By Colleen Sutherland
“Keep your mouth shut,” Mama said, as she stowed Abby’s deviled eggs in the refrigerator. “Don’t say anything and Grace won’t get started. She’s worse when you argue with her.”
So when Grace and her husband arrived, Abby kept her mouth shut. She listened to Grace natter on about her two daughters, her clubs, her church, her home, her activities. Abby said nothing about her friends, her writing, her magazine column, her art. She said nothing about the men in her life, current or ex. She bit her cheek and rubbed her fingers against her arm, back and forth, back and forth. A nervous habit. But she kept her mouth shut, collecting affronts to report to her therapist.
Grace made some triumphant point and pursed her lips. At fifty, her lips carried vertical indentations that were turning into a perpetual frown. From her lofty social position as a small town banker’s wife, she knew the world and disapproved of it on Christian principle. She certainly disapproved of Abby, her divorce, her men, her freedom. Grace set her limits. She expected everybody to do the same. But Abby said nothing.
“Mustn’t brag, dear. You know how it upsets your sister,” Mama whispered to Abby over the supper dishes, wiping her hands on her stained polyester pants. Papa had towered over her, brow-beating her to obeisance. When he died, Grace took over. By tomorrow, Mama would be on her sofa with a sick headache, not answering the phone or door bell, escaping with Oprah.