Sunday lunch, and Caroline carefully masticated her roast lamb and over-cooked vegetables whilst attempting to tune out the carefully genteel tones of her mother-in-law, Marjorie, as she treated them to her own version of the Sunday sermon. Today it was immigrants. And the EU, of course. But that was a blessed relief from child care ‘hints’ and open criticism of the way she and her sister-in-law dressed, spoke, and, one very memorable Sunday indeed, even how they smelled.
‘Yaddah, Yaddah’ she thought as she tried to push the two-hour journey home, with its inevitable sugar-induced tantrums and car sickness, to the back of her mind. She must have been doing quite well, because she was dragged back to the world of serviettes and Sunday best china by a derisive snort from her left-hand neighbour. She turned a polite face to her husband’s younger brother, who wagged his head at her. Tuning back into the Sunday homily she realised why even he was pissed off. Marjorie was busily assuring her grandchildren that of course the going rate for the tooth fairy had gone up in line with inflation. About five pounds per tooth would be fair, she thought.
Caroline sighed inwardly and decided she couldn’t face any more lunch. She put her knife and fork down and fished about in her head for something uncontroversial to say.
Before she had a chance to speak, and in an almost unheard of break from the rigidly enforced etiquette which normally prevailed, her husband leaned across from his seat on the other side of the table and whispered in her ear.
‘Never mind the bloody tooth fairy. I’d rather like there to be a Shut up Mother fairy.’
In a rare moment of whimsy Caroline grinned at him. ‘You never know, there might be. But you have to invite her in.’
He grinned back at her, though the lines of tension that bracketed his mouth from the moment they arrived at his mother’s house until the moment they left were still etched into his skin. ‘I do, don’t I? Very well.’ He closed his eyes and spoke softly. ‘Shut up Mother fairy, I most humbly invite you into this house.’
He sat back in his chair, and the air filled with mocking laughter. At the head of the table Marjorie’s mouth kept right on moving, but now she no longer made a sound…