat her breakfast. Just like us? Ha! What a laugh. We hardly ever leave this Minneapolis area. We’re just plain old suburbanites. We go to church and school activities, shop at the local mall.  They've been all over the world, visit all kinds of people—why, they're rich!  Our rambler may be fairly new, but it's nothing fancy like they're probably used to. I do all my own cooking and housework while she's used to servants and everything. How will my dinner and home look to them? She waved a hand around her nice, but nothing fancy kitchen.

Tom looked around, clearly puzzled. We have one of the nicest homes in this neighborhood. They won't expect it to be fancy, honey. Please, I've got to run! Just relax and be yourself. I'll see you with them at seven. Aren't the kids ready yet? They'll be late for school. He shrugged into his brown coat and pulled his furry cap down around his ears. With a hurried goodbye kiss, he was gone.

Carol sighed and drank her coffee, then got up and began fixing eggs for her teenagers. Bob, Cathy, breakfast is ready! Hurry up!

Bob appeared his curly brown hair so like his father’s, uncombed. As usual, he wore faded Levis, with his backpack of books under his arm. At fourteen, he was quiet and studious. He dropped the backpack on a chair, sat and ate quickly and noisily.

In a minute Cathy appeared. Ugh, eggs and toast again? Why don't we ever have anything romantic?

You would say it was fattening and refuse to eat it anyway. Hurry, now, you'll be late. Tall and slim at sixteen, Cathy was at the independent, impossible age between girl and woman. Still, she shouldn’t complain. They were good kids, usually cooperative and polite. Both did well in school and had many friends.

Five minutes later Carol was alone with an empty house and her thoughts. She seethed at Tom's lack of consideration for her feelings. But the invitation couldn't very well be cancelled. She went through her usual morning routine with extra care. Would her suburban Minneapolis home seem poor to the Jamisons? How would they act?

She had met them only once, at a company dinner at a restaurant a few weeks ago. Lori had worn a fantastic low-cut evening gown and a blonde wig, though another friend had told Carol that her real hair was dark brown. She had looked gorgeous.

And I felt plain and ordinary beside her. All that talk about Paris and Rome and Tokyo— whatever am I going to discuss with her tonight? I've only read about all those places!

She worried all morning as she worked. The children were going to an away football game on the bus after school, so they wouldn't be home until late. So there would be just the four adults at dinner. At least that will eliminate the usual dinnertime teenage drama.

Carol wished she could have invited a few others, so she and Lori wouldn't be alone. But Tom had said no, since he and John had to work out details of their new contract after dinner.

She’d chosen a simple dinner menu– roast beef for the main course. She went over the grocery list again, making sure she hadn't forgotten anything. Oops, she hadn't made ice cubes for cocktails. She glanced at the clock as she slid the ice cube tray into the freezer. Eleven already! Where had the morning gone?

She slipped into a clean pantsuit and got out her red Volkswagen. She spent the next couple hours getting her hair done, shopping for groceries and doing errands.

Home at last, she went through the familiar routine of preparing a company dinner. Roast in the oven, potatoes ready to put in. She’d made a dessert and rolls the day before. She always depended on make-aheads to take the pressure off the party day.

She always kept her silverware polished and company tablecloths clean and ready. Candles. She added leaves to the dining room table and began to set it. Good china, candles, centerpiece, napkins, and butter dish—better put out the butter to soften a bit. Would they like her homemade rolls? She could warm them in the microwave at the last minute.

She checked the roast. It looked fine, and the delicious aroma reminded her she had skipped lunch. She nibbled hungrily on the hors d'oeuvres as she made up a pretty tray of them, mixed a sour cream and chives topping for the potatoes, prepared a tossed salad, and put the potatoes into the oven to bake.

What else could she do? Five-thirty. How about some time for me? A leisurely soak in the tub sounded better than a shower. Maybe the hot water would relax her. She carefully covered her hairdo so the steam wouldn't ruin it, and enjoyed a soak as long as she dared. Then makeup, her favorite perfume, charm bracelet, and her best hostess gown, a red pant-suit. She surveyed herself nervously in the mirror.

She went back to the kitchen. Rain still spattered on the window. The children hadn't come home, so their game must be on. She worried about them as always when they were away in bad weather.

She was putting the vegetables on to cook when the doorbell rang. Lori stood there, her hairdo blonde, unusual and perfect to the last detail. Her blue outfit looked new and expensive, but she was a bit wet. The drizzle was changing to sleet.

Sorry to be early, dear, but the men said to come ahead and they'd be here later.

Of course. Come in, Mrs. Jamison.

Call me Lori, please, she laughed, shaking out her fur coat. My, but it's cold out there!

Carol hung up her coat. Yes, the weather is nasty tonight.

Mmm, smells delicious in here! Can I help with something? Lori sounded sincere.

Carol relaxed a bit as Lori followed her to the kitchen. She opened the oven to check on the potatoes and roast. The meat thermometer read close to rare. Carol prayed the men wouldn't be late. Why had she chosen simple foods, which